Wednesday, December 28, 2011

These Things Happen

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, I took a cantaloupe-sized green egg away from a father whose kind has been unchanged for some 80 million years.  I was nervous, because he weighted nearly as much as I did, and had claws far longer and sharper than mine. And besides which, he was a parent and I was only hoping to be one with his stolen child, which I imagined gave him an advantage.

But he was confused, new to the game, not really that concerned, and I stepped past him easily enough and took the small pipping green egg, this hatchling critter who, when she was finally free of the hard shell, fit easily into the palm of my one hand.

I raised her inside for months until she was big enough, then outside in a greenhouse. She was beautiful, of course, and smelled fabulous to me, with my mother's eyes and nose.

When I left that far-off land, I left her in the care of both new human parents and the parents of her own kind. Knowing she was well was enough.

She died today, at five and a half years old.  It happened suddenly, mysteriously, in her sleep. These things happen.

Having recently been through the death of a beloved fur-child that was not sudden, not mysterious, and not fast, I do see the advantages in this quick transition.

And yet, and yet. It is not all that much easier.

But these things happen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Snot Funny

I'd like to be able to say that aside from this particular habit, Kitty is a loving, generous and intelligent creature.

Not quite. Kitty is demanding, touchy, and temperamental.

Like most cats, Kitty naps. Unlike most cats, when she wakes she shakes her head vigorously, sliming everything in the surrounding area. We're not talking a little spray here, friends, but amounts of wetness that lead one to first wonder where she keeps it all inside that tiny head, and second where a towel might be. I usually say something loud as well.

So I decide I've had enough. It's time for the vet. As I reach for the phone, I imagine the exam in my mind. I have a very good imagination.

The vet says, "Well, she seems healthy enough.  I wonder if it's allergies."

Uh oh. I know more than a little about allergies. I know what comes next.

"Does she do this after anything in particular?" the vet asks. "What do you feed her? You might want to consider trying a new food, see if that helps. Give it a month or so and check back."

"Okay," I say. "We'll give that a try."

And there it is: the vet visit has taken place in my mind. No need to schedule or stuff Kitty in a box for transit. Quite convenient.

So I switch Kitty to some new and expensive cat food. (Not in my head, no, but thanks for checking.) High protein, low carbs, and no grains. As the (yes, imaginary) vet suggests, I give it a few weeks.

A few weeks go by and by golly Kitty is no longer a snot machine. She still shakes her head but nothing goes flying. Now she's merely demanding, touchy, and temperamental.

I'm impressed. Points to my imagination. Well done. Have a kitty treat.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Main Stream at Last

I was raised on science fiction and fantasy and when you're raised in a fiction genre you often aspire to stay there. It's what you know, after all. Across the years, my stories have been published only in SF&F--books, anthologies and magazines. Until now.

Yes, friends, I have just sold a story to a mainstream publication, one I have been familiar with for decades, that I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined would one day contain my fiction within its colorful covers.

I've just had a story accepted for Uncle John's Bathroom Reader "Flush Fiction" anthology. (Do note the small pun in the title of this post; I'd be so disappointed if you missed it.)

Uncle John has bought my 1k story "Biggest Fan! Ever!" for this upcoming anthology. I am particularly amused because this is satire taken from my experience with SF&F fans. Which would all be a lot funnier if I could share the story with you, which of course I can't because it's not yet published.

But when it is I will announce it on my publications announcement mailing list. Do join if you'd like to be informed.

Thinking about the SF Ghetto that I have (momentarily) escaped (I know my place) brought me to this intriguing article, which starts with two very nice quotes, one of which has long been a favorite of mine. From Bruce Sterling's preface to  Gibson's Burning Chrome:

If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, science-fiction writers are its court jesters. We are Wise Fools who can leap, caper, utter prophecies, and scratch ourselves in public. We can play with Big Ideas because the garish motley of our pulp origins makes us seem harmless.

This quote always makes me feel warm and fuzzy about my little ghetto. And a little proud. Big Ideas! Harmless! Hah!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Prince of Cats

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

--Kahlil Gibran

Splendid journey, my Beloved. Dance and sing in grace.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Am I famous yet?

Context is everything. Check out the implications of this quote from the bbc's tech news:

"Intel's Tomorrow Project draws on the work of writers such as Corey Doctorow, Sonia Orin Lyris and Charles Walbridge to create visions for the future that can inspire the public, and act as goals for engineers."

Feelin' smug over here. Just a tad. Yeah.

(Okay, for those of you who have replied to me with "huh?" about this, I'll explain. Doctorow is a big name in SF&F and future tech and the co-editor of Boing Boing. He's famous, he's a fine writer, and to be listed after him in this BBC article says a lot about my name recognition value and makes me feel all yummy.  Now, it might be a mistake -- maybe they just like my name (I do) -- but let's assume the best.)

As for the anthology itself, the pdf is still available  here, and still free.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Educated Tongue

Last weekend I went to the Northwest Chocolate Festival. I figured I'd have some chocolate and maybe even get some entertainment. Instead I was stunned. In a good way.

With table after table of high quality ("fine") dark chocolate, it's hard -- nay, for some of us, impossible -- to pass up the opportunity to educate our tongues. Educate I did. Until I was nearly sick.

Yes, it is possible to consume too much superb chocolate. You just have to work hard at it.

I also learned a tremendous amount about chocolate. I had no idea it was so complicated to make or that the difference between the wealth of the cacao farmers and us consumers was so great that most farmers never even taste the chocolate that results from their work because they can't afford it.

I also understand that making us consumers feel bad for eating chocolate does the farmers no good at all. The key is to gently educate us about what it takes to make really good chocolate, get our tongues involved, and then -- as happened with coffee -- we will gladly pay for the quality we will come to demand. Everyone benefits. Even the farmers.

A little simplistic?  Sure. But Big Chocolate (Hershey, Nestle, etc.) are not interested in creating educated consumers. They know how to fill out their few percentages of actual chocolate with sugar and emulsifiers and artificial ingredients to make it taste sort of like chocolate to the uneducated. It's cheaper that way. Never mind the farmers. It's business.

Cacao fruit

And that's pretty simple. Unpleasant, but simple. That's the corporate entity for you.

