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Rated: 18+ · Book · Personal · #1196512
Not for the faint of art.
Complex Numbers

A complex number is expressed in the standard form a + bi, where a and b are real numbers and i is defined by i^2 = -1 (that is, i is the square root of -1). For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number.

The bi term is often referred to as an imaginary number (though this may be misleading, as it is no more "imaginary" than the symbolic abstractions we know as the "real" numbers). Thus, every complex number has a real part, a, and an imaginary part, bi.

Complex numbers are often represented on a graph known as the "complex plane," where the horizontal axis represents the infinity of real numbers, and the vertical axis represents the infinity of imaginary numbers. Thus, each complex number has a unique representation on the complex plane: some closer to real; others, more imaginary. If a = b, the number is equal parts real and imaginary.

Very simple transformations applied to numbers in the complex plane can lead to fractal structures of enormous intricacy and astonishing beauty.

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November 17, 2019 at 12:08am
November 17, 2019 at 12:08am
PROMPT November 17th

There are 45 days remaining in the year. What do you want to do or accomplish before 2019 is over?

Drink more.

Today I went to a beer release party. The beer in question is a bourbon-barrel graham cracker imperial stout, and it is delicious. Moreover, they had samples of the bourbon in whose barrels the beer was aged, and... wow.

And to top it all off, they were giving out t-shirts from the distillery what made the bourbon. I got a size L. I fit into a size L t-shirt now. I'm fucking cut.



Drink more. I'm out of practice.

You know, there is one thing I was hoping to accomplish before the year's out. I was doing really well at writing a contest entry every week, and then September happened and all the contest prompts became birthday this and cake that and I just couldn't cope. If I write a lot of contest entries, I could theoretically catch up by the end of the year. But I have a week of travel next month, and the actual holidays, and this blog activity, and all kinds of other excuses, so I don't know if I can do it or not.

Probably not. There is only so much winning I can do before I start to feel bad about being so awesome.
November 16, 2019 at 12:05am
November 16, 2019 at 12:05am
PROMPT November 16th

If you had to spend one million dollars in one day, what would you spend it on? *Dollar*

Shares of publicly-traded companies.

Usually I lead with the joke answer, but no, that's my actual answer.

So, what if stocks aren't a legitimate answer? Well, I'd also answer "bonds" or "real estate." Maybe even "fine art" or "coin collections."

But okay. I think the spirit of the prompt is about blowing through the money, not investing it in assets that have some chance of appreciating in value.

Can't resist embedding this video.

It's harder than you might think to spend a million dollars, especially in a limited period of time. The median annual income of US residents is somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000 a year (it's actually less than that, but I can't be arsed to look it up, and $50K is a nice round number.) Assuming you live hand-to-mouth on a $50K annual income, it will take you 20 years to spend a million dollars.

On the other hand, a million ain't what it used to be. Retirement counselors often quote a "4% rule," which can get a little more complicated, but basically once you're retired you should live on 4% of your net worth per year. 4% of a million is $40K, also close to the median annual income for the US, but hardly "fuck off" money.

I like to work with the concept of "effective net worth," which is something I came up with, but someone else probably already has because I always seem late to these things. Basically, using the 4% rule, what is your effective net worth considering all your other income (salary, bonuses, royalty checks from those sweet publishing gigs, etc.)? It's not hard, just work backwards: if your income is $40K then your effective net worth is $1M; if it's $80K, then your effective net worth is $2M, etc. This gives you an idea of how much you'd need to have saved for retirement if you want to continue your current lifestyle. Of course, there are other considerations.

Shit, I could write about this sort of thing all day. Back to the actual topic.

If we leave out assets like houses and such, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with a way to blow through a million dollars in one day. Give me a couple of hours on Amazon and I could probably do it, though. Or, more likely, I'd find some experience to spend it on. Rich people go on these round-the-world cruises, I've found, and they get expensive. The cruises last for months, but you have to give them a deposit; I'd imagine they wouldn't say no to getting the whole price up front.

Or, it'd be tempting to sign up for one of those space tourism services. For something on the order of a million dollars, you can reserve a spot on a suborbital flight that technically takes you past the imaginary line separating atmosphere from space. The flight lasts maybe an hour, though, and all you really get to show for it is bragging rights. "I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth!" "Yeah? I've been scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef."

I should note here that I'm also deliberately leaving out any variation on "giving it to charity." That's not spending it, by my definition, and usually all you're doing is enriching the charity itself, and its organizers. I'm not suggesting we shouldn't give to charities, but I am explicitly leaving them out of this particular discussion.

And then, of course, there's the old standbys. I wrote the following around this time last year, so it's appropriate I trot it back out now. If I had to spend a million dollars in one day, I'd spend most of it on...

 Alcohol, Hookers, and Blow  (18+)
A Thanksgiving thanks giving
#2175291 by Chill November Waltz

The rest, I'd probably waste.
November 15, 2019 at 12:20am
November 15, 2019 at 12:20am
PROMPT November 15th

In your entry today, write about focus. Use the following questions to guide you. At what time of day are you the most focused? When you need to focus on a task, how do you prevent distractions? How do you manipulate your environment to keep yourself focused? How else do you practice focus in your life? Any tools or techniques you can share?

Let's see if I can focus long enough to respond to this...

Nope. Just checked my phone. Had texts. Responded to them. Now, where was I?

Oh, yeah. Focus.

You may be wondering why I didn't know I had texts. That's because I have to keep the sound off on my phone during the week. I get up to 20-30 calls a day (no I am not exaggerating) from "health insurance" robocall scams, and if I don't keep the sound off, that's all I hear, all day: my phone going off. It's not so bad around midnight when I'm writing these entries, but if I turn the sound on in the evening and forget to turn it back off, then the fucking things wake me up in the morning and I get grumpy for the entire day.

No, I can't block them. I've tried, but they spoof numbers and it's worse than playing whack-a-mole.

