whork

It was a typo. I wrote whorker rather than worker. I looked at the word. I liked the word. I’ve been savoring it for a couple of days now, searching for the best way to explain it.

Tonight, Soup Boy gave me the answer. I haven’t seen much of him lately, and moments ago I got a message from him about how working thirteen-hour days was beating him down. I nodded, understanding. That’s a hell of a long work day.

Only, I’m on hour thirteen as I write this. I’m tired, but although today was uphill, good things came of it in the end. I made some real progress, mostly identifying problems I will need to fix later, but you have to do that sometimes.

I am a slacker, apparently, simply because I love what I do. (True, I make almost no money at it, but when was that ever a measure of success?) I spend my days working, to the exclusion of my frustrated friends and bemused family members, but because I genuinely enjoy what I do to a degree that may not be healthy, to many of them I am not working. Today, part of my job was to read a fascinating piece by Milan Kundera about Franz Kafka. It was not an easy read; there was much to think about with each paragraph. It was fun, but it was work. I work every day. Enter whork.

If you’re watching the clock, pining for the whistle that marks the end of your shift, you’re not working. You are whorking. I had a blast building a software company, but eventually my work became whork. It took me a long, long, time to realize that, and in the meantime I whorked myself into a position where I can work for a while now, without worrying too much where the next slice of pizza is coming from. No, I am not in any way above whorking; I have done it and will almost certainly do it again. I simply wish working was given as much respect. Suffering on the job has been elevated to the point where your job can’t be worthwhile if you don’t feel trapped and suffocated. Suffering on the job has become a virtue. Somewhere along the way whork has become more meaningful than work.

That’s messed up.

And I probably have it all wrong. Blame Kafka. [Let us pause for the moment while the author clinches down really hard to repress the urge to compare Kafkan bureaucracy to modern America, where the state is granted the right to define existence, and privacy is unpatriotic. Must… avoid… insane… rant!]

There are plenty of days I don’t work thirteen hours. Every now and then there is a day I don’t work at all (not seriously, anyway—there’s no way to stop a writer from testing words and savoring phrases). The most magnificent part of my life is that I am not whorking. Not for the moment, anyway. When I find myself muttering, “ah, crap. Astounding wants another Tin Can story,” then perhaps I will discover my inner whore once more. (It’s there. Don’t let my pompous language fool you. My whole career is a campaign to sell out.)

Crazily, happily, there are accountants who love numbers, who work rather than whork. There are probably damn few teachers who are whorkers. I’d even go so far as to say that there are more workers out there than there are whorkers. And now, by gum, I’m one of them. It feels great.

Mail Call!

I got four things in the mail today. Two were good, two, well, not so much. Goodness was proportional to size.

Mail arrives on the first step of the flight up from the landlord’s place to mine. Today I was heading out to meet fuego to watch some hokej (rhymes with hockey) when I discovered a stack of stuff waiting for me. On top, two envelopes. Two rejection letters, one from an agent and one from a magazine. Neither came as a surprise, but of course I would never have sent them anything if I didn’t think I had a chance. The magazine is a forcefully independent one-man show with a good reputation. I like the way Brutarian thinks, and when I raise my game, he will be hearing from me again. I can run with those dogs. (My submission had been previously published over at Piker Press, which couldn’t have helped its chances. Brutarian will consider previously published stuff, but not with the same enthusiasm. Or something like that. Although I consider it a paying market, I would not have received any money for this submission.)

A bigger disappointment was the agency. These guys are big time, and they don’t take many new writers, but dang I wanted to be one of the few.

Of course, these folks send out thousands of rejections every year, and they have no time to give me a clue how to make my pitch more attractive to their competitor down the street. Forward, ever forward, is all I can do. Hone the message, sharpen the pitch, and try again. This is not a business for the fragile, as much as we want it to be. (Show us your inner heart, we ask of the artist. Lay bare your soul. Artist complies. Never mind. You suck. People wonder why Van Gogh cut his ear off.)

