Welcome to ...


Journal Archives - April, 2003

    About Us
@   Journal
    Old News

  Site Map
  Ley Lines
Navigation: Current Journal Entry (link to site front) | Previous Page (March 2003) | Next Page (May 2003)

April 3, 2003 ... Let's just get your Deeply Disturbing News of the Day out of the way, right here at the top, so you can stare numbly at it for a while before moving on to less troubling things: Oregon man detained for two weeks without charges or explanation. (New York Times; registration required, although I hear that username freethepress, same password, can save you the trouble.) But, y'know, it's all good, because tactics like this are protecting people like the man they arrested from the bad people they think he's connected to. Right?

Anyway, a few days ago, I noticed that some random websurfer had been drawn to my forums by typing the following into a search engine:
What multiples to 12 and adds to 11?
Aside from the apparent typo (or horrible grammar), this is a perfectly legitimate and interesting mathematical question. Being the math geek that I am, I immediately set about trying to solve it.

The problem seems simple, but it's surprisingly deep. For example, look at 3 and 4; those two numbers multiply to 12, but their sum is only 7. 3, 2, and 2 also collectively multiply to 12, but their collective sum is also only 7.

I'm not going to spoil your fun -- what, you expected the answer here? -- but I will give some hints and/or spoilers below, so if you want to investigate the problem completely on your own, please stop reading here.

> (spoiler

> space)

I have come to the conclusion, after some examination, that there are exactly three simple, trivial solutions to this puzzle. By "trivial" I do not necessarily mean obvious, because every solution to this puzzle requires thinking outside the box to at least a limited degree. By "trivial" what I mean is boring. Beyond the cleverness involved in uncovering the method the solutions use, there's no elegance in it. In a baseball game, it would feel like driving in the winning run on a sacrifice fly.

I explored further and found a demented solution. I also immediately made the observation that there are a countably infinite number of demented solutions; however, unlike the demented solution that I found, the infinite number of solutions are also trivial, i.e., boring.

I don't believe that there are any non-trivial, non-demented solutions. However, my work on this problem stopped short of producing a formal proof of this conjecture; and I remain willing to be pleasantly surprised if someone finds a loophole I overlooked. There are trivial but not demented solutions -- a finite number but I don't know offhand how many.

"Demented," by the way, is a technical term, meaning "a class of solutions which I will define at a later date because to discuss details of the class would make the solutions obvious." Of course, any readers with formal mathematical training probably already have guessed what "demented" means, simply from the observation pointed out above. That's your last hint.

Please feel free to discuss the problem in the forums. Brownie points to all those who (A) come up with solutions; and (B) come up with non-trivial solutions. Double brownie points, possibly up to and including actual brownies, if someone comes up with a non-trivial solution that I didn't. (I only found the one, but it's quite possible more exist.)

April 7, 2003 ... Life update: Found my checkbook, about 8 hours before I was going to close my checking account over its absence. Set the clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time. Filed my taxes (to the tune of a huge honking refund, because I was unemployed for half of last year), which will be used to pay off my debts (because I was unemployed for half of last year). Set up a computer table in my room so that I have somewhere to put box #2 so that I can copy over all of my old preferences to this machine. Moved a bunch of stuff out to the storage shed. Learned that one cannot legally buy alcohol after 2 a.m. in California, which is kind of annoying because even on the very rare occasions when I do feel like drinking that's the only time I want any. Played a lot of video games.

In sum, life has been boring. My muse has been sitting in the dark trying to ignore all the shouting outside and get another few hours of sleep for the last few weeks straight. I haven't been feeling depressed per se, but I've been extremely apathetic, which is a definite symptom of depression for me. And, just so you all know I'm conscious of how painful reading an update like this can be, what he said.

Anyway. In brighter news, my younger sister -- who is currently attending my old alma mater, causing both of us to wish I had more ability to take days off from work and visit Santa Barbara for a while -- was one of four speakers at a banquet over the weekend, along with an actor and model. She was very honored to be included, and I'm told she was well-received. The event, titled "One Knight Only," was for college-age women, about the importance of abstaining from sex until marriage.

