Thursday, October 26, 2006

In Memory of Victor

In all fairness, I must confess that I did not write this today. It is something that I wrote about a month ago when my nephew took his own life. I couldn't sleep after hearing the news, and so I got up and just pounded out some of my thoughts on my keyboard.

In memory of Victor

Grief is an interesting emotion. Initially, human nature tends to avoid grief. It is a painful experience, a powerful feeling that is rarely remembered with fondness. That being true, it is also one of the most necessary and common of all emotions. In this transitory existence which we have been given upon this earth, grief is the one emotion that all caring beings must at one time or another share. At the core of this painful emotion is nothing more than what some may argue is the very reason for our existence: Love. For one to feel grief at the passing of another, there must have been at least a semblance of love. Conversely, in order to feel any kind of love for another, there must have been some sort of reciprocation, meaning that in order to truly love, you must also have been loved. Life without grief would also be life without love, and what kind of life would we live without love? Even the dumb beasts are known to express grief, or at the very least confusion when confronted with the loss of a companion. Perhaps I am attributing too much human emotion to these instinctive acts, but I am confident that in their own way, they are experiencing similar feelings of love for another being and grief at the loss of that love.

When faced with the discontinuation of a loving relationship, for any reason there must necessarily be a period of grief. Those who manage to avoid or block out this mandatory mourning period will inevitable suffer from other spiritual maladies until the grief can be faced and dealt with. It is much healthier to simply immerse oneself in the pain, to feel each and every pang with gratitude for its cleansing power and for the unspoken truth that it provides: That I have loved and was loved. It is an old cliché that “Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” It could be inferred also from this same saying, that it is better to have grieved than to never have had anything to grieve for. The very act of loving another subjects us to the certainty that someday, according to the temporary nature of this existence, we may be called upon to grieve for the loss of the object of our love.

How does one then face this grief, and how does one then learn to draw strength and reinforcement from such a hollow and lonely feeling? Memories can sustain us, and help us to remember why we loved the one we have lost. Performing acts of grief, such as memorials to the lost one can help us to see purpose in the loss.

Finding purpose in the loss is possibly the most important way to accept the feeling of grief. Although we cannot always see the end from the beginning, we can make it our goal to look for, or try to create a meaning from the loss. We can dedicate ourselves to a cause in the name of the lost love, we can perform good deeds in their name, we can even do no more than commit to remembering the things about them that we loved. Each of these things can help assure that the loss is not in vain. That the loss we feel and the grief that we accept and welcome into our lives will create in us an increase in strength, in goodness, and in hope for the future. Instead of creating a fear of loving, lest we again experience grief, it will allow us to search out opportunities for grief as we welcome new loves into our lives.

The phrase that one was “eaten up with grief” implies that a person let this feeling act as a destructive force. That they made the choice to allow this terrible sadness work in them to avoid love, to dread the future and to decrease the opportunities for happiness in this life. If Love is the basis of happiness in this life, and we allow grief to persuade us to avoid love in the future, then we are also allowing grief to persuade us to avoid happiness in this life.

Some may feel guilty feeling happiness at a time when a loved one has departed. It certainly seems counter-intuitive to seek to enjoy grief, or to celebrate the feeling of grief as a symbol of the love that we have experienced, but if we consider how true love would evaluate the same situation, it is easy to see that neither party to a loving relationship would wish for the other to feel anything but happiness and continuing love. To abandon the quest for future and present love and thereby happiness simply because of the loss of one source of love is also counterintuitive.

We live to love. There is no higher purpose. The first gift we were ever given by our Father in Heaven was love. He loved us enough to first, create us spiritually, and then, to create for us a mortal dwelling place. Once we had a home He created for us bodies to occupy while living on this earth. He even loved us enough to allow His Son to suffer and die that we may live again. And He loves us enough to allow us to feel that same feeling of love for our brothers and sisters here on this earth. This gift of the ability to love He certainly understands comes with the possibility of loss and grief. As we have been taught, there must be adversity in all things. Love would not be so sweet if it was not contrasted with the bitterness of grief. Just as love makes grief inevitable, grief makes love possible. A feeling only has value if there is the possibility of it being taken away. Anything that does not have the possibility of loss soon is taken for granted and is no longer a source of happiness.

Thursday October 26, 2006 - 09:43am (EDT)© 2006 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ambush at Dawn!

Way more than a thousand. And cheesy and probably unrealistic as well. But fun to write!

The captain walked silently but swiftly through the foggy darkness across the deck. His experienced feet found their own way around the slippery deck, as sure footed as a mountain goat. He knew every inch of that deck, had in fact taught himself to be able to navigate its crowded space without a second thought. Appearances were vital to the respect given by a crew to its master, and so he cultivated the appearance that he was so confident that he could walk across the deck in a pounding gale without so much as reaching for a handhold. He arrived at the bow of the ship, where several men were gathered around a spyglass aimed into the fog. His approach was so stealthy that when he laid his hand on the shoulder of one, he startled and nearly fell down.
“Report, Merryweather?” whispered the Captain.
‘Nothing yet sir, we caught a glimpse of her lights about half an hour ago, but she faded into the fog and nothing at all since.”