Next in the mail pile was a package from a Muddled friend. I now have in my paws More Booze Than Blood, by Sean Meagher. He posted here a while back that he would send people his book and I was not slow to take him up on the offer. I haven’t read past the cover yet, but the story is calling to me in a language that I don’t know, but understand. I’ll let you know. Perhaps it was some subtle way with words he showed when he posted here, perhaps it’s just that he paid the postage, perhaps it’s the striking cover, but I’ve got a good feeling about this.

At the bottom of the stack was the birthday box. Cans of green chile, a nice card, and a squirrel. Alas, the squirrel took some damage on his trip across the deep blue sea — the tail, which almost but not quite can be used as a beer holder, was forcefully and brutally separated from his butt. A team of mocrosurgeons is standing by to attempt what before has only appeared in science fiction: a squirrel retail. While they’re at it, they’ll see about beer-sizing the little guy.

Springtime in Prague

Spring is here! It has nothing to do with the weather, although it is warm enough today for me to wear shorts. There are other signs, the subtle indicators that the season has changed. I was too wide-eyed last year to recognize the signs for what they were, but now I am a savvy veteran of the seasons.

It is road destruction season. Some bureaucrat in an anonymous building somewhere in the city pushed a button on his desk and thus did spring begin. Across the city piles of stones have appeared next to the patches of sand that used to be sidewalks. Entire streets have been dug up, creating larger piles of larger stones. Trams are diverted from their normal courses while crews stand around watching one guy with an arc welder work on the tracks.

I walked through downtown and the number of tourists has jumped dramatically in the last week, as well. Old Cars, tops down, slowly move through the crowds while tourists in the back seat snap photos. Crowds gather on the hour for the crushing disappointment that is the astronomical clock. Even in Stra┼ínice you will find befuddled-looking folks holding maps of the city. There’s not much to see out in the Haunted City, but there they are. Some of the tourist traffic may be related to Easter holidays; we’ll see if it keeps up.

And here and there the signs are appearing in the windows of bars and pubs: Garden Open. Once more beer is available outdoors, and the city celebrates another winter endured, even as they turn a wary eye toward the river. The water level is high and still rising, and there’s a lot of snow in the mountains this year.

Little Buddy

Any minute now, I will have a story going up over at Piker Press. It’s the April Fool’s issue, and for the occasion I decided to just have fun with an idea that could have come from the Weekly World News. I cranked out the story, and after a little tender loving care I must admit that this tale quite tickles me. I have not grown tired of reading it; I hope you enjoy it as well. (OK, it’s a little over the top, but you should see what I didn’t put in.)

This week’s Piker is an issue devoted to frivolity, and I hear there is some damn fine frivolity indeed. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Well, I’ll be Googled

Well, while I ponder beer, peanuts, and old pick-up trucks, while I muse over big dumb dogs and the world’s longest bumper sticker, I’ll toss up another episode with some of the search phrases that have caught my eye lately. What you see here is a list of phrases that people have typed into Google, Yahoo, or a cousin, and somewhere in the result list one page or another of this blog popped up. Usually Muddled Ramblings was near the top of the list, but occasionally a searcher passed up hundreds of other possibilities to come here.

In almost every case the searcher did not find the object of his or her quest on these pages. As always, to prevent the search engines from coming to this page next time the phrase is searched on, some key words are obfuscated with s p a c e s.

