A Blazer for the Road (Not the Truck)

Let’s see.

On Tuesday, the 24th, I finished up my application for library school and mailed it off. I got some help from Jennifer and from a couple of librarians I’ve corresponded with on-line and got some good feedback on my personal statement… and finally decided that I was just going to send the darn thing in, because I was quickly reaching the Endless Revision stage: you know, that stage where you will always find one more word to change, one more grammatical structure to improve, one more… And so on. For me, it’s the most dangerous stage of writing (not the hardest — the hardest is getting started). But I finally got done, and I went to the Post Office and sent it certified mail. I haven’t yet gotten the return receipt. Hm, I wonder if I should be a bit concerned about that?

At any rate, now it’s just down to the waiting. I figure my chances are pretty good, but I just don’t feel alive unless I’m fretting about something, so this week I’m fretting about my application to the MLIS program.

Today was the last session of the Islam class that I’ve been teaching at our church. It wasn’t really a class so much as a guided discussion group. I started out the first week by talking about some of the common myths and misperceptions about Islam. Week Two was about the role and status of women in Islam. Week Three was about the Crusades, and the relationship between Islam and Christianity. And today I did my best to go over the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire and the role of western colonialism in leading up to the current crisis. In other words, I tried to give some perspective on the current conflict and its roots in history; and how some of what we know if Islam today is deeply rooted in the history of Islam.

It was an interesting thing to do. I learned more about Islam than I had ever known, and some of my own illusions were fixed. I discovered that there are elements of Islam that I don’t like after all, although the good of Islam far outweighs the bad. I could never be a Moslem myself; my notion of God is much more compatible with Christianity than it is with any other religion.

At any rate, I received a number of compliments on the way I taught the class, and one of the members of the church’s education committee told me that she would probably ask me to teach this class again next time, or possibly some other classes. I’m interested in doing some classes on world religions, and also a class about faith and religion. That could be interesting.

In other news, Jennifer and I are flying out to Chicago tomorrow for two weeks of hyper-training for Benthic Creatures. On Friday we went and shopped for some sort of professional clothing (I have a blazer now! My goodness, I never thought I’d actually own one of those!). We spent an uncomfortable amount of money buying clothing, but we did need to stock up. Helpful hint to the men out there: women like it when you actually take an active role in helping them shop for clothing. Seems to impress the socks off of them. At least it did for Jennifer, who said to her mother that it was “just like shopping with a girlfriend”.

Hmm.

Of course, when we’re in Chicago, we’ll be getting our new laptop computers, which brings up a whole host of questions. Moral dilemmas aside (the computers will be running Windows XP) I have to figure out if there’s some way of getting the two computers to share a phone line, and how to hook up to my Linux box from a Windows XP computer while on the road.

I think that’s it for now. Anything interesting on your end?

Why Is This So Freakin' Hard?

I can sit down and churn out a three-page document summarizing some new features of a software product that I’ve helped develop. Within minutes I can spew out a humorous e-mail inviting all of our friends to a Hallowe’en party. And all throughout college I could sit down and write a paper or an essay or a thesis with little effort. Really, it was that simple.

But here I am now trying to write my personal statement for library school… and facing a writer’s block like you wouldn’t believe. This this thing is huge. Imagine some chunk of ice or something about the size of one of those giant icebergs that break off from the Antarctic ice cap once in awhile and wanders about, sinking unsinkable ships and confusing the hell out of a flock of penguins who suddenly discover themselves floating hundreds of miles away from home with no warning.

Imagine that block of ice sitting on your keyboard. Mocking you. Taunting you. Daring you to write one word, one bloody word, that will demonstrate “your interest in the program and how getting an MLIS degree will help your career.”

I have all my thoughts down. I have a draft, unreadable though it is. I know what points I want to cover, and in what order I want to cover them. Really, all that’s left is to just start writing it.

But for some reason I just can’t. Over the past week I’ve written something like a dozen false starts and scrapped them all. Yesterday I finally wrote up a draft that I was more or less happy with, but decided that there was still a lot of work to do on it.

It’s only two to three pages, fer crying out loud! I write more than that when I’m planning out a Dungeons and Dragons game!

Ah, well.

Today, while Jennifer is off in Contra Costa County for a meeting (which I’ll be attending on Thursday), I finished filling out the rest of the application: filling out the forms, tracking down professors to list on the application itself, double-checking my old transcripts, and so on. But now I’m done with that, so I better just finish that essay.