The Captain nodded, and stepped back, silently commanding the men to return to their task. The darkened, silent ship glided eerily through the fog. The water lapping at the sides of the ship seemed to ring like a bell in the extreme silence. Although the Captain knew that there were men scattered all along the railings of the ship, each also scanning the foggy night for any sign of the other ship, not a sound was made. His crew was well trained and disciplined. They also knew the importance of stealth this night, and the consequences of failure.

Reaching beneath his cloak, the Captain felt the hands of his watch. His pulse quickened as he realized that dawn was only minutes away. The thick fog would give them a few minutes more before full light, but he knew how fast the fog tended to burn off this time of year, and he desperately wanted to find his adversary before they knew he was there.

Then, out of the thick fog his ears detected a noise. A familiar sound to anyone who has ever sailed the ocean, but this morning it was a terrifying omen. The muffled clang of the watch bell, signaling the beginning of a new watch. Instantly his head pinpointed the direction of the sound, and he reached over and snapped the spyglass out of the hands of the startled watchman. Before he got it up to his eyes however, he realized that it was completely unnecessary. A hulking dark shape suddenly appeared in the darkness off the port bow. Passing the spyglass back to the watchman the Captain turned and sprinted back towards the cabin. Halfway there he stopped and grabbed a line which had been lashed to the railing. Careful to find the correct line, he untied it and gave a mighty pull. The line was tied to the jacket of the port side gunner’s mate, who was waiting for just such a signal. He quickly stood up and ran down the aisle behind the twelve cannon lashed to the deck. As he went he slapped each of the gunners to bring them to full wakefulness. Each of them in turn leaped to their feet and rousing their crew began untying the guns and rolling them towards the already open portholes. By now the gunner’s mate had returned to his original station, and when he was satisfied that the guns were in place and ready, tugged back on the signal line.

All of this was done in such profound silence that it was hard to believe that anything had happened, but weeks of drilling and planning for this operation ensured that the crew had learned precisely what their parts were, and which of these parts were liable to cause the slightest noise. Now the men were frozen in place, all was in readiness except for the lighting of matches. Until the final signal was given, the Captain had threatened to keelhaul anyone who gave their hidden adversary even the slightest hint of what awaited them in the fog. The tension in the air was palpable. The men knew that their only chance of survival, let alone victory lay in utter and complete surprise. Thus far the foggy night had been their ally. Now it became more of an equalizer. If the Captain’s navigation was off in the slightest, they would end up prisoners or worse.

Back on deck, the Captain felt the answering tug on the signal line. His heart pounding, he turned and walked swiftly back to the stern of the ship, where his first mate stood at the rudder. From his higher vantage point, he could see the first signs of the approaching dawn. The fog was changing slowly from an invisible black curtain to a wispy grey. The dark hulk of the other ship was coming even more clearly into focus, and the Captain knew that the time had come. Mounted on the stern deck behind the rudder was a small three-incher. It was already primed and loaded and the Captain hastily removed the leather cover from it. Turning it towards the shadow in the fog, he angled it upwards towards the sky and yanked the cord. The flint struck true, and a spark jumped into the pan. The powder hissed and popped, then the gun sounded. A line of fire shot skyward and then a flare popped, illuminating the gigantic man o’ war in the fog.

The crack of the gun seemed to open the fires of hell on the deck of the ship. The men in the gundeck below sprang to life and taking aim at the dark shape in the fog struck their matches almost simultaneously. Twelve ten inch guns bellowed smoke and flame into the lightening fog. As the gunners leapt forward to reload, on deck the rest of the crew were busy with their own attack. Makeshift catapults had been loaded with clay bottles filled with pitch. A rag wick hung from the mouth of the bottle was lit, and as soon as the fire had taken hold, the catapult launched. Fire arced from the smaller schooner over the silent sea and impacted on the larger ship. Months of drilling ensured that these projectiles all flew true, and the larger ship was soon engulfed in smoky orange flames.

The twelve guns sounded again, as their gunners performed their jobs with machine like precision. The man o’ war, caught sleeping was already listing towards the attackers. The gunners were aiming at the hull near the waterline, in an effort to sink the ship as fast as possible. The catapults on deck kept up a constant rain of fire and brimstone on the decks, and most of the rigging was now blazing merrily. The Captain had reloaded the swivel gun, and was waiting for the right time to give the next signal. The next step in this battle counted more on nature than on the abilities of the men, and could prove to be their undoing if it went awry.

The man o’ war had now come to life, although perhaps too late to mount much of a defense. The gundecks were still above water, but the portholes were smashed and fire was licking at the door of the powder magazine. Sailors appeared on deck and began firing muskets at the apparition in the fog, but the fate of the larger ship was already sealed. As the another broadside ripped through the lower decks, the man o’ war shuddered and her list became even more pronounced. The first of two gundecks was now awash, the main mast had collapsed and men were beginning to dive into the water.
The Captain watched nervously, his hand tense on the pull cord of the swivel gun. He watched as the rising sun illuminated the fog and it began thinning. Then, Mother Nature arrived to bless his daring maneuver with what he had been waiting for. This time of year, it was well known that the rising of the sun brought a gentle seaward breeze. Not enough wind to get a large ship in motion, it was plenty for a small schooner, lightly loaded to get in motion. The breeze was a mixed blessing however, since it would also dispel the fog and make his ship vulnerable to the shore guns and the other ships in the harbor. He knew that they had already heard the cannon fire and would be moving quickly to investigate. As soon as he felt the cool fingers of the breeze blow in his hair, he pulled the cord on the swivel gun, and another flare launched over the decks of his own ship.

