And so the other day, we were getting ready for our long bike ride; part of that preparation included slathering suntan lotion all over our legs and arms and faces so that the su wouldn’t broil us like lobsters. Jennifer handed me the lotion and I decided, in my own patented brand of logic, that it would be more efficient if, instead of pouring some lotion into my hands and spreading it on my legs, I would just upend the bottle and squeeze some lotion directly onto my leg. I squeezed the bottle just a little too much, and a large glob of lotion squirted out onto my leg and my shoe, and onto our hardwood floor.

"Honey!" Jennifer cried in her expasperated Oh- my- goodness- what- have- you- done- now voice that I’ve grown to recognize quite well in our few years together. "Look what you did!"

I was pretty nonchalant about the globs of lotion on the floor; indeed, I took one of the globs from my shoe and used it to coat my leg. "Look," I said, "No harm done."

Jennifer sighed, exasperated, and grabbed a napkin to clean up the globs of suntan lotion that had gotten onto the floor. "Honestly," she muttered, "If you only had the sense that God gave to a turtle!"

I paused at that — after all, wouldn’t you? A turtle? The sense that God gave to a turtle? Where in the world did that come from?

"Did you say ‘turtle’?" I asked my wife.

She didn’t answer me right away. I could tell from her shaking shoulders that she was just laughing too hard.

So it was a nice bike ride we went on. We had planned for a thirteen mile jaunt, but I decided it would be fun to take a 10-mile side trip, a route that I’d driven a couple of times and which I’d always wanted to bike on: down some country roads, through some orchards, past a stable or two, over a narrow bridge so covered in graffiti that there is no way to know what color it originally was. I asked my wife, just as we were turning on Schroeder, how adventurous, exploratory and, above all, how energetic she felt. It took just a little coaxing to convince her that she really wanted to take this side trip with me.

So we took that route. It was nice. The smell of fresh harvest in our part of the world is delightful, and the scenery around here is gorgeous, though uninspiringly lacking in hills or large bodies of water. And all along the ride, I got to tease Jennifer. "A turtle!" I kept bursting out. "I haven’t got the sense that God gave to a TURTLE!"

Things have been kind of like that on the whole. Last week my Linux box at home started acting up — well, okay, it’d been acting up badly for months. Then it got to the point where the X server wouldn’t start up at all; in Windows, this would mean that you couldn’t start the windowing program and all you had was the command line. While the command line is extraordinarily useless in Windows, there is still a lot you can do in Linux with just that command line, so during the day I was able to still work on my computer remotely — checking my e-mail, working on a couple of text files, and so on. But the hard drive was making a long trek south, and probably wasn’t going to last much longer. I wrote to the local Linux Users’ Group, and someone was kind enough to volunteer to come out and help me solve my problem.

After two sessions totalling fourteen hours, my computer is up and running again. I am very pleased and very grateful to LUGOD, and the folks there. And now I know what signs to keep an eye out for to make sure that this series of errors doesn’t crop up again.

Speaking of Linux, I put in my application to be site guide for an on-line Linux community. Not enough technical content. Someone else got the slot. Ah, well. I also submitted my proposal for a new fantasy campaign setting to Wizards of the Coast, just in the nick of time (I was actually standing in line at the post office when it occurred to me that I should have included a SASE with my submission — so I ended up grabbing two large envelopes, breaking the seal on the envelope I’d already enclosed my submission in, and rapidly addressing both; and now that I think about it, I don’t think I even paid for those envelopes).

Which brings us, via no discernible path, to this evening. Jennifer and I are relaxing in our office, she playing word games on her computer and me writing this entry and thinking about reading an article on D-Day in the most recent issue of National Geographic. There’s no real order to this entry. Nor is there any sense, I suppose.

But, then, as Jennifer herself pointed out: I haven’t got the sense that God gave to a turtle.

A green seaturtle, Chelonia mydas,
the God-given sense of which I do not have.

On the Other Hand

Just so you don’t think I’m a complete loser, though, let me follow through with this. I think that there are three major spheres of life that we all get caught up in: career, relationships, and spirituality. Okay, three, but I don’t need to expound on God and spirituality in this forum.

I’m well aware that I’m a failure in the career sphere, but when it comes to interpersonal relationships, I am perfectly satisfied. I am lucky to have a lot of acquaintances and several very close friends that I can go to whenever I need them. Evilpheemy is one of the best friends anyone could hope for; so is Craymore and a few others that I won’t name here.

And, of course, I certainly have no complaints about my marriage. I can’t imagine a more perfect lifepartner for me than my wife Jennifer. She’s loving, generous, supportive, devastatingly brilliant, makes a killer vegetarian lasagne, and can always make me laugh by coming up with some goofy nonsense. She’s just funny that way.

