Progress

February 7, 2138
Mother accuses me of being willfully anachronistic because I insist on using the old Gregorian dates instead of perfectly sensible metric time. We had an argument this morning because I slipped and called her "mother" to her face instead of Rhonda. She got very flustered and yelled at me for romanticizing the past. She doesn't understand the use of formalities and somehow sees the word "mother" as an insult, as if I called her GenClon. She thinks that my interest in the artefacts and history of the American Empire is nothing less than obsessive and unhealthy. I can't let her find my small but precious stash of old style cotton clothing or she'll ship me off the MedVar to get my head scanned and possibly a Corrections Chip implanted. The Aptitude test is in ten rotations, if I practice my Spanish and Middle Japanese, I may be able to get in line for training as a Lorekeep. This would no doubt vex Rhonda, who expects me to follow her footsteps into Microtech, but I have no passion for Molecular Manipulation, no matter how lucrative it is.

February 11, 2138
Although I've been keeping my mouth shut for the last couple of days, Rhonda found my Stephen King Holos. Her reaction was almost as unpleasant as if she had found an actual paper book. We had another argument. She thinks that I'm not applying myself enough. She yelled at me for my mediocre marks in basic DNA restructuring. She doesn't care about my exemplary performance in Pre-unification Languages, Historical Reconstruction or Dynamic Anthro. She went on and on about how I've been sheltered by life in ValleyBright Octagon, and how I'll never be able to afford a Dom in even one of the lesser Octagons on an Instructor's, Lorekeep's or Temporal Custodian's wages. I said that maybe I didn't want to live in an Octagon and she started screaming. I suppose I shouldn't have called her hysterical, that word has fallen so far out of vogue.

February 12, 2138
Rhonda has arranged for us to take a city tour beyond our Octagon. Although I've been on class trips to the Colony on Ceres and we once took a vacation to the coast, it's always been by secure transport. Today, we're taking a landroller and a couple of Octagon mekguards. Early this morning we received innoculations at MedVar. I hate the idea of little machines running around in my bloodstream, but Rhonda insisted and I suppose there is a small chance we might be exposed to toxins.

February 12, 2138
We're back and I'm exhausted. I think this whole trip was supposed to be an exercise in frightening me into molecular manipulation or biochem research, but the Outside wasn't all that bad. The neighborhoods where a lot of the faculty for the Public Research Centers and Humanities Collegium lived weren't that bad. Mother hated the primative building materials, but I thought the neat little doms made out of brick and stone were charming. Their trees and gardens were mostly stunted and sickly without an Octagon level protected atmosphere, but we saw patches of greenery here and there, and a few people managed to plant some adaptable plants that were thriving. Most of the neighborhoods had their own modestly defensible walls, and I even saw a few older model MekGuards. Then we went to the slums, not the inner slums because Rhonda didn't have a deathwish despite her sudden gung-ho bravado, but The Edge certainly had enough hostile elements, and it was easy to see that Vaunt has taken its toll on the communities there. The trademark red eyes and twitching of Vaunt addicts was visible almost everywhere. But it wasn't really the filth and the Nano addictions that got to me, it was the ads. The people who live in The Edge can't afford the private sources of power so they bring in extra creds through advertising. They're everywhere, projected onto doms, on biosuits, holos that float over sidewalks, tattoos that illuminate and shift to display product logos, streetlights that broadcast commercial loops. The people there seem pretty immune to them. Except for one Vaunt addict who ran at us screaming obscenities before the Mekguards terminated him, the people in the Edge mostly stayed away from us. I wanted to interview one, Rhonda just looked at them with disgust.

February 14, 2138
Today Rhonda and I took a tour of the MedVar facility. We were granted special dispensation to see our GenClons. This required a brain scan first. There are no organic abnormalities in my brain structure I was pleased to note. I don't think Rhonda enjoyed my gloating. Most people who have GenGlons are never allowed to see them, the reasoning is that they would be upset. I'm not sure what I was expecting, perhaps a tub full of organs. But the fact is that my GenClon looks just like me. Although there's no higher brain functions and the GenClon is hairless, it was like being able to watch myself asleep. His age will be suspended around twenty revolutions, so that his organs will be in top shape should I ever have need of them. Rhonda got irritated at me calling my GenClon a him, she kept saying that he was an it. I said, if he's an it, why does he have a penis? I don't think she thought it was very funny. Mother went on and on about how her job allows her to pay for our GenClons which are necessary if an accident ever occurs. She kept going on about how synthetic organs are inferior and shorten the life of the recipient. I just kept thinking about how sad those soulless things looked floating in their tubes, they reminded me of puppets.