As might be apparent from my stance on relationships, we have something of a differing view on marriage. In fact, there are a lot of things that we've come to quite different conclusions on, perhaps the most illustrative of which is religious: I'm a nominal Thiderean; she's a devoted Christian who attends a Foursquare church. I'm an introvert and mostly kept to myself throughout my educational career; she's outgoing, good with kids, and was part of the "in crowd" in high school. Which is not to say that I'm always the fringe crank and she's always the mainstream lady -- for example, she's a dedicated vegetarian (I'm a confirmed omnivore) and owns a very cute and personable rat as a pet.

In fact, there are precious few issues on which our positions are the same. An untrained observer might look at us individually and walk away bewildered at this night-and-day pair of alleged siblings. Examining the issues, it's hard to guess that we come from the same background with the same basic values.

But, really, we're not that different. We see eye to eye on the big things; the devil is in the details.

Yes, on the one hand, she's fighting to preserve the sanctity of marriage and I have knowingly committed adultery. But on the other hand, she believes that sex is a sacred, powerful act to be shared only between two people totally committed to each other, and I believe that sex is a sacred, powerful act to be shared between two people who love each other, and only with the informed consent of everyone affected. Two different responses, but from the same basic impulse, and sharing the same concerns. Both of us recognize that casual sex can be a dangerous thing (not only physically but emotionally); we just disagree on the implementation thereof.

As for religion, it's necessary to shake oneself out of the trap of looking at specific doctrine. Think of this: We both grew up in a half-heartedly agnostic household, where spirituality was basically a good thing but no real commitment had been made, and both responded by finding a deeper -- and very personal -- spiritual calling around the time of our rite of passage into adulthood. That she was pulled in one direction and I was pulled in another is nearly irrelevant -- we were both yanked, and yanked hard, from the safe, removed center out to the edge of the divine.

Our parents are proud of us both. Why shouldn't they be? We've both stood up to face the world, found our moral compasses, and taken compassionate stands for the things we believe in. We're both bright people trying to do what we can to make the world a better place.

And at the end of the day, no matter who we are or what we believe in, that's what it needs to be about.

April 8, 2003 ... CORE (DUMP) TECHNOLOGY: I think I've received a candidate for Weirdest Spam Ever.

The message landed in my inbox from an address at cc.okayama-u.ac.jp, attributed to a "Freddie Streett." It started out pretty typical:

Subject: baxil @ tomorrowlands.org Adult date matching, no having to "wait" for results

And then went on to state, in its entirety:

ongoing anti-trust court proceedings, a set of "core technologies" (not a 
"Who first used antiseptics?" "Jospeh Lister"


Maybe the "adult date matching" they talk about refers to a badly translated request to match the date of the first antiseptic use, 1868, to the adult who thought up the idea, Joesph Lister? ... Err, excuse me. Typo there. I meant "Jospeh," naturally.

Stupid typos. I'm no good at this adult date matching stuff.

*       *       *

LEFT-HANDED COMPLIMENT?: Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, wants Nevada to exempt itself from daylight savings time. He has introduced AB422 to a committee, citing Nevada's heat and its residents' widespread use of air conditioning as reasons why less afternoon sunlight would be a prudent switch. He also admits a selfish reason for the change: "I'm sorry if I'm not my usual, sparkling self," Beers told the committee. "I'm recovering from having to set my clock ahead an hour."

There was surprisingly little objection to the bill, but Beers said he isn't confident the votes are there for passage. Some other assemblymen weighed in with their opinions during the meeting, among whom was Assemblymen Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks. Here's an excerpt from what Anderson said: "I applaud Mr. Beers for returning us to the age of steam."

The "age of steam," as any history buff can tell you, refers to the time period during which railroads (and, more generally, steam power) dominated industrialized society's life. In other words, the 19th Century. Quite a statement there, that this lawmaker is trying to turn the clock back over 100 years.

He may not have meant it that way, but I think it still ranks as one of the best political insults I've seen this season.

