Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Words from a Wonderful Site

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Words from Over the Desk

Never build a dungeon you wouldn’t be happy to spend the night in yourself. . . . The world would be a happier place if more people remembered that. — Terry Pratchett

Wild women don't get the blues

My darling girl, when are you going to understand that "normal" is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage. — Alice Hoffman

Run mad as often as you chuse, but do not faint. — Jane Austen

I've heard that life is a series of old doors closing and new doors opening, but it's hell in the hallways. — Kevyn Aucoin

There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. — Albert Einstein

It is not peace we seek but meaning. — Laurence Durrell

Hell is not to love any more. — Dostoievski

When we hold each other, in the darkness, it doesn't make the darkness go away. The bad things are still out there. The nightmares still walking. When we hold each other we feel not safe, but better. 'It's all right' we whisper, 'I'm here, I love you.' and we lie: 'I'll never leave you.' For just a moment or two the darkness doesn't seem so bad. —
Neil Gaiman

A human being is nothing but a story with a skin around it. — Fred Allen

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it. — Hannah Arendt

Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen. — Robert Bresson

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face us with the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. — Henri Nouwen

Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more. — Erica Jong

It takes a lot of energy and a lot of neurosis to write a novel. If you were really sensible, you’d do something else. — Laurence Durrell

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. — Marcel Proust

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus. — Mark Twain

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers by base minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you." — T. H. White

Imagination is more important than knowledge. — Albert Einstein

All good technology should be used to piss off people's parents. — Neil Gaiman

Any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic. — Arthur C. Clarke

Technology...the knack of so arranging the world so that we don't have to experience it. — Max Frisch

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can and swallow them down whole, absent-mindedly and with little relish. — W. H. Auden

Eating bread is a physical act. Breaking and sharing it is a spiritual act. — Nicholas Beryaev

Silence = Death

Do not fear death so much but rather the inadequate life. — Bertolt Brecht

Yet many come to wish their tower a well For those who dread to drown, of thirst may die. — W. H. Auden

Words are all we have. — Samuel Becket

Liberty is the right not to lie. — Albert Camus

The effort to understand the universe is one of the few things that lifts human life above the level of farce and gives it some of the grace of tragedy. — Steve Weinberg

We're ordinary people trying to do extraordinary things with questionable talent and a limited budget. — Johnny Vega

I don't say we all ought to misbehave, but we ought to look as if we could. — Orson Welles

The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February. — Joseph Wood Krutch

The maidens of Massachusetts are not accustomed to undress before committing homicide. In fact, so rigid are their notions of propriety that a good many of them do not slaughter their parents at all, even when fully clothed. — Edmund Pearson

Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough. — William Saroyan

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell

I'd say it's good for a writer to feel like an alien. — Neil Gaiman

It's remarkable how good you can be if you don't have to be perfect.

We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love. — Mother Teresa

This is the art of courage: to see things as they are and still believe that the victory lies not with those who avoid the bad, but those who taste, in living awareness, every drop of the good. — Victoria Lincoln

You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty. — Jessica Mitford

====

These are among the thousands of quotations I've gathered over the years. Often I scrawl them on index cards and put them up over whatever desk I currently inhabit.

The temptation to silence, silence in the face of grief, is almost overwhelming. But it's as bad an idea as I can imagine, to respond to loss, grief, frustration, the premature ending of a life, with my own retreat into silence. Live, damn you. Live. Live out loud.

Some Days I'm a Villain


So which LOTR Villain are you? Hmm??

made by Michelle at EmptySpace.
If I Could Post a Picture, I Would

Instead, check out this link for some pointed political satire.

If you're still hungry for more, try these horrifyingly accurate parodies.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Breaking Hearts

Our dear friend Antony died Friday. He had gone in for an angiogram, and he suffered massive heart failure during the procedure. Despite emergency surgery, they could not get his heart restarted. Antony is dead. He was only 40 years old.

He had some warning. Last year he developed congestive heart failure and diabetes. He was hospitalized over Thanksgiving weekend with very high blood sugar and further heart problems.

Yesterday, his wife found a love letter addressed to her in his wallet.

