Riding to the rescue

For anyone who ever wanted to don the cape, strap on a pair of laser guns and ride to the rescue.


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The Tale of Camellia, Queen of the Sun

(A story told in tweets, reprinted here in the order they appeared.)

Once upon a time, there was a Japanese tea tree. Like all Japanese tea trees, her name was Camellia sinensis, "Camellia" to her friends.

Camellia was adopted by a family who loved her on first sight. They knew she would grow up to be tall, shapely and beautiful.

Carefully, the family dug a hole 2X wider and 2X deeper than Camellia's root ball. They set her gently in a bed of well-composted leaves.

Camellia thrived in the lovely spot her family picked for her. Sheltered from winter winds, shaded from summer sun, she grew and grew.

In Camellia's fourth year with the family, she felt a great stirring within herself. It was like nothing she had ever felt before!

As spring warmed into summer, the tips of her branches tingled, swelling with a delicious, heavy ache. Camellia trembled in anticipation.

On a bright day in early summer, the breeze caressed Camellia's branches and she burst forth into blossom. White petals exploded in the air!

For a season, Camellia was the happiest of Japanese tea trees. Graceful and curvy, her incandescent blossoms smelled of cinnamon and lemon.

But then...

... tragedy struck.

The great silver maple, which had shaded her from the morning sun, choked, withered, and died. In a single season, she was struck down.

Camellia hardly had time to weep for the loss of her friend the silver maple when an even greater tragedy intruded on her world.

The fine old pin oak, the tall, spreading giant that towered over all the trees in the yard, the heart of the garden... was dying.

From halfway around the world it came: a disease that struck without mercy at maples and oaks alike. It choked them, killing from within.

Camellia , who had always been a little afraid of the great old oak, whispered up into his dying, bare branches, "Does it... does it hurt?"

The oak, who had seen many, many young trees come and go, looked down on Camellia and said, "No, my child. As I die, I make way for you."

When the trucks came, the men rose up high and cut into the kindly old giant. Chainsaws roared and tore at his flesh, rending him into dust.

Alone, Camellia shook with fear for the future, and wept.

Without her friend the silver maple, the cold spring winds tore at her. Without her protector the pin oak, the summer sun burned her.

The spot her family had chosen for her was no longer an oasis, no longer a sheltered and protected Eden.

It was a killing ground.

Her leaves curled and fell. Her spring blossoms withered without opening. Her branches dried, cracked and died.

Would it be another season, she thought, or another two? How long can I last? I thirst so, the hunger for cooling water so insatiable!

Although her family, who loved her as they had loved the cheerful silver maple and the majestic pin oak, tried to help her, they couldn't.

If Camellia were given a steady supply of water through the dreadfully hot, dry, bright summer, she might cool herself and survive.

Alas, the family had no money for in-ground sprinkler systems or lawn care services. And when they left on vacation, Camellia suffered so!

One day, the patriarch of the family that owned Camellia , decided that he would not let summer sun take his beloved Japanese tea tree.

But how could he save her with what little he had? No money to speak of, certainly. Only love for his tree and a fine, clever mind.

He thought and thought, consulting his gardening books and his engineering manuals and delving deep into the wisdom of the Internet.

When he spent a clear April day trimming away Camellia's topmost branches, dead and dry, he knew he had to act soon.

With a $9.89 plastic trash can from Home Depot, Camellia's owner set out to defy the Sun and his terrible summer heat.

Carefully, lovingly, thinking all the while of Camellia and her evapotranspiration potential at full insolation in a USDA Zone 7, he acted.

A 3/4" wide-auger drill bit, operated carefully, cut a clean hole in the plastic trash can.

A 2" section of old garden hose (which he had saved in his workshop for just such tasks) fitted into the hole cleanly.

A slathering of waterproof, hard-set plumber's epoxy made the joint water-tight. A hose repair fitting made the job complete.

Camellia , who knew nothing of hoses and clamps, epoxies, drill bits or basement workshops, could nevertheless feel her owner's love for her.

"When the epoxy sets hard," Camellia's owner said to himself, "I shall attach the rest of the homebrew drip-feed irrigation system."

"Camellia will have a steady, slow trickle of water through the hottest part of the summer, and she will live. I swear: SHE WILL LIVE!"

In the yard, Camellia, like all trees, knew when someone loved her. Though her once-shaded oasis was now bright, hot and sunny, she did not fear.

Her owner loved her. Camellia knew this from the tips of her branches down to the fine hairs on her uttermost roots.

In the warm sunshine of a Philadelphia springtime, Camellia stretched her blossoms upward and got ready for summer.

The End.

(Note: this story originally appeared in my twitter feed on Sunday, April 29, 2012, beginning with this tweet. Corrected for typos, spacing and Latin declensions.)

UPDATE: Learn Camellia's fate! See pictures of the device I built to save her! Click this link!