While I'm at it, don't bother to choose your chocolate based on the "fair trade" certifications. Farmers get maybe a percent at best for your buck-fifty extra. It's the certification company that's raking in the bucks. I know: I wanted it to be that simple, too. It will get simpler, but for now it's just messy.

I predict chocolate will change in the upcoming years and for the better. Remember when you used to drink instant coffee every morning and now you drink fresh-brewed lattes? Keep watching chocolate. Keep educating your tongue.

And if you didn't go to the festival this year, don't miss next year's. It was seriously fun and decadently wonderful. And oh-so educational.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"How are you?"

"gumballs!" is how I am.
How to answer? It depends. Who is asking? What is the context of that particular relationship? Did we just meet or have we been friends for years? Do we have an audience?  It depends on what aspects of my life -- the "you" in the question -- this person is actually asking about.

Aside from the part to do with me, I am faced with the need to quickly build a complex mental model of the asker, who I may have only just met. There's rarely time to do the person or the question justice before they follow up with the inevitable: "something wrong?"


It's hard to explain all this on the fly. I do try sometimes, especially with the cashiers at Trader Joe's, who seem very nice but I don't think quite follow my reasoning.

XKCD to the rescue! Now all I have to do is whip out my phone and point to this page, which explains everything.   Surely with this tool at my disposal there will be no more less confusion.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Flow Chart Much?

Need a laugh? I do. XKCD delivers with this guide to understanding flow charts. So is it just geeky me, or did you laugh, too?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Days Like Years

Each day, minute and minute, sipping slow to make it last. Days like years, minutes like hours; we sit outside together in bits of sun and breeze, sipping. His eyes close just a bit, soaking up, soaking in, every inch of him solar-powered.  His lanky, emaciated form stretches out across cement with startling ease. Finest-kind feline. He looks at me, cat-content, as if to say, "you know, this is not so bad."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Art, Order, Meaning

There is something so compelling, humorous, and startling about these photos.  They make me think about meaning in a new way. Take a looksee.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Every world spins in pain"

Today I'm watching my cat die from kidney disease. He's hurting and nauseated. Hiding it admirably well, even by feline standards.

I'm reminded of a quote from Terry Pratchett:

"I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I'm sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log.

"As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature's wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children.

"And that's when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Grab Tight, Learn Lots

"But, on the other hand, Uncle Abner said that the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn't, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was gitting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn't ever going to grow dim or doubtful."

 -- from Tom Sawyer Abroad by Mark Twain, (aka Samuel Clemens, 1894)

And that, my friends, is what Mr. Twain actually wrote. Not "A man who grabs a cat by the tail learns something he never forgets" which, while more succinct, is not what the man said.

So there.

But does it really matter what he exactly said? I have fallen prey to the idea that an accurate and direct quote means more, but a moment's reflection shows that to be absurd; language is always evolving, so why shouldn't the wisdom built of it likewise evolve?


All right, then.  I'll try my hand at this.

"She who grabs a cat's tail tightly learns something she is unlikely to forget."

Or even:

"He who grabs an unwilling cat will remember the lesson."

Not bad. Now I think I'll go try it and see if it's true.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Witnessing Hell

I just watched a reconstruction and a documentary of 9/11. I didn't expect to spend 3 hours on this, but that's what I did.

I started with 9/11 De-Edited, Reconstructed & Synchronized, an hour and forty-five minutes of various coverage. The documentarists gathered all the news and video sources they could find, from dozens of sources, and synchronized them each passing second, presenting the entity without comment or opinion. Powerful stuff.

For some reason I felt I had to watch this whole thing. Not to try to make sense of it -- that's beyond me. Not to see falling people and wonder what it must be like to jump from a burning building to sure death. As one firefighter asked, "How bad is it up there that the better option is to jump?" Later someone says "it was raining bodies."

I watched because of my own need to have compassion, to witness tragedy so that maybe those who suffered, those who died can, however distantly, have had one more human being in their company.

On one of the top, burning and smoking floors I saw someone waving something white from a window. I can imagine them thinking that maybe somehow someone could still save them. I can imagine them thinking: "please don't let me die alone here, with no one caring."

We all die alone, whether on a bed or a morning jog or when we hit the ground from 70 stories up. Not much anyone can do about that. But just like ten years ago when it happened, I feel like I have to do something.

So I watch. I witness. I care. That much I can do.

Then I watched 9/11 Documentary (The Naudet Brothers), which gives amazing in-building and on-street views of the firefighters inside the building and on the street. This is a documentary, with high-quality filming, so you can see a lot of detail. I felt like I was there. The expressions on the firefighters' faces, the eyes of people on the street. The aftermath.

In retrospect, the firefighter crew's initial confidence is astonishing. But then again, is it? We do what we've always done, day in and day out, because it's what we know. I've seen disasters unfold and they always start just like the non-disaster version of things. You have to deviate from what you expect, and that's hard to do until you're sure. You have to recognize the world has shifted. You have to do something you've never done before, which is hard.

Ten years later, 9/11 is still shocking, outrageous. All the unanswered questions about what really happened and who was really responsible don't change that people's lives turned to dust and ash that day.

What happened? "Hell is what happened," said someone. It's worth remembering that hell happens to someone on this earth every day. And even if we can do nothing else, we can have compassion, we can be witnesses, we can care.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hugs and Kisses from Death Valley

A funny thing happened to me when I slept in the high desert of Death Valley last week...

I saw one of these...

...and I heard the song of crickets, as never ever before...

...and a strong, sweetly scented, laughing breeze nuzzled my face and played with my hair...

...and I understood that "Death Valley" is a noun, not a verb; that sometimes it is harder to look at a thing than to be afraid of it; that magic comes in many forms.

xxoo, as they say.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cell Phones Don't Kill

It's hard to tell how many auto collisions are caused by drivers who talk -- or, powers forfend, text -- on a cell.

Why? Says WA state patrol: "In a speed or DUI related crash, investigators have physical evidence they can rely on. But a crash caused by cell phone use or texting requires self-reporting by the causing driver. Only in the most serious collisions can troopers get a search warrant to examine someone’s cell phone."

So what do those serious crashes say? The national safety commission says that hospital records indicates that drivers who talk on cell phones -- hand-held or hands-free, folks -- it doesn't matter -- are four times more likely to crash.

And, says the NSC, thousands of deaths annually can be directly linked to cell phone use. That's thousands of people who might be alive otherwise. What if one of them was your mom? Or kid?

