We'd gone to dozens of shelters and pet stores looking for an animal to be my familiar. Birds, snakes, rats, cats, frogs, dogs, rabbits, iguanas ... my mind was reeling by the time we'd gotten to the Ferret Rescue League. When the attendant put the second slinky ball of fluff in my hands, I felt a strange warm humming buzz along my spine. And before I had a chance to think, I'd already said, "This is the one. Let's take him and go home."

     And, honestly? I'd sort of been hoping for a cat or dog.  The ferret was sheer adorableness, sure, but we couldn't let him out of his cage without him immediately finding the most damn inaccessible place in the apartment to dive into and hide. Like the bedsprings, or the coils behind the refrigerator. Cooper finally had to cook up a ferret retrieval charm.

     However, the ferret was still a bit stinky. The musky oils in his fur took a half-dozen hand washings to get off my skin. Cooper refused to do a deodorant charm on the grounds that a ferret ought to smell like a ferret, and I was Just Being Picky. So I became resigned to the ferret funk, and waited for the magic to happen.

     "Should I be worried that he's not talking yet?" I asked Cooper. "I mean, I could've picked wrong. How do I know what a good connection is supposed to feel like if I've never felt it before?"

     Cooper shrugged. "You just know. I've seen a dozen apprentices pick their first familiars, and so far things seem normal to me. I wouldn't worry about him yet. He isn't fully grown. Sometimes it takes a while for a familiar to awaken. Probably he just needs a little more exposure to magic."

     Cooper snapped his fingers and the radio tuner face lit up, the dial spinning over to his favorite oldies station. "Stairway to Heaven" was just fading out.

     The DJ's voice broke in. "Hope all you night birds have found your own little bit of Heaven tonight, even if it is too darn hot out. Don't you wish it was Christmas? A little Christmas in July? Here's some Doug and Bob Mackenzie to make you think cool thoughts ..."

     "The Twelve Days of Christmas" lurched through the speakers.

     Cooper jerked and swatted the air. The speakers squealed as the radio sparked in the dashboard. The stench of scorched wiring filled the car.

     "Jesus, Cooper, you didn't have to break it!"

     "I hate that goddamn song." The color had left his face, and a muscle in his left eyelid was twitching.

     "I know. But jeez." He'd never been able to explain to me why he so disliked any version of the song, no matter how silly, but usually he could suffer through a few stanzas until he could change the station or leave the room. I'd never seen him react so violently to it before.

     "What are you going to do if we get carolers next December, kill them?" I asked.

     He didn't reply. The bad post-nightmare madness was back in his eyes. I rolled down my window to air out the car.

     "Hey, are you okay?" I asked him gently. "If you're not feeling well, we should put this off until tomorrow night."

     "No." He shook his head as if to clear it. He gave me a quick, unconvincing smile, then fixed his eyes back on the road. "I'm fine. Let's do this thing. I told the Warlock we'd hit the Panda Inn for karaoke and a late dinner tonight."

     You mean late drinks, I thought, irritated, but didn't say anything. I couldn't really fault Cooper for wanting to hang out with his half-brother; it was good to see Cooper happy, and he and the Warlock always had fun. The Warlock's boozy come-ons were tolerable. I just wished their nights out didn't always end with Cooper puking up Suffering Bastards and Mai Tais at five in the morning.  As with stinky ferrets, Cooper refused to use any anti-poisoning charms on the grounds that a night of drinking ought to feel like a night of drinking.

     We left the freeway and drove up Broad Street. On one side loomed the St. Joseph Cathedral (which had been home to more than its share of miracles because it was so close to the Grove), and on the other the high stone garden wall that surrounded most of the park. The fence had gone up in the '60s when traffic got bad enough that wandering Grove creatures started running a real risk of getting squashed by cars.

     The only open side faced the Statehouse, and it was also the only part that attempted to masquerade as a standard city park. There was a half-acre of mowed lawn, some decorative cherry trees, a goldfish pond surrounded by concrete benches, and a few picnic tables. A line of ward-charmed rocks marked the border between the lawn and the western edge of the Grove. The wards were subtle, but effectively kept most mundanes out of the Grove and reminded most Grove denizens to stay put.

     Cooper turned the Dinosaur left onto 3rd Street and then took another left into Taft Park's tiny parking lot. He gunned the motor to get the huge car over the curb and drove it across the grass, dodging picnic tables and startling a small flock of sleeping Canada geese. The tires left no marks on the turf; Cooper had long ago enchanted the wheels.

     "Yuck. Grass is probably covered in goose shit," he said as the geese flew off, honking alarm. "Annoying birds."

     "Could we use it for anything?"

     "Use what?" he asked. He hit the brake and put the car in park. We were about a dozen yards away from the ornamental fish pond.

     "Goose poop."

     That's the core of ubiquemancy: magic is in everything. The spell-caster just has to figure out what kind of magic, how it can be used, and then invoke it in a spur-of-the-moment chant that sounds like a Pentecostal speaking in tongues to those who can't understand the primal languages. Unlike other magical disciplines, ubiquemancy seldom involves calling on spirits directly. Instead it relies on instinct, improvisation, and imagination to focus ambient magical energies.

     Some people think that we can do any kind of magic with ubiquemancy, and while that's theoretically true, in practice it's a whole lot trickier, especially if things have Gone Terribly Wrong.  It's not just about coming up with the right words. It's a lot like singing -- some spells are about as hard as "Mary Had A Little Lamb", but some of them are as challenging as La Bohème. Few singers can do a difficult aria the first time out of the gate, and if they don't have the right natural range they might never be able to do it. And even if a singer has range and skill, being able to improvise and perform a brand new aria right there on the spot while the audience is ripping the chairs out of the aisles and throwing them at your head ... well, like I said, it's tricky. But then again you can get lucky sometimes.

