The man in the mirror…

Content warning : physical dysphoria

About two years ago, I grew a beard. My wife asked me too! And I’ll humor her just about anything she asks, at least once. I was expecting a short experiment. I had grown a beard about 15 years ago, or at least, tried. I tried to do a goatee, and by the time it got a few inches long, well… The hair grew in several different shades, fine and fuzzy, and every which way. It basically looked like I had reached into a vacuum cleaner bag, pulled out a large dust bunny, and SLAP, glued that sucker to my face.

Much to my astonishment, my beard hair grew in nicely. My mustache hair grew faster, it always had, so I ended up shaving it a few times until the beard was thick enough. My face with just a mustache looks just enough like my father to freak me out in the mirror. See, when I look in a mirror, it takes me a moment to parse that that’s me. And anything that makes me look like someone else, well, my brain goes there first. The one and only time I tried growing JUST a mustache, I woke up a few days in, looked at myself in the mirror, and had a panic attack. (I also can’t watch the live action Jungle Book with Cary Elwes for that reason. He has my father’s exact mustache. )

But the beard grew nicely. I noticed that I had two TINY spots of white on my cheeks, which left me quite chuffed. I had always said that I wouldn’t have minded starting to go bald at 17 if I had also gone silver, but nope. I kept it trimmed, and it became a look that I enjoyed. None of that bushy ass hipster lumberjack thing. I don’t need to keep a snack in there. It took me about a month with the beard to start instantly recognizing myself in the mirror with the beard, which seemed, at the time, normal. It was a very pleasing thing, the morning I looked in the mirror and went, yup, that’s me. In retrospect, it was VERY pleasing, although I didn’t understand why at the time.

Picture below by the very talented Keyhole Photography

The Scrivener – My persona in a local role play group

I’m going to back up a bit in my reminiscing here. I’ve always had a touch of body dysphoria. Specifically, there are times when my body feels too BIG. “Oh, that’s your brain’s way of telling you to lose some weight, fatty.” (Yes, I’ve had someone tell me this in response) No, fuck you, not like that. I mean… Watching Men In Black when it came out was the best thing I could reference. I feel sometimes like I’m piloting a meat suit. The “real” me is like, two foot tall, with spindly limbs, grasping nerves and tendons inside my body and pulling them to make me move. I have a bad sense of how much space I actually take in the universe, and bounce off walls, doorways, people. Because of that, I’ve always been extra careful and paying attention, and stay further away from things than I really need to.

The odd thing is, the times I feel the LEAST like that, are the times when I’m working out regularly. The bigger my body actually is, muscle wise, the more I feel like I “fit” in it. I’m just mentioning this to show that I have a minor understanding of this feeling of “This is not my beautiful body!? How did I get here!?”

ZOOM fast forward to today. My face has gotten ITCHY the last couple of months. I’ve got a bit of dandruff. I read that it is a good idea to give facial skin some time to air out now and then. Also, I’ve lost a LOT of weight since growing it. You can tell in pictures, even under the beard. I was kind of curious to see what my face looks like now. So today, my wife used the clippers and buzzed my face. (She insisted that if the beard was coming off, she was the one to do it!). She stopped halfway for a moment, and let me see it with just a goatee and mustache. Hilarious. I looked weird. But I still instantly recognized myself. She took the rest of it down. And I looked in the mirror. And… who the fuck is that? Oh, wait, it’s me. Hunh. It’ll probably take a month to start recognizing myself without the beard, but by then, it’ll have grown back, I though.

Move over Mr. Price! This man is eggs-actly the one to bring down The Bat.

And that’s when it hit me. And I realized why I was so happy that day I looked in the mirror and instantly knew who I was. I never had before. I see myself in photos, clean shaven, and I’m more likely to recognize myself from the back, than the front. In fact, I HAVE looked at photos of myself in a group, and asked, who’s that dude? And people stare at me. “Uhh, that’s you Alex.” No, really, who… oh shit it is.

I don’t recognize my own face, without the hair. I never have. I never really thought about it, but… My own brain doesn’t see me as me, without at least a thin ruff of hair on my face. It’s… an interesting feeling. The cold on my cheeks, splashing water on my face. That’s weird. Looking in the mirror? It’s downright disorienting. I can’t wait for this to grow back.

Gonna be a bad shift, My handle time is gonna fall, :Song parody

Wrote a quick song parody of William Bell’s immortal Born Under a Bad Sign. For all the call center folk!

Its gonna be a bad shift
My handle time is gonna fall
If it wasn’t for dumb people, you know I wouldn’t get a single call.
Hard boots and troubleshooting to the end
Gotta be polite hope they rate me ten
Its gonna be a bad shift
My handle time is gonna fall
If it wasn’t for dumb people, you know I wouldn’t get a single call.
My callers can’t read, but they know they’re right
My whole day is just one big fight
Its gonna be a bad shift
My handle time is gonna fall
If it wasn’t for dumb people, you know I wouldn’t get a single call.
That queue’s so high
You know if it wasn’t for dumb people, I wouldn’t have no calls,
If it wasn’t for real dumb people, I wouldn’t get a single call.
They whine and beg me, their tech to save
A big mouthed caller is gonna report me to my grave
Its gonna be a bad shift
My handle time is gonna fall
If it wasn’t for dumb people, you know I wouldn’t get a single call.
Yeah, my bad call time
Been having bad times for days.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time! : Workplace memories

I was reminded today of one of the more interesting HR experiences I’ve had. At least, of the ones that I can actually talk about at work without getting sent to HR again…

I was working at a call center that had a decent kitchen in the breakroom. Actual fridges, several toasters, an electric kettle. I had settled into a decent filling breakfast routine of toasting an english muffin, and spreading peanut butter and jelly on the halfs while still warm. The peanut butter melts into the nooks and crannys, the jelly spreads smoothly in the heat. Yum.

Now, we didn’t have our own drawers. So the jelly was in the fridge, the peanut butter in a cabinet of the break room. Theft happened. Often. The levels of both containers would often be lower than I last left them. Ugh, but as long as they use silverware, and not fingers, I’m not going to complain TOO much. I did use masking tape and permanent marker to make sure my name was on both lids, and the body of each jar. To make it clear that this wasn’t company provided pb and j.