What's more, when I'm trying to actually DO something on the damn phone, like compose an email or text someone or simply take notes, I'm often interrupted when the incoming call screen silently pops up. And then I have to wait. I have to wait, because if I hit the Reject button, I think they'll know that someone actually interacted with the other end and they'll call even more. This makes me grumpy, too, because only I am allowed to interrupt myself, which I do a lot, because I can't focus.

So why don't I change my number? No. I've had this number for 20 years and I'm not going to change it. I shouldn't have to. That shit simply needs to stop. Besides, they'd just start calling the new number.

Lately the calls have been in Spanish and Chinese (presumably Mandarin, but I can't distinguish between dialects of Chinese). I guess they figure that since I'm not responding to English, they'd try the other two major world languages.

I'm waiting for them to try French. Then at least I can use my newfound skills. Now if they want to impress me, they'd call in Klingon. Not that I've spent any time studying Klingon, but the language is unmistakable. If a Klingon offered to sell me health insurance, well, that'd be an offer I'd have difficulty refusing. Fortunately, I'm all out of latinum.

Hey, I wonder why with all the proliferation of various cryptocurrencies out there, how come none of them are called latinum (after the fictional medium of commerce of the Star Trek universe, if you're unfamiliar)?

Oh. I should have known.  

But I'm meant to be talking about focus, aren't I?

Anyway, I've given up on focus, I've given up on trying to prevent distractions, and I arrange my life around knowing that I'm going to get squirrelled on a frequent but irregular basis.

Really, it's a miracle I get anything done at all.
November 14, 2019 at 12:04am
November 14, 2019 at 12:04am
PROMPT November 14th

Think back to a moment in your life when you were faced with making a difficult choice. (Which city to move to, which college to attend, what to ask Santa for, etc) How might your life be different if you had made a different choice than the one you did?

Once, long ago, I was dating two women at the same time. Yeah, I know; I was young, shut up. Edith was a petite strawberry blonde who always laughed at my jokes (my primary consideration in a girlfriend) and loved the same kinds of movies I did. Kate, by contrast, was tall, brunette, and enjoyed games (the board and roleplaying kind, not the mind kind). Put them together and you have the perfect woman, but putting them together was the one thing I spent most of my time and energy to prevent.

One day I was humblebragging about this to a friend, who said, "Dude, you have to choose."

"What? Why? I really dig both of them." (We said "dig" at the time.)

"It's just not fair to either of them. Besides, one day they will find out about each other, and then you're well and truly fucked."

I sighed. "Shit. You're right."

"Besides," he went on. "Everyone knows you can't have your Kate and Edith too."


Okay, I just made all of that up. Well, most of it. Never let the facts get in the way of a good joke, I always say. Or a bad one. Especially a bad one. Even more especially when you can use the joke to illustrate a point, which is:

Regrets are a bad idea.

Putting aside for the moment the array of scientific evidence to support the idea that one could not have made a different choice given the exact same circumstances, I can't think of even one decision that I made that, had it gone otherwise, would have put me in a better place than I am now. That's because I'm pretty much where I want to be. Oh, life isn't perfect - anyone who tells you their life is perfect is lying worse than I did up there - but I've got a pretty good situation going, even if it's with 0 women instead of 2.

That's probably for the best.

But the question is about how life would be different, not potentially better. Still, my point stands. Besides, if I could have made different choices, I wouldn't be me, and I usually like being me. Or, at least, I prefer it to the alternative.

On the other talon, if I could have made those different choices, the person I would have become would probably prefer that to being me. Unless, of course, he knew what a sweet setup I've got.

Additionally, I can't really think of too many major decisions I've made; life seems to make them for me. At one point, I almost joined the military, but that choice was taken out of my hands on medical grounds. Again - for the best.

So there's a non-answer for everyone, but at least it's some insight into my thought process. Besides, you got to read a funny joke. Right? ... Right??
November 13, 2019 at 12:09am
November 13, 2019 at 12:09am
PROMPT November 13th

In what circumstances do you believe it is okay to fib or tell a white lie?

What? It's never okay to fib, and white lies are lies! One should always be completely honest with both oneself and-

Oh, I can't go on like that. There's only so much bullshit I can spew at one time.

The truth is: lies keep the world running smoot- okay, less roughly than if there weren't lies.

When I was younger, I might have actually believed what I was starting to say up there, that honesty is always the best course of action. But I learned better, oh yes. All it took was one honest answer to "Does this dress make my butt look big?" and I learned. (Of course, it seems like, these days, that's the goal with clothing.)

And, of course, I am sometimes a fiction writer, and what's fiction but a lie? Sure, everyone involves knows it's untrue, hence the name "fiction," but it's still premeditated dishonesty.

Do I always tell the unvarnished truth? Hell no. But I have a few guidelines for myself when interacting with people.

First and foremost, don't lie more than you have to; keeping a story straight is hard enough when you tell the truth. I'm naturally full of contradictions and hypocrisies. Compounding those by lying about them, when you'll have to remember which lie you told to which person later, takes too much mental energy.

Second, before you lie, take a second to check yourself: are you trying to make yourself look good, or gain some advantage, or are you just trying to grease the wheels of conversation? I expect everyone puffs themselves up a little bit, but saying you've hiked across Antarctica, gone into space, or swam the English Channel when you didn't can be detrimental to your reputation. (Then again, if you've done any of these things, shut up; you're making the rest of us look bad.)

Third, rather than enumerate the situations in which it's okay to fib or tell a white lie, I will enumerate the situations in which it's not okay to do so: 1) in a committed relationship; 2) in court. That's... well, that's about all I can think of at the moment.

In short, lies make life better for everyone - up to a point, and that point is when someone gets harmed by false information. But that doesn't fall into the category of "fib or white lie."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to prepare for my hike across Antarctica.

November 12, 2019 at 12:04am
November 12, 2019 at 12:04am
PROMPT November 12th

What is one thing (sight, smell, sound, object, etc) that, when you encounter it, instantly brings you back to your childhood?

Well, there are these woolly mammoth reconstructions at natural history museums...

Apart from that, there's the barometer.

