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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/cathartes02/month/1-1-2021
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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January 31, 2021 at 12:08am
January 31, 2021 at 12:08am
I considered skipping today.

As of right now, my daily blogging streak exceeds 13 months. At some point I will break it, but the later I skip a day, the more I'm likely to plunge into existential despair when it happens (even if it's on purpose).

But then I looked at my Blog Fodder collection, where I store some of the interesting links I come up with in my perusal of our version of the Library at Alexandria. The past three months have been entirely prompt-oriented, and while it's been fun and rewarding, I'm sure readers are getting weary of the same format. During that time I've just been idly saving things to that list when I come across them.

Seventy-one items.

That's one a day for over two months.

Now, sometimes I'll pick one of those and, upon re-reading, ask myself what the hell I was thinking saving that garbage. Okay, well, no, if it's truly garbage then I'd have fun stuffing it in a trash bag and kicking it to the curb (that is, tearing the article apart in here). Point is, sometimes I'll get something that's not even worth ragging on and skipping it entirely, because, I don't know, maybe I was drunk or in a really different frame of mind when I saved it, or perhaps the world has moved on by the time it comes up.

But that happens rarely, and besides, I'm adding new links all the time, if irregularly. Writing to prompts is meant to help me catch up when the well's starting to run dry, but right now it's overflowing and eroding away the topsoil -- to stretch a metaphor beyond comprehensibility.

And so I used my RNG and it came up with an article that I saved fairly recently. Let's take a look, shall we?

You know, the whole "rewire your brain" thing has bugged me, at some level, for some time. Saying things like that, or "we're hard-wired to (do whatever)" is to use a particularly misleading metaphor.

Obviously, we don't have actual wires (nerves, sure, but in the brain, they're not the same thing as wires), and there have always been comparisons between the brain and some sort of technology. When clocks were all the rage, people used timekeeping metaphors. In the industrial revolution, it was machinery; some of this remains in our lexicon, like when someone likens the thinking process to "gears turning."

The brain has also been likened to a computer with its processors and hard drives (also a misleading metaphor), and I guarantee you if quantum computing takes off you'll have people talking about superpositions of brain waves and collapse of the mental wave function -- that is, when more people become familiar with the lingo of quantum physics.

But, whatever. The human brain is notorious for not being able to understand itself, so metaphor it is.

The simplest, most direct way to be smart is to build deep knowledge about things you care about.

This sent up red flags for me. I know subtitles are just there to catch our attention, and it worked in this case -- but I'm deeply aware that "knowledge" isn't the same thing as "intelligence." The other day we had the prompt about trivia, and that's a perfect example: being able to rattle off fact after memorized fact doesn't mean you can synthesize these facts into something greater, which to me is the core of intelligence. Of course I would say that, since my memory is shit but I like to think I'm smart anyway.

You are the architect of your brain.

Oh, now the metaphor shifts from electricity to buildings. Well, I suppose one can rewire a structure, too.

It turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks.

And now it's about dogs. Dude, pick a metaphor and stick with it.

Until recently, the conventional thinking was that our brains were hardwired at birth and therefore unchangeable.

But the good news is that our brains are constantly being reshaped by our daily experiences.

Back to the wires again. Whatever. I don't know how anyone ever thought things were "hardwired" when it was so obvious that experiences shape thoughts that this became the basis for psychotherapy.

Anyway, we're only four sentences into the article and I've already rambled on too long. I'd suggest actually reading the thing, not because it's particularly well-written (it's obviously not) but because the core message is one I believe in. I think it's best expressed in the article itself by this line:

It pays to crave and keep an open mind. Incredibly smart people aren’t always born that way, but rather are constantly working to improve their intelligence.

Though I think even that is a bit misleading, because you don't have to be a genius to be open to new ideas and experiences.

The article goes on to suggest that we consolidate what we learn through... writing.

Blogging is a great tool for reflection and sharing what you’ve learned, even if you don’t hope to make a living at it. And it’s free.

Writing expands our vocabulary, which has been shown to be directly correlated with success.

For various definitions of "success," I'm sure. Here we fall into the usual trap of pandering to outcome-focused learning. One sure way to piss me off, if I were a teacher, would be to ask me, "Why are we learning this? What use is it?" The future use is irrelevant. The important part is the learning itself. I'm not a teacher, though, because I'd probably want to kick the ass of whoever asks that, and that's frowned upon for some reason.

Point is, that's what I've been doing, or trying to do, here: finding things that are, or could be, interesting, and then writing about them.

I must be a genius!
January 30, 2021 at 12:46am
January 30, 2021 at 12:46am
Hard to accept that January is almost over. I've accomplished almost nothing. Which is fine.

The 30DBC prompt is running late, but I wanted to get an entry in now anyway. Today will be a busy day -- I need to do some panic-buying because there's supposed to be a blizzard on Sunday.

Well. What passes for a blizzard in Virginia, anyway. They're predicting maybe six inches of sn*w, but even half an inch is enough to shut everything down here. Which is weird because everything ought to be shut down anyway.

So of course groceries, but I'm getting those delivered as per usual. The important thing is that my liquor supply is running low and needs replenishment. I have no idea how that happens (*hic*).

Then of course there's the WDC Zoom meeting tomorrow. If anyone here wants to join us, you're welcome; it's at 4pm WDC time. If you haven't logged in before, you may need to sign up. Details here:

 WDC Zoomies  (GC)
A group of writers who meet via Zoom every other Saturday
#2220189 by Charity Marie

Today should be the final entry for the 30DBC, and I expect next month I'll go back to my usual nonsense (as opposed to prompted nonsense). Though I should also plug my friend's blogging activity that I intend to participate in with a few entries in February, which could use some more participants: "Journalistic Intentions [18+]

Hopefully I'll edit this later, after the prompt shows up. If I'm not too drunk.


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PROMPT January 30th

Congratulations on making it to the last day of the competition! What was your favorite prompt from the last month? What was the most rewarding aspect of participating in the competition?

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I really enjoyed the vast majority of the prompts this month, so it's hard to pick one that stands out. But if pressed, I'd probably say the "one question about the future" one from the 5th, because I got to play with a virtual Magic 8-Ball in writing that one.

As always, the best part of participating is interacting with others -- reading their entries and commenting, or reading their comments on mine. I don't always respond directly to comments, but I do appreciate all of them!

Until next time, stay warm (or cool if you're in that other hemisphere), and I hope you'll keep reading. As incentivea bribe, I'll do more Mini-Contests soon.
January 29, 2021 at 12:10am
January 29, 2021 at 12:10am
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PROMPT January 29th

Write about something funny! Share a joke, recount a humorous story, or tell your readers about a funny experience you had.

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Oh man... I don't know if I can do this.

The funny thing about being funny is it's really, really hard to be funny on demand.

