Category Archives: Stories

Real Scientology rescue, slightly dramatized retelling

A few years ago, there was a news story about a woman who was rescued from a ship run by Scientology’s Sea Service.  On a discussion board, someone asked if anyone knew anything about the circumstances behind the dramatic rescue.

Unencumbered by the requested information yet having a few minutes of free time, I decided to read the Yahoo! News article once or twice, crack my knuckles, then fill in the blanks with the obvious back-story.  It’s possible my retelling may be as much as 1% true, but that 1% might be mostly punctuation.  So for the sake of the Scientology Lawyer reviewing this blog posting, I’m broke so this piece of fiction isn’t worth the standard Legal Hug Of Death.

Now, onto the story:

The Freewinds slid through the water, its powerful motors thrumming. On the bridge, the captain stood at attention, occasionally checking the course heading and nodding towards his subordinates.

The Attendant, the Church’s assigned highest religious figure and true master of the vessel, stalked in through the sliding doors, his robes narrowly avoiding their bite as they slid shut with a hiss behind him.

“Captain Monson, what is the meaning of reports I’ve just received that we just took a ship aboard?” His face hidden behind the Thetan-shielding black mask did little to quiet his booming voice.

“Lord Amalphous, it appears to be a simple fishing boat matching description of one that escaped from one of our docks nearby two days ago. It appears to have run out of gas and happened to be near our course. When we recognized the transponder code, I ordered us to rendez-”

The Attendant cut him off with a wave of his hand. “You say it was unmanned? Where are the crew?”

The captain, unfazed, responded. “One of the emergency rafts is missing, it appears they abandoned ship shortly after leaving the cove.”

The Attendant paused, thinking. Finally, “Send a team down to properly search the boat for clues. Nobody steals from the Church.”

In the rear tackle, stowed indoors alongside the ship’s two dinghies, the freshly recovered fishing boat swayed slightly. The floor panel to the bilge lifted up then was shoved aside from within as a man pulled his way out.

“We don’t have much time before they switch shifts or decide to convert this into the Church’s next special project, if we’re going to gas up, we’ll have to hurry. It was awful nice of them to store us near the ships boats. John, you find a fuel line, I hope they have gasoline. I’ll see if I can figure out this winch-crane of theirs.” He clambered out to the deck, the other two close behind him.

“I think I see some fuel stuff, I’ll be right back.” The young man tip-toed over towards the far end of the miniature boat hangar while the older man stayed behind.

“You realize that we have a unique opportunity here, don’t you? This is the Sea Service’s mothership in this region, the most visible element of their presence here.” He spoke quietly but stridently, his white beard moving rhythmically with every syllable like a snake eating a horse from the inside.

“I don’t care, I’m not here for the cause old man, I’m here to earn my money, and getting you to the mainland’s my ticket to paying off some old debts. Here, help me with this chain…” he hooked up a hauser to a winch and began stringing it through a pulley.

The old man grabbed the other end and attached it while continuing to talk. “This is the same organization that took my sister’s daughter, you know. Stole her right out from under us. If there’s justice to be done, I feel we must try.”

“Damnit!” The chain dropped, the other man nursed his bruised hand. “There’s no way we’ll get this out, the thing’s jammed. We need some tools and it doesn’t look like they’ve got any here.” He looked around helplessly.

The younger boy dragged a hose over, a big smile plastered on his head. “Found it! Looks like super unleaded too, these guys don’t cheap around.” He pulled it over to the boat and began filling the tank as the other two talked.

The old man nodded. “We’re going to have to look for some”, he announced, gesturing towards the hatch leading into the ship.

“Are you crazy? What if someone sees us?” Harmon shook his head. “They’d be able to string us up for piracy, and I’m happy with my neck the length it is.”

The old man shook his head sadly. “If we don’t get that boat out of this hangar, it’s going to be a real short trip as is. I’ll see if I can find you something, wait here if you want.” He walked towards the hatch.

Harmon followed him. “No, hang on, I’d better come with. You’re right, we’re pretty much screwed already, might as well go down fighting. Keep your eyes out for a toolkit or something.”

John secured the fueling line and hopped down to chase them out into the corridor. “Hey guys, wait for me!” They dogged the hatch behind them, leaving the fueled up boat swinging in front of the rectangular exit to outside.

Valeska wiped the back of her hands on her forehead, but that didn’t so much dry the sweat off as transfer more grime to her face. The goddamn condensers on deck three were stuck on again, and guess who got assigned swap-out duty?

As she tried again to muscle the bolt loose from it’s paint-welded position, she heard feet clanging down the corridor towards her. Affecting her most bored look possible, she looked up, ready to lay into one of her captors.

“Hey pal, mind if we borrow this?” The scruffy goatherder in front of her didn’t look familiar at all, and novelty was the most precious possession on this dull prison.

“Do I look like a ‘pal’ to you, ass face? And no, you can’t have my damn tools, they’ll take it out of my hide. Go ask your precious space bishop to buy you your own damn tools.” She spat on the deck in front of him, microscopically missing his boot.

“Holy shit, you’re a chick!” The man stood back, looking shocked. The old man behind him walked up, looked down, and his eyes almost popped out in surprise.

“V…. Valeska? Paris?” He stuttered, his composure gone.

She frowned. “Yeah, did they warn you about me or something?”

“Vally, don’t you recognize me?” He leaned in close. She recoiled.

“Hey, whatever you’re selling, go somewhere else gramps. Unless you can get me off this fucking water jail, I don’t owe you shit.” She turned her back on the three strangers and went back to studiously trying to loosen the balky bolt.

Behind her, the three looked at each other, stunned. Harmon pointed at the girl, eyebrow raised. Lafayette, the older man, nodded, dazed. John looked back and forth between the two, puzzled but quiet.

Valeska felt someone tap her shoulder lightly. She spun around, wrench in hand, but the three had stepped back and had their hands out non-threateningly in front of them.