So, one morning, I’m making breakfast. I spread the pb, and dip my spoon in the jar. And another worker, one of the different departments, so not someone I knew by name or worked with, watches me, startled. “HEY! You shouldn’t do that!”

I’m very confused. I would expect this reaction if I say, stuck a metal fork in the toaster to pull out my muffin. Not use a plastic spoon to spread jelly. “Do what? I like peanut butter and jelly…?”

She steps up, getting indignant. “You shouldn’t use the same spoon for peanut butter and then stick it into the jelly! What about people with peanut allergies?”

I’m nonplussed for a moment. I’m fairly certain that I have found one of the people using my stock. I realize that she’s been waiting for me to finish at the counter, with two pieces of bread on a plate. The toaster is free, I’m not blocking it, and she’s got a plastic knife on the plate as well. But nothing visible with which one might expect a knife to be used ON. So…

“Yeah, but, it’s MY jelly.” I show her the lid with my name on it. “So no one else is going to be using it. Or at least.” I pause, narrow my eyes, and look at her bread, then look her in the eyes. “No one else SHOULD be using MY jelly. That would be stealing.”

She gets a bit nervous and steps back, but rallies. “Yeah, well, um, I mean, if someone BY ACCIDENT used it, you could cause an allergic reaction, you know? So, you shouldn’t mix them, just in case….”

I’ll admit, I was a bit ticked. What I did next was a touch childish. Justified, but childish. I showed her the labels on both sides of the jar as well. “Well, no one else has jelly in the fridge, both jars in there are mine, and labeled. So I’m not sure how someone could do so by ‘accident’. But just in case, you’re right! Lets make it clear. ”

I took a big spoonful of peanut butter, and mixed it into the jar of jelly. “There, like homemade Goobers!” I pulled out a spoonful of jelly, dark brown streaks through the glistening purple mass. I took a big sniff of the jar. “MMM MMM. Now it smells and looks like peanut butter, so anyone with an allergy would know better than to use it!”

I finished making breakfast, put my stuff away, wiped down the counter with a wet paper towel, as she stood there, getting redder and redder, spluttering on occasion.

And then two days later I get pulled off the phone to talk to HR.

“So, we understand that you were asked to not mix peanut butter into jelly that’s in the fridge, to avoid allergy issues?”

I blink, several times. “Seriously? That’s what you brought me in to talk about?”

“Do you recall this conversation”

“Yes, I ‘recall this conversation’. I pointed out to the person the same thing I’ll say here. It’s MY jelly, that I purchased. It has MY name on it in several places. Anyone other than me who would use it would be stealing. Did the person who made the complaint to you admit to stealing my jelly?”

HR director and subordinate, sitting next each other on the other side of the desk, glance at each other for a moment. The answer is obviously yes, and just as obviously, they can’t admit it. “Well, there’s a lot of possible room for misunderstanding, and we’d hate for an accident to happen, so we need you to take the jar that’s in the fridge home, and not mix allergens if you bring new jelly in the future. “

“So, is the company going to provide jelly?”

Another glance between them. “No, why would we do that?”

“Then no.”

A longer glance. They aren’t used to that word, I see. “I’m sorry, what?”

“No. Unless you demand that no employee brings a lunch in a sealed container that contains potential allergens, you have no right to demand that of me. Unless you intend to make the break room peanut free, tell people that they aren’t allowed to bring sandwiches that have peanut butter on them, you have no right to demand that I do so.”

Long sigh. “Alex, look, you have to understand, if there was an… accident… and someone had a reaction, then.”

I cut her off. “Then, per the signs that you put up a month ago after someone kept stealing lunches, the fact that they had a reaction would be proof that they stole food from the fridge, and you’d have no choice but to fire them instantly. And if you push further, and I make a complaint to the ethics committee via that number we all got an email and training about a few weeks ago, and they looked into the documentation, and there was any notation in the complaint that suggested that the complainer was knowingly stealing food from the fridge, well then…”

I paused for a moment, letting things work their way through her thoughts. “Then you would have a real fun time explaining to the ethics committee why that person wasn’t instantly fired, wouldn’t you?”

They looked at each other, at paperwork on the desk, at each other. “Are we done here? I should get back to the phones, we have a queue.”

They nodded, I got up and got back on the phones.

Twitter feeds…

Started in my head by @emccoy_writer on twitter, saying that twitter feeds on typos.

“Jak by numble, kack be qick, jacj jump iver teh candelstick.”

Jack hummed to himself, swaying in the glow of monitors.
“Jack, buddy? You okay down there?”

Benny looked down into the lowered floor of the NOC from the raised walkway surrounding it, server trees blinking behind him.

Jack nodded lazily. “Feeding of teh fede!”

Benny watched as one of the monitors jumped, auto refreshing with new tweets. The wires strung from monitor to monitor sparked and shone, and the ghostly images of letters flew to Jack, leaving afterimages in Benny’s eyes that kept making him think of Sesame Street.

Jack cackled as the alphabetic apparitions slurped into his skin, his eyes flashing for a moment. “TYPE A, TIPE B!, TYPO POSTIVE!”

Benny bit his lip, chewing apprehensively, as Jack swung around to gaze at monitor after monitor. He jumped suddenly when a hand touched his shoulder.

“Calm down Benny. Your shift is over. Simone is gonna watch him.” Benny turned to look at the speaker. Junie’s eyes were as concerned as his, he knew, but their glistening orbs held concern for him, not Jack.

“C’mon Benny. Coffee. You need it.”

Benny nodded at let them drag him gently towards the stairs, and down to Twitter headquarter’s commissary. They sat in silence for several minutes, Benny slowly sipping at his coffee. Finally, he found the strength to speak.

“He’s getting worse Junie. I thought he was playing a prank at first, laying the wires, pouring cups of … whatever that liquid is. Lighting candles. But…”

He looked them in the eyes. “Can you see them yet? The letters?” Junie nodded slowly.

“Just now, first time. I wasn’t sure I was imagining it, still not sure, but”

Benny cut them off. “R, Q, t, z, and a 1.”

Junie’s eyes widened, fear, paranoia, turning them rigid. “Fuck Benny. How did… yeah, that’s what I saw, but… I can hear the caps in your voice. And that when you said one, you said…”

Benny raise a hand. “Don’t try it. Don’t force it. Just… let me know if you can start hearing the misspellings like when HE talks.”

