This World of Beauty

How can this world of beauty?
This world of stupid and brilliant cats
(they are both)
This world of moon blocking sun
This world of laughter and hope
and art and dance and reflection
How can this world of beauty
also be a misery
a poverty
a pain unending
a death of a loved one
or a stranger
How can this world of beauty
feel so sour
hurt so much
destroy innocents
destroy innocence
How can this world of beauty
host warmongers
support greed
deny autonomy
encourage slavery
This world of beauty
shakes apart at seams
kills with wind and water
spits hell
pits life against life
How can this world of beauty
if there is no song?

Short Subjects Silliness


I always found it weird that dogs and cats don’t really care about your clothing, and if they see you take off your shirt they don’t freak out even though it kinda seems like they should think you’re taking off your fur. Or like, you have the power to make light turn on or off, and your pet hanging out on your bed is just totally unimpressed.

I think about that, too, when we come across a superior alien race, they’ll do something just absolutely amazing, but we’ll all just react like that’s what aliens do, so what? And the alien overlords will be sorta disappointed.


Those were the days

Almost 20 years ago, I was very privileged to be a part of a community of poets and writers that converged on a bar in Levittown, NY, called Münchaba, where we participated in an open mic night. There were people of such talent there. There were slam poets, comedians, traditionalists, teachers, observers of the absurd, and rejects like me that found their voice reading to an audience of peers and strangers.

And I really did discover my voice. Not just finding the ability to do public speaking, but hearing the cadence in stuff I wrote long before stepping on the stage. I had found a writing style, but never realized it, until I read something older vs. something recent. It was a magical feeling, and even if the audience wasn’t so thrilled when I got called to the stage, I would literally shake with excitement, even after the pre-stage jitters went away as I spoke into the mic and looked out at an audience. Everyone was polite and encouraging, though. There were house favorites, but I went there often enough (and I tipped the servers well) that I was one of the regulars for over a year.

Bars on Long Island have an average lifespan of about three years, for various reasons, and Münchaba was no different. One night when my girlfriend, now wife, and I were there, I overheard the bartender say they were out of Bud Light. My friends, if the bar you go to is out of Bud Light, and it’s not because of some drunken debauchery disguised as a holiday took place the night before, that bar is not paying its distributor. I leaned over to my girlfriend and pointed out the bare spaces in the back of the bar that used to have bottles of booze and said, “They’re going to close soon.”

Münchaba went out with a whisper. That was a sadness.

But during the time that I regularly attended Thursday Night Carnival of the Arts, I wanted to give something besides my shaky voice to the poets and writers that absolutely expanded my mind whenever they read. Hey, I had a website! I can put their stuff on the internet! Which, at the time, was operating at DSL-speeds. AOL was dominant, but showing its age. I think we all had or would have MySpace? But Facebook and Twitter were still over four years out, and there was no particular easy way to share what you wrote to a world-wide audience, but I had the web space, and because the internet wasn’t nearly as filled as it is now, if I put someone’s poetry on my site, Google would catalog it and you could find it in the first couple of links.

It was an uncommon opportunity, which I was able to offer, and some folks at the bar took to it. Their poetry and essays have been on my site for all this time. I made sure to keep the links to their individual pages the same throughout server and software changes. If they sent out an email 15 years ago with a link to one of their pieces, it’ll still work today. However, a security update broke a script of mine that made the index pages, so if you visited one of the authors’ directory page, it wouldn’t list all their writing, just give an annoying error.

And that started about six months ago. I knew I had to fix it, but I am a procrastinator. I have finally updated the pages, and basically took away all the out-of-date and questionable design crust. So, design-wise, it’s bare bones, but the author’s work is all that matters.

The space still exists if anyone wants to contribute. As long as I’m alive, the pages will be there and searchable. They’ve been there for almost 20 years as it is. I also honor takedown requests, if the author wishes.