Like, I could be telling jokes for hours, and then someone will turn to me and go, "Hey Waltz, say something funny." And the best I can come up with is to say, "Something funny." And that's if I think of it. It's like every cell in my brain runs off to the "I really like beer" cortex and settles down for a cold one.

What's worse is I'm scheduled to do next week's Comedy newsletter, and I haven't thought of a single thing to say. My first Comedy newsletter was 14 years ago this month, though I didn't become a regular editor of it until two months later, in March 2007. Since that fateful March, I've managed to do an editorial every four weeks (give or take, what with scheduling changes along the way), usually finding something to say at the very last minute.

This is why I procrastinate: It works.

Not that they were all great, mind you. Some of them were crappier than a porta-potty at a laxative festival.

In the ancient times B.I. (Before Internet), I had a memory for jokes. Someone would tell me a joke once, and I'd remember it and be able to deliver it at any point thereafter, usually with a few riffs. But at least I rarely fucked up the punch line. Now, though? No point remembering things if I can just look them up on the internet.

Twenty years or so ago, someone scientifically determined the World's Funniest Joke.   It's at the link, but I'll reproduce it here for those of you who don't want to open a link:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator says, "Calm down. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence; then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says, "OK, now what?"

Now, this joke certainly has aspects that make it funny. The important part is the difference between what is meant by "First, let's make sure he's dead" and what the hunter understands. Misunderstanding is an important part of comedy. From there, you have to set it up so the person doing the calling is expected to have a gun; hence "hunters." It wouldn't work with just "two guys are taking a walk in the woods."

One version of this joke that I saw specifies, for some reason, that the hunters are from New Jersey, which makes me believe that the joke was originally a New York thing. I'd tell it about West Virginians, myself.

The second important part of the joke is that someone dies. Yes, this is part of comedy. Most jokes require someone to be hurt. As Mel Brooks once pointed out when asked the difference between comedy and tragedy, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” Jokes help us come to terms with our own mortality and frailty.

I could do without the passive voice, though. "...a gun shot is heard." I imagine that if one were telling this joke the old-fashioned way, in person, one would go "There's a silence, then BANG."

Now, for a while there, this particular "funniest joke" contest was looking like it was going to have a different winner. Here's that one:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are going camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes Watson up: "Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce."

Watson: "I see millions of stars and even if a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."

Holmes: "Watson, you idiot, somebody's stolen our tent!"

You'll note that no one dies in this one. But the joke hinges on a different kind of misfortune. The other comedic element is Watson waxing philosophical when he should have been more practical, a reminder to all of us that sometimes we need to focus on what's around us instead of having our heads in the clouds all the time. That combined with the absurdity of someone being able to steal the tent in the first place makes this, objectively, quite humorous.

Nevertheless, I didn't laugh at either of these jokes. Why? Well, partly because you can't build something up by saying, "Okay, I'm about to tell you the funniest joke ever." This sets expectations way too high, and whoever you're telling it to is primed to think of reasons why it's not, after all, the funniest joke ever. Probably if someone just told me one of those jokes at a party (remember parties?) without the buildup, and if I'd never heard / read them, I might have chuckled (genuinely, not just out of politeness).

I'll leave you with one more joke. I don't know if it was ever in the running for this scientific study of comedy, but I've known it for quite a long time, since about ten years B.I. As with many jokes, I don't know the origin of it, and I'm not going to look it up but tell it from memory:

A scientist was developing a serum to vastly extend the lifespan of marine mammals. The primary ingredient in the formula was extract of mynah bird, which was a bit hard to come by, and one day, in the middle of testing this on his pet dolphin, he ran out of extract. So he went to the pet store to pick up a fresh batch of birds.

While he was gone, though, there was a problem at the local zoo, and some of the big cats escaped and started roaming the city. One of them curled up on this scientist's front doorstep and went to sleep.

So here comes our scientist back from the store with a bag full of mynah birds, when he notices the King of the Beasts blocking his door. "Oh, no," he thinks, "What am I going to do? I have to get inside; I'm at a critical stage in my experiments. There's no other way into the house. How am I going to get past this guy without waking him up and likely getting eaten?" He thinks about it for a few minutes and decides on a stealth approach. So he tiptoes up to the house, real quiet-like, and edges his way toward the front door.

He's managed to put one foot over the animal when a dozen cops come out of nowhere, point their guns at him, and go:

"Freeze, mister! You're under arrest...

...for transporting mynahs across sedate lions for immortal porpoises!"

I'll be here all week.
January 28, 2021 at 12:16am
January 28, 2021 at 12:16am
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PROMPT January 28th

We need your help filling the Challenge War Chest! In your entry today, write three of your own prompts and then use one of them to complete the rest of your entry.

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1. What is something you're afraid of? You don't have to reveal your biggest fear, just pick something that gives you the willies, rational or not.

2. Talk about a time when you wish you'd handled something differently.

3. What sounds do you dislike?

Now, I could probably come up with something for all of these, but I'm not known for being an overachiever. Besides, if I participate in future rounds, I'll want to save some of my answers for them.

So I'm going to talk about #1.

As noted in the prompt, it's not my biggest fear, but I'm not a fan of anything touching my eyeballs. I could never wear contact lenses, because that would involve me touching my eyes, and that's not going to happen. Oh, sure, I'd probably get used to it, but the point is I don't wanna. Nor have I ever had to; until recently, I've had pretty good vision.

This is in spite of eye surgery I had back in the 80s. I'd injured my cornea doing construction work. You know how they say "always wear safety glasses?" There's a reason for that, and it's not fashion sense. In my defense, I had been wearing some but they weren't the OSHA approved kind, so they slipped off and fell down a stack of cinderblock cells, frustratingly out of reach. They're probably still the wall of a garage in Reston. But I had to keep working, so there was nothing protecting my eyes when a nail flew up and smacked my cornea.

The next day, I got stitches in my cornea. This sucked, but at least I was under general anesthesia for the actual surgery. Within a year, though, it had completely healed, and my vision in that eye had actually improved some.

About fifteen years ago, though, I started feeling eyestrain. Apparently it's just one of the fun parts of getting old that you can't focus at different distances anymore, especially if you spend your days in front of a computer, which describes my life. So I started needing reading glasses. Still no contacts necessary, and hell, glasses are cool.

But even more recently, it's become apparent that my vision is deteriorating again, and I will need eye surgery. Again.

I looked up the procedure and went, "Nope."

Apparently this surgery is really common, and they have sorcery now, so it's actually an outpatient procedure -- the patient is awake for the whole thing. The idea of letting someone fuck around with my eyeballs, no matter how good they are at their job, while I'm awake and aware, just freaks me right the hell out.

One of the most horrible things I ever heard of was some guy who was having eye surgery. The anesthesia only partially worked: he could not move, he could not speak, he could do absolutely nothing -- but he could see and hear. So everything the doctors and nurses said and did? He was awake for that. With his eyes wedged open because, in case I wasn't clear, this was eye surgery.

I can't think of too many things that would freak me out more. Bad enough I have sleep paralysis sometimes.