“Ma’am, we may be able to help each other out after all. But first… could you grab your toolbox and follow us? I think it’ll be worth your while.”

The winch fixed, she put away her tools. In the boat, the young man was stowing some supplies they had grabbed while Harmon yanked some plug wires from the tenders and dinghys sharing the bay. “Won’t stop ’em long, but should be enough to get clear”, he muttered.

The old man stood by the hatch, still teary eyed. Valaska didn’t quite understand everything he had told her, but she understood that they were agreeing to take her out of this hellhole.

In the boat, John glanced over at the hatch on the other side of the bay and saw the wheel turning. Eyes suddenly wide, he shouted “We’ve got company! Let’s get out of here!”

Closest to the hatch, Lafayette grabbed the wheel and tried muscling it back shut. They thought they had dogged it, but apparently the other guys had noticed it was locked and must have taken it apart on the other side. Straining against the wheel, he yelled at the others.

“Get in the boat! I can hold them off another minute, but you guys get the hell out of here!” Harmon Hit the switch on the winch, powering it up, and the fishing boat started to move towards the big open door open to the ocean. He grabbed Valeska and pushed her towards it.

“Jump in!” he shouted, then turned back to the old man. Lafayette shook his head. “Go, maybe I can talk my way out of this, but if she’s who I think she is, there’s no way they’ll let her off alive. Go now!” Slowly, he began to lose ground to the wheel. Harmon nodded and jumped over the gunwale of the little boat just as it began to pass out of the bay into the sun.

With a crash, the door was shoved open, throwing Lafayette aside. He lurched to his feet unsteadily, then turned to face the imposing figure in the doorway, a figure from his nightmares. Someone he had never thought to see again.

“Attendant Amalphous, we meet again.” The robed figure stalked into the bay, gesturing at the men behind him to secure the winch and retract the boat back, then turned back to Lafayette.

“Indeed we do… Former Attendant Hubbard.” The old man ‘Lafayette’ shook his head sadly.

“Nobody has called me that in quite a while, and I rather prefer it that way.”

Lord Amalphous’s dark Thetan mask reflected Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’s haggard face back at him, but the old man ignored the withered-looking image and concentrated on his opponent.

“You and the Church have done quite well for yourselves since my escape,” he mentioned, almost casually moving between the winch controls and the advancing crewmen. Behind him, he heard the starter for the little boat whine as they attempted to start the engine on the hanging boat. A few more seconds…

The imposing figure shook his head mightily. “No, L. Ron, we just finished what you started. You built this amazing structure yourself, we simply allowed it to flourish into the amazing creation it is today. You were foolish to attempt to destroy it, you know.”

L. Ron waved the uncertain-looking men back as they rapidly figured out who he was. Just a few more seconds… He laughed mirthlessly at his berobed opponent.

“Amalphous… or little Davie Miscavige as you used to be known, I built this ‘church’ as a tool for my writing, not so it could become this…” he gestured around him, “this monstrosity. Faking my death was the only way to keep my real family safe, but I wish I had managed to pull this thing apart when I did it. Little did I know that you and Heber would be so effective at keeping it going.”

Amalphous/Miscavige chuckled behind his mask. “You may not have been serious when you started this, but it is, I assure you, very real now. Why, we’ve even built an entirely new type of E-Meter with a completely new effect. I think that perhaps you’ll find it very interesting.”

Pausing for time and listening to the little starter turn over behind him, L. Ron Hubbard responded with half his attention. “Oh yeah? Where is it?” Why wouldn’t that damn motor start?

“Why, it’s all around us.” Amalphous gestured at the ship walls, and suddenly Lafayette realized what he was saying. The heavy-duty masts, the antenna, the ominous round opening near the front of the ex-cruise ship….

“My god… you’ve built it into this ship? What the hell kind of E-Meter is it?”

Amalphous burst out laughing at this. “Into the ship? Why doctor, no, you misunderstand. It IS the ship! With this new E-Meter, we can perform DIRECT injection of lawsuits in any jurisdiction in the world! The special software onboard allows us to sue thousands, even MILLIONS of people at once!”

L. Ron Hubbard gaped.

Behind him, the motor roared to life. He spun around, waving at the people in the boat. “Go, goddamnit! Get out of here now!”

Harmon swung the axe he had ready and severed the line holding the horsetackle above him and the boat dropped into the water far below with a splash. He jumped into the seat up front and firewalled the throttle, sending the deceptively quiet looking boat leaping ahead as the 1,500 horsepower Mercuries blasted. The little boat shot away from the Freewinds and towards freedom.

Seeing the boat off, Lafayette Ron Hubbard turned back to Lord Amalphous slowly. “You have created… a terrible evil, David. You must stop before it’s too late, a system like this could cripple the world legal system overnight.”

David Miscavige shook his head once more. “I don’t intend to cripple it, Mr. Hubbard. I intend to use it. No matter that one little boat got away, we’ll catch them in the net of our law system once they touch ground.”

Perhaps, thought L. Ron Hubbard, but then again perhaps not. For he knew, even if Attendant Amalphous didn’t, that the girl being sped to safety was not, in fact, his niece as he had told Harmon earlier.

The girl was in fact the sister of someone else much more powerful.

As the hood came down over his head and he was trundled off towards imprisonment belowdecks, L. Ron Hubbard smiled where nobody could see and imagined what 4chan’s moot would say when his long-lost sister suddenly showed up.

He expected it would be memorable, and didn’t envy the Church the redoubled efforts of their age-old enemy that would undoubtedly come shortly.

(star wipe) The end.

Dad 1:, Children’s trust: 0

Dad 1:  Children's trust: 0

So, a few days ago I was eating an Otter Pop because, you know, Summer. Well, Summerish. Is it Summer yet? I haven’t taken measurements with my sextant yet so I’ve got to rely on what the MASS MEDIA tells me about the Equinox or Solstice and… no, stay off the conspiracy websites me, they’re not good for you. Anyway, I was eating an Otter Pop which as you may know is a plastic sleeve filled with sugar water that you freeze. They come in exciting flavors like ‘Blue’, ‘Green’, and, (as featured on the cover of this month’s Cordon Bleu Magazine) ‘Red’ and you eat them by cutting (or gnawing) off the end then squeezing the icy mess down your gullet.

