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Happy 3rd Birthday E2

OK, so I know technically this isn't the date that E2 went 'live', but to most of us, especially those of us that weren't there, today represents the beginning of Everything2, the event horizon beyond which we have no access.

I'm new here. I don't remember the Everything turf war or Everything civil war. I missed April Trolls' Day. I never spoke to sensei or Hermetic, wharfinger or even Dman.

But I've argued about Butterfinger McFlurry like everybody else; I've been mystified by Ralph. I was there when the Honor Roll went live. I miss ephealy, and I wish Kidas would come back.

Everything2 is primarily a project about knowledge and education, but somewhere along the line it became a community. And it occured to me recently that perhaps it's emergent behavior; perhaps the project has evolved a community to facilitate itself. The secret is that on the way, the project itself has changed, in subtle ways that we are not aware of. We are participating in our own manipulation.

Which means it will continue to evolve. The code changes, the site changes, the administration changes, the noders change and the content changes. And as with all emergent systems, the changes themselves and the patterns they make are as interesting as their results.

We've come a long way. We've got a long way to go.

Happy birthday, Everything2

written before it was revealed that ephealy was alive, and that kidas was posting under a new account.

I was really glad when we went to Leeds and Lindsay got on well with my friends there because, with rare exceptions, my friends have not been nice to her, and I’ve been pretty shocked by it.

The funniest, or saddest thing, is when my friends have reacted to her as if she is challenging some kind of claim that they have on my time and attention, or as she is somehow usurping me and persuading me to spend all this time with her that I would otherwise really have wanted to spend with them. There is a bullshit social doctrine doing the rounds of the media-saturated nations right now which arose out of the whole “new lad” culture and which states that relationships come and go, but your friends are forever, and people who neglect their friendships when they get into a serious relationship will eventually realize their error and get back to the pub with their mates where they belong, whether their partner likes it or not.

This is dangerous horseshit. I’ve been alive for 28 years and had lots of friends and relationships in that time. The Truth According To Alan is as follows. Friends come and go, and as you grow and change through your life (which we all want to do guys, right? Right? Hello? Is this mike on…?) your friends change too. It’s a natural process and it’s nothing to do with being a bastard – in fact, every time it’s happened, I have felt very sad. But it’s inevitable. We make friends with people who become entwined with our lives at various times, and we drift away and make new friends when the time comes. People move house. People move jobs. People get married. People have nervous breakdowns. All kinds of shit happens, and friends come and go with the ebb and flow of life. The only people who keep the same friends all their lives are people who reach a certain point of development in their late teens or early twenties and decide to stay there forever. If you want that, you’re welcome to it.

Compare this to getting married. Marriage has taken a bit of a beating in modern culture, and rightly so, because people were, for a long long time, getting married for all the wrong reasons. They’re still doing it, but there are right reasons for getting married, and if you don’t recognize a marriage or a permanent relationship that’s happened for the right reasons, when it happens, then you’ve got problems of your own. People grow and change and friends and relationships come and go, but at some point you may meet a person who you are certain (and you might not know how or why you are certain) you want to grow and change with, together, for the rest of your life. Suddenly all the bullshit anyone ever told you is gone, and you know what you want and who you are. You know what you need. You choose to commit to this person in a way you’ve never committed to anyone before, not in a sexual relationship and certainly not in a friendship. You are going to change with this person. They change, you change, you both agree to adjust and connect with each other over time, a lot of time. You know that this is possible. You don’t really know how you know, but you know. It might be difficult and demanding and scary, but you want it because everything else is unsatisfying and second-hand.

Once you meet someone like this, everything changes. You might never meet them. You might never need to meet them. Or maybe everyone meets this person, and only some people get together with them. I really don’t know. I’m not trying to say that there is only one form of drama or growth in this life. But if you meet someone like this, there is no longer a question of balancing friends and relationship. There is no longer a question of what your priorities are. If your friends are unable to get along with your partner, you will drop them, not because you don’t like them, but because it just becomes impossible to go on meeting up with someone who has that much antipathy towards the person you are going to spend your life with. If your family don’t like your partner and tensions build up, you fight with your family. You make demands on them. You are no longer afraid when they threaten you with disapproval. You don’t need ANYONE’S approval any more, because you know who you are. You will go wherever your partner goes, or they will go wherever you are. There is no longer truly a separate you, and that might freak you out for a long time or you might adjust to it straight away. It might freak your friends and family out. They might think it’s a bad thing that you suddenly seem to be this unseparate person, but if they were really honest, they would admit that that’s what they want. It’s what everyone wants. It’s just that we all started to believe it wasn’t there.