I mean, lots of people are blind, right? I could be blind and not have to deal with this.

But. Hell. That would make video games difficult, and driving problematic. (On the other hand, tax break!)

So I'll probably suck it up and get the surgery. At some point. Because this shit isn't going to get better on its own.

Getting old sucks, but I suspect it beats the only alternative.
January 27, 2021 at 12:06am
January 27, 2021 at 12:06am
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PROMPT January 27th

What bit of trivia do you know that is very interesting but also very useless?

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I mean, have you read this blog?

Seriously, though, I don't think any piece of knowledge is useless -- especially for a writer. Alternatively, I could take the philosophical approach that all facts are useless, but then Fox News might try to recruit me.

There is, however, a whole spectrum between "useful" and "useless." Problem is, that spectrum is different for each person. For example, someone else (who is not me) might think it's critically important to know who won Game 3 of the 1978 World Series (I don't know that one and can't be arsed to look it up; I just pulled those numbers out of the air. For all I know, it's somehow important to sportsball.) Meanwhile, someone else (who also is not me) might consider the knowledge that Mars has two small moons, one of them orbiting retrograde, to have no practical value, whereas I find it not only interesting but essential.

After all, I haven't been to Mars, and neither has anyone else, so what good does it do to know such things? Unless of course you're a science fiction writer, or perhaps work for NASA.

So in considering what's useless, I'd have to know what each reader considers to be useful, and that's something I just can't begin to guess at. We're all different.

Consequently, I'm going to go with something for this entry that really has no bearing on anything else:

The week I was born, the #1 single in the US was "Lightnin' Strikes" by Lou Christie. At some point I looked it up and it stuck in my head (though I did just now look it up again just to make sure my memory hadn't done what my memory tends to do). It's interesting because apparently Christie is, or until recently was, still performing; and it's useless because what difference does it really make to anyone what song was #1 when I was born?

In the end, of course, all trivia is useful -- at least if you like to win trivia contests at bars.
January 26, 2021 at 12:22am
January 26, 2021 at 12:22am
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PROMPT January 26th

Do you practice mindfulness or meditation? How often? On an average day, how often are you intentionally aware of your mental state and emotions?

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Hm, let me just become aware of my emotions right now...


*Angry* *Rage* *Rage* *Rage* *Rant*

I've made it a habit to rant against this "mindfulness" bullshit in here in the past. Here are some of the entries excoriating the nonsense:

Living in the present makes us less than human: "Brains

Mindfulness isn't necessary for self-actualization: "Inspiration

Mindfulness is snake oil: "Mind over Matter

Mindfulness is incompatible with setting life goals: "Millionaire Blues

It probably encourages complacency: "If You Don't Mindful

"The Pursuit of Grumpiness

Using mindfulness to cure depression can cause depression: "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

So you can see I've given "mindfulness" way more thought than it actually deserves, it being dangerous nonsense and all. It's just a way for charlatan New Age gurus to sell more New Age gurufiction by taking advantage of peoples' dissatisfaction with life. "Instead of actually changing things, I'll buy this book / watch this video and work on making myself complacent." It's the worst type of navel-gazing when what we need to do these days is to be focused more outward.

Oh, sure, people can seem to get something out of it at first, but the same could be said for any new way of thinking or viewing life.

As for meditation, well, if it works for you, fine. It annoys me when it's not actively putting me to sleep.

I feel like I'm always aware of my mental state or emotions. I may not always like what I become aware of, but it's like breathing: no one needs to tell you to "breathe." You're always breathing, or you'd be dead. Oh, sure, maybe you can improve on the way you breathe, but anything can always be improved. Similarly, you're always thinking, and you can train yourself to think better.

And do you really believe that someone whose entire purpose in life is to sell books and get paid to do seminars and shit is going to encourage people to think for themselves? People thinking independently is exactly what every huckster is afraid of.

So no, I don't buy into this horseshit.
January 25, 2021 at 12:02am
January 25, 2021 at 12:02am
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PROMPT January 25th

Write about something antique or inherited that you own. Who owned it before you? Where did it come from? What’s its story?

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Unfortunately, I have quite a few inherited items - unfortunately, that is, because my parents have died.

I've talked about some of them in here before, I know, but I can't really remember most of them. I do remember writing about the barometer.

But I can't recall if I've discussed my dad's sextant   or not. Oh well, what the hell, I just fixed myself a martini, so sextant it is.

These days, of course, sailors have other means of navigation, mostly GPS. I have a vague idea of how that works, having used it myself and looked into the (very interesting) technology behind it. What's most interesting about GPS is that if you don't take general relativity into account, it loses precision remarkably quickly. It absolutely relies on science that people in the 19th century couldn't even have imagined, let alone understood. Well, to be fair, if you took the time to explain it to many of them, they'd get it; we haven't gotten any smarter; we've just increased our understanding and changed our technologies.

Still, for the greater part of the 20th century, they understood the principles, but it wasn't until around the turn of the 21st century that GPS became widely available. So as far as I know, a sextant is something that's only about 20 years behind the times. I could be wrong about this. Martini, remember? And so I can't be arsed to look anything up. Just don't take anything I say here as the absolute truth. In vino veritas, but in gin, whatever.

So a sextant is largely obsolete. I like to think that serious sailors keep one around for emergencies, but from what I understand, it's not very useful without two other items: a chronometer and an ephemerides. And in any case, I'm not a sailor like my dad was, so I don't have any actual use for it.

A chronometer is mostly just a fancy word for clock. When mechanical clocks were invented, they relied on a pendulum, a thing that provided a predictable periodic "tick." These were completely useless at sea, what with all the waves and shit. So the big problem in intercontinental navigation was to invent a chronometer that relied on something other than gravity -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

But first, I'll tell you what an ephemerides is. It's a table of where a certain heavenly body is expected to be at a certain time. These calculations are fairly complicated, but at the same time straightforward. You could have one for the sun, the moon, Jupiter, or any of the other planets or stars.

Now, backing up.

Navigation requires at least four pieces of data. 1. Latitude. 2. Longitude. 3. Heading. 4. Speed. There are probably others, but... gin. Oh yeah. 5. A freakin' map.

Latitude, at night at sea in the northern hemisphere, is dead easy: 1. Find Polaris, the North Star. 2. Determine the angle between Polaris and the horizon. 3. That angle is your latitude. (Step 2 requires an instrument such as the sextant.)

Finding longitude, on the other hand, is complicated as fuck. You have to know the time, and you have to know the expected location, in the sky, of some star or planet or some such. Knowing the time is where the chronometer comes in; knowing the expected location of a certain point of light is the job of the ephemerides.

Heading and speed are largely irrelevant to this description, so I'm going to drink more gin and ignore them for now.


So. You know your latitude because it's night and you've shot Polaris with the sextant. And now you know the longitude, because you know what time it is (or, rather, what time it is back in London or whereverthehell) and you have star charts so that you can tell the difference between where, say, Sirius would appear in the sky from London and where Sirius looks like to you on the heaving deck of a ship.