As I've mentioned before, Dad was a sailor. He'd stopped roaming the seas before I was born, but he had some mementos of his travels, one of which was an old-time mariner's barometer.

It's a simple device, really - a tube with mercury, and a gauge, mounted on wood. It did what it was supposed to do, which was provide a reading of current atmospheric pressure, useful in the times before satellite imagery and official updates as a weather indicator. When I was a kid, it hung on the wall near his antique desk, which I suppose when he obtained it was a new, state-of-the-art writing and organizing surface.

When he died, a lot of the stuff from my childhood home went into storage, awaiting a time when I can either lighten myself of some of these possessions, or find space for them at my house. China cabinets. The desk. Books and a bookshelf. The dining table around which we'd sit in the evenings. Things I don't really have a use, or a place, for, but couldn't bring myself to discard (fuck you, Marie Kondo).

Most likely, I'll keep paying rent on the storage space until I, too, bite the big one.

But the barometer came home with me, and hangs on the wall in a hallway. I pass it several times a day. I can see it, in fact, from my usual workspace.

See, that barometer was probably my first introduction to the world of science, and while I didn't pursue the career of a scientist, it's a reminder to me of our efforts to understand and quantify the vagaries of the inconstant universe in which we find ourselves. And also of the curiosity and objective worldview that he, with some degree of success, attempted to instill in me.

There are other things that take me back to those times long ago, of course - whenever I see Orion looming large in a chill night sky, or gaze upon a wide expanse of still water - but the barometer is a constant presence for me.

Appropriate, I think, given what it measures.
November 11, 2019 at 12:52am
November 11, 2019 at 12:52am
PROMPT November 11th

Today, your prompt is one word: Transformation.

Everything changes and nothing stands still. -Heraclitus  

The thing about those ancient Greek philosophers is that they lacked the 2000 or so years of history that we've experienced since they wrote their stuff. You might be tempted to say, "But Waltz, that quote survived all this time." Well, yes and no. No, because the original statement was written in Ancient Greek, and is thus subject to some of its meaning being lost in translation. It's not, as a physicist might say, time-invariant. Its meaning is also informed by one's cultural milieu. So even the quote about change changes over time.

And yet, there's something inviolably true about it.

Heraclitus also apparently was the originator of the nearly koan-like quote, "You could not step twice into the same river." (also on the wiki page linked above). I heard that quote a long time ago, without attribution. At the time, I was actively working in hydrology (the study of rivers and other water flow), so, being the technical-minded person that I was and am, I mentally changed it to "You can't step into the same river even once." Because between the time your foot touches the surface of the river and the time it touches the bed, the river has, in some sense, already changed - water has flowed out, evaporated, and/or seeped into the soil beneath; some has also, most likely, flowed or rained in.

Which doesn't change the basic fact, or the metaphor: that change is constant, inevitable, and defines existence. We may not always see the change - after all, rivers don't usually change in a very visible, macro kind of way in the few microseconds it takes to set foot in one - but it happens, anyway.

I think a most people feel a tension between the desire for change (preferably in a direction that benefits us) and the desire for things to stay the same, in defiance of all evidence and physical laws. That goes back to the "wish" entry a couple of days ago, doesn't it? What I mean is, maybe you want to win a major jackpot in the lottery, but what does winning the lottery actually look like? Ideally, you go on with your life as it was, only with more money, right? But you add that kind of money to a life, and it, necessarily, changes.

Life is change. Or transformation; I'm using a synonym here, and synonyms are an example of transformation. I'd even go so far as to assert that reality is transformation. Periodically, we humans (including another famous ancient Greek philosopher, Plato) come up with ideas about things that are "eternal" and "unchanging," but to me, that's how I know that something isn't real: it's conceptualized as nontransforming.

What is real is change, and the most pernicious lie ever foisted upon a gullible humanity is that what we see around us is illusion while "reality" is something unchanging. As I've noted before, this alters the definitions of "real" and "illusion" to the point where both words become meaningless.

There is, however, as far as we know (though our understanding could change) one thing that is constant, and that is the speed of light. Interestingly enough, this seems to be a true constant, for both light and matter, which are the same thing but transformed into one or the other. Every particle, every thing in the universe is always moving at exactly the speed of light - through spacetime. If it's not moving at the speed of light, that is, the constant c, through space, it's also moving through time.

What this means, if it means anything at all, eludes me.

I've mentioned in previous posts the predicted heat death of the universe. Billions or trillions of years from now (can't be arsed to look it up at the moment, and even that theory is subject to change as new data is interpreted), all thermodynamic processes stop, and we won't be around to see it because we are thermodynamic processes. But even then, change will still be occurring, in the form of fluctuations as a result of basic quantum uncertainty.

It is possible, and therefore, given the amount of "time" (which itself loses its meaning), inevitable, that such a fluctuation will bud another universe, like or unlike our own.

And so change continues. Eternally.
November 10, 2019 at 12:06am
November 10, 2019 at 12:06am
PROMPT November 10th

What do you find yourself insecure about? Are you able to overcome your insecurities? If so, how?

If I had any insecurities - and, mind you, I'm not saying I do - but if I had any, I think chief among them would be a reluctance to share any insecurities in an open forum online. People can use that shit against you - mock you, take advantage, that sort of thing.

Not that I ever worry about it.

Such an insecurity would, I think, be very difficult to overcome, if it were real. I mean, hypothetically, there might be some things you can share with trusted friends, but casual acquaintances, backstabbing co-workers, fickle family members? Yeah, no, it would be too easy for bad actors to get a handle on you and crush your psyche. It's like - you don't leave your doors unlocked when you park your car on a city street, right? Not because everyone will steal from it - most people wouldn't - but because the one or two who would do such a thing can ruin your day.

So, rest assured, it wouldn't be you , the one reading this right now, that I wouldn't trust in this purely theoretical situation, but some other passer-by.