On writing a book: me and Spongebob

There's an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where he visits the Hamburger Museum, pulls King Neptune's Golden Spatula from an ancient keg of congealed grease and becomes the Greatest Fry Cook Ever.

Rather, he would get that magical power, were it not for the fact that King Neptune shows up and demands that Spongebob prove himself worthy in a cook-off. In the middle of a ring set up at the Posidendome, they do battle to see who can make the most burgers.

King Neptune, using his magical powers, conjures hundreds and hundreds of burgers, flipping and frying them in their massed ranks on giant grills. Spongebob anxiously waits for one burger to cook over a hibachi grill. King Neptune laughs in triumph.

King Neptune slices barrels of potatoes and onion in an instant, bushel baskets of lettuce and tomatoes rendered into thousands of perfect slices. Spongebob carefully slices one tomato. King Neptune laughs in triumph.

King Neptune causes waves of ketchup and mustard to slosh over his burgers, stacking them into a giant pyramid as they fall from the sky, fully assembled. Spongebob gently squirts his ketchup in little smiley faces on each of the two pickles, pulls a single piece of lettuce up to tuck the pickles in to bed. The counter overhead reads NEPTUNE: 1000, VISITOR: 0001 King Neptune laughs in triumph.

King Neptune waves his trident, and the burgers fly out into the hands of the cheering crowd. Spongebob reads his burger a bedtime story, gives it a kiss and gently says goodnight. King Neptune laughs in triumph.

As one, the cheering crowd bites into their burgers and chews for a moment. Then, as one, every single person in the crowd spits out the burgers King Neptune made so quickly and easily. The burgers are clearly so wretched that not one of them is edible. The crowd boos. The counter overhead resets itself to NEPTUNE: 0000, VISITOR: 0001 King Neptune howls with rage.

King Neptune grabs Spongebob's burger in a fury and is going to destroy it and him. Before he can do so, however, he smells the burger. Entranced by its aroma, he gobbles it up. The burger is so delicious, he eats it twice. Spongebob wins.

This blog post is already pretty long, so I guess I don't have space to explain why I'm taking so freaking long to write "Goodbye Grammarian", especially when it seems like other people can write a new book in a month. However, you are all clever folks, so I'll leave it to you to work out the analogy.

Note: this is the episode, but it's playing in reverse... because I got it off the Internet. Go figure.

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#FridayFlash: A Latte, a Biscotti, and a Miracle

A Latte, a Biscotti, and a Miracle

by Tony Noland

She flicked the screen of her phone, hundreds of unread tweets scrolling up and down, up and down, up and down. The usual flood of jokes and quotes, conversation and self-promotion from the thousands of people she followed... it was like watching another person's life flash before her eyes. She sipped at her latte, unseeing. The biscotti was on the plate, untasted. Not uneaten, since she looked down at one point to see that half of it was gone.

It was eaten, but untasted.

Just like she was seen, but unrecognized.

Heard, but disregarded.

Touched, but alone.

She set down the latte and the phone. Carefully, not drawing any attention to herself, she pretended to rub her eyes. Her fingertips pressed into her eyelids, digging hard into the eyeballs underneath. An explosion of incandescent green and purple swirls filled her darkened vision. The pressure was luminous, hot against the back of her neck, as the light of her own making drowned out everything else around her.

When the tears came to the edges of her eyes, she stopped.

Not here. She didn't dare allow herself to weep, not here. She had to keep it together, keep focus and do what she had to do. Blinded by her own inner lights, she lowered her hands and set them on the table. Fingers splayed, she reached out to where she remembered the paper napkin was, next to the plate with the half-biscotti. She brought it up and dabbed at her eyes.

Quickly, quickly... dab, don't linger. Dab and away, and don't cry.

Don't cry.

As if anyone would care if she did.

The competing crowds outside were evenly matched. They had competing bullhorns, competing chants, competing signs. The newscrews, invited by both sides, blocked traffic with their vans. The noise made the big windowpane shake, would have made conversation difficult at her table, if she had had anyone to talk to.

And if she had someone to talk to, what would she have said? That it was too bad? That it was just her luck? That she should have checked her Magic 8-Ball before scheduling her abortion for today? That it was a sign for her to turn away from this decision? That it was a challenge for her to overcome?

But there was no one to talk to, was there? She was alone.

Alone, alone, all alone, alone.

All alone in a crowd. All alone with or without useless fucking Brian eating all her food and drinking all her beer, a constant presence in her apartment, in her life and in her bed. All alone with this miracle of her own making. All alone with this intestinal parasite sucking away her energy and lifeblood. All alone on the path, stumbling forward blindfolded.

She looked, and the biscotti was gone.