The sat, Benny sipping, Junie watching him intently. Neither noticed movement until the chair between them slid out from the table, a long leg swoopping over the back of it, Riker style.

“Hey Destiny.” They spoke in unison, not needing to look up. Only one Twitter employee sat like that.

“Hey. We gotta stop this.”

Benny looked up, desperation written across his face in more words than 140 characters could ever tell. His hand shook and bounced on the table, his wedding ring clunking against the stained Formica. TAP, TAP, TAP.

“How, he’s too powerful. Did you see what he did to…”

Benny cut off with a sob, ragged breath fighting in and out, tears wetting his cheeks.

“Yeah, we saw. Look, we have an idea. We’re deploying to prod in an hour.”

Junie looked up. “Deploying to prod on a Friday night? Are you insane?”

Destiny laughed, a harsh, humorless mirth, dry as dust. “Yep. I think we all are. But we’re deploying. QA is done with it. Hitting desktop, mobile browser, Apple and Android. Fuck, we even updated the Blackberry App for this. Forced update, nothing works on an App until you download it.”

Benny caught his breath at the news, air finally coming in and out naturally. “Blackberry? Jesus fuck. To do what?”

“Spellcheck…?!” They both turned to look at Junie, wonder on their face as they looked back and forth between the two. “Am I right Destiny?”

She nodded, taking Benny’s cup from his nerveless fingers, slugging the rest of it down. “Ugh. Dark roast. How you drink that shit. Yeah Junebug. Got it in one. Forced spellcheck. You hit submit, it comes up with fixed spelling and you have to hit submit again. We’ll take his power, wean him down, get him back to normal.”

Benny grinned a moment, then his face fell. “Won’t work.”


Junie held up their hands. “Whoa, whoa D. He’s right. It’ll help, but… they can reedit typos in, right? We aren’t forcing the spellcheck?”

Destiny frowned, shaking her head negative. “No, we can’t do that. Might be legitimate. Might be vernacular, but no worries there. We tested. AAVE and dialect spelling doesn’t activate his power, just actual typos. We’ve built in AAVE spellcheck too, no worries there.”

Junie sighed. “Still won’t be complete.”

“Who the fuck is going to put purposeful typos in, not meaning the word to be correct, even if its a correct alternate spelling?”

Junie and Benny sighed and spoke in stereo. “Nazis.”

Junie explained as Destiny looked at them in surprise and disgust. “The alt right white power fucks. They misspell words on purpose to get around filters and bot detectors. They MEAN for it to be considered a wrong spelling, so it still counts for whatever spell Jack cast on the servers.”

Destiny’s jaw dropped.  “Fuck.  Is THAT why he fucking coddles and protects those bastards?”

“Pfft.  Naw. Nothing so sinister. He’s just a racist.”

Telepathillogical, or Did You Hear What They Said About Our Marlene’s Telepathy? And who Grandma left the good china to?

As so often happens, a story idea gets into my head from an odd source. An online discussion of the Romance Genre, and what it means to be Romance, being talked about by Ursula Vernon ( @ursulav on Twitter) morphed into her talking about the weird way that Science Fiction and Fantasy get mixed and matched based on odd qualities. And made a comment of, “Did You Hear What They Said About Our Marlene’s Telepathy? And who Grandma left the good china to?”

Which immediately planted a story seed. Free story, since the title is shamelessly stolen.

Green. The conversation happening downstairs, the one I was intently NOT listening to, was green. Strands of red and yellow, but mostly green. Gossip.

That’s the best I can explain how thoughts FEEL.  Perhaps if I were musically inclined, and could tell you the difference by sound between a G major and a C minor third, I might describe them as pitches or octaves. If I cared more about food than, tastes great, more filling, I might talk about the sour and bitter and umami of brains as I brush across them.  Or maybe if I worked with my hands more, I’d feel thoughts as smooth, rough, gritty, oily. 

I’m not an artist though, and thoughts are colors, with a few specific exceptions. Green is gossip, that odd combination of greedy longing for what others have and do, and scandalized relief that it didn’t happen to you. Red is anger, yellow concern.  Happiness is a bright pink and purple streak, and it wasn’t until I was taught the birds and the bees via random memories running through my mother’s mind when I was seven that I realized what the bright white bursts that would sometimes come from my parent’s side of the house at night were. The memories were bad enough, I’m just glad that my room was far enough away from theirs that I never heard them. To be clear, I wasn’t feeling the actual emotion. I’m not a telempath. It was more like body language, but of thoughts. I could still hear TONE at a distance

Distance being exactly what was being discussed below me, in conversation that I was failing badly at NOT listening.  Because those exceptions I mentioned? One of them kept coming up.  Me. I can tell you exactly what it feels like when someone is thinking or talking about me. Maybe if I was a bit more self absorbed, it would be pleasant.  But I’m not, and it’s not. Ever walk into a room at the wrong moment, and dozens of eyes are staring at you? Or sit on a park bench, no one else around, but you could SWEAR that someone was staring at you? Every hear your name called out from a distance by a voice you ALMOST recognize.  Or feel a twitch in your leg like your phone was in your pocket, vibrating, even if it’s not in your pocket, with the absolute certainty that someone just texted you?

All of it.  All those feelings and more, when people are thinking about me. Or talking about me. And Aunt Patty just couldn’t stop talking about me.

“Distance? Really. They made the determination based on DISTANCE?”  Aunt Patty’s red words broadcast from her mind just as surely as her voice boomed from her mouth, an Irish Whisper my Mom calls it.  Four people all talking together acted as amplifiers, their own words in their minds being rebroadcast a moment later by the other three hearing and processing.  Impossible to ignore, I finally decided, rolling over and stuffing a pillow over my eyes and ears to minimize stimulation.

Blue came her husband, my uncle Jeffrey. The sparkling blue of a bucket of water, drawn from a ‘Well, actually’.  “It’s the cube square law, love. Very scientific.”   I found myself wishing telekinesis was real so I could throw a cucumber sandwich at him.