The reason you know these things is because you have the sextant to determine the angle between the star (or whatever) and the horizon.

There's also a way to "shoot the sun;" that is, figure this shit out in the daytime. This is above my pay grade, even if I weren't three sheets to the wind right now (that's also a nautical phrase, by the way, in case it wasn't completely obvious).

People talk about a "moral compass," what they use to determine their direction in life. A compass is another important tool in navigation (see: "heading"), but it's not the only important tool. I keep the sextant around for two reasons: because it's a constant reminder of what my father lived for a good part of his life (not most; he was a sailor for about 1/4 of his 90 years), and also because it's a reminder that you always need to know your location. Metaphorically speaking.

I told you the other day that I've been going through all the episodes of Star Trek. Picard kept a sextant in his Ready Room -- and given the utter uselessness of a sextant in interstellar space, I like to think it was for the same reason I keep one: that you should always know where you are.

And where you're going.
January 24, 2021 at 12:02am
January 24, 2021 at 12:02am
The Original Logo.

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PROMPT January 24th

Write about your most memorable or unique teacher from the years you were in school. What made them so interesting and what do you remember about them the most?

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Well, I could talk about the science teacher I had in 8th grade who insisted -- and threatened me with the principal's office if I continued to contradict her -- that the reason Earth has gravity is because it rotates.

Look, I get it, not everyone can know everything. And if I'd heard that from an English or social studies teacher, I might have been able to write it off. But a science teacher? No wonder we're a nation of dumbshits.

But apart from that really quite abysmal gap in her knowledge, she was otherwise fairly forgettable.

So I'm going to go with my high school Latin teacher, Ms. P.

She wasn't my first Latin teacher. Freshman year, it was an older lady who'd been around the arena a time or two and brooked no shit from her students.

Second year, et cetera? New teacher. And by "new," I mean fresh out of ed-school.

I don't remember much Latin, but I do remember the scent of blood in the water.

Now, don't get me wrong; we all liked Ms. P. She was close enough to our ages to be somewhat relatable, but not so attractive as to be distracting to us boys. Gods, if we hadn't actually liked her, I can't even imagine the hell we would have put her through. As it was, it was mostly just harmless teenage pranks and antics.


Ms. P also taught math, but it was remedial math so, not to brag or anything, I wasn't in those classes. I mention this only because the math and science departments were clear on the other side of the school from the language classrooms. And, I guess, with her being a new teacher, the evil genius who did the scheduling put her math period immediately before my Latin class that first year she taught.

This gave us plenty of time to hone our comedy skills before she showed up.

At the end of a day, she'd put an English vocabulary word on the blackboard for us to ponder prior to her arrival the following day. (Why English? Well, in case you haven't noticed, over half of the words in English have Latin roots; the only reason it's considered a Germanic language is the sentence structure. So the vocabulary word was, I suppose, an effort to provide a reason why learning Latin is relevant.) So we did ponder the word - usually by writing a sentence wherein that word was used as a pun, and/or by providing a punny definition. Example: "Bacteria." "The rear part of a cafeteria."

Yes, I know "bacteria" was from ancient Greek, not ancient Latin, but it's the only one I could remember after all these years. Don't be pedantic.

Then there was Rufus Roman.

Rufus Roman was a stick figure with one of those brush-top helmets you see in movies about ancient Rome, and he held a gladius and a scutum.(sword and shield). We always drew him, on the blackboard, with either a big smile on his face, or, sometimes, with an expression of abject terror (when facing his archenemy, Barney Barbarian.) (Barney, of course, wore a helmet with horns, and an axe, and sported a beard and a mean, toothy, growly face.)

This was, and still is, the entire range of my so-called artistic talent. It never developed further. Fortunately, my comedic talents did. Well. Sort of. Maybe. You can decide that for yourself, and keep it to yourself.

Anyway, we could all tell that Ms. P. was trying very, very hard to maintain discipline in class by not acknowledging the comedy gold mine she'd walk into every time she'd march over from the other side of the school and look at the board. But she didn't succeed. Sometimes she even laughed out loud before she composed herself and very pointedly erased our masterworks.

One day, I think maybe it was because she'd forgotten to post the vocabulary word, we spent the five minutes we had before the teacher walked in by turning every piece of furniture in the room 180 degrees. As I recall, this involved a couple of filing cabinets, all of the student desk/chairs, the teacher's desk and wheeled chair, a lectern, and probably a few other odds and ends. There were like 8 of us in the class so it didn't take very long. And when she came in, at first she didn't notice.

Now, it's important to note two things: One, every day, she'd come in, sit down, stretch her arms to the sides of her desk, and wheel herself forward so her legs were under the desk. And two, the desk itself had a barrier on the student side. Well, so after everything got turned around, she simply swiveled the chair around, sat down, grabbed the desk, pulled herself forward and BANG her knees hit the wall on the front of the desk.

Fortunately for us, Ms. P. had a decent sense of humor and a high tolerance for pain -- both necessary qualities for a high school teacher to have.

She'd be in her 60s now, I guess. If she's still teaching, I bet she no longer brooks any shit whatsoever from her students.

We taught her well.
January 23, 2021 at 12:13am
January 23, 2021 at 12:13am
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PROMPT January 23rd

An epic feast is held in your honor - what’s on the table? Who’s invited? What entertainment is provided? (Feel free to be creative with this one! COVID is not a factor and you get to choose the time period and location for your feast *Wink* )

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I gave a lot of thought to what to eat at such a feast, but then decided it doesn't much matter. I have a wide range of taste in food. Pizza, sushi, a formal five-course meal, steak, hamburgers, seafood, roast beef, chicken, chili, turkey... whatever. My only restriction is that I don't eat anything that's smarter than I am, so no octopus or cuttlefish.

The important thing is what alcoholic beverages will be provided. I've thought about this too, and decided: all of them.

For entertainment, someone will have to hire Bruce Springsteen. Good luck with that.

As for who's invited, all of my friends and enemies. The friends so that they can celebrate with me; the enemies so I can gloat.

In reality, of course, I'd be sitting home alone with a frozen pizza (which I'll cook first) and a six-pack of local microbrew, listening to a random selections of tunes from the internet. And that's okay, too.
January 22, 2021 at 12:02am
January 22, 2021 at 12:02am
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PROMPT January 22nd

What books are on your reading list?

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Honestly? At the moment, none.

I go through cycles: reading - video games - shows/movies. At the moment I'm in a shows/movies phase, determined to (re)watch every episode of every Star Trek. Including the movies. Yes, including those movies.

There are a couple of books on my Kindle I'll get to when I get to them, but right now I'd have to look to remind myself what they are. Nothing spectacular, just what would be called pulp novels if they were actually printed rather than e-books. Sometimes they're surprisingly good. Other times, not so much, but as a writer I learn from negative examples as well as positive ones.