*       *       *

LEECHING FOR THE CAUSE: Hey, everybody loves free music, right? And everyone hates war, right? (That was a rhetorical question. Let's not get into an argument here.)

Guess what -- you're in luck. A bizarre convergence of technology and politics is sending major artists, in droves, to release all sorts of free music on the 'net, in an end run around radio stations who won't play the sort of material that offends the majority of listeners and/or advertisers and/or station executives. You want to download REM with a clear conscience? Lenny Kravitz? George Michael, John Mellencamp, System of a Down, Paula Cole, Beastie Boys, etc.? Go thou and leech. They want you to.

Of course, maybe you'd like to listen to something more upbeat. You could always try turning on your radio, finding a random country music station, and waiting for the anti- pro-war anthem "Cowboy in the White House" to come on. Smokey Wilson's self-parodying lyrics run, in part, "We got a cowboy living in the White House / We got a cowboy, he's watching what you do. / We got a cowboy living in the White House / We got a cowboy, he's coming after you." Good to know that there are still lyrics out there on which the entire nation can readily agree.

*       *       *

And, just to end the post with a little theater of the absurd, I have reliably been informed that Genesis 3:16 -- which is where God tells Eve that childbirth will hurt and she has to submit to her husband Adam -- is God's endorsement of racial segregation. (Scroll about halfway down this page.) It's little details like that that really make the "Communist-Jew-Babylonian Conspiracy is setting up Armageddon" movement come alive for me.

April 9, 2003 ... Joel's car had broken down in Alta Sierra, and he had already walked most of the way back home, dressed in a T-shirt in the cool spring night air. I only drove him about a mile into Grass Valley, but I'm sure the gesture was greatly appreciated, and it did save him about ten minutes of walking.

Which brings me to tonight's little fanciful fable.

*         *         *

Let's suppose that you're in a minivan with three of your friends. It's the middle of the night and it's been a long day of driving. Suddenly, the driver points out the window. "Hey, look!" he says. "A hitchhiker! We should pick him up."

Everyone looks at each other. "Why?" friend one asks.

The driver turns around with a determined look on his face. "Well, obviously, many hitchhikers are actually criminals hoping to carjack any unfortunate soul who's compassionate enough to stop. But we've got four people in the car, and Jack back there has a loaded pistol. If we pick him up, then he'd have to try carjacking us instead of the lady driving by herself behind us. And so by doing this we're making the roads safer."

"What the hell?" you say. "Are you smoking crack? If that hitchhiker is a carjacker we should call the police, not try to play vigilante. And what makes you think he's a carjacker anyway?"

"First of all, it would take the police half an hour to get here. Secondly, he's wearing baggy pants. Eighty percent of all carjackers wear baggy pants. Plus three carjackings took place right here on this stretch of road in the last two decades. Two of those were traced back to hitchhikers with baggy pants, but they were both let go, and that guy's old enough to have been hitchhiking back then."

"For heaven's sake. No matter how many carjackers wear baggy pants, that doesn't make everyone with baggy pants a carjacker."

Friend one speaks up. "Hey, he's the driver. Don't you think he knows more about carjackings than you do? You don't even have a driver's license."

The driver wags his finger at you. "The carjackers who took over that bus last September had baggy pants."

You shake your head. "Your scare tactics, first of all, are not convincing me that this guy is a carjacker; and secondly, don't address my original point, which is that picking up carjackers is a stupid idea."

The second friend speaks up, upset. "What are you saying? That we shouldn't pick up hitchhikers? Where's your compassion, man! It's our moral duty to hitchhikers to help them get to their destination, since otherwise they'll have to walk for hours and hours."

"He's a carjacker, and we can bring him to justice," the driver asserts.

"Of course I agree we should pick up hitchhikers," you respond. "But listen to that guy! I have no confidence that we can get through this without an altercation. If our driver's going to play Rambo it might be safer for everyone, including the hitchhiker, to leave well enough alone."