February 16, 2138
A riot started in the inner slums today. One of the random MekPol sweeps of the place turned up a major illegal Vaunt lab. After it was destroyed the Vaunt addicts went wild. The Octagon Aegis system was turned up to lethal levels today to keep potential looters out. We're advised not to leave our doms until the situation is dealt with. I programmed rain for our garden today and have been looking out of my window feeling melancholy. According to the Newsfeed one of the walls of the teaching communities I visited a few days ago was breeched by the rioters. That community wasn't one with MekGuards. I fear for the worse.

February 17, 2138
Today is the Aptitude test. Wish me luck.

part of the wordmongers' masque

Jane Loves Birds.

"Jane, there's nothing left in there. Jane…come on honey."

I pull her away from the birdfeeder; she is sticking her fingers under the guard, trying to collect the remaining lonely kernels that the bluejays and crows couldn't reach. "Look, I'll fill it for you." Jane shrieks as I try to move her aside, and steels her grip on the railing. She stares, transfixed, into the little glass window, like it's a television or a drier in a Laundromat. "Finch," she whispers to the glass. It's January, and cold. The trees are bare and there are no finches. "Yes, dear," I sigh, and pour the black oil sunflower seeds into the feeder. The cardinals love them. Now she is docile again, and I guide her back into the house, remove her slippers caked with wet snow. I pull open the drapes of the big window so she can still watch, but as suddenly as she lit up and sprung to action, she is once again pale and gloomy.

I run my fingers through my hair. A year ago, my hair was chestnut brown. It doesn't really seem practical to be shocked about some salt mixed in with the pepper, not at my age. Especially looking at Jane. At twenty, one would expect her visage to be untouched by the stealthy hand of age, but her brick red hair, wildly full, displays a broad swath of white above her left ear where she was struck.

They said once the gods touch you, you become invincible, that the pale mark of a lightning strike selects you as a witch, because the gods never strike the same place twice.

You'll never have to worry about tasting their judgement now. Jane, there was so much understanding in your gaze, sometimes you got confused, but at least you tried. Now I'm the one struggling to translate your actions into meaning.

Jane whimpers and I bend down to look in under all that hair. My white work shirt is open one button too far, because I could never get the damn hang of collars. I lift her hair and get close enough to kiss her forehead. When pain shocks me to jump away from her, I look down and see blood on her fingers- she has raked her nails from my ear to my collar bone. The shirt is ruined.

When a female cardinal lights on the branch of a low winterberry bush, I feel certain Jane will notice. I even run over and point, but she sighs and draws the curtain back across the day and closes her eyes.


The Past::The Future

 

Part of the Wordmongers' Masque.

G'day Noders,

thanks for taking part in etouffee's current poll. I heartily agree with you that noders should read their own nodes, but even though I have been happily msg'ing people for exactly that, the response has been meagre: Only rootbeer277 and Jet-Poop (J-P reading somebody else's node)have so far delivered the goods.

So, again: if you want to contribute to The Everything2 Podcast, suggest a node, record it and it will be played in one of the next podcasts. The deadline for the next one will be Monday, September 11th, so get your recording gear out and send me a little msg. As each podcast is supposed to have a diverse set of nodes (factual, poetry, daylog and fun stuff) come up with something not too long but exceptional in quality.

Otherwise, grin and bear my germano-black country-kiwi accent.

Next release: 12.9.06 12:00am GMT+12



Update:Noders to the rescue: all slots for the next podcast have been filled, thanks to wordnerd, Litlebertha and Izubachi. Applications are now sought for 26.9.06

If you're gonna write, you need perspective. Not the first-person third-person perspective we all learned in grade school... you need to look at your writing from a certain perspective.