Everyone thinks they know people. My friends have all thought that they know me, and at times they have been right, but I am a growing and changing person, and everything is always out of date, everything is different every day, nothing is static, just like Fight Club says. Everyone is always changing, and the scary thing about this is that people don’t realize it, so they’re sitting in front of each other having coffee and talking, thinking they’re talking to the same person, and they’re not. We keep mental projections of our friends in our minds and day by day they grow more distant from the ever-changing reality, until one day they say something or do something so “out of character” that we realize we don’t know them any more. The best thing you can do to stay friends with someone is to believe, every day, that you only know them a little bit, and that they can surprise you at any moment, and that you certainly don’t know the reasons behind their actions and words. The worst thing you can do with a friend is to believe that you know them. Don’t assume you know why they did something. Don’t assume you know better than them what they should do with their lives. And don’t think you’re more important to them than you actually are. There is no room for sentimentality here. We all form very few truly important and meaningful relationships in our lives. This is important material and you will be tested on it so listen up: VERY FEW. There will be many friends and many relationships but when you look back on your life while you are dying, if you die in a way that gives you time to look back, if you are clear in your mind, you will look back and count very few truly important relationships. The others: beautiful, transitory, more or less significant, more or less affecting, valuable, but passing. This is not heartlessness, this is reality, and what’s worse is that for some people, the number might not even be one. There might have been no one, and they would never realize it until the end.

I am a softy. I write notes to my friends telling them how important they are to me. I hug them, male or female. I cry over the fact that I don’t see them any more. I write poems about them. I talk about them and think about them and try to keep them alive for me. I try to stay in contact even when I am in a different country. I do all of this more than most people, and I know this because I know how often people do the same to me. A lot of the stuff I say would usually get left unspoken. So I know that I am not heartless. But I know that there comes a time when it is finished. Sometimes I fight it, and sometimes I accept it, and it’s always sad. Sometimes I don’t even understand what has happened. Because I know that all these things pass, and because my friends are so important to me, I hold back a lot of the time when I’m getting to know someone. It takes months to get to know me, sometimes years, because when you know me, I don’t want to lose you. Even with all that care, I lose people. It just happens. It’s the inevitable turning of life and there’s no fighting it. People move away. They have nervous breakdowns. They get religion. They change. Everyone has their own destiny and we sometimes only touch briefly and intensely.

I am saying all this because since getting together with Lindsay a lot of my friendships have come under strain. Two of my best friends moved away to Cork and Limerick – that’s no one’s fault. Life happens. But a lot of my friends acted territorial around Lindsay, or with open dislike, and then expected me to side with them. I would explain carefully in words that I thought the other person would understand how important she is to me and how miraculous meeting her was, and because they think they know me, they allowed themselves to dismiss what I was saying. These are the same people who have dismissed other things I have done in my life as “phases” or “fads” and so failed utterly to grasp the significance of the change that occurred in me when I left that “phase”. Carl Jung had a novel idea for psychotherapy which most people in modern society have missed – the patient always knows. Not the therapist. The patient. My translation: you have to listen to people, and forget your judgements of whether they are right or wrong. THEY ARE RIGHT. Everyone is right, because everyone can only express what they are. That’s it.

I guess what I’m saying is, this is a marriage. Lindsay and I are married. If you don’t like it, don’t like her, don’t like me, think it’s a bad idea, whatever, you can fuck off, and if you’re happy to fuck off, then we’re all happy and there’s no problem. Really. If you do like it, like her, like me, think it’s a great idea, whatever, that’s great and I’m glad and there’s no problem. Really! If there’s something about me you don’t like, or her, tell me and I’ll listen, really, I am a good listener, and you might even tell me something I needed to hear. However, if you are just angry that you don’t see me so much any more, you have to know that the sad fact is that in my life from now on, whoever you are, if you aren’t her you can only be a B list celebrity. You will still get invited to many of the best parties and you can have your share of the spotlight, but you must recognize that there is an inner circle to which you can never be privy, where the stars of this silver screen quaff smoothies and toss back hummus crackers and share the intimate details of each other’s lives. The terms of every friendship and family tie have changed, and yes it is sudden and out of the blue, and yes I understand that this is a lot to adjust to, but please understand, it’s not a good idea to piss Lindsay off in an attempt to show me her flaws or whatever you think you’re doing, really, because I will be taking her side, really, I can almost guarantee it. This is not because I am blind and do everything she wants. No, please listen and don’t think you already know me. Don’t assume, okay? Listen. This is not because I am blind. It is because we are almost the same person. I am serious. This is why we got married. Didn’t you think there was a reason? Did you think you knew me better than I know myself?

