And Now, Sports.

Close on the heels of my last episode I find myself drinking a fine beer, eating a plate of goulash and potato dumplings, and watching hockey. I noticed something else about the sport that embodies toughness. Not only do players get up when then are knocked down, they also don’t whine about the call they got or didn’t get. They go to the box or they keep on skating. I saw a bad call and the alleged offender left the ice without comment. It was a weak call at a critical moment, but he sat without whining about it. Sure, while serving the penalty he might be cursing the ref, but he’s not going to hurt his team further by making an ass of himself. He’s there to play hockey.

There was a time in basketball when a player would raise his hand when a foul was called on him, to make things easier for the scorekeeper. That doesn’t happen anymore. If I was an NFL ref, I’d throw the flag on any receiver who made the “throw the flag” gesture. American football is the absolute worst for players bitching and moaning to the officials. Just. Play. The damn. Game.

Hockey. They just play.

Live From Osaka

I’m at the Budvar Bar Near Home (for those who care, the actual name is U Kmotra, which means “at the godfather’s”), and some sort of international track and field event is on the tube. They just had a heat in the 200m women’s running-fast contest. I’m not sure who won; I only had eyes for the Ukrainian in lane 8. She came in near the back of the pack, but damn, she has great cheekbones.

Need a Favor

I’ve been working on a Web site for a friend of mine, and while it currently has a pretty high degree of slickness when viewed with Firefox for Mac (it has the best debugging tools available to me), I’m curious how it will perform on various Windows browsers. Specifically:

  1. graphics – I blended the images with the background using alpha channels. I’m pretty sure this is going to look bad in Internet Explorer 6, but are there other broswers that also look bad? Can anyone confirm that they do look bad on IE6?
  2. menus – I wrote up some pretty complicated scripts to make animated menus, but I’m not sure how they’re working on other broswers. For instance, on the Leadership Coaching page, there are three drop-down menus. Do they work?
  3. sub-menus – On the lowest menu on the Leadership Coaching page (beneath the picture), does a submenu appear to the right when you roll over the top menu item? (The sub-menus are currently clipped off in Safari and Opera for Mac, which I will fix tomorrow.)

Now I remember why I don’t do Web…

I’ve only spent a little bit of effort trying to make the site aesthetically appealing – mainly I’ve been playing with the CSS to figure out HOW to make the text nice, without really worrying too much about the actual result. I’m really, really trying to make aesthetics Someone Else’s Problem. Still, there are some design elements that aren’t bad for an amateur. I’ll be working on a more consistent color scheme, but what are your thoughts?

Thanks in advance! The link is Eu-LIFE. If things look really weird to you, let me know and I’ll post screen shots to help you describe what’s different.

Soup Boy’s Birthday Party

Walking home tonight I knew for a fact that the killer pup of autobazaar škoda is gone. I feel a wistful nostalgia when I walk past the place now, running my fingers along the links that in months past clearly defined the line between passer-by and victim. The business has changed, the angry dog is gone, and I feel cheated. I was wearing him down. We would have been friends eventually.

“I’d love to hear from you,” I said, for perhaps the thirty-fifth time, knowing as I did that I was probably killing any possibilty that I ever would. Even the most sincere sentiment wears out. But she was Scottish. You can’t blame me. The final time I said that tonight, we had just walked past the short edge of one of the world’s largest graveyards. I blathered on for a bit, older Scottish sister responded intelligently, it was all good. As we walked up the road, I realized that there were only smart people in our group of three. I also realized that I was doing a piss-poor job of proving I belonged.

“You’re not leaving. Here, have this beer.” I don’t even remember the dude’s name, but he was dead set on my presence in Bunkr. In this case he caught me pausing with a pair of Scottish sisters on my way out, so I wasn’t too upset about staying a little longer.

“A— –b– — –r–” she said. Between the loud music and my Rock-n-roll ears, more than once she said something I really wish I’d understood. It’s like riding the funicular up the side of the mountain, but when you’re close to the top the chain slips and you’re halfway down again. Still, halfway is better than nowhere. Time to make sure she understands that I’d like to hear from her again before she goes back to Scotland.

Even Jose gives up on dancing. The music is a wierd blend of techno and acid jazz. It’s interesting, but you’ve got to go emo to dance it. Every move has to have the suggestion of a fatalistic shrug.

“I’m shy,” she said. “You wouldn’t understand.” Wronger words were never spoken, but how to make her understand, after she had seen me and Jose putting on a dance lesson for the locals? That she was married made it possible for me to talk to her. Otherwise, forget about it.

