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January 4, 2003 ... I'm still trying to give myself some time to think about what resolutions I want to make for the new year. It's not for want of ideas that I'm stalling -- it's that there are a lot of commitments I can make to myself, and out of that copious list of ideas, I'd like to focus in on a few that are the most important. I can't make that decision without deliberation.

In the meantime, I apologize for my recent silence. I've been trying to resolve issues in a pair of ongoing relationships. Work continues, in both cases. I'm reluctant to post about issues in the process of resolution except to state that they're being worked on, so that's all the detail you're going to get for the moment.

Also, before I forget: Happy 2003!

2001 was the year that everything fell to shit for me. 2002 was the year that I tried to pick up the pieces while the few things that hadn't fallen to shit in 2001 decided to get into the act late. I expect my 2003 to be full of not-falling-to-shitness, and I wish the same for you.

January 5, 2003 ... From the weirdness magnet department:

You think your day was freaky?

I had a unicorn surgically removed.

January 7, 2003 ... An engineer, a werewolf, and an auto mechanic are sitting in a bar. Suddenly, a priest rushes in. "Somebody please help!" he pleads. "We had a hundred banners flying up on the church, and now the wind has blown them down, and I have to get them back up again before the bishop visits at noon."

The three drinkers look at each other. "I'm an engineer," the first volunteers. "I should be able to help."

The werewolf shrugs. "I'll help. I've got nothing else to do."

The mechanic swigs down the rest of his beer and belches. "Lemme come watch," he says. "I'm bored."

"Where were the banners?" the engineer asks the priest.

"Up on the lightning rod," the priest replies.

"Lightning rod?" asks the werewolf.

"Yes, most churches have one in this part of the country," the priest explains. "The steeple is the tallest structure around for miles. In thunderstorms, it would get hit left and right if we didn't have a lightning rod up above it to ground the building."

The four walk to the church. The priest points. "You'll have to climb the lightning rod," he tells the engineer and werewolf. "Just start tying the banners back on, from the top. Make sure they're knotted securely. It's still windy."

The two shimmy up the structure, and in no time at all, have started to secure the banners. They've been working for about five minutes when, suddenly, a huge gust of wind howls through the area. The engineer loses his balance and falls off the thin metal rod. The werewolf makes a desperate lunge for him and manages to catch his wrist, but in the process, the rod lurches and bends, leaving both of them hanging precariously over empty space.

"Oh my God!" the priest cries. "The werewolf's paws are slipping! They're going to fall! What do we do?"

"Stay cool," the mechanic tells him. "Go get a ladder. I'll keep them safe until you return."

"O-okay," the priest stutters.

The mechanic turns around and starts shouting at his drinking buddies. "Darth Vader is Luke's father! Old Yeller gets shot! Clarence gets his wings! Soylent green is people!"

The priest stares, dumbfounded. "What in the name of all that's holy are you doing?!" he yells.

"Keeping the werewolf from letting go of the lightning rod."

"What?!" the priest asks.

"Isn't it obvious?" the auto mechanic explains patiently. "The purpose of spoilers is to keep your tyers on the ground."

January 8, 2003 ...

I'd just like to formally apologize for yesterday's shaggy dog story.

January 10, 2003 ...

The management would like to apologize for Wednesday's horrible pun during the attempted apology for Tuesday's horrible pun.

Those responsible have been sacked and replaced with trained llamas.

January 11, 2003 ...

A short while ago, I gave the readers of my forums the opportunity to ask me a question, any question, to be answered as honestly and as completely as time permits. The questions were fairly interesting, so I thought I would share them here.

Don't you have a backlog of TTU related stuff to fill any time free of other activities?
Yes and no. There are plenty of things that I should be doing -- and if I were willing to mix leisure time and "work" time, I'd be doing them, and would never get any leisure time. My TTU backlog counts as "work" to me; it's an obligation which I feel I must address, and the fact that that obligation is self-imposed doesn't help me want to do it any more.

I don't deal well with obligations, truth be told. I always have e-mail to answer, forum posts to catch up on, stories to write, things to do; with short, easy tasks like paying bills, I can generally push myself to take care of it right away, but if something requires a steady commitment, I have to force my mind to deal with it instead of wandering off and looking at the shiny things.

Answering questions like this is a shiny thing. I spit the idea out on a whim, and I'm still riding the initial rush of "Nifty!" If I had a hundred questions to answer in this much detail, I'd start losing momentum about ten to twenty in, and it would end up creeping onto my "work" list. So be glad that talking about myself in bite-sized chunks amuses me, and that I didn't get deluged with everybody and their brother wanting to know what the deal is with those nasty rumors about the trees.

D'ya want some toast?
Thanks for the offer, but I just ate. It looks lovely. Maybe you could tear me off a corner so I could just have a taste?