I’m glad that I was able to offer the space on my site, because each time I come across those pages, I’m reminded of a community that helped me recognize my voice and exposed me to dozens of people who were passionate about their writing. Tonight, I toast spirit of Münchaba.

Friday Cat Blogging Short Subjects

Feline Fascination

This may be hard to believe, but I am fascinated by cats. Sure, I—and seemingly the entire internet—am in love with every kitty, but emotionally entwined with my two furballs. However, I find the animal, and its relationship with humans, enormously interesting.

It’s funny, but there wasn’t much research science done on cats until a couple of decades ago. I imagine that was because there were far more pressing areas of research than trying to find out why cats hold humans in utter contempt. Pet cat? Cat scratches. Feed cat? Cat scratches. Give scratching post to cat? Cat continuously scratches anything else but.

Back when I was growing up, no one was really sure how cats purred. I’m sure it was difficult to get a cat to purr in whatever scanning device they’d try to put it in. (Cat scratches research intern.) Now, we’re almost sure about the mechanics behind the purr, but in researching that, we’ve discovered what most veterinarians knew—cats purr when they’re scared or injured, too. They purr at a frequency that makes New Age holistic practitioners jealous, or rather their purr helps them build and repair bone and tissue. This brings up an interesting conjecture. The purr may benefit the lazy lifestyle of a cat, as it can gently keep itself in good tone while its relaxing. Living the dream!

We tend to think of cats as solitary animals, but that’s in a mistaken comparison to dogs. Cats have a very complicated social structure, which makes it difficult to study and understand. Cats tend to not be solitary, just aloof. Feral cat colonies run a bit like lion prides, with similar habits in resource sharing, protection of territory, and community support for raising kittens. Cats seem arbitrary and capricious, and they’ll seemingly turn on their human or animal companions in seconds. This tends to drive non-fanatics crazy, but cat fanciers know that swiping, hissing, biting, or outright attacking are actual moods and understand the triggers, probably better than the cats do. But cats socialize with humans on their own terms.

Researchers wanted to see why cats don’t seem to react negatively to someone threatening their humans. A dog generally dislikes someone who is aggressive with its human. And dogs tend not to forget either, and so will continue to not trust the aggressor. Cats, however, seemingly do not care. If I got punched in the face, my two cats would still react with excitement if the puncher then gave them food. (This is simplifying a bit. If there was a ruckus, both cats would probably skedaddle before the violence went down.) But cats don’t understand human to human interaction. Amongst themselves, cats may act aggressively towards each other, but a lot of it is territorial or mating related. My two cats do not like each other. But they can be in the same room, same bed—I’ve even had them both relaxing on the same lounge chair. But they’ll have occasional spats, and I usually chalk it up to the younger cat being bored and looking for someone to hassle. The howling and pouncing and beatings by paws of fury happen when the female is in her territory (two very specific chairs) and the male encroaches. They know why they hate each other, even though it’s inscrutable to us. If two humans are fighting or getting in each others’ way, maybe cats consider that territorial scuffling.

Sure, I anthropomorphize my cats. We communicate mostly by feedings and lap sittings, with the occasional petting party, the length of which is determined by cat and shall not go beyond. My wife and I talk to them, as if they understood, and as if the male cat weren’t deaf. But this helps our relationship with them. Just like they approach us with their feline outlook, so do we accept them with our humanity. I have to imagine the majority of households with cats in America do not keep them for their vermin catching abilities. Instead, we hire our cats to eat disgusting cans of meat parts that they semi-efficiently turn into poop that we’ll dispose. What’s in it for the humans? We bring our compassion and love and comfort and let them act as furry mirrors for us.

Jinx, the female cat, is currently sitting on my lap, after about a half-an-hour of trying to get me to stop typing out these secrets that cats do not want us to know. She was sitting next to me, meowing with a purring undertone, to get me to pay attention to her, until she gave up and moved to my lap. It’s comforting, although it forces me to sit in an awkward position away from my keyboard. And I love her for it. We communicate with each other, not completely understanding what we’re saying to each other. But the warmth transfers between us, and I pet her, and she purrs, and we’ve told each other all we needed for the moment.