Okay, now I’m done ranting for the day. Wish me luck. Hopefully, I will finish this essay before the end of the day. Then I shall reward myself by possibly installing Movable Type on my server.

Pre-Remembrance

A year later and we’re still taking stock.

One thing that occurs to me; perhaps the state of nervousness and tension that the world — especially the United States — is experiencing is the norm, rather than the relative peace and ease that we felt during the mid- to late 1990’s. In the United States, especially, with our economy on a path of what seemed to be limitless growth and jobs plentiful for everyone and the Internet ready to revolutionize everything from how we communicated with everyone around the world to how we did our laundry (anyone remember mylackey.com?), we could pretend that the whole world was sharing our joy and feeling the same kind of peace.

Of course, it wasn’t. And on 9/11/01, we finally got a dose of the reality that not everyone in the world was happy.

I’ve been doing my best to avoid any media coverage of 9/11 “commemorations” and “remembrances”; not because I want to ignore the pain and suffering of those who lost loved ones in the attacks, or ignore the effects that they had on our society. To the contrary, I believe that media over-exposure cheapens the meaning of the events and desensitizes us.

We’re all still trying to figure out what it means. Some people think it means that the United States and everything we believe in is suddenly a target for blind, unreasoning hatred. Some people think it’s grand that suddenly we have a new target to direct our own hatred at (too many people miss the Cold War). Others believe that we brought this on ourselves and that the only honorable thing we could do as a nation is commit national suicide.

Me, I don’t know. There’s a part of me that wants to blow off the terrorists; at times, terrorist groups remind me of the kids in high school that I knew who drew up elaborate plans for how they would storm the school and take it over if only they had the guns and the money to do it — except now they have great big guns and people willing to commit suicide in the name of the same adolescent sort of bravado. But I know that this not only cheapens the events, but also ignores the legitimate grievances and painful conditions that fostered the desperation that led to the terrorism in the first place.

Not that I believe for an instant that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden were at all justified in what they did (or that Fatah is justified in their attacks on Israeli citizens, or that al Aqsa, or Islamic Jihad — or, for that matter, the IRA). But there has been a lot of suffering and strife in that part of the world for decades now, and to say that the West had no role in fostering that struggle and suffering is to bury our head in the sand and ignore reality.

Religion is not the cause of the current crisis. I’ve seen arguments claiming that if we simlpy eliminate religion from human society. I find such speculation dubious, at best; Stalin and Mao, after all, organized and perpetrated some of the largest and deadliest massacres of innocents in human history, and they were both atheists.

But you certainly can’t ignore the role of religion in what has been happening. While we in the West tend to secularize our religion and set it aside and do our best to separate it out from the rest of our lives, such a division of religion from life is impossible in Islam. Islam teaches that God is absolute, that God is first in all things; and to focus on anything else, such as money or power or pleasure, is to practice idolatry. Thus, religion is a fact of life that informs every aspect of Islamic life. To us in the West, a government informed by religion is repugnant at best; to the Islamic world, a government separated from religion is equally repugnant.

But, of course, Islam as a religious organization is ultimately made up of human beings: and, thus, subject to division and factionalism and schism, just like western society.

The upshot is this: Osama bin Laden may believe that he is acting in the name of Islam, and his political and warlike goals may, to him, be justified; but he represents a miniscule fraction of what Islam really is (just as Fred Phelps and his “God Hates Fags” lot represents a thankfully tiny minority of Christian fanatics). Unfortunately, as always, it’s the noisy lunatics who get the press while the reasonable majority are ignored.

Terrorists plot against the United States; they have since our country’s very beginnings, and they always will. Sometimes they will get lucky; most of the time they will not. And the United States is not even unique in that regard; Chechnyan rebels struggle against the Russian federal government, while Mexico faces challenges from the Zapatistas. In Nepal, Maoist rebels have been killing people left and right for years. Of course the US is a big target, so there are a lot more people struggling against us. But we’re still hardly unique.

In other words, I am not convinced — and I never have been — that the threat of terrorism against the United States is greater than it ever has been.