This time was always going to come. It could have been you before me, and I would just have been happy for you. Really.

What the fuck!

Two days ago i was informed by my woefully incompetant lecturer that i had failed my java exam. At thie time i think "So fucking what. Its just another 3 months on my course time. Thats nothing. I can almost afford the 400 bucks too".

So today I spent a good deal of time contemplating writing to the guys at Sun with a simple question: Why is java so fucking hard?

I haven't yet written that letter, i still need more time to contemplate the sort of reply, if any, i will receive. (For the uninitiated, the course i am in (offered by Carngeie Mellon University) expects students with barely a clue of java, to go from selection statements (if and for) to stacks, streams and packages in around 9 weeks. Anywhere else in the world, including on the actual campus, does the same in around 18 weeks, that, however, isn't Sun's fault). I expect anything from "Java is easy blah blah blah heres some reasons blah blah blah" to a more appropriate "$^%& off, we made it as easy as we could".

Maybe its just because i am doing Visual Basic along side of java. Visual Basic is easy. Visual Basic makes sense to new programmers. Visual Basic is my friend. The makers of java should have taken a leaf out of their book.

Maybe ill just commend Sun on their work with java and hope Java3 will be more newbie friendly. I think it will be the CTE people that i yell and scream at (useless though it may be).

Java sucks!

5 days till I get older.

Thats not exactly true is it? I am getting older as I write this. You are getting older as you read this. Birthdays are just milestones. Solar loops.

I will be 26 solar orbits old.

I remember getting a microwave when it was a new appliance.
I remember when our T.V. had 13 channels on cable, and no remote.
I remember when a K-Car was on the showroom floor.
I remember the Evil Empire.
I remember fearing Armageddon.
I remember the Soviet Union.
I remember Mr. T.
I remember playing outside.
I remember Atari was the future.
I remember riding that BMX like the wind.
I remember playing in the gravel pits.
I remember my Dukes of Hazzard Big Wheel.
I remember wanting things so bad it hurt.
I remember the hours between recess.
I remember breaking bones.
I remember when girls became exciting.
I remember the first videostore opening.
I remember Johnny Carson.
I remember BBSing.
I remember the 286.
I remember the trials of highschool.
I remember drinking way too much.
I remember building huge snowforts.

I remember it all. And it keeps me happy in these gray days.

So I'm lying in bed the other night, thinking about young Catholic schoolgirls, when this really funny idea for an advert pops into my head. Here it is:

Interior: A supermarket. A man walks in, scans the magazines and chocolates, and heads for what we think is the tinned foods section. Then, he stops. He looks carefully into the near distance, and spies the last packet of ALWAYS ULTRA SANITARY PADS on the shelf. He looks around to see if anyone is watching him, sees that no one is looking, and makes a dash for the shelf.

About halfway there, this woman in the next aisle sees him going for the last packet, and throws her month old baby at his feet to try to trip him up. But he was expecting something like this, and hops neatly over the child, and continues running. Next, another woman jumps in his way, trying to tackle him to the ground. But he pulls out this Ninja sword, and slices her in half, and carries on running.

Then there are all these woman, just throwing themselves in his way, trying to stop him, or get to the shelf first. But he just carries on running; hacking and slashing and stabbing for all he's worth. And eventually, he's there, and he triumphantly holds the packet aloft. He's smiling and grinning for all he's worth, feeling pretty happy with himself.

But just then, the manager of the shop, probably an oriental man, runs towards him and starts babbling and screaming at him in that heathen lingo they speak. And the subtitles are saying something like:

"JUST LOOK AT FLOOR! TOO MUCH BLOOD DISPERSAL! AND WHO IS CLEANING MESS OF YOU CREATION? NOW!"

So the guy looks at the camera, shrugs and smiles impishly, and we fade to black. There’s some incidental music, something to illustrate the passing of a short amount of time, and the scene reopens on the supermarket. But this time the floor is spotless, the manager is grinning from ear to ear, and the man is seen holding up a bunch of ALWAYS ULTRA SANITARY PADS, covered in blood, that he obviously used to clean up all the mess.