Consequently, it's a good thing I'm not insecure about anything or I'd have to worry about not being completely forthright in my own blog, and that would be a shame, wouldn't it?
November 9, 2019 at 12:01am
November 9, 2019 at 12:01am
PROMPT November 9th

Write a stream of conscious entry starting with the words “I wish...”

I wish... you know what? No, I don't. It never ends well.

It's cold, so you wish it were warm. But then it gets hot so you wish things would cool off. It's dry, so you wish for rain and then you wish for the rain to stop. It never ends.

"Be careful what you wish for," they told me. "You just might get it."

So I learned not to wish.

But sometimes... sometimes it might be good to imagine something better coming along. On the other hand, nothing comes without a price, and nothing can come into your life unless something else leaves it, and who's to say which is better?

I think that's why I like to write fiction. I can think of things happening and work through the consequences without actually experiencing them. It's why I try to expect - or at least anticipate - the worst.

And yet, on occasion...

I wish I could wish.
November 8, 2019 at 1:15am
November 8, 2019 at 1:15am
PROMPT November 8th

Besides music, what are some of your favorite sounds? *Mic*

A while back, I vaguely recall, there was a 30DBC prompt that asked the old question: would you rather be deaf or blind? And I said something like, I despise 75% of all sounds, but the other 25% is music, and I wouldn't want to live without music.

If someone has the dedication to swing back and look at what I actually wrote, and finds that it's something different from that, and calls me on it, well, congratulations.

I don't really mind the little sounds that accompany everyday existence: the hooting birds, the rustling leaves, that sort of thing, but I can't say they're my favorite sounds. Almost everything else that I can call a "favorite" (that isn't music) is defined by when it stops. Neighbor leaf-blowing? Oh, good, it stopped. Jet fighters flying in formation overhead? Oh, good, it stopped. Dog barking its fucking head off across the street? Oh, good, it stopped. Cat meowing for dinner? Oh, good, it stopped.

Now that I mention that, though, I'm rather partial to cat purrs, but the great thing about those is they're more felt than heard.

I've been known to reject potential romantic partners if they're the kind of people who leave the TV on all day for "background noise." (I don't even have a TV anyway.) Not to mention that a non-trivial reason why I never wanted kids is because children noises make me meshuggah. If I can't listen to music, I prefer silence, or as close to it as I can get. Not that I'd want to be deaf; not just because of music but because I like to have some advance warning that someone is trying to sneak up on me - less likely to have such warning if there were a lot of background noise.

So, between yesterday's prompt and today's, I suppose I've been outed as someone who prefers both silence and darkness. Make of that what you will.
November 7, 2019 at 12:15am
November 7, 2019 at 12:15am
PROMPT November 7th

What is your favorite color? Do you have a favorite color pairing? What’s something in your life that you picture when you think of your favorite color? Do you choose to wear clothing that is your favorite color? Has your favorite color changed over your life?

Use these questions to explore how your favorite color has influenced you.

What is your favorite color?

Do you have a favorite color pairing?
Black with More Black

What’s something in your life that you picture when you think of your favorite color?
The Void.

Do you choose to wear clothing that is your favorite color?
Almost all the time.

Has your favorite color changed over your life?
For a while in high school, I thought my favorite color was blue, but no, it was still black.

"But Waltz, black isn't a color! It's the absence of color!"

Black is a color. It's technically an achromatic color, a color without hue. An object that is black doesn't radiate much in the visual spectrum (in the case of black holes, not at all), and it absorbs all visible light that impacts it. It probably generates or reflects other frequencies on the EM spectrum, though; we just can't see those.

Some scientists a while back came up with a material that's nearly 100% black; it's so black it's hard to look at. Sadly, they didn't make me a t-shirt out of this material, but licensed it to some idiot artist.

I'm a lot of fun at weddings, let me tell you.

My affinity for black has little to do with its cultural associations, though. Mostly, I just think it looks good. Partly, it has to do with science, in some sort of metaphorical sense - as a black object absorbs light, so I absorb knowledge, however imperfectly.

It's not the only color I wear, but its primary sartorial advantage is that it pairs with almost anything, which is useful when you don't want to ever think the sentence: "What color shirt will work with these pants?" So my traveling outfit consists of black shoes, black jeans, a black t-shirt, and the loudest Hawaiian shirt I can find.

People should sigh in relief that at least I don't pair the Hawaiian shirt with striped pants.
November 6, 2019 at 12:06am
November 6, 2019 at 12:06am
PROMPT November 6th

I have another link for you all today:


What parts of the chart did you find to be accurate and which did you find issue with? Anything you related strongly to? Is a chart like this useful, or does it rely too heavily on stereotypes?

I've said this before and I haven't run into anything that has changed my opinion: "generations" are utter bullshit; people are born, live and die on a continuum; and attempts to pigeonhole us are about as useful and accurate as star charts and Facebook quizzes.

Also, as Barack Obama (misspelled on the chart) is listed as a GenXer when by its own reckoning he's a Boomer, having been born (IN THE US FOR FUCK'S SAKE) in 1961. Given that simple error (compounded by the typo), I can't trust anything the chart says. And further yet, by my calculations it's a good 11-12 years out of date now.

And what the hell is it with the two date ranges for Millennials? Can't that generation do anything right? (KIDDING I'M KIDDING JEEZE)

Again, I've run through this argument before, but for newcomers: I was born in 1966. That would put me in GenX, along with people born (per the chart) in 1980. So they'd lump me in with someone from 1980, 14 years distant, but not from 1964, 2 years separated? How about twins born on the cusp of 1964-65? Theoretically, one could be a Boomer and his or her little sibling (by all of three minutes) could be an Xer. That could make Thanksgivings way fun as the older sibling could throw "kids these days" shade at the younger one.

It's really remarkable how much work has gone into the preparation of this nonsense chart, without even the fun math involved in astrology, or the years of college needed to come up with a Myers-Briggs analysis.

The whole "generations" thing was developed, I'm pretty sure, as a tool for marketers as a way to target people for manipulation. This is seen nakedly in the stuff at the very bottom of the chart, which admittedly I skimmed down to.