I drive a car. I ride a motorbike. A bicycle. I also walk and jog in this fair city. I think I have some perspective.

And I use my cell phone a lot. But not while I'm driving. Lives depend on me knowing exactly where I'm pointing my many tons of deadly steel.

Lives. Depend. On me.

Studies clearly say that driving while using a cell phone is just as unsafe as driving drunk, hands-free or not. You knew that, right?

I'm standing at a city corner, waiting to cross, cars streaming by me ignoring pedestrian right-of-way laws, and as I watch something like one out of every four drivers is on their cell phone.

This is still a $125 ticketable offense.

You probably know that if you're driving drunk and you kill someone, you'll go to jail for many, many years. But did you also know that if you're talking on a cell or texting and you kill someone you'll merely pay a fine for that killing? I think it's about $250.

I'm not sure it ultimately matters what society does to you for killing someone accidentally while driving, because at that point your life is a massive mess -- because you've killed a human being. You've taken a life, without cause, without intent. It changes you. You can never, ever undo it.

So tell me: what is so essential that it needs talking about while in a moving vehicle on city streets? What phone conversation is so critical that it can't wait? Why not pull over?

What could possibly matter more than not accidentally hitting a fellow human?

Cell phones don't kill people. People who are foolishly, stupidly, and lamentably distracted by social media kill people.

If you drive, hear my plea: hang up, pay attention. Lives depend on you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Playing with the Dark Side

What the heck, I thought, I'll just start reviewing dark chocolate. I mean, come on, I've been eating it for decades, I'm opinionated and snotty, and I write pretty good.

The Chocolate Atlas has just put up -- may I say "published"? -- the third of my reviews. So if you're in my area and you have opinions (and dark chocolates), send 'em my way.

In my first article, I talked a bit about two Trader Joe's dark offerings. There's more of that, of course. In the second, I zeroed in on something really excellent: Taza Chocolates. Then I visited Chocolopolis and learned about art.

Me and chocolate. We got a thing goin' on.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ah, Life. Ah, Tango.

I'm at the dance studio coaching a woman who has only had a couple of classes. She's a bit wide-eyed at the whole Argentine tango, which is something I see fairly often, given how -- well, much of a muchness tango can be. She looks at my feet, notices that I'm wearing jazz slippers -- soft shoes with a very flat, barely there heel on them -- and she says, "oh, those must give you better balance, right?"

I've been dancing this dance for a years and her question catches me in a web of considerations. It's a bit esoteric, how dance shoes work in tango. On top of that it's individual, since those of us who dance in heels (women, yeah, mostly) have very different feet and very different movement patterns.

I asked similar questions early on, about flats, stiletto heels, thick heels, high and low high heels. I'd get a different answer every time, and my experience almost inevitably contradicted them all. Wrong for me maybe or wrong for where I was at then.

What no one told me is that what you need in a dance shoe changes as your skill and balance changes, as your style matures, and as your partners improve. Also, it depends on the condition of your feet. I never knew feet could be buff.

It depends how the particular shoe fits your particular foot (not feet, because each foot is different); the more control you have, the less wiggle room (literally) you want in the fit. But that's calculated after your feet have swollen from dancing, not before.

This is all too much to explain to someone who's had three lessons.

By now my silence has gone on a handful of seconds. She says "well, of course it's easier!" and laughs at herself, as if to admit her question's answer is obvious and simple.

But it isn't. I say so.

I explain that as she gets better, as she wants more smoothness and control in turns on the ball of her foot, thinner heels provide an advantage, because you've got less heel to get off of to make the turn. That for linear movements, the thicker and lower heel might be more stable, but for circular movements, it's the thinner heel that -- ironically -- gives you the better stability in motion.

Kinda like life, you know. We gather things to ourselves -- people, places, beliefs -- that have low, thick heels, to give us stability in our linear movements. And then we realize we want to do turns, we want to try something new, maybe wacky, with a whole different perspective. Suddenly the very things that kept us stable through all those linear years and linear concepts make it hard for us to turn gracefully. Hard to do new things.

Ah, life. Ah, tango.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Dedicated to the Idea"

If you listen to public broadcasting long enough you'll hear:

...brought to you by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy and productive life.

I bet Bill and Melinda paid a pretty penny for that phrase. Maybe even two. Did they get good value?

Let's assume that the B&M Foundation is, truly, as claimed, dedicated. Dedicated to an idea that -- well, let's just take as given that this idea is good, and good for people, and set aside the specifics.

Sounds good, right? I mean, they're dedicated.


To an idea about something that's good for people.

So -- dedicated to something that's good for people?

No, not to the something. To the idea about the something.

Not even to the people?

Nope. The dedication is to the idea.

Chew on that for a moment and contrast this tagline with what is probably the most powerful opening to a position statement I've read this lifetime:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that...

Yes, that one.

...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

A bit stronger, eh?

What if Bill and Melinda had, instead of being all measly mouthed about this idea they're dedicated to, put it as directly and powerfully as that? Let's try it:

We hold as true and self-evident that all people deserve the chance to live healthy and productive lives.

Not bad.  Almost sounds like the real thing. We could even weave in "dedicated", which Bill and Melinda seem to like so much, and tighten it up a bit, and get:

Dedicated to giving all people the chance to live healthy and productive lives.

Clean, clear, and direct.

Dedicated to action, not ideas about action. Dedicated to people, not ideas about people.

Doesn't that sound better? Indeed, doesn't that sound like something you could actually support?

For that matter, doesn't it sound like what they probably actually meant?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Your Brain in the Future

Thoughts inside
One of the cool(est) things about having a brain is being able to think what you like in the privacy of your own head. Whatever you want, any time.

Can you tell what I'm thinking right now? Can you? No! Cool, huh?

But technology and computers are making interesting headway (hee hee) in this arena and -- without jest -- I advise you to enjoy your brain's privacy while you still can.

To illustrate, I (im)modestly recommend my recently accepted story "Mirror Test" for The Tomorrow Project anthology, Tomorrow Project: Seattle available later this year, details of  which I will have announced on my publications announcement mailing list.