[present tense… All Her Favorite Fruits by Camper van Beethoven is a heartbreakingly beautiful song. As I type it’s playing in my ears, and well, dang.]

There are a few reasons to dance. The best reason is for the music. If the sounds move you, move. You never know how much time you have before…

“We’re going to Bunkr,” Soup Boy said. “They have some Acid Jazz DJ’s from England there tonight.” Bunkr, it turns out, is well-named. It’s a long way down underground to get there. I understand the Nazis built it. Or someone else.

“This place is ours.” This is how the Boy throws a party. Big dinner at his favorite Greek place, then a short march to a five-star hotel where the entire spa section is exclusively ours. Swimming, sauna, and whatnot, all waiting for the Philistines. Pool girls took our bottles and served up the drinks, so we wouldn’t hurt outselves with the glass. Soup Boy should get older more often.

Now I must sleep…

The Stan-Man Plan

The last couple of days the creative juices have been obnoxiously viscous. I got some good restructuring done on my front-burner project, but the little ideas that lead to little stories seem to be stuck. Rather than stare at my screen yesterday, after I was fried on my main story I decided to relax and just do a bit of reading. I pulled up for inspection my NaNoWriMo piece from the year before last. I remembered having fun writing it.

I also had fun reading it. It’s silly, and more than a little far-fetched, but it was good light entertainment. There is a tiny country somewhere in asia, probably wedged between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, that has been overlooked and forgotten for centuries. (If I were to work on the story some more, I would put a statue in the square of the capital. It would be Ghengis Kahn, gesturing to the side. “Let’s go around” the plaque would read.) Because they were bypassed by everyone, they are an insular and perplexing people.

Overlooked, that is, until a drunken general at a cocktail party declares that the US needs “a man in every stan!” The general promptly forgets, but his aide does not. Crumley doed not like his boss at all. He sends Robert McFadden, the only person in the US who speaks Ztrtkijistani. McFarland is, of course, completely unqualified to be a field agent. He begins to drink a lot, and under the influence he sends cryptic messages back to HQ.

Once the Americans are interested, of course the Russians become interested as well, and eventually the Chinese join the fray. Here are three short excerpts:


“They’re hiding something,” Crumley told the general.

The general nodded. “You bet your sweet ass they are.”

“Petersen says they’ve broken McFadden’s code. We have to assume that they know we know everything he knows.”

The general nodded. “All right then, we can’t let on that we know they know we know everything he knows.” He pounded his desk, sloshing his martini dangerously. “God DAMN I love my job some days.” He pulled out a Cuban cigar to celebrate, and to annoy Crumley. After spending several seconds lighting it with great care and blowing the smoke in Crumley’ direction he said, “We have to expand the code Petersen figured out in a way that he’ll understand, so they read one thing while he gets our true meaning. And they can’t know it’s happening.”

“Perhaps we should get a radio to him.”

“Yes, yes, but first we have to tell him it’s coming. What have we told him so far?”

“Er, nothing.”

“What do you mean, nothing?”

Crumley was defensive. “We have never sent him anything. By the time we knew what was happening, they had broken our code.”

The general set his cigar down carefully and leaned forward, his dark eyes glinting under his bushy eyebrows. “We will not leave our man out to dry.”

“Of course not, sir.”

“Draft some extraction plans, if it’s not too late. Military force is an option.”

* * *

“They’re hiding something,” Sergei told the general.

The general nodded. “You bet your sweet ass they are.”

“Petrov says he’s broken their code. We have to assume The Americans know the Ztrtkijis know everything the spy knows.”

The general nodded. “All right then, we can’t let on that we know the Americans know the Ztrtkijis know everything the spy knows.” He pounded his desk, sloshing his vodka dangerously. “God DAMN I love my job some days.” He pulled out a Cuban cigar to celebrate, and to annoy Sergei. After spending several seconds lighting it with great care and blowing the smoke in Sergei’s direction he said, “We need to get closer to the action, but we can’t let anyone know it’s us.”

“We need to get some specialists in there.”

“Yes, yes, but first we have to tell our ground people we’re coming. Who do we have in there?”

“Er, no one.”

“What do you mean, no one?”

Sergei was defensive. “We’ve never seen the need before. By the time we knew what was happening, it was too late.”

The general set his cigar down carefully and leaned forward, his dark eyes glinting under his bushy eyebrows. “We will not leave that country to the Americans.”

“Of course not, sir.”