I'm not saying everything in it is wrong, of course - after all, Xers are "skeptical" and "cynical." Hey, spot on there. Stopped clock and all that.

So of course I tried to track down where the pdf came from. The webpage corresponding to the domain in the pdf's URL (try telling THAT to someone from 1965) is the West Midland Family Center, out of Michigan - hence, one supposes, the focus on the various cohorts' work ethics and "fundraising tips."

But that gives me the opportunity to point out a rule that has never led me astray in all the years I've followed it. To wit:

Never trust an organization with the word "Family" in the name.

Inevitably, they are run by people who are appalled at the idea that someone, somewhere, who is not a child, is having fun, and will work very, very hard to stop that nonsense immediately.

Now, I don't know... I haven't clicked around that particular organization's website very much. Could be they're an exception. I wouldn't bet the farm on it, though. (I actually do own a farm, by the way. That's not just an expression for me.)
November 5, 2019 at 12:01am
November 5, 2019 at 12:01am
PROMPT November 5th

Write your entry today inspired by one of the emotions listed on the webpage below:


Just one? Damn. Usually I'd snark on most of them.

2. Liberosis:

(n) The desire to care less about things.

To loosen your grip on your life, to stop glancing behind you every few steps, afraid that someone will snatch it from you before you reach the end zone—rather to hold your life loosely and playfully, like a volleyball, keeping it in the air, with only quick fleeting interventions, bouncing freely in the hands of trusted friends, always in play.

I've been working toward this for most of my life. I mean, not the playful volleyball metaphor - I hate sports - but caring gets you nowhere, so I actively try not to. You know how pedants are always like "It's not 'I could care less' but 'I couldn't care less,' because 'I could care less' means you do care somewhat?" (Okay, I'm one of those pedants.) Well, I could care less. No, really, it is theoretically possible for me to care less. It's like one of those mathematical functions that approach but never quite reach zero and you're skipping this sentence, aren't you?

I actively try to care less.

It helps to know that no matter what we do, no matter what we as individuals or a species or the greater community of living things achieve, no matter how we spread into the universe, no matter to what heights of art, science, engineering, or something we currently have no word for we reach... regardless of any of that, the universe continues to race in the direction of higher entropy, and eventually, it will fade into oblivion. All of the energy transfer that could have taken place will have taken place, and every point in the universe will have reached an equilibrium, the same temperature. This is known as the "heat death of the universe," and "temperature" will have no meaning because there's no way to measure it, no one to measure it. Spacetime itself will cease to have any meaning. No process of life or anything else will be able to proceed, because any such process requires energy transfer, and I just said that that will wind down to nothing.

This is absolutely inevitable, and not only is there no way to stop it, but any attempt to do so will only hasten it because that's how entropy works. In fact, I've come to the realization that the purpose of life is to accelerate entropy, almost as if the Universe itself wants to end its own pointless existence.

In short, nothing matters and that's the big cosmic joke.

I'm aware that this sort of thing could cause an existential crisis for some people. At the very least, it can trigger the classic Five Stages of Grief, starting with denial. Deny all you want; that doesn't change the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But remember, the solution is to stop caring and laugh in the face of Fate.

In that vein, then, as per the linked article, I, too, can propose made-up words for emotions that don't really exist and it wouldn't matter if they did:

1. Zeppelinalgia

That feeling you get when you look to the west and your spirit is crying for leaving.

2. Grinchestia

The sadistic joy that can only be achieved through ruining someone's winter holiday.

3. Wonkanastia

The satisfaction of providing children with important life lessons by fitting their punishments to their misdeeds.

4. Johnwickitude

When someone wrongs you and you retaliate utterly disproportionately to the situation, and damn but it feels great.

5. Entropoeia

Per the above discussion, the moment of absolute darkness that envelops you when you realize that, in the end, nothing matters at all, followed by the relief you feel when snatch yourself back from the abyss in time to laugh about it. I mean, you did do that, right? Right? Hello?...
November 4, 2019 at 12:30am
November 4, 2019 at 12:30am
PROMPT November 4th

Would you rather be surprised or surprise someone else? Write about it!

Confession time:

I always wanted a surprise party.

I've been to other peoples' surprise parties, even though they never seem all that surprised to me. It's always been on their birthdays, though, so I'd expect it wouldn't have been all that surprising. "Hm, it's my birthday and my friends are all acting weird around me. I bet I'm getting a surprise party!" I never arranged one, because I suck at that sort of thing, so that might explain why no one has ever done it for me.

But that's being pleasantly surprised. Clearly, if it's a negative surprise, I don't want to be the target of that. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of giving people an unpleasant surprise, either. I mean, I think pranks can be funny if they're played on anyone who is not me, but a prank is one of those things that's funnier in theory than in practice.

With my philosophy of "always expect the worst," I try to avoid getting myself into situations where I'm surprised in a bad way.

I was just thinking today, before I saw the prompt, of all the things that could go wrong if - I mean when - I go to Belgium and/or France. That is, after all, why I'm trying to learn French. Stranded in the Pyrenees (there are worse places to be stranded, I suppose), money stolen, trapped in the Eiffel Tower, that sort of thing. That's why I want to learn French - so I can say "help!" in the local language.

Turns out I've already learned many useful phrases. For example (keeping in mind that some of these might be wrong because, like I said, still learning):

Je veux une bière.
I want a beer.

Je voudrais plus bière, s'il vous plaît.
I would like more beer, please.

Je veux un verre de vin.
I want a glass of wine.

La bouteille de vin pour moi maintenant.
The bottle of wine for me now.

Je dois rentrer à l'hôtel.
I have to go back to the hotel.

J'ai besoin de dormir maintenant.
I need to sleep now.

C'est le matin.
It's morning.

Où sont mes vêtements?!
Where are my clothes?!

So you see, I want to be ready for surprises, even in France.
November 3, 2019 at 12:41am
November 3, 2019 at 12:41am
PROMPT November 3rd

Write about a time when you waited a long time for something. Did you end up getting what you wanted? Was it worth it?