I had just finished delicately consuming (read: ‘like a duck, no time for swallowing just spastically gulping’) one of these when inspiration struck. I had used scissors so the pouch had a clean cut at the end and now I had a cunning plan.

After thoroughly cleaning it, I got to work on refilling the sleeve. Using a mixture of three parts Sriracha to one part water, I filled it then fired up the stove. With a little experimentation, I figured out how to melt the end so that the new contents wouldn’t drip out and flash to steam while the plastic flowed. The last part was important because every time a droplet of Sriracha Juice flashed to steam, it basically maced me with the pepper vapors. That wasn’t great, but squinting through tear-gassed eyes, I persisted.

Finally, I had a satisfactory seal on the tube. Holding it up, I could see that it wasn’t perfect, but perfect is the enemy of the good enough and this was good enough. I kneaded it a few times to make sure the mix was uniform, shook it for good measure after making sure it wasn’t going to spray Sriracha all over the kitchen, then popped it into the freezer.

A couple days later, it happened. I had handed out a couple of Otter Pops on request and one of them was the ‘live round’. Our ten year-old Child A ended up with it and I tried not to be obvious as I watched him clip the end off and start eating.

After a couple seconds he stopped…. then turned and walked quickly to the garbage can. As he passed me, he muttered ‘I hate you, Dad’ and never before have those words brought such satisfaction. He started spitting into the trash then threw away the Sriracha Otter Pop. A few seconds later, he reached down, pulled it out again, and tried to casually offer his brother Child 1 a taste. “Hey, want to try?” he asked. Child 1, for once, hadn’t had his nose buried in his phone and had caught on that something was going on. He passed.

With little more than a few cents worth of Sriracha and maybe 10-15 minutes of effort I managed to teach my kids another lesson about how important it is not to trust anyone or thing. Hopefully this lesson will treat them well going forward just so long as I can keep them off those conspiracy theory websites.

But today, just today, Sriracha Otter Pop was actually an inside job.

The ‘Tapout’ hat my 10 year old thought lost turned up

It was Sunday, but in one sense, the sun was nowhere to be found. Dark metaphorical clouds raced figuratively across the literally clear sky in a confusing bit of imagery and the gods of prose died a little inside.

In the heart of Oregon, my family prepared for a trip to the theater. I was miles away with a trailer load of branches and yard debris, racing the pitiless march of time with one goal: watch Godzilla with everyone else. Little did I know the tale in progress at home.

Child 1 leaned his ten-year old head into the Kitchen. “Mom! Can we get some snacks?” My wife, the patient woman who had settled for me years ago, smiled as she shook her head.

“Snack at the theater are terribly expensive and we’ve budgeted just enough for admission. Let’s each take a small ziplock and put some nuts and banachips in that we can bring instead.” She pulled down the bags from the cupboard and handed them out. Child 1 and Child A took their bags and began coordinating snackage.

She glanced up at the clock on the microwave and started. “Boys, let’s get going!” Looking back at them, she saw that both had modestly filled their little sandwich ziplocs and were ready to leave but… there was a small problem.

“Child A”, she looked at the bag he was holding, “you’ve got a t-shirt on and those pants don’t seem to have pockets. How do you plan on getting those into the theater?”

Our family has, over the years, executed several smuggling operations into theaters. The goal: sneak quiet food in under the noses of the Snacks Watch. Quiet food because we don’t want to disrupt the film for others, obviously, but over the years we have snuck progressively stranger items in just for the challenge. Today’s trip wouldn’t feature any Taco Bell, ribs, or homebuilt single kernel-at-a-time popcorn makers so this should have been a cakewalk.

How did this happen?
How did this happen?

Child A looked around, thinking. As the youngest, he had the least amount of experience running the gauntlet, but he knew the basics. Seizing on an idea, he grabbed… a hat. My wife’s face fell. That hat.

In biology, there are niches that nature fills with form-specific creatures evolved to excel at one specific role. There are bacteria that live in the soupy depths of animal intestinal systems processing waste. Wasps are predators in the insect kingdom, stinging and biting like assholes as they fly from one disaster to another. Flies swarm decomposing bodies, gorging themselves and being part of a system that keeps us from being knee-deep in corpses.

A baseball-ish cap in form, it occupied a different niche: On an adult, it says ‘My wearer gets to see his kids once a month’. I’m not sure what it says when a kid is wearing it, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a sonnet.

“I can use this!” he chimed brightly. Setting the small ziploc on his head, he put on the hat and… it worked. The baggie wasn’t big enough to really distort the outline of his head and… it might just work. Shrugging, my wife ushered the kids out the door towards a date… with destiny. Well, maybe not a date, more like an appointment.

Meanwhile, I tightened the tie-down holding my trailer gate closed at the yardwaste dropoff and my friend and I tore out of there. “Hope you don’t miss your movie”, he offered. “Nah, I’ve got plenty of time” I lied. The film would start in 15 minutes and I still needed to drop him off. “Hey, do we have an active role in this story?” he might have asked, and with a shake of my head, I would have answered no. “But I feel like I’ve got to be in this story SOMEWHERE because I’m spending all this time typing it” I might have responded. “Hmmm.” he could have said.

At the theater, my family approached the ticket booth. The hat sat somewhat loosely on Child A’s head and she looked at it speculatively. Neither of us are exactly sure where it came from. One day, it had just… appeared as if delivered by some sort of pro-wrestling Mary Poppins. One evening Child A is a normal kid, a symbol of our hopes and dreams for a future full of possibilities and the next morning he’s got a Tapout hat.