At this signal, all of the men on deck fired their last firepot and then abandoned their catapults to scramble up the rigging. Every last piece of cloth the ship owned was dropped, and filling slowly with the gentle breeze, the ship began moving away from the foundering wreck. The fog quickly began to dissipate, and in the distance, they could hear alarm bells sounding in the garrison on shore. Within minutes they would begin to hear the reports and then sickening screech of incoming rounds. The gunners below were now casting their unused ammo overboard. Their survival now depended on speed more than steel, and the extra weight would only slow them. As the ship picked up speed, they could now clearly see the shoreline as it slipped further away. Cannon began firing from the fort, and geysers of water erupted as the shells impacted the water. But Mother Nature was kind, and the stiffening breeze had already carried them out of range. They could see sails beginning to billow on some of the ships in the harbor, but they knew how long it took to get a ship away from the dock, and they would be far over the horizon by then.

The Captain surveyed his busy crew with satisfaction. The plan was daring, and counted on far too many factors beyond his control, but today he was the victor. For today, he remained the Phantom.

Tuesday October 24, 2006 - 11:16am (EDT)
© 2006 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hoops with Vladimir

A few more than 1000 words today, but I had to finish this story.

Hoops with Lenin.

I am not sure how this happened. I am an average, everyday farmboy. I work hard to make the collective successful. I am out there every day, hoeing potatoes and chasing birds out of the barley fields. I do it for the greater good, not because I am selfish and want a better life for myself. I am the perfect socialist. I guess I failed because sometimes, when all of my chores are done I like to play basketball. I justified it by saying that after all of my hard work and contributions to the collective, I need some way to unwind, some way to clear my head. Plus, it is good exercise, and helps to keep my body healthy as well as my mind.

I guess someone in the village reported me. Perhaps I was getting too good, making the others in the collective feel unequal to me because I was able to hit the three-pointers almost every time. However it happened, the Politburo heard of my achievements, and I was picked up one day by stern faced men in dark sedans. As is common when this happens, nobody was told the reason I was being taken. As is even more common, nobody asked. Around here, sticking your neck out is a sure way to get your head lopped off. And I am not speaking figuratively. Remember Anatoly last year? He complained when they turned off the electricity in our village so that it could be re-routed to the summer dachau of the local bureaucrat. The rest of us were happy that we had something to contribute to his happiness. We all know how hard they work to make life better for us, and giving up lights at night and refrigerated food was hardly enough to give up for them. But Anatoly, he started to complain. Quietly at first, and then louder and louder. Even made some crude flyers and tried to hand them out to people. Of course, nobody would read them. Then the stern faced men in their dark sedans showed up, and Anatoly disappeared. Well, not all of him His head was found impaled on a fencepost just outside of town. The rest of him disappeared.

Riding in the sedan, my pulse pounded in my ears. Several times, I had nearly worked up my courage to ask a question about where we were going, but every time I thought better of it. The stern faced men volunteered nothing. The all sat staring straight ahead. The one sitting in the passenger seat was smoking a cigarette, and the harsh smoke blew back and made my eyes sting. I could tell it wasn’t the cheap tobacco that we got in the village. This smelled different, almost aromatic. I guess the jobs that these guys had were pretty tough too, and if getting better cigarettes for doing it made life better for all of us, then they deserved them. I was glad I was just a farmer though. Cutting off peoples heads was not something I think I could get used to. Even for expensive cigarettes.

At some point I fell asleep. The tension turned quickly to boredom after a few hours, and the late summer sunshine pouring through the windows combined with the tension of my situation to make me drowsy. I dreamed of stern faced men armed with machetes. Over and over again, they chopped my head off, and impaled it on a fencepost. I could see my house from that fencepost, and no sooner had I realized that a disembodied head would not be able to see its own house, no matter where its particular fencepost was located, than the dark sedans would drive up the rutted path to my house, and I would be there, in the front yard again, wondering why the dark sedans were coming to my house. It was a repeating nightmare that I experienced with an odd sense of detachment. Unlike other nightmares I had in the past, I felt no terror. No waking up in a cold sweat, no creeping in to my parents room to curl up on the floor at the foot of their bed just to be near them. The dreams had an air of inevitability, as if this particular destiny had been accepted in my mind long ago, and I was meeting it finally with what might have been a small amount of relief.

I awoke to the sound of a slamming door. The car was stopped, and the stern faced smoker from the front seat had gotten out and slammed his door. On either side of me, the men were stirring and stretching. The door to my right opened, and I followed the man next to me out and into the waning sunshine. As I looked around, my heart began pounding again. Although I had never been out of my small village, I knew at once where I must be. Moscow. The seat of government for the entire nation! No other city could be so large and prosperous! Buildings taller than I could have ever imagined rose up around me. The terror I had felt before was nothing compared to what I felt now. What horrible crime had I committed to justify bringing me here? What could a simple farm boy have done? I attended all of the party meetings, I wore my grey coveralls with pride. My parents were both faithful party members who never spoke ill of anyone in the leadership of our great nation. One of the men grabbed my arm just above the elbow with a steel grip. I stumbled along with him, my knees suddenly weak and my feet leaden. I kept glancing around, trying to spot the one with the machete, but none of them seemed to be concealing anything of the sort. Perhaps I was to be executed by firing squad instead. At least that would be less painful. At least I thought so. What did I know about firing squads?

