Category Archives: This Random Thing Called Life

Life is pretty random sometimes.

Abby… someone…

I haven’t vanished off the face of the Earth. It’s just been a bit of an insane weekend. Yesterday we went and got both of the cars thoroughly washed then went for a massive shopping trip at CostCo. Today we went to the pumpkin patch and got ourselves a couple of massive pumpkins; based on the trouble I had getting them out of the car and onto the porch, I estimate that each pumpkin weighs at least two hundred pounds; though I suppose in reality they’re probably only about fifty pounds each. No, really. For some reason, I took it into my head that I wanted a really, really big pumpkin. Next weekend we’re going to carve them, and we’ve already started hunting down saws.

The pumpkin patch we went to is one of the rare ones where they actually grow their own pumpkins instead of shipping them in from someplace else. Some of them are still on the vine, even. They may be the most sincere pumpkin patch I’ve ever been to, though the fact that they have a website — coolpatchpumpkins.com — may negate that.

The pumpkin patch also has a huge corn maze, which I love. We paid our fees, got our map, and headed in. I’ve always wanted to wander through the maze using the “always turn right” rule the entire time (you can solve every maze in the world by turning right at every intersection), thus maximizing the time we spend wandering in the hot, dusty corn maze, and thus maximizing our fun. After about half an hour of this, though, we’d had enough fun and decided to break out the map to make our way out the old fashioned way. That’s actually kind of fun, too.

Anyway, in the spirit of the season, I present to you the following resource, which should come in useful, as well as a bit of related dialogue from a classic film.

A very important resource

“Do you mind telling me WHOSE brain I put into that body?”

“Abby… someone.”

“Abby who?”

“Abby… Normal.”

“Abby… Normal?”

“Yes, I’m quite sure that was the name.”

It's the ignoble things that stick

KCRA.com – News – Human Remains Found In Dixon

My wife pointed me at this article, and, of course, I think it utterly engages the imagination. You may think it’s weird that I find stories like this delightful, but there you are. Of course my sympathy goes out to the poor man and his family, but still. There have got to be better ways to die, and better places for your corpse to be left than at the bottom of a pile of composting material in the bed of a pickup truck.

Generally when mysterious corpses are found, they get some sort of neat nickname. I’ve come up with several — The Manure Man, the Crap Corpse, the S*** Skeleton, and so on — but I think that I’m going to have to refer to this poor man as the Doo Doo Dude.

There’s a story here. It’s horrific, of course, but it’s also the sort of black comedy that you just don’t see often enough in life.

Writing Update

Today: 923 words written on Terassic Cycle outline. Essential questions linking Unfallen to The Road to Gilead have been answered.

Also about 50 words added to “Hollow”.

And about 100 words written on a new short called “Tristan Among the Fishes”. Written in crayon on construction paper because I needed a change of venue. I would have written more and possibly finished the story but I got caught up in an episode of Nova about the sinking of the battleship Yamato at the end of the Second World War.

And, see, this is why I had such a hard time focusing in college. I’d see a show like that and think, “Whoa! Now I want to be a military historian!” and give up all of my previous plans to be a veterinarian.

Worked at home again today because my lungs blow. Or, rather, they don’t. Asthma bites. Anyway, so I continued the process of reworking the fundamental architecture of our content delivery software. I also messed around some with my personal website, fixing up some stylesheet issues and adding a “Reading” section because I know that everyone in the world wants to know what I’m reading and what I’ve read. Everyone. It occurred to me to test my site in Internet Explorer today — I’m a diehard Firefox user and won’t touch IE with a ten-foot IDE bus if I can avoid it — and I discovered it looks pretty shabby in IE. The fonts just don’t translate well. Well, it’s not my fault if IE can’t render cascading style sheets properly.

Oh, and then I had supper. Yummy.