Child 1 breezed through the ticketing process, his snacks tucked away in his pocket. This wasn’t his first dance, he knew the score. Child A approached the ticket-taker carefully, keeping his body as vertical as possible. Undoubtedly, the neon green hat felt like it was slipping a little back and forth. As he handed his ticket over, the taker glanced up at the bright beacon of classlessness. He may have snorted slightly in judgment before unironically scratching one of his 00 gauge hollow ear piercings. His attention drawn to the huge TAPOUT logo on the hat, he didn’t notice the shifting lump beneath and waved the family through.

Minutes later, I raced into the mall parking lot. The film was to start at 3:00 but it was already 2:55. I knew I had some time because the trailers and advertisements would buy them for me, but I also knew a film like Godzilla would probably have GOOD trailers so I found a double parking spot (so the yardwaste trailer wouldn’t stick out) then jogged into the theater. As I shamelessly inserted myself back into the story, a line stretched from the ticket booth. I sauntered past to use the ticket pick-up ATM things that the rest of my generation doesn’t seem to understand can also be used to just buy tickets too and came face to face with… a blank wall. There were outlines where they had been, but Regal, I later learned, had decommissioned them and this theater was now 100% manual. Fuck.

I got into line and waited. 3:00 passed, then 3:05. Finally, I reached the front. I paid in a flash of wasted writing that you the reader apparently have to wade through because it doesn’t really contribute to the narrative then ran to my film.

We watched Godzilla. As Godzilla films go, it was pretty good. This is, of course, compared to such masterpieces as ‘Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla’, ‘Godzilla vs. Metaphor’, and ‘Godzilla vs. Ferris Bueller’. As a film on its own merits, it wasn’t that great but that was fine. As an extended version of the film trailer, it was a fine film and I hardly felt ripped off at all.

Afterwards, we split up and headed out to our cars. Wife and Child A went to run an errand while I took Child 1 with me back home. Parking the trailer, I hardly broke anything at all and eventually wife and Child A got home too.

“MOM!” he suddenly blurted, “MY HAT!” With the keen sense of perception gifted to only the keenest observers, I noted that he was not in fact wearing a hat. I proudly announced this deduction and was met with stares that suggested I was an idiot.

“Oh %CHILD_A_NAME%, you must have left it at the theater.” Her Oscar-worth look of sympathy in place, she comforted Child A but both of us felt a surge of excitement. This was it. This was happening. Thinking ourselves good people, we had decided not to actually destroy the hat, but we both knew this was our big chance to let the world ‘just take care of it’.

“My haaaaat!” he cried again, a look of anguish on his face reminiscent of a teenage mother-to-be being told she’ll have to ‘cut back’ on alcohol during the pregnancy. My wife looked at me. “Ideas?” her eyes seemed to ask. “I don’t know, this seems like an opportunity to get rid of the hat” my eyes responded. “Sure, but we should probably at least go through the motions” her eyes suggested. “Fine, I guess. Hey, this eye-talking this is pretty handy” I noted with my eyes. “(EYES)” she said back, and I figured maybe whatever she meant had lost something in the translation. “Ok, I’ll try calling the theater” I eyed at her. “(EYES)” she said again, and looked at me kinda strangely. Enough eyeplay, I thought to myself. Let’s go through the motions.

I called the theater. After a few minutes on hold, the 15 year old manning the phones managed to connect me with what may have been a 17 year-old manager. “Hi there, do you folks have a lost & found?” I asked, making optimistic ‘crossed finger’ gangsigns at Child A.

“We do”, the manager responded. “What did you lose?”

“A green ‘Tapout’ hat”. The silence that stretched felt awkward. “It belongs to my ten year old son” I added in a rush, worried inexplicably that her opinion of the kind of person who actually calls to get something like this back mattered. She looked, then reported back. “There’s nothing like that here, sorry.” The apology at the end was very pro-forma, and I understood. It was hard to feel sorrow about a missing Tapout hat. I thanked her and hung up.

“Sorry dude”, I began, trying to sound ‘hip’ and ‘with it’, “they didn’t have it. We’ll call back tomorrow in case it shows up.”

Crestfallen, he nodded and left. The evening passed without drama and gradually, my wife and I began to think that the dark times of Our Kid Having A Tapout Hat were finally over. We celebrated by watching television because we’re American and that’s what we do instead of talking.

The next day, the kids left for school and all was well. No wailing, no gnashing of teeth, just a hatless kid on his scooter leaving that part of his childhood behind and us relieved at the prospect.

That afternoon, we got home and Child A went to get the mailkey from the car so he could check for something he’d bought off Amazon. He came running back into the house with… the hat.

“Mom! Dad! Look what I found in the car!” He practically jumped for joy, then followed that up by literally jumping for joy. Mailkey forgotten, he ran out to go play with his friends, green Tapout hat back on his head.

My wife and I looked at each other. “Well, shit.”

Semi-assed auto repair

We had a delivery car for our pizza restaurant and some jerk smashed into it and drove off one night when it was parked in the lot.  I smoothed out a bunch of the cosmetic damage with hammers and hate but the coolant overflow neck was snapped.  This is a plastic unpressurized jug that, in the Suzuki Swift, is lodged safely behind most of the frame of the car and the neck is modeled after that of a giraffe except more expensive.  To replace the reservoir, I determined that I would need to possibly remove the engine once or twice so I instead did something else.

My wife was finishing some sort of yogurt/milk drink (when I was a kid, you needed a SPOON to eat yogurt but I digress) so I snatched it out of her hands and cut the neck off.  Almost as an afterthought I rinsed it because, you know, science, then I scuffed up the inside bottom of it and the top exterior of the busted reservoir neck.  I then stretched the plastic drink container skirt thing over the neck where I had just placed some epoxy and then put a few strips of fiberglass on around it to reinforce.  Voila, the reservoir tank was complete again and had a screw-on cap and everything.  The car functioned quite well until we sold it and presumably afterwards too.

