Learning the local dialect

You ride the trams for any amount of time and you start to hear it, the subtle and not-so-subtle messages broadcast by the pilots of the trams. And while I rarely see the drivers, I am starting to recognize different bell styles.

Some drivers will give a little courtesy ‘tang! when a driver they know goes past in the other direction. It is the lightest touch on the bell but it is still distinct. Most drivers will give a pl’tang! as they approach the stern of a passing tram; people often cross right behind a tram and drivers coming the other way don’t want to catch anyone by surprise.

When trams have been stopped, either at a tram stop or at an intersection, many of them will give a kr’tang! as they start moving (the trams roll their bells the same way the czechs roll their r’s).

Then, of course, there is a driver on tram 7, mentioned in a previous episode and identified correctly as Johnny B. Goode by p7K, who carries on an ongoing conversation with the world at large with his bell. I’ll give this to old Johnny: No one will ever say they didn’t hear him coming.

This afternoon as I was tromping up the street, I learned some new words in Bell. Oh, I’ve heard my share of swearing in that language, believe me. Tram 7 Johnny is turning the air blue with his bell as we rumble down the road. Today I watched as a car cut in front of a tram to make a left turn and stopped on the tracks, unable to complete the maneuver. Czechs may be bad drivers, but generally they respect the trams.

The tram stopped abruptly, the car sitting dead across the tracks. Krrrrrang! said the Tram. I understood perfectly. “I would have T-Boned you,” the driver said, “ramming the coupler sticking out of the front of my tram right into your kidneys, but there would have been too much paperwork.”

There was traffic coming the other way, and the car was stuck there, as the tram inched forward. Krrrrrangggggg! KRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAANNNNNGGGGG! The language was getting choice now, not something I can put in a family blog, but more or less it translated to “The paperwork is becoming less and less important.” Finally the car completed its turn and sped off, the way drivers will do after they’ve been stupid, which is all the time here. kr’tang! said the tram and moved along its way.

Yet-to-be-hatched chicken counting

Things are going really well for me right now. I finally got the punch in chapter one of The Monster Within that I was looking for. Finally. There’s a minor ripple effect I have to deal with, but finally the prologue goes Bam! I feel good about that. That story, man, it still gets me. Even if no one else likes it, I sure as hell have enjoyed reading it, and it hasn’t gotten old.

I was testing some of the database functionality in Jer’s Novel Writer and was cleaning up the characters who aren’t in the story anymore. Nothing like deleting the memory of a dozen once-significant characters to make you think about how far you’ve come. And about the sequel.

Jer’s Novel Writer is gaining traction as well, and I’ve decided to press hard to get a version ready for this year’s Apple Design Awards. It’s got “Think Different” written all over it.

So I’m sitting here chicken-counting. The eggs haven’t even been laid yet, but I’m thinking about taking time out from shooting Pirates to accept my major software design award in Cupertino. On the way back to Prague I’ll stop in New York and entertain the agents clamoring for my attention.

You know what’s cool about this fantasy? I can hit on only a tiny part of the dream and things are still grand. Things are happening, things are moving, and if it was only hard work that mattered I would be automatic. But I have chosen fields that are more that just hard work, although hard work is still the biggest part. (Hensley once told me that in response to the question ‘how did you get so fast?’ Oscar Peterson, one of the greatest pianists ever, said ‘If you spent eight hours a day playing, you’d be fast, too’. That’s a misquote of an incorrect memory, so, you know, don’t go dropping that line in jazz clubs where you want to appear to be intelligent. If you can find a jazz club that actually has jazz.)

Right. Back to the chickens, Any individual project seems like a huge long shot. All put together, it’s almost too much to handle. It is the classic American irrational exuberance, that annoyingly cocky confidence in self, combined with the drive to get it all done. That’s what pisses people off about Americans the most. Except, well, invading all those other countries with purely hypocritical justifications — that makes them hate us too, but the real reason they hate us, (aside from our intolerable arrogance, and well, our loudness in bars) is that they want to be us. They want to Get Things Done.

Man, I’m going to catch hell for saying that.

You know what makes you an American? Your car. If you drive a car every day, you’re an American. It doesn’t matter where you live.

Although drivers here pretty much suck. You could argue that Romans are better drivers than Americans, and I’m up for explaining how wrong you are. I admired those guys once, but Americans are just plain better drivers, except in Los Angeles and St. Louis. Maybe New York. Those guys in New York are such bitchy little victims it has to show in the way they drive. Saint Louis, I have no explanation for that one. All I can say is if you’re in a car there your top priority should be getting your wheels the hell out of there. People just… do things. No cause, just simple random effect. Great hurtling tombs of steel and plastic fling themselves about, blind and oblivious. St. Louis, in the middle of everywhere. It’s like Death Race 2000 there, only five better.

OK, I’m done now.