I’m good with my family, too. Parents, parents-in-law, sisters, in-laws, aunts, uncles, etc., I’m pretty fond of and close to all of them.

My only complaint, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, is that I really wish I had more time to spend with all of them. Managing the priorities is tough, though I know that my marriage is always going to be my top priority.

In other news, last week our office had a "salad potluck" lunch. I made a berrie/banana salad that was pretty popular. At the end of the lunch, there was only about a cup full of berries left. I took them home and put them in the refrigerator, planning on having them for lunch later. So yesterday I brought them to my office and prepared to chow down. I opened the container and…

<<< WHIFF >>>

Man, that stank! I smelled like it had fermented in there. I thought about eating them anyway just to see what kind of buzz I’d get, but my stomach’s been angsty enough these past couple of days that I didn’t want to risk it.

Okay, that last vignette probably wasn’t very enlightening, but I really needed to fill up some space.

Two Errors

Robert Bly, in his poem "Four Ways of Knowing", writes, "I usually ignore the other three / and learn by falling." Some force — God, your higher self, whatever — is out there, says Bly, and there are times when you desperately need to learn something. It starts with subtle hints: a shape in a tree, or a scent, or a snatch of overheard conversation. Then if that doesn’t work, it moves to more direct hints: "two strangers speak the same phrase in the same day." Then, dreams. Then, direct intervention. Then, if you still don’t learn, you just fall.

Some silly kid at work — because I work in a University office, there are plenty of college kids working there too — who is freshly graduated came up to me for advice today. I have no idea what possessed her to do this. She told me that she was having trouble choosing a direction for her life and asked what I thought she should do about that.

In my opinion, this is sort of on par with asking Quasimodo for cosmetic tips, or President Bush for tips on integrity. It’s kind of an exercise in futility. I didn’t say so to her face, of course, but I am not at all qualified to answer that question, so I told her that it would probably be best for her to talk to a career counselor at the University, something like that.

But upon further reflection, I think that there are definitely some pointers I’d give to people. Specifically, I’d like to go back in time and pound them into my younger self’s head. Maybe I would have gotten my act in gear and gotten something accomplished.

I don’t believe anyone when they say that they’ve always known what they want to do. I think it’s a lie, and that they are, at best, deluding themselves. I do think that each person has a purpose, though, and the means to achieve that purpose, provided that they act appropriately and take the opportunities that are given to them. That being said, here are the pointers for my younger self:

  1. First of all, if you don’t know what you want now, then do something. Even if you don’t like it. Find something to do, do it honestly and with integrity and honor and to the best of your ability. The first mistake is to not do something, and let things slip by while you just kind of wait for something to happen. If you do something — anything — then when you do find your purpose, or that spark that kindles the fire in your soul, then you can make that leap and have something to take with you. That’s the trick: you need to have something to take with you.
  2. The second point is, when you find something that you do want to do, then you have to go for it. If you’re doing something that you don’t like, and fail to go for your purpose when you discover what it is, then you’re stuck.

The first mistake is the one that I made. If you make that mistake, you run the risk of becoming a middle-aged, directionless fool without anything to take with you when you finally figure out what it is that you are meant to do, just kind of marking time. I’m not entirely sure what my purpose is, though I have a pretty good idea. It doesn’t really matter, though, because following up on it now would be an exercise in futility.

Anyway, if I could go back in time and beat some sense into my younger self, that’s the sense I’d beat into him. Me. Whatever. I never know what pronoun to use in this case.

On a more interesting note, I’ve decided to go along with Evilpheemy and send a campaign setting outline to Wizards of the Coast’s fantasy setting contest. Coming up with strange and interesting new worlds is something that I’ve always been pretty good at, even off the cuff. Putting stories in them is a bit of a challenge at times, but creating the worlds isn’t. Top prize is $120,000. There are folks, I know, who think that they could go ahead and publish their own game worlds on their own and somehow make millions, sort of like George Lucas did. I really want to know what fantasy world these people are living in. There are millions of incredibly talented and gifted visionaries out there, but while they can all inspire and stimulate, they can’t all be millionaires. $120,000 is pretty good for one solid idea. Let’s see if it pans out.

What? Do They Speak Bocci on What?