Well, there was the time I went to the DMV one morning, and left three years later with a driver's license...

Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but it felt like three years.

There's a brewery in Richmond, VA called Hardywood. They've since expanded into other locations, including one right here in my town, but at one point they just had the one location in an industrial park about an hour's drive from me.

Now, there are breweries all over Virginia, but this particular brewery made a gingerbread stout that was, at the time, the only beer to ever get a perfect 10/10 score on a popular beer rating site. Not only that, but I'd had the opportunity to sample it and it was, indeed, delicious. So, naturally, I had to have some. Also naturally, so did every other drunk in Virginia, and let me tell you, we are fucking legion.

To further set the scene, this particular beer is a seasonal offering, not available year-round. As you might be able to tell from the name, it's winter-holiday-themed. That means it came out in November. If you don't know anything about November in Virginia, I can sum it up in two words: it sucks. Cold, but usually not cold enough to snow. Often rainy. Rainy is fine. Cold is fine, to a certain extent; at least, I'm used to it. Cold and rainy... it sucks.

So it was that on the cold and rainy November release day for Gingerbread Stout one year - I dunno, maybe 2013? It's been a while - I found myself and a friend standing in line outside the enormous Hardywood brewery in Richmond, waiting to claim my allotment of just two bottles (albeit 1L bottles) of sweet nectar of the winter gods. Along with every other drunk in Virginia. The line snaked from the brewery door, out to the street, and around the block. As a reminder, this is an industrial park block. In the rain. In the cold rain. In the nasty Virginia November cold goddamn rain.

We waited. The line inched forward. It rained. It colded. The line inched forward. The day stretched on into eternity.

(insert elevator musak here)

(pause for effect)

Finally we got our bottles and booked out of there.

Was it worth it? Oh, definitely. Since then they've increased production and one can often find this paragon of beer in local stores, so there's no need to go through that again. At the same time, however, it's not quite as good as it was the first few years. Delicious, yes, worth buying, certainly, but I wouldn't wait in the - did I mention cold rain yet? Because it was cold and rainy - cold rain in an industrial park for it again.

Now, it may seem strange that when prompted for something I had to wait a "long time" for, I pick something that I had to wait, max, a few hours for. This is because I don't wait. I'm not a patient person. If I do find myself waiting for something, I distract myself - games, reading a book, whatever. Can't do that in a cold, rainy, outdoors queue. So, say, waiting for my passport or tax refund or the latest Brandon Sanderson book that I preordered from Amazon months before it's due to come out - well, I don't count those as waiting, because I'm doing other stuff.

Also, beer is important.
November 2, 2019 at 12:03am
November 2, 2019 at 12:03am
PROMPT November 2nd

Write about jouska.

From Psychology Today, jouska is defined as “a hypothetical conversation that you play out over and over in your head. For example, replaying an argument in your head where you say all the right things and “win” the argument, or practicing asking your boss for a raise and playing out his or her responses and your comebacks.”

Jouska is why I'm single.

Doesn't everybody do this? It's basic self-programming. In the "replay" scenario you're practicing for similar situations in the future, and in the other scenario you're training yourself to deal with different responses.

The trick to being a jerkface asshole is when someone comes to you having practiced the conversation in jouska, you say something that they could not possibly have thought of in their practice. Example:

(Employee slinks in, hat in hand) "Um, boss, sir, may I have a raise?"

Boss: (pause for effect, then) "Tell me, Widders, what do you think of pomegranates?"

There's absolutely no reason you should allow yourself to play to their jouska script. If you do this, though, you have to practice jouska yourself just so you can come up with off-the-wall, non-sequitur responses to any rehearsed conversation. I mean, in the above scenario, presumably the peon has practiced this with the boss giving different levels of "yes" "no" "maybe" and "why" responses, and they've got all kinds of data backing up why they should get a raise, including having come to work on time even with measles, securing a multi-million-dollar contract for the company, and their kid has cancer. None of this matters; your job as boss is to make sure they don't get a raise. They're not expecting a conversation about pre-Raphaelite paint mixing techniques, so give 'em one.

On the peon's side, even though you know this could happen, you practice jouska anyway, right? Like I said, everyone does it. Sometimes you lie awake at night, staring into your old friend the dark abyss, replaying a conversation until you've convinced you monkey brain that it went your way, after all. Or you're worried about the meeting tomorrow so you play out different scenarios, remembering to be ready for loops thrown at you involving pomegranates or paint.

But not me.

No, I don't run variations on the script until things go my way, because I know things won't go my way. I run scenarios until they involve the worst possible outcome for me. There's a good reason for that: I only like to be pleasantly surprised. It's the same reason I'm pessimistic about everything. If I go into a situation expecting, or even hoping for, a good outcome, I can be disappointed. If, on the other hand, I go into, say, the doctor's office expecting a cancer diagnosis, then if it is not cancer I can feel the pleasure of relief; whereas, if it is cancer, I can feel the euphoria of having been right.

Which brings me to why I'm single. Every time I think about meeting someone, the jouska goes something like this:

Me: "Hi, my name is-"


Or this:

Me: "Let me buy you a drink."

Her: "I was just leaving. With my husband. The pro boxer."

Or this:

Me: "Hey, let's talk about pre-Raphaelite paint mixing techniques."

Her: "Zzzzzzzzzz..."

I think some guys, they go into potential relationships, and they like to skip ahead in their minds to the part where they're both naked. Maybe some chicks to that, too; I don't know. Point is, some people just kind of wing the whole "get to know you" part and rush to the "let's get the lube" part. In other words, their jouska involves playing out the clothes-on scenes in such a way as to get to the R-rated movie as quickly as possible.

But not me. No, whenever I meet someone I think I might be interested in dating, my mind doesn't skip ahead to the date, or to the sex, or to the breakfast afterward, or to the trip to the Paint History Museum. It skips right to the part where she's had enough of my bullshit and storms out the door for the last time.

Knowing she'll leave me for some Australian dingo-fucker is enough to keep me single.