Short Subjects Silliness

Those Damned Kids on the Copy Side

In the waning days of the last century, I worked a copy shop called Kinko’s. It was right in the sweet spot of my “adult” youth, what is now referred to as “your twenties,” but back then we called it the “swahballa years.” (Look it up.) Anyway, not the point.

What I am thinking about tonight is the amount of pranks we used to pull on fellow computer services coworkers. Since I am a particularly cruel man, I enjoyed setting these up. One of the finest was, at first, subtle. We worked on a computer that made it very easy to customize system beeps, when the computer played a short noise to notify you of something. Yes, well, I recorded the sound of the phone ringing in our department. So when the computer wanted your attention, it would play that ring, and for a couple of days, it had almost everyone in the office laughing when they fell for it, hearing the computer ring, but no one was actually calling.

Yes, until, on an overnight shift, my pal and yours, John Dervin, was working on a customer’s QuarkXPress file. So what you don’t know about Quark is what the heck it is. It’s a computer program where one can create documents to print. These documents were often flyers or business cards or something else a customer wanted to print out using our printers and copiers at Kinko’s. What you also don’t know is, when you added artwork to Quark, it didn’t move the artwork into the document—it created links to the artwork. This meant if you had two dozen different pieces of artwork in your document, there would be two dozen links to the individual files. There was a reason for this, but it’s all obsolete now, so just know, when you brought your Quark file to Kinko’s, you also had to bring all your images and artwork as separate files along with you, but now they were on a differently-named removable medium, which meant that the Kinko’s employee had to update all these links. Know, too, that the computer would beep every single time you updated one of these links. In a file with two dozen links, the computer would beep two dozen times.

Remember, please, that I replaced the default computer beep with something that sounded like the office telephone ringing. So poor John Dervin, on his overnight shift, opening a customer’s Quark document with two dozen links, would hear the telephone ring two dozen times. John, and this is true, picked up the phone almost two dozen times. Of course, by the third time or so, he became suspicious, but not of the computer. Instead, he was livid at the thought of the kids working the overnight shift in the copy side of Kinko’s, pranking him by calling and hanging up. Sometimes, he let the “phone” ring twice before answering again, but, alas, no one was on the phone, because the phone was never actually ringing.

I am a cruel man, as I said earlier, so this story brings me nothing but delight. John cursed me out the next morning when he learned what was happening, but the ring stayed on as the system beep for some time afterwards, because we were all gluttons for punishment—I’d forget too—and it was funny when someone who knew better answered the non-ringing phone anyway. Is there a lesson here? Yes—do not trust me. Also, have fun before you cannot. And if you have fun early enough in life, time and memory make the good times even gooder. John Dervin, cheers, mate, where ever you are.

Photos Short Subjects

Let’s Vote

We voted early here in New York and waited on a very long line in the rain. Today is the official Election Day, and I hope everyone who is able has voted. I don’t think I’ll watch teevee or go on social media until next week.

A long line in the rain, waiting to early vote in NY on Oct 29
A stopwatch app on the iPhone displaying 1:54
We were in line to vote for almost 2 hours on a Thursday’s early voting in New York.
Sneaks and Scammers

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Scam email

I recently received a scam email claiming to be from the Department of Labor, saying my Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) has been temporarily restricted. Now, I’m not on PUA, so I knew immediately that it was a scam, but this one was tricky, because the scammers used a legitimate bulk email service1 to send it, and the return address seems to belong to a account.