"If he's not a carjacker, he probably has friends who are," the driver says. "And we can go get them and bring THEM to justice."

"I'm for this," friend one says. "We have a duty to make the roads safer. I've got my gun ready."

"I'm for this," friend two says and grabs a baseball bat. "Whether or not he's a carjacker we've done the right thing."

The driver takes a knife from the glove compartment. "Now you're talking!"

You stare in shock at them. "You guys are nuts. I agree with your causes but I can't support what you're doing. Let's just drop this bloodthirsty insanity and drive on, please?"

The driver stops the car over your objections. The hitchhiker walks over to the van's door and sticks his head through the window.

"Hey, whoa!" you protest, trying to register your objection to the driver's crazy plan even though you're just as aware as anyone else that to drive away with the guy's head stuck in the window is the worst possible option.

"Shut up, backseat driver!" friend two hisses.

"Yeah," friend one says. "If we're all not united against the carjacker, he's got a better chance of hurting us when he fights back!"

"Carjacker!" yells the driver, and waves the knife in the hitchhiker's face.

Incredibly, the hitchhiker doesn't seem to notice. "Hey, thanks for stopping! I've been walking for miles. It feels like people have been ignoring me for years. You guys heading to Lebanon?"

"Sure, hitchhiker," the driver says. The hitchhiker gets in the car.

Friend number one turns to you with a sneer. "I can't believe you had the gall to oppose us stopping!" he says, putting away his gun. "Now look! We're helping out a poor hitchhiker! If we'd listened to you he'd still be walking for another 30 miles!"

... Not that, y'know, this sort of thing could ever happen or anything.

April 14, 2003 ... Harlan got in clutching two things: A beat-up plastic gas can, and a nice-looking camera bag.

His car -- cheerfully red and of a make and model best described as "old" -- ran out of gas on his way in to town, he explained. He had been heading there to pawn his camera; SSI wasn't quite making ends meet. He seemed concerned, as they always do, with the inconvenience he was placing on me -- more so since I was going to have to backtrack to drive him back to his car with the gas. "Well, I am on my way to work," I admitted, "but they'll understand." (They did.)

We pulled into the first gas station I found; I unthinkingly asked the cashier for five dollars' worth. It only dawned on me once the nozzle shut off with the container not quite full that you can't get three gallons on five bucks these days in California. I apologized, needlessly, likely feeling as awkward as he did.

We talked about Iraq some on the way back: "Have they caught Saddam yet?" he asked, and I filled him in on the day's newspaper headlines that I'd laid out the night before. He shook his head. "A madman, that guy."

We talked about the weather, and my relief at summer's approach. (The following day -- Friday -- for the first time since I started working at the Journal, I drove home in daylight.)

I pulled to a stop alongside his car and wished him luck. We shook hands. I pressed a five-dollar bill into his palm: "Wouldn't want you to run out of gas again on the way home," I explained.

I recognized the look in his eyes.

I'm going to have to backtrack just a little to tell this bit. The scene is, similarly, a road in the California hills; this time nearly untravelled. The setting is a warm spring night. We'll pick up on the story as Impetuous Kid has just managed to flag down Passing Lizard by repeatedly flickering his headlights.

Impetuous Kid had taken a corner just a hair too fast; the tires had introduced themselves to a patch of gravel scattered on the road, and his car spun out and skidded. With a screech of protesting metal, it had slid to a stop on the embankment on the outer edge of the curve, rear tires hanging helplessly out in space above a 20-foot drop. The car was resting solidly on its underbelly and front tires, and wasn't going to fall, but as a rear-wheel drive, was as helpless as a dinosaur in a tar pit.

By the time Lizard arrived, in a time-worn four-by-four, Kid had tried without success to push or pull the car back on the road (too little leverage to even budge it), and was starting to panic. The two heard the distant howls of a wolfpack as they talked, lending a suggestion of predators beyond the firelight.

Fortunately, Lizard had a tow cable in the back of his truck. Kid jerry-rigged it onto his car's chassis. Lizard revved the truck's engine and started pulling. Kid, from inside his car, eased the transmission into gear as he was dragged forward in fits and starts, hoping he could get enough purchase with the tires to drive back onto terra firma.