“No Jeffrey, that’s volume. You’re thinking the inverse square law, like gravity.”  Deeper blue, my mother educating.  It still amazes me that depth of shade can tell me so much, whether someone is passing information along because they want the information to be known, or telling someone something in order to prove they know it .  “And yes, exactly.  Marlene can’t hear more than 20 feet away, and words appear to her suddenly as soon as she’s in range, as strong as if she was next to the person.” There was a pause, and a tinge of pink and silver that let me know she was taking a deep sip of her tea.  Even being gossiped about as if I wasn’t the telepathic equivalent of sitting at the table being talked about I third person, I still smiled into my pillow. I worked hard on finding that tea blend for Mom, and I was very happy that she took so much pleasure from the chocolatey Earl Grey. I just had to rebox it when it arrived before giving it to her, she’d never drink it if she knew it was named after a fictional telempath.

That was a word they taught me at CI. Empath means able to read emotions from signals. Like empathy. Almost everyone is empathic. Being able to sense emotions, through your mind, at a distance, is TELEMPATHY. Telempathy of course, since emotions aren’t proper brainwaves, is magic, not science. And I’m not a telempath. I swear. The colors I feel aren’t truly emotions, more like, tone of voice, but of thoughts.

Yellow and red tinged the returning blue, her mind focusing on the conversation. “According to the Cricket Institute, if her telepathy was science based, she would have a, a strong signal, as it were, when next to someone, and the feeling of their words would weaken with distance, a measurable decrease that follows the inverse square law.”

A wash of mishmash colors, confusion warring with set beliefs.  “So, as the distance doubles, the strength is three times weaker?”

“Almost love.” Pumpkin orange. I could almost feel her desire to pat her husband patronizingly on the head. Almost. I’m not an telempath. “As the distance is squared, the strength is unsquared.  De squared? Square rooted?”  

“That works Patty, square rooted. But Marlene’s ability doesn’t follow that law.”  Red flared brighter in my mother’s mind. “So CI says she’s not a scientific telepath, but a magical one.”

I screamed into the pillow, and chucked it across the room.  I popped up to sitting, done with being spoken about. Also, I wanted a cup of that tea.

 I looked over at where the pillow landed, and at the ears flickering in irritation a few feet away.  “Oh come off it Skeeve, I knew you were there, it was nowhere near close.”   He languidly opened and closed his one good eye, then went back to licking his paw, wiping it over it ears. I pulled on boots, grabbed my purse and phone.  The one bright side to moving limbs is that it makes it easier to not focus on a conversation, so I missed the next few moments as I skipped out of my room and down the stairs. 

“I mean, being a magical telepath isn’t a BAD thing. There’s nothing wrong with magic, it’s just, she can’t…”  I heard Mom’s voice echoing up the stairs, a Pollock of colors, sadness, resignation.

“It means I can’t get a job using my abilities.”  The four jumped as I came hopping around the bend in the stairs, looking down on them.  “Only ‘scientific telepaths’ with provable and measurable limits can get Cricket certification. If it’s not hard science, than it might as well be a fantasy, is what they told me.”

I stopped at the table and let them collect themselves a minute.  I curtseyed to each in turn.  “Good afternoon Aunt Betty, Uncle Jeffrey, Grandma Joane.”  I bent over and kissed my mother on the forehead, the tea in her cup wafting into my nose.  “Good afternoon Mom.  May I have some tea?”

She smiled, and poured a cup.  Grandma Joane spoke up for the first time, the muted tones of brown and green brightening.  “So, you’re not disappointed about the loss of guaranteed job?”

I shrugged, and took the cup from Mom.  “Thank you Mom.”  I took a sip, rolling the deep velvet on my tongue.  I wonder what it be like to taste thoughts as types of tea. “Not really Grandma. I didn’t have a certification and guarantee before, so I didn’t lose anything.  And besides, the kind of jobs you can get as a Cricket certified telepath? Tricking people into thinking of hidden information, acting as a spy for a company looking for disloyalty and waste?  No thank you. I don’t know what I want to do after college yet, but it’s not THAT.”

Everyone nodded approvingly, although colors and random splashes of words made it clear not everyone agreed.  Waste. So sad. Poor dear doesn’t know what she wants. The random thoughts floated, less powerful for not being vocalized.

I delicately took a bacon fluffin from the plates arrayed on the Lazy Katey, Ladies Don’t GRAB, I could hear Mom say in her mind as I mentally repeated the oft drilled lesson myself. Our eyes met for a moment, the sparkle in hers showing she knew I knew.

I took a bite, letting the colors of thoughts slow their swirling around me.  “Honestly, the part that upsets me is the inconsistency.  I met almost every other test for being scientific, but they get stuck on this one.” I took another, larger bite of fluffin, letting the pancake and meat mingle.

Jeffrey raised a finger. “Wait, what other tests?”

I chewed hurriedly, trying to swallow so I could answer, when I stopped dead. Grandma Joane lit up in the darkest blue I had ever seen. Yes, I understand that lit up in dark sounds weird. It’s my brain, deal with it. She raised a fist, popping out fingers one by one, dark red nail polish and rings flashing.

“One, distance. We already discussed that. Two, detectable waves. A scientific telepath will show changes to their brainwaves that partially mimic the person they are listening to. A magical one won’t. In addition, there are areas of the brain that show activity while the telepath is, well, telepathing, meaning physical structures are involved. ” She paused, and glanced up at me.

I remembered the testing, the graphs showing my mind matching the technician, the bright flares on the scanner as specific wrinkles in my brain caught fire, electromagnetically speaking. “Yes Grandma, my brain does the wave.” Mom snorted in laughter.

Grandma nodded curtly. “Three, languages. A scientific telepath will hear words thought in other languages as the sounds the person would have spoken. If they don’t know the language, they won’t understand. Many magical telepaths translate automatically.”

She paused, and looked at me again. I swallowed. She knew more about telepathy than I knew she did. That was, unsettling. Sprechen sie Deutsch? “No Grandma, I don’t sprechen the Deutsch, although everyone knows what that means, c’mon.”

She nodded, smiling, and continued. Nothing in her head but the words she said. She had the kind of control the technicians at Cricket did. I realized suddenly that while I felt her colors, I hadn’t really heard her earlier.

“Four, emotions. Emotional response is a function of more than just brainwaves, so a telempath is magical by definition.”

“And I’m not a telempath.” Okay, I said that really firmly. Defensively even.

” Five, shielding. Since they work with waves of some kind, certain materials will block their ability, and certain devices can provide a hum that makes it harder to hear.”