I’m amused. For some reason — probably because Evilpheemy took it — I took the How Jedi Are You? quiz. And wound up as Mace Wendu:

I like these quizzes. I wind up with results like Mace Windu, Kermit the Frog… I bet that if I took a "What Star Trek: The Next Generation Character Are You?" quiz, I’d wind up as Jean-Luc Picard. Either him, or William Riker. Being associated, no matter how frivolously, with these characters who are wise, intelligent, brimming over with leadership and bad-assness, is a bit of an ego stroke for me. I’m none of those things, but I like knowing that I test well. I’m the guy who got that disgustingly high score on the SAT when I was in high school. Of course, I’m also the guy who wasn’t able to get a career going when I got out of college. If that isn’t an object lesson in the value of standardized testing, I don’t know what is.

And yes, I did finally see Attack of the Clones. I may have written about that here before. I can’t recall, and I’m too lazy right now to go back through my recent archives and look for it. I can definitely say that I was generally pleased with this film, in the way that I’m generally pleased with 21st century medicine. Despite its faults, 21st century medicine at least isn’t 1th century medicine (people are at least no longer getting their appendix removed by their barber/dentist); and at least Attack of the Clones didn’t have Jar Jar Binks in it. Not much of him, at least.

I have to say that I think George Lucas may have made some serious mistakes. Tonight, Jennifer and I rented the first Star Wars film made, Episode IV: A New Hope (which was released in 1977 as just plain ol’ Star Wars); and there are simply too many overarching storylines that contain self-contradictions for Lucas to easily resolve with just one more film. Obi-Wan Kenobi doesn’t remember ever owning a droid in Episode IV; but in Episodes I and II, R2-D2 is one of Kenobi’s constant companions. And I can’t help wondering how much Luke’s Uncle Owen knew about Darth Vader and Luke’s father? If he knew who Luke’s father really was, would he have ever allowed talk of Luke going off to the Academy ever happen at all? He seemed singularly non-plussed when Luke first mentioned Kenobi to him. And, of course, there’s the issue of C-3PO and R2-D2 knowing Darth Vader. Lucas could say that the two droids simply had their memories erased between the settings of II and IV, but that’s too pat an explanation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying the storyline so far. I think that producing Episodes I, II, and III as children’s films might be a mistake; the storyline is far too complex and sophisticated to make very good children’s films. Anakin is not going through the Campbellian "Hero’s Journey" that Luke Skywalker did; instead, he’s experiencing a descent into darkness. It is interesting, but such a theme doesn’t have the same mythic resonance with young people that the Hero’s Journey does.

Not to say that Episodes I and II were failures, of course. They’ve made lots of money for Lucas, and lots of people like the films. I just think that they could have been made much more interesting (for me, at least; they probably wouldn’t have succeeded if I’d written them). Ah, well.

But at any rate, I was going to tell you about the presentation I gave on Ximian Evolution, the desktop personal information management tool for Linux. I was not, of course, the only person giving the presentation; it was part of a special class arranged for the City of Davis. There were two other people giving presentations that night, on variations on the topic of "Linux on the Desktop". My presentation was short; probably only about five minutes in length. Nevertheless, I think it went well; I’m scheduled to give a much longer talk on the subject at the LUGOD meeting in mid-October. The subject of Linux for home use is something I’m still finding interesting. I went and applied to be the site guide for, part of the network, and the focus I gave them in my application was "Linux for the Home". Surprisingly, the editors liked my application enough to move me to the next level; so over the next two weeks or so I’ll be working like mad to pull together a lot of information about Linux and writing up articles in order to make it to the next stage of the application process. Compensation for this job would only be about $100 per month or so, but it should be fun.

And speaking of fun things, I’ve put Outer Darkness on hold for awhile, because my heart just wasn’t into it. Instead, I’ve decided to run a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The story is one I’ve been developing since before I got married (heck, I remember talking to one of the guys at my bachelor party about it), but the setting itself has been in development for at least a decade. I already know the introductory scenes I’m going to run for Evilpheemy and for Jennifer. All I need now is time.

The writing continues. "Homeworld" (formerly known as "Homestead") is plodding along slowly. The Troll King’s Daughter is as well. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing with "Mother Tsan Chan". I’ve been having an extremely difficult time keeping up with my resolution to put in 1,000 words per day… although I suppose that this entry will count towards that goal.

And, of course, I still find myself fascinated by the field of ecological systems engineering. It’s kind of an object lesson for me: when I graduated with my BA, I had always assumed that at some point, as soon as I figured out what I wanted to study in graduate school, I’d be able to go back and get in. My dismay at realizing that it wasn’t going to happen at all still hasn’t quite gone away. However, there is a lot of information out there and probably lots of places for people with no aptitude for math or engineering. If I were a billionaire, I’d start something like The Eden Project, which is exactly the sort of thing I had been hoping to do.