The manager puts his arm around the man, smiles toothily at the camera, and the subtitles say something like:

"MUCH BETTER! NOW NO MORE MONTHLY MIX UP!"

The screen fades to white, there appears a picture of the bunch of bloodied ALWAYS ULTRA SANITARY PADS, and below the that, in some kind of Angelic writing, appears the words:

"Always Ultra. For even the heaviest flow."

And that’s it. We could probably get some local interest in by having local women chopped up. And for overseas viewing, we could have him eat the baby. They'll allow anything on European television.

I hate clothes shopping. Seriously.

As a child, I had nephritis, a kidney ailment, that entailed me taking steroids for an entire year. So between kindergarten and first grade I experienced some interesting weight issues. I don't remember all of the ends and outs of the whole deal. The only lasting memory I have of the whole affair is spending countless hours in the dressing rooms of the local Sears trying on husky clothes. Actually, it wasn't even trying on the clothes. It was more spending hours on end pulling pins out of neatly folded shirts with pieces of plastic, cardboard, and tissue paper stuffed in the oddest places. It was spending what seemed like hours taking my pants on and off (an image that would have appealed to me as a junior high student).

The upshot is that to this day, I hate going to get fitted for clothes. I would rather buy clothes and take them home, trying them on at my leisure and taking them back if they don't fit, but I know myself well enough to realize that I would never take them back and so that is a fool's errand. So I spend time trying on clothes. But only as often as I absolutely have to.

Today ended up being one of those days. I have put on a few pounds over the past few years and my suit no longer fits. I tell you this with no shame because I used to be 140 pounds soaking wet and six feet three inches tall. Over the years with the help of a wife who is an excellent cook and a slowing metabolism, I am now 6'3" and 190 lbs.

I have been asked to read at my cousin's wedding in a couple of weeks and need to be dressed in a better suit than I currently possess so I decided to spring for a new suit. I went to one of the smaller men's stores in our town which carries a fine selection of tasteful suits. I know the salesman by name (Ed) and we spoke for a few minutes before I tried on a charcoal grey suit. It fit pretty well and I made the obligatory trip to the dressing room to put on the dress pants to have them marked for hemming. I returned and am standing as he marked the pants when he said the words that reinforced my feelings about clothes shopping:

"Wow! One of your shoulders is a lot lower than the other."

WHAT? I have lived in this body for nearly forty years and have never had any real body issues. I have never thought I was too tall or too skinny. I have never given a damn if I wasn't all that handsome. Sure, I was a bit shocked to find that I was starting to bald on top a couple of years ago, but so be it. And now this suit salesman tells me that I have been walking around all of these years with one shoulder not level with the other!?

Did everybody know this? Was it common knowledge and I never put it together? Have people for years people been wandering around going "Here comes Habakkuk with his one lower shoulder. Poor guy."?

I now am somewhat afraid to look in the mirror. Will I start looking for other issues that I was never aware of. Are my eyes level or do I have one that is higher than the other. Is my nose crooked? Do I have one leg that is longer than the other? Am I just a complete freak, but an unobservant freak?

God, I hate going shopping!

werejackal says why do you write sci-fi?

In a nutshell, the answer is "Because I like it!" A slightly more intellectual answer would be, "Because I prefer the fantastic and the futuristic to the grinding banalities of real life."

Let's compare and contrast:

My real life: I've been unemployed for eight months. Eight freakin' months, despite constant looking, and I have a BS in biology and an MA in journalism and seven years of web design and publications experience. I can't even get a job at the library shelving books. My apartment complex is a dump; we're stuck in a lease and probably can't afford to move, anyway. The people closest to me are in various stages of crisis and misery. One close friend recently had a nervous breakdown that landed him in The Bin for a week. Three friends are in the midst of nasty divorces. Meanwhile, my mother has chronic cancer and is going blind.

Speculative fiction: I can create any kind of world I want, and write about interesting people who, through their own actions, achieve their hearts' desires. The good and industrious are rewarded, the rotten and annoying get a royal smackdown. There are golden utopias, fascinating dystopias, space ships, quests, magic, and missions of epic importance. Characters can save the universe, save their home towns, or even just save their own moms. Forget about depression and existential angst -- these characters overcome fiends and zombie hordes and murderous robots. They can turn into mist and seep under doors. They can turn into wolves and run through the moonlit forest. They can fly.