Text of email: Dear PUA Customer, We’re writing to let you know that your access to your online account has been temporarily restricted because of suspicious activity and require your immediate attention: Please log into your account immediately to verify your recent activity: Verify Your Recent Activity It is very important that you follow all instructions included in each document when responding. If you do not respond timely, you may miss important deadlines, and the agency may make decisions about your PUA benefits based on the information available. If you'd like to unsubscribe and stop receiving these emails click here.

What are some problems with this email? Well, the address (Department of Labor) looks pretty good, but:

  1. The “To: Customer Service” return line is a tell. That should be my email address, not the sender’s.
  2. Emails that start with “Dear…” Unless it’s my grandma, no email starts with “Dear”, especially from a business or the US government. “Dear…” is generally my first indication that the email I am reading isn’t legitimate.
  3. The greeting doesn’t have my name. If the US government is going to send me something that requires my action, it will use my name. Fraudulent bank/credit card scams also omit the name, because they don’t know it, whereas legitimate bank and credit cards email do put my name in the greeting. Seeing your name is not a guarantee of legitimacy! But if there is no name on something that you, yourself, are supposed to take action on, it’s most likely a scam.
  4. The extra spaces between “your  online” and “and  require” in the first paragraph. Legitimate emails go through more than one person before they are sent out. Typographical errors are a sign that no one proofread the email.
  5. What can’t be seen here is the link under “Verify Your Recent Activity.” If it were legitimate, it would go to a (US Department of Labor) website. This does not. It links to a very complicated URL, which is from a bulk email service. See below for more details.
  6. The link to unsubscribe. If this were a government email, it would probably have a whole lot more text at the bottom, but it wouldn’t offer a way to unsubscribe as if it were from a mailing list.
  7. The entirety of the email being just text and oddly indented. Scammers are extraordinarily lazy. This doesn’t look anything like an email that you would get from the federal government. The lack of polish is a giveaway.

The link presented by a bulk emailer essentially hides where you’ll end up, in this case a URL starting with themooregroupofsc.cxx/wordpress/ If you’re unsure about the providence of any link, do not click or press on it. Often hovering over the link with your cursor on a computer will reveal the link’s URL without clicking it. I haven’t found a good solution on a mobile device, as you have to press the link to expose where it goes, and that pre-loads part of the website.

This (with redactions) was the link under “Verify Your Recent Activity.”


This led to a site that looked like this:

Website excerpt of scamming site containing fields asking for Social Security Number, password, and Zip code.

Entering any information in these fields would go directly to the scammers. This is particularly problematic because it asks for a Social Security number. There are a few checks to make before entering information on a website like this. 1 is that the URL does not contain or as it would imply, which means that this site is not a Department of Labor nor a US government site. And 2, a more subtle clue is that the site is not SSL secured. The technical aspects of that are not important, but the browser would show a (usually green or grey) lock icon before the URL. In this case, there is a strike-through over the lock icon, which essentially means the browser cannot determine who owns or is responsible for the website. Never put personal or financial information in any field of a website that isn’t showing a lock.

If you have any questions, I’m opening the comments on this post. DO NOT SHARE PERSONAL OR FINANCIAL INFORMATION. But feel free to ask general question, point out errors in my logic, or to check if that email that just doesn’t seem right is really a scam.

  1. No one likes bulk emails (spam), but a legitimate bulk emailer is not a criminal. ↩︎

The Carp

I remember deeply inhaling the summer air
squinting under sunlight
Today would be the day
or tomorrow
there are plenty left

I knew there was something to seize
to grasp and pull myself up
Today would be the day
or tomorrow
there are plenty left

What doors I would smash through
what barriers I would break
They would never expect me
but they would be grateful to have me

There was something to seize
I would light the world on fire!
Today would be the day
or maybe tomorrow
there were plenty

Friday Cat Blogging Short Subjects

The Indignity of Being Jinx

Jinx has suffered a lot of indignities in her life. She’s a largely black cat that suffers from huge flakes of dandruff. She’s a short hair, but her coat is thick, especially on her hindquarters where poop likes to stick. She once broke her tail jumping off our bed, or something… we’re still not quite sure what the hell happened there. But one of the biggest indignities is when you try to pet her. Now, “you” is specific here. Katherine and I pet her, give her skritchy-scratches, brush her, generally handle her in anyway, and she rather enjoys it, unless medicine or the cat carrier is involved. But when you come in to our house, I will say to you, “Jinx will hiss at you if you try to pet her.” And you will try to pet her. And she will hiss at you.

