I just remembered. I'm almost out of Brennivin.

Long silent volcanos are erupting in Alaska. The earth is making noise. Maybe the big one is coming. Who knows? Maybe it's not.

What do you think the big one is, anyway?

They rejected you for health insurance. Even though I'm the one with the high blood pressure, it's not a cost item. If it gets bad I'll drop dead, off the health care radar. They won't pay a cent. Your issues cost money. You will live longer and cost them more trying to keep you happy during your long life. Money is what it's about. Not life.

My life will be shorter than normal people, says Domenick Curatola, MD. I'm trying to live it now. No offense intended. When the big one comes I probably won't be here. Nothing I can do about it. They say it's in my DNA. I'm predisposed to self-destruction at a time and place of God's choosing, or at least random chance.

When I was on the ice what I learned is that no matter how bad it gets it can always get worse. You should always be prepared for being peppered by lava bombs as hot as the sun in a two-hundred mile per hour hurricane while you discover you have temporal lobe epilepsy and go into convulsions having had to burn for warmth the user's manual for the only short-wave radio for one hundred miles.

You need to be prepared for that. "Prepared" does not mean you should have plans in place to stop it from happening, just that you remain calm when it does. Dying calmly is what we learn on the ice.

The other thing you learn in Antarctica is that no matter how bad things are, they're going to get better sooner or later. There's a physical law about this. You learned it in high school physics, you just forgot it along with the solution to quadratic equations and the name of Alexander the Great's father (Philip). This law is called the law of conservation of personal tragedy. There's only a finite amount of personal bullshit any of us has to deal with in the world. It's going to get used up. Then things will be good until that's used up. Then it will be just plain boring forever. And then we'll all pray for the bullshit to come back, just to spice things up.

No matter how bad the weather is, it can get worse. And it will always get better. Because in comparison to other planets Earth weather is relatively tame. It's not hot enough to melt lead anywhere on the surface. It doesn't rain ammonia. Water is generally in a liquid state. When things go slightly off kilter and we have an ice age or a warming trend, things are still pretty okay compared to, say, the surface of Venus.

No matter how bad it gets, someone always thinks it's good. In Antarctica they love condition one. Condition one is when the wind blows so hard you can lay down on it. Condition one is when the blizzard is so thick you can't see your hand in front of your face. They love condition one because it feels like adventure. Otherwise it just feels like being far away and lonely.

But if you're out in the field in a tent you only like condition one for as long as your tent stays up. Then it sucks. Then you wish for the sultry calm days of no-ozone sunburns and snowblindness everyone back at McMurdo finds boring.

Right now there are people having the time of their lives. We did too, once. Not now, though.

What do you think love actually is? What's the genetic imperative for love? Was it selected for during evolutionary processes, or does strong positive emotion come from somewhere different than strong negative emotion? If aliens came to earth could we explain it to them?

A woman gave me the Brennivin. She bought it but she was afraid of what it would do to her. Maybe when she drank it, it would act like battery acid and eat right through her tongue and drain out the bottom of her chin. No matter that Icelandic people make a hobby getting drunk on the stuff and riding snowmobiles to the lava flows. No matter their jaws are still intact despite frequent imbibement. She was afraid.

So I'm drinking it. My chin is still intact, but I have the strange urge to drive a snowmachine to a river of flowing lava and trying to coax the flow back into the ground. But not for long. It's almost gone.

It would be great if it was simple to explain everything that happened to me, and so to us. But the Northern Hemisphere is full of stories that are difficult to tell. They say to start a story in the middle, but I can't figure out where this starts. I feel like backtracking to the last ice age and starting with the death of the last wooly mammoth moving forward to the vikings and mead and then getting somewhere close to eighty degrees south where Scott of the Antarctic died. And I could start there but nobody would get it.

Everyone would say: but what were you doing in Antarctica wearing shorts, a tie-dyed shirt, and a purple pageboy wig? And I'd have to shrug because the laws of story say I had to start on chapter two-hundred, way after all that stuff was explained back in North America where it's complicated.

And sun dogs.

And nacreous clouds (which do not cause ozone depletion).

And poetry contests, which I won.

And sixty below.

And snow that sounds like plate glass breaking under your boots.

And blue eyes -- why are blue eyes so prevalent among the polar explorers?

And left hands. We're predominantly left-handed on the ice.

And the volcano which is always erupting.