Eaten, but untasted. Used up and gone without a trace. The sole purpose of its little biscotti life was to bring a moment's overpriced pleasure to the tongue of some caffeine hound, and she'd ruined everything. All the little biscotti wanted was to fulfill its destiny, that one simple little thing... and she had denied it, made a mess of everything.

Don't cry. Don't cry. For fuck's sake, don't cry.

She pressed the crumpled napkin to her eyes, pressing the crumb-stained, cinnamon-scented paper in hard, bringing back the swirling green lights behind her lids.

Just get up and go. Head down, move fast, get up and go. Ignore them, they can't stop you, just go. Make a decision for once in your miserable life. Just get up and go over there. Go through the doors.

When she lowered the napkin, she was blinded by the lights. As they cleared, she realized that someone had taken the seat opposite.


He looked... he looked like he was going to die. She had never seen his face so drawn, like he was made of slowly melting wax.

"There was a message on the machine. They were calling everyone who had... procedures scheduled for today, warning them about the protests." His voice was louder than she'd ever heard it as he tried to rise abover the chanting, shouting noise. He reached out, hesitated, then completed the gesture to take her icy cold hand in his feverishly warm one. "I came down as soon as I understood. When I saw the crowds, I didn't know what to think. It's only luck I saw you in the window."

"Luck. Yes, luck. It was certainly luck."

"Honey... why didn't you tell me? About the baby? About... about this?" He waved his free hand at the protesters, the counter-protesters, the cameras and the lights. "Is this why things have been so weird between us lately? Honey, this is a miracle. Don't you see? This is everything about you, about me, about us together. This -" he waved at her abdomen "- this is our whole future together. Don't you see that?"

Like she was pulling a boot out of mud, she withdrew her hand.

"Yes, I know." She stood and walked toward the door and toward her new life, leaving behind the latte, the empty plate strewn with crumbs, and Brian.

This miracle has served its purpose, she thought. And that's enough.

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Wednesday #limerick: bloody, kinky, tender

For Three Word Wednesday: bloody, kinky, tender

I like my steak bloody and rare,
So tender, like chewing on air,
Though some think it kinky
To wink at my drinky,
Merlot completes my bill of fare.

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How's that novel coming along?

Over at Write Anything, I answer the perennial question, how's that novel coming along?

Not bad, actually. Go check it out.

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Why constraints are good

Today's XKCD sums it up perfectly:

This is why I write limericks using three word prompts, why I write flash fiction and why I like hashtag games. It's also why I find open-ended, formless projects difficult. I need something to push against in order to produce interesting, amusing or otherwise valuable work.

I'm clearly not alone in this, or XKCD wouldn't have the same observation. But what about you? Do arbitrary limits inspire you as things to be overcome? Or do they cage you in?

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#FridayFlash: Instincts

They huddled together in the corner, three girls and a boy, 17, 16, 15 and 16, respectively. The glass-paneled door looked in on the language lab; they ducked low, pulled each other close, as far out of the line of sight as they could.

Get down. Stay low. Stay quiet. Stay together. Sit tight. Wait for help.

In tornado drills, they went to the basement and sat against the dusty walls. In fire drills, they went outside, marching two by two while the teachers reminded them to walk quickly and calmly. In shooter drills, they sat on the floors, giggling, glancing and either touching or not touching, as the complex hormonal wash of teenaged friendships, enmities and blooming lusts dictated.

The first shots were confusing, the later shots were frightening. The bangs and screams and measured, ringing pop-pop-pop gunshots here and there and up and down all around them, the seeking, hunting pop-pop-pop, pop-pop-pop pushed them all into a surreal disbelief.

In the corner, not believing.

The boy's 16-year-old body, with heart pounding and blood rushing, his 16-year-old body betrayed him as they all huddled together, the warm, soft female bodies, so untouchable seven minutes ago, now pressed hard against him in the huddled tumble, their hair and skin smelling of cotton and strawberries and sweaty fear.

When the girl with her hip pressed against him realized what what she felt, she shifted away from him in automatic, shocked disgust. His humiliation and shame made him whisper an apology, and the other two girls, who were on either side of him, breasts and thighs sandwiching him, arms wrapped around him, the other two girls hissed for him to be quiet.

And in the hallway, they heard footsteps stop.

In the silence... they waited.

Get down. Stay low. Stay quiet. Stay together. Sit tight. Wait for help.

Huddled together, they waited.

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Wednesday #limerick: dependence, kept, rumple

Each Wednesday, I compose a limerick based on the prompt from Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are: dependence, kept, rumple

Must I remain a kept man?
Of dependence I'm surely no fan.
Though my skill with bump-bump'll
Keep her sheets a'rumple,
Is this how I saw my life's plan? 

~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~

There are so many great limericks in my book. The only thing separating you from them? A lousy buck. But maybe you don't like to laugh?