As the evening sun fell behind the tall buildings, I was led into a dark courtyard. The smooth pavement felt foreign under my feet. I continued to look around wildly, trying to guess from what direction my death would come. Would they give me one of those expensive cigarettes to smoke before my death? A blindfold? A last meal? I suddenly realized that I was starving. I had eaten nothing since the thin gruel my mother had prepared for breakfast. At least a glass of water. My toungue felt dry and swollen. I swallowed, trying to force some moisture into my mouth.

Suddenly, my arm was released, and the stern men faded back from me. On the far side of the courtyard, a door opened and blinding electric light poured out into the blackness. Several shapes emerged, then the door closed again, leaving the courtyard once again blackened. I could see even less now, my eyes having been temporarily blinded by the blazing light from the doorway. Still I could make out the sounds of a group of men headed my way. Just before they reached the spot where I stood cowering in the darkness, they stopped. A loud voice, filled with authority and command ordered lights. I heard the crash of heavy switches being thrown, and giant floodlights filled every corner of the courtyard with harsh, brilliant light. My eyes ached with the effort to adjust to the rapid succession of light, then dark, then light again and I stood there blinking stupidly. When I regained my vision, my eyes fixed immediately on the man at the head of the group from the building. Although I had never met him before, I knew that face better than the farm-hardened visage of my own father. It was the father of the revolution himself! Vladimir Ilyich Lenin stood before me, a half-smile softening the normally sharp face which graced a million posters throughout the country.

My heart stood still. I must be dreaming. There was nothing that my simple mind could conceive of that would justify my position at that moment. I was standing in the presence of the single most powerful man in what to me was the universe. Then I saw what he was holding in his hand, casually balanced on one hip. I would have collapsed then and there, but I was paralyzed. I could not even bend my knees to fall to the ground. I knew that my pridefullness and selfishness was about to be punished. I recalled all of the times that I had shamed other members of my commune with my superior skills and I shuddered. Here was the payment for my deeds. Here stood my reckoning and punishment. The head of the nation was holding a basketball.

Seeing my discomfiture, his half smile broke into a broad grin, and he brought the ball off his hip and caught it with his other hand. Holding it out in front of his chest, he extended it towards me:
“I hear you are quite the ball player. Would you care for a little one-on-one?”

Thursday October 19, 2006 - 10:49am (EDT)
© 2006 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Law of Average

The Law of Average

Nope, that was not a typo. The title of this little story-let is "The Law of Average" and it may be the next thing I expand upon. But it may be way too close to home to really work on much. Anyway, 1067 words for today!

Jaime stood at the edge of the precipice, his unruly hair ruffled in the breeze. Tears squeezed out past the clenched eyelids and traced lines through the grime on his face. His torn shirt flapped listlessly in the breeze, but Jaime didn’t even notice. His arms were stretched out to his sides, and his face was up, feeling the last feeble rays of the sun as it set behind the western mountains. He stood there, statuesque waiting for the last of the sun to disappear. He imagined that he would know exactly when, even with his eyes closed. His haggard mind had finally released whatever tenuous grip it might once have had on reality, and was completely immersed in its own world now.
Suddenly, some internal signal told him that the time had come. The tears stopped, as if on command. Jaime leaned back even farther, as if gathering strength and flexed his knees. He hovered there, for a second, and then all at once leaned forward and hurled himself forward into the void. In his fevered mind, he took wing and soared high into the grey twilight. Finally free of the trials and tribulations of this world, he gloried in his new-found power. Then, an explosion of light and pain, and he knew no more.

Jaime was an average high-school kid. However, that was the main problem. He wanted to be more than average, but time and again throughout his school career, he had come up undeniably and unchangeably average. Perhaps it was a lack of natural ability. Yet his teachers throughout the years had constantly reminded him that he was not working up to his potential. Surely this indicated that there was something more, some deeper reason he remained so intractably average? What if he tried harder? This would work for short intervals. He would complete assignments, practice harder on the football field, and he would feel, for a short time at least some measure of success. Inevitably there would come along a reminder, some sort of setback, to put him firmly back in his place. Sometimes it was only an annoyance, something small that kept him from achieving more. Other times it was a violent and painful slap in the face that would shove him rudely back to the middle where he belonged.
At the beginning of his senior year, Jaime thought he had finally broken through. Selected for the first string offensive line, he was confident that he had finally arrived. He had reached some sort of dominance, and was now to be looked up to and admired. He played well in the first game of the season, and his team won easily against a larger school. Then, about halfway through the second game, he felt a twinge of pain in his back. By the time the team came out to play the second half, Jaime could hardly breathe for the gripping pain between his shoulder blades. He signaled to the coach that he needed to come out. The medic came over and asked a few questions about the pain, and figuring that it was nothing horribly urgent, left Jaime sitting alone on the sidelines. Jaime found that the only way to sit comfortably was to lean back on his hands and lean his head all the way back. This position had the added discomfort of allowing the drizzling rain to fall directly on his face.
Two weeks later, when the doctor decreed that his sprained back had healed sufficiently, Jaime returned to practice. However, his first-string spot had been filled, and he would spend the rest of the year watching from the sidelines. Bitter disappointment filled his mind each time game day approached, and he saw the small cardboard circle that represented him on the position board remain solidly in the #2 slot. Average, once again.
If Jaime was only average at sports, his love life was definitely below average. He had never had a girlfriend, had never been kissed, and found himself feeling stupid and slow anytime a girl he was even moderately attracted to came near him. He had no idea how the girls in school really felt about him, since he was to nervous to breach the subject. He was friends with many of them, occasionally took someone to a dance, but had no real relationships to speak of. It seemed as if as soon as he developed serious feelings about someone, and finally worked up the courage to do something about it, the law of average would catch up to him again, and they would find another boyfriend, or move, or make it clear that he was of no interest to them.