Over the past year, I’ve pondered these issues plenty. And I have reached a few conclusions:

  • First of all, terrorism can never be defeated. As long as their are groups of people, there will be hatred, and hatred will always find a way to express itself in blind, fanatical, and destructive ways. But we can build a world which is more inhospitable to terrorism. I don’t think that this can be accomplished with more fear, with weapons, with war-hawkish attitudes and speeches, or with revenge. The way to do it is to act with honor, with integrity, with decency, with tolerance, and with charity towards all people — no matter who they are, no matter where they are, and no matter whether or not you like them or what they have to say or what they have done. It doesn’t matter if they return the treatment. It’s okay to take the moral high road.

  • Second of all, on a more political note, I believe that clamping down on civil liberties is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Racial profiling of Arabic people, granting more rights to the government to eavesdrop and spy on its own people, and so on are caving in to fear. Security and liberty are not mutually exclusive.

  • And, finally, I believe that dissent is not only okay, but is, in fact, vital for a democracy to continue to function. After all, our nation was founded upon dissent. And nothing noble was ever accomplished by people who were happy with the way things are.

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the attacks. I won’t watch television or wave a flag maniacally or sing the national anthem. Instead, I’ll remember those who love me, I’ll say a prayer for peace, I’ll say a prayer for those who wish us harm, and I’ll keep doing what I can to make myself a better person, and to make this world a better place.

So I guess that there is one last conclusion that I’ve reached over the past year. And it is this: if you have ever had a dream for making the world a better place, then this is the time to make that dream come true. Whether that dream involves helping the poor find food to eat, or building bridges of communication between different cultures, or helping people in your own community have access to the resources they need to learn and to read and to inform themselves, or telling people stories that entertain or teach — now, more than ever, the world needs that dream.

Okay, I’ll stop now before I get really embarrassing.

It's All Circular

Today Jennifer and I had our first meeting at Benthic Creatures, and I discovered how amazingly small our world can become at times. One of our co-workers is a former co-worker of Jennifer’s from her Company To Be Named Never, but we knew that was going to happen. We knew that was going to happen going in. But there were other surprises in store.

A few years ago, when I was first planning my trip to Europe, while I was still working as a clerical goon in the HR department of UC Davis, I took a part-time job as a video store to supplement my income. Despite the fact that it was an evening job and the pay was, well, minimum wage, I had a lot of fun at that job (well, of course, there were times when I couldn’t stand the thought of working, but every job has those moments); the co-workers were cool, and I got along great with the manager — who shall be referred hereinafter as Mr. Manta (no insult intended by this or any of the other names I’ll be using to refer to my co-workers; I like underwater creatures and benthic life forms, they’re so freakin’ cool!)

A few months back I heard that Mr. Manta was no longer working there. It was really too bad, because I liked him a lot and I enjoyed stopping by to chat with him even if I wasn’t going to rent a movie, long after I’d quit working there. I tracked him down and got in touch with him, learned that he was worried about finances and wasn’t sure what he was going to do job-wise. I was worried for him, of course, but our situation was such that I couldn’t really do anything to help him out financially.

So during the staff meeting at Benthic Creatures today, the door to our boss’s office opened and in stepped Mr. Manta.

For a moment, I didn’t even recognize him; he’d lost weight, cut his hair, shaved off most of his beard, and looked, for the first time in all the time that I’d known him, calm and relaxed. Energetic, even. I could tell that he was enjoying working for Benthic Creatures.

As Mr. Manta and I began reminiscing about the poker games we’d gone to and the movies we’d watched and the fun we’d had working at the video store, our boss — hereinafter referred to as King Squid — said something along the lines of, “Mental note: never put the two of them on the same project.”

It looks like it’s going to be a good crew to work with. Between Mr. Manta and the co-workers that Jennifer knew from her last company, it seemed that the only stranger in the room was King Squid. There was a good feeling in the room, relaxed yet focused.

I’m excited about this job. It’s very different from anything I’ve ever done before, but it’s also the first job I’ve ever had where I feel like I’m going to be doing something important. Contributing. Those mollusc handlers do important work, and we’re going to make their work easier and help all of the molluscs and the benthic bedrock as well.

Things are easy so far. Today, after the meeting, Jennifer and I came home and, well, sat around, casually poking at the manuals that we were given from time to time. Next week we’ll be traveling to Stanislaus County for some meetings, and in October we’re headed out to Chicago for “boot camp” (as King Squid calls it), and that’s likely to be tough. But I don’t expect that I’ll ever stress out too much over this job; and when I hopefully begin classes for library school in Spring, it shouldn’t be a problem to make my work schedule and my class schedule mesh.