Antony and I spent years arguing online before we became good friends. We still argue. As he says — said — himself, he’s an asshole. But he was a blunt, magnanimous, lovable asshole, and if I asked him a question, he would tell me the truth. He was like a brother to me. (Sometimes an idiot brother.) He was amazingly in touch with feelings, his own and other people’s, and he had a gut instinct for some of the issues that most concern me. He always had a talent for driving me crazy, and God knows he could be difficult in company. Stubborn, defiant, contrary, libertarian, and yet generous, open, and loving. If we had been married or erotically involved, I would probably have killed him myself. But I didn’t want him to die.

Grief leaves you exhausted. It's hard to concentrate. Storms of weeping, raging, fistpounding emotion come occasionally, but mostly it's the leaden feeling of loss.

It just feels like one death after another, over and over again. . . . When will it stop?

There are twenty South Bay NaNoWriters. Two of us lost both relatives and jobs during the month of November. Now I’ve lost Antony, and another member has lost her grandmother. Oh, and there have been two or three other layoffs in NaNo families, including Paul’s layoff.

I had been thinking about Ebola Smurf's faked death and the way online communities deal with real death. Been through it before. I first met Antony online 9 years ago. We've spent a lot of time together in 3D, but he and the community that's now mourning him are all people who first connected through this medium.

Our corner of cyberspace is where he met and married his wife (also met various girlfriends). Where I met Michele -- we've been together five years. Where dozens of happy marriages that I know about got started. Our community has gone through marriages, births, deaths, catastrophic fires, legal troubles, financial troubles, ugly divorces, sick kids, sick parents, job losses, moves halfway around the world, and every other issue. Life in cyberspace is as real as you make it.

I’m sorry, I know this is incoherent. Partly that’s because it’s cobbled together from various e-mails I’ve written about this, plus notes to myself made weeks ago when I realized how sick Antony was.

Damn it, he was supposed to live.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Have You E-Mailed Me Lately?

If I haven't responded, please re-send. I lost a lot of e-mails when my laptop said goodbye.
Death of a Friend

I have been grieving for JoAnn Wortz, known as Ebola Smurf. Such intelligence and talent, ended so young. She was my age — in her forties. In fact, her death brought up a whole complex of pain for me, because she died in an accident that was painfully similar to the one that killed my niece Diane in February 1997. (No, I’m not over it. Yes, I’ve gone on with my life, but I will never stop missing her presence.) Every year as the day she died approaches I feel renewed sorrow. This is normal; it’s called an anniversary reaction, and if you’re aware of it, you can figure out ways to deal with it. I know how to treat myself in the first week of February to minimize the damage caused by the loss of someone I loved so much.

This year, because of JoAnn’s accident, it kicked in a couple of weeks early. And on top of a lot of other stresses, the tears and sorrow and questioning caused by JoAnn’s death were particularly hard to bear. They affected me, my family, my friends, my job. I prayed for her family. I sat down and cried more than once. I posted about her death here and in my LiveJournal. On the NaNoWriMo boards I wrote:

Oh, I am so sorry. She was such a vital person.

I'm glad the executor told us. This is just heartbreaking, but it's worse to have someone disappear forever.

Drive safely, everyone. And remember that life is short. Love well. Write well. Take care of yourselves.


All of which is good advice and an honest reflection of my feelings. I was really grateful to know what happened to someone I genuinely liked.

Except, of course, that the reports of JoAnn’s death seem to be greatly exaggerated. In fact, she seems to be still alive and living in the same small town where she always lived. People have spoken to her (or someone answering to her name) on the phone since her apparent death on New Year’s Eve.

There seem to have been no police reports, no obituaries, no corroboration at all that she’s really dead. There are reports of strange behavior, fabrications, and outright lies from other online venues.

If JoAnn is dead, I wish her spirit rest. If she’s alive, I hope she gets help. Anyone lying like that, manipulating people who honestly care about her, is very sick, willfully malicious, or caught in a situation so painful it must be close to unendurable.

