Caveat: Venter

Think about all of the things that make your brain itch. These are mine.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

L.A. Nights

It's a strange thing, but last night while I was outside smoking (yes, I know I need to quit), I realized that it was the first time since we moved here (just before Thanksgiving) that it has felt like night. Night, you see, has qualities all itsown in my mind, and I don't mean just the relative lack of natural light.

L.A. is great for those really hot or cold nights, but last night it was chillly. It had a quality of cool that had a lot to do with humidity—you know, that sense that night has actually descended on you. I used to know this feeling well in the Seattle area, and when I have encountered it here in Southern California (all too rarely) it has always reminded me of home.

It's the kind of coolness that signals night but doesn't threaten to kill, the kind that says it should be dark and dry and quiet, the kind that begs those who choose to be in it to think about whatever comes up. Sure, it's not that summer kick-the-can weather that lets you keep the blood pumping without driving you to sweat, but then again, this isn't summer, and I no longer play kick the can. It's good to be home.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Being a Childless Parent is Tough

Don't get me wrong, I am not talking about being in my mid-30s and just wishing I had my genetic code passed on in some little person. That's an issue for another time, ideally when it is actually on my mind. No, what I mean here is the sense I got today, as I walked from the post office to my car, that I was a parent.

Yeah, not too many people get that feeling when they think of the post office. I mean, mail-order brides is one thing, but mail-order children? And even mail-order brides fly in coach rather than via Express Mail service. "Excuse me, Mr. Purvis? Please sign here for you parcel. No, we cannot unplug the airholes again until we have verified your signature." Anyway, I already have a wife, thank you.

You see, today I put my invention (for those who missed it in earlier posts, it is a tactics board game) in the mail. I have submitted it to a toy-and-game representative for review. These guys (it's three men, so don't go all PC on my language) have each spent a couple decades working in the toy/game industry, including design and executive positions. They make their own products and review the products of loons like me.

OK, but that's not too hard, right? Yeah, right. Take nine years of your life—no, not every minute, but I had the basic idea in 1996—and, though the idea has only been in its finished form for six years, put it in someone else's hands. Writers know the feeling. Artists know the feeling. It's pain and joy and anticipation. It, as the song says, "hurts so good." I've gone through this with my poetry, my fiction, and my photography, and I have even publish poems and won awards for my photography (the fiction is still lagging behind, but maybe now I can turn the corner there, too, while I am weak from this).

That game is my baby. I was not satisfied with the way the world of games went, and so I created my own to fill in for the shortcomings. My child will be the star of his class at school. My child will impress the teachers and the administrators. All the kids will want to play with my child. Well, a father can dream, can't he? But maybe, just maybe, my dreams will come true. We'll see in about four weeks whether or not my baby passed his entrance exams.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

We All Have Dreams

Here I have been focusing on these issues in my life, and now I find myself distracted by someone else's dream. One of the guys who works at the local store is the son of a man who used to work on the ground crew at an airport. In chats, he has told me about how he use to go up during evaluation flights. He's been in love with flying since then.

Now that he's married, his wife has encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, the dream he had given up when he thought he would not be able to afford it. Noow that he can afford it, now that he has someone backing him, he has taken the time to look into it. He was thrilled a couple days ago when he told me of his plans.

Today I dropped by for some sake and a few other items. When he finished bagging my items, he told me that he had given it up. Someone told him that it would just be too much trouble. Why? Well, after 17 years here, he'd be untangling a mess because, well, he's Syrian by birth. Land of the free? Yeah, right. And let's not even get into the American Dream.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Manual Hair Loss

No, I am not referring to the rash act, two weeks ago, of having my ponytail lopped off and discarded in the trash (I was asked if I wanted it in a baggie, but that would just have made me miss it the more). No, here I am referring to the attempt to focus on these pesky little financial possibilities. Let me say, from the outset, that it is rather a good thing to have financial possibilities. I made the (financial) mistake of falling in love with a calling that requires years of part-time service before full-time options are open to me. I have paid my minimum dues now. But that's not everything.

Yes, in the next month I will be sending out no shortage of job appplications to community college districts across the Southland (that's Southern California speak for "Southern California" or, more simply, "SoCal"). These alone are enough to get me pulling the odd strand from time to time, particularly when my wife believes that I can manage much of the housework (she works more hours), work, and magically apply for everything in sight. Lord, give me more electronic applications! My wrist hurts from writing longhand (and always the same darned things).