Now, look, I know this might come across as me having a low opinion of women. Think about it, though - if I had a low opinion of women, I could probably convince myself that I could attract one and keep a relationship going. It's myself that I'm certain is unworthy, not anyone else. Proof? Well, what's the one thing women say they look for in a partner? Looks? No. Money? No. Muscles? Gimme a break. Six-pack abs? N-well, maybe. Probably it helps. Cats? Definitely not. No, it's a sense of humor. You may not like my sense of humor, but I think we can all agree that I have one, yes? Yes? Okay. Good. And yet I'm still single. Q.E.D. I have the one trait that heterosexual women claim to be looking for in a male partner, and still can't stop being single.

Consequently, it's me. Therefore, my jouska will continue to justify this to myself.
November 1, 2019 at 12:08am
November 1, 2019 at 12:08am
PROMPT November 1st

I’m sending this prompt in between princesses and spidermen begging at my door for free candy. *Laugh* If you celebrate Halloween in your part of the world, what are your family’s traditions? What were the popular Halloween costumes in your childhood? Which candy was the most coveted? *Candy4* *Witchlegs1*

Of course, when I was a kid, it was called Samhain and we'd load our pack asses with sacrificial chickens and make the week-long trek over muddy roads to the nearest henge.

Okay, fine, I'm exaggerating. The roads had some rocks on them.

I've lived in the same house for over 23 years now, which is longer than I lived in the house where I grew upspent my childhood. In that quarter of a century, we've had years where greedy, grubbing spooks have shown up for socialist handouts, and years where I got to eat all the candy myself.

This year I'm losing weight, so I didn't buy any candy. If I have to diet, so do the zombies, goddammit. Hey, at least I didn't print up a bunch of "The True Meaning Of Halloween" pamphlets to hand out to convert the little bastards to Paganism.

I'm absolutely boring when it comes to seasonal decorations. Other people on my street put up halfhearted carved gourds for Halloween or a few desultory lights for Yule, and maybe a limp flag for the Fourth of July. But that all seems like w*rk to me, and w*rk is something I go to a lot of trouble to avoid. Especially w*rk that has no functional purpose. Engineer, remember? If it doesn't hold something up or tie something down, it's not worth doing.

My ex liked to decorate, and sometimes I'd even help her in the interest of marital harmony. That worked out so well that she's my ex. So, my family's traditions (hey, my cats count) are to turn off the lights on Halloween evening, take a nap, and pretend to ignore the knocking and the sounds of splattered eggs and thrown toilet paper. This Halloween, though, I didn't have to bother: they issued a tornado watch, it rained, and the winds got up to 50 miles an hour, enough to blow trick-or-treaters right into the next county. So no beggars. Peace. Well, peace except for expecting a gust-blown tree limb to come crashing through my roof (spoiler: it didn't).

As for my childhood? I don't remember. I suppose the usual standbys: ghosts, vampires, cartoon witches. I can't say I remember any particular costume that I or my friends ever wore. Maybe my mom cut holes in a white sheet once in an attempt at a ghost but then thought better of the optics.

And then we come to the biggest advantage of having been an only child: I got to eat ALL the candy. Well, all except for the candy corn. I may not remember a single costume, but I distinctly remember the first time I stuck one of those disgusting lumps of earwax into my unsuspecting gobhole. I think I was four or five. "What the shitting fuck is this piss?" I believe were my exact words after I spit the abomination onto the good carpet. Even my dog wouldn't touch it. So, "which candy was the most coveted?" Anything that wasn't candy corn.
October 31, 2019 at 12:07am
October 31, 2019 at 12:07am

I thought about running this in one of my Comedy newsletters. Hell, I still might.

The mystery of what makes a joke funny – but only to some people

It's a fixed law of comedy that explaining what makes a joke (or any joke) funny makes it not funny. This, I think, is the central paradox of existence.

Also, don't post pictures of mimes.

How do you like the following joke from Sumeria in about 1900BC? “Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”

I've mentioned before that the oldest known joke in the world is a fart joke. This would be that one.

One consistent finding in scientific studies is that laughter is universal and predates humans, while humour seems to appear alongside modern humans – wherever there is a record of modern humans, one finds jokes.

That's because we are jokes. Keep throwing me softballs.

These themes also confirm some of the scientific theories of jokes and humour. For example, humour often involves the realisation of incongruity (mismatch) between a concept and a situation, violations of social taboos or expectations, the resolution of tension or mocking and a sense of superiority

See? Not funny. And it's not like someone who doesn't have a sense of humor (or, per this article, humour) would be able to craft a joke based on the scientific evidence. I bet they couldn't even tell us how many scientists it takes to screw in a lightbulb

(None - that's the grad student's job)

Even worse, one of the most successful comedians inspired by Chaplin, Benny Hill, is considered cringeworthy in the UK, despite him being one of the few UK comedians to break through in the USA. That’s because Brits like to think that they are a bit more sophisticated in their humour than a man being chased around by naughtily-dressed ladies.

It is true that a lot of people in the US love Benny Hill. I never did find it all that amusing, even though I enjoy British humour in general. Still, Brits... no, you're not actually more sophisticated; thinking don't make it so.

So what does make a joke funny? We have made great strides in understanding the scientific bases on laughter and humour processing – but until we can incorporate the social and cultural complexities of humour fully, we will remain mystified by how people can enjoy comedy we find lame.

And thus endeth the article without it having told a single worthy joke. Still, some of the insights are useful, if not amusing, and I'm left with the same thoughts I had going in; that is, something is either funny or it's not, and once you explain why it's funny, it's also not.

Or, in the immortal words of Dug: "I know a joke! A squirrel walks up to a tree and says, 'I forgot to store acorns for the winter and now I am dead.' It's funny because the squirrel gets dead."
October 30, 2019 at 12:05am
October 30, 2019 at 12:05am
Well, I've signed up for "30-Day Blogging Challenge [13+] again, for November, since I'm not doing NaNo this year. Once again, I figure if I'm going to try to write something in here every day, might as well mix it up with some prompts I wouldn't consider on my own.