     Ubiquemancy worked very well with Cooper's manic, live-for-the-moment mindset. People who dismiss the style call Cooper and our kind Babblers; the name's stuck enough that even those who respect the art use it.

     Magical talent is the biggest thing that makes a good Babbler. And Cooper had talent in spades. On his good days, he was one of the best wizards I had ever seen; I couldn't have asked for a better master. Unfortunately, on his bad days he had a tendency to give in to his self-destructive streak and drink himself senseless. At least after we became lovers he'd mostly kept away from the bottle.

     I sometimes got frustrated with ubiquemancy's magical anarchy and Cooper's pat "oh, you just know" replies to my questions. Sometimes I thought I would have been better off learning a more formalized magic like Mother Karen's white witchcraft.

     But darned if Cooper's crazy magic didn't work.

     "Goose shit," Cooper mused. He turned off the ignition. "It'd be great for curing barren earth ... fire tricks ... controlling geese ... summoning predatory animals ... spoiling food and water ... plant growth ... and maybe flight. Lots of stuff we don't need to do tonight."

Chechens, are you goddamned kidding me? I admit to being completely taken by surprise here, but the pieces fit together with eerie accuracy.

The two prime suspects in the Boston bombing, apparently two Chechen brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, highjacked a vehicle in the course of their activity this morning, and told the driver they were the Boston bombers. One of them is currently dead, the other on the run.

For those of you who are not aware, Chechens come from Chechnya. Russia has been dealing with them for decades; specifically, the batshit ones who keep pulling terrorist shit all over the region, particularly in Russia. Most Chechen terrorism is religiously motivated; this is a side effect of strong Chechen separatist movements which have been strongly based on identity politics with an Islamic focus since about WWII; they cropped up in earnest right around the time the Soviet Union attempted its first major "Russification" of Chechnya. At one point in the not too distant past, an Islamic militia from Chechnya attempted to liberate a neighboring region based on a referendum from an Islamic authority.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Chechnya had built itself up as an independent state on par with most other former Soviet states. Unfortunately, the newly minted post-USSR Russia, didn't agree with the progress they'd made.

The struggle culminated in a series of wars in the early 1990s, and have simmered as a long string of hijackings, bombings, and guerrilla warfare on one side; and sanctions, bombings, and paramilitary action on the other.

A good number of Chechen Muslims have shown up in Afghanistan over the years to do Jihad there as well. They're typically the best equipped and trained "foreign fighters" in the theater, mainly due to the large institutional experience of the radical communities in Chechnya. In Afghanistan, Chechens in your neighborhood is bad bad news. They're typically not affiliated with Al Qaeda or the TTP, and are not interested in showboating. They show up to kill infidels and only to kill infidels, don't usually release puffed up propaganda, and have often been reported as using Afghanistan as a way to get operational experience to take back to their homeland to continue fighting there.

It's unclear right now exactly how long the bombers have been in the United States, but at least one local woman has reported that she went to middle school with one of them. They lived in Turkey before the United States, and both are legal permanent residents. Dartmouth in a press release this morning also reports that one of them was enrolled as a student there; the other graduated Cambridge in 2011.

In any case, late last night they went on a petty crime spree, and then early this morning they ambushed a campus police officer at MIT. They had a carload of IEDs, and were both armed and wearing suicide vests.

After a protracted shootout with responding officers, during which the suspects threw bombs and shot at police a hundred times or so, one is dead and the other is on the loose, probably still wearing his suicide vest.

I'll admit to being taken completely by surprise at Chechen radicals being responsible, but it certainly does fit with the classic tactics and planning involved.

Boston is on lockdown, public transit closed, and people ordered to stay indoors.

If you'd like to watch the local news in Boston, you can do so here.

Addendum: One of the suspects' uncles has given an impassioned speech to local Boston news television claiming that although they are Chechen Muslims, that "someone else" must have radicalized the bombers, and that anybody claiming Islam is responsible for this is incorrect. He's asked the remaining bomber to turn himself in, so as not to further taint the name of Chechens everywhere.

I have quite a bit of time on my hands these days, as I am on a disabilty income due to a combination of bi-polar disorder and PTSD. So I have decided to take online courses to become a design engineer. I'm pretty sure I have the basic premise down pat. Everything I design will have parts that start failing the day after the basic warranty ends, and the entire unit will fail irrepairably the day after the longest extended warranty possible to buy ends. Will someone in the personnel department at a major manufacturing company please contact me with a job offer if this sounds like the type of staff you have on hand and would like more of.

So apparently I have a medial meniscal tear in my left knee. Woooohoooo.

On the crap side, this is why it's been making me limp like lumpy for the past couple of months, as well as hurt like crazy and be super sensitive to particular motions which then result in 12-24 hrs of ache and swelling. Also: this will require surgery.

On the plus side, unlike my other knee when it hurt, this is a specific, visible problem. Also on the plus side, as my ortho surgeon said as we looked at X-Rays while waiting for the MRI, "There are three things that might be happening in your knee. One of them I can't fix. One of them I can fix in 20% of cases. And one of them I can definitely fix." This is the 'definitely fix' case. Hooray! Also, since it's arthroscopic surgery (no incision) the recovery is fast, complications minimal, and generally I should be able to drive and put full weight on it (except for comfort reasons) within a day or two.

Looks like I'll be working remotely for a week or so in the next couple months.

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