On another note, my question of the day is this: if President Bush is willing to commit to a complete overhaul of the federal government by the end of 2002, why isn’t he willing to commit to a timeline of any sort for a Middle East peace process? I suppose that with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, when it bogs down in Congress past 2002 — as it’s destined to do, I don’t think anyone can deny that — then Bush will be able to point at the Democrats and blame them for "standing in the way of the defense of all Americans" (not that I wouldn’t put it past Gore or Clinton to have done something similar if the parties were reversed, of course — remember that I loathe all politicians equally). When any timetable he commits to for a Middle East process fails (and does anyone seriously believe that Israel and Palestine want peace?), who would he blame? No, staying out would be the safest course for him.

At a party I went to the other night at Evilpheemy’s, I learned that meterologists were predicting winds this past weekend of 30 to 40 miles per hour. Wisely, I avoided telling Jennifer this before our 30 mile bike ride. Yep, a Jedi master. That’s me.

Arrogant Bastard

Occasionally, I review things in this journal. Movies, theater, fine wine, restaurants…

Well, okay, I hardly ever do. And when I do, it’s an informal thing. But I’ve decided that my duty to the public good requires that once in awhile I actually write a review of an important product. Tonight, that important product is going to be:

Arrogant Bastard Ale

Arrogant Bastard Ale

I’m not quite the beer snob that I used to be. Back in The Day, my buddy Oog and I would actually go out of our way to find unique and strange microbrews, then traipse back to our apartment complex and then quaff them and actually compare notes: "This one is rather mild on the malt, but the hops make up for it," that sort of thing. When my friend Dilano moved in with me, he and Oog and I brewed some beers of our own. By far our most successful was something called Fools’ Brew (why? because we were all fools, fools a-brewin’). I got to the point where I could almost — but not quite — tell what kinds of hops went into a particular beer.

The point of all that was that Back in The Day, I knew a thing or two about beer. And even today, I still like to find odd or unique microbrews and, armed with the knowledge that a 12-oz. bottle of your typical beer is about 2 or 3 points (Weight Watchers, you know), I buy up some and quaff it and think of the good old days.

And yesterday I was listening to Talk of the Nation on National Public Radio; the topic was beer, and what makes good beer, and what makes bad beer. It was a blast from the past for me. So while I was at the pharmacy, picking up some of the medicine that keeps my lungs pumping away on a daily basis, I stopped by the beer cooler to see what they had.

How could I pass this one up? The copy on the label says it all: "You’re Not Worthy."

"Yes, I am!" I informed the label, and I grabbed the beer.

So how’s the beer? Is it worthy of proclaiming that the drinker is unworthy? The copy on the bottle reads that this is an aggressive beer, and it certainly is. It’s harsh on the palate and has a cloying maltiness that I don’t care for all that much. It’s nicely carbonated, though, and the hops are very aggressive — here the label doesn’t lie. I like the bitterness and the overall taste of this beer. It won’t displace Guinness or Old Nick or (drool) Samuel Adams Triple Bock as my favorite beer of all time, it probably won’t even make it to the top ten… but it’s not that bad.

That’s all about that.

I’m doing my best to become a threat to the American Way, apparently. While browsing through some news archives on the LUGOD website, I found this article, in which Microsoft claims that the open source model of programming — including Linux — is a threat to intellectual property and is un-American. Says Jim Allchin of Microsoft, "I’m an American, I believe in the American Way. I worry if the government encourages open source, and I don’t think we’ve done enough education of policy makers to understand the threat."

I love this. Linux and open-source — a community in which ideas are freely exchanged and developed on, and a person can rise to the top by virtue of their talent and skill, and ownership of code and proper credit is given a great deal of importance — is un-American, while the proprietary software model — which stifles the ability of the average guy to develop code and which guarantees that talent and skill are secondary to politicking and personality when it comes to advancement — is as American as apple pie.

I, personally, would argue exactly the opposite. The Linux and Open Source community is a democratic free for all, where ideas and innovation can explode and grow, where security is an extremely high priority and giving credit where credit is due is a high ideal.

Hence, my new slogan: "Linux — it’s not just for godless, anti-American, communist hippies anymore!"

Think it will fit on a bumper sticker?

The usual stuff is going on. Thanks to my friend Cearalaith, I’m feeling much less out of the loop than I was a week ago. I’ve decided to put Outer Darkness on hold for awhile because my heart wasn’t in it and I wanted to focus on other things for awhile. I’ve been grilling (cod with a neat tomato sauce tonight, undercooked salmon last week with Jennifer and her mother), biking (we went to the meeting of the local bike club earlier this week), and playing with my Linux box. I still work as a temp for UC Davis, and I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone who says that they know what their mission in life is is lying.

And that’s all for now. Have a good night.