Either way, alive or dead, my friend is gone for good.
Subzero Homesick Blues

It’s cold back home — seriously cold. Starting to get into the below-zero range at night, with daytime highs of 11 or 12. (This is the real thing, friends, measured in Fahrenheit. Not that pathetic Centigrade scale.)

It’s cold there, and I am remembering icy nights when I slept wrapped in blankets and comforters, with Gabriel cuddled next to me. I’m remembering the apartment on Lydia Street, high ceilings, spacious windows, the first place that was truly mine since I moved from New Fairfield in 1984. I loved the big bedroom with the walk-in closet, the small but comfortable office and living room, the dining room with the farmhouse table and the Hoosier and the glass-fronted mahogany bookcase. And my own vast kitchen (gas stove!) with the pantry. Decent bathroom, too. And all five minutes from work, so I could go home for lunch when I wanted to.

(I mustn’t forget the deranged and violent neighbors downstairs, drunken and raving at 2AM, with three children whose silence was more frightening than any sound. The only time I ever heard a peep from any of them was the time I heard one wailing quietly, wretchedly, all night long.)

I’m homesick for hills like rising loaves, penciled in slate blues and greys beneath a cloudy sky, that miraculously warm to smoke-brown when the sky is clear. I’m homesick for snowbound fields brilliant under the full moon. Homesick for chill, for coats, for the comfort of heavy sweaters and hot tea. Homesick for leafless trees and frozen rivers, old houses shabby but solid, snow drifting across dark roads.

There’s a sign on a school near our house, announcing the end of the semester. When I saw that today, I felt a moment’s panic, because I didn’t know what semester might be ending, or even what day and month it might be. The seasons are an anchor, and I am unmoored.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Today We Honor a Man of Peace

So let's take a look at how the war is going to go.

If that's not enough, check out what the distinguished scholar and pacifist Noam Chomsky has to say: "Sane people do not undertake actions when they know that there is reasonable possibility that it may lead to a humanitarian catastrophe unless they have enormously powerful arguments. The arguments that they have put forward are so weak that there can be no choice about this."

Then there is this page. I'm quoting the whole article, since the Toronto paper is unlikely to keep it on their website forever. And it's important. [Note: boldface added; links, etc., put into HTML.]

-Caveat Lector-

More reference links included at bottom of article...

"I call him the feel bad president, because he's all about punishment and death," he said. "It would be a grave mistake to just play him for laughs."

Bush anything but moronic, according to author
Dark overtones in his malapropisms

MURRAY WHYTE
ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER

When Mark Crispin Miller first set out to write Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder, about the ever-growing catalogue of President George W. Bush's verbal gaffes, he meant it for a laugh. But what he came to realize wasn't entirely amusing.

Since the 2000 presidential campaign, Miller has been compiling his own collection of Bush-isms, which have revealed, he says, a disquieting truth about what lurks behind the cock-eyed leer of the leader of the free world. He's not a moron at all — on that point, Miller and Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien agree.

But according to Miller, he's no friend.

"I did initially intend it to be a funny book. But that was before I had a chance to read through all the transcripts," Miller, an American author and a professor of culture and communication at New York University, said recently in Toronto.

"Bush is not an imbecile. He's not a puppet. I think that Bush is a sociopathic personality. I think he's incapable of empathy. He has an inordinate sense of his own entitlement, and he's a very skilled manipulator. And in all the snickering about his alleged idiocy, this is what a lot of people miss."

Miller's judgment, that the president might suffer from a bona fide personality disorder, almost makes one long for the less menacing notion currently making the rounds: that the White House's current occupant is, in fact, simply an idiot.

If only. Miller's rendering of the president is bleaker than that. In studying Bush's various adventures in oration, he started to see a pattern emerging.

"He has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge.

"When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine," Miller said.

"It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes."


While Miller's book has been praised for its "eloquence" and "playful use of language," it has enraged Bush supporters.

Bush's ascent in the eyes of many Americans — his approval rating hovers at near 80 percent — was the direct result of tough talk following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In those speeches, Bush stumbled not at all; his language of retribution was clear.