You can read more of my limericks inspired by Three Word Wednesday in my e.book, which is cleverly titled:

Poetry on the Fly: Limericks Inspired by Three Word Wednesday

Only $0.99 - less than a hot dog at the convenience store!

Don't have a Kindle? NO PROBLEM! Get one of the free Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, Android and a host of other devices. You can read "Poetry on the Fly" or any of my other great books anywhere you like!

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Being afraid to write

Blah blah novel blah blah progress and writing blah blah blah. Blah Blah structure blah blah revisions blah blah blah.

Blah blah confession:

I'm afraid to write the ending.

Blah blah introspection blah blah usual angst crap blah blah blah. Straw man blah blah kidding myself blah blah reasons (but not the real ones) blah blah blah blah. Fear, uncertainty, doubt, blah blah blah.

Rhetorical question? Blah blah blah? Quote by some dead writer blah blah disarming joke to hide my pain blah blah blah. Blah blah blah.

Blah blah what does it all mean blah blah blah blah. More turgid bloviation blah blah blah blah.

Another joke.

Blah blah blah. Something uplifting, blah blah. More blah blah, maybe another quote. Blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah 80,000 words so far blah blah blah expression of doubt as to quality/saleability blah blah blah.

More angst.

Blah blah blah said it all before blah blah blah read it all before blah blah blah not fit to be called a writer blah blah blah.

Thin statement of commitment blah blah blah promises, promises, blah blah blah.

Blah blah blah.

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Indicators I stayed young this year

- Won a race to be the first one to touch the car, beating a nine year old girl in a close contest

- When attendees on a conference call suggested that we should advertise an event as being a serious networking opportunity, I said, "Plus, we have to say that there will fun and there will be free beer."

- Got choked up during the Muppet movie, when Walter's brother said, "Believing in other people is easy. Believing in yourself... that's hard. But you have to try, because that's what it means to grow up."

- Was reminded just how much fun sex can be.

- Bit the head off a white chocolate Easter bunny.

- Got dressed up for Halloween.

- Played with fire.

- Started violin lessons, learned the basics, then quit.

This post inspired by John Wiswell's Indicators I Got Old This Year post.

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#FridayFlash: Plea Bargain, Part 4

Plea Bargain, Part 4

by Tony Noland



As he flipped through the psychiatric report, the frown that Assistant District Attorney Quantrell Wilson started with grew deeper and deeper. Exactly when it crossed the line into being an actual scowl would have been hard for Dr. Campbell to say; the endpoints of the change were easier to pin down.

"The secondary evaluation from Dr. Janice Fulbright is in Appendix A," the psychologist said. "She came to the same conclusion."

"Who is Janice Fulbright?"

"Clinical specialist in self-identity psychosis, came up from University of Maryland. She went over the records, reviewed the tapes of the last twenty sessions and spent two days in direct observation of him."

The ADA turned to the back part of the report. "And she agrees with your diagnosis?"

"Yes. Full-scale withdrawal from reality into an aberrant mental construct."

"Just because he thinks he's a vampire now doesn't mean there was any mental aberration during the murders. He's still on the hook, as far as I'm concerned. Complicit at the very least, guilty of murder two, maybe even murder one on some of the other victims."

Dr. Campbell said nothing. The only sounds in the room were the rustle of pages being turned back and forth and the buzzing of the overhead fluorescent lights.

Wilson said, "Does this Dr. Fulbright agree with your recommendation? Long-term institutionalization?" The psychologist nodded. Wilson closed the file and scowled out the window. "Tom, this is going to be a tough sell for the families. We still haven't recovered all the bodies, and it's still an open investigation. This vampire stuff is bullshit."

"I honestly don't think so, Quan. If he were going to pull a fake insanity gambit, he would have been more obvious about it in the first eighteen months."

"Maybe he's just smarter than you give him credit for."

"That's not it and you know it. He's plenty smart and he knows the criminal justice system. The way this developed was way, way outside the scam zone. It was only after we broke through the repressed memories of his mother's shooting that -"

"Oh, Christ, don't say 'repressed memories'!" He tossed the report onto his desk. "We've had more bad apples walk free ever since that whole 'repressed memories' thing was debunked, you don't even want to know about it."

"Well, whatever he started to confront since that session last year has matured into a dissociative self-demonization, a real bell ringer. You can't be in a room with him for more than three minutes and he starts trying to control your mind, hypnotize you. He goes into this Hollywood-creepy voice," Campbell said, wiggling his fingers in front of him, "like he was in a low budget  horror movie. He thinks he can fly, walk through walls AND turn into an invisible gas. He's lost almost thirty percent of his body weight because he won't eat, and he's barely coherent because he won't sleep. We have to strap him down ever night. He also claims to be superstrong, but he hasn't been violent. Not yet, anyway."


"He's on anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety, systemic sedatives, muscle relaxants and glucose tablets. We're still working out the dosage for the anti-psychotics."

