Category Archives: Writing

Do You Darmok?

Okay, here’s one that’s been sitting in my Drafts folder since 2012. The last time I even edited it was back in 2016. (Wow. Four years ago already?) The problem has been turning it into a post. At this point it’s like a lazy twenty-year-old who won’t move outta the house.

If you were a serious fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the post’s title might ring a bell. It involves an episode with a very interesting idea about a communication problem between different species despite a “universal translator” that makes the words clear.

It isn’t a matter of language, but of metaphor.

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Spiders

I have no illusions about being a writer. As with many people, I like to express myself, so I write about the things I think and talk about. I suspect the handful of readers who know me in real life find these posts similar to our conversations. (Some posts have come from those conversations.)

Fiction, let alone poetry, are skills a bit beyond my ken, but every once in a while something pops out of my brain. Seems some thoughts don’t work as well dressed in basic prose (although you’d think it goes with everything).

This has been sitting in my Drafts folder since August 2012, and given that it’s spring and I’m cleaning out the backlog, it’s definitely time to get rid of the…

Spiders

I share my world with spiders;
I like the wee beasties.
They live their little lives,
While I live mine. (A giant among them.)
I regard their predatory nature.
Tiny hunters, fierce and fatal.
Small solitary watchers;
Do they, in turn, regard the giant?
Do they tell stories to their young:
‘Ware the giant! Stay off the white walls!
Do not draw the giant’s eye,
Least the tissue come whisk you away.

I’m a computer programmer by career and hobby, so I have a natural affinity for things that come in packages of eight. I also love that they eat other bugs, especially the occasional ant.

And Spiderman always was one of my favorite Marvel heroes. (Come to think of it, he may, in fact, be the top fave.)

Stay friendly to spiders, my friends!


Frosted Roads

I’m far from being a literary expert and even further from knowing anything about poetry (but, of course, I know what I like). That said, there are some poems I’ve picked up along the way and cherished. I’ve posted here about three of them: Desiderata, Invictus, and To His Coy Mistress. These poems all have foundational roles in my worldview.

Yet, surprisingly, I haven’t yet written about the most foundational of them all: The Road Not Taken, by the great American poet, Robert Frost. In my youth, a friend once whined at me, “You go out of your way to be different, don’t you!” Yes. Yes, I do. Just like the poem says to.

Except it doesn’t. It doesn’t say that at all.

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Storytelling Icons

I don’t know if this is age, experience, or truth (likely a combination), but it feels as if storytelling in the new millennium has become superficial and shallow. Many of the movies and TV shows I’ve seen appear to be mere strings of icons so well-worn we don’t even think about them.

It’s as if the vocabulary of storytelling has expanded into LEGO® pieces connected to build colorful plastic stories lacking in nuance and detail. Special pieces (like little people or wheels) make the model a bit more real-seeming, but those same complete parts get used and reused.

And some of them have started to really annoy me…

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Story Completeness

Last week I did a little jazz riff on the idea of “story space” — where all the stories live — and how the interesting stories we want to hear are all improbable to the point of having zero chance of actually happening (unless, gasp, statistics can lie).

I thought I’d return to that basic story space idea and, in the process, finally deal with a note that’s been on my idea board for years. My problem has been that, while the idea the note expresses seemed interesting enough, I’ve never quite seen how to turn it into a post. I’m not even sure the idea makes any real sense, let alone is worth trying to write about.

However that’s never stopped me before, and it’s (almost) Chillaxmus, so cue the music, it’s riff time again…

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Story Probability

Yesterday I was re-watching Arachnids in the UK, the fourth episode of the latest season of Doctor Who, and a somewhat goofy idea popped into my head about how to respond to the charge that sometimes stories are just ‘too improbable’ to enjoy — or to have happened at all.

That certainly is an accusation that seems to apply in many cases. In order for some story to have happened at all, certain events had to happen just so and in the right order. It’s easy to shake your head and think, “Yeah, right. As if that could actually ever happen.”

For many years I’ve had a generic response to that accusation, but yesterday I realized it can be justified mathematically!

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What is Fiction?

robert-fordAt one point in HBO’s Westworld (don’t worry, no spoilers) Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech about stories, about the value of fiction. He references a belief that fiction elevates — or at least illuminates to good value — the human condition. The belief also holds that those who read a lot of fiction are in some sense “better” people.

The idea is controversial on several grounds. Firstly, it’s hard to define what makes people “better,” and you can’t measure or test what you can’t define. Secondly, even if “better” is defined, not everyone will agree with the definition. Thirdly, there’s a nature-nurture aspect that makes comparisons like this very hard to tease out of any data you can gather.

Maybe a place to start exploring the idea is to first define “fiction” and go from there…

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More Notes

notesThere are some notes that laid on the top of my possible next posts pile for a long time. Like the notes I posted recently, these clearly migrated from the same old boxes that I’m now excavating more seriously.

The ink is faded, and I can identify a fountain pen I used decades ago. Apparently I thought they had potential. But as little statements on life — being from a younger me — they now seem trite and bumper sticker simplistic. Yet they’ve had just enough flavor to keep them out of the wastebasket.

I’m tired of looking at them. Here they are.

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The Lost Story

galaxyA long time ago (nearly four years!) I wrote a post about my high school English teacher, Mrs. McGee (see The Love Connection) and a short story I’d written in her class. I complained in my post that she’d given me a low grade on the story because she objected to its conclusion.

Turns out my memory about the objection is correct, but she give me an ‘A’ on the paper anyway. (In fact, she compared the writing to Chekhov’s The Seagull … kinda sorta.)

I wanted to share it years ago, but didn’t know where it was. I found it just last week, and here it is:

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Note #3: Gender Differences

venn-men-women

Nearly (but not quite) identical!

Yet another bit of flotsam washed ashore, this one from the mid-to-late 1980s I’m guessing. Another part of the same note has a file system diagram that, in part based on the “DOS” directory, confirms the era.

Back then I participated a lot in two online groups: Star Trek and Feminism. (Both were topics of avid interest to me!) This note seems to address a topic that sometimes arose as party line in the latter group, but which I thought missed the point.

It’s about examining versus ignoring differences…

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