So, yeah, that’s my news.

In other news, I’m trying to figure out how to set up a web interface to my mail on my computer here at home so that I can check my e-mail from Netscape while on the road. I’d like to do it without having to set up a POP server on my computer, or point a domain name at my IP address. Any suggestions on how to get started with this would be more than welcome.

Geek On

Today is my last day as a Temp. Again. Next week, Jennifer and I start our new jobs, which are really the same. We’ll be working for the same company, doing pretty much the same thing, for the same people. My parents and my sisters both say that this is “pukingly cute”, but I think it’s going to be quite an experience. I suppose it might have the potential for some big trouble, but as long as neither of us is the boss of the other (all you other married men can keep your sniggers to yourself), we’ll be just fine. As Jennifer says, we built a house together, we can certainly work together.

This new job has nothing to do with web development or anything like that, except peripherally. I’ll be training folks on how to use a particular piece of software. I can’t say what exactly what it will be, of course, but let’s assign it a pseudonymic sort of function. Let’s say… that I’ll be training mollusc handlers in the state how to better administer the sea turtle maintenance database. The company we’ll be working for is Benthic Creatures ‘R’ Us, though Jennifer will probably call it something different.

There. Now when I say something like, “All of these MH’s are really getting the hang of multiplying the tortoise shell quantifexes perfectly!” you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

I kind of miss the coding days, when I was programming web functionality and building websites around that functionality, but there’s a part of me which really doesn’t miss it. Okay, I’ve got mixed feelings. I admit it. I like coding and I like doing websites, but I don’t want to do it all the time. Does that make sense?

Part of the exciting thing about decided to move away from being a web geek to library geek is the growing realization that I can keep doing the web geek thing. Just about every librarian I’ve talked to or corresponded with over the past couple of months has been computer-literate, and a lot of them have been competent web designers and programmers. Looking at some of the classes that are offered by the school I plan to go to, I see that there are classes in computer programming, in XML and Java and Perl, and information architecture.

In other words, I don’t have to give up the web thing completely after all. An unexpected and happy consequence of shifting the geek gears.

This new job, with Benthic Creatures, isn’t very geeky in either sense, but it involves teaching and training, which can never be bad things to know how to do (in fact, I was explaining to my current-and-within-a-few-hours-no-longer-to-be-boss what I’ll be doing, and her response was, “Wow, you’ll be really good at that!”). I think it will be fun, though probably busier than either Jennifer and I are really expecting right now.

The other day, I chatted with another former employee of my last company; he has a theory that because that company is moving all of their technology (but not their people) from their current location to where we are located, we’ll both get called up soon. I’ve wondered if I’d go back. Granted, Little Engine would pay me more than Benthic Creatures, but do I really want to go back to that? I’ve decided to burn that bridge when I come to it.

There are a lot of us running around these days in the aftermath of the Great Dot-Com Wreck of Double-Aught: those of us who busted our butts learning how to program or code in HTML and who found that what we’d learned, without the benefit of professional training, was in demand. For awhile. And then when the bubble burst and we found ourselves out of those jobs we realized that the skills we’d acquired weren’t enough to make us competitive with those who really did have professional training and degrees in the field. I’m convinced that we make up an interesting and diverse little sub-culture, and that there’s a great book waiting to be written about it.

In the meantime, I’m shifting gears. Web Geek to Library Geek. Kind of like switching from a Geo Metro to a Honda Accord: different trappings, but at the core you’ve still got an internal combustion engine.

Or something. My analogies suck today.

So, anyway. Just keep on geekin’.

Why My Family Thinks I'm Weird

It’s the haggis.

For my birthday last year, my parents-in-law gave to me a T-shirt. It’s plain grey flannel, with large blue letters suggesting that people should

 


  EAT MORE  

  HAGGIS  

 

I tried to find a picture of this t-shirt online so that I could show you what it really looks like, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. I suppose I could take a picture of my shirt with the digital camera and upload it, but I’m just too lazy to do that.

My family has a love-hate relationship with haggis. My stepfather, upon his entry into Clan Ross shortly before my wedding to Jennifer, began to explore his Scottish heritage, on line and off. Among the treasures he discovered were histories, jokes, websites about kilts, and… haggis recipes.