The law of average. That was how Jaime began to think about this apparent law of nature. Nothing he could do would allow him to poke his head through this apparent glass ceiling and excel. It was a frustrating way to live life, but in an odd way it was quite comfortable as well. Being average also meant that the serious problems of life passed him by as well. Not only was he immune from the great achievements of life, he also seemed to be immune from the great suffering that was also possible. No great tragedies befell him, nothing that would set him apart from his peers. He had never spent the night in a hospital, had never had surgery or a serious illness. Cauliflower ear from wrestling, the sprained back from football and a severe flu were the worst health problems he had to worry about. While he never made the honor roll, neither did he ever fail any classes. Whenever he would receive a failing notice in a class, he would improve his performance just enough to get back into passing range, and there his motivation seemed to end. The work was not difficult, the challenge was to keep his mind in it.

Finally, while the law of average kept him from finding what he truly wanted: a serious relationship with a girl, it also protected him from the horrible heartbreak that such a relationship could incur.

Wednesday October 18, 2006 - 10:04am (EDT)
© 2006 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Monday, October 16, 2006


1000 words?!? What in the crap was I thinking? I don't have the time for this! OK, most days I do, and if I had spent the last hour typing instead of looking at news stories, I would have had more than enough time to finish 1000 or more words. But I guess it is Monday, and this day, more than any other has the ability to break many new commitments. Weekends are great for great ideas, and Fridays contribute to that. Being at the end of another long workweek, the mind can conceive of some pretty grandiose plans. Plans to make the next week better, plans for how to improve life as we know it. The weekend amplifies these ideas, making them seem even more intelligent, giving them even more attractiveness. But then, we wake up on Monday...
Monday dawns dark and drizzly. Rain pounds on the windows, and I must crawl up and over my two sons who cannot be convinced that their own beds are the place they should be. I stagger to the kitchen sink to suck down some stale water left in a cup from last night with my medicine. As soon as the water hits my stomach, it remembers what it wants to do first think in the morning, and I wander to the bathroom to take care of that. (I won't describe that, I am giving too many details as it is.) By the time I am done there, my eyes are pretty much open, but it is the shower that really gets my eyes open. After that, shaving (if I REALLY feel like I need it. The benefit of wearing a beard is that a little bit of stubble doesn't look quite as bad. In my humble opinion anyway.) Then getting dressed, and putting on my shoes. Why do I seperate these as two different tasks? Because I usually sit down at the computer to check e-mail while I put on my shoes, meaning that this takes at least ten minutes longer than it really needs to! Then, depending on how much time I have I will try to eat breakfast. I am not a big breakfast person, my stomach is usually kind of upset in the morning but if I don't I am lightheaded and ravenous by 9:00 so I usually toss down a bowl of cereal at least. Finally, it is time to go to work. I take my daughter to school first, which is an adventure in itself. First, I have never seen anyone who can find more to do between the house and the car than that girl! From stopping to pick up something interesting off the ground, to writing silly stuff in the condensation on the windows, she can make the trip to the car last for at least ten minutes. Especially when we are running late. (As usual.) Then the school... Oh the school! There is a serious shortage of parking at this place, and the dropoff lanes are always backed up. It is ridiculous how insanely crowded this place gets! The entire dropoff section is about one hundred feet long. There are two dropoff lanes, so that makes about two hundred feet total. Of course some parents believe that they cannot drop their little darlings off anywhere but at the very front of the line (heaven forbid they might have to walk fifty feet!) and so they sit there in line waiting to get to the front. Then there are the butters. Those parents who see a line of cars patiently waiting their turn to get into the dropoff zone, and buzz by on the left and jump in the line ahead of everyone else. Holy crow! Who died and made you the most important person in the world? Would the world stop spinning if you actually had to wait five minutes with the rest of the rabble to get your turn to drop off your precious little darlings? Geez! Go to the store and BUY some patience if it is lacking that much in your lives!
OK, so by now it is somewhere around 7:30 and my blood pressure is already climbing. Good think Paul Harvey is on now. His calm, steady voice helps me relax a bit. Until he starts reading some e-mail crap that has been disproved for YEARS as a new, real news story! Good Heavens Paul, don't you have some flunky intern running around the studio that you could assign to do at least the most basic Google search to find out that the story about the guy who straps a JATO (Jet Assisted Take-Off) device to his car is one of the oldest urban legends out there? OK, I will give you that it is a hilarious read. I actually prefer the version where he strapped it to a Pinto instead of an Impala, but either way, it is an absolute fabrication. Come on Paul! Take a little pride in what you do! And then Sam and Bob laugh at it, along with the stupid weather guy. Geez, the stupidity seems to be spreading!
So I slog on through the rain, through the security gates ("Good Morning! How are you doing? Great! I promise I am not a terrorist! Please don't search my car! It is not that I have anything to hide, but it makes me feel all stupid and nervous. What if you decide I am a terrorist, and I have to go live at Guantanamo Bay for a few years? I don't even know how to read arabic! Do they print the Koran in english?) Then to work. By the time I sit down at my desk, and boot my computer up I am in no mood to write one thousand words. I just want to sit here and avoid reality by surfing random news sites, looking at stupid pictures, and at least this time of year, reading all of the new posts at the NaNoWriMo forums. I can spend most of the day doing that, although the pace has slowed considerably since the first of October. Perhaps people are getting sick of it like I have. Must pace myself, must not get too involved.
Must type 1000 words each and every day. Because when November arrives, it will jump to 2000.
1067 words. That will do pig... That will do.