It took years. Nothing happened for years of my going to the ice, and then it all happened. And then it stopped. But it was years and I got older and settled into the pattern and I figured it was as it was meant to be.

In contrast to the complexity of the North, Antarctica is butt-simple. It's naked. It's white and blue. It's ruled by the laws of physics. Right and wrong are absolute there, like heat and cold. Up and down.

Everything in Antarctica is as it was meant to be, because no matter how much we try, we can hardly change it. Just like Titan is as it's meant to be, and Calypso and Io and Mercury and Alpha Centauri.

When I went there, the earth was rumbling and the sky was falling and all the dinosaurs were lying frozen, waiting for their DNA to be resurrected.

Everything was exactly as God left it on the sixth day before he took off for his Bermuda cruise.

I could still see his fingerprints on the mountains.

And on the inhabitants. And on my own blue eyes.

That's all the explaining I can do.

I don't feel much desire to become an editor again, but I love Lord Brawl's questionnaire, so I'm doing it anyway.

List 3 to 5 writeups (not your own) that epitomize what's special about everything2 for you.

Just five? My god, this is not fair. This is not fair. There are too damned many. I will list five, but there are vastly, vastly more. Go look at my bookmarks on my homenode. They all need to be listed here, dammit.

How did I get here, Sarah? by junkpile
Revelation of the Lamb in Four Parts by Cletus the Foetus
I can think of worse things than to die like a dog by junkpile
The Harriet Tubman Offense by RACECAR
Tales of MYSTERY and the UNEXPLAINED by WolfDaddy

Seriously. Five? Five? My god. Picking five is like asking me to kill one of my children. No, I have no children, but you know what I mean. I had to leave out some of my favorite writeups ever to trim this one down. I had to leave out writeups that make me weep and laugh. I had to leave out factuals that grabbed my intellect and emotions simultaneously. I had to leave out my favorite writeups by people I send Christmas cards to every year. I could have easily made this a top 50, or a top 500. Do not doubt for a single second, ladies and gentlemen, that this is the best goddamn website on the fucking intarweb.

List 2 or 3 writeups (your own) with which you're most pleased.

The Goddess of the Black Fan -- in my opinion, the best thing I ever wrote, ever, anywhere.
zombie
How to Take Group Photos of Children

List 2 or 3 writeups (anyone's) to which you would point new users as an example of "how to write for e2".

I don't really believe that there are a few archetypical Everything2 writeups. In the past, when guiding new users, I've recommended that they read through the current crop of the Cool Archive and the Page of Cool to get an idea of what we like to see.

At what time or times are you typically active on e2 and accessible for user questions and help?

I tend to be online at fairly random times during the day -- sometimes morning, sometimes afternoon, sometimes evening. Sometimes all day long, sometimes only for a few minutes before I take back off. At any time I'm online, though, I'm eager to receive user questions and always answer them as best I'm able.

Are you an active member of the Mentoring team, or if not, would you be willing to join?

I'm not a Mentor, and I don't actually want to become one. I consider myself a poor teacher, and I feel that my strength lies in being able to answer questions from a variety of people. I'll gladly read anything in someone's scratchpad, and I don't want to say, "Sorry, can't help you -- I've already got a mentee."

Are you a subject matter expert to whom the admin team can go for content advice? If so, in what area(s)?

I'm not an expert on anything.

Are you a leader or an active, contributing member of any e2 usergroups?

I'm the leader of e2heroes and handfuloftext. I am a regularly contributing member of e2comix and e2film. I am a member of several other usergroups that I rarely contribute to but always enjoy reading.

What is special about E2?

Age, Sex, Location (Swap) A stunning piece of writing. The title leads one to expect some trivial anecdote taken from an AOL chatroom. Instead we get a wonderful commentary on sexism, on perception and on virtual interaction. The story is of huge relevance to all internet communities, both as a warning about relying on pre-conceptions and as a tutorial in how to pass oneself off as something different from the flesh-and-blood reality. This makes E2 special, because it is highly subjective, yet provides detail and commentary and puts a valuable mirror in front of our own selves.

1,340,666 women just like me (radlab0) This one is well-chinged, and deservedly so. It really is the epitome of what E2 -- and its authors -- do best. It has all the facts, but it has so much more. It has pathos. It has passion. It has almost too much character to bear. The yearning and the disappointment and the pain shine through. There cannot be many who failed to weep at this writeup, its courage and its unsparing, unstinting, unashamed detail.