"And you want to keep him for how long, exactly?"

"For the foreseeable future. You can't put this guy in with a general prison population. No way. He's not stable. When the other prisoners start to work him over, I can only assume he'll go into the attacking part of being a full-blown vampire."

The ADA sighed. "Fine, I wash my hands of him. I've got fourteen months until the next election, so this won't matter much. Keep him locked up and keep sending in the reports. From now on, they'll be status updates only, not transfer-readiness evaluations. Tom, let me be clear on this: I don't want a ping-pong match with this guy. If he's truly crazy, I want him locked up in your place forever, understand? Don't come back to me in a year and say he's showing signs of improvement. I want him buried, out of sight and out of mind. Got it?"

"Got it. Martinez is as batty as they come, Quan. I don't see any way forward with this guy. None at all."

Forty minutes later, in the far corner of a run-down McDonald's parking lot, Dr. Campbell sat in his car, looking out through the glare of the sun obscuring his windshield. He pretended to eat french fries while he spoke, just in case anyone looked his way. He left the engine running.

"It's done, Master," he said. "The Assistant District Attorney won't even read the reports from now on. You're free to come and go as you wish."

From the back seat, Jesus Martinez reached a bony, claw-like hand forward and patted him on the shoulder. "Well done, doctor. Well done. Now, go back to hospital and make today's notes on my condition. Say that I am... quiet."

"Yes, Master. Are you hungry?"

Jesus's fingers traced the pulsing line from Campbell's jaw up along his neck. "Yes, doctor, I'm starving. But I can wait until we get back home."

The doctor nodded, rolled down the window and threw the uneaten fries out onto the ground. Without another word, he drove across the parking lot and pulled out into traffic.


The End.

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Writing humor: the rule of three, etc.

Today over at Andy Hollandbeck's Logophilus blog, I talk about writing humor. What to do, what not to do, what the great humorists of history had to say on the subject, and why The Rule Of Three works the way it does.

I also tell a joke or two, followed by a dissection of them, explaining why they are funny.

And every word is solid gold.

Pop on over to give it a read.

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The e.book conspiracy

According to this article at Computerworld, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed an anti-trust suit against Apple and the Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster. According to the DOJ complaint, they illegally colluded to keep e.book prices high and prevent competition in the e.book market.

Fundamentally, these actions were allegedly taken in direct response to a) changing technology for reading books and b) Amazon's positioning in the e.book retailing field. Apple and the publishers colluded to move as a unit from the "wholesale model" (where the retailer buys the book at a wholesale price, then sells it for whatever the retailer thinks it might fetch) to an "agency model" (where the retailer is just an agent of the publisher, selling the book for whatever price the publisher thinks it should go for).

The complaint makes for interesting reading. Find it here.

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Wednesday #limerick: draft, locate, serenity

Each Wednesday, I write a limerick based on the prompt from Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are: draft, locate, serenity

Must locate the duct tape again -
That draft from the cracked window pane
Keeps serenity
At a distance from me
Can't write, 'cause distraction's my bane

~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~

There are so many great limericks in my book. The only thing separating you from them? A lousy buck. But maybe you don't like to laugh?

You can read more of my limericks inspired by Three Word Wednesday in my e.book, which is cleverly titled:

Poetry on the Fly: Limericks Inspired by Three Word Wednesday

Only $0.99 - less than a hot dog at the convenience store!

Don't have a Kindle? NO PROBLEM! Get one of the free Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, Android and a host of other devices. You can read "Poetry on the Fly" or any of my other great books anywhere you like!


It's been brought to my attention that "serenity" doesn't rhyme with "from me", and that my meter is poor.

I invite you all to judge this revision:

Must locate the duct tape again -
That draft from the cracked window pane
Keeps serenity
In sere paucity
Can't write, 'cause distraction's my bane

Update to the Update:

My interlocutor isn't satisfied with the revision. Rhyme is better, but the meter is still wrong.

I invite you all to judge this revision to the revision:

Must locate the duct tape again -
That draft from the cracked window pane!
It's pure enmity
To serenity,
Can't write, 'cause distraction's my bane

Most popular SEO keywords

On twitter, I mentioned that "best bikini babe" was high on the list of search terms that bring people to Landless. Full disclosure:

Apparently, based on these search terms and keywords, what also brings people to Landless (in addition to sexy bikini model fun) is some kind of fancy new dance move, self-knowledge psychology personality typing (which is funny, because I'm an INTJ, not an ESFP), science fiction hardware, badly spelled candy, precision medical supplies, bathroom remodeling tips (this one is accurate, at least), my name (??), how to tell if you're gay by the way you look, and novel writing software.

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Evaluating yourself with statistics

Whenever I start to feel really lousy about my writing, and begin to wonder if this is all just a sick obsession that is robbing my of my precious, precious time on this earth, I check the statistics for this blog, for my wordcounts, for my interactions around the web.