What, you may well ask, is The Tomorrow Project? It is, to quote their web site:  "an anthology of science fiction based on science fact, featuring an original story from Cory Doctorow." The antho will include "short fiction, comics and short screenplays based upon current scientific research and technology development... currently being conducted by the University of Washington and Intel in the fields of synthetic biology, computer security, robotics, DNA sequencing and bio/chemical sensing, minute architecture, ray tracing/virtual reality and computer vision."

Fiction sponsored by futurists. Not a half-bad idea, if you ask me.

In my story I postulate that facial recognition technology and machine learning computers will pretty much take away your privacy of thought. Ah, the future! Isn't it just...glorious?

Here's your brain now, mentations all cozy and hidden. And there's your brain in the future, where the rest of us know what you're thinking.

Privacy of thought? Cool. Enjoy it while you can.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Mountainous Crush

Since way back when I was a young snap of a critter I would roll my eyes at adults who fell all over themselves admiring flowers and views. Surely, I reasoned, in my very mature child's mind, there must be more important things to do in life than stare at mountain ranges and coo over wildflowers.

Recently had occasion to drop by the Olympic mountain range. Just kind of, you know, in the neighborhood. With much tromping I ended up at an elevation near 6,000 feet and turned my gaze upon the world and there did my eyeballs feast themselves on these stunning rocks of upthrust (yes, that's what they call it).

Oh my.

Suddenly I had a bit of a crush.

Maybe, being used to sea-level air, my good sense was addled by lack of oxygen. Or maybe the mountains aren't really static bits of rock at all, but magic beasties, and they got to into me fair and square.

And so, maybe, this is kind of a love letter. Crush letter.

Hey, ahh, Mountains. Busy? Hope you don't mind -- I looked up your number on the net. Nice having coffee with you the other day. Pretty weather, wasn't it? Enjoyed getting to know you.  Uhm. Yeah. Uhm. Busy Friday?

And there were wildflowers. And yeah, I hung out with them, too. Could smell 'em on the clear alpine snow-spiced air.

I got a crush on a mountain range.  Cause he's so cute!

My younger self would cringe to hear me say such things. Mountains?  Flowers?  C'mon! But hey, I also played in the snow, scrabbled up rocky inclines, ran down steep mountain paths, talked to strangers and bothered the rangers. So none of that mature stuff, k?

It was something.  I am not going to use that word.  But, mountains. Yeah.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Compass, a Magnifying Glass, and a Lawyer

Want to park in Seattle?  Bring a compass, a magnifying glass for small print, and a lawyer to resolve multiple and often conflicting directives.

I got my first parking ticket in this city shortly after arriving, courtesy of a set of signs very much like this one.

Legal parking in Seattle requires not only exceptional eyesight and an unerring sense of direction (even when the streets aren't on a grid), but also the ability to resolve confusing and unclear language.

Let's think about this for a moment. If the city really cared about making parking effective rather than skimming dollars off people who aren't clever enough or lack sufficient time to decipher these various signage clues, these signs would be clear and unambiguous.  It's not that difficult to make clear signs.

I don't have anything against parking limitations. What I object to is revenue enhancement apathetically (and pathetically) disguised as civic infrastructure.

This is just one more way that Seattle shows it doesn't care about its citizens' welfare anywhere near as much as it cares about their dollars.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Humans Shouldn't Drive

Humans shouldn't drive.  We're just no damned good at it.

See this rumpled backside of minivan? I watched this accident happen. The driver correctly and legally stopped for two pedestrians -- myself and a companion -- only to find that the large pickup truck behind her was going too fast and following too close.  We winced as the inevitable happened. Loudly.

After everything came to a stop, we directed traffic around the scene and went to see if everyone was all right.  We found the minivan's driver, a woman, holding the two girls who had been riding with her.

"I'm just so glad they're all right," she said.  "I'm just so glad."

The driver of the pickup truck?  A young woman, dressed nicely,  looking dazed. Based on her speed, I guessed she was trying to get somewhere. I wanted to say, "What, you were running late?"

Tons of steel. Distracted human minds.

People shouldn't drive. Just no damned good at it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dev Women: Request for Opinions, Anecdotes, Etcetera

I've started a project about women in technology, inspired by the many times I've been asked by those in a managerial or hiring capacity, "how can we get more women?"

More women, meaning engineers and developers. Women, if you're interested, here's the longer description of the Dev.Women.Voices project.

Help me answer companies who want to know how to find, hire, and retain women developers. Submit an article, write me email, or chat with me on IM about your thoughts. You can also help by forwarding or retweeting this call for submissions.

Opine! Rant! Tell me what you think!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hacker Humor: Programming Languages as Religion

Yes Devpals, this one has been making the rounds for years, but I hadn't seen it for a while and had forgotten. I think hacker humor tells us a bit about where our geek lies. For me it was the one about LISP that really got to me:

Lisp would be Zen Buddhism - There is no syntax, there is no centralization of dogma, there are no deities to worship. The entire universe is there at your reach - if only you are enlightened enough to grasp it. Some say that it's not a language at all; others say that it's the only language that makes sense.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Rejection Saga Complete

The Rejection Saga is finally finished. I have made a collection of the correspondence between myself and Dr. Emmons of the Journal of Universal Rejection for your chronologically ordered reading pleasure.

This is my first published meta fiction of which I am inordinately proud. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Not a Real Pocket

The other day I bought some capri pants (just below the knee for those of you who don't know that word). They have pockets on the sides, which is cool for those times when you want to carry a little something like a key or some dollars without ruining the lines and bop out onto the fashionable city sidewalks.

Except, of course, that -- well. You know where this is going.

It's a pretend pocket. On the other side, it's a real one. "Real" as in "useful". "Pretend" as in "sewn shut with sufficient artistry that one might be (understandably) deceived about its utility until one actually tried to unbutton it."

Now why go through the trouble to make something that looks so very much like a useful container in which one might carry things of value? Why pretend?

I know, I know, it's women's fashion, and making sense is not its primary purpose.

But still. ARrrrrggggghhhhhhgggghhgghhh. Gggghhh.

There, I feel better. Mostly. I still don't have a pocket where I need one.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rejection Saga: Satisfaction at Last

As you may recall, in his last letter Dr. Emmons, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Universal Rejection, gave me my first assignment which was to reject a particularly tenacious submission.

I took on that assignment with pleasure. Here is my letter to the author:

Dear Ms. Lyris,

Rarely do we see such talent. Your provocative characters and intense drama kept us deeply engaged until the brilliant ending, after which we felt the need to plant forests and work at soup kitchens.