Monday October 16, 2006 - 10:44am (EDT)
© 2006 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Saturday, October 14, 2006

1000 words on Saturday... Give or take.

Can I write 1000 words on Saturday?I mean, Saturday is a lazy day, the one day of the week when I do not have to get up too early, and go to work or church. Writing one thouseand words on Monday through Friday is relatively easy. I sit down at work, and type away. It even looks like I am busy with something productive. So here is my first Saturday attempt. On the nature of anger. Especially towards one you love. Why do we do it? I feel angry when she is angry at me, especially when I have done nothing wrong. But do you know what really gets me hot under the collar? When she is right. When I have done something wrong, and she is completely justified in her anger or frustration. If she is mad for no reason, then I can ignore it. Write it off to hormones, or whatever. However, when I have screwed up, and I really have done something stupid, and she gets angry at me for it, then what recourse do I have? I must admit that I am not perfect, I must admit that there is a need for me to change something, and I must then go forward to make that change. That is the painful part, that is the part that makes me angry! I don’t want to change, I don’t want to make an effort. I want my life to just flow like a river, I come and go as I feel is right. That is the fantasy. Problem is, I had that kind of life once, and guess what? Outside of the chemically induced periods of complete numbness, I was miserable. And the periods of numbness came with their own pain, once I began feeling again. I was miserable. I was even more stuck than I am now. I had much less freedom, much more loneliness, and much more fear. I had a crappy job, I had a crappy life, and all the money I had I poured into becoming numb once again. You would be surprised how much money you can blow at the club on Friday night. In not much time at all I might mention. I remember feeling the disappointment when the money I had allotted for my night of numbness had run out, and I was not yet completely numb. I remember wandering around the casino at Jackpot Nevada, not yet as drunk as I wanted to be, but out of money, and out of luck. (Which is a BAD thing to be in a casino!) I even threw my “luck” fifty cent piece into a slot machine, hoping to turn some kind of profit so that I could return to the blackjack tables and get some more free drinks. No luck. Literally. I had lost my lucky fifty cent piece. (And how lucky was it to begin with? Probably not that much, since I lost my whole wad less than an hour after hitting the casino…) I was miserable, bored, and wished that my friends would hurry up and lose their money so that we could go. But they seemed to be doing fine, they continued to win enough to at least stay in the game. When we finally left about two or three in the morning, all of us were tired, drunk (or semi-drunk, like me) and none of us had any business driving that night. Even the designated driver, who hadn’t had anything to drink fell asleep at the wheel a couple of times. I am surprised to this day that we survived that trip. One of my memories of that trip was being awakened by the violent swerving of the car as the driver snapped awake just in time to realize that he was headed off the road. Was I preserved for some reason? Or had I exorcised my bad luck by flushing that fifty cent piece down the slot machine? No, that probably has nothing to do with it. I remember another time when I almost died in a car, with this same group of friends. This time no alcohol was involved, just staying out way too late, too far from home and on the other side of a winding canyon road. This time I was awakened not only by the violent swerving as the driver pulled us back onto the road, but by the actual impact with the guardrail. The driver had actually fallen asleep, swerved into the guardrail, and then woke up and corrected. How did I survive that? We all should have been dead. Falling asleep in a dark canyon while driving is an almost certain death sentence. Why did I survive?Well, I will have to question that later. The baby is crying, and Emily has gone yard saleing. (No, that is not a typo. It is a word we have coined. It means wandering from yard sale to yard sale looking for items to be sold in our next yard sale.) I am pretty sure she just wanted to get away from me. She is mad at me. And has a good reason. How do you think I feel?Only 874 words. Close enough for a Saturday.