I'm wondering if you ask questions too sometimes.
Constantly. My mind is wired like a ferret on caffeine. I've even tried (solitaire and partnered) matches of "Questions," i.e. the game the two main characters play in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which is an interesting intellectual exercise but tends to quickly descend into rhetorical tail-chasing.

Do you know any good moose jokes? Substitute in llama if you want.
So a moose walks into a bar, and he gets his antlers stuck on it. *drum beat*

... No good? Well, the funniest moose I know of is Space Moose (probably not work-safe due to scatological humor). The Naked Dancing Llama is kinda funny, too, but in a more offbeat way. The funniest memory I have of llama stuff is in a Knights of the Dinner Table strip a year or two ago, where the characters were trying to plunder a temple's priceless furniture with a pack llama train, and the game master stopped them through a lack of trained llama handlers, vicious llama bites, dangerous cliffs, and finally having their characters from another campaign attack them ... err. Had to be there, I guess.

Oh, and then there's Llamatron (download link), one of the coolest games ever. Funny but demented. I don't think it has any moose jokes.

Of course, if you're just after moose jokes and don't want to deal with my vaguely tangential ramblings, you can check these out.

What phrase do you use when you have lost something, and you wander around knowing you put it down there a minute ago...
"Dammit. Where COULD that have gone? I KNOW I put it here!"

... Yes, it's boring. I suppose I could start training myself to wander around muttering repeatedly "oh, scroggins!" or some such, but it would seem overdone to me.

What's your favorite memory, and why?
Without a question, it was the time I got to spend with Thea in person back in mid-1999. It was such a rare and sacred gift that I find myself unable to take it for granted even years after the fact; and there was such a sacrifice involved that I just can't be anything but wholeheartedly grateful.

Nothing more fancy than being able to touch, look each other in the eyes, and say "I love you." It had been so long that even that seemed a miracle.

If Stephen Hawking gets a whole synthesized voice at his disposal, how come Christopher Pike only gets blinking 'yes' and 'no' lights?
I wasn't aware of the reference, so I had to look it up; now that I know the background, it does seem pretty fishy.

The most obvious explanation that leaps to mind is that our dear Captain Pike had something to say that Starfleet didn't want him revealing -- something that could never be teased out of him with a game of Twenty Questions. Maybe it was the Terrible Secret of Space.

What is your goal? Or rather, do you have an ambition that spans across lives and stays with you no matter where you are?
An ambition spanning lifetimes? Dear me, no. That requires a level of single-minded dedication I find it hard to muster -- getting both the "single-minded" and the "ambition" in the same place is quite a trick. I suppose I could take a cue from Thea, who was in that mode for the last several hundred years, except that her ambition was to find me, and, well, she's considerably mellowed out now. Me? In a lot of ways, I've been picking up the pieces since the Great Dragon War, and I wasn't really me before then ... so I've never really sat down and given my ambition free rein.

As far as goals, my short-term goal is to find a nice place to settle down and take a lifetime-long vacation with Thea; I really haven't planned out beyond that yet into the real long-term range. My within-this-lifetime goal (one might call it an immediate goal, if we're thinking within the sort of time frames your question implies) is to find some resolution on the many bits of unfinished business I've left behind in the places I've been and moved on from; I've already confronted a number of things I'm not proud of having done, and hopefully learned something from them in hindsight. My really, really immediate goal -- which is to say, the next few years -- is to recenter myself, because I'm starting to see some of the ways in which life on Earth is knocking me off balance, and for once I'm going to address that before it ends in tragedy, dammit. I'll cover that more fully when I talk about this year's new year's resolutions.

Where have you never gone that you'd like to visit?
Mount Shasta (for all that I live six hours from it and for as many times as I've driven by it on Interstate 5, I've never been). The British Isles. Greece. Orbiting the Earth. K'rar'shun.

There are probably a thousand more places that would leave me standing speechless in awe, and a million that would warm my heart; but the simple fact is that I haven't heard about them at all, or haven't heard enough about them to stimulate my curiosity and cause me to desire a visit. If I travelled more, I'd probably want to do a lot more travelling.

January 13, 2003 ...

"Where is it you're going next weekend again?" asked the boss.

"Further Confusion."

"What is it?"

"That's its name. It's a convention."

"Is it about dragons?" (Unlike some workplaces I've visited, I haven't 'outed' myself one hundred percent, but I have been characteristically open with my leanings, and word gets around. Even though I have not yet posted the commissioned painting from Orion on my cubicle wall, they call me the dragon guy.)

"Tangentially. Not really."

"Well, what's it about?"

"Anthropomorphic animals."

"What animals?"