It was a sharp contrast to the pre-9/11 George W. Bush. Even before the Supreme Court in 2001 had to intervene and rule on recounts in Florida after a contentious presidential election, a corps of journalists were salivating at the prospect: a bafflingly inarticulate man in a position of power not seen since vice-president Dan Quayle rode shotgun on George H.W. Bush's one term in office.

But equating Bush's malapropisms with Quayle's inability to spell "potato" is a dangerous assumption, Miller says.

At a public address in Nashville, Tenn., in September, Bush provided one of his most memorable stumbles. Trying to give strength to his case that Saddam Hussein had already deceived the West concerning his store of weapons, Bush was scripted to offer an old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. What came out was the following:

"Fool me once, shame ... shame on ... you." Long, uncomfortable pause. "Fool me — can't get fooled again!"

Played for laughs everywhere, Miller saw a darkness underlying the gaffe.

"There's an episode of Happy Days, where The Fonz has to say, `I'm sorry' and can't do it. Same thing," Miller said.

"What's revealing about this is that Bush could not say, `Shame on me' to save his life. That's a completely alien idea to him. This is a guy who is absolutely proud of his own inflexibility and rectitude."

If what Miller says is true — and it would take more than just observations to prove it — then Bush has achieved an astounding goal.

By stumbling blithely along, he has been able to push his image as "just folks" — a normal guy who screws up just like the rest of us.

This, in fact, is a central cog in his image-making machine, Miller says: Portraying the wealthy scion of one of America's most powerful families as a regular, imperfect Joe.

But the depiction, Miller says, is also remarkable for what it hides — imperfect, yes, but also detached, wealthy and unable to identify with the "folks" he's been designed to appeal to.

An example, Miller says, surfaced early in his presidential tenure.

"I know how hard it is to put food on your family," Bush was quoted as saying.

"That wasn't because he's so stupid that he doesn't know how to say, `Put food on your family's table' — it's because he doesn't care about people who can't put food on the table," Miller says.

So, when Bush is envisioning "a foreign-handed foreign policy," or observes on some point that "it's not the way that America is all about," Miller contends it's because he can't keep his focus on things that mean nothing to him.

"When he tries to talk about what this country stands for, or about democracy, he can't do it," he said.

This, then, is why he's so closely watched by his handlers, Miller says — not because he'll say something stupid, but because he'll overindulge in the language of violence and punishment at which he excels.

"He's a very angry guy, a hostile guy. He's much like Nixon. So they're very, very careful to choreograph every move he makes. They don't want him anywhere near protestors, because he would lose his temper."

Miller, without question, is a man with a mission — and laughter isn't it.

"I call him the feel bad president, because he's all about punishment and death," he said. "It would be a grave mistake to just play him for laughs."

The Democratic Underground forum interviews Mark Crispin Miller

From Atlantic Unbound: The Bumbling Communicator:

Wanna learn more about our "resident" "Fortunate Son"

Bushisms (so you can review them for yourself)

A compendium of links on the topic


By All Rational Measures, I Should Be Climbing the Walls Right Now

But I'm not. I'm weirdly at peace -- even deeply content.

Let's take a look at my life right now.

Unless Michele or Paul can get work, I'm going to be the sole support of the household next month. My salary covers the rent, period. When two of us are working, we can get by, though health insurance alone runs us something like $750 a month. (Mine is paid through work, thank God.) We really need three people working to live in fair comfort, pay down the various debts, keep the house running smoothly, and save some for the future.

My laptop power supply died at Orchard Valley Coffee today.

My sneakers have holes, my jeans have holes, and my truck really needs a tuneup.

I haven't slept more than 5 hours a night since Paul was laid off, and I am having nightmares again -- both sure signs of major life stress for me.

I have my annual job review in a couple of weeks, and I'm worried. Probably irrationally, but still.

Nevertheless, I am content tonight.

Somehow, through it all, I feel so much more solidly balanced these days. I have love, work, friends, family, home. I'm writing again. It's not that nothing can affect me -- clearly Paul's layoff did affect me, since it has invaded my sleep. But I have faith in my own strength. No, I always had that. I had to.

What's different? I have support. I have love. I can be *honest*.