Saturday October 14, 2006 - 10:48am (EDT)
© 2006 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th

Friday the thirteenth… Today, like many days, I am spending MUCH time waiting on computers. First, to boot, reboot, log on and log off. Then, to copy, then to move. That seems to be the story of my life. Waiting on computers. Perhaps that will be the title of my autobiography. If I could recover the time spent waiting on computers, perhaps I could accomplish some great thing… But this time is indeed recoverable, in most instances. Like now, for example… Instead of sitting here idly playing solitaire, I could be knocking out my 1000 words for the day. I could be studying something online, or I could have brought a book and be reading it while I wait. (Although sitting in the corporate office reading a book is not generally considered “working your way up the corporate ladder…”) Nonetheless, there are many things much more beneficial to my existence than solitaire with which I can pass the time waiting for e-mail messages to transfer from the .pst file to the .ost file and then synchronize with the exchange server mail box…

As a child, I always thought it would be fun to be a computer hacker type of guy. I even imagined I had some skills, when I took a computer class in seventh grade and actually learned to run some simple programs. However, I soon learned that the life of a programmer is a life spent searching line after line of code for that comma or period that is out of place and causing your program to crash. “Syntax error in line XXX” was the most common error I recall. So you go to line XXX and check the syntax, and find out why the computer thinks that you typed the wrong command. Maybe the most frustrating thing about it was that the computer was always right. An extra space, or a ‘t’ instead of a ‘y’ and the entire program came crashing down around your ears. Of course this is frustrating to humans, since we are so used to our imprecise and entirely inaccurate verbal method of communication. If I tell my buddy that I need one of those thing a majiggies that we used last time, he gets it. His brain is able to make the logical leap from what I said to what I meant. A computer on the other hand, will search its immediate vicinity for a thing a majiggy and not finding one, proceed to pout and display error messages until someone comes along and provides the exact location of the thing a majiggy as well as a detailed description of what it is, who is authorized to use it, and the parameters under which it may be used. Then, when any one of these several parameters are found to be inaccurate, the computer will once again, display a pouty error message, and promptly refuse to do anything further.

Even so called “intuitive” computers fall prey to the same problems, only much worse. They have been programmed to try and make that leap of logic, to guess from partial information exactly what the user wants. They then attempt to provide it before the user asks for it. The problem with this seems to be that such programs or computers end up being more trouble than they are worth, because as soon as they guess wrong, you have to figure out how to convince the computer that it has guessed incorrectly. For some reason, programmers always fail to make the turning off of the intuitive routine accessible to any but themselves and the privelidged few who are allowed to take the training they have created for their software. Otherwise, the user is forced to make a fruitless and highly frustrating search of every function and command in every menu until he or she finally locates that one magical button that they can push to tell the computer not to capitalize the first letter of every sentence. (or fix double letters, or change numbers into scientific notation.) Also, the cleaning up of the mess after an intuitive computer has modified your data is completely frustrating and can also be as impossible to figure out. Of course, the fool who cleans up the data before finding the magic button to turn the intuitive function off first runs the risk of having the computer simply guess, once again incorrectly, what you want your data to look like and changing it back for you.

I am now almost finished waiting on this particular computer. Of course, it is difficult to tell, since the helpful “Time Remaining” counter continues to fluctuate between 60 seconds and 60 minutes. I understand the reasoning why it does so, but that does not make it any less frustrating to watch. When these counters are running, they are evaluating the time required to transfer a certain amount of data. After watching a few standard sized units transfer, and computing an average time and rate of transfer, it then evaluates the amount of data left to transfer and extrapolates a time remaining. Of course, this is not a foolproof method, and has little to do with how much time is actually remaining. Different types of data transfer at different rates, and transfer rates vary widely depending on the hardware, and network or hard drive traffic at the time of transfer. To further complicate the issue, I am moving a folder containing many subfolders. The time remaining displayed on the dialog only indicates the time remaining for the current sub-folder, not for the entire folder. So when it says fifteen seconds remaining, and I watch excitedly as it counts down to one, it will suddenly jump back up to sixty minutes, when it begins transferring the next sub-folder. This is the primary reason that I don’t like to watch while the computer transfers files. Not only is it as exciting as watching paint dry, it also teases with the promise of a quick finish and then torments with the highly inaccurate calculation that you have hours remaining rather than minutes.

Well, I managed to use at least a part of my wasted time today to accomplish something. 1036 words. That IS something!

Friday October 13, 2006 - 04:12pm (EDT)

© 2006 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Day One...

Day One: The new writing requirement.

Beginning today, I am committing myself to writing at least 1000 words each morning before I get to work (or play) on anything else. I have always had a desire to be a writer. Sometimes the desire burns and itches until I can think of nothing else. Other times it is nothing more than a dull ache deep inside that is easily ignored in favor of the other outstanding realities of life. Nevertheless, it is always present, always there. Life’s tragedies tend to bring it to the front, as do its little victories. I want to share my sadness or my triumph with others, to make them feel what I am feeling. Sometimes I even sit down and begin, a page, two pages even. More often, less than a paragraph before I am distracted by something else that may not be more important, or even more desired, but simply more urgent. And writing gets shoved, once again, to the back burner where it simmers, boils dry, and finally turns rotten and sour.