Now, I work at a newspaper. My boss is the editor in chief. I've suffered through starched-shirt Corporate America before, and I wouldn't put it past some of those bosses to flunk out of spelling bees on "corporate" or even "America" ... but newspapers? People get into the biz on the strength of a talent with words, and only stay if they have a passion for the craft. Accordingly, having the term slide by him threw me somewhat; it took me several seconds to recover into Basic Explanation mode.

"Anthropomorphic animals. Animals with human characteristics. An example would be Bugs Bunny."


That exchange gave me my lesson for the day -- that in probably the vast majority of cases where I explain my draconity to someone, I'm broadening their horizons a lot more than I had figured. Not just by exposing them to the ideas I present, but by exposing them to the general class of ideas surrounding therianthropy, anthropomorphics, and other such tongue-twisting Greek words dealing with the intersection between human and non-human.

I brace myself for this when talking with people who project 'mundane' in much the same way that I project 'fringe', but perhaps I'd been assuming that "furry" was one of those memes, like "All Your Base" or various urban legends or geocaching, that moderately educated people just have heard of somewhere along the way. Not necessarily so.

It's a reminder that being a diplomat is a full-time job; I am always representing my community, and a negative impression of me can give people a negative impression of much of what I appreciate. It's a reminder to brush up on how to present the basics of my beliefs in soundbite-sized packages, because I'm going to be explaining from scratch more often than not. It's a reminder that the world is such a big place, I can't assume that even those who are educated will have a grasp on my areas of expertise. (A lesson which I suspect that most agitators -- whether they be religious, political, social, or otherwise -- would find greater popular success with if they took it to heart.)

On the other hand, I guess I should consider myself lucky that he didn't respond with, "Oh, you mean 'furries,' right? Didn't Vanity Fair have an article about them?"

Because if he'd said that, I would have had to corner him and talk his ear off about the fandom, and I had pages to go lay out.

January 16, 2003 ... Speaking of lessons. Three nights ago, I also got a quiet reminder of one of the most important principles we deal with in our lives.

I was driving home from work, late at night, in my recently acquired car. (Oh, have I mentioned that yet? I picked up a small, high-mileage Ford a week or two back at an excellent price. It's been a wonderful commute car, and now I don't have to borrow my parents' van and slog through the foothills at 10 miles per gallon any more. Yay!)

... Anyway. I was driving home through Auburn. I pulled up to a stoplight and a big semi turned left onto the road in front of me. He pulled into my lane, then changed his mind and moved right as my light turned green again and I drove forward.

A little puzzled by this driving, I hung back behind him rather than passing, while I tried to figure out what was going on. Then, once he realized I wasn't going to pass, he started blinking his left-side running lights at me.

I glanced down at the dashboard. Sure enough, I'd only turned on the fog lights instead of the headlights. Oops.

So what's the reminder? We're all in this together. I've talked about the ways we isolate ourselves in groups and the ways we declare our differences ... but I've also talked about how we affect total strangers by our choices, and how tiny acts of good can reverberate and make much bigger differences down the road ... and it's important to retain that perspective.

At the end of the day, we're all just fellow sapients struggling together against a big, dark, cold, impersonal universe. There's more than enough emptiness out there that we have no need to add to it by being cruel, divisive, or misanthropic to each other.

This is why I find cynicism to be such a dangerous thing. Cynicism breeds apathy; cynicism breeds objectification; cynicism encourages emptiness.

Cynicism adds nothing to the world. It's not, by itself, an active sin, but it's certainly a passive one. Cynicism isn't littering, but it is not bothering to take out the garbage. And it will, just as certainly, leave your soul cluttered up with trash that obstructs your ability to live a healthy life and contribute to the greater good.

Would I have gotten into an accident if that truck driver had thought, "Eh, whatever; if he's too big a retard to turn on his lights properly, he's better off out of the gene pool"? I doubt it. In another few blocks I'd have gotten out from under the street lights and realized my mistake.

But I sure wouldn't want to live in a world in which everyone I passed on the street thought that way.

January 18, 2003 ... In my more cynical moments -- what a segue from my last post, eh? -- I wonder if the difference between a hero and an ordinary person is that the hero doesn't stick around after the job is finished.

We think of heroes -- and here I mean heroes in the high-fantasy sense, not the fireman or guy-who-stops-to-help-you-change-a-tire sense -- as larger-than-life figures. We build up mystique around them. Very nearly by definition, someone who's got a life can't be larger than it; seeing someone as a person, with the accompanying quirks, character flaws, and petty annoyances, destroys that mystique.

The archetypical hero is a loner. I think there are two classes of heroic loners, though. The ones that never really intended to isolate themselves that way, for whom a tough decision looms in the future, once they realize how much they have to sacrifice to maintain the image they've built up around themselves; and those who were loners to begin with and found that they liked the do-gooder lifestyle.