To be blunt, your stories have brought us the personal transformation and transcendence we might otherwise have spent a lifetime seeking.

On behalf of the Journal we must reject your submission on the grounds that our readership is simply not mature enough for this sort of insight. We're sure you understand.

Should you decide to submit again you might consider something more light-hearted. We understand that Dr. Isaac Asimov wrote limericks in between Nebula and Hugo acceptance speeches. Perhaps you can do likewise.


Sonia Lyris, Editor

Ahhh, satisfaction! I have my rejection, finally, from this most prestigious publication. I ask you: is there any reason for me to seek further rejections from lesser publications?

For those who want to hear about my non-rejections, please sign up at my publications mailing list.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Rejection Saga: Dr. Emmons Gives Me My First Assignment

Dear Editor Lyris:

Welcome to the Showboat, a.k.a. the Editorial Board. I am forwarding you your first assignment (see message below). Please carefully review and reject this submission directly to the submitter. You may cc me on the rejection if you think it is blogworthy.
Best regards,

Caleb Emmons, PhD
Journal of Universal Rejection

Dear Dr. Emmons,

After reflecting on both your new and standing requirements and struggling with various revisions, I present to you my -- I cannot help but think of it as "our" -- newest version. I struggled with how to provide the needed verisimilitude without including any description whatsoever, which provided me with a stumbling block until I remembered that the heart and soul of a story resides not in the words but in the reader.

This story, perhaps my greatest effort thus far, is, in typical fashion, below. This letter. Below this letter.

YOS, etc,

Sonia Lyris

P.S. I'm eager to hear back about my start date.

A Woman and a Fish

Fish: Mollie. Fish. Done? Go plop. Repeat Fish. Plop. Big kiss. Whap! Ahhh...! The End.

Yes. Yes, of course. Hmm.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Leaving on Judgement Day? Don't forget your pets!

I gather when you ascend in the Rapture, you don't get to take your pets with you. From this Gather news article:

"Reverend Camping and Christian Radio are trying to convince Christians to believe in the May 21 Judgment Day. This is the day of the Rapture and they will be leaving the world to go to heaven. Who will take care of their pets that they have left behind? The only option is to make arrangements with the atheists."

Apparently all it takes to be an atheist is to take the Lord's name in vain, so despite what I actually might believe, I'll be here May 22nd.

I'm an animal lover. So listen, if you're planning to leave for Heaven on May 21st, please make arrangements for your animals. I'm good with cats, dogs and birds. I really don't want to see your fur-babies suffer while you're in Heaven. So contact me ASAP.

I mean it.

I see some of you snickering. Cut it out. They could be right and you could be (oh-so) wrong. A little respect, eh?

There's bad news, though: given how stringent the requirements seem to be, we might not see all that much reduction in population on May 22. Might still be pretty hard to find parking in the End Times.

Hey, believers: at least put out some extra kibble on May 21st, okay? In case you're right?

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Rejection Saga: Another Revision for the Esteemed Doctor

As a followup to my last letter to Dr. Emmons of the Journal of Universal Rejection, I send a letter in which I (naturally) discuss the great challenges I faced in this delicate and tricky rewrite, express my eagerness to start my editorial duties, and present my story offering.

Dear Dr. Emmons,

After reflecting on both your new and standing requirements and struggling with various revisions, I present to you my -- I cannot help but think of it as "our" -- newest version. I struggled with how to provide the needed verisimilitude without including any description whatsoever, which provided me with a stumbling block until I remembered that the heart and soul of a story resides not in the words but in the reader.

This story, perhaps my greatest effort thus far, is, in typical fashion, below. This letter. Below this letter.

YOS, etc,

Sonia Lyris

P.S. I'm eager to hear back about my start date.

A Woman and a Fish

Fish: Mollie. Fish. Done? Go plop. Repeat Fish. Plop. Big kiss. Whap! Ahhh...! The End.

Note that Dr. Emmons has posted much of our correspondence on his own blog in clear(er) chronological order. Stay tuned, in either location, for the next exciting episode of the The Rejection Saga.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Rejection Saga: Epiphany, Commas, and Anticipation

Dear Dr. Emmons,

> p.s. We correspond so frequently, perhaps you could address me more informally.  (E.g., use a comma.)

Ahha! It's all been about the commas, hasn't it. All that has kept you from issuing, me, a, proper rejection, lo, these many, many months, has been my miserly use of commas. This moment is nothing short of epiphanic!  At last I understand!

> Perhaps you would like to join our Editorial Board?

My goodness, yes! Nothing could please me more than the chance to help issue rejections for your esteemed journal. (I suppose I'll have to say "our" esteemed journal, now.)  Yes, yes, and more yes!  I am ready and eager to serve.

So eager in fact that I beg you to tell me the moment I am installed on the board and am authorized to issue rejections. My fingers are twitching in anticipation.

YOS, TIA, etc.

The Rejection Saga: Dr Emmons Offers Me Another Go And Something Else

Dear Sonia,

According to my dictionary, "intense" is an adjective.  I thought I asked for none of those.  Also your story is too short, and not enough happens.  I want more details.  Put me into Mollie's life.  I want to hear the wet slap of fish as Mollie plops it on her display counter.  I want to feel the sparge of the fish's last exhalation, as its eyes go glassy.  I want to smell--no, to taste!--the delicate parfum of sea salt and kelp gracing Mollie's sun roughened neck.  But pretend I am a blind man; I don't want to see anything.

Best regards,

p.s. We correspond so frequently, perhaps you could address me more informally.  (E.g., use a comma.)

p.p.s.  We have received many short stories of late.  (I also consider blank documents and research articles short stories.)  Perhaps you would like to join our Editorial Board?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Magic: A Bird in the Hand

Ah, spring!  When I was a child, Easter morning meant a basket of fake grass, eggs, and delicious candy, along with adorable little pipe-cleaner men playing on the sides of the basket, courtesy of an impressively creative mother. It was magic.

I had some magic yesterday, too, holding this dove chick in my hands, feeling its seven-day-old just-fed I'm-a-dove contentment. Nothing says spring like new, happy life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Rejection Saga: My Serve

Dear Dr. Emmons:

It is likewise always a pleasure to nearly hit my target.  I dare say I'm getting quite good at it.