I sometimes sit in bed at night and wonder what the first mechanic that touched it afterwards thought when he was was working under the hood and found himself looking at a car part that entreated him in official looking letters to ‘Refrigerate After Opening‘.

Raccoon War 2012:The Game


It’s not just for real anymore, now it’s a game.

I received an amazing gift for my birthday this month and wanted to share this.  Kassandra Kaplan made an actual ‘Raccoon War 2012’ board game for me, and it’s incredible.

As you may know, I had a series of incidents (linked) involving a raccoon that snuck into my house repeatedly defeating various traps along the way until finally (spoilers) I got it.  Kass was inspired by my struggle to create a board game where players can fight their own battles against the procyon menace and it’s a lot of fun.

First, the production quality is tremendous.  The game comes in a box (pictured) that contains a folding board, two cloth bags with game pieces, and two decks of cards in transparent boxes.

The Board

The bear board. I mean, BARE board! We can’t bring bears into this too!

The board is printed on quad-fold chipboard and has a heavy, solid feel.  When set up, it shows a map representing something that looks very similar to the Willamette Valley, with a few slight changes.  There are four geographical ‘zones’ with color-coded locations that often roughly coincide with real Eugene/Springfield places but have raccoon-esque names like ‘Orsetto Lavastore Pizza’, ‘Araiguma Dojo’, and of course ‘Tanuki Sushi’.  Thirsty?  Better head to ‘Waschbären Wein und Bier’!  Each zone belongs to a raccoon ‘general’/end-boss (who must be defeated).  There are 39 total locations which are interconnected to form a network of paths.  The top has a place for player cards and throwaways, and the bottom is dedicated to the raccoon army’s attack cards which are pulled each turn and control things like the spread of new raccoons, breeding rates, and more.

The Cards

Printed on 165# heavy clay coated card stock, they feel professional and look great.  There are two decks and some outlier control cards.  The players have a deck of locations they can add to their inventory (which they can then use as instant teleports, to fight raccoon generals once they have 5 of the appropriate color, build teleport bases) and mixed in (proportionately to the number of players) with them are raccoon escalation cards that do things like increase breeding rates, advance the raccoon agenda towards winning (the 9 circles on the bottom, a sort of raccoon game progress indicator), and so on. There are also player cards that change their role; master trappers who can trap more at once, real estate agents who can set up bases, etc.

The other deck has a card played each turn that helps the raccoons.  The 39 placenames can have new animals ‘appear’ on them as summoned by the raccoon attack cards, and the rate they accumulate increases throughout the game as they breed.


The gameplay is similar to Pandemic with many differences including a new ‘Ricky the Raccoon’ human-played antagonist that Kassie has been finalizing.  We played the inaugural game a few days ago and it was a blast.  Three adults and my 10 year-old played and everyone got into it very quickly.  The raccoons started out in a couple of tiny colonies and victory seemed assured, but for every fire we put out, another one or two started…  then spread.  It’s a collaborative game where we’re playing against a common enemy, so there was plenty of horse-trading (well, card trading.  There are few actual horses in the game.) within the rules and we had a great time.  You can perform up to 4 actions a turn (with some modifiers based on role-cards) such as move, trap, build base, etc. It sounds complicated at the beginning, but we were playing like pros within minutes.

Here’s a gallery with pictures of an unboxing and the board during our game:

In conclusion, this is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received and I’m blown away by the amount of work she put into this and the quality result.  Raccoon War 2012 will be a treasured family board game for years and a great reminder of both my victory against the furred menace as well as the amazing things the people we care about can surprise us with.  Thank you Kassie, you’re amazing!

As for you, Ricky the Raccoon, stay out!

RaccoonWar 2012 – Omnibus Edition

A few months ago, I engaged in a struggle against the wiliest of foes: Procyon Lotor aka Raccoon who was invading my house at night and emptying the cat food bowl. Over a roughly two week period, we engaged in a game of cat and also cat.


  • Q: “Why don’t you just lock your cat door like a normal person?” you may ask.
    A: “If I do that, the Raccoon Terrorists win” I respond.
  • Q: “Why not shoot/poison/stab the animal?” some others of you ask.
    A: “Because killing is easy, and plus I don’t want to create some sort of raccoon martyr”, I answer.
  • Q: “???” you ask, a confused look on your face, and “just read the damn posts” I sigh in return.
    A: Just read the damn posts.

I have taken the posts comprising the entirety of my experience and combined them into a single page for your edutainment.  The RaccoonWar logo is repeated but that’s because these are the original posts presented inline.

I stand before you a human, annealed in the forges of struggle against a dark, smart menace.  Here, friend, is my struggle:

UPDATE 6/24/2013: A new menace?

Historical Record of the Raccoon War of 2012

The beginning of the struggle.

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I’ve been documenting a struggle between man and beast on my bookface.  A few friends who have moved out of the Zuckerbergverse have asked that I post them elsewhere, so I shall copy the progress here.

“Does anyone nearby have a live-trap I can use to get the raccoon that’s coming into my house? He needs to be somewhere else.” I initially asked.  My friends helpfully explained that while they didn’t, the fact that I had a raccoon problem was hilarious.

I responded:

My friends suggested I do this to the raccoon.

“Up until now, I wanted to capture and sedate it, then put a cape on it. I’d planned it all out; the cape would fasten securely in back and his thieving little arms would go through holes in it so it wouldn’t create a choking hazard and it’d be locked in the proper orientation. Then I would release it into downtown Eugene and monitor craigslist and letters-to-the-editor asking if anyone else had seen the same odd sight they had in their backyard.

Surreality would have gone up, I would have been grimly satisfied that the raccoon was elsewhere and humiliated, and the problem would have been solved.

What changed things is KayDee and I both independently began to suspect he was responsible for our most recent lost cat. Finally, the camel that broke the straw’s back last night was when Alexander woke up downstairs face-to-face with the raccoon (who we thought had stopped coming in) and scared the bejeebers out of him.