Personally, I’m not sure why you need a recipe for haggis. You take a sheep, you eat all the useful bits, then you take what’s left, chop it up fine, stick it in the sheep’s stomach, and boil it into submission. Voila! Haggis! But my stepfather had found plenty of recipes on line and kept sending them out to all of us. So when Christmas rolled around, Jennifer and my sisters and I all decided that my stepfather needed a haggis of his very own. So I went on down to the Scottish Meat Pie Company here in Dixon and for twenty dollars I bought my father a nine-pound haggis.

It has lain dormant in my parents’ freezer to this very day.

Me, I’ve had haggis three times in my life, and I’ve enjoyed it each time. The first time was when I was in Edinburgh last year. When I had it there, in a little out of the way restaurant near the hotel I was staying in, it reminded me more of Hamburger Helper than anything else: ground meat in a dark sweet gravy. It was really good. The chef had thoughtfully not left the sheep stomach on my plate.

The second time I had haggis was when we went to the Scottish games in Campbell last year with my parents. There was a booth selling all kinds of fried foods, including Haggis ‘n’ Chips. So, of course, I had to have some. My wife, brave soul that she is, tried a little piece of the haggis, made a face, and let out a delicate “Ew!”. I gave my father a bite; he ate it thoughtfully and said he’d pass on any more. And so, absent anyone to share my haggis with, I ate the whole thing. This time, it had a smooth consistency, something like liverwurst that had been slice into a disk and deep-fried. I thought it was delicious.

And the third time was just this past weekend at the Highland Games in Pleasanton. I saw the haggis booth and got straight into line while Jennifer went off to try to find some Scottish food that hadn’t been invented on a dare. She found a spiced meat pie, which she seemed to enjoy even while watching me eat my fried haggis.

I word my “Eat More Haggis!” T-shirt to the Pleasanton games, and that certainly got lots of comments: from the fellow who gave me a surreptitious thumbs-up to the sword-dealer who proclaimed boldly, “You couldn’t PAY me to eat more haggis!”

It’s traditional Scottish fare, but apparently the majority opinion on the planet is that haggis is a meal which is not for eating, but, rather, for putting down and running away from — very fast.

I like it though. And for this reason, my entire family thinks I’m weird.

Ever since we got my stepfather a haggis for Christmas, he has stopped tracking down haggis recipes on line and sending them out to us; and, furthermore, that haggis has yet to be eaten. The only thing I can figure is that we called his bluff, and now he is avoiding the issue. He has stated that during one of our trips down to visit my parents he will slip the haggis quietly into my wife’s suitcase, so that we’ll have it at our house, but he hasn’t yet done that. Too bad. I think it would be pretty easy to thaw it out, then plop it on the grill to cook it through.

I believe that there are other people in the world besides me who like haggis. There must be. It seems, though, that the society of haggis lovers is a secretive, furtive one; haggis eaters exchange knowing looks while standing in line at the haggis stand while their wives are off getting more sensible food; surreptitious thumbs-up signs are given; few wives will put up with haggis being eaten in their presence. And so my “Eat More Haggis!” T-shirt becomes not only a statement of my personal choice in food, but a cry for all of those who eat and enjoy haggis to come out of the shadows and eat their sheep sausage in the open, without fear.

[On another note: When I mentioned the title of this journal entry — “Why My Family Thinks I’m Weird” — to Jennifer, she suggested that I use an alternate title: “One of the Thousands of Reasons Why My Family Thinks I’m Weird”. It just doesn’t seem fair to me, though.]

Haunted?

I am not an easily frightened person. I love horror movies and scary books and sitting around the fireplace telling ghost stories. I jumped at the scene with the little girl in The Sixth Sense (and my friend who was with me that first time I saw it takes some sort of eerie joy in reminding me of this each time I see her), but that’s about it as far as being freaked out goes.

No, my fears are more existential than visceral: I have hypochondriatic tendencies, so I worry about my latest migraine (what if it’s more than just a migraine this time?), about my asthma (what if it’s something worse than pneumonia?), and so on. I get scared whenever I think about our President (I’m seriously beginning to doubt the man’s sanity in addition to his intelligence, and I wish he would just sign up for a series of sessions with a therapist or something). But spooks and goblins and long-leggedy beasties just have never frightened me.

Well. Hardly ever.