Yeah, I'm concerned about money. I have to be. But the essentials are solid. The relationships are real, honest, supportive, healthy. We will make it through this. Together.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Dream Advice

Recently, with the return of insomnia, I've been lingering on the borders of sleep. This state of semiawareness leads to strange and apparently insightful mini-dreams: a single line, a single scene, a single image.

What they're saying:

"He's bleeding in ways you can't understand."

"He's afraid you won't recognize him."

"It has to be done with cell-model precision."

And tonight, after a couple of hours of utterly exhausted sleep, I woke screaming from a vision of a grave under a tree, and a hand emerging from it to seize me. The hard part is that the tree and the grave (or well, or spring) underneath it is familiar to me, part of my mental landscape for God knows how many years. Most of my life, I think. It's a real place that dates back to very early childhood. As the dream fades, so does the vivid picture of the place. What's left is the narrative memory that lets me describe it, a schematic idea lacking the brilliant sensory details, the memory of my drawings of it over the years. This is the tree I've always drawn. And tonight I was *there* — seeing, smelling, noting every twig, the texture of the bark, the color of the leaves.

I woke screaming, in terror, but the real sorrow of this isn't the nightmare. It's waking and losing that place.

Friday, January 17, 2003

California Winters: A Dissenting Opinion

My friend Doug, who lives on the Central Coast, writes:

Just saw your Sunday comments in UnNatural History — just so you know, this has been an unusually warm winter even by California standards so far. I don't even think we've had a good heavy freeze here yet, and I'm at about 1000 feet, separated from the ocean's influence by a high ridge of hills. So, I think the plants are even more confused than they usually are this year. I note that my irises are sending up leaves already, which they didn't do until spring last year. Of course, they could all have the snot froze out of them at any point, should we get the burst of colder air I'm half expecting momentarily. Or perhaps not — this is supposed to be an El Nino year, so my main expectation is a mighty slug of rainstorms in a March-ish timeframe.

Of course, from your point of view, you might not even notice a heavy burst of winter cold here, since on temperature scales you're more used to, either mode probably qualifies as positively springlike. That's the whole point to becoming a Californian — learning to be a connoisseur of the understated, and to discern the finer points of climate, rather than the rest of the nation, who merely get used to being bludgeoned over the head with it.


I thought the whole point of being a Californian was to walk around in a T-shirt on a January day, saying, "My God, it's summer!" Which is what I've been doing all day today. (Well, not literally. I spent most of the day chained to my work computer, swilling Diet Dr. Pepper and sweating out last-minute rewrites.)

It's true that the Northern California climate offers subtle pleasures. For one thing, the grassy hills of the East Bay, even in the wettest seasons, are always more of an avocado green than the grassy hills of the Peninsula, which have a deeper, more tender hue. You have to watch for these differences and enjoy them.

Celebrate National Sanctity of Life Day . . .

With the brilliant columnist Mark Morford. I suspect he may be the offspring of an illicit liaison between Hunter Thompson and Molly Ivins.

And here we are, once more tied to the rack of the cripplingly painful irony that is Dubya's National Sanctity of Life Day, in case you didn't know and in case you forgot to buy a card or something, and isn't it just the most adorable slap to your karmic consciousness you ever did hear?

Because there's Dubya himself, stammering on from a prepared script clearly written by someone else given all the polysyllabic words, all about cherishing life and protecting the unborn and isn't life just this great fuzzywarm glowing hunk of precious blah blah blah, ad nauseam, hey whoops gotta run folks time to massacre some Iraqis and decimate some forests, smirk.

What, too harsh? Hardly.

Look, just over there, it's Cheney and Rumsfeld, standing just offstage, snickering and shaking their heads at the absurdity of it all, at the hilarious PR, rubbing their hands together and conjuring more oozing war demons from deep within their bowels.

Both giddy with the knowledge that 100,000 more US troops have just been shipped to the Gulf to prepare to kill roughly 500,000 Iraqis and generate roughly 900,000 refugees, with millions more destitute and in need of aid (as estimated by the U.N.'s recent analysis of an Iraq attack called "Likely Humanitarian Scenarios"), the sanctity of whose life, apparently, don't matter in the slightest.