Blue faded to a bright grey, her face paling to match. Her counting fingers went limp and her free hand clutch her hair. “Which is the other test you failed…”

Everyone else was staring hard at me now. “Yes, you could say I failed it. Their blocking material didn’t work for me. How… wait, that’s right, you wear wigs. Is…” I started to laugh, half nervously, half from real humor, as she tugged her hair, shifting it slightly in place. “You have thought shielding in your rug? Seriously?”

“RUG! How dare you.. how did you know! I wasn’t thinking about it, you couldn’t have known I wear a wig” WHO DOESNT KNOW! The thought hit me from three directions in unison.

I took a long slow sip of tea and smiled. “Grandma Dee told me last summer when I spent a week with her. She told me LOTS of things she thought I should know.” I finished the last nibble of fluffin. “Thank you for the tea Mom.” I kissed her on the forehead again, and walked towards the kitchen with my cup. A flurry of thoughts swung my way, a kaleidoscope of colors. Hell, of emotions. Maybe I am a telempath. Magical is just a codeword for, we can’t control. I stopped, and turned.

“Actually, now that I think about it, distance is just a red herring.” Grandma Joane looked at me with a touch of fear, purple tinging her presence. She definitely knew way too much about telepathy. I found myself wondering for the first time just what she used to do before retiring. “It’s the shielding that really damned me getting a certification.” LANGUAGE! I threw Mom a hairy eyeball, then looked back at Grandma Joane. “Like I said, it’s provable and measurable LIMITS. If you don’t have them, if they can’t defend against you, they won’t certify you. Interesting. Well. Mom? I’m going to head over to Jamal’s, okay?”

Mom nodded weakly. I turned, stopped, and spun again, looking at Aunt Patty. “Why yes, Grandma Dee DID in fact tell me who she was leaving the good china to!” The bright flashes of color followed me nearly halfway down the block.

Wordy wordy words

So, i was introduced this morning to the song Diggy Diggy Hole, through this metal video

My mind of course goes straight to parody

Wordy Wordy Words.

Siblings of the book rejoice
Scribe, scribe, scribe with me
Raise your pen and choose your voice!
Write, write, write with me
Down and down into the page
Who knows what phrases we’ll bequeath
Plots and plans, twists and more
For Our readers we have much in store
Born leather bound, suckled from a teat of ink
Reading in the dark, till our eyes were strained and pink
Skin made of paper, pencils in our bones
To write and write makes us free
Come on siblings, write with me!
I am a writer, and I’m writing the words
Wordy wordy words, wordy wordy words
I am a writer, and I’m writing the words
Wordy wordy words, writing the words
The daylight will not stop my flow
Write, write on the page
My word count must always grow
Blank sheets make me rage
Fill a glass and down your drink
Wear your fingers to the brink
Bow your head and fall asleep
Drool from mouth to page will seep
Born leather bound, bookcases line my room
Our pages are a cradle, our plots shall outline your tomb
Interrupt our writing time, Porlock will meet your doom!
We do not fear what lies we speak
No symbolism is too deep
I am a writer, and I’m writing the words
Wordy wordy words, wordy wordy words
I am a writer, and I’m writing the words
Wordy wordy words, writing the words
I am a writer, and I’m writing the words
Wordy wordy words, wordy wordy words
I am a writer, and I’m writing the words
Wordy wordy words, writing the words
Born leather bound, suckled from a teat of ink
Reading in the dark, till our eyes were strained and pink
Skin made of paper, pencils in our bones
To write and write makes us free
Come on siblings, write with me!
I am a writer, and I’m writing the words
Wordy wordy words, wordy wordy words
I am a writer, and I’m writing the words
Wordy wordy words, writing the words

Princess bride being remade… I have thoughts

So, they’re talking about remaking Princess Bride. I have some thoughts. One, more rhyming Fezzig. Two, bring back the spider and the blue door.


The movie opens with a young girl, sick with a cold, laying on a couch, playing on her phone. Dad, played by Fred Savage, comes into living room holding a steaming bowl of chicken soup and a remote.

“How are you feeling, Buttercup?”

The girl smiles and takes the bowl, blowing on it. “Dad, stop. You haven’t called me that since I was a baby.”

Savage sits down next to her as she sits up a bit, then she snuggles into his side. He tousles her hair. “You’re still my baby. And I was thinking about it because…”

He looks at the remote, then up at the tv. Pan with his vision to a view of the tv, from the couch.

Next to the tv, large and black on the wall, is a shelf with DVDs. On the top of the shelf is a picture of Peter Falk, wearing the hat from the original movie. Among other dvds on the shelf, for the keen eyed, is the complete series of Columbo dvds, and a DVD labeled “Andre the Giant’s biggest hits.”

He sighs. “When I was your age, I had a really bad flu. My grandpa came and read me a book to make me feel better.”

Daughter looks up in concern at the hitch in Savage’s voice. “You… You don’t talk about greatgrandpa much.”

Savage smiles wryly. “I know. I should. I just… miss him so much.”

She nods

“But, Webfilms just released a movie based on the book a couple weeks back. I thought maybe we could watch it together?”

“I dunno. Is it one of those sports films, like that kid who played football?”

Savage smiles. “Yeah, it has sports. Fencing, wrestling, sailing, some parkour. Nature scenes, forests, swamps, oceans. Its got giants, miracles, torture, revenge, true love and magic.”

Daughter looks sideways. “Okay. I’ll give it a try….”

He hits a button, and the title sequence starts.

We then have several interruptions, whenever the movie departs from the original movie, or the book. We break to Savage and daughter, and he complains about some aspect, and then describes how it was in the book, while the daughter hushes him and tells him to unpause the movie.

In the opening farm boy sequence, before the “I love you” realization, we break to the daughter. “Finally, a heroine who knows how to handle dudes.”

Then, with the I love you reveal,

“Hold it, hold it! Are you trying to trick me? Is this a dumb romcom? Does the bad boy get redeemed through the power of her love?”


“She doesn’t get eaten by the eels.”

“I just, you were grabbing my arm a little tight, you looked concerned.”

“DAAAD. It’s a movie. Of course the princess doesn’t get eaten by eels.”

At one point, we flip to them and Savage is on his feet yelling at the tv. Daughter is pulling his arm.