Nope, I’m ready to relocate this guy. He’s a raccoon doing raccoon stuff so I see no need to kill him (the cat stuff is circumstantial at best) but he needs to do his thing elsewhere.”

In which I purchase a trap.

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Our world, their war.

Raccoonwars update: I bought a trap yesterday and emplaced it in front of the cat door last night. To prevent our own cats from being suddenly captured, we locked them all in our bedroom. “They won’t mind, right?” KayDee and I rhetorically asked each other while avoiding eye contact (as we knew our words rang false).

The cats, as it turned out, did in fact mind. Quite a bit. Last night’s sleep was punctuated with occasional bouts of plaintive meowing, hissing (they did not appreciate being stuck next to the new kittens which they see as interlopers), and a steady monotonous scratching at the locked bedroom catdoor which had betrayed them by cutting off their easy escape.

Meanwhile, the raccoon chose last night to skip our house. Whether he stuck his head in and recognized the baited trap for what it was or reads Facebook and knew what was in the works, he/she was not in the case at 3AM when I finally relented and let the cats free.

Tonight, we will try a modified strategy that involves NOT trying to prevent our cats from being dumb and getting caught in the cage. We’ll just leave the cage out and hope the Raccoon goes for it while our obnoxious ‘cannot-let-Ben-sleep’ cats skip it. After last night, I can’t really build up a huge head of concern at the thought that one or both of the cats might end up trapped for a few hours in the cage, so it’s potentially one of those ‘win win’ situations.

We shall see.

The raccoon strikes back

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Nature's hamburglar except without the hamburgers

Per my previous post, I set the trap up inside with adequate spacing for the cats to go in and out of the house. Holding off on Tyler’s ‘put an egg on it’ advice for now, I placed a small container of cat food in the cage and set it for action. KayDee and Alex were out late attending the baseball fight so I went to sleep and where visions of trapped raccoons danced through my head.

A half hour or so later downstairs there arose such a clatter, I wearily woke up just enough to ask the returning KayDee what was the matter.

The raccoon was apparently in our house when they had come in the front door. Standing on his hind legs next to the cage, he challenged my wife and child for ownership of the house. Alex, flux with territorial pride after watching the Ems handily beat the visiting ‘Bears’ (which are basically large raccoons, right?) apparently lunged at the invading critter with his hands over his head roaring “Noooooo!” Reconsidering the risk/rewards of remaining, the animal turned and ran out the cat door.

The trap, I note, had somehow been set off already but sat empty.

KayDee reset it, but when I checked this morning I found it open and containing an empty container of cat food.

The raccoon had, apparently, come back in the middle of the night once things had gotten quiet and eaten the food in the trap. Somehow avoiding the trigger plate and with the delicate precision of a surgeon removing a live bomb from someone’s chest cavity, he apparently extracted every single little piece of cat food then strolled out the door.

For comparison sake, one of our tiny kittens was trapped in this a couple days ago when he set off the feather-light trigger, so this raccoon is an expert.

Tonight… I shall attempt again but with the food secured at the back. Hopefully, the awkwardly precarious posture needed to reach it will be his undoing.

(ed: at this point, my friends suggested I try baiting the trap with eggs.  “Ok”, I thought.  I’ll try that.  Tonight.)

Looking for victory in all the wrong places

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The enemy is crafty. He is clever.

Before going to bed, I set the trap. Last night’s bait: one uncooked chicken egg. I tried to use peanut butter to bind it to the trigger plate, but my foolish decision to purchase creamy instead of chunky once again came back to punish me. Oh hubris, thou art merciless with thy lessons!

I retired to the Raccoon Operations Monitoring Strategy center (aka bed) and slept.

At 3:30, chaos visited my home.

I woke to clattering and thumping downstairs, punctuated by animal noises. “Aha!” I thought, “the game is afoo-AARRGH!” and tripped on a box on the floor of my unlit room. I banged into things in the noisiest way possible while trying to avoid faceplanting into something sharp and succeeded, but at the cost of stealth.

Dazed, I turned to apologize to my wife for waking her and was met instead by an uninterrupted snore. The two kittens that had set up camp atop her blanket-covered form woke long enough to meow a complaint at me then went back to sleep as well.

I walked downstairs, my phone in flashlight mode held out before me protectively. From the noises, there could be a swarm of raccoons trying to trap their freed buddy as far as I knew. The thumping had stopped, but there was now an ominous crunching noise. Crunch. Crunch. (pause) Crunch.

At the bottom of the stairs, I turned to our family room and checked the cage. Empty. Then movement caught my eye and I realized that the grey shape I had seen was in fact the raccoon. He was… leaning on the cage. Casually. And in his hand, he had cat food.

Staring at me, he swallowed then slowly and deliberately put another piece of catfood into his mouth. Crunch. The noises I had heard earlier? Possibly related to our catbear ‘Bender’, a giant house lion (killer of birds, scourge of mice). When I get downstairs, he’s sitting on the couch watching the raccoon. I don’t know if they’ve been battling or if there’s some sort of professional courtesy thing going, but the chaos noises have stopped.

I’d like to take a moment to unexpectedly talk about my son Marcus and some of the social challenges he faces in school. It’s a brief side-story, I promise. Marcus (10) likes cats (he’s the 10 year old male version of the ‘Can’t Hug Every Cat’ song, check YouTube if you’ve not seen it) and this is usually fine except for when it intercepts social interaction with non-cats (specifically, humans). Speaking with him a few weeks ago, I discovered that Marcus had decided that when he wanted to be left alone at recess, it was a hassle to _tell_ people who were coming to talk to him because it took valuable time to explain that no, they were still friends but yes, he just wanted to chill for a little. “Instead”, he told me, “now I just hiss at them.” This was distressing for any number of reasons, and I told him that taking a page from the Cat Book is not always the best answer. We talked about how important it is to use our words (even when it’s a hassle), and how we as humans have options cats don’t when it comes to asking folks to back off.