Dubya actually said it. He actually went so far as to pledge his administration's commitment to "build a culture that respects life," saying this with a straight face, no violent lightning bolt striking him dead on the spot, no gnarled filthy hell-beasts reaching with clawed fingers up from the ground and dragging him under, isn't that just the sweetest thing and don't you just feel the sentiment deep in your heart? Or perhaps your colon?

It really is just the kindest, most conservatively compassionate sentiment -- unless of course you happen to be, you know, a foreigner, or an animal, or the environment, or gay or female or non-Christian or anyone who's not really, really white and wealthy and who doesn't know Dubya Sr. personally or who hasn't bootlegged a half-rack of Coors Light from the local Liquor Barn for Jenna.


Do go to the site and read the rest of the column. It's painfully funny, or hilariously agonizing.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

It is only the unimaginative who ever invents. The true artist is known by the use he makes of what he annexes, and he annexes everything. — Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Some Words of Wisdom

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the "oughtness" that forever confronts him.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

Freedom has always been an expensive thing.

Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.

What a bit of irony it is that we have in the past decade created machines that think and with them people who fear to think.

You must not become morbidly absorbed in a past mistake but you must seek to outlive it by creative living in the future.

Through violence you may murder a murderer but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land! So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.
Speech at Clayborn Temple, Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, the evening before his assassination.

Today Martin Luther King would have 73 years old. Happy birthday, Dr. King.

Monday, January 13, 2003

A Death in the NaNoWriter Family

Just before I left work, I surfed over to the NaNoWriMo boards to see if anything was up. Something was.

JoAnn Wortz, our own beloved Ebola Smurf, died in a one-car accident on New Year's Eve.

Here's the e-mail from her executor:

My name is Tom Marshal. I'm writing to you from JoAnn's e-mail account because I found your addresses in her address list, and as her executor, I felt it was my responsibility to let you know what has happened.

She was involved in a single car accident on New Years Eve. From the tracks, it appears she swerved to avoid a deer. The autopsy indicates she died instantly when her car hit a tree. No one else was in the car.

If you know of anyone else on the internet who should receive this information, please pass it along.

For various reasons, her computer hard drive will be reformated as soon as I have examined it completely. The various sites and boards she created will remain intact, and I encourage anyone subscribed to them to continue using them.


JoAnn was funny, bright, and talented -- and her NaNovel; was titled Life, Death, and Other Nonsense. It began with a funeral.

I never met her in person, never heard her voice on the phone, have no idea what she looked like. But she was a friend and colleague. We went through the gruelling thirty days of NaNoWriMo together. We posted back and forth -- mostly on the over-40 thread. I liked and respected her, and she's gone, and now I grieve that we will never meet in person, that someone with such vibrancy and talent should be gone.

(Why "Ebola Smurf"? She got the name from a Smurf name generator online, liked it, and kept it.)

Please, people: Remember that life is short. Live well. Love hard. And drive very very safely.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

It’s Unnatural

Yesterday I noticed that the pear trees across the street have broken into greenish-white blossom. On the way to work at the women’s bookstore, I saw slender withes of forsythia starred with yellow flowers. It’s mid-January! For me, forsythia blooms have always meant Easter in Washington, DC. They don’t bloom until May back home in Jackson, PA.

Somehow this is more upsetting than the roses. They’re still in bloom, but that’s OK somehow.They’re a holdover from last year. But to have spring flowers in January is, well, unnatural.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

I Bruise You, You Bruise Me

From Reuters Health:

Dr. Sandra Murray and her colleagues at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York examined a group of mostly married couples. Each member filled out a questionnaire about how they believed their partner felt about them, and then submitted daily logs for 21 days about what had happened in the relationship and how they had reacted.

The researchers discovered that people who said they felt relatively less well-regarded by their partners were more likely to feel hurt and rejected the day after a difficult incident occurred. In response to that hurt and rejection, Murray told Reuters Health that less valued partners tended to start "behaving badly" toward their partners, by being difficult or hurtful themselves, for example.