Also, whenever I start to feel really fantastic about my writing, and begin to wonder who will write the first of the biographies detailing my incredible, inspiring career, I check the statistics for this blog, for my wordcounts, for my interactions around the web.

I am never as bad as I fear, nor as marvelous as I assume.

There are people who will tell you not to pay any attention to numbers, since they can be just another thing to fret over. True enough. However, there is truth in numbers. If more people are reading your work, if you are selling more copies, attracting more devotees, that should tell you something. Conversely, if fewer people are reading your work, if people are abandoning you and you aren't selling at all... that should tell you something, too.

Try --> Achieve --> Evaluate --> Adjust --> Try again

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Easter on Beta-Cyngi VII

As was true on every United Mining outpost, the egg dying on Holy Saturday evening was more popular than the services on Easter Sunday morning. Not surprising, since the Company paid for beer and sandwiches, while the Evangelical Lutheran Church only had coffee and cookies. And bread and wine, of course, but that didn't really count.

The pastor stood looking at one of the eggs still in progress.

"Not bad, Kenny," said Pastor Mbuti, "not bad. What's that blue-green swirl up at the top?" He peered closer to the pysanki.

"It's a warp field collapsing."

"On top of that cargo ship? Ouch. That's pretty grim for an Easter egg, isn't it?"

"No, because there's a spontaneous resonance field around that single-man probe shuttle out front, see? That orange flaring? That shuttle is going out to jump-start the warp field, open it up so the cargo ship will be able to go through." Kenny took the egg back. "It's supposed to be representative of Jesus intervening to save humanity from death. I'm going to touch it up with some gold foil, make it look more like a halo."

The pastor nodded. "Nice. I can see it now. Pretty accurate, too. Being in a shuttle in the middle of an emergency jump-start would be a bad way to check out."

"Well, you know how it goes. Greater love hath no man than he that lays down his life for his crewmates." The engineer smiled at the modification of scripture.

Mbuti laughed along. "Something like that. Hey, there are some more smoked rabbit sandwiches over at the buffet. Be sure to grab one. See you tomorrow morning?"

"You bet, Pastor."

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Fresh baked sourdough bread

This is one of the things I've been up to today, fresh out of the oven...

Click to enlarge the photos. Sorry, no scratch-n-sniff.

This is oatmeal sourdough bread, with caraway seeds mixed in. I wove the dough for these loaves before the final extended rise in the pans. The weave makes for some visual and textural effects during the bake. I also drizzled the tops with olive oil and sprinkled liberally with coarsely ground sea salt right before the bake. The salt makes for a taste explosion at the chewy, buttery crust which offsets the sweet/sour aroma of the soft center of each slice.

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Poetry: "Silence"

Silence... and I'm all alone.
The fault, of course, is my own.
I couldn't be bugged
To make sure it was plugged.
Now the battery's died in my phone.

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#FridayFlash: Plea Bargain, part 3

Plea Bargain, part 3

by Tony Noland



"Doctor, I've been thinking a lot since we had that discussion."

"Which discussion is that, Jesus? You mean back in January, when you first began to revisit your trauma?"

"You don't have to use euphemisms like 'trauma', Doctor. I'm talking about that first session where you had me remember the murder of my mother."

"Ah, yes. Well, sometimes if we refer to things in an oblique way, it helps to distance us from the emotions that would otherwise -"

"And made me remember it in every little detail."

"Well... yes, the healing process requires a certain -"

"And then had me do it again and again and again. You got me to retell it in a dozen different ways, tell it backwards and forwards, lingering on the details about my mother's face and how it looked as Papa blew the back of her head off with the Glock he shoved in her mouth."

"Jesus, I'm hearing you say that I had you remember that trauma, and that I had you recount it."

"Don't retreat behind 'active listening' bullshit, Doctor. We're a little bit past that, wouldn't you agree?"

"How does all of this make you feel, Jesus?"

"Curiously enough, I feel better than I have felt in a long time. Maybe better than I've ever felt in my whole life."

"That sounds like a good thing. In what way do you feel better?"

"You're terrified, aren't you? You see the new me and you are wondering what happened, what you've done to me, what you've awakened in me."

"Not at all. I'll admit that you do seem to be more at ease. In therapy, that could be a good sign, a sign of healing and growth. However, it can also be a sign that new barriers have been put up. We always try to protect ourselves, Jesus. Sometimes people tell themselves they're getting better in order to avoid facing truths they'd rather not confront. I'm just trying to understand what you mean when you say you feel better."

"Do you go to church, Doctor?"

"Uh... why do you ask?"

"Because today is Good Friday. Today's the day my namesake was beaten, stabbed, nailed to a tree and left to hang in agony until he died."