“Draft some contingency plans, if it’s not too late. Military force is an option.”

* * *

“They’re hiding something,” Chan told the general.

The general nodded. “You bet your sweet ass they are.”

“Xing says he’s broken their code. We have to assume the Russians have as well, but we do not think the Russians know the Americans know the Russians know the Americans know that the Ztrtkijis know what the spy is reporting.”

The general nodded. “All right then, we can’t let on that we are interested in finding out just what it is they know.” He pounded his desk, sloshing his vodka dangerously. “God DAMN I love my job some days.” He pulled out a pack of Marlboros to celebrate, and to annoy Chan. After spending several seconds lighting one with great care and blowing the smoke in Chan’s direction he said, “We need to get closer to the action, but we can’t let anyone know it’s us.”

“The American fell silent the moment we became interested. We need to get some specialists in there.”

“Yes, yes, but first we have to tell our ground people we’re coming. Who do we have there?”

“Er, no one.”

“What do you mean, no one? We have the largest human intelligence organization in the world. You could hit the country with a stone from our borders.”

Sergei was defensive. “We’ve never seen the need before. By the time we got wind that the Russians were moving, it was too late.”

The general set his Marlboro down carefully and leaned forward, his dark eyes glinting under his bushy eyebrows. “This is an opportunity to outflank our rivals. We will not leave that country to the Americans or the Russians.”

“Of course not, sir.”

“Draft some contingency plans, if it’s not too late. Military force is an option.”

Obviously, this is the perfect sort of story when quantity matters over quality, as cut-and-paste becomes an attractive option. The story gets pretty convoluted, partly by design and partly because no idea is a bad idea in November. Just for giggles, if any of you are interested in reading the whole thing, I decided to toss it up on the Hut’s servers. (You probably want to right-click and download the file, rather than read it in your browser, but it works eaither way.) It’s a pdf, as that was the best way to preserve some of the formatting that Jer’s Novel Writer does that other word processors aren’t so good at.

If you do decide to give it a go, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. Mainly, this is a very rough draft. There are parts that I quite like, and other parts that go nowhere. I dislike the Spy Party rather a lot. It must have been getting close to the end of the month. There are continuity issues (someone moves into his hotel room before he moves out, for instance), but if you just roll with those, none of them were deal breakers for me on this reading.

Anywhoo, it’s your call. There are lots of more worthwhile things you could read instead, but since when did life have to be worthwhile?

I am Become Google, Destroyer of Worlds

Those who remember the old days might recall that sometimes I would compile a list of unusual search phrases that have brought people to these pages. What follows is a list I started quite some time ago, but either I’m getting more jaded or the number of wacky phrases people are finding me with is dropping. Fried Egg queries are still the most popular, but I’ve been letting the culinary pages gather dust, which lowers their attractiveness in Google’s eyes. That doesn’t really bother me. Still, when I take the trouble to look over the various ways people stumble across these pages, I have to chuckle. Here, then, is a list of some search phrases that have caught my eye, and (usually) a link to the place in the blog that fateful string brought them.

On another note, the phrase I bastardized for the title of this episode is more interesting than I ever suspected. Apparently, “I am become time…” is an equally valid translation. In context it makes sense. A God is trying to convince some schmoe to go for the glory, and pointing out that since in the long term he will be forgotten no matter what happens, he has nothing to lose. Bitchin’. Meanwhile, on with the show!