Cock McNuggets (Footprints) Cocks and cunts and fellatio oh my! I guess this is not on everyone's list of 'things that make E2 special" But I love the innuendo, the extreme lack of political correctness and I admire the author’s ability to write something so crude, without being offensive. Above all I love the courage of the writeup. YMMV. And another thing, it is brief and it is funny. And I can't think of another site that would celebrate such a witty piece of writing.

The Return of the King (Walter) Walter and other reviewers bring something quite unique to E2. This movie is one of the best-loved of geekdom, based as it is, upon one of geekdom's favourite books. But Walter's piece is not a fanboy review, it tells us what is good about the movie; how the movie differs from the book and what the difficulties are with the movie. It's all done in an intelligent way, with humour; with passion and with an awareness that people are bound to disagree, yet with a confidence that tells the geeky fanboys that this author knows the books and the movies just as well as they do, and yet offers a more intelligent analysis than fulsome praise for the scale and the CGI effects and the hot, hot Arwen.

I selected a LOTR piece there, but the same applies to Starship Troopers, Donnie Darko, His dark Materials and many other popular books and movies.

A man's salad (multiple authors) Of the recent contributions, I think this one displays the current state of E2, in both good and bad senses.

It is about food. It is largely sanitised from political incorrectness and it has contributions by a number of different people: you almost need to have become familiar with the specific authors before you can appreciate the subtle humour of the node. Of course you can read it without knowing the authors, but it helps to know that borgo has been through a series of increasingly severe heart attacks. It helps to know that Maylith has written extensively on domestic science.

Writing on E2 has become increasingly safe. Fewer people are taking risks with their writing and more are content either to read, or to write only in a tried and trusted style. Whether this is in an effort to improve merit scores, or for fear of the editorial killing floor, I do not speculate. This piece is, for the modern day E2, pushing the boundaries, and for that, it needs to be celebrated. It also shows -- for insiders at least -- the complex interactions between the readers, the text and the writers.


Blowing one's own trumpet

Here are a couple of my own favourites, both of which I wrote specifically for E2. I think of them as old friends that have moved on and gone their own way. Although I know every word and every sentence, it still seems a little surprising to remember that, once upon a time, I wrote them.

Naked at 30 below, and loving it This was my first-ever attempt at descriptive writing, and I'm not just talking E2. It is a factual, but I tried to give readers some kind of sense of the far Arctic region. I think it came out pretty well. I should do more of that.

Primary Colors This one came about as a result of my failed efforts to tell a 15-year-old about colour theory and explain about primary colours. She had asked me for help with her homework, and I had to bullshit my way through 30 minutes of explanation, spouting old, half-forgotten lines from textbooks. She got a good mark on her paper, but I spent the next few days thinking through exactly why we see certain colours and how we see them. Of all my 'science for the masses' nodes, I'm probably best pleased with this one. It needs better ASCII art, though.


New users and how to write for E2

There are so many different writing styles that it is hard to pick two or three as good exemplars for new users, but I guess that many of the people who come here arrive from slashdot, or are in their first few weeks of college, so I'd say to new users, spend your first few attempts doing simple, straightforward things, until you get the hang of the place. Obviously, the FAQ documents are helpful, but there is a heck of a lot to get through. My own level 1 is a good starting point, but that's not how to write for E2. That's how to avoid looking like a prat.

One of the easiest ways to get started is to pick something quite mundane and do a factual on it. Take my own pilot light for example. There's no controversy there. It's a simple, straightforward piece that has no hidden message and requires no fancy knowledge or writing ability. Simple, safe, quick and easy. An ideal approach for the first two or three writeups.

Another easy thing to do is to pick your home town and describe it for us. Take Dar Es Salaam by KandiMon. It is a far better piece than Pilot Light, full of images and smells and sounds. That's a piece straight from the heart, with no hidden message, but a lot of descriptive detail. It's the kind of piece that makes you want to go visit the place.

And it's the kind of writing that makes you want to come back to E2.

The same applies to your college, or your workplace, or a favourite sports stadium, or a treasured possession. I picked that last link, turtleneck because it is something everyone has come across, yet many would disregard as being too mundane for a good writeup. Vixen extracted more interest and history than I would have thought possible from such unpromising material. So even the most everyday thing can be the source of a great writeup. All you have to do is give a fresh perspective on something everyone else has overlooked.