Please find (below; really, it's not that hard to find) my rewrite as per your thoughtful and insightful rewrite suggestions.  As is so often the case, I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your feedback.

YOS, etc.

The Story: Once upon a time there was a fishmonger named Mollie. Some stuff with fish happened. It was intense. It's over now. The end.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Rejection Saga: Another Volley

Dear Sonia,

Thank you for submitting another story.  It is always a delight to hear from you, and see the multisplendent amalgams of words you arrange.  This submission was no different.  But we did find a problem with it.  It is too descriptive.  Our readership doesn't have time for all the details, and other aids to imagination that you have included.  Please do a rewrite that lacks any adjectives and adverbs, and avoids long words.  And we'd like to see a fishmonger named Mollie in the story.

Best regards,

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Art of Flirting

I'm facilitating two workshops at NorWesCon, Flirting 101 (Fri 4/22, 7pm) and Advanced Flirting (Sat 4/23 10pm).  If you're going to the con, do join us.

For the first time ever, I'll be giving out a Certificate of Flirting Competence to those who attend both workshops and perform competently at the assigned tasks. (Yes, there will assigned tasks: workshop exercises and homework between the sessions. You'll earn your cert.)

If you've never been to one of my flirting workshops, give it a try. My conceptual frame is that flirting is for more than romance, it's an approach to connecting with people around any area of shared interest.  It's a way to approach social interaction that is playful, respectful, and lowers the risks to both parties.

We'll discuss flirting theory, practice approaches, examine rebuffs, and explore the frightening world of rejection and acceptance.

I really enjoy these workshops. They can be full of lively banter, playful and (yes) flirtatious exchanges, outrageous humor, and risk-taking made fun.

Join us if you can.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rejection Saga: Left Wanting, I Take Action

Dear Dr. Emmons:

I have been so disconsolate since your last letter I have barely known how to reply. We differ, you and I, on the subtlest of tenuous post-modern deconstructionist arguments. Thus I am forced to ask: have I earned this rejection?  No, I must answer; I have not!

So hard and long have I worked for this rejection only to find now it tastes no more of success than failure. It is to me as a glass of water that has sat beside a wine bottle for five minutes is to an alcoholic. How can I show my face to my fellow writers who receive handfuls of rejections a month, all pure and unsullied by questions of reality and "quotes"?  (I have just now spoken that word, so this is correct usage.)

Simply put: I cannot!

While you may understand your rejection to be true and right, good sir, I am left wanting.

And so, please find attached another story submission which I send in the hopes that this time, perhaps, I will have truly earned the rejection I crave. I trust you will give it all the consideration I have by now surely earned.

YOS, etc.,

Sonia Lyris

P.S. Here is my story. It is called "A Story." I have quoted it because that's what I call it.

Once upon a time there was someone who innocently acted with the best of intentions, or perhaps out of ignorance, we can't be sure, and things went wrong. He or she tried to fix this but it only got worse. With a mighty struggle, help from an unexpected source, and attendant personal growth, he or she finally managed to fix the problem in a delightful way that leaves us feeling good.  The end.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rejection Saga: A Deconstructionist Disagreement

In this chapter of the The Rejection Saga, Dr. Emmons disagrees with me about the nature of punctuation:

 I have faced these fancy deconstructionist (or whatever) arguments from others.  If it is in quotes it is dialog.  Except in the case of those crazy fishmongers that put "FRESH" on their signs (with the quotation marks!--we don't buy fish there), or similar circumstances of which your talking monkey is not one.

I did not bother to ask my wife about this, but I'm sure she agrees.

Best regards,

Stay tuned for my fervent reply.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jam Tomorrow

There's this great quote from Terry Pratchett's Hogfather:

Jam, Today

"It's the hope that's important. Big part of belief, hope. Give people jam today and they'll just sit and eat it. Jam tomorrow, now -- that'll keep them going forever."

Like so much Pratchett, this makes me smile, because it's funny and it's funny because it tastes true. The idea of jam (or whatever you crave) in the future has a particular draw that having the jam in hand (or mouth) doesn't. It would seem like having it today would be clearly better, since tomorrow never really arrives, but no.

Somewhere in understanding this twisted truth that going-to-have-it-later is more shiny than having-it-now, is, I suspect, the key to something Very Important.

So what is there about jam tomorrow that makes it a more powerful incentive than jam today?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Rejection Saga: I Must Decline

Yesterday I posted Dr. Emmons' most recent letter to me in The Rejection Saga. Here is my reply:

Dear Dr. Emmons:

I have a confession to make. I trust that, given the length and intimacy of our friendship, you'll carefully consider my words before passing judgment.

I knew you would bring up the monkey. Given your extensive education, uncommon insight, and position as the editor of the most prestigious arts and science journal in the world, it was inevitable.

Assuming, that is, that you had read the story. We writers are a delicate and insecure lot, never certain that our darling creations will get the attention they deserve. I am deeply gratified to discover that you have, indeed, read all the way through. Yes, the quotes were a deliberate ploy. I trust you understand.

Now, as to the rejection. Yes, of course you need give no reason, but, alas, you have. As I have sought this rejection most ardently, I am loathe to explain your error, but integrity demands I do so.

The monkey is not in our world, but in a virtual reality, and thus not speaking at all. Indeed, the illusion of monkey-speak in this story is a postmodernist reflection on the collective cultural delineation of "speech" in contrast to the abstract notion of "silence" highlighted by appearing within artificial quotes in a story with no true dialog. It is a literary device representing man's struggle to be heard.

From a scientific viewpoint, the monkey's actions move no air molecules and thus fail to change the physical world in any fashion whatsoever. The monkey is, for all intents and purposes, both literarily and literally, mute.

I trust you see the profound symbolism here.

I must therefore with great disappointment reject your rejection as standing on no solid ground. While I long for the rejection I have worked so hard to obtain, I cannot, alas, accept it under false pretenses.

YOS, etc.,

Sonia Lyris

P.S. Thank you, but Mr. Landis is a better writer than I am, so that's hardly a fair comparison.

P.P.S. Should these subtleties be unclear in any way, you may wish to consult your wife, as she has shown uncommon good judgment on these matters in the past.