For a long time, it was hard for me to write, and it still is. But this revelation that I just had makes me look at it in a new way, a new perspective.

Whenever I'm replying to something someone else wrote, I shine. All the words fall into place, and whatever it is I'm writing just seems to write itself. It just flows. On the other hand, whenever I try to write a story, or any other sort of independent piece, I lock up. I don't know how to start, and even though I have it all in my head, I can't make the words work with it.

So, about ten minutes ago, I was showering. I was feeling pretty low for no reason in particular, and out of nowhere it struck me: a revelation.

When I sit down to write something with nobody to write it to, I can't quite squeeze it out. I try to form a good sentence in my head and translate it onto whatever medium I'm working in, and it gets stuck. Jammed. It doesn't come out. Now, I think I have the answer as to why this is (or at least part of the answer): I was writing to nobody. I was writing to an abstraction, and when I write something to nothing, that something ends up as nothing.

So, I'm writing this to you now, whoever you are. This is my new perspective, and so far it seems to be working out nicely. I'm writing to you. In this case, you are the userbase of E2, but you could be anybody. You are everybody. The point is, you aren't nobody. I could be writing to myself, to my dog, to someone specific, or to everyone as a collective.

This new perspective works for me. It won't work for everyone. Maybe you're someone who needs to write to no one. Perhaps you need to address your writings to yourself. Or, could be you find the whole concept of writing "to" someone or "for" someone to be absurd and silly. The point is, find that perspective, that magic number that unlocks that gate from your head to your hand, and let the words flow.

I think I'm back.

I haven't been an active noder lately. Too much to do, because whenever I wasn't doing something I had to do, there was something I should have been doing that was more important than reading other people's nodes, voting on them, and contributing my own.

Lots of goals have been floating around my "to-do" list for years. Some of those goals are E2-related, like noding a few things that are on my list and perhaps adding to my barely-begun Animorphs node. I really want to. I really intend to. But a lot of these things were just not realistic goals because they a) didn't make money; b) didn't make anyone specific except for ME happy; and c) didn't contribute to any of the larger goals of my life.

The largest goal of my life, some of you may know, is to be a published writer. Maybe I will be well-loved, maybe I will be popular, maybe I will even be the next J.K. Rowling. But before those things happen, I have to be published. So that's first.

So I've been basically absent not because I didn't care, not because I stopped being interested, not because I ran out of things to node, but because . . . well, because I couldn't justify it to myself that I was noding and spending anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours on E2 each day when my in-progress fiction writing sat untouched and my completed fiction writing sat unedited and my edited fiction writing sat unqueried.

My bookstore job sucked up a lot of my energy, and social events with my friends took a lot of the rest. (Many of these friends felt slighted or personally insulted when and if I couldn't make time for them, and while each of them individually had a point when they said "I can't believe you can't find time to hang out just a couple hours once a week," I have more than seven friends, and if I allotted a few hours to each friend every week, I wouldn't be able to go to work or do ANYTHING else.)

My e-mail box always contained over 50 messages, most of which were over 3 weeks old. My editing clients sometimes had to wait quite a while for my reports unless it was for very short pieces, even if they were paying me. And the people I used to help out with free editing because they were my friends . . . yup, completely dumped. I just didn't have time. Spread too thin.

I went on the uberman's sleep schedule to make more time. More time was made--I was quite successful (and today I still operate on a modified version of it). But there was still too much on my plate and too many people expecting me to eat.

Against my better judgment I started an online comic, and updated it once a week. That more or less un-made whatever time the uberman schedule made for me. When I had time, I cleaned my apartment or attempted to answer someone's e-mail or--surprise!--did a creative project of some kind. But more often than not, the extra time was taken by an upcoming holiday preparation, or by having to put a lot of time and effort into a friend's birthday gift or something. By this point I pretty much always felt unsatisfied, just so much to do and nothing ever getting done, always the "most important" things getting attention while certain things that were pounding at my soul's door to be done for years never got a second glance.

When you're as attached to your fiction characters as I am, it hurts to tell them to shut up.

But because they're "not real" and not actually getting offended somewhere because you don't have time for a dinner date this week, they got the brunt of it.