Or maybe those are just two points on a spectrum. Looking back at some of my lives and experiences, I've often seen myself cast in a hero mold. At times, it's been reluctantly; at times, I've been alienated enough from my people that I really wasn't giving anything up by trying to live up to my image. To have gone back and forth so readily indicates to me that they can't be artificially separated.

In the last several years, I think I've been drifting from the latter category into the former.

This is not to say anything about the actual heroism of my actions; the idea is that I've been going through life with a fair share of that isolated heroic outlook. (Of course, in some limited circles, my reputation does precede me -- mostly on the strength of such writings as my Draconity FAQ.) As I grew into an adult, I set out to change the world -- to push it in ways that a normal person couldn't. I still want to; I've always dreamed big. But somewhere along the line, I grew uncomfortable with people treating me like a leader. What do I know? I'm a sapient stumbling through life, just like the rest of us. I still wake up in the morning and put on my pants one leg at a time.

And the damned thing is that, if my past-life history is to be believed, I have on occasion been a hero. I seem to fall into the role easily. People start looking up to me; I do some great things ...

... and then I take off, leaving behind some awed people and some incredible stories.

If I'm lucky, I'll do it before I make some monumental miscalculation and blow the reputation I tried so hard to live up to. But I've had my share of screw-ups, too. That scares me a great deal -- that when you're that visible a person, one slight misstep can unmake such a huge chunk of the good you've tried to do.

... Maybe that's another reason heroes are always on the move; the shorter the time they stick around, the smaller the chance they'll slip up and negate the results of their hard work.

January 20, 2003 ...

"Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. ... Not a few men who cherish lofty and noble ideals hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different."

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

Happy birthday, MLK. Thank you for doing so much to shape the world that I grew up in.

January 21, 2003 ... Been busy. My work schedule has been extremely erratic, and pressing, for a while here, owing to the fact that in a few days I'm going to be attending Further Confusion.

As such, starting tomorrow night, it's extremely likely that I'll be away from the computer for a while. If any of you are also going to the con, I'll probably see you there; otherwise, have a nice weekend.

January 24, 2003 ... Highlights of the convention so far:

  • The laser light show apparently set off a fire alarm. Unfortunately, I was off-site eating lunch at the time.
  • Two's rant about camping, and the "raccoon" that invaded his tent. I haven't laughed so hard in years.
  • A fursuiter dressed as Godzilla wandering around outside the dealer's room. Suddenly, Gamera rounds a corner and spots him down the hall. The two do a double-take, face each other, and after some posturing, leap toward each other in an epic battle. Godzilla whacks Gamera around a while with huge tail sweeps and neck swings, and then finishes Gamera off by leaping on him in a WWF-style bodyslam. Gamera flails around on the floor, unable to get up due to lying on his back on the giant turtle shell, and Godzilla struts away in triumph.

Two days down, three to go. Thursday was actually mostly a day of set-up, and Friday was pretty laid-back -- so it looks like things are just getting warmed up.

January 27, 2003 ... A few elevator conversations at the convention -- both of which stemmed from me walking into an empty elevator with one other stranger who was coincidentally going to the same floor as me:

  • Baxil: Third floor? How convenient!

    Passenger A: Yes, how convenient!

    Baxil: After all, it saves me a whole five-tenths of a calorie that I would otherwise have spent pressing two different buttons.

    Passenger A: No offense, but it doesn't look like you have many to spare.

    * * * * *

  • Baxil: (loses balance slightly as he gets on, bumps into other passenger) Oops, sorry.

    Passenger B: That's OK.

    Baxil: (presses third floor button)

    Passenger B: Third floor, please.

    Baxil: (gestures to button) Hey. I may be clumsy, but at least I'm psychic.

    Passenger B: (laughs) Cool. (Disembarks)

    Baxil: And now, at the price of destroying my carefully built reputation, I'm going to follow you off the elevator.

* * * * *

At any rate, I am now home from the convention, trying to settle back in and get enough sleep to get back to work tomorrow; a more robust convention report will follow later. To the folks who I met there, hello; to the folks who I got to see again there, it was good to catch up; and to the many who didn't attend, try it sometime. There's a massive amount of stuff to do and see and buy. I'm glad I took the time off.

January 29, 2003 ... While I am occupied with a few other items of work in the background, and while I try to put together the time to assemble a full convention report, here's a brain-teaser to keep you busy.

I have taken the ten digits 0-9 and arranged them in a sequence based on a non-complicated and easily explainable rule. Although the rule is mathematically based, it should require no formal mathematical experience (beyond a high-school education) to figure out -- especially in this day and age.

Here is the sequence, with one digit removed:

1, 2, 4, 6, 3, 5, 0, 9, 7.

My question is: Where does the digit 8 go? Have fun. ];=8)

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