Meanwhile, I still have a ton of blog fodder to get through. Here's today's:


The English Language Being Infuriatingly Confusing (39 Images)

By "images" it means "screenshots of tweets." I despise Twitter with the fiery passion of 10,000 suns, but sites like this (as clickbaity as it is) can sometimes present the best of the worst.

Since they're screenshots, copy/paste isn't an option, so I'll just pick a few amusing ones to highlight.

#8 It blows my mind that english has no plural for "you."

Ah, but it does, at least here in the South. "Y'all" is a perfectly good second person plural. It sounds more polite than "youse guys" (NY/NJ) or "yinz" (specific to the Pittsburgh area).

Incidentally, it's always "y'all" and never (as I've seen it) "Ya'll." An apostrophe stands in for missing letters, and the missing letters in this case go between the y and the a, not the a and the l.

And yet, even if you avoid regional dialect and think only of Standard English, the plural "you" still makes more sense than the French "vous," which can be either a second person plural, or a formal second person singular. How do you know when you can drop the formal "vous" and use the familiar "tu?" I guess I'll have to spend some time in France to figure this out. Awww.

#9 Defenestration

Still one of my favorite words.

#11 Why does my nose run but my feet smell?

You might wanna see a doctor. Or three.

#22 I before E except when you run a feisty heist on a weird foreign neighbour.

Yeah, okay, that one's an example of why English is frickin' weird.

#26 The fact that Kansas and Arkansas are pronounced differently bothers me way more than it should.

This might have been my introduction to the fuckeduppedness of the English language. To this day, I pronounce Arkansas "ar-Kansas" just to be funny. I also pronounce Missouri "misery" because it's Missouri.

#33 Why is a "w" called a "double-U" when it is clearly a "double-V"?

Not in cursive. Also, because in Latin, from which we derive our alphabet, V is U. Confused yet?

Anyway, those are just the short ones. The longer ones are worth reading, too. I'm now even more convinced that English has been dominating the world stage not because of British colonialism or because it's versatile, but because once you learn English you feel a sense of pride unmatched by learning any other language (except, perhaps, Mandarin, though I wouldn't know). Once you've learned to navigate its dark corners, there's no going back.
October 29, 2019 at 12:24am
October 29, 2019 at 12:24am

The 21 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Series Ever

"Best" is usually subjective. They're still wrong about some of these.

We’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up the 21 best science fiction fantasy series of all time, in no particular order.

I'll give 'em credit for not putting it in a countdown-style slideshow to generate more clicks. As a reward, I'm sharing this and maybe they'll get a couple more clicks.

For the sake of tidiness (and our own sanity), we’ve limited this list to series that include at least three books, and that are either completely finished or have no further books currently planned (so, no A Song of Fire and Ice)

That's good, because I got bored with that bloated tripe about halfway through the fourth book. Okay, I'm being unfair - Martin is a good writer, but when I drop a book halfway through, it's for good reason: I just quit caring what's going to happen.

Couldn't watch the series, either.

Now. Some of the series in that list, I've read; some, I haven't. Unlike some people, I don't have an opinion on the ones I haven't read.

The Vorkosigan Saga (1986-ongoing) by Lois McMaster Bujold

I like this series a lot, but I really hate Bujold because she got her first novel published on, from what I've heard, the first try. Bitch.

The Wheel of Time (1990-2013 by Robert Jordan (with Brandon Sanderson)

This series ain't all that. Remember how I said if I quit a book halfway through, it's because I just don't care? Well, I got about 1989 pages into the 2000-page first book of this series, right when things are supposed to be all climax-y, when the book's plot is being wrapped up and the stage set for the next 89 books, and threw the thing at the wall.

When Jordan died and I heard Sanderson was going to wrap things up for him, I thought about going back and trying again - I like Sanderson's writing a great deal, and I figured if he cared enough to do the work I should at least see what all the fuss was about, but... you know... squirrel!

The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) by J.R.R. Tolkien

Come on, do we really have to include this one?

His Dark Materials (1995-2000) by Philip Pullman

Let me not mince words, here: this series is indefensible. About the only good thing about it is: bears in armor. I mean, that's epic. But everything else about the series actually sucks. Unlike some of the other books I mentioned, though, I actually finished it. That's 24 hours of my life I'm never getting back.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Series (1979-2009) by Douglas Adams

Two of my favorite things are science fiction and comedy. When someone combines the two and does it well, it can be amazing. Also, these books are so ingrained in pop culture that you're lost if you don't read them - kind of like Star Wars.

Mistborn (2006-2008) by Brandon Sanderson

I'd pick The Stormlight Archives over Mistborn when it comes to Sanderson, but apparently the list is about completed series (even though the status of the Vorkosigan saga might make the Bujold entry an exception). Still, Mistborn is a fine series by an excellent author who is amazing at crafting epic fantasy.

There are also three fantasy series that are conspicuously absent from this list:

Amber by Roger Zelazny

Zelazny, like Jordan, was taken from us too soon. Unlike Jordan, he pretty much finished the Amber novels - though I think he wanted to write another set in the series. There are ten books in all, and the first book, Nine Princes in Amber, served as my personal introduction to fantasy.

The Vlad Taltos novels by Steven Brust

I've read this series so many times it's pathetic. The first book, Jhereg, contains what I consider to be the greatest opening line in all of fantasy (at least all that I've read). Again, though, the series might not be actually concluded.

Chronicles of Alera by Jim Butcher

Butcher is better known for the Dresden Files, a modern fantasy series. But it's definitely still in progress. Alera is a five-book (if I recall correctly) high fantasy series that's just a great read.

Anyway, that's my opinion, which of course you can take as truth.

I'm kind of surprised Harry Potter didn't make the list. Like Pullman's crappy series, it's targeted at a younger readership, which is fine. The first book was kind of painful to read, but the author got better as she went along. And like Hitchhiker's, it's part of pop culture now and there's no going back from that.

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