Interesting study. (The citation for the full article is Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2003;84:126-147.) Now, all I’ve read is a brief news item about the study, so maybe they address some of these concerns and ideas.

These behaviors aren't isolated. Though the article about the study doesn't mention this, they must end up feeding into vicious cycles. If you feel unappreciated, so you get nasty, your partner is going to feel unappreciated and get nasty, so you feel. . . . You get it.

If you feel like your partner does appreciate you, however, the necessary bumps and bruises on the way to genuine intimacy can act as glue to bind you. This becomes a cycle of positive reinforcement, in which you can learn to trust your partner with even the most negative things. Of course, it could also be one of the reasons abusive relationships last. If afterwards you feel appreciated when your spouse brings you roses to compensate for the blows or hateful words, the cycle can go on a long long time.

Another thing this article doesn't address is how to deal with these issues:

1. Partners who have different styles of appreciation and affection. Some people respond better to verbal praise and thanks, whereas others distrust words and go by actions. And some people just can’t seem to say the words. Others have a hard time remembering to do the little things that make people feel appreciated – like doing the dishes, say.

2. Partners who have a hard time accepting or even perceiving love and appreciation. Many people with trust issues filter out the love and see only manipulation, indifference, or betrayal in the making. Or they perceive minor problems to be so threatening that they freak out, and it’s easier to skip telling them unpleasant truths (which destroys trust and can become a horrible trap for both parties) or withdraw emotionally (which can ultimately destroy the relationship) than to keep explaining patiently that that wasn’t what you meant.

Learning each other's language takes time and trust and effort. Dealing with someone who can't see how much you love them — that's a lot harder.
Wheeeee!

I made Neil Gaiman's blog -- again! I'm really honored.

The first time was July 25.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

Oolong the Rabbit Is No More

My many bunny-loving friends and relatives will be sorry to hear of the demise of Oolong, probably the most famous rabbit in Internet history. For years his human (I hesitate to say "owner") has been documenting Oolong's life in photographs on his website. These are really charming, and if you have Internet Explorer, you can put your cursor on the pictures and an English caption will pop up. (The site is in Japanese.)

Oolong was especially famed for his ability to balance things on his head, usually food. There are lots of photos of him with waffles, pancakes, and other goodies. I know it sounds strange, but it's clear from the pictures of Oolong and his person that they were very affectionate with each each other. The food play seems to have been consensual, so who am I to judge?

My best wishes to Oolong.

In his honor, and remembering all the pets that have died, I repost James Dickey's poem:

The Heaven of Animals

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain.

At the cycle's center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.



James Dickey 1961
Some Actual Words of My Very Own

I feel guilty about neglecting this blog, but recently I've been overwhelmed with (A) work, (B) life stress, and (C) other writing projects demanding my limited time.

One thing that may not be immediately obvious is that the deep, heart-wrenching posts don't always come when life is difficult. They are often written when life is good enough to give me spare energy to look into those places and write about them. Some, like the "Losing Brave Eyes" posts, were written at difficult moments in generally good times.

Right now I'm dealing with a lot of external and internal stresses. I'm still much happier than I have been in years, but the financial worries definitely get to me. So do the other stresses, including my upcoming performance review (yes, I know I do good work, but doing a good job is different).

When things settle out a bit I'll be posting more, I promise. And in the meantime, I leave you with one more California observation:

Out here, there are carwashes designed to look like old-fashioned Mississippi paddle-wheel riverboats. You drive through the hull.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Yet Another in an Endless Series of Quizzes
Oh, All, Right, Some Others in the Endless Series

But this was too good to resist.

Romantic
Which Mulder Are You?

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This was too easy.




Jolly good, wot! Anyone for tennis? That'll be ten ponies, guv. You're the epitome of everything that is english. Yey :) Hoist that Union Jack!

How British are you?

this quiz was made by alanna



IAmABlackKitten
What color of kitten would you be?

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Incidentally, this kitten looks a lot like Gabriel, Spawn of Satan, did.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Just to Keep Things Straight. . . .