E2 likes the personal touch, but it likes detail woven into the fabric of the writeup. Try to get both together and forge them into 500 or 1000 readable words, and you have the perfect E2 writeup. Later on, you can experiment a bit more. And E2 should encourage experimentation. Today, my feeling is that the reward systems -- XP, merit, votes -- tend to discourage experimentation by producing negative feedback as an author attempts to break out of their familiar style of writing.

In the light of some of my comments above, I'm not sure it's helpful to show newcomers too many examples of what -- and how -- to write for E2. That road tends to lead to writeups which mimic existing contributions and are over-safe. What E2 needs more than anything is challenging writeups, and editors who have the courage to let them stand, and to defend them in the catbox. E2 writeups need more energy and more enthusiasm. I cannot say that recipes for pasta and sauce are in any way challenging or energetic.

My suggestion to newcomers would to go ahead, write what you like. Put in the passion and the detail and the fun, and then -- if you are confident -- submit it direct to the E2 community. Or -- for the less confident -- find an experienced user whose work you have read and enjoyed, and ask them to look it over.

It does no harm to offer the suggestion -- and I know it has been made many times before -- that newcomers should be offered a sub-section of the E2 environment, where only those who have proven themselves kind, compassionate, and capable of positive, constructive criticism are permitted to view and to vote. This would go a long way to resolving issues of the thoughtless and cruel users who downvote on the smallest transgression of E2 culture.


Subject expert, or not?

Some people call me an expert. I've written a lot about rubber and tyres and roadholding and the auto business. I guess you could call me some kind of expert on that stuff. The BBC calls me to speak about it and I've written for the FT, the Economist and other publications in those areas.

I'm not bad on engineering and other science-type stuff. I'm not talking pure book-learning although I've done as many academic courses as pretty much anyone here, but I mean more the practical side of explaining how stuff works and how to fix it when it gets broken. Yeah I can do a lot of that. And I've read widely in the sciences and history and philosophy of science and the inter-relationships between science, faith, religion and thought. The philosophers call it epistemology. I'm just fascinated by the different meanings of the phrase, "I know that." I wouldn't call myself an expert, but I know enough to realise when someone else knows more than I do.

And writing. Yeah, The Man pays me to write. I make my living from it, so perhaps you could call me a subject expert there. And editing. I can do some of that too.

Am I a joiner?

No, not any more. I wrote the Usergroup FAQ. I even wrote the What is E2 FAQ. Once upon a time I asked the users what they thought of E2, and got some good feedback, but the resulting essays have long since gone the way of all mortal flesh.

Nope, not a mentor either, at least, not officially. I was in the past, but anger at the (then) management's decisions made me walk out of E2. That left a mentee in the lurch. I decided at that point never again to join the formal mentoring programme as a mentor.

Much much later, I took on a new persona and re-joined the mentoring programme, this time as a mentee, to see what the experience was like. My mentor did not do a good job. Questions were ignored, there was no advice or help and it left me as a user, feeling rejected and unwelcome. Contrast that with the help and advice offered by a wonderful friend, who helped me out and answered my every question with patience and enthusiasm. That person is not on the mentor programme, but she did a far better job than my official mentor. So my approach now, if I have one, is to select people who look as though they are having a hard time here, yet who also show promise as writers, and then try to help them through the first, difficult phase of getting to know E2.

All I will add is that the admins on this site need to have more care for the people and the writing. If you have to delete something, then tell the author why and try to persuade them to agree, before taking action. The nuke-first-discuss-later approach creates enmity and anger. Not what you want among authors who volunteer their time and skills.

No, this is not a bid for a $. That idea is completely absurd. Brawl made a suggestion. It is a good one, so I'm following it. I can think up more and better reasons than you why I should not join that particular usergroup.

The most complex love triangle.

I'm currently working abroad on a scheme with people from many countries around the world. Back home I have a girlfriend and we've been going steady for about two years. She loves me a lot more than I love her and, to be honest, I can't see it lasting very long.

Anyway, we're still together, although the distance is taking its toll. Over here, I have made some good friends. One of my better ones (perhaps my best friend in this country) is a very beautiful girl who lives nearly 1100 miles from me. Our friendship started early on, as we have a very similar sense of humour and make each other laugh a lot. I never saw her as an attraction, just as a friend, until someone pointed out that they thought she fancied me.

Of course, someone telling you this changes your relationship a bit, so I thought I'd investigate and find out. I realised that this guy had simply misread the signs and there was no attraction on that level. However, I realised that I was strongly attracted to her. More so than I've ever felt about anyone. It hit me very hard and I got scared.