  • bily bear meat – Linked to an episode about czech hockey, of course.
  • wm byrne pub kilkenny – linked to an episode about our stay in that congenial place.
  • piker list of stupid – top hit, baby! When it comes to stupid, I’m very highly ranked.
  • fivepin bowling 5 pin approach video online – far more interesting than the idea of some guy knocking all the pins over, is a bunch of guys knocking all but the 5-pin down, while team bowling.
  • kicked in the balls+girl – no longer sure where it linked to on this site, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to meet that girl.
  • Cost of Trip to Giant’s Causeway – whatever it costs, it’s worth it!
  • carl sagan trampoline gravity – linked, of course, to a particularly extreme get-poor-quick scheme.
  • All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku bathroom – bathroom? It seems odd until you remember that the bathroom stall is an elevator to the evil meeting room.
  • humped his sweater – brought the unsuspecting googlist to the Stories category page, where a Werewolf’s bad manners are discussed.
  • Deanna Mac Guinness – apparently I’m the only one at homepage.mac.com/ that Yahoo found any mention of Guiness and Deanna.
  • easy steps to sketch a large cowboy hatThe Cowboy God pulls in another one looking for something else.
  • writing essays with modern language ass. – I’m not sure how modern my language ass is, but I have some thoughts on the subject.
  • car accidents 395 adelanto – they’re not pretty.
  • Neurotic writers – Not surprisingly, I have some thoughts on that as well.
  • bosom machine – Ahh… bosoms. Though a mechanical one doesn’t sound as appealing.
  • jer’s novel writer for windows – doesn’t exist. Trust me.
  • Budvar Bar – there are many, but this is my favorite.
  • reggie wanker – John and I were recently lamenting that that movie is still not available on DVD.
  • why does bud light kill you? – it can only hurt you if you drink it. Don’t.
  • what do u learn when u study graphic designMuddled U starts attracting potential students!
  • ho does one save if earning 9000 – brought the searcher to, of all places, the Get Poor Quick category page.
  • glenwood cutoff – one of Google’s top matches brings people to the heart of suicidal squirrel territory.
  • post graduate degree course for someone who doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree – Muddled University again!
  • tom carruthers glendale ohio – someone was digging deeper into the insidious infiltration of the squirrels, and the humans who have betrayed us. We were here to help.
  • EDDIE ROCKETS – I’m glad that someone in the UK took the trouble to look past the first nineteen google results to land on my appraisal of the rather awful place.
  • how to fix a yoyo ball when it is broken in half – Muddled Ramblings was one of the top matches, despite the lack of yoyo’s
  • Nightmare Jer – surprisingly, was not my ex-wife searching. Whoever it was, ended up reading about a rather unpleasant flight I took recently.
  • one toe itches more so at night? – I hope they found a cure for that.
  • women in the great gatsby literary criticism – linked to my brief discussion of a pretty dang good book.
  • bagel rhymes – not just for breakfast anymore.
  • secret evil bunny labs – brought the searcher to the Rumblings category page.
  • cuttlefish for birds blister card – that almost makes sense until you get to the word ‘card’. Cuttlefish-man to the rescue!
  • cowboy holding coffee table – The Cowboy God pulls in another lost soul.
  • glad commercial, robbing bank – hey, I could have been in that, except I wasn’t very good.
  • Eddie Bauer fishing rod – all right! My open letter to Eddie Bauer is starting to attract attention.
1

AiA: White Shadow – Episode 6

Our story so far: Allison is an American high-school student who has transferred to a private prep school in Japan. From the very start things have been surreal. Kaneda has been assigned by a group of his classmates to be nice to Allison, to learn what her secret superpowers are. Who ever heard of a transfer student without secret superpowers?

Meanwhile, there is a computer virus running around, called White Shadow, that somehow infects the minds of computer users. Kaneda has been “infected” by the virus, and now White Shadow has contacted Allison directly. In order to save one of the only people who is nice to her, she must brave being infected herself…

If you would like to read from the beginning, the entire story is here.

— Hello, Allison. The voice was not really a voice at all, just a whisper coming from inside her own head.

Only, for it to be inside her head, there would have to be a head to be inside of. She was surrounded, isolated by the complete absence of sensation. She couldn’t feel herself clench her jaw, she couldn’t hear herself breathe. She had no throat to move, no tongue to speak, no ears to hear. She was a thought, and nothing more. It took her a moment to decide that she could speak back with a thought-whisper of her own.

— Where am I?

— No place. Every place.

— Who are you?

— I am White Shadow.

— Uncle?

The voice made a sound that wasn’t a laugh, but something abstract that represented a laugh.

— We have no use for him any longer. The hardware is assembled. Everything is ready for you.

— For me?

— I have been watching you for a long time.

— Watching me? How? Who are you?

— You haven’t told your new friends why you left America.

— That’s none of your business!

— Oh, but it is my business. You are here because I wanted you here.

— It was you!

— Yes. I was the one who got you in trouble, and I was the one who provided your escape. I even provided an “uncle”.

— Oh, jeeze! And now you want me to help you with something? You’re insane! I’m through with this conversation. It’s been sixty seconds.

— You think time has meaning here? It will be sixty seconds when I say it is.

Allison felt her anger rising at this smug bastard behind the voice. If he wanted to play computer mind games, well then, all right, that was how it was going to be. She was pretty good at those, too. She started pushing with her will, forcing back the heavy curtain between Allison and her senses.

— Then you’d better say it’s sixty seconds right now, or I’m going to break something when I leave.

The other presence hesitated for what might have been a microsecond or might have been a year.