After several tenuous minutes of failed drags, and an increasing smell of burnt motor oil, Lizard gave the accelerator one last push; Kid's wheels caught; the car leapt back onto the road; and a few seconds later Kid was out of his car again, expressing to Lizard his most profound thanks.

Those eyes.

... I know that not everyone would give a stranded motorist ten dollars out of pocket, although I'd like to think that we'd all stop and drive him to the gas station. But, you know, a good deed is its own reward -- not only in the feelings it inspires, but also in how it changes the world. It's worth fifteen minutes of my time to know that my presence has made someone's life unequivocally better. It's worth ten dollars to me to know that I've made a powerful statement about our collective bonds that someone will remember years down the line.

That, and I can't forget what Lizard -- for that was, in fact, the name he used -- did for me back in 1994.

With the hitchhikers I've picked up, with the stranded motorists I've stopped to help, I think it's fair to say that I've paid forward my debt to him. But it will be quite a number of years before I'm done paying off the interest.

April 19, 2003 ... My moratorium on Iraq posts has had positive effects, but it's not working.

It's not working in the direct sense that it produces posts like this one, where I whine about my moratorium on posts on Iraq, and thereby discuss the subject, albeit one level of meta- upward. But it's also not working in the deeper sense that it was designed to wean me away from the issue -- let me channel my distress into physical-world action rather than armchair punditry -- and let me reclaim my free time.

I stayed at work until after 4 AM tonight (not quite as bad as it sounds; I clocked out at midnight) surfing the Web, skimming through dozens of sites in an attempt to wring every last scrap of information out of the mills. It's beginning to dawn on me that this is, in a very visceral way quite unlike any Internet use I've done before, an information addiction.

I'm not the sort of person who clicks on the "refresh" button just waiting for a favorite site to update. Heck, I don't even like real-time chat programs, on general principle. I find the net a communication tool, not a feed. It's always there. There's very little that won't wait until tomorrow. But this war -- and, yes, with all organized Iraqi resistance effectively crushed, it's not really a "war" any more, but technically nobody's declared it's done yet -- has lent an amazing sense of urgency to everything. Circumstances have been changing so rapidly that in order to make any meaningful commentary on the issue, you can't be more than hours to a day or two out of date. And I'm the sort that prides himself on trying to make educated commentary, and failing that to at least learn about the issues, and examine both sides in their own light and compare them against each other ... so there's a real impetus to research. But then that rapid change kicks in, and you get the stimulus/response that turns it into mental crack cocaine.

I do have to say that watching an endless stream of people debate an endless stream of nuances has been a good lesson in human politics. (A reminder, really, but.) That being: Political debates, like the "War on Terror" or the line in the Department of Motor Vehicles, never end. There is no goal in political rhetoric save to convince everybody in the world of your complete correctness, which is a flatly impossible goal on its face; and so there's never really any excuse to throw in the towel. Iraq is expecially pernicious that way because it's happening, it's big, and it's making a lot of people feel disenfranched, sometimes even violently. There's not a cricket that stirs on the shore of Lake Tharthar but that ten people are waiting to pounce on it as evidence of some dramatic new upcoming twist in American occupation. There's not a sentence a web author can write in a tiny backwater journal on the extreme fringe on the Internet but that some pundit loaded for bear will strenuously object to his use of "occupation" rather than "liberation." And so on.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world drifts by.

As is the nature of addiction, in my lucid moments I can see the things I've given up in order to get my regular fix of Iraq. I've been running on six hours of sleep a night because of all the extra Web browsing I've been doing; which isn't affecting the old day-to-day, but is leaving me a spiritual wreck. I've been getting enough downtime to sustainably survive, but not enough to recharge. I've also been shortchanging myself of the spiritual interactions I'm used to having with Thea and Glineth and Raja and Savi -- let alone the worlds upon worlds of the astral -- because by default I seem to reserve those interactions for before bedtime, and only going into my room to drop into bed exhausted is not a good way to promote deep connections. I haven't really talked to any of them in weeks and it's starting to feel as though I'd hacked off an arm.