When I'm in a reading phase, sometimes it'll be a run of fiction and sometimes nonfiction. For fiction, it's usually SF and/or fantasy. For nonfiction, it's usually some sort of science or mathematics.

The one constant is I keep up, at least a little bit, with certain topics on the internet. That's reflected in here when there's not a blog challenge going on. Very likely, that will happen again after this month's challenge is over -- unless I get squirreled by something else. This long doing prompts, my current list of articles could keep me busy for quite some time.
January 21, 2021 at 12:02am
January 21, 2021 at 12:02am
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PROMPT January 21st

What’s one thing you wanted to do in 2020 that you couldn’t do or didn’t get to do? Will you make it happen in 2021?

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Well, I've covered this ad nauseam in here already, so regular readers can probably skip this entry.

The answer is "visit Belgium." I mean, there were a lot of things I didn't get to do this year that I wanted to: Nerd Camp, road trips, gambling in Vegas, meeting various WDCers in their hometowns, brewery visits, going to the gym (after February), my usual December trip to California... but the Belgium thing was something I haven't done before and was really looking forward to, and the prompt is like "one thing." So that's the one thing.

Every silver lining has a cloud... wait. Strike that. Reverse it. The one good thing about postponing my trip is that I've been able to learn more French, so by the time I do get to go -- hopefully this year -- I'll at least be able to read some of that language and maybe understand a couple of spoken sentences here and there.

Belgium, however, is a bilingual country, and I'm finding Dutch to be a much more difficult language to learn. "But it's a lot like English!" Yes, it is; it's just enough like English to be goddamn hard for me.

So it's unlikely I'll be able to pick up that language significantly before my trip. I know a lot of Belgians speak English, but I don't want to be one of those Americans who doesn't even try.

Hopefully I'll also get a chance to visit neighboring France and Netherlands while I'm there.

Will I make it happen in 2021? It's possible. What's keeping me from doing it is stuff that's totally not in my control, and you know exactly what I'm talking about. The only thing I can maybe control is getting the vaccine when it's available to me. Which I will do, but I have no idea when that will be. My traveling companion will have to get it too, of course, and then I think there's a wait while immunity builds up. And that doesn't guarantee that they'll let idiot Americans into the EU for leisure travel.

As a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist, though, I can only assume that by the time we get the shots, a mutant strain will pop up that's resistant to it and we'll get delayed again.

And even though I fully expect this to happen, if it does, I shall be quite cross.
January 20, 2021 at 12:16am
January 20, 2021 at 12:16am
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PROMPT January 20th

Imagine you have to describe your family to someone who’s never met them before. What makes your family unique and different from others? What are your family’s most important traditions, values, and stories?

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These days, I think of myself as a family of one. Less drama that way.

I have a cousin in New York City, and we get together once or twice a year (except, of course, for last year). Other than that, anyone I could consider family is either far away or really far away (aka dead).

When I was a kid and my parents were still around, we were always different because, among other things, we didn't conform to the majority religion. This no doubt contributed to my outsider perspective on life. But I'm not so good at being that outsider when it comes to my family; I was, after all, in it, and it just seemed normal to me at the time. It was only later that I started to figure out how we differed from others.

Part of that is because my parents brought me up believing that all people are, at base, just people, and should be treated with courtesy and dignity regardless of identity markers such as race, religion, gender, nationality, etc. Which is not to say that I always succeed at that, but it's the baseline I come back to.

Also, they emphasized education, which is why even now I try to learn everything I can and keep an open mind. Again... I don't always succeed, but that's what ideals are for.

As for traditions or stories, well, there's really not much to say. I don't think my parents were big on that. The tradition I've been participating in for the past several years involves visiting my cousin, as per the above, with the excuse of observing spring holidays -- though none of us are particularly religious; it's more just a reason to get together and have some connection to the past.

I guess I just don't need those social connections the way others seem to. And that, I think, is what makes my family of one truly unique.
January 19, 2021 at 12:01am
January 19, 2021 at 12:01am
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PROMPT January 19th

Do you like things to be carefully planned or do you prefer to just go with the flow? Do you get upset easily when your plans change unexpectedly or for reasons beyond your control? Imagine you are taking a road trip - how much of the trip do you plan in advance?

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Oh yes, please, by all means, make me imagine doing one of my favorite activities during a time when I effectively can't. That won't irritate me in the slightest.


I mean, sure, I could take a road trip. Technically, there's nothing stopping me from getting in the car and driving. It's just that a lot of the reasons for me to take a trip -- restaurants, bars, and breweries -- are closed, have limited hours, are outdoor-only and it's winter, or are simply a Bad Idea during a pandemic. So there's not much point.

Anyway, I'm predicting that not too many people are on either extreme of the planning/pantsing scale where this is concerned. Like most things, it's a spectrum, and most people fall somewhere in the middle.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to plan everything down to the last minute. You get traffic jams, unexpected detours, closures, squirrels (meaning, like, you're concentrating on doing something and then you see something shiny and you're like Dug the dog from Up going, "SQUIRREL!"), etc. It's equally unlikely to be able to have no plans whatsoever; at a bare minimum, your plan is, "I'm just going to tag along with this other person and do whatever they want to do." I mean, sure, technically maybe it's possible to get on the road and choose a path at random whenever you get to an intersection, but even planning to do that is a plan of sorts.

I haven't done that, exactly (though now that I think of it I might have to try it sometime), but one of my favorite ways to take a road trip is to choose a destination literally at random - I once found a site that would generate random coordinates, though I suspect it's based on latitude/longitude, which makes destinations toward the poles somewhat more likely than destinations toward the equator (think about it - it's because lines of longitude converge, so you have a denser array of possible points in, say, Canada than you do in, for instance, Mexico, while on the flip side, there's literally nowhere to actually go in Canada once you get out of southern Ontario).

So it's not as random as I'd like, but keeping it to the US alone, it's close enough for what I want to do.

Oh, incidentally, sometimes you hear about people throwing darts at a map. That's semi-random, but the map is a projection, so again, some areas are more likely than others. If you think about it, throwing a dart at a globe wouldn't work either. I still haven't worked out a way to get a truly random location, with each point equally likely, on a round planet.

Another thing I found was an app that generates a random zip code. Twice, I've rolled up a zip code and headed there; fortunately, both areas were in the Northeast: one in NJ and one in Massachusetts. Random coordinates, on the other hand, have put me in places like Montana, Alabama, and the actual middle of actual nowhere in central Nevada. To name but a few.

The other downside of random coordinates is that I have to ignore any that are generated in large bodies of water. Other people might follow their GPS into a lake, but I'm not that stupid. (Don't blame the technology. It's always the driver's fault.) The obvious downside to using zip codes is that some have much bigger areas than others.