So I cooled off from her. We still talked at work every day and socialised a bit outside, but I over-compensated and did everything *but* show her affection. This was some vain attempt to hide my feelings. She has a boyfriend, but for the first two months would never talk about him. In fact, he visited one time and she would only call him 'her friend' to me. I only found out from her housemate that it was her boyfriend. This was a blow to me and made me wonder why she was so coy about this fact.

Around November she came to me very upset. She was going to dump her boyfriend and wanted my advice on the matter. Now, my guts were saying "DUMP HIM!", but I knew I couldn't do that to such a lovely girl who was really homesick as it was, so I stuck by her and we got out of this situation together. I didn't advise her so much as listen and hear her story.

Effectively, she loves her boyfriend, but feels trapped. He's not very fun and she wanted a list of things I knew that I could give her. It took all my will to avoid talking about myself -- something I succeeded in doing.

She went back to her home country for a few weeks to work there and I back to mine. During this time, we spoke every day without fail. Often for several hours. It was honestly the highlight of my day, except it was also destroying my soul. Her ex-boyfriend had made it obvious he still loved and cared for her. This guy is someone she'd mentioned a few times as an example of who she wanted to be.

My new role was to mediate between her love for her ex and her current relationship. I was and still am the only person in the world that knows this intimate story with all the details. The level of trust was both a privilege and a curse. Every painful story she told me about her inability to get love from her ex-boyfriend (who by now has lost interest in her) echoed my desire to have her return my love. Sleepless nights wondering about her and being totally infatuated by her followed.

She is very hot and cold with me. Some days we will talk for hours on any topic and look deep in to each other's souls. Other times she won't talk to me for three days, or be so stressed that she simply offends me. I'm certain I'm not doing anything in-between to cause this and I try and give her the space she needs (not always successfully). This week, for example, I helped her through a difficult exam giving her tutoring and fetching her coffees etc at work. Hell, I even took on extra work (she doesn't entirely know this) so she would have an easier time.

My repayment? She doesn't return the SMS I sent her and avoids all contact with me for the whole weekend. She furthermore made a very incisive point of inviting everyone for dinner on Friday night except me. If it was purposeful or not, I don't know, but it hurt. Of course, Friday evening she calls me and asks if everything is OK and talks about her stressful week like I didn't know about it.

When we talk over the phone or messenger, she's usually lively and pleasant. In person, she mumbles when talking to me and never makes eye contact. I never know if she wants me there or not. If she's sad and I ask her if she's OK, I usually get "Yeah, fine.", before ten minutes pass and she'll tell me.

Does she dislike me? Is this some kind of sick way of handling someone who really cares for her? I don't know.

The real killer was New Years Eve. I messaged her, "Happy New Year" and she didn't reply. OK, I thought. Fine. I then messaged her a few days later, as she'd not spoken to me in a while just checking how everything was. No reply. So I didn't send anything else for a week and just let her be. She then calls me to complain that her ex only spoke to her on the phone for five minutes on New Year's eve. So I listen and advise her, all the while knowing that she didn't even respond to my text, sent as a friend more than anything.

How can I be this girl's friend? I'm pretty sure by now she's using me. Treating me like shit during the day and wiping her feet on me at the nights. But it's the glimpses of glory she offers me in our private, heart-felt chats that make me feel alive and cause me to forget everything that was bad.

I've tried talking to her about it. "Hey, just because you're in a bad mood, doesn't mean you have to put me in one too." This usually just makes her angry to start with and then a lame apology later. It doesn't change anything. She'll still pretend to me all the time that she has better friends in other people (although I know this isn't true, they talk about her a bit behind her back -- and I always stand up for her). But the truth is that she needs me. A lot more, in theory, than I need her. She was close to depression and I was there to pull her out. I guess she just sees me as "The guy to go to if I'm sad."

In spite of all these bad things, I'm still in love with this girl. I've accepted now that we'll never be together and approaching her to start dating is a waste of time. So I just love her as much as I can by giving her the attentions she needs, by backing off when she wants and being her shoulder to cry on if she needs it. I even put up with all her crap and moods. I'm doing everything I can and she's still a bad friend.

What can I do? If I lose her then I think we'll both get worse, but I can't let things stay the same or I'll slide in to depression while pulling her out.

That and I have to worry about my own girlfriend back home and the problems in my own life.

Sigh.

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