Reason #33223 why my wife is cooler than yours

After the first day of the advanced writers’ workshop at Dragon*Con, I mentioned to Jennifer that the laptop bag I’ve been using to carry around my notebooks and snacks and medicine was getting awfully heavy; even without the laptop, the thing weighs about eight pounds (I’m not kidding), and this becomes painful on my back after awhile. I told her I was thinking about getting a lightweight messenger bag just to carry around my notebooks and pens and possibly a book for days when all I was going to do was go somewhere and write (which I do without my laptop more and more these days). So she went and made me this satchel (after letting me approve the final design and choose the yarn, of course). I love it! It’s just the right size for the leatherbound notebook I keep all my drafts and working copies in plus a couple of books and some pens, but it’s also incredibly sturdy and light.

Note the Serenity pin on the flap, which I got at an advance screening two weeks ago. Bwah ha haa!

In writing news, I’m surprised by how well “Joe’s Salvation” has gone over. I slapped that one out in just about half an hour plus another fifteen minutes for quick revisions, expecting it to be another throwaway piece. Now I think it’s actually publishable.

Plus, I’m almost done with the most recent round of revisions on “Who Remembers Molly”. I tried to add in some more humorous elements without being blatant, and bring some more depth to Molly herself. Plus I realized that one of the subtexts I was trying so hard to get across just wasn’t happening, so I finally just decided to spell it out bluntly. It never pays to assume that your readers are stupid, of course, but it also never pays to assume that they see the same things that you do.

Who was behind Katrina?

Who was really behind the devastation and catastrophe caused by Hurricane Katrina? Apparently, if you answered, “No one, it was a freakin’ hurricane, duh!” you’d be wrong:

WEATHER WARS by Scott Stevens

Not only does this fellow conclude that all weather all over the world is controlled by nefarious forces, but that the nefarious forces controlling the weather over the United States are none other than the Japanese Yakuza and Aum Shinrikyo. The Yakuza I know very little about, but Aum Shinrikyo? Come on, those guys couldn’t even organize a successful nerve gas attack in Tokyo.

This makes me wonder who controls the weather over Japan. It must obviously be the Sicilian Mafia. And what portion of global weather does the IRA control?

It occurs to me that if powerful weather control devices like what Mr. Stevens proposes really do exist, and in such abundance that Aum Shinrikyo can get their hands on some, then why doesn’t Al-Qaeda have one of their own? And if they do, why are we still here?

This man is a weather man who quit his job in Idaho to pursue this research. Takes all kinds, I guess.

Meta Satire?

I’ve been thinking about satire quite a bit lately; I’m not sure why, except perhaps that it’s been recommended to me as a form of therapy. The idea is simple: take something that upsets you about the world and write something funny about it and hope that Someone In Power will notice and do something to fix the woes you’ve so cleverly pointed out. It’s harder to do than you might think. The few satirical pieces I’ve written work, I think, either because they’re well-written or because my readers owe me a lot of money.

But I began to wonder last week whether some sort of meta-satire can be written. Take reality shows, for example. The phenomenon seems to be dying down, thank God. The Apprentice may still be one of the most popular shows around right now, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Survivor: Antarctica anytime soon. But for awhile, reality shows were such a huge part of our culture, and such a stupid idea, that satirizing them become just too simple. Before long, satires of reality shows became just as prevalent as the reality shows themselves. At least one move — Series 7: The Contenders — was made, and perhaps a dozen anthology series had an episode spoofing the concept of reality television. It got to the point where writing a story spoofing reality shows was just as clichéd as reality shows themselves.

So I got to wonder: would it have been possible to write a story satirizing the satirization of reality shows? I’m imagining something about a bunch of writers sitting around with guns ready to shoot each other for the best reality show spoof, something like that. Could something like that have worked? On a slightly different tack, would it be possible to make a movie spoofing all of the Leslie Nielsen films that spoofed spy movies or airport dramas? Or would it have been something that only a few people in America would have enjoyed, congratulating each other on having understood the joke while simultaneously trying to one-up each other with stories about how they saw infinitely more subtle layers of meaning in the jokes?

I’m not sure, personally. I think that only one or two levels of mockery are possible before any meaning is lost.

As always, there’s nothing even remotely resembling coherence or clarity in this entry. Just assume it’s done here.