Moriarty to my Holmes? Or Mr. Krab to my Plankton?

Back to 3:30 this morning, I’m facing the raccoon. We’re in one of these standoffs. The egg is sitting unmolested within the cage, I now realize that the thumping I heard was him trying to open the catfood bin in the next room, and even though I keep looking at the cage, he just won’t go into it. We stand there, then Raccoon takes the next step.

I mean literally, he takes a step towards me. Oh HELL no. So I, calling on millions of years of evolution that has led to the species of man which can harness the atom, fly to other planets, look into the depths of creation itself, respond instinctively. I HISSSSSS at him.

“Nope”, the raccoon says with his body language, “I don’t have time for this flavor of crazy.” He turns and heads out the cat door.

I secure the cat food behind a door and trudge wearilly upstairs. Last night’s battle wasn’t a draw, it wasn’t a stalemate. It was a loss. The image of that cocky son of a sow leaning on the cage and casually popping Whiskas like they were popcorn, that’s the image that’ll stay with me for today.

To be continued.

Computermifying the trap

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Clearly, I have underestimated my foe in the past, but no longer.  I have tried to meet him on his battlefield: creature versus creature.  This is foolish for he is clearly a better creature than I, a human, who because of civilization am separated somewhat from the mad scrabble of wilderness and the required base cunning it engenders.

This was a mistake.  To win, I must use skills he presumably does not have but I possess: Skills of technology and science.

I have modified the animal trap so that it no longer matters how delicate his touch is when reaching over the pressure plate to grab the food.  It no longer matters whether or not he can use some sort of raccoon magic to float through the air to secure the prize without triggering the door, because I am now using COMPUTERS.

I’ve attached a camera that looks down into the cage and am monitoring it with Yawcam, a program that can perform actions when motion is detected within a specific area.

When the raccoon enters the cage, the motion will cause it to execute a program that uses a electromechanical servo to trigger the pressure plate manually, trapping this furred bandit so I can take him elsewhere.

I also now have a camera set up to capture the grand event, recording with my Microsoft LifeCam.  The end of his revolution, friends, WILL be televised.  View the attached video to see the setup if any of this is unclear.

I set the trap last night, but when I woke up, it looks to have been triggered by one of my goddamn cats walking past the lamp and changing the light level JUST ENOUGH to set it off.  I’ll play around with the lights to avoid a recurrence of this tonight, but I anticipate success in the near future, barring other interference from my GODDAMN CATS.

This raccoon has become my furry white whale, I know, but from hells heart I promise I _will_ catch it.

An Unexpected Development

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 5 comments. Top.

Watching the logs this morning from the first night’s attempt with the computer-enhanced trap, I thought cat shadows had set off the motion detector.  The computer that was supposed to record ‘the big picture’ had helpfully shut down for Windows Updates an hour before the event, so I could only refer to a collection of snapshots from the detector itself.

On further review this afternoon, I discovered unmistakable evidence that what I thought happened had not happened and realized I would need to change my trap.  A lot.

RaccoonWar Intermission

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

Humanity’s challenger. Who will survive?

The group I’m in was just picked to participate in the Red Bull Creation challenge so I was out quite late last night. By the time I staggered into home, I was too tired to set the traps and cameras, so we barricaded the cat door for the night.

Tonight, I hope to try out the new trap. I’ll have video eyes on it and hope to have footage of the monster in its new cage-shaped home soon.

The trap is waiting

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The trap is set. Follow this delicious trail, Mr Raccoon. Follow it to more wonderful cat food!

I’ve put a light over the food to remove the shadow problem.  A beckoning light.  Come closer, my dear.


Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 5 comments. Top.

The raccoon may or may not know how to use computers.  He entered the house, the trap was set off without him in it.  I need to review the tapes and figure out how it went off without him in the cage.  WHAT.

This is terrible!


Disaster! followup and video

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

A followup to this morning’s image. I was at the shop most of today and didn’t have a chance to check it out until later today. I finally discovered the actual cause of the premature traptulation. When wandering past the computer, he stumbled on the cable that handled the motion-detection.

The software compares video frames for changes and activates if there’s a difference. It turns out that if frame 1 has an image of the food bowl and frame 2 has a ‘picture’ of ‘CAMERA DISCONNECTED’, they do not match and the logic to fire the trap is run.

Some footage of the raccoon itself in motion. Damn his furry soul…

I needed more power, Scotty…

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

Interim update

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

It’s been a very busy last few days at the shop working on the Redbull Challenge thing, so I haven’t been able to devote any time to the Raccoon Menace. I set the trap last night covering the entire cat door again and locked the cats in with my 10 year-old so they wouldn’t wake ME up, but there was no sign of my foe last night.

The food was uneaten, my computer untouched, and the barricades I emplaced to prevent him from getting into the house proper were still intact this morning.

Once we can get a critical pneumatic lift system functioning reliably for the project, I’ll have more time to improve the trap. While I’m loathe to place it outside (because I’ll start catching neighborhood cats), it may be worth it for the ‘who knows?’ factor. Also, if I catch another squirrel like I did a few days ago, the humor potential is pretty high. After all, how exactly WOULD General Growth Properties handle a loose squirrel inside Gateway Mall, hypothetically speaking?

We got him!

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:01:25 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

And finally:

An unsettling coincidence

Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:00:47 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Something unsettling happened last night.  You may read this and think ‘Oh you, now you’re being silly’, but this really happened.

I left the shop around midnight after a long day working on our contest entry and turned from McKinley onto 7th/99 to head east towards home.  For anyone outside of town, this is the far west side of Eugene and I live in the far east side of Springfield.  There are two towns between where I was and where I live.

Due to massive road construction, the four lane road is currently a single lane with a one foot drop-off (~1/3 meter for my civilized friends) into rock on one side and a sidewalk on the other.  The street lights for this stretch were out, so this stretch was very dark.