I usually try to get to bed later than Jennifer, just because I know that I snore, and when she’s already asleep, the snoring won’t bother her as much. This is not really altruism on my part: when she isn’t fully asleep and I start snoring, she pokes me and wakes me right the heck back up. And I always start at that; “Wha–?!!?” I shout, which wakes Jennifer up more, and… Well, it’s a vicious circle.

But last night, we’d been out all day, going to the Scottish Games in Pleasanton, visiting with my sister and her cats, seeing a play that my parents had produced. We didn’t get home and in bed until after 2:00 a.m. And since I was absolutely exhausted, I dropped into bed at about the same time that Jennifer did. And I got poked. Frequently. Every time I was close to drifting off.

So, after about half an hour of that, in frustration, I finally got up and dragged my pillow and blanket downstairs to the living room, uncovered the futon and opened it up and lay down, finally ready to sleep.

That’s when I heard the voice.

Ours is not a truly silent house; any house with seven cats is unlikely to be. There is the ceiling fan which occasionally squeaks, the wind chimes on the front porch that ring intermittently in the faint breeze, the trains on the railroad half a mile away.

But you tune out the regular noises. When I hear the thumping on the stairs, my brain registers it immediately as Tangerine plodding down as if she still weighed more than she does, and my brain tunes it out. I likewise tune out the wind chimes and the trains.

But not voices.

The voice was a woman’s voice: definitely feminine, deeper than Jennifer’s, a half-whisper that I didn’t recognize at all. It was too syllables, but I couldn’t make out the sounds around the syllables. The first syllable was a long, drawn out “eee”. The second was “eye”. The phrase could have been something like, “please try” or “peach pie” or something like that.

At first, I thought it was Jennifer, having come downstairs to ask me if I was all right. So I turned over to tell her I was fine.

And, of course, there was no one there.

At this point, I was terrified: the voice was there, as if someone had spoken right into my ear, but there was no one there. Frightened, I actually screamed.

From upstairs, I heard Jennifer say, “Honey? Are you all right?”

For a moment, I couldn’t say a word. I looked around the living room, trying to peer into the dark corners, but saw no one and nothing. There were a couple of cats downstairs we me that I could see in the faint glow of the streetlight outside: Tangerine was down there, as was Zucchini. Neither cat seemed particularly perturbed by my outcry.

“Honey?” Jennifer called again.

“I’m okay,” I called back up to her. “I thought I heard something.”

“What did you hear?”

“I thought I heard a voice. It freaked me out.”

“Do you want to come back upstairs?”

Of course I did. I told her I’d be right up, so I grabbed my pillow and my blanket again, and went upstairs and lay back down, determined, at least, to stay awake until after Jennifer had drifted off again so that she wouldn’t poke me when I started snoring.

I lay in bed and told Jennifer what had happened and confessed how it had frightened me. And after she had fallen asleep, I lay there, hyper-alert, expecting to hear the voice again, my mind racing: I kept thinking back to ghost stories I’d seen on television, especially one I saw when I was probably about ten years old, involving a woman looking up from her bed and seeing a tall, pale figure dressed in black with bloody tears running down its face. I was almost afraid to open my eyes. I kept flashing back to the scene in The Sixth Sense that had startled me the first time I saw it. I kept trying to relax and go to sleep, and I kept failing.

But, eventually, of course, I did. I heard no more voices, saw nothing hellish in our bedroom, and received no pokes for my snoring.

I’ve been thinking about it all morning, of course. Is our brand new house, less than two years old, haunted already? Of course not. Most likely it was my half-asleep brain misinterpreting a sound from the fan or the windchimes or even one of the cats who might have snuffled into my ear at just the wrong moment. Might have just been a random neuron firing in my temporal lobe, making me hear a random voice. Such things are not uncommon. They’ve happened to me before. I still remember times, when I was a kid, when I would hear someone distinctly call out my name, even when there was no one around.

But this was different. I don’t know why. It just was.

In the daylight, everything looks normal and fine. It’s hot in the house today, and the lack of breeze outside makes me think it’s even hotter outside. I’m still a bit sleepy and I’m close to three hours late taking my medication.

Yet a hint of the fear remains. I think it might even be a day or two before it fades completely.

Because in spite of everything that I know rationally, in spite of what I’ve told myself and what I know to be true, there’s something still in my mind. Two questions, in particular.

What if this isn’t an isolated event — what if it’s a beginning?

And, if so. What is it the beginning of?