"That's one way to look at the crucifixion story. You know, you've never expressed any religious feelings before today."

"I never had any, not until recently. I remember, when I was very little, Papa tried to take me to Mass a couple of times. Mostly, I just remember screaming and crying as soon as we got through the door. Mama never went near the church. Now that you've made me remember her clearly, remember her the way she was when Papa shot her in the face, I finally understand why. It was the pain of being on holy ground, the same pain that made itself felt in me."

"Ah, I think you may be mixing a few things together in your mind, things that aren't really related."

"Oh, they're related. Intimately so. You see, until you made all the pieces fit together, I never really knew who my mother was. Never knew who I was, or what I was. My mind has been expanding ever since you opened my eyes. Did you know that, Doctor? Since I've finally stopped fighting myself, resisting the knowledge of my true nature, I've been growing and changing in so many, many ways."

"And what ways might those be?"

"You don't need to be subtle. Go ahead and take your notes, I don't mind. Write down the words that are coming to your mind - avoidance, delusion, monomania, obsession... write whatever you like. In what ways am I growing? I'm stronger, smarter, faster. I don't need to sleep anymore. I can see in the dark and around corners. I can smell aromas left behind a week ago and hear sounds that won't be made until tomorrow. I can read thoughts and control the minds of the weak."

"I see."

"And now you're wondering if I'm just screwing around, or if I really believe all this nonsense. So limited, so narrow and human you are. Mama was a beautiful, wonderful, powerful vampire. She kept Papa as a plaything, but he never knew it. She took his seed and created me as her own little monster, gave me my name as a vicious joke on the God she despised. And Papa never knew. Not until he came back from prison and began to see her for what she truly was."

"And what was she?"

"Did you know that Papa was raped in prison? Over and over, the big men raped him and beat him until he was broken and bleeding. Only a man who has walked in hell and had his soul torn to pieces can see a vampire for what she truly is. When he came home, it took years for him to believe what he saw, what he knew to be the truth, deep down in what was left of his soul."

"Jesus... these things you're saying... do you understand that they aren't consistent with reality?"

"Ha! So cautious! So professional! Talk the lunatic down from his lunacy, eh, Doctor? You're pathetic. I don't wonder that you can't see me for what I truly am, the ugly, twisted half-breed monster that Mama made. She knew herself to be evil, and she wanted something even worse to compare herself to. All my life, I hungered. For what, I never knew. In every memory I have, I'm scared, hurting, confused, in pain. But not anymore. No, now I know who I am and what I'm meant to be."

"Hmmm. We're going to have to continue this discussion at your next session. Our time is up for today."

"And as my power grows, I will control your mind, Doctor. I will use you to make sure I am free to wreak the vengeance I was born to execute. You'll protect me and help me, because you'll have no choice."

"What I'm going to do is put you under observation and order some meds to help you sleep."

"Your science won't help you. It won't save you."

"It can't hurt to try, can it? Oh, by the way...since you brought up religion and your newfound depth of conviction... will you be attending the Easter services in the chapel?"

"There's no need. I'm already risen, Doctor. I'm already here."

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Wednesday #limerick: growl, hype, justify

Every Wednesday, I compose a limerick using the prompt at Three Word Wednesday. Today's words are: growl, hype, justify.