“Dad, dad! You know, I’m still really sick and you’re taking this movie very seriously. I think we better stop now.”

Savage freezes, looks down at her. “No, no, I’m okay. Sorry, let me sit down. I’m all right.”

“He can’t be dead. Dad, he’s not really dead, right? it’s a trick? ”

“You said no more spoilers.”

“Okay, but, who gets Humperdinck? Its not some lame Disney falling to his death thing, right”

“Nobody gets him. He lives at the end.”

“I swear dad, if he marries Buttercup and she redeems him through the power of her love, I’m going to scream. Why are you showing this to me!?” looks at photo of Falk, Greatgrandpa, why’d you read this to an impressionable little boy!?”

At the end, mom comes home with a sibling, calls daughter into kitchen to take her temp. Daughter looks back at Dad, “Thanks for staying with me today.”

“Anytime Buttercup. Think we should watch it with everyone tomorrow night?”

She smiles. “As you wish!” and walks out. We pan to Savage, standing in front of the TV. He puts two fingers on the base of the photo of Falk, and whispers. “As you wish.”

Webcomic review : Love Not Found

Webcomic review time!

Love not Found ,

I found this through an interesting advertisment on another comic I read last night, and suddenly two hours were gone and I was reading the most recent comic. PHEW!

First, since some people care about it, the art is consistent, wonderful, and COLORFUL! colors are used very symbolically and thematically, are bold, and pop. Every page is a treat for the eyes.

Story: So, you know Solaria? Asimov’s Solaria, in the Robots series, where people came to not touch / See people, only view them on screens? No human interaction after childhood, physical touch was a dirty thing? Okay, imagine Solaria as its starting that way. Lots of physical PRESENCE between people, but touch, especially intimate touch, is dirty/ disgusting. ( At one point, while on a phone call, our MC says, aww, if I were there, I’d give you a hug. The response is a dead serious, “A what?” the person doesn’t know what a hug is)

In this world of no touch, an accidental trip and fall into each other leaves two people obsessed with the feel and connection of having TOUCHED each other. They explore this, and the very nature of their society, we see relationships rise and fall, lots of family interaction, lots of discussion and musing on the nature of love, sex, intimacy, and connection. Its all.. just so much.

The writing is wonderfully done as well. There are many webcomics that would honestly not stand up as a novel. This one… there are definitely visual elements that would be lost, but the plot is wonderfully paced. Each character has a unique voice. We move through viewpoints seamlessly, and dialogue is natural. The occasional info dumps are done well through classic, but wonderfully executed devices. (My personal favorite is the same as used for the opening of Zootopia, the classic young children performing a class play that simplifies something all adults already know, but that WE don’t as the reader)

This story is set on a backdrop of human colonization of different worlds, humanoforming, ie, genetic manipulation of people to live in environments they weren’t meant for, and more. It’s Hard sci fi, done right, with people and emotions as the central focus around the technology and science You should read it. Its on my list now.

The Decade Mark

Thump. Thump. Thump. Squeak. THUthump.

The large round balloon that I have tied off to the handle of my grocery cart keeps thumping me in the side of the head. I turn a corner and it bounces twice. Memory flows. Part of my brain is imagining a pink dinosaur puppet with a pan. “NOT THE MOMMA!” A bigger part remembers The Momma, Tara, making the same joke many years ago, as a baby Flint, perched on my shoulder, thumped his head sideways, repeatedly, against mine, refusing to sleep. A bundle of squealing flesh the size of a large cat, eating, pooping, and slowing learning about the world.

Ten years. Ten years ago right about now, I stood in a hospital room, holding my wife’s hand, as she screamed in pain and triumph and popped our son into this world. (Literally popped. The doctor turned to prep something, turned back around, and he had gone in seconds from crowning to arms waving, nipples out, cord barely visible, about to slide out and fall on the floor. ) A decade. Ten years.

It’s a birthday balloon, popping me in the face. Big round globe, Star Wars, Jedi on one side, Sith on the other. Different sides of the same globe. Hmm. Thought for another day. A stack of cupcakes sit in the cart, and a giant donut, for an early morning birthday cake. Still need to get candles. Sparkling candles. He’s TEN! Regular candles just won’t do. And I can’t stop GRINNING as this helium filled plastic bludgeon bounces off the side of my head. THUMP.

It seems unreal. Having a child, then two, was unreal. For someone who spent most of his life desperately afraid of sharing what stains may lie in my genetics, in my soul, this is not something I really ever thought I’d be saying. I have a ten year old child. Tara and I have spent 10 years, over a quarter of our lives, as parents. And I remember. Thump.

Late night fevers, sleeplessness for us both as I held him with a cool cloth on his back, trying to ease his pain and suffering. Bottles, warming cold milk, mixing formula. Trimming nails, rubbing goop on rashes. Spoons of colored paste purporting to be fruit and or meat. Cereal. Smiles and goos and gurgles and frowns and laughs. All the laughs.

A baby’s laugh of discovery, of joy, everything truly new. A laugh that tugs deep into your heart and soul, at something bright and primal that no darkness can cover. Healing laughs that make you smile, make you laughing, pulling humor out of your body like a magician pulling scarves from a pocket.

First steps. First falls. Bandaging cuts. Answering questions. Explaining why things are dangerous, and sometimes having to shut up and let Flint learn for himself what “hot, burny burny, don’t touch”, really meant. Showing him the hidden things that exist just out of sight, unless you know where to look. Bugs in corners. Shiny rocks in the grass. Birds in trees. The hidden world when you lift the flap of fabric hanging off a couch.

Reading him books. Listening to him read aloud, the joy of discovery and emotion in his voice. Leaving favorite books of mine on his shelves, and seeing him, months later, having found one, and being nose deep in it. Watching him watching me, always learning, always growing. Doing research to answer questions, because he came up with realizations I never had to this day myself. Just a few days ago, asking him a question from his math homework, rephrasing it since it seemed to be causing him confusion.

“Okay, so you divided by 100. You moved the decimal point two places down. How do you know how far to move it?”

His whispered voice, afraid of being wrong, afraid of not understanding the question. The question isn’t confusing him. It was simply wrong. That sure knowledge in his head that he was RIGHT, and the world wrong, I could see it in his face. I didn’t know what thoughts were swirling in that developing brain of his, but I knew that face. I’d seen that face in the mirror so often, defiance against something that was simply WRONG.