— Very well. It would not do to have you damage yourself before we even get started.

— I’m taking Kaneda with me.

— As you wish. The institute will have to wait. You may find your friend … changed … however.

— What do you mean?

— What he has experienced is bound to affect him.

— If you hurt him, I’ll find you, wherever you are.

The laugh-analog lasted longer this time.

— You will understand soon enough. Farewell, Allison Crenshaw. I look forward to the next time we are together.

The diner was a hive of activity; students bounced from group to group, laughing and whispering secrets. Cheery waitresses called orders to each other across the room, and the entire place was imbued with a particular sparkliness that could be found nowhere else.

“Jeeze, Seiji, you’re such a downer,” Ruchia complained. “I’m sure they’re fine.”

Tasuki punched Seiji in the shoulder. “Seiiiiji is jeeeealous!”

“I am not!”

Kouta appeared next to the table. “What are you not, Seiji?”

“It’s so stupid it’s not even worth repeating.”

Tasuki’s demeanor changed abruptly. “Hello, Kouta. Do you want to sit with us?” Ruchia had to laugh behind her hand at her tomboy friend’s awkward attempts to be ladylike.

Kouta didn’t seem to notice. He sat next to a blushing Tasuki. “Say,” he said. “How come Mika never comes with you guys anymore?”

“She’s got other things to do,” Tasuki said, miffed. “She’s just a kid, after all.”

“I just miss her energy. Never a dull moment when Mika’s around.”

Ruchia nodded. “That’s for sure. But she won’t come back here anymore. Not since they started that no-mecha policy.”

Seiji spoke up. “You can hardly blame them. Remember when she came in driving that powered walker?”

“You mean the one that looked like a cat?” asked Ruchia.

“She’s got more of them? Jeeze. Yeah, I guess it was the cat one. She did a lot of damage that day.”

“Well, who knew a nice place like this would have mice?”

“It doesn’t anymore. Those were pretty powerful lasers.”

Kouota chimed in cheerfully. “I think it was the rockets that did the most damage.” He sighed. “Those were the days. So where’s Kaneda? It’s not like him to be so late.”

“Allison! Come back!”

Allison snapped out of her trance just in time to see a timer in the corner of the screen show sixty seconds and blink off. The screen went blank. Allison’s cheek was burning.

“Allison? Can you hear me? Are you OK?” The kid was staring at her intently; for some reason he was speaking Japanese.

She stared at the blank screen. She was sure she had been talking to someone, but that didn’t make any sense. Something on the computer? Certainly not chat or VOIP or anything like that. She was struck by a strong feeling of deja vu. Had she had an episode like this before? What had happened? She struggled to reconstruct her immediate past. She had been talking to —

“Kaneda!” she whirled to meet his concerned gaze.

“You had me worried there,” he said.

“Are you all right?”

“Of course I am. You’re the one who was spaced out. I thought maybe the White Shadow had trapped you. That would have been, uh, really bad.” His voice faltered as if he was distracted by a sudden memory.

“What do you mean, trapped?”

“Trapped? Did I say that?” He stepped back and waved his hands in denial so fast they were just a blur, and he began to sweat profusely. “I’m sure I don’t know. I mean, of course it’s bad when anyone has to go to the institute, that’s all I’m saying. I didn’t mean anything about you in particular.”

“Then why—”

“Well, then, I’m glad you’re OK! Ah hahaha! Oh! Hey! It’s getting kinda late. I promised I’d walk you home.”

Allison spoke without enthusiasm. “Yeah. Home.”

Kaneda noticed her reaction. “Unless…”

Any alternative to home was welcome. “Yes?”

“Well, some of us, I mean, some of the guys, I mean the people from class, we’re meeting at the diner for burgers. It’s no big deal, but if you wanted, you could—”

“I’d love to.”

“Great!”

Allison rubbed her still-tingling cheek and stopped short. “Hey! You hit me!”

Kaneda flung himself to the ground at her feet in supplication. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know what to do! Please forgive me!”

Allison was more embarrassed by his display than she was angered by the slap. For all she knew that is what had saved her. “All right,” she said, “but you’re buying my dinner.”

“Y—you’re not going to kill me?”

“Of course not.”

“You’re not even going to punch me?”

“No. Come on, get up. I’m hungry.”

“Oh! Yes! Yes!” He scrambled to his feet, his relief as embarrassing as his fear had been. “Thank you! Thank you! Come on!”

As they walked, Allison couldn’t help but feel that Kaneda was watching her closely, with a concerned expression on his face.