Here’s what is confusing to you. She doesn’t run away when you come in the house. She’ll be sitting there on her perch, an ottoman that we’ve long ago sacrificed as an altar for her Highness, and look at you with calm eyes. She seems so relaxed and is a fluffy loaf, so she’s hard to resist. I understand this, and I will warn you, but this will be like a challenge to you, especially if you’re a cat person and know how to introduce yourself to a cat, so you will put your hand out for her to sniff. She appreciates the introduction and sniffs your hand with no fear or aggression. “Oh,” you will think, “clearly Jonathan doesn’t know how good I am with cats—I am the exception. Jinx clearly wants a pat on the head from me, and me alone.” Then you will attempt to pat her head or pet her, and she will rear back, scrunch her face and open her fanged mouth in the way that has scared humans for thousands of years, and give you a proper hiss. At this point, you will probably curse in fear and withdraw your hand. Jinx, in almost all cases, does not swat (sorry, Melissa), but the hiss alone will scare the shit out of you.

You may feel put off by this interaction, but what I can absolutely guarantee is that Jinx is much more offended by you than you are of her. After all, when introducing yourself for the first time, it’s rather impolite to just start molesting someone with your big, dumb hands, you dumb, stupid human.

Friday Cat Blogging

Indy on Water

Indy has a small, narrow head which helps him drink water from a variety of containers. Katherine hates when he tries to drink her water, having gone to such lengths as putting a plate over her glass when it’s on her nightstand. Indy eventually learned how to defeat this security system by knocking the plate off, spilling the glass and water all over Katherine’s nightstand. This did not embarrass Indy, as it might a more sensible cat. Rather, he lapped away at the water pooling on the nightstand that hadn’t made it to the floor. Katherine has upped her defenses by bring up her nightly water in a container with a screw-top. Indy knows there is water in there, but hasn’t figured out how to get the cap off. Yet.

He’ll work so hard to get my wife’s water despite the full cup on my nightstand that I will freely share. He knows it’s there, and if he comes up to my face, by standing on my chest, I’ll reach over and lift my cup to let him drink. I’m a pushover. Still, Katherine’s water is so very tempting.

I usually don’t find it squicky when he drinks from my cup. I’ll drink from it after he does. This may be unsanitary, but my laziness will win out over any health concerns. There are some limits. He once sneezed into my cup—then kept drinking. I replaced that container. And if I notice him cleaning himself after a litter box visit, I’m not that lazy to ignore how gross that is. Usually, I just don’t think about it, and I’ve been fine except for my almost daily gastrointestinal issues.

We have a small water fountain in our kitchen that continually cycles the water through a filter, and Indy really enjoys that water. He’ll complain if it gets too low or if the water gets stale. I don’t know how, but we usually understand his different caterwauling between water bowl issue, a dirty litter box, and him demanding to know “where the hell are you guys?”

His insatiable love for water afforded me the opportunity to notice that when he drinks, one—or both—of his legs spasm. He doesn’t lose his balance, and if both legs do it, they’ll do it one at a time, one then the other. Which leg, or if both, seems entirely random. If he’s on my chest, or on the floor, or sneaking on the table to drink out of a glass, he does this weird, little kick as soon as he starts lapping at the water, as if he was going to start marching. It doesn’t seem to phase him at all. He’s a bit touched in the head, like all cats, so it’s probably due to bad wiring, but he’s fine with it, and it’s part of his cat-ness that endears him to me.