Now, ask me again why I like science fiction.


Speaking of SF, a couple of people have asked me about the stories I've posted here over the past few weeks. Some have indeed been published professionally; the others are problematic due to their sexual content. There's a presumption amongst many SF markets that because SF is widely seen as fiction youngsters read, it has to be PG-13 or thereabouts. Explicit sex is a no-no. And ironically, most erotica markets won't touch SF with a ten foot dildo. There is one market, Circlet Press, that only publishes erotica with speculative fiction elements, but I've had a story there in their slushpile for well over a year.

I'm just not that patient.

Life is too goddamn short to write a story and let it sit on my hard drive, unread, for years.

Know me and tremble, voting public.

From the deep I have come, bearer of tentacled terror and sound fiscal policy initatives, to rule this land of "America".

My erstwhile opponents will call me "ruthless". They will call me "inhuman". They will call me "cold blooded." This is all well and good.

Soon enough, they will call me "Mr. President".

Citizens, support the nonpartisan candidate that sees enemies and friends alike as tasty, crunchable morsels. Support the candidate who stands for the values you believe in: hydroelectric power, irrational violence, and a flat tax. Support GIANT SQUID.

VOTE GIANT SQUID!
Giant Squid and Knife Fight Monkey in 2004!

Thank you.


Giant Squid Party platform coming soon.
I have Systems Analysis class tonight, and I’m dreading it. I enrolled in an Information Systems graduate program to cull some of my boredom, but I find structured education grueling and largely unfulfilling. It’s difficult for me to pound out HTML code all day and then go to class for two hours and have to participate in inane group discussions that do nothing to further my understanding of Systems Analysis methodologies.

Right now we’re covering Data Modeling, which I had a crash course in last summer in a Database Management class. E-R diagrams are a breeze, I understood them pretty quickly. Unary relationships are conceptually speaking a thing of great elegant beauty, a loop between entities that are the same but different. I get it. But watching my classmates stumble over the concepts for two hours just bores me. These are guys who like to use radar systems aboard Coast Guard cutters for in-class examples of Systems Analysis case studies. Yet they can’t think abstractly enough to grasp how foreign keys are used to create relationships in a database. I don’t mean to make sweeping generalizations about people, because I almost always get into trouble when I do, but government contractors are smart people who are too specialized for their own good. My classes are always filled with them -- they’re ubiquitous in D.C.

I’m trying to get motivated, but it’s just not working. I don’t want to sit and listen to government contractors argue with the professor, and I don’t want the guy in the Coast Guard uniform with all the ribbons to get up and suggest that we buy Visio at an educational discount. I don’t need to own a personal copy of Visio -- I just want to get through the requirements so I can take the ecommerce classes please.

My dad used to always say that I’m a quitter, so I’ve strived to complete everything I do just to prove him wrong (not that he knows, being dead and all). But there’s a part of me that just wants to drop out and enroll in a creative writing program. Sure, it won’t help my career, but at least it would be fun. Shouldn’t education be enjoyable? I like what I’m learning, but I just don’t have the patience to put up with the other students. I imagine this will be the same for any field I attempt.

((Yawn)). Two hours to go before class. It’s pretty sad when I’d rather be watching Enterprise than going to school -- I don’t even really like that show. But I’d rather watch Scott Bakula get captured by aliens than spend another minute listening to the old guy who works at the Commerce Department brag about himself for fifteen minutes of class time.

Well, today I found out that my life is completely fucked up. Last night, I e-mailed a female acquaintance, telling her about one of my friends that likes her. This was, and I realize it now, a very, very childish thing to do. He was too shy to tell her, but I've also now realized that there are many more things that I have just complicated (though I still do not know what those things are).

Now that I have done this, and been in school for a day, I've realized what a mistake it was doing this. Now I've got a bunch of my friends (I'm hesitant to call them former friends) against me, because of the idiotic action that I persued last night, while I was not awake.

To the people that I have hurt: If there is any way that I could ever make this up, please don't hesitate to ask. I am truly sorry for what my actions may have caused between you.

To the people that I have not hurt: I am truly sorry for all of my actions over the last week. There have been so many things in my life that you do not know about (or anyone, for that matter), and on top of that, I have not been getting enough sleep to sort all of these things out.

Again, I'm am truly sorry for any damage that has been caused by my immaturity.

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