To sum up (if possibly understate) the problem, It's leaving me feeling empty, and that emptiness is a malaise that I'm not adequately addressing.

So. Is there some sort of 12-step program for Iraq junkies? I can't just go cold turkey, because keeping up with the news is part of my job description at the newspaper, but I'd love some mutual support in bringing this monster under control.

April 22, 2003 ... The stack of boxes overbalanced as I tried to wedge through the quickly closing screen door. I flailed around, trying to keep control of as much of my load as possible. The shoebox spilled to the floor and opened, scattering pipe-cleaner statuary in an erratic circle on the front porch.

I knelt down, sweeping fuzzy wires, feathers, a polished geode slab, and an errant thumbtack back into the box. Then I noticed the casualty.

"Something break?" Kras asked me as I knelt, picking up pieces.

"Just a little ceramic lizard ..." I said.

Roughly life-size. Unpainted. A terra cotta figure, in that frozen-in-time pose suggesting you've just interrupted its self-satisfied basking on its favorite sunning rock, and now it's going to skitter to cover next time you blink.

A souvenir of the second convention I ever attended, the San Diego science-fiction/fantasy convention known as ConDor. The convention where I first met WalksFar face to face -- my parents were so freaked out that I was going to meet a friend from the Internet that they vetoed my original travel plans and bought me a round-trip plane ticket to the con instead so that I'd have an out in case things went wrong. The only convention I ever attended at which I acted like an honest-to-goodness fanboy; as I didn't really know anybody there, I spent a significant part of two days tagging along after (if memory serves) David Brin, probably being every bit as annoying as hindsight suggests. The convention where I first attended any sort of furry gathering; the room party wasn't particularly memorable, but certainly a harbinger of greater things to come.

A souvenir bought from -- of all places to get souvenirs at a sci-fi convention -- the hotel gift shop. I arrived from the airport before things really got rolling. I browsed through the hotel gift shop, trying to make certain that I'd have something to bring home with me to remember the trip by, conscious of my limited college-student budget. Their shelves and shelves of shamelessly San Diegan tchotchkes were largely too tasteless to consider; the lizard won points for being reptilian (since there was no hope of finding dragon paraphernalia) and for being cheap. It also would have made a neat piece of unobtrusive garden statuary, if I had had any hope of owning a garden within the next four years.

A souvenir I carefully hauled home with me during the return trip in WalksFar's RV, stacking it with the few cheap pieces of artwork I had salvaged from the art auction and the desktop-sized statue by Michele Gault of a red dragon proudly holding up a Magic: The Gathering "Firebreathing" card. (Michele's statues would become hot commodities soon afterward. She was practically mass-producing the little hatchlings looking up innocently while halfway through eating a rare card torn into unusability. The sort of statue I picked up would soon become unavailable for love or money.) The Gault statue didn't make it home intact -- something heavy fell on it and one of the horns and a wing broke off. The ceramic lizard, though, survived just fine.

A souvenir that, for no good reason except perhaps its small size and ability to hide inside boxes of unrelated Stuff, went through five moves with me, while the Gault statue -- with several broken-then-repeatedly-fixed extremities and a custom-built plastic box to prevent further incidents -- gathered dust in an honored spot on the shelf of my old bedroom in my parents' house.

A souvenir that watched me silently while I learned magic, fought in the Great Astral War, lost my virginity, graduated from college, got assaulted on the street in broad daylight, moved two states away for love, flip-flopped from journalist to programmer back to journalist, bought my own domain name, totaled a car, and broke my arm, along with half a decade's worth of less exciting achievements that it nevertheless pains me to omit.

Through all that, it had just been a little ceramic lizard.

"... of no particular sentimental value."