I said "close enough for what I want to do," but what I want to do is visit breweries and see whatever sights are near (or on the way to or from) these random destinations. Because I take very literally the maxim that "it's the journey, not the destination, that matters." I mean, sure, there are times I care where I end up, like when I'm visiting someone or decide there's something in particular I want to see, but for the most part, I just want to see and experience everything I can. I would even say that there are no destinations; there are only stops on the journey.

So to address the second question, no, obviously I don't usually get upset when the plans change. Normally, I see it as just another part of the adventure. There are exceptions, like when I've made plans with other people and something happens that makes me inconvenience them (for instance, a cancelled flight or heavy traffic delays). But for me alone, nah, give me something new and interesting.

I should probably go ahead and "plan" my next road trip, by which I mean pick a few random destinations and research nearby breweries. Or take a few WDCers up on their offers to meet at various locations. Problem is, I still don't know when I'll be able to do it, and it makes a big difference whether I'll be able to go in June or have to wait until next winter. There are roads that close down completely in the winter, especially out west, and there's always the chance of getting stuck in sn*w. I once thought I'd avoid this by doing a winter road trip through the southern part of the US -- and ended up in a blizzard all the way from Winslow, Arizona to Amarillo, Texas. No one told me there were blizzards in goddamn New Mexico.

And really, my next trip is probably going to be to Belgium, which was supposed to happen last year. That one's going to take a fair bit of planning, but I'm still leaving room in the plans for squirrels.
January 18, 2021 at 12:05am
January 18, 2021 at 12:05am
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PROMPT January 18th

If you could use a time machine, would you travel to the future or to the past? When, and where would you go?

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Let's get a couple of things out of the way first:

One, time is not an illusion. While our perception of time depends on several factors, time is as real as anything is -- we can't touch it, but we can sure as hell measure it.

And two, I consider it highly unlikely that time travel to the past (that is, the "past" relative to any given moment of "now) can ever be possible. Time travel to the future will probably be trivial one day, what with general relativity and/or cryogenic technology. But then you're in a new "now" and there's no going back.

Those things said, I'm as much a fan of time-travel stories as anyone, so I'll play the game.

I'm going to assume here that by "time machine" the prompt means, like, the TARDIS or a certain DeLorean. So I'd be able to return. But that really doesn't matter because, either way, it's the future that I want to see, no doubt about it.

This is for one simple reason: the past kinda blows. I mean, maybe the future blows, too, but we know that the past blows. Medical care alone is enough to put me off on the idea for all time (pun intended). Sure, our "system" here in the US sucks ass, but it's fucking sorcery compared with leeches and lack of anesthesia.

And we know a bit about the past. Not everything, obviously, but enough. And if I really did have a time machine, I'd definitely visit, just to answer questions like "What did Helen of Troy actually look like?" "Was Pythagoras as big a dick as I think?" and "Who really invented vodka: Poland or Russia?" But like I said, given the choice of one or the other, I'd pick the future. I want to see how it all turns out, you know.

Well. I know how it all turns out. At some point, everything will just... stop. There will cease to be any thermodynamic processes whatsoever, but long before that happens, life will be unable to exist. Nevertheless, there's a lot of time involved (exactly how much time is a matter for debate, but it's orders of magnitude more than the lifetime of our sun), and so there's plenty of time for further innovation and discovery.

It's that discovery that intrigues me.

So, how far into the future? Where and when? Well, the essence of the future is that while big things like the eventual death of the Sun can be predicted within a billion years or so, there's no way of knowing how far what we call "civilization" can advance or how fast. We can try to extrapolate, but there are externalities that will throw wrenches into the works: war, pandemic, aliens, us choking on our own waste products, whatever. I'd want to go far enough into the future to see cool shit, but not so far that it would be entirely alien to me. So for that, we're not talking trillions or billions or even millions of years.

One thousand years should suffice. Just enough to see if we will really colonize other worlds, and hopefully view them. Alternatively, maybe Earth will be a vast, barren wasteland then. Even that would be good to know.

One final thought for today:

I could, of course, be very wrong about time travel into the past being impossible. We've been known to do things once thought to be impossible before, so it's not completely outside the realm of possibility.

If so, then at some point, we'll be able to visit what will be to us the past. I imagine that there will be people whose job it is to protect the timeline, to make sure that events happen for the best possible outcome.

And if that's true, then maybe we're living in the result.

If that doesn't frighten the living hell out of you, you haven't been paying attention.

Of course, there's absolutely no evidence that this has happened, and plenty of evidence that it hasn't. For example, someone from now going to the past risks contaminating it with Covfefe-19 or AIDS or some such virus that's of relatively recent origin. Right now you're going "well, maybe that's how Trump Mumps actually started, an infection from the future." The problem with that hypothesis is that the virus has been extensively studied, and there's nothing of the future about it. If it had come from the future, it would have shown signs of having evolved longer than anything else on the planet, and there's no indication of that whatsoever.

We're not living in the best of all possible timelines.

We're living in the only possible timeline.
January 17, 2021 at 12:01am
January 17, 2021 at 12:01am
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PROMPT January 17th

What do you do to escape or distract yourself from negative thoughts and emotions? How do you take your mind off something you don’t want to think about?

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Come on, now, I think everyone already knows my answer to this one.

But really, I have all kinds of avoidance behaviors, not just drinking myself blind. Usually if I immerse myself in a game (one that's a bit of a challenge, not, like, solitaire or whatever), it gets my mind to think about other stuff. Just going off to do something else sometimes breaks the circle of thought.

Thing is, I know that if something in my mind is nagging at me, I should confront it rather than avoid it.

I just don't wanna.

The best strategy, for me, one that is less directly self-confrontational but probably healthier than all of the above, is to start freewriting. Pretty soon my mind wanders and hey, maybe I even get a story out of the deal.

I haven't done that for a while, though -- so avoidance it is!

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Mini-Contest Results!

Yeah, I didn't actually expect a lot of responses; it was a tough one. Sumojo had the only relevant comment with:

I had been asked to be a bridesmaid for the fourth time in my life. The bride was my cousin and I was sure I was asked just to make up an even number.
We had never really liked each other, even as children but I agreed to participate once again. But what I really didn’t want was yet another horrendous bridesmaid’s dress which I’d never be able to wear again even if I altered it. The colours are always atrocious. Lilac or puce. I’m sure that brides select dresses for their bridesmaids to reflect on themselves. To show how beautiful they are and what plain friends she has.
I was bemoaning this fact to my mother, saying what terrible taste my cousin had and I wondered what her wedding gown would look like. “She’ll look like a meringue, I’ll bet.”
I saw my mother’s face go pale and I turned to see my cousin standing right behind me. Whoops!

And I just gotta say, that's a trope that when I see it in a movie or TV show, it never gets old: Character A is talking shit about Character B in front of people, and you see the people suddenly look uncomfortable and their gaze shifts, and Character A finishes with, "...and she's right behind me, isn't she?"