So today I begin a new commitment. Inspired somewhat by something I read yesterday. A recent acquaintance has a website, which I was idly perusing. He remarked, that sometimes it is hard to force himself to sit down and write, but that when this is so, he will simply set a goal. 1000, 2000 words, whatever is appropriate, he will force himself to sit down and type until the word counter hits the appropriate goal. So I decided to plagiarize this idea and make it my own. Now, when I come into my office, I will sit down at my desk, turn the computer on, and before checking e-mails, before reading the news, (meaning the comics…) before checking the NaNo site, I will pound out 1000 words. Any subject, any form, any genre. Even if, like today, it is nothing more than a silly ramble on an inconsequential topic.

Because to become a writer, one must write. Before anything else, one must write! I can dream of being a writer, I can wish to be a writer, I can even learn to be a writer, but until I actually start writing, I will never BE a writer. Perhaps out of sheer habit, I will get better at writing. Like the old saying that a million monkeys typing for a million years will produce at least one copy of the complete works of Shakespeare, one writer, writing 1000 words per day for the rest of his life, might conceivably produce something worth publishing. And if I never do, at least I will have developed this talent. I will have done something with it. I will have scratched that deep-seated itch and ache that torments my nights.

November will be a good month for this. National Novel Writing Month is the catalyst that has brought to me the importance of actually getting in front of the keyboard above all else. Sure, the internal editor will scream that I am writing pure crap. Of course, the chatterbox that hates me and all that I stand for will yell that I am wasting my time. That I am incapable, that what I am writing is crap. (At least the internal editor provides specific criticism.) I suspect however that they are working together. Nevertheless, I am not focusing on quality. I am not focusing on getting published (for now.) For now, I am like the out-of-shape person who decides to get back into shape. I don’t need to go out and run a marathon right now. I don’t need to start out with a ten-mile run. I simply need to start with getting up each day and strapping on my running shoes, and putting rubber to pavement. Each step is an improvement over sitting at home telling myself that I *SHOULD* get out there and do something. TO HELL WITH THAT! I am tired of being the weak-minded procrastinator! I am through wishing that I could be more this, or more that. I WILL begin here and now to change my life. I will begin here and now to become what God intended, whatever that is. I will never discover what by sitting back in the shadows listening to my chatterbox tell me how incapable I am. How I have a lot of talent, but unfortunately never learned self-discipline, that I don’t have the motivation to do anything about it. Bull… All of those things are decisions that I make each day. All of those things are internal to me, not the result of some external force.

For today, a slightly angry ramble about what I want to do and where I want to go. Tomorrow, who knows? Perhaps a short story that will germinate the seeds of a novel. Or many short stories that can be compiled into a collection. Poetry used to pour from me at will. Why can I no longer find that voice? Because I no longer call for it. It is lost back there, somewhere in the attic of my mind behind the Christmas decorations. I have piled years and years of responsibility and respectability on it until I can no longer summon it. I am cleaning out my attic. I am taking back my talent. Even if it never goes farther than this, at least I will have done something. I will have made the attempt.

What to write tomorrow? An epic poem? A short story? Finally put to words my ideas for the “Except for Me Syndrome”? Whatever it is, it may be great, or it may be crap. But it is MINE, and mine alone. And at least I did something with it. At least I uncovered it, dusted it off, and showed it to the world. What they do with it is up to them. My worth is not decided by the opinions of others. I am who I am, my art is what it is, and they are who they are.

One thousand, twelve words. Not a bad start…

Thursday October 12, 2006 - 09:37am (EDT)
© 2006 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Monday, October 9, 2006

Municipal Liason

I finally got the "Official Title" of Municipal Liason today. What does this mean exactly? Well, for starters, the official word: me, this means working to generate interest in the event, coordinate live events for people to meet in person, and helping any lost NaNos who might be wandering about in distress in Central Texas.This is a big thing for me, since I am usually a hermit, and generally prefer to remain in my cave day and night and avoid human contact when I can. Also, I LOVE NaNo and really want to share the insanity.
Join us! Resistance is futile!

Monday October 9, 2006 - 12:35pm (EDT)

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

27 days or so...

27 days or so...
I am so excited for NaNo this year that I am having trouble accomplishing anything at work except constantly lurking in the forums waiting for someone to respond to one of my posts!
I have volunteered to be an ML this year, although Erin has not yet responded to bestow this singular honor upon me. There is another in my area, so I guess I would actually be a Co-ML which actually makes me feel much better. I spend all of my time (not spent lurking) daydreaming about the spectacular space battles that I will write and the surprising plot twists that I can create. Of course, I learned last year that it is difficult to anticipate where a story will go once you jump in. Quite often they have a mind of their own, and end up places where you never expected them to go. So all of my advance preparation will most likely go out the airlock the first time my MC takes the stick of his space fighter. (Murphy's laws of combat: No plan survives the first thirty seconds of contact intact... Also applies to NaNovels!) But that is the fun of it! Since I am more concerned with knocking out 1700 words per day than I am sticking to the outline, I am free to explore this world and not get stuck in chapter one when I can't figure out how to make a kid born on the wrong side of the tracks get into the prestigious space academy. If I get stuck on that, I can just skip to the space academy, and re-write in February!
OK, I have rambled on enough. It is time to actually earn some of that salary I get.
Happy Noveling!

Wednesday October 4, 2006 - 10:00am (EDT)


From the FAQ on the NaNo site:
"Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives."
Nuff said...

Wednesday October 4, 2006 - 04:01pm (EDT)