Will Dr. Emmons disagree? Issue another coveted rejection? Or...? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of the The Rejection Saga.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rejection Saga: Dr. Emmons Finally Delivers

Dr. Emmons' most recent letter to me would appear to bring The Rejection Saga to a close, but stay tuned for my reply before you consider the matter concluded.

Dear Sonia,

Please excuse my yet again tardy reply. You will surely understand that we are busy here, and these decisions take time.

We have decided to reject your submission. Although we don't need a reason, here is one. Although you claimed your story had no dialog, clearly on page 37 of your ms appears:
"Carry on," the monkey said to Alan, with a smile and a rose.

Frankly you can only give us the run-around on this issue so many times. We have demanded more landscape descriptions, and no dialog, and yet you continue to have your characters jibber-jabber throughout the entire story (or at the very least on the last page.) I hope you in general submit to editors with more patience than I.

Thanks for playing.

Best regards,

p.s. You needn't have worried about our fear of rejecting fiction writers. For example, we rejected Geoffrey Landis on the first go.

I'll let him know what I think of this shortly.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Internet Holiday!

You've heard that the Internet is a of sub culture and if you're one of my many geek friends you're like UHM YEAH but for everyone else who is kind of foggy on the whole culture part of the Internet, may I introduce you to...

April First?

This is the day when we Internet geeks (and other creatives) make up stuff that sounds plausible and see how many non-geeks (definitions of geek are conveniently flexible today) fall for them.

It's kind of an Internet Christmas. A day of prezzies of humor for minds. A day to enjoy the fruits of those who have clearly spent way too much time creating amusing stories for our entertainment.

For example...

Google is usually good for a chuckle, and today is no exception. It's not just a good idea, it's the future, but here the big G plays it out for humor with dry delight.

I like EFF's offering which includes earning a degree in facebook privacy settings (*snicker*) and addressing internet porn, but I'm disappointed that they felt the need to tell me it was all for April Fool's. Come on, guys -- even Google doesn't do that.

If you've got favs today, toss 'em at me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Can't Get No Rejection

By now I am beginning to suspect that my sought-after rejection from Journal of Universal Rejection will not be so easy to come by:

We were very pleased to read your updated story. So much so that we shared it with our wife, who was also very approving. The landscape descriptions are fantastic.

That said, however, there is still too much dialog. Our readership doesn't read dialog. Perhaps a story that is solely about the hills around Derbyshire? Or a travelogue (sans dialog) of popular vacation spots for hit men? Ideally it would be a story with 6 characters and no dialog.

Caleb Emmons, PhD
Journal of Universal Rejection

My reply, which follows, attached a story called: "Landscape, No Dialog, Six Characters":

Dear Dr. Emmons:

I lament my inability to express my pleasure at receiving your non-rejection. You are right: there is too much dialog in the story. I see how your audience could not possibly read such a thing.

I wish I could express to you my gratitude for your willingness to work with me on this issue.

Please find attached my complete rewrite with no dialog whatsoever. I hope it will be more to your and (perhaps more importantly) your wife's liking.

P.S. It occurs to me that despite your fearless reputation in academia, you might be withholding a rejection out of misplaced concern for my emotional well-being. Be assured that I have been rejected before many, many times, though rarely with quite this much work.

P.P.S. Grateful regards to your wife. Does she publish a journal, by any chance?

What will Dr. Emmons do next? Dont miss the next exciting installment in the Rejection Saga!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rejection Fail

I figured I'd heard the last from the Journal of Universal Rejection when Dr. Caleb Emmons sent me a form letter saying he'd get to my story one of these days. I lamented the lack of a bonafide rejection but in my usual classy way was able to shrug it off and move on with my life.

Then he wrote me again. I've been invited to resubmit my dialog-only story, which he has even, clearly, read:

Thank you for your submission to the Journal of Universal Rejection.

Our readership prefers stories with lots of landscape description.
Clearly as your story stands we cannot accept it for publication.
Should you add something about (e.g.) the hills around Derbyshire into
your story, we would give the story another look.  We also accept
bribes, and are almost as trustworthy as the characters in your story;
small bills only please.

Best regards,

My letter back to him:

Dear Dr. Emmons:

It is beyond me to put into words how delighted I was to receive your encouraging note vis-à-vis my story "Done" rather than the swift bona-fide rejection promised me in your Instructions for Authors.

As a writer little could please me more than an invitation to rewrite a story with the possibility dangled before me of being corrected again prior to my pending rejection. Despair and glee war within; never has lack of rejection left me feeling so conflicted.

But I am helpless in the face of editorial whim. Thus please find attached a new version of "Done" which includes a good number of what I hope you will find tasteful and appropriate references to landscape.

I look forward to your reply. Thank you for your kind attention.

P.S. I will, of course, blog about this. You'll be famous. Possibly.

P.P.S. Send PayPal link.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Grieve with You

I bought a lovely card with a photo of flower on the front so I could write something in the way of condolences.

Not those the "Sympathy" cards you see in the store with their canned, insipid sentiments that attempt to save you the trouble of figuring out what to say. Loss of this magnitude is intense, personal, wrenching. Those cards never say the right thing.

But there is no right thing. As I struggle for an hour to find the right words, the ones that say "I'm sorry" and "he was a fine man" but don't tell her how to feel and don't pretend that it's all right, I find myself wishing for the pre-worded card to save me this agony.

Finally I finish. More like I run out of ways to say "condolences". Com -- "with" and "dolere "to grieve."  "I grieve with you."

At the post office I hold an envelope containing carefully handwritten and heartfelt words, oh so inadequate. The envelope feels too light and insubstantial to carry this message.

There is no way to carry this message. I could send a ton of flowers, and I could cry for a week, and it would still be just as inadequate.

As I drop the envelope in the box, I am struck by a sense of futility, frustration, and sadness. The life of a man cannot be summed up, not by a book, not by a movie, and certainly not by a sympathy card.

There is no summation.  There is only goodbye.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Goodbye, Dear Sir

Today a man I admire, respect and care for lies in the hospital dying.

I never heard him complain over the years. Not once. I was always impressed with that. Not when they took out his spinal fluid to irradiate it and put it back, not during chemo, surgery, and not when his heart stopped working, not when his brain stumbled. Each time he'd just - come back, step by step, as if it were something anyone could do. He'd shrug as he described his trials, as if the surgery or chemo were a small thing.  An inconvenience. A minor detour.

