Facts Are Overrated

I’ve been working on a story that takes place in the Tincaniverse. It can be hard sometimes to get the balance between explaining enough for readers unfamiliar with the previous stories without becoming repetitious for those who’ve been following along. Perhaps I should go back and read I, Robot again to see when Asimov stopped listing the three laws of robotics in each story. Now those three laws are such a part of the landscape that other writers invoke them as well.

While that is an issue I face every time, this particular story had another challenge. The story represents a jump in time and space, and a lot has happened to set up the situation. I found that the story was growing as I tried to work in quite a bit of history. The events have been mentioned in previous stories, but there are a lot of details that need clarification before the new story works. More details than I realized when I started. So there I was, several pages in, and the characters were getting lost among all these facts.

All these facts are part of the larger story, however, things I’d like to tell eventually. The answer, I think, is to write a separate story that takes place before the one I was working on, that presents some of this information without being cumbersome. The catch is that for the first time it will really matter what order people read the different stories in. To understand the context of the second one, you will have to have read the first. I’ll try to minimize the requirement, but in the end I think there’s no getting around the fact that some time in the next few episodes the landscape the stories take place in will just be too complicated. Already I think knowing some of the history makes the stories more enjoyable, but I’m reasonably sure background info is not required yet.

Sparta v. Slavia

So, a while back I mentioned watching a fotbol (rhymes with soccer) match between the two local teams. It was a fairly typical match except for when the bomb went off. Sure you had massive smoke screens in parts of the stands, and the occasional flare, but that’s all to be expected.

Today the two teams played again, and once again there was plenty going on in the stands. At one point they were showing a corner kick, but my eyes were drawn to the stands behind, where fireworks were going off louly enough to reverberate around the stadium, pop-pop-pop with bright flashes of light. On the track that surrounds the field fireman were rushing around with buckets to carry off flaming debris, and the riot police were preparing for a charge. At one point conditions got so bad that play stopped and the referee warned the coaches that (I assume) they could be penalized for the behavior of their fans. Meanwhile the clock kept ticking, meaning the team that was ahead benefitted from the violence.

The game itself was not terribly exciting. Maybe that’s part of the problem.

Now I’m watching Hockey, a civilized sport. This is the seventh and deciding semifinal game between HC Slavia Praha and my favorite Liberec White Tigers (rhymes with Bílí Tig?í). The winnerr goes to the championship, and from what I’ve seen both these teams are stronger than the two remaining in the other bracket. The bad guys scored early and it was not until Les Tigres had to kill a penalty that they started to play. This is not unusual for them; perhaps they should just start the game a man down.

I guess I should get back to writing now.

A Perfectly Ordinary Evening

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Little Café Near Home on a Wednesday night

fuego passed his old phone to me when he got a new one. Let me tell you, this puppy is pretty fancy. The other night I was at Little Café Near Home, trying to sort out all the features. One thing I did was take some pictures and email them to myself. Yep, my phone has wireless Internet. The Opera Mini browser works fairly well rendering Web pages on the little screen, and overall I’m pretty darn happy with it.

The phone has not one, but two cameras. As well as the main camera, which is pretty nice but the controls are a bit cumbersome, there is a secondary, lower-quality camera on the same side as the screen, whose only purpose, as far as I can tell, is self-portraits.

So here is a view of LCNH that I rather like, for reasons I can’t put my finger on. I am sitting at the far end of the place, so you can see that the the place really is quite small.

Why We Dream

There are many theories about why people dream and what significance (if any) those dreams have. This morning I had a dream that may shed some insight into the field. (Incidentally, this week’s Piker Press has a story that ponders this question as well.)

This morning I had a dream in which I was in a busy office, waiting my turn to talk to the overworked woman sitting behind a desk. I overheard two Americans in Prague (incidentally, I think they were executives at a company I used to work for, but that’s neither here nor there) having the following conversation:

American in Prague 1: How’s it going?
American in Prague 2: Not bad. Last night I went running. It’s been a long time, but it felt great!

My new favorite theory about dreams is that they are to help you accept all the bizarre things you see in your daily life. Dreams are often really crazy because frequently you have to make sense of the most bizarre events in the waking world. Take the above dream, for instance. It was in no doubt a response to a frightning, downright unsettling thing I saw last night. I saw someone running.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen people run here in the past. Sometimes it can be quite comical — those little old ladies can really move when they need to — but in general if you show you’re making an effort the tram driver will wait for you.