As I accelerated, I noticed a dark shape on the road ahead of me.  I began to slow and as I did so, I picked up three more shapes next to it.  I rolled to a stop about 20 feet away from a group of four…   raccoons.  They had stopped in the road and were staring at me.


After a moment, they backed off the road as if to say ‘move along, buddy’ so I took my foot off the brake and began inching forward.  As I neared them (watching from the sidewalk), I carefully reached out and locked the door.

“Thunderscreech”, I thought to myself, “you’re being silly.”  Then I looked over to my left as I passed the group and saw that the biggest one was standing up and facing directly at me.

I don’t know what I thought it could do, but…  I punched it.  I hit the gas and took off.

It’s a coincidence, right?  I mean, a hamburglar of raccoons (I assume that’s the proper collective noun for these animals) standing in the middle of a darkened construction zone that just happens to be a natural constriction point I’d travel through is something that happens to other people, right?



Last modified on 2015-11-12 00:00:03 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

It’s been a year since the events surrounding what I think of as the Raccoon Wars of 2012 and there has been a change.  If you are new to ‘As The Ben Turns’, you may not know of the epic struggle in which I was embroiled: Inhuman foes, elaborate traps, puzzles, and coming face to face with snarling enemies are all parts of a series of escalations I’ve documented here.

For the past few weeks, there have occasionally been mysteriously clean dry-food plates in the Catfeteria.  As we all know, a dish that is 50% or below full of catfood = empty as the soul of an MPAA executive in the eyes of a cat, so finding the occasional catfood bowl that’s picked clean has been…  concerning.

Fast forward to 4:30 this morning.  Coming down the stairs, I heard a deliberate mechanical crunching.  Our cats are very casual eaters, so the chomping machine I was hearing was not normal.  CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH it went with the subtlety of a woodchipper being fed Federal witnesses.  CRUNCH CRUNCH CRUNCH.

Turning on my flashlight, I crept around the corner to see a bag of dry food jerking and wiggling as it was methodically disemboweled by some sort of furred monster.  “It can’t be him…  I defeated the raccoon” I told myself, but the evidence of a non-cat invader couldn’t be ignored.  ‘Maybe it’s a stray’, I told myself unconvincingly.

I snuck closer, then shined the line directly at it.  “Ah HA!” I yelled.  “!!!!” it snarled and then, in a panic, disappeared _into_ the large bag.  I wasn’t sure what I had seen, but I knew a few things:

1. It was not a cat.
2. It was not a raccoon.
3. It was angry and uncoordinated.

The bag spun around and danced as the mystery creature struggled to, well, literally fight its way out of a paper bag.  After an embarassing 5-10 seconds it finally succeeded and tore out of the house through the open sliding glass door.  Crud, I’d forgotten to reset that last night, at least now I had a theory on how it had gotten in.

During its sprint, it looked over at me and for a moment, time slowed down and I got a clear look at what I was facing.  I could see every greasy hair on its pointy head as it turned to glance at me before majestically plowing into the corner of the slider and bouncing out the door.  Time returned to normal, but now I knew the name of my enemy.


The small, land equivalent of a Great White Shark, the possum has approximately one billion teeth in its mouth.  I’ve been able to see a couple examples of this over the past few weeks when my mighty cats have brought in living possum yutes for us to presumably adopt.  Their mouths, when they’re hissing at me, appear to be lined with inward facing teeth like some sort of furry Sarlacc Pit and their beady little eyes contain only hate for a world that does not respect possums.

The yutes I’d carefully taken outside had been maybe 8-10 inches but the thing that erupted out of that innocent bag of Kitty Kibble must have had a torso that was more than a foot long, uneasily attached to an overly muscular tail of the sort you’d expect to be found on display in the Snake House at a zoo.

This ‘possum battleship’ blasted out of my house at a fearsome clip and I quickly closed the screendoor behind it, but now I’m left wondering: has this creature been coming in through the cat door before now?

Have the Raccoon Wars re-opened with a new ‘End Boss’?

Do I need to buy more catfood?

An unsettling coincidence

Something unsettling happened last night.  You may read this and think ‘Oh you, now you’re being silly’, but this really happened.

I left the shop around midnight after a long day working on our contest entry and turned from McKinley onto 7th/99 to head east towards home.  For anyone outside of town, this is the far west side of Eugene and I live in the far east side of Springfield.  There are two towns between where I was and where I live.

Due to massive road construction, the four lane road is currently a single lane with a one foot drop-off (~1/3 meter for my civilized friends) into rock on one side and a sidewalk on the other.  The street lights for this stretch were out, so this stretch was very dark.

As I accelerated, I noticed a dark shape on the road ahead of me.  I began to slow and as I did so, I picked up three more shapes next to it.  I rolled to a stop about 20 feet away from a group of four…   raccoons.  They had stopped in the road and were staring at me.


After a moment, they backed off the road as if to say ‘move along, buddy’ so I took my foot off the brake and began inching forward.  As I neared them (watching from the sidewalk), I carefully reached out and locked the door.

“Thunderscreech”, I thought to myself, “you’re being silly.”  Then I looked over to my left as I passed the group and saw that the biggest one was standing up and facing directly at me.

I don’t know what I thought it could do, but…  I punched it.  I hit the gas and took off.

It’s a coincidence, right?  I mean, a hamburglar of raccoons (I assume that’s the proper collective noun for these animals) standing in the middle of a darkened construction zone that just happens to be a natural constriction point I’d travel through is something that happens to other people, right?

Disaster! followup and video

A followup to this morning’s image. I was at the shop most of today and didn’t have a chance to check it out until later today. I finally discovered the actual cause of the premature traptulation. When wandering past the computer, he stumbled on the cable that handled the motion-detection.

The software compares video frames for changes and activates if there’s a difference. It turns out that if frame 1 has an image of the food bowl and frame 2 has a ‘picture’ of ‘CAMERA DISCONNECTED’, they do not match and the logic to fire the trap is run.

Some footage of the raccoon itself in motion. Damn his furry soul…