He was easy to admire, and it was easy to think he'd keeping beating Death.

This time, it seems not.

Across the years, when I'd see him, he would hug me with a sort of fierceness and a smile, as if to say, "Yes, yes, I am a scientist, but also I believe in you."

The tears of grief are for we who remain in life, not for them, the dead. Where do the dead go, that I can wish this man well?  That I can send something, some final appreciation, some bit of love?

Goodnight to you, dear sir. I hope there is something on the other side, something good and wonderful, because imaging you gone forever is almost more than I can bear.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Coffee Art

You know it's art because it moves you, right?

And when the dark, delicious brew was happily ensconced in tummy, we could still see the image.  Twisted and distorted, but recognizable.

Mmmm, art.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reject me, Baby!

I recently submitted a story to the Journal of Universal Rejection (motto: "reprobatio certa hora incerta" (for which my translator gives "false contest hour uncertain", but that can't be right).

I was expecting a rejection, you know. I mean, their guidelines say they will reject anything you send, and point out the advantages of knowing in advance what the outcome will be: reduced stress, no need to spend hours on your cover letter (which, you know, I do), and not least of all the satisfaction of knowing that you were rejected from one the most exclusive journals in the -- any -- industry.

Wow!  With all those advantages, I just had to submit. So I sent in a short I have called "Done" -- something of an experiment because it is comprised entirely of dialog (yes, I am that good) -- and waited (breathlessly) for my rejection letter, which I assumed would be arriving nearly immediately.

For the first time in my life, a rejection to my story was not only assured but eagerly awaited.  This time -- for sure -- I'd get exactly what I'd hoped for.



Thank you for your interest in the Journal of Universal Rejection.
Due to the high volume of correspondence we have received of late, it
may be some time until yours is properly answered.  If you have
included a submission, rest assured that it has been filed and is
under review.  We will get back to you as soon as possible.

-- Caleb Emmons, PhD Editor-in-Chief Journal of Universal Rejection

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Moment Between Okay and Not Really

You know the moment - it's the one between between slicing your hand and the gush of blood, slamming the door and realizing you've left a finger behind, the mis-step and the fall.  It's the moment when things are still okay, but not for long.

We were prepping for a short bike ride. I'd hit the garage door button, dashing out from under the closing door, stepping carefully over the beam of light that stops the process when he said "oh, I left my helmet inside."

No problem, I thought, waving my foot across the beam. The door kept closing. No problem, I thought, thinking of the way elevators won't shut on your hand and will bounce back from the least resistance. So I put my shoe under the descending door.

Which descended anyway. Without bounce.  Without give. A powered heavy metal door coming down on my shoe, my toes, which was now clearly a really bad idea. I tried to pull my foot out. No way. I realized that not only was I stuck, but my toes were feeling quite a bit of pressure.

It's a special moment. It's when you realize that things might not be okay, and very soon.

I jammed my fingers under the door, pulled up with all my strength. Nothing moved. Then the pain began.

My friend had the presence of mind to run into the house and around to the garage and pull the quick release on the garage door -- a red handle, which makes so much sense now. The door released, came up.

I took another moment to survey the damage. It was my lucky day: the toes were insulted but not broken, annoyed but not crushed. Now, hours later, they are mumbling about my lack of good sense, but are ready to consider forgiving me.

Even so, the moment is limned in my memory, framed with all the intensity that an active, alert, and not-quite-panicking mind can create.

Such moments can change us, if we let them. They remind us that we are one slip, one poor decision, one moment's bad luck away from being mangled or killed.  Or, in my case, bruised, embarrassed, and feeling lucky.

And in more practical terms: garage doors are unforgiving masses of driving metal completely unlike sensitive elevator doors. Soft toes will not stop them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fractured Vision

Another hit and run. Yep, someone came too close to my car again and scraped off the side mirror. No note, just a broken, shattered mirror.

Did I mention that my car was parked?

This is my third hit-and-run in the last two years, all of which happened while the car was legally and to all appearances safely parked.

Not to belabor the point, friends, but my car wasn't even moving.

Until I can get it fixed, what's behind me shows in a cracked mirror.  I don't worry too much about what's behind me, though. The car only seems to get hit when it's not moving.  This has only happened to me in this city.   Hmm.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Grapefruit, Granted

The problem with trying not to take things for granted is it implies taking them for not-granted, and what is that?  Imagining not having them? Imagining them being hard to come by?  A bathtub of guilt for having them, maybe. So get in and bathe. Make you clean, it will, if you use enough of it.

No. The point isn't to feel guilty about what you have, or what's easy to come by.

I chopped up this grapefruit, and it was Oh So Good. All full of grapefruity yumminess. The essence of grapefruit, for the taking. My taking. Mine to slice, mine to greedily consume, messy and juicy and mine.

To take something for granted is to take it for nothing. To take it for itself, whatever it is, now in this moment -- that's not nothing. That's something.  That's the fullness of grapefruit, and it has something to do with living.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Punctuation Fail

I found this sign found at Swedish Hospital, a major medical center with significant funding, in a bathroom that is well-appointed with motion-activated lights and no-touch sanitary fixtures for soap, water and towels.

But apparently the hospital can't afford signs with correct punctuation.  Or grammar. Maybe after all the other expenses, they had to cut back.  Maybe these were on sale.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Pink Club, Maybe?

Is there, do you suppose, a club for people who actually like the taste of pepto bismo?

I wonder if we're also the kids who nibbled on play dough.

But -- be honest -- isn't it pretty?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Write Some Letters

Winter makes me think about death.  Or Death, if you prefer the anthropomorphic personification.

If you will indulge me for a moment, imagine that you are, quite suddenly, quite dead.  Consider those people you hang around the most, those who will be most wrenched by the sudden loss of you.

Now, don't you wish you'd written a final letter, or made a video saying goodbye?  A final message, saying farewell as only you can?

It's not that hard. Just write down the things you want them to know, the things you wished you would have said (only now you can!) while you were alive. You can give advice. You can tell them to go on without you. You can remind them to floss.

You can say "I love you."

To me this sounded like a New Year's resolution that could actually make a difference. So I did it.

Have you? If not, why not?  It doesn't take long.  It's easy to do.  Yes, it can be a bit emotional, but think about it: do you really want to leave without having the final word?  I bet you don't.