But last night was different. There was no tram nearby, no bus stop. The person was dressed in sweats and was cruising through my neighborhood at a measured pace. I accepted this image as something beyond my comprehension; perhaps somewhere the dream part of my brain was telling the waking part “don’t worry, I’ll come up with something later” so that the waking brain could continue to function. How many times does the dream brain make that promise each day?

So then the dream. The most important part of the explanation: the runner was American. There aren’t many of them in this neighborhood, but it explains the rest. Dream brain came through once again.

Spoke Too Soon…

Not long ago I wrote an episode about making progress toward getting a long-term visa here. Apparently I hadn’t made as much progress as I thought. The documents I signed had to be done again; I signed them incorrectly the first time. Just as in the US, most legal signatures are accompanied by a date. What I didn’t catch onto is that here often just the date is not enough, you also have to write in your location when you signed.

Czech prepositions don’t always match up well with their English counterparts; if you take the translations for the prepositions too literally you can mix yourself up. Thus I was not too concerned that I seemed to be signing something “in the 21st of March”. I’m not sure why the notary didn’t intervene, but there’s always that language barrier, and ultimately she’s just a witness.

On this visit, the notary was much more helpful, watching closely to make sure I got the date format right, spelled Praze correctly (that’s the form of Praha you use when you are saying you are in it). So, the second time’s a charm, I hope, and tomorrow I’ll hand the stuff off to Visa Guy. Once his legwork is done, the formal visa application has to be submitted from outside the country, so Soup Boy and I are planning a field trip to Vienna in April. Some parts of this process aren’t so painful.

Communication Breakdown

Around here, people don’t use their phones for talking very much anymore. Partly this is because text messages are cheaper, but they’re also more polite. If a message is not urgent, there’s no reason to make someone respond right away.

There are times, however, when making the call makes sense. In the following dialog, apparently that didn’t occur to either of us. This is an exchange between myself and the guy who will be braving the czech bureaucracy on my behalf. This dude and I just seem to have a mismatch in the communication dept. I have been wanting to get him some paperwork and to pay him for his trouble. I knew he was meeting with Soup Boy tonight, and unfortunately I couldn’t be there in the flesh. Happily, I was able to arrange that a big pile of paper (including banknotes) would be there in my stead. I sent Visa Dude a message to tell him what was happening. Here is the entire exchange, unedited. Enjoy. (The “no problem” in the first message refers to a failed plan to meet yesterday.)

Jerry: No Problem. I won’t be there but my docs will, along with 5000 Kc.

Visa Guy: You mean 5,500. 4,500 Kc deposit, plus 1000 Kc for the z-list.

Jerry: Dang, I forgot about the 1000. Hopefully if it’s a problem john or jose can cover the 500.

Visa Guy: As long as it’s not a problem for you guys. I can write an invoice for the 1,000 Kc if you want to pay later.

Jerry: That would be fine as long as it works for you.

Visa Guy: It’s fine for now. Will someone be at home? How do I find your apt. on the door buzzer?

Jerry: That is a question for the people who live there. My directions are infamous.

Jerry: For clarity, I am not there, but my papers are.

Visa Guy: I can’t be out all night. Please tell me how to find your apartment.

Jerry: Ask john. I don’t live there, and an the last person to tell you how to find it.

Visa Guy: I’m really short on time & have a lot to do. Let’s meet up later in the week.

Jerry: We are not meeting. I gave stuff to John to pass on to you. Call john.

Visa Guy: OK, that was not communicated to me before. Going to see john now.

Jerry: No worries. Probably lost because the same msg had the 5000 number in it. Talk to you soon.

Noteworthy is that Visa Guy is as anal about using proper English in text messages as I am, perhaps even more so, though neither of us bothered to capitalize “john”. I wanted to point out all the other times besides the second sentence in the conversation that I had told him I would not be there. Still, there was a point in the conversation that things started getting a little surreal. My attempts to keep the tone of the conversation light certainly did not help.

Semantically, he was right to say that my non-presence had not been communicated to him before. I had told him, but communication doesn’t happen until the message is received. Imagine how much time and frustration might have been saved if one of us had thought to phone the other.

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

How to put this…

Maybe we should just start with the punch line. “Petra? I thought your name was Iva.” “No, that’s my mom.” It took a couple more times back and forth before I realized: There’s two of them. That explained a thing or two (a rather inconsistent level of happiness to see me, for instance), and it meant I got really lucky earlier complimenting Petra on her haircut.

Hilarity preceded, only now I got the jokes. I sat at my table as Petra’s birthday party went on around me, and laughed to myself, wondering how long it would be before someone else figured out my mistake.