“I didn’t.”

“You didn’t know how far? Then why did you move it?”

“No, I didn’t MOVE IT!” More confident now that he’s finally said it. “I didn’t move the decimal. Everyone says the decimal moves, but THEY’RE WRONG!” I was stunned. I was lost in memory, watching him suddenly snap, demand that the world make sense in the face of people repeating a falsehood that doesn’t. “I didn’t move the decimal, the decimal stays in the same place! The numbers moved around it!”

And he was right. It makes perfect sense seen that way. The decimal place is the rock solid foundation of a number. It doesn’t move. Add, subtract, divide, multiply. The decimal point doesn’t move. The numbers move around it. “I… you’re right.”

“I’m what?”

“You’re right. You’re absolutely right. That’s brilliant. Write it down.” I pointed at his paper. “Write that down, and if your teacher gives you a hard time, tell her to email me.”

You want to know what happiness is as a parent? The glow of delight when your kid is vindicated by you, when you say those magic words, “You’re right.” The victory they feel, and knowing that reaching that victory means they’ve moved past you, even in some tiny way. Thump.

Today is the decimal point. Today is always today. It never moves. Yesterday, tomorrow, they move. His birth, it’s moved. Today, it just moved from the tenths digit, to the hundredths digit. Tomorrow is in the ones digit, and the decimal point, it never moves. The numbers move around IT. The numbers of life move around Flint, my rock, the foundation of a world that I have been graced to be a major part of, but one that is not my world. One that I know I will slowly be less and less of.

I’m so proud. They say that the goal of the parent is to have a kid who’s better than you. And I do. He’s so far and above what I was at ten, and the sky’s the limit. I know that at a certain point, there will be less I can do for him, more and more he has to do for himself. And honestly? So many parents complain about how fast they grow up, how soon its out of their hands. Me? I’m looking forward to it. Watching as he becomes more and more self propelled. He’s going to get into trouble. So much trouble. With Tara and I as parents, there’s no helping that. But he’s going to get out of it as well. And get friends out of trouble. And learn things from the mistakes that no one else will ever learn, in quite the same way. He’s going to do some amazing things, and I can not wait to see what he chooses to become.

Ten years. Memories of that day, the whirl of activity around this crying babe. Testing, poking, prodding. Tara lying there, exhausted, stoned, beautiful, holding our child against her skin. Then finally sleeping, with a list of things for me to do. Thump.

His birth presaged a storm. The night she went into labor was the first time I was allowed to drive Tara’s Tracker. A new decimal point in a number that didn’t have one until that day. Heading home to get stuff for the next few days, clothes, supplies, I drove back through a blustery late August Monsoon that nearly threw me off the road. His tenth birthday seems calm. Hot, no clouds, no wind. Calm is deceiving. The next ten… its going to be something. But the decimal point won’t move. He’s going to make the numbers move around HIM.


Okay, but first, I REALLY need to get a better weight for this balloon.

Music Review: Open Beta

“Hey brother, a friend’s band is playing on your side of town that I want you to see tonight. You in?”


This was the greeting I received after answering a call from one of my oldest friends, about two years ago.  Sadly, I was already booked with family stuff that night. This was the first, but far from the last, time that I would miss out on seeing Open Beta.  Open Beta


I missed them at Comic Con 17 by ten minutes, at Comic Fest 18 by an hour. I have had friends, strangers, and an author at a panel I attended tell me to go listen to them. The fates have conspired to prevent it, until Saturday.  I was kidnapped by the above mentioned friend, Michael Klopper. (Pausing for the chorus of, “Hey, I know that guy!” Of course you do…)  We went down to the old OCP (yeah, you know me.), O’Connor’s Pub at Dunlap and the 17.  I’ve never been there before, but me and that bar have become fast friends.  It’s that kind of place.  I kept looking around for a fat redheaded guy smoking a cigar.


We walk in as the trio are working their way through a, I’m going to stereotype from ignorance here, classic Irish Jig.  Heads are bouncing, drinks are rising.  The band pulls the eye, a mismatched yet balanced set.  To the left is the guitarist, pretty average looking guy, size wise. I later learn his name is Paul Schmidt. I try not to hold it against him. To the right is Brian Abernathy,  Mike McShane’s long lost brother, tall, wide, and tapping a stick on a large round hand held drum. He’s getting sounds out of the thing that would make Neil Peart look twice.  In the center dances a manic pixie on a violin that is just as modern and electric as Brian’s drums are archaic and unpowered.  Shorter and smaller than either of the guys, she nonetheless dominates the stage, the fiddle speeding up as she kicked and swung, the guy’s faces starting to contort as you could tell they fought to keep up.


Every table had at least a pair of people, most of them full up.  I stood at the door, watching and listening, and Klopper quickly and quietly made his rounds, hugging, hand shaking, responding to raised hands and quiet calls of his name.  I’m used to this. It doesn’t matter where I take him, this happens.  Everyone knows Klopper.  I’ve written about this before.  Eventually, the song ends, and Klopper motions to an open chair at a table with some friends of his.  I sit, as Erin leaps off stage and descends upon a large glass of coffee, whip cream piled high.  Brian swears loudly.  “More coffee?”  He looks out at the crowd. “We’re having a hard enough time keeping up, don’t give her MORE caffeine!”


The crowd roars, and Erin cackles with glee as she leaps back onstage.  This was repeated a few more times that night.  As well as a few shots done by all three together.  You know it’s a proper Irish band when the players are drinking more than the audience.  The band launches into a song with words, very folk feel, but not one I recognize. I think it might be one of theirs.


Klopper asks me what I’ll have, he’s buying the first round . I’m wanting something I can nurse for a while.  “Enh, a beer.”






He glares at me.  “It’s an Irish bar. You’ll have a cider.”  I agree, and he comes back with a couple of glasses and a basket of fried cheese curds as the band takes a break.  He leaves all three, goes to say hi to the band as they split off.  The cider half vanishes in one long pull, I need to find out what he got me, as it was delightful. The curds start vanishing as well. Speaking as a part Canadian who has had lots of experience with fried cheese curds, Wisconsin had better never find out O’Connor’s source of cheese, or they’ll send a crew to wreck the place in jealousy.



