Knives Episode 35: We Shall Always Be

“We shall always be.” It’s a compelling slogan, a good chorus to a song, as long as you don’t think too hard about “Who is we?” and “Be what?” Elena, perhaps, answers those questions differently than the rest of the group.

But we shall always be.

Behind the scenes, this chapter is special in a couple of ways: It’s long overdue, and it has been published from the steps of a residence hall in Lawrence, Kansas. I arrived this afternoon and for the next two weeks I will be devoting myself entirely to the written word. I plan to write two more episodes (along with other stuff), but I’ll probably not publish them both while I’m here.

It’s kind of funny; I have a lot of stuff going on, but when I sit down to write this story it flows. Just gotta do that more. I like the four people in this group, and I vow to devote myself to reinforcing their individuality. As a tease: who ever heard of an even-numbered party of heroes?

The Leaving-for-Work Song, Improved

Most of us who grew up in these United States are familiar with the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”.

The Official Sweetie of MR&HBI and I have a version of the song we sing when I’m on my way out the door to go to work:

Keys, wallet, badge and phone (badge and phone),
Keys, wallet, badge and phone (badge and phone),
Lunch and computer and sunglasses and hat,
Keys, wallet, badge and phone! (badge and phone)

Rather than do the calisthenics of the original tune, I pat each pocket or gesture to the location of each item. It’s a good system for the memory-impaired. After a recent bike commute, as I changed into my work clothes at the office, the song was modified slightly:

Keys, wallet, badge and phone (and underwear),
Keys, wallet, badge and phone (and underwear),
Lunch and computer and sunglasses and hat,
Keys, wallet, badge and phone! (and underweeeeeeaaaar)

Jazz hands are optional for the last phrase.


You Have Been Warned!

The other day, on my way home from work, I passed one of those portable road hazard signs, with the bright orange lights that spell out messages to passing travelers. When I first became aware of the sign, it read:


After a few seconds, the sign changed, moving on to the next part of the urgent message, with letters bigger and bolder than the first page:


After a second or so, the words began to flash! BACON EVENT! BACON EVENT! BACON EVENT!




If I Were a Carpenter

Most days, I imagine, skilled craftsmen lay down their tools at the end of the day with a feeling of satisfaction, knowing they built something well. I know a lot of days like that.

But there are days you go beyond that. There are days a craftsman might come home after making really nice cabinets for someone, but only just yesterday learned a new joinery technique that MUST be exercised. Because cabinets are nice, but fireproof cabinets for half the cost is better.

In my free time I’ve been exploring new ways to make cabinets (by now, if you haven’t figured it out, cabinets in my case is software), and I’ve been spending a fair amount of my free time developing the conceptual foundation for something pretty cool.

Yesterday I sat down with a guy who taught me a new joinery technique. (The metaphor is almost literal, here. He taught me how to join C void* callbacks with Swift closures.) It was the closest thing I’ve had to a code review in 30 years, and dang if (let’s call him) Milo wasn’t enthusiastic about filling in the gaps in my code. It has been a long time since I’ve learned so much in such a short time.

So tonight, daily work complete, I’m sitting on the back patio with a beer, and moments ago was that fist-pump, when the new technique worked — the callback happened and the closure captured the generic type — and I thought, “damn, it’s a beautiful world.”


Knives Episode 34 Published!

Knives Episode 34 is out! A bit of travel, a campfire, and a look at the thing from the well.

I was sorely tempted to put a stinger on the end of this episode, but boy would that have messed with my plans. You can’t just put every shiny idea you get into a story, no matter how well it would have rounded out this episode. So, no fireworks this time.

On the writing side, I’ve discovered that the way to make money on Patreon as a writer is to write porn. I’m just going to stick with hoping my patrons see fit to spread the word about Knives, however.

In other news, the chicken that lives next door just laid an egg. Life in a trailer park is nothing if not glamorous.

Anyway, enjoy Episode 34: The Prize!

A Letter from Betty

I get these occasionally:


I’ve been reading a few of your posts, and they’re really good – Your blog is really in depth, and it just so happens to be in the same industry as us. Which is why I’ve approached you for a guest post. Would you be willing to host a guest post on your website which is well written, researched and packed with information for your audience

If you would like to collaborate and hose a post useful for your audience please feel free to get back to me. I look forward to your reply.