Anytime a header is in italics as well as boldface, it means I've cross-posted this, so you may have read it elsewhere. I try to keep cross-posts to a minimum, but sometimes they are necessary.
Silicon Valley Lottery (yes, it's bad news)

One of my housemates just drew the dreaded pink slip in the Silicon Valley lottery. He's a technical writer with a solid command of FrameMaker; he's documented hardware, software, and web stuff for engineers and end users. Degree in chemistry. Any openings out there?

This is particularly difficult, because Paul and I are the ones with steady jobs (and he makes a good bit more than I do). Michele is doing contract work and will probably be out of work as of February 28, and Sonja is in college.

Any prayers, networking, or whatever would be deeply appreciated.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Updated Geek Code

It's been years since I translated my current state of life and learning into Geek Code. Plenty of things have changed since then, although the latest version of the Geek Code is now seven years old. I wonder if there's ever going to be an update?

I generated my first Geek Code when I was first on the Internet, somewhere around 1994. (I know -- it's shameful that it took me so long. I was a tech writer back in 1983, when the Mac was announced. I should have been online long before.) I certainly don't have the old version around now, but I typed in a URL that seemed reasonable, and voila: the whole thing. A few minutes' work, and I was fully geekified again.

-----BEGIN GEEK CODE BLOCK-----
Version: 3.12
GH/L$/SS/TW$ !d-(---)@ s-:++ a+ C+++$ U>++ P+>++ L>++ W++ N+ w+(---) M++ PS++ PE- Y+ t !5 X+++ R tv--(+++) b++++$ DI++ !D G++ e+++ h---(++) r+++ x**
-----END GEEK CODE BLOCK-----

Here's a simple decoder, if you don't read fluent Geek Code.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

A History Lesson

"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."
-- Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger, 1916, Ch.9

I picked this up from Tom Rush's website. (Am I the only one who remembers "Urge for Going"?)

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Cruel Tricks for Dear Airport Security Guys

Penn (of Penn & Teller) takes on those guys who strip-search you at the gate.

My favorite line: "Anyone is welcome to grab my crotch, I don't require dinner and a movie, just ask me."

I used to see Penn & Teller for free on the streets of Philadelphia, when I was a lot younger and they were street magicians who passed the hat for their pay. Watching them juggle flaming torches was an experience.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Happy Birthday, Dear Professor

Today — January 3, 2003 — is a great literary celebration. From the website:

the eleventy-first (111th) anniversary of the birth of Professor Tolkien. This event, Bilbo’s age at the start of The Fellowship of the Ring, falls in The Tolkien Society’s 33rd anniversary year, our coming of age; thus the society is Frodo to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Bilbo at the Long-Expected Party (FotR chapter 1).

On January 3rd Tolkien fans around the world are invited to raise a glass and toast the birthday of this much loved author at 21:00 ("9 pm") local time.

The toast is "The Professor".

For those unfamiliar with British toast-drinking ceremonies:

To make the Birthday Toast, you stand, raise a glass of your choice of drink (not necessarily alcoholic), and say the words 'The Professor' before taking a sip (or swig, if that's more appropriate for your drink). Sit and enjoy the rest of your drink.
So That Explains It

Neil Gaiman on sudden, unpredictable life changes:

Have you ever noticed that your writers have changed? Semi-serious question. You’ll spend six months in a romantic comedy, then you turn around one day and you're in a ghost story or a medical thriller, or you spend a year in a kitchen sink, grittily realistic drama and then, without warning, your life turns into a sitcom...

It’s always sudden. It often happens with a bang. Ah, I think, when that happens to me. New writers...


It makes as much sense as any other explanation, but my God, if I ever get my hands on the bastards who wrote 1997. . . .

Let's not follow that thought. I don't want my characters pursuing me vengefully because I do awful things to them.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Maybe I Should Make a Resolution to Stop Taking Online Quizzes

According to the SelectSmart.com Belief System Selector, my #1 belief match is Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants.
What do you believe?
Visit SelectSmart.com/RELIGION


Well, I did just become an Episcopalian.
Why Bother Starting a New Year. . .

when you're not finished with the past?





what decade does your personality live in?


quiz brought to you by lady interference, ltd