Way more embarrassing in person, I suspect. But hey, have a Merit Badge to take the edge off the shame, Sumojo.
January 16, 2021 at 12:01am
January 16, 2021 at 12:01am
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PROMPT January 16th

In your entry today, write about something you overheard while eavesdropping on a conversation you were not a part of. As part of “Creation Saturday,” you choose whether the conversation you write about is real or fake! Encourage discussion in your comments section - do your readers think your story is real or not?

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Truth? I hate eavesdropping. If it looks like I might be in a situation where I might overhear something not meant for me, I nope on out of there. None of my business, even if they're talking about me. Especially if they're talking about me. I don't consider it a guilty pleasure; I consider it highly unethical, because in general, my ethical compass points to "if I don't like it when someone does it to me, I reject doing it to them." And I hate being eavesdropped upon.

That said, you don't live very long before you find yourself in such situations, beyond your control. Since I find it unethical, though, my mind revises such conversations so I can pretend they never happened. Consequently, though I know I've accidentally eavesdropped before, I can only remember one specific instance of it, and even there, I can't remember the exact words spoken.

It was late, and I don't think the boss knew I was still at the office, because I stayed in the back and mostly just concentrated on my work. I went to get a drink or use the restroom or something, and I overheard the boss and the senior engineer, in the boss's office, discussing my performance and whether to give me a raise or not. I immediately noped away, quietly, even though admittedly there was a part of me that wanted to hear what they really thought about me.

That part got quashed.

Look, I'm no saint and you know it. But mostly the things that I do that are un-saint-like affect only me. When other people are involved, my internal rules change. Like... I have no moral constraints against getting drunk, but I won't drive under the influence because someone else might get hurt. That sort of thing. And in this case, the bigger part of me would rather have remained in ignorance that the conversation ever happened (though they certainly had every right to discuss my work performance in private). It's not so much because I didn't want to know what they thought about my work; like I said, I really did. It's more because knowing would have forever changed my relationship to both of them. Hell, if I didn't like what I heard, I might have had to go looking for another job.

As it turned out, that probably would have been for the best in the long run, but that's another story unrelated to the eavesdropping. As it was, I stuck around at that company for ten more years... and yes, a couple months after the conversation I had a performance review and ended up with a raise. That boss had his issues, but as far as I know he was always honest with me -- except for one big thing that, ten years later, caused me to jump ship and go work for the same former senior engineer who was in the conversation. But that's also another story for another time, nothing to do with the topic at hand.

That said, eavesdropping and the fallout thereof makes for interesting drama in fiction, much as murder makes a good mystery even though it's wrong. And yet, whenever I see it happening, either reading about it or on a screen, it still makes me cringe.

Now, I'm supposed to encourage discussion in the comments. Sure, you can decide for yourself whether that situation was real or fake, but let's make it more interesting with a

*StarB* *StarB* *StarB*

Merit Badge Mini-Contest!

Since a lot of you reading this have already done, or are preparing to do, your own entry on this topic as part of the 30DBC, I'm going to turn things around for the contest. In the comments, tell me, not about a conversation that you overheard... but about a conversation that you participated in that was eavesdropped upon, that you wish hadn't been.

As with the prompt, I don't care if it's truth or fiction, as long as it's interesting, and the one I find most interesting and/or amusing will earn the commenter a Merit Badge.

Per usual, you have until midnight tonight, the end of Saturday, WDC time... though I can't guarantee I'll do my usual post just after midnight as I plan to drink tomorrow evening. But at some point tomorrow, someone will get a Merit Badge (assuming, of course, that there's at least one relevant comment below).
January 15, 2021 at 12:05am
January 15, 2021 at 12:05am
The Original Logo.

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PROMPT January 15th

Write about dreaming. Do they ever mean anything, or are they all meaningless? Why are they sometimes scary, emotional, silly, or prophetic? Have you had a memorable dream recently?

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At the risk of slipping on a stray philosophy peel, "meaning" is highly subjective, and dreams can only have the meaning we ascribe to them.

Long-time readers might know that I've discussed dreaming in here before. I got interested in the science of it (which is called oneirology) in trying to understand episodes of sleep paralysis.

Truth is, science can't tell us much, especially when it comes to subjective experiences. This or that part of the brain being used, certain chemicals expressed or suppressed, links to REM sleep, the technical aspects of how long a dream state lasts; those sorts of things can be studied.

My personal favorite hypothesis has to do with dreams serving to consolidate and file away memories, as well as being a means of emotional practice. Often dreams seem to be related to waking events, which makes the most sense because your brain doesn't stop working when you're asleep; it just does different stuff.

As for meaning, though... well, it's my considered opinion that "dream interpretation" books are, at best, crap; and at worst, utter bullshit. They do serve the purpose of making the authors' dreams come true, sometimes, so at least there's that. Yes, symbolism and metaphor are powerful things, but they tend to have very personal meanings. Like, if I saw a turkey vulture in a dream, it would mean something very different and far more positive than if someone else saw one in their dream. For instance. That is, if it meant anything at all, which I'd wonder about.

Nevertheless, thinking about these things can open up new connections in one's mind, and that's usually a good thing, especially for writers or artists. For instance, I've woken up before and realized that, in a dream, I made a pun. Yes, that's right... I pun even in my sleep. Lately, I've sometimes been dreaming in very simple French, which I take to mean that the lessons are starting to sink in.

So... "Why are they sometimes..."

Scary: Like I said up there, I think dreams can serve as emotional practice. Perhaps there's some evolutionary benefit to practicing responses to environmental threats; I don't know, because I despise evolutionary psychology hypotheses. In any event, I think maybe sometimes the body just needs to practice pumping out certain neurotransmitters. Does this serve to enhance or moderate one's anxiety? Eh. I don't know. To me, the only scary dreams are the ones where sleep paralysis is involved. That shit sucks.

Emotional: Processing the day's emotions, and preparing for possible future emotions? Makes as much sense to me as anything.

Silly: Humor and absurdity are essential parts of human life.

Prophetic: Couple of things going on here. First of all, we dream almost every night, and we have the cognitive ability to predict things that might happen in the future; consequently, it's not shocking that some of this predictive processing would go on even at night. And, second, even if that weren't happening, it would be far more odd if no dream were ever predictive in some way. I mean, I've been known to have dreams of nuclear bombs going off all across the horizon, and I really, really hope that those aren't prophetic. But I've also had dreams in which I got stuck in traffic behind, say, a blue Ford truck and behold, in the next few days I got stuck in traffic behind a blue Ford truck. Given how many blue Ford trucks there are and how often I (used to) drive, such a dream had a near 100% certainty of coming true at some point -- especially when we tend to remember the ones that come true way more than the ones that don't.

I don't really remember my dreams the way I used to. Mostly just brief impressions. Oddly, lately, a lot of these have involved me being completely aware of my surroundings -- but also being completely blind. Like, in the dream, other senses substitute for sight. Fear, prediction, or just my mind being silly? Who knows? I'm not going to worry about it, though, and the dreams are kind of interesting.