I coughed out a couple short stories but I haven't done any serious fiction writing since 2004.

So how am I back?

I dumped my bookstore job. I moved to a new city. I got a better apartment. And . . . I got a job that pays twice as much.

WITH INTERNET ACCESS.

AND LOTS OF DOWN TIME.

Now that I'm getting over the retail mentality of "you should be productive every minute or else you should go home," I'm realizing that I work for a company that can afford to pay me to sit in a seat in case the phone rings, and I'm getting used to it.

I'm answer my e-mail at work, doing some of my editing (heh, the same hours are making money twice!), dealing with the usual 'Net junk that I didn't have time for before.

That includes E2.

I intend to play e-mail catch-up, do E2 romping, and deal with editing in between my work duties, assuming they stay as light as they are. (I was told by my trainer that I would indeed have a lot of down time.)

And best of all I submitted some queries and have had three positive responses from literary agents. Two ended in rejections. One is still being considered, though. And if this ends in rejection--like most do--there's still a whole world out there.

I'm liking this.

I like being back.

Previous post

First post and explanation

Next post

This is the police. Please disperse immediately. Or, you know, don't. That's okay too.

Alright, let's forget about the day before yesterday and yesterday morning. What happened thereafter was stressed-out-izu-free, so we'll just skip straight to that part, agreed? Cool.

I'm visiting Sapporo for my three-day semester break.

Sapporo itself is crazy, crowded, and gives off a completely different impression than Hakodate. Let's put it this way: if Hakodate is Omaha or Iowa City, then Sapporo is Chicago. Shorter, but a similar vibe, and even sketchier nightlife, if you can imagine.

I met up with my group of friends near a botanical garden and from there we hung out in a park with lots of modern art sculpture that also double as playground equipment. This is the kind of postmodernism I think is rad: playful, useful, not obnoxious or pretentious. After drawing stares clammering all over the equipment, we drew more stares by whipping out a soccer ball and playing around with it on the green space for an hour or so.

The appropriate simile for this situation, we decided, was if a group of ten or so very flamboyent drag queens came to a park and horsed around for a while. Kids stare, adults try not to stare but do anyway, and some harmless attention is attracted.

Sapporo, though, definitely has a higher foreigner population than Hakodate. I saw a white/black/Hispanic/not-Asian person I didn't know once every ten minutes or so, rather than once every three days like in Hakodate.

After going back to our quite clean and pretty reasonably priced hostel to, er, 'freshen up' we headed out to the town's main bar district, Susukino.

Lots happened from there. We got really awful, probably purposefully bad service at a restaurant (we hadn't been drinking yet, so to the best of our knowledge nothing about our behavior triggered the treatment), ran into some HIF people at a bar and hung out there for a while with two Japanese punk girls who liked grabbing my friend's boobs and saying, "I love you! Please be my girlfriend!" in English. Over and over.

After Bar Le Boobgrab, we rounded past an extremely packed, extremely loud bar chock full of foreigners (all of whom looked like JETers or hippy backpackers) and danced at a near empty club called "Booty" for a while because there was no cover charge. That got lame quick, so eventually it was back to Rad Brothers, the foreigner hang-out.

Within Rad Brothers was a soundtrack of indie rock rather to my tastes, tons of very rowdy people, and two guys getting tattoos. No, seriously. A Japanese guy with his shirt off was getting a tattoo across his back in the middle of a dirty, smokey bar spilling over with drunken people possessing little sense of balance.

Damn.

I talked with two Japanese university students for a while, one of whom was flirting with me, and complimented them on their excellent English (we were speaking in Japanese, but they both pronounced my name correctly, is what tipped me off, rather than the Japanese-equivalent to my name 'eh-ree-kkoo.') Then I hung out with a group of Japanese bohemians crouched on the corner with drinks, cigarettes, and snack food. They were waaaaasted and hilarious to talk to. One of them responded to my question of what he was eating by grabbing my head, pulling me over, and feeding me what turned out to be beef jerky.