April 25, 2003 ... Mara brushed her chin-length, straight blond hair back as she got in the car, balancing her backpack between her legs and the dashboard. She was dressed in a light sweater, absolutely no protection against the rain that had been threatening all morning. Her John Lennon-style sunglasses looked remarkably similar to the ones I had sitting in the cup holder tray.

She thanked me, and we introduced ourselves, in a ritual that was beginning to feel comfortable and routine.

She'd been hitchhiking for six months, she said. She asked if I went to work at the same time every day.

"Kind of," I answered, explaining that I normally worked swing shift, and that Fridays are my days with weird hours. "I'm curious," I continued, shifting the subject. "Is it usually the same people who pick you up every day?"

"Oh, no," she said. "I've never been picked up by the same person twice." Perhaps people who pick up hitch-hikers are more common than I'd suspected, I thought. Or perhaps it's the chivalry angle. Mara was the first woman I'd seen raise a thumb since moving to the Sierra foothills.

She talked about her aspirations of owning a car. Of course, that would mean getting down to Roseville somehow, to hit the big auto mall; and of course, that meant paying for one, and for gas (just barely nosing under two dollars a gallon in our part of the country). I expressed sympathy and talked about how my parents helped set me up with a great deal for the car I was driving, suggesting that perhaps she might find a comparable buy by listening to the local radio station's weekly flea market program. She was determined, though, to go to Roseville over the weekend, now that she'd built up a little nest egg, and with determination like that, perhaps she'd get a fair shake at a dealership.

"You've gotta have a car out here," she said. "The public transportation's horrible. There's only one bus out to Penn Valley, and it runs every 90 minutes. The bus was supposed to arrive at 9:30 this morning. I got to the stop at 9:25. It never arrived."

"Believe me, I know," I said. "I moved out here from Seattle. The buses went everywhere. You never realize how great that is until it's not there any more."

As we pulled into town, up the hill, she pointed out a spot near the main downtown exit I was taking. "That's where I usually have to walk to when I'm coming back," she said. "You can't hitchhike off the other exit. Nobody ever picks you up there. I've had to wait as long as 20 minutes."

I never actually said anything, but it seemed to me there was definitely a gender gap there. Several of the men I've picked up have expressed such gratitude that it seemed like they hadn't expected to be picked up at all.

"It's like they expect me to be an axe murderer or something," she joked.

The truth, if the statistics I saw a while back are accurate, is probably the reverse. Hitchhiking is at least as dangerous, perhaps moreso, than picking them up. And of course the truth for hitchhikers may be far grimmer than the statistics indicate -- because if a driver disappears, the cops can fairly easily track it down to foul play on the road, since the disappearance of the car is an immediate clue. If a hitchhiker disappears, there's no immediate evidence for where or why. Their friends, family and coworkers may not even know they were out thumbing. Many disappearances of that nature may go unreported or misclassified. We have no way of knowing.

"Well, the popular perception of hitchhikers is that there's a lot of danger involved," I pointed out, "but much less so in a place this rural. The people picking you up are likely to be your neighbors." We'd earlier discovered that we both lived in Penn Valley, a community of merely a few thousand.


"You must get to meet a lot of your neighbors, at least."

"I guess. I mean, I've been doing this since January ... what is that, four months? It feels like a year and a half."

"Um, where do I go from here?"

"Oh, this corner's fine. Thanks again."

I wished her and her kids luck as she ran off toward the day job she took before heading to her evening job. I drove off, continuing my commute to my single eight-hour shift.

I feel guilty for wanting to say that, once through the morning, I had quite a long day.

           April 26, 2003 ... Facelift ............................... (Permalink)

Today's entry is going to be a quick housekeeping note. As you can tell, I'm shifting the format of my journal slightly. It's not going to change my writing, my archiving, or anything relevant; however, it may make outside linking a little bit easier. If the changes seem like a good idea, once I've settled into the new routine I can try to go back and update the archives accordingly.

I also took a few minutes to go back and read through this month's archives. You know, I've been posting much more sporadically than normal, but I'm surprisingly happy with what I've written. The quality has seemed high (and if you agree or disagree strongly enough to want to speak up, I urge you to say something in the forums). I hope that this is the beginning of a trend.