The band returns to the stage.  The next three hours go by in a whirl.  They have a pattern, Open Beta does.  One or two songs with words.  The guys take turns at lead vocal, though its mostly Paul.  Erin does a bit of backup for some songs, but not much.  Then we get an instrumental, just enough drum to keep a beat, a bit of guitar for tuned rhythm, and that violin.


There are not enough words to describe that violin.  Erin seems to flit back and forth between beating sounds out of it, cajoling a soft tune, and then just wrestling the strings into submission.  The music just channels through her, and guides her bandmates, and the audience.  Emotion pours out, wordless songs that are nevertheless sung, or a perfect counterpoint to words that are said, the emotions underneath highlighted by the soul of that bow pulling along the strings. I am not a dancing man, at least, not without a lot more than just a glass of cider in my belly, but several times that night, I glanced over to the pool table and wondered how easily I could move it out of the way to make a dance floor.




A little something about me and my tastes. I like building songs. You know, a song that starts with part of the melody, a bit of the instrument. Then on the repeat, adds some more.  Eventually, we have the full song played, every lick, every instrument, bright and loud. Open Beta appears to have a similar taste.  A lot of their songs, especially the ones that are covers of popular songs, build.  A light tap of drum.  A gentle long tone from the violin.  A basic repeating chord scheme from the guitar.  A bit of song.  Refrain and new stanza adds more drum, the guitar picks up some notes between the chords.  The long tones resolve into a touch of plucking and more notes. We come around the bend into the final verse, and the band drops it down into overdrive, guitar bouncing, drum throwing out a pounding that, if your eyes were closed, you would SWEAR was a full kit, not a single lonesome leather covered circle of wood (Bhodran, it’s called. I had to look it up. Bow Drawn. ) And that violin, and it’s player…  Bouncing and skipping across the stage, bow flying across the strings.  Several times that night, I thought to myself, they should do a cover of Devil went down to Georgia.  Because the fiddle part would give her a break, and let her relax her fingers in comparison to what she’s already playing.




They play sad songs, they play happy songs.  I find myself with wet eyes, not sure why, as I’m laughing at the same time.  And in between songs, or often during, the trio banter.  As Klopper says, deep into the third set, “See, you get a concert AND a show.”




Paul and Brian take turns playing straight man funny man, but much like the music, Erin brings the soul.  With a word here, a quip there, and lots of facial expressions aimed at the bawdy antics of the boys, they set the jokes up, and she knocks the crowd down.  One liners that would get a chuckle on their own cause the crowd to explode into laughter as she drops her gaze to the ground, wrist to forehead, bow sticking into the air, and sighs the sigh of the much oppressed and put upon.  Another mug of Irish coffee appears on the table in front of them, and she leaps upon it in glee, the others again exclaiming in dismay.  “Keep this up, and we’ll end up having to do kamikazes every time one of you buys her coffee.”




Minutes later, a pair of shots are handed to them by the barkeep. The revelry continues. The classic folk songs, mixed with their own music, and covers, many geeky.  A low mournful song is played and sung. I listen to the lyrics. I know this song. I know it well, yet they’re playing it in a way I can’t identify, and the lyrics are… ah.   The melody flows into the one I know well, the original song that now serves as chorus, as the entire bar sings together. The words burst out of my own lungs, an anthem of the geeky and proud for the last decade and a half.  “Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand.”  They roll through the song, building, as I mentioned before, and on the final chorus, the rafters are ringing from the audience singing along.  (For those curious, the full song they played is called “Mal’s Song”.  Its an expansion of the Ballad, written by Michelle Dockrey.  Look it up, it’s fantastic. )



Paul announces that they are about to play a song written by an ex member of their original band, who happens to also be the bartender serving us. It’s a relationship, in eleven minutes, he says.  Klopper smiles and taps me on the chest.  “This is the first song of theirs I ever heard, you’ll love it.”  The story he relates to me is that after a particularly bad breakup, one I remember helping pick up the pieces after, a mutual dear friend of ours dragged him to see the band that would become Open Beta, Talk a Little Treason, and this was the song they played as he walked in. He was ready to walk out, upset by the song, when it reached the final verse. That’s all he would say, and let me experience the song.




It opens with a plaintive request to spend some time together.  A impassioned description of a night spent in each other’s arms. And of course, waking up alone.  The song moves into doubt, wondering, are we or aren’t we a thing?  It strikes a chord, no pun intended.  In fact, it makes me think quite a bit about the mutual friend who introduced Klopper to this song and band.  And we’re well past wet eyes.  There are tears on my face, and I am dumbstruck by this song, and the power it has over me. And just when I’m about to excuse myself, and leave the room, the final verse starts.  And I’m joining the rest of the room is laughter, great, cathartic, side splitting laughter. I may be one of the few people in the room who doesn’t identify with the close of the song, but I still find it funny.  You’ll have to hear it for yourself. I won’t ruin it.



We’re nearing the end of the last set.  The band has already admitted to the crowd that they have a set list, but they don’t use it, completely. “They’re more like GUIDELINES”, Paul informs us.  The band is in close to each other, whispering, but from my vantage, I hear every word.  “We could.  Or what about Solsbury Hill?”


“Yes.” I whisper to myself. “Play Solsbury Hill!”


“What?”  Klopper, not having heard them, is looking at me.


“Oh, just whispering to myself, no worries.”


The song starts. Gentle drum. Just a touch of guitar.  Klopper recognizes their version instantly, and knows my tastes.  “Ooo! You’ll like this one.”  I nod, and listen.  True to form, first verse, vocals, a couple chords, long sweet sounds from the violin.  Brian takes the lead on singing this one, and he’s holding the mic like a lover, the drum aside for the moment.  Into the second verse, the music builds, and as the final verse starts, he’s belting the song out, Erin is dancing like a maniac, bow flying across the strings, Paul bouncing with the guitar, music pouring out of the stage.


They finally end, a few minutes past midnight.  I am wrung out. My head is full, my heart is lighter than when I came in.  I laughed, I cried, my hands still sting from clapping and my feet ache from tapping and pounding the floor.  I purchased an album, gave them my compliments.  Listening to the album the next day…  It’s good, but lacks some of the magic.  This is a band best experienced in person.  Go. See them.