One thing I know with almost complete certainty, though: there's nothing supernatural involved. Just your brain firing away, doing what it does, maybe storing memories, maybe rebooting, maybe trying to make sense of the world or, contrariwise, reminding us that there is no sense and why not just embrace the absurdity?

And sometimes you get story ideas out of it, so enjoy it!
January 14, 2021 at 12:07am
January 14, 2021 at 12:07am
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PROMPT January 14th

If you could have an all-expenses paid trip to see any famous sight-seeing destination (monument, building, national park, etc), where would you choose to go?

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The Valles Marineris  .

Cheating? Maybe. I'd argue it's a sight-seeing destination because a lot of people want to see that sight. But hey, if you're going to pay my expenses to go to Mars and back, I'd be happy to be the one standing on the rim.

If we're going to be boring and limit the destinations to Earth, there are a lot of places I still haven't seen. Hell, I've been close to the Grand Canyon many times but never actually seen it.

Some say it's overrated. Well, compared to the Valles Marineris, it probably is. There isn't a single tourist destination on the planet that someone, somewhere, hasn't claimed to be "overrated." "Mount Everest? No thanks, too crowded." "Yeah, no, the Taj Mahal is a filthy place that's falling apart." "The Eiffel Tower? Tourist crap." (Yes, that's a pun because the French word for 'tower' is 'tour.')

The places where I most want to go are less grand, anyway, and probably less singular: a brewery tour of Belgium, or a houseboat cruise down the Danube, or maybe a Vouvray expedition to the Loire valley.

But if we have to limit it to "famous" destinations on (yawn) Earth, I'd probably do what I usually do in such situations: make a list of places I haven't been (technically, I've been to the Eiffel Tower, though it was around the time Nixon resigned), and then pick one at random.

Because ultimately, I want to see everything, but I know I'll never be able to. So random it is.
January 13, 2021 at 12:02am
January 13, 2021 at 12:02am
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PROMPT January 13th

What songs hit you with a wave of nostalgia every time you hear them?

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I... don't really do nostalgia.

Not on a regular basis, anyway, and not tied to songs. Which is not to say that I don't sometimes miss some aspects of the past; it's just that I use music differently, I suppose.

Sure, there are songs from my younger days that can trigger memories, both pleasant and not so pleasant. But I also enjoy some newer music, and some older music that I somehow missed along the way. Music, to me, is music: I don't care much about what "decade" it was made in (except insofar as my mental metadata about a song usually includes what year it was released), and while songs have a genre, that's often secondary to me. As long as it's a good song -- subjectively and/or objectively -- I generally want to hear it again.

In other words, unlike I suspect most people, I'm not trapped in any one period of popular music, or any one type. I've been known to create mix tapes, back when mix tapes were a thing, with folk songs back to back with heavy metal. Or punk followed by glam rock. From vastly different time periods. For example.

Now, obviously, I'm often drawn to familiar music like just about anyone, but, again, that's not usually because of any associations it has, but because I simply consider it quality music.

I hope I'm never one of those "all music these days sucks" types. Sure, there's a lot of music out there that is utter crap, but I distinctly recall that this has always been the case. It's just that no one ever plays the crap music from when I was a kid anymore... because it's crap. They still play the new music that's crap because it's new, so I understand why people might draw that conclusion. (It's the same way with books.) Admittedly, I haven't really been keeping up with new music, lately, but every once in a while I'll hear one at the taphouse or something and, curious, I use the handy "Hey Google, what song is playing?" feature on my phone, and often, it'll be something from the last decade... or maybe from the sixties.

And can I just say, that shit is sorcery -- the music recognition search thing. It picks up like three measures of the music and comes back with song, artist, album, year, label, producer, lyrics, and pretty much anything else I'd want to know.

Perhaps that's why I don't often wax nostalgic: apart from certain political and epidemiological problems going on in the US right now, I feel like I'm living in "the good old days." Like I said, yeah, there are things from the past that I miss: my parents, old friends, cats, being able to travel, that sort of thing. But damn if technology isn't pretty fucking awesome right now. Like, if I want to hear a song? Comes right up on my phone and I Bluetooth it to a high-quality speaker.

January 12, 2021 at 12:02am
January 12, 2021 at 12:02am
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PROMPT January 12th

What fashion trend makes you cringe or laugh every time you see it? Have you ever wanted to design your own clothing or accessory? What would you design and what features would it have?

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Ha! Like I know anything about fashion.

I mean, I am the proud owner of this badge:

Merit Badge in Fashion
[Click For More Info]

Top notch limerick in scroll *^*Bigsmile*^*

But that was a joke presented to me as a joke for a joke.

Now, there are some things that I know are major fashion no-nos, like... um...

I dunno.

Socks with sandals! There. I know one fashion fail.

I'll tell you what I consider the height of fashion, though. My going-out ensemble. This consists of:

*Bullet* A pair of black Levis, regardless of season or temperature. Though sometimes when it's hot I'll substitute a pair of shorts. Men in their 50s shouldn't wear shorts, but men in their 50s also quit giving a shit about what they shouldn't be wearing -- hence why older guys are often seen wearing socks with sandals.

*Bullet* A pair of Birkenstocks (sans socks) -- also regardless of temperature. I've worn these in single-digit weather, outdoors, albeit only for a few minutes. If I go hiking, I'll wear hiking boots, but I'm not going hiking, so Birks it is.

*Bullet* A t-shirt, preferably black. Usually featuring a beer or brewery, or perhaps a musician. Though the one in my portfolio picture is a mashup of Jeff Bridges as The Dude and whatshisname from Tron 2.

*Bullet* An aloha shirt. Because, dammit, Hawaiian shirts are cool and they will never be not cool.

*Bullet* A hat, because fuck you. And not one of those redneck baseball caps, either. Especially not a red one, and definitely not worn with the bill facing backwards like a douchebag.

*Bullet* When the temperature drops below about 54F, a full-length black leather trench coat and a scarf.

I'm fully aware that the combination of a full-length trench and scarf, along with Birkenstock sandals with my toes peeking out, is ridiculous. See the above bullet point about being in my 50s and not giving a shit.

What fashion makes me laugh every time I see it?

Tacti-cool gear. Like what a lot of those shitheads were wearing during the attempted coup on the 6th. Especially -- and I'm not shaming here; we all have our struggles -- but especially if you're overweight; then it becomes military cosplay. (Mad Minotaur Guy, though; sure, he's a deranged lunatic, a terrorist and a traitor, but dude has some fashion sense. It's almost too bad he won't get to express that in prison.)

Yeah, that's right. I just talked about politics in a post about fashion. Deal with it.

But anyway, no, I have neither the desire nor the capability of designing my own line of clothing. if I did, though, it would be something with a lot of pockets, because otherwise I'd have to wear a belt pouch to carry all the different spectacles that I find myself needing at my advanced age, and that would just be wrong.

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