Bagpipes and Dragons

Today was our town’s sixth annual Scottish Games, and for the past four years my parents have come up to attend the games with Jennifer and me. My step-father has a special interest in the games, being of Scottish descent himself (from Clan Ross, which comes from the area around Tain in Scotland — legend has it, I once heard, that Clan Ross claims among its proud ancestors Sir Mordred). He’s also one of the higher-ups in the Scottish Association in his part of California. I don’t know how one works the politics in such a group, though I am relatively sure it isn’t much like the Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, where assassination is considered an acceptable means of advancement. I’ve met some of the higher-ups in that Scottish Association; my step-father, at twenty years my senior, is among the youngest of them by, oh, forty or fifty years.

This year, the event was a bit lackluster, in comparison to previous years. My parents arrived at 10:30 or so, and we all walked over to the Games, since our house is spitting distance from the fairgrounds where the Games are held (if the wind is at your back). The crowds were smaller than in years past, by a significant amount. There were only two bands this year instead of the five or six that are usually there. This I suppose I could blame on current events, though none of the bands, which are all based in Northern California, would have had to pass through New Orleans or Houston to get to the Games, so I don’t know what happened. Tempest, one of my favorite Celtic bands, is usually there, but this year they weren’t. Instead, we saw a band called Celtic Blacklist; they’re pretty good and Jennifer and I got to meet a couple of the members, since they’re friends with my parents and sister. Their bodhran player is, in his spare time, a systems administrator in Silicon Valley, so he and I spent some time chatting about Linux and Solaris and why Windows sucks while our respectives wives rolled their eyes and chatted about technical writing (when he said, “Let’s go find something dead and eat it”, we parted ways). Celtic Blacklist is good, but they don’t have the ear-smashing sound of Tempest.

There wasn’t much “gamey” about the Games this year, either. I didn’t get to see a single caber toss, and what’s the point of even going to a Scottish Games if you don’t see a bunch of guys roughly the size of a rugby team throwing telephone poles or big stones around? There isn’t any, in my opinion, though some of the vendors have some cool stuff.

However, we did get to see one of my favorite attractions from years past. Some fellow nearby (or maybe not so nearby — I actually have no idea where he comes from) has built a large dragon out of wood and scrap metal. It’s large and quite impressive, and he has it set up so that he can stretch out inside and move its head around with a series of lever and even send flames shooting out of its mouth (no flames today; it was far too windy today, since our part of the state is basically a wind tunnel at this time of year). I did take a couple of pictures of it; click on the thumbnail to see the larger picture.

Dragon image 1 Dragon image 2

The first picture is a closeup of the side of the dragon; if you look closely, you can see an old pistol welded to the other scrap metal that made up the beast’s body. The second picture was an attempt to get the whole dragon in one picture, but I managed, somehow, to cut off its head. No worries, though; I took a brief video of the head moving around, and you can see it by clicking here. You’ll have to squint; the videos I can record with my Sony Clié are pretty small.

That’s about it, though. After we found dead things to eat ourselves — my dad and I had bangers, my mom and my wife had chicken pies — we stopped briefly to watch the border collie trials (one of the dogs was tragically shy until he started herding the sheep around, and one of the sheep had attitude: “by God, if I had my brothers here, you’d be dead, dog”). Then we decided to go back to our house to relax a bit before my parents drove back home.

The Games are not done; if I opened the window next to my desk, I’m sure I would be able to hear the bagpipes still playing on the breeze. It’s possible that the cabers and shotputs are being thrown around right now, but at this point I’m far too settled in my house to go wandering back.

The Briefest of Clarifications

Okay, so there were these three penguins, right? Penguin Number One says to Penguin Number Two, "Start the car!" And Penguin Number Three says, "Boy, those bells are loud."

Waa haa haa! Ha ha! Ha! Ha ha ha haaa! Hoo, sometimes I kill myself, I really do.

Well, okay, so sometimes my sense of humor is a bit, um, esoteric. While I was driving home from the library, I found that I really was having that conversation in my head, the one I recounted in "Overheard Self-Talk". And I laughed, because I thought it was funny. And I thought I would share my mirth with the world.

So laugh, I say! Laugh! Laugh! Laugh! Laugh! Because trust me, this is funny stuff.

Well, okay. Maybe it’ll work next time.