  • Predator Power Pantshere. Did the Predator in the movie have power pants, or was that Schwarzenegger?
  • sister-in-law porn – linked to an interesting night in Montana.
  • n e t o ‘s   p a s s t i m e  bar – scored high on this search – after all, how many people are going to be talking about that place on the ‘net?
  • no pants day – although we observe No Pants Day here, this actually linked to an episode mentioning Dr. Pants’ brief foray into Internet radio.
  • Pi day poster ideas – apparently the number has its own day now. MR&HBI ranked high because of the word Ideas in the title.
  • poor boy gyroscope – no longer are gyroscopes strictly for the wealthy.
  • whores in bahrain – apparently they have them there. Linked to the Bars Of the World category page.
  • loud phones – number 3 hit on yahoo. Links to a very brief episode about, uh, loud phones.
  • time warp shirt – not sure what they were looking for; they passed 33 links that had much more to to with time warp shirts only to wind up in a discussion of pizza and black holes.
  • why do eels have little teeth? – maybe I’ll answer that in a future episode, but probably not. Maybe it’s because they have little mouths.
  • lots of baby ocelot pictures – I have the top hit on google for that, despite the fact I have no baby ocelot pictures at all. What I do have is other episodes like this one.
  • nasty nun stories – linked to my Stories page, where the only Nun may have been severe, but she didn’t strike me as nasty.
  • my mom can kick my ass – my mom can kick your mom’s ass.
  • choose a character how did he change in the story the house of staris – lots of people stop by for my expert knowledge in the field of literature. They are always disappointed. Linked to Stories category page.
  • Drunk Women – notable mainly because the searcher went through sixty-one pages of search results to end up on an episode about a sober guy (and his drunk friend).
  • gravity sex trampoline – not sure what he was looking for, but I like the way he thinks. I’ll be sure to look him up when I have my hotel on the moon up and running. Linked to my reusable space vehicle idea that I wrote up before I did the math.
  • sum small pups – they add up.
  • “reactor scrambled” – MSN only came up with five matches, and mine had nothing to do with nuclear power, or even eggs.
  • picture of a giant half chicken half squirrel – oddly, there are other sites that provide just that.
  • “how to make an electric spark” – the only match on Google. I don’t think I ever explained how I did it for Pirates, though.
  • High King’s Chair – Yahoo connected this, improbably, to a nice bar I visited.
  • p i t c h e r s  of dogs – it’s a classic!
  • Japanese scalp message – is that like a head tattoo?
  • wolf eel ambush tactics – Linked to Feeding the Eels, of course, but now I’m wondering about the wolf eel, and how it ambushes… things.
  • neuromancer “case pollard” – different books, same author. I misspelled the name of the herione in the same way as the searcher, and that made me the top match.
  • Plato ex pats – an odd enough combination I have to wonder if the searcher was actually trying to find the ex-pat game
  • photo of god looking down – seems like every time I get a shot of God, he’s blinking. Linked here.
  • supermodels riding bulls – wow. Linked to the Stories category page, where I talk about my brief time as a supermodel, and also mention a horrible (if fictitious) painting.
  • antler dust and sick – Attracted to a recent chapter one.
  • RV instrument repair – somehow was attracted to my Get-Poor-Quick topic, after wading through two hundred other choices.
  • c o n s t r u c t i v i t i s  – it’s a plague the world over, so I’m surprised more people haven’t coined the phrase.
  • matador squirrel – Linked, of course, to the now-famous Suicide Squirrel Death Cult
  • Jerry Seeger – I mention this one because the OTHER Jerry Seeger’s IMDB listing is near the top of Google’s results, while mine is nowhere to be found. Maybe this link will help: Jerry Seeger (As of this writing, fifteen of the top twenty Google matches for Jerry Seeger were references to me, either as a geek, a writer, or (frighteningly) as a photographer. You see where this is going, don’t you?)

The usual suspects were all there: pitchers of things, various bars and taverns around the world, and lots and lots of eggs. We have a new major attractor as well; folks the world over want to learn more about sweet little  D o k u r u – c h a n  and her bristling club of death.

Big Numbers

Today I was idly wondering if there was any prefix for ten thousand, the way kilo- is the prefix for one thousand. Ah, Google, I love ya. In seconds I was on a page showing the accepted SI unit prefixes. I read that back in 1991 they decided they needed bigger numbers, so the prefixes could be applied in more areas. I had known exa-, but beyond that there is zetta- and yotta-.

So that got me to thinking, and we know nothing good can come of that. I like yotta- (1024 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000), but pretty soon your mobile phone is going to have a YB of RAM. (Actually, it will have a yobibyte (YiB) of RAM, but the principle applies.) Before we know it, we’ll be needing bigger prefixes. To forestall any confusion and economic disruption, I, as a public service, offer to lead the crusade to go on beyond yotta-, much as Dr. Seuss did for the alphabet in his ground-breaking work On Beyond Zebra.