The night ended when the police came in paddy wagons and announced that the crowd had to disperse. One of the bohemians dropped his pants and mooned the police, who responded to this by, again, politely requesting us to disperse and not arresting anyone. In fact, after a while, when nobody appeared to be moving or even paying the police much attention at all (I'd removed myself to the other side of the street), the police just sorta left. Like, "Oh well, we did our best, I guess it's back to the station we go."

Today should be all around better than yesterday, if luck has it.

Omigod! We've just agreed to adopt a cat! No. No! NO! Not in a million years would we ever again have a pet...and if so, it would be a DOG. We are NOT cat people. We hate cats, don't see why people put up with their stupidity, their inability/unwillingness to learn the simplest accommodation with the humans on whom they depend, their studied contempt for our values, their solipsistic, utterly sociopathic behavior. We love dogs. Dogs are what humans would be if they were truly Christian. Our current favorite bumper sticker is, "I'm trying to be the person my dog thinks I am." For cats, the slogan would be, "I'm trying to ignore all moral values in slavish furtherance of my cat's program to conquer the universe."

About two years ago, we noticed an orange tomcat hanging around our driveway. The most reliable way to deal with unwanted feline attention is to ignore it, and this we did. We didn't throw water or yell or in other way discomfort ourselves, but we did NOT encourage it. This seemed fine with the cat. He was not intrusive, and he seemed to think we were cool. He sort of hung around the edges. When we went for an after-dinner walk up the hill, the cat would follow, companiably, but at a distance...at least as far as the first set of dogs. As we returned, he would emerge from the bushes, and join us on our way back home.

Well, it was kind of charming. First, he wasn't anything like what we've grown to know as a "cat". He was not needy, not demanding of attention, he didn't "mark" us by slinking around our ankles, he didn't, in short, require anything from us. He seemed simply to enjoy our company. From a distance.

It wasn't that hard to gradually make friends with this solitary cat. After all, we're allergic to cat dander, so we couldn't have him in the house...all our contact had to be outside. And after a while, we offered him a bowl of water, which he accepted with dignity, and then there was a detente established. He certainly didn't "live" here, he was someone else's cat; but he liked being around us. And after a bit, he would be hanging out when I drove home from class. Not all "Omigod-you're-back-I-thought-you-were-gone-forever-I'm-so-glad-to-see-you-slobber", but more like someone who merely happened to be taking a nap there at the right time. He would wake, and stretch, and come out to greet me.

It grew colder in the fall. He stuck around – not all the time, but often enough that we began to look forward to his presence when we arrived home. It rains a lot in Humboldt County. So I found a carpet sample and put it on the shelf beneath the garden table under the overhang. And now when I returned, the cat would be settled in there. OK, so he wasn't "the cat" anymore; we'd looked at his collar. His name was Calvin, and his address was just a couple of houses down from us, a retired woman. A "cat lady" with several cats.

Only somehow, Calvin preferred being with us. At night he went home. But during the day, he was mostly "guarding" our house. It was kind of charming. We found ourselves talking about Calvin, as though he were "our" cat. When I made up a list of fantasy anniversary presents for my wife, one of them was a fancy outdoor build-it-yourself "cathouse" – for Calvin, of course. Without our intending it, he'd become a fond part of our lives.

Then came the day when Calvin didn't show up. We weren't worried; he often took time off for his own affairs. But the day stretched into a week and more, and finally we looked up his owner, "Dawn". She said that Calvin had never adjusted to living with her other cats; so she'd given him to her daughter, who lived in Sacramento. He was gone.

We were unaccountably sad. It isn't as though we could have offered him a home, even had we known he was available. But he was a friend, and we'd lost him. That was almost two years ago. We got over it.

Yesterday when I returned from school there was a message from Dawn. Calvin was back, and she was looking for a home for him. His rural freedom had not served him well in the big city: he'd been hit by a car, and was missing part of his jaw. But he was otherwise the same. The vet had recommended that he be confined inside hereafter, presumably because of his injury. So would we be willing to take him?

Well, the end of this story is not yet known. Calvin is the most intelligent and social cat (read: dog-like) we've known. He is a fairly short-haired cat, which might, just might, mean that we can get around the allergy problem by some of the many solutions other people use. We're going to give it a try. He is, after all, our friend.

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