           April 28, 2003 ... Ask the Advice Dragon .................. (Permalink)

Sorry, loyal readers, no "Chicken Soup for the Dragon Soul" today. I'm not feeling terribly inspirational. I did, on the other hand, finish "Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time" this weekend, so yay me.

Instead, I think I'll take a glance through the ol' mailbag, and see what sort of letters your friendly, humble Spokesbeing for the Online Draconic Community (tm) has been getting.

And, heck, while I'm at it maybe I can even answer some of my e-mail.

*    *    *

Dear Advice Dragon,
     Hey. I just stumbled onto this place but I have something very important to tell you. I know this guy at my school who has warped and disgraced dragons. I mean, they were cool until this guy came along. He believes that he has the "spirit of the dragon" (really high pitched voice), and that it can help him do supernatural stuff. He also believes that he can conjure weapons out of midair, and that his parents were ferrets. How STUPID is that?
     -- Frustrated Friend to Freaks

Dear Frustrated:
     I believe that dragons are too big a concept for any one single person to make "uncool." "Dragon" means many things to many people. If you don't like the way that your schoolmate interprets draconity, don't let him set the definitions for you. Find other dragons you can respect.
     As for the weapons and ferrets thing ... If he's that desperate for attention, the best thing you can do for him is to show him he can get it without resorting to such implausibilities. Try being nice to him, and tell him (privately and gently) at some point you think he's a neat guy and all but the whole "ferrets and guns" thing is making it hard for you to relate to him. Encourage him to just be himself.
     Of course, I believe one should always keep an open mind to weird possibilities. Like, for example, maybe his parents are Otherkin of a ferret persuasion, and he has a concealed weapons permit and knows enough prestidigitation to fool himself. Or, of course, there's always the extremely remote chance that you're, y'know, pulling my leg.

Dear Advice Dragon,
     -- .@mx2.tdl.com

Dear Dot,
     Glad to see you've found my site. Let's hope that your pal Slash doesn't also discover me at the same time. I'm not sure I could handle the traffic. (Little geek joke there, ha ha.)

Dear Advice Dragon,
     I was reading through your Draconity FAQ and noticed that you said, "Therefore, accepting one's inner dragon requires high self-esteem and inner peace -- two qualities that truly crazy people lack."
     I knew I was crazy, but didn't really have it confirmed until reading your two qualities that we lack statement ... thank you for the enlightment.
     -- Broken Wings

Dear Wings:
     Oh, dear. You didn't leave me much to say without either going on the defensive or trying to take back a line taken out of context.
     I'm sorry that that line hit a sore spot, but you might want to sit back and figure out why you reacted so strongly. Inner peace means liking yourself for who you are. Liking yourself is a decision that only you can make, and only you are qualified to make. If you don't feel at peace with yourself, don't you think it's worth the effort to change that?
     Sit back for a bit and make a list of what you like about yourself, a list of good things you've done. ("I can't think of any" is a cop-out. If you're really stuck, go walk out on the street and give a buck to a homeless guy, and start the list there.) Resolve to do those good things more often, and act in good ways more often, but first give yourself the credit for the good you have accomplished. Linger for a moment in that feeling. That's what inner peace is all about -- knowing you're on the right track. Not expecting that you'll be perfect.
     And don't be afraid to talk to a counselor or therapist about your feelings of "being crazy," and what you'd rather be instead, and how to get there. Even if you think talking to a professional isn't likely to help, it's not going to make things worse, and getting an outside perspective might give your brain a way to tackle your feelings from a different angle. I can attest to the value of that.

Dear Readers: Do you have a question for the Advice Dragon? Drop him a line!

Navigation: Current Journal Entry (link to site front) | Previous Page (March 2003) | Next Page (May 2003)

Up to journal index

TOMORROWLANDS.ORG Home * Contact * Copyright Notice * About Us
Please report errors or broken links to the webmaster via the Contact page.
Page is script-updated. Design © 2000 Tad "Baxil" Ramspott.