You don’t have to thank me; it’s what I do.

To begin the discussion, I offer the following suggestions for the next prefixes:

  • lotta- 1027 – (abbreviation: L) this number is especially significant when you are ordering at lottaburger
  • holotta- 1030 – (abbreviation: HL)
  • messa- 1033 – (abbreviation: Me) as in “I want one messapotato.” (abbreviated 1 MeTater)
  • homessa- 1036 – (abbreviation: HMe)
  • yottayottayotta- 1072 – (abbreviation: YYY)

I invite the scientific community to participate as well, and include suggestions in the comments for this episode.

Is there any hope of defining a prefix that is as big as we will ever need? For instance, is there any point in defining number prefixes beyond the number of particles in the universe? (Last I heard, the estimate was somewhere around 1084.) For that number, I propose alla-, so you could say, the universe contains one allaparticle. (Later, if more particles turn up in some dusty backwater of the universe, we would have to decide whether to change the definition of alla- or just say, “The universe contains two allaparticles.”

Finally, the reason I was looking up any of this stuff: visitor 40009 will be the myennial office holder. It’s not officially sanctioned by the SI, but neither am I.

Giving back to the writing community

Perhaps you’ve seen the link over there on the right side for writing.com. As the name implies, it is a Web site for writers, but it is really quite a bit more than that. There is a vibrant and active community there, a whole bunch of people dedicated to helping each other out.

I registered over there some time ago, but I haven’t been that active. Yes, the whole ‘doesn’t play well with others’ thing raises its ugly head again. Lately, though, I’ve been dropping by the site every now and then. An important part of the community is the system that allows writers to critique each other’s work. I posted one thing there a while back, some writing that was not in my usual style, and I wanted feedback on whether the new style was working. One critique gave me some very valuable feedback, and I subsequently improved the piece quite a bit. I also got several other helpful if much briefer comments. So the system works pretty well, and there are a lot of generous people online.

There is also a lot of bad writing there. (Of course, I’m sure people have read my stuff and said “Wow! That’s crap!” plenty of times as well. The difference is I’m crappy on purpose. Loathe it or hate it, my writing is the way it is by design.) Posting poor writing there is perfectly OK; the whole point of the site is to help writers get better, and no one was born a good writer. That the people are there, asking for feedback, is admirable. That they accept criticism gracefully and even say thanks after you pick apart their work is awesome. So, I have decided to find an inexperienced writer and critique their work once or twice a week. It’s kind of fun finding a bit that has a good story buried in it and an author’s voice struggling to get out, and provide concrete advice and encouragement. Keeping the number down allows me to spend some time on them and get really detailed, and hone the language of my posts to demonstrate my points.

I could not imagine grading papers that way, day in and day out. Hats off to those who do. If I make any impact at all, it will be tiny compared to the good a teacher can do. A couple times a week is all I have in me.

Although I think I may have put my foot in it this morning. Not too badly, but it’s easy when you are criticizing someone’s work to take on the “I know more than you do” tone. I find myself particularly susceptible to falling into that voice when the critique recipient (critiquee?) is a high school student. You know how well teenagers respond to know-it-all adults without any credentials. I think overall I balance my advice, but today as I wrote my criticism I made comments about “as you become more experienced” and stuff like that, only to later dig in and find out the guy’s 35 and has been writing for years. All the more important he sees that his prose has a ways to go, but perhaps the message could have been delivered differently.

I am also a little dismayed at the number of badly flawed stories that receive perfect scores from other reviewers. I suppose the logic, especially with younger writers, is that if you toss them a five-star they’ll be encouraged and eventually figure out their errors on their own. This strikes me as a violation of trust. Here is someone specifically asking for constructive criticism and instead being told that everything is fine, when it’s not. Someone’s tag line in another forum: friends don’t let friends write crap.

Oh, well. I can’t change the world, or even the rating inflation at writing.com. I can only make sure that any advice I give is wrapped with the proper balance of humility and authority, and hope it helps someone.