I just want to type without hype
But software makes me growl and gripe
As much as I try
to left justify
It's RIGHT, 'cause I screwed up the |pipe|
~~~~~ * * * ~~~~~

There are so many great limericks in my book. The only thing separating you from them? A lousy buck. But maybe you don't like to laugh?

You can read more of my limericks inspired by Three Word Wednesday in my e.book, which is cleverly titled:

Poetry on the Fly: Limericks Inspired by Three Word Wednesday

Only $0.99 - less than a hot dog at the convenience store!

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How to blog

1. Write stuff and post it to a blogging platform.

2. Feel wretched because the stuff you posted (see Step 1) is ignored by the entire world.

3. Feel even more wretched because you realize that a) "to ignore" is, in fact, an active verb, and, b) the entire world isn't ignoring you. That would require conscious decision-making to stay away from your blog. In truth, they aren't even aware of you.

4. Write crazy stuff and post whatever you feel like. There is security in obscurity, and freedom in isolation. Tell fart jokes. Post lousy poetry. Write political screeds in iambic pentameter. Who cares? No one is reading it anyway!

5. Write more, and better stuff. Interact. Follow people. Learn. Grow. Improve.

6. Get your first followers. "OMG, HF, OMG! I haz a FOLLOWER!"

7. Get your hundredth follower. Feel important.

8. Get your two hundredth follower. Feel wretched, worrying that what you're posting isn't good enough for "the big time". Feel even more wretched because you don't really know what "the big time" is.

9. Lose a follower. Feel wretched.

10. Have some comments that say your posts are of lower quality than "what we've come to expect from you". Feel wretched.

11. Have a post go viral. Feel elated.

12. Viral spike fades. Feel wretched.

13. Spend so much time working on all the business that your moderately successful blog has brought in, you don't update the blog as much as you used to. Feel wretched about that.

14. Vent about how wretched you feel. Have a long-time follower quietly tell you that you are being an ass. Feel wretched.

15. Recall the freedom of obscurity, how, almost as it was in an imagined childhood, what you did and said derived solely from what you WANTED to do and say, not from what you thought you SHOULD be doing and saying. Feel... not wretched, exactly, but bemused. Wonder if that sense could be recaptured, that diaphanous wisp of elation lured into your palm and cupped there, to be held close and breathed in.

16. Write stuff and post it.

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I used OS/2 and loved it

As Time Magazine notes, today marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of IBM's OS/2 operating system. For all of you junior geeks, here's a bit of blockquoted text to put this in context:
OS/2 promised multitasking, not just task switching. It knew how to handle memory…It did a heck of a lot of cool things…I don’t think it’s easy for young whippersnappers to grasp how big a deal the PS/2 and OS/2 were at the time. We were certain, absolutely certain, that nothing would be the same again. The closest I can come to it was the reaction after the first iPhone was released: the sense that It’s all different now.

I'll even toss in a commercial from way back in the day:

I used OS/2 2.1 and 3.0, aka OS/2 Warp. I also (briefly) used OS/2 4.0 aka Warp 4. Not only did I use them, I was really snotty and elitist about using them. Why? Because I built my own computers back then. Computer trade shows weren't about showing off the newest phone, game console or online experience site. They were places where vendors had tables full of parts: motherboards, CPUs, memory chips, power supplies, cases, etc. If you knew what you were doing (which I did), you could build your boxen from scratch. The investment in time let you spend half the money for twice the computer. Having built an optimized rig, it was up to the software to squeeze as much performance out of it as possible.

You kids today may not realize it, but computers used to do only one thing at a time. To go from one task to another, you had to exit a program then start the other one. Eventually, Microsoft developed a way to engage in task-switching, where one program was merely suspended when you switched over. OS/2, however, let everything continue to run. No lag time, no stuttering, no program crashes during the hot-key activity. It was glorious.

Unlike the "16-bit emulation of a 32-bit OS bolted onto an 8-bit architecture" Windows, OS/2 was 32-bit from the ground up. It took full advantage of the 386 and 486 chips of the day. Even with the OS software overhead, OS/2 was so much faster than MS-DOS or Windows 3.1 that there was just no contest. It was a hands-down winner for every productivity app. OS/2 ran most native DOS and Windows apps seamlessly along with native OS/2 apps. It also supported dual-boot, to let a pure DOS environment handle pesky programs, usually games. Once you got to know the system, it was a thing of beauty and power.

I loved using it, but I was in a distinct minority. Most people disliked or hated it. Why?
Another of our Guinea Pigs, already an OS/2 fan, neatly summed up the software when he told us that it “thinks the way I think. [But] it’s not an end-user operating system; it’s a nerd operating system.”
OS/2 may have stubbornly refused to become a breakout hit, but it would be grossly misleading to suggest that nobody liked it. Actually, the people who did appreciate OS/2 loved it with an intensity that was unknown in the Windows world.
The article goes on to talk about Team OS/2, people who would extoll the virtues of OS/2 and demonstrate it for people. I was one such devotee.

But I was doomed.

Every DOS and Windows app had to maintain compatibility with DOS and Windows. Microsoft changed their APIs on a regular basis, ensuring that the software patches changed the software to maintain compatibility with Microsoft, but broke them for OS/2. When the revised patch for OS/2 came out, it was too late... a new API patch had been issued. OS/2 could never catch up and would always be using old, incompatible software. There were a lot of dirty tricks pulled behind the scenes that crippled my beloved OS/2:
That was only the tip of Microsoft’s anti-OS/2 iceberg. During United States vs. Microsoft, the Department of Justice’s antitrust suit against the software behemoth, an IBM executive testified that Microsoft prohibited software companies from using Microsoft programming tools to build OS/2 apps, making OS/2 development difficult and costly.
Worse, Microsoft’s contracts with hardware makers charged each company a fee for every computer sold, whether or not it included Windows. That meant that a PC manufacturer that wanted to sell OS/2 machines would have to pay both IBM and Microsoft for the privilege — a double toll that Windows didn’t carry. Microsoft was only forced to end this practice after OS/2 had been neutralized.


Eventually, in order to maintain functionality, I had to give up OS/2 in favor of Windows. I also (eventually) had to give up WordPerfect in favor of MS-Word, and give up QuattroPro in favor of MS-Excel.

The hegemony is inescapable, but free men still dream of a time when rebellion meant a better life.

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