Best Regards
Betty Miller

Occasionally I respond. Not because I particularly want a guest writer, but because I hope that out there, somewhere, is a talented person trapped in a shitty job who will at least crack a brief smile upon reading my response. It also offers me a chance to ask, “what is MR&HBI?” because it actually is a difficult thing to define. Like the way ‘America’ is hard to define.

So I wrote back. I don’t always, but I have to admit I was curious to find out what industry I was in. And just now I noticed that the query message has a missing period. Would a robot commit an obvious grammatical error?

Anyway, I said:

Hi Betty,

I’m flattered that you’ve enjoyed my posts; it validates the over one million words I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you will now be joining the small but fiercely-loyal Order of the Muddled. (Note to self: Order of the Muddled merchandise. And a theme song. And a cool coat of arms. And a private-label scotch whiskey.)

I’ve never had a guest writer, although I have received offers like yours before. Unfortunately, up until now all those offers have come from robots — except the one recently that came from a thin-skinned jerk. So please forgive me if I jump to the conclusion that this mail came from the former, and please excuse yourself if you are the latter.

Likely there is no Betty, there is just a robot ready to pass any responses to this mail to someone willing to pretend to be Betty. That would be you, whoever is passed this response. Pretend Betty.

Going back to your original message, you have to admit that “in the same industry as us” is a pretty vague, robot-spammy thing to say. So first I think we need to figure out just what industry we are talking about here. I cover* a wide range of tech issues, focussing perhaps mainly on privacy, but I couldn’t say that’s what MR&HBI is actually about. The most recent episode was about dishwasher installation. Or ineptitude. Or something like that. OK fine, it was a list. But a list that told a story, if you squinted at it just right.

I picture you, Pretend Betty, as a student, or maybe an ex-pat living in Prague (ah, Prague!), getting paid slave wages to plant links in “guest posts” across the Web. I’ve actually known people like you, creative and ambitious, stuck in a rut but having to pay the rent. The challenge, Pretend Betty, your challenge, is to find a way to stretch your literary wings while still pleasing your spammer masters.

Well, Pretend Betty, here’s your chance. You can write about just about anything at MR&HBI (had you *actually* read any of my posts, you would know that). There are only two requirements: You have to believe it, and it has to be in your voice. Humor is welcome; if you can work your overlords’ links into your submission in a fun and playful way all the better. Art trumps substance. Voice trumps art. Storytelling trumps all.

Safe to say, substance is not a priority at Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas. Just so you know, it will have to be pretty good writing for me to make space for you here. Much better than my own writing — if I had to please an editor each episode, there would only be a fraction of the words on this site.

There it is, Pretend Betty. Your chance**. I eagerly await your response.


* “cover” is a nice way to say “rant about”
** “chance” is a shorthand way to say “opportunity to have some fun and maybe get published in the backwaters of the forgotten blogosphere to the benefit of no one”


Tools I Used While Installing a Dishwasher

Tape measure
Box knife
Medium flathead screwdriver
Small flathead screwdriver
Pliers, electrician’s
Pliers, slip-joint
Pliers, long-nose
Pliers, groove-joint
Wire stripper (crappy)
Desk lamp
Flashlight (cheap and annoying)
Extension cords (3)
9/16″ crescent wrench
7/16″ crescent wrench
Drill motor
Medium philips screwdriver drill attachment
Drill-screwdriver extension
3/32″ drill bit
Mazda Miata (1999)
Credit card
Tote bag, canvas (No Kid Hungry)
Wood planer (antique)
Belt sander, small (belts all broke)
Belt sander, medium (borrowed)
Dremel motor with cutting bit
Mini Countryman (2014)
Circular saw
Dust mask
Vacuum cleaner
Level, carpenter’s
Level, torpedo
Socket wrench, 1/4″ drive
Socket, smallish
Socket, very small
Packing tape
Duct Tape
Multi-tool (used by helper)
Towels, cloth
Towels, paper
Topical antiseptic