Familial Relationship Day

All day today, people have been wishing me a Happy Father’s Day.  Although I am generally father-shaped, I have no children, nor am I a priest, which means that aside from having a father, I have no particular connection to the day.

And for those who believe that people are just wishing me happiness on Father’s Day, I would like to point out that nobody wished me happiness on Mother’s Day, even though it is equally inapplicable to me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  If some of that happiness splashes onto the rest of you, I’m OK with that, but I am not cleaning it up.

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Writing about Writing: What if?

As Pliny the Guy I’m Quoting Again once said, “True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read.”  Once you decide to write, how do you achieve true glory?

Stories can all be boiled down to two big concepts: What Happened? and What If?  Non-fiction writing is about What Happened.  Histories and biographies are the obvious examples, but almost any book of facts is at its core a history of what happened before.  If you get a book on birdwatching, the author has basically written down what he found out when he looked for birds.

Fiction is different.  Fiction is about What If?  What if a one-legged sea captain got obsessed with the white whale that injured him?  What if a freak tornado dropped a little girl’s house on a witch?  What if an ordinary guy got put in an iron mask because he coincidentally looked like the king?

What If? stories are a staple of science fiction.  You can find whole anthologies of stories written about what would have happened if the South won the Civil War, or the Nazis had won World War II. Continue reading

Sit down and grow up!

Yesterday I was in a meeting on the floor below mine.  As I was leaving, I noticed a sign someone had printed out and posted near the elevators:

Please Be Mature

Do not take others office chairs

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve been trying to think of a time in my life where I stole chairs because of a lack of maturity.  I have younger siblings, whose raison d’etre is to torment and be tormented.  I can’t remember a time where I went into a room, found my chair to be missing, and responded, “Oh, grow up!”  Besides, without chairs, where would the truly juvenile among us put Whoopie Cushions?

As I’ve observed before, engineers are a curious breed.  My best guess is that there is a giant, undeclared game of musical chairs going on downstairs, and every time the music starts, HR takes one chair out of the building.  At the end of the quarter, whoever is still standing gets laid off.  (Note: I would support this policy.  If you can’t figure out how to stay seated, you’re probably not smart enough to work here.)

I am reminded of the words of two great writers.  In 1st Corinthians, Paul wrote “When I was young, I thought as a child, I spoke as a child, I reasoned as a child.  When I became a man, I quit stealing the other apostle’s chairs.  Especially Peter’s, which is made of fine Corinthian leather.”  (Disclaimer: I’m not near a Bible right now, so I’m quoting from memory.)  And Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “If you can keep your chair when those around you are losing theirs and blaming you, um… you’re a better man than I, Gunga Din!”  (Disclaimer: I’m not near the works of Rudyard Kipling either, but I’m pretty sure there were some nice chairs on his ruby yacht.)

Editor’s Note: Since this is happening on the floor below my cubicle, I would like to say that I am above this sort of thing.  But I’m not going to, because that would be an unthinkably bad pun, and you, the reader, deserve better..  You’re welcome.

Soylent skin care

Sometimes the only thing that redeems the Internet is the bizarreness of the ads.

I happened to notice an ad on my Facebook page with the headline “60 Year Old Dad Looks 30!”  The subheading says “Local dad erases wrinkles and upsets doctors!  His secret exposed here!  See what it is!”  Accompanying the ad is a photo of a fingertip with some sort of pale yellow blob at the end.

I (of course) refuse to click on the ad, but here’s what I have deduced:

– The blob on his finger is some sort of secret face cream.

– Doctors hate young-looking people for some reason.

The only way I can reconcile the two statements above is if the secret of the face cream is that it’s made from freshly harvested doctor spleens.

(Disclaimer: This product is for men only.  If it were for women, the headline would read “60 Year Old Mom Looks 23!”)

Dial ‘O’ for oxymoron

While I was out this afternoon, someone called and left me a voicemail.  I checked the caller ID to determine who had called, and the display said “DO NOT ANSWER”.

I’m glad I wasn’t home, but I’m now torn as to whether or not I should listen to the message.

Grapes, the coffee machine, and everything

I live in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.  For those of you who are not here, it’s basically a small Silicon Valley with no valley, less traffic, cheaper homes, and more tobacco than marijuana.  Because it is a relatively high-tech area, the population is divided into engineers and people who have to put up with engineers.  This fact is the only reason I could get away with this.

I was at Wal-Mart earlier today to pick up some things I needed: an umbrella, a new coffee maker, and some grapes.  (Disclaimer: I didn’t really need grapes.  I just like them.)  When I got to the checkout line with my items, the checker said hi and asked me, “Did you find everything?”

I get asked this a lot, along with “How was everything?” in restaurants.  Apparently I give off a vibe that says, “Ask me about everything!”.  I have a hard enough time keeping track of what day it is.  So normally I will respond apologetically, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking for everything.”

Today was different.  In a flash of what I call “brilliance” (like a seizure, but less painful), I smiled and cheerfully responded, “Yep!  Now I can finish my time machine!”  I didn’t get a laugh, but I also didn’t get detained by security, which I probably would have in a less tech-savvy part of the country.

Disclaimer: You do not need grapes to build a time machine.  I got the grapes as a snack, in case all the food in the future is in pill form.  Actual produce from the 21st Century might be worth a fortune in steak pellets or dilithium 500 years from now.

Fine tree stand dining

The other day I was at Barnes & Noble, and I heard a couple guys in the next aisle mocking one of the books.  This struck me as unusual, because the only places I normally hear mockery in public are in my head and coming out of my mouth.

As I went around the corner, I saw two employees put down a book and go back to whatever they were doing.  Thankful that I didn’t see myself already standing there, I walked over to where they were standing and picked up the book they were looking at.  It was called “The Camping Cookbook”.

Now, I have never been camping in my life.  If you’ve been following along, you know that Mother Nature and I are mortal enemies, and we have a simple “live and let die” policy, where we don’t directly attack each other, but neither of us will lift a finger to help the other.  Camping would be unnecessarily provocative, like firing rockets into a neighbor’s yard. Continue reading