OK, that's managed, but then there is the other matter to which I alluded recently: my game. Frivolous, you say? Perhaps. No money in it? More than likely true. A waste of time? No. Unless I have missed something in my hunting through aisles of games over the last few decades, in everything from Wal*Mart (I no refuse to shop there) to little family-run game and toy stores, or in my past years' subscriptions to Games Magazine, there isn't anything out there like my game in any but the most general sense (capture pieces on a board). That suggests I have a decent chance of seeing production. Decent is a relative term in the world of board game publishing, but it might be in the double-digit percentage range, which is better than most designers ever realistically hope for. The trouble is getting it out there in front of the people who make decisions.

"Ah," you say, "just take it to Milton Bradley." Not such an easy proposition. Most game companies with any production and distribution power work through outside agents or in-house production teams to get new products. MB is no exception. Thankfully, I have found the people who will, for a modest fee (seriously, it is very small . . . and refundable) evaluate my game from a manufacturer's perspective.

You may be getting ready to post a comment warning me of the dangers of getting ripped off. Yes, I have considered that. I have checked the company out through the Better Business Bureau, validated claims of organizational affiliation, and generally done everything except drive up to their offices and interview them personally. I'm good with this. But now I am trying to reach a deadline for getting my materials to that company before doing so will stand in the way of my applying for jobs. GAH!

So now you see how this gets crazy. Oh, and since I haven't mentioned it yet, my deadline puts the game concept in the company's hands no later than Monday the 31st. Oh, that's six days from now and the postal service doesn't work on Sunday.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Biding time

I am sitting here on campus an hour and a half before my night class is to begin. No doubt my students will start gathering soon, praying that the instructor who occuppies the room before our class decides to let his students out early. I won't be joining in that vain hope, however.

My next couple weeks will be tied up in the effort to get full-time applications out the door. I've ppaid my dues for three years, and everywhere I look, that is the magic number: invitations to interviews should start coming in pretty regularly now. But it's not just that.

Sunshine and I have to look at geography. At least one of the jobs for which I will be applying is not within commuting range, and if I were to get it, we would have to spend a year spearated by over 1,500 miles. That would not be easy. Our combined income would be enough to make regular visits—by this I mean at least once each month—viable; however, it would still mean stress. Yes, for relatively little money, we could have real-time video conferencing capabilities, and that would alleviate some of the stress.

It's just one application among many. There are more than a half dozen opportunities already, and that is just one. When the hiring season kicks into full swing by mid-march, the number of postings will likely keep me filling out applications every week, and with rare exception those jobs will be in California (I am only look in Southern California, the Puget Sound region, and Massachessets for now). It's just one more thing to keep me from being able to look for that itch with quite the verve I would like. Career must be a priority. I hope my blog will keep me looking for the source of that nagging feeling, though.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Step one . . .

Well, if it was some feeling of incomplete accomplishment or surrender resulting from my not having pushed my board game idea out there, then I should soon be seeing relief. I have located a reputable company that performs creative evaluations, testing, and representation. For the first time, however, I have found a way that I might get the game to market without an investment of close to $100,000.

I should, within a week, have the last of the information I need, and with a little more staring at finances, I may have the chance to put this whole thing in someone else's hands for the first time since I invented the core concept nearly a decade ago. I will come back with updates as new information becomes available, though, while I have crossed fingers, I know that the market is not warm, especially for games that have no random element, shouting, or clay.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Scritch, Scritch

It seems I have a couple options if I am to succeed in my endeavor. First, I can scratch constantly, testing every little thing that comes my way. Second, I could choose to bide my time, waiting until I was pretty certain I know where to scratch. There are, of course, many places in between, but more on those later.

The first option has the benefit of getting me trying things and possibly spotting something sooner than I might recognize it otherwise. On the flip side, I will likely spend a great deal of time in endeavors that aren't wholly productive, insofar as my goals are concerned. The second option gives the freedom to mull things over, but then I may miss what I am looking for, delaying my success for months or longer. Of course, these are the extreme, the black and the white of the spectrum. The best course is almost certainly hidden among the greys between the two. So perhaps I need to take stock of some of the likely suspects.

The first is writing. The problem here is that there are at least three kinds: verse, fiction, and academic. Sure, I could write non-fiction, but I have never had enough passion about any subject to find a good non-fiction angle. I have both poems and short stories that are ready to go out the door and into the mailbox. Some have even got destinations lined up. That would be a decent place to start, though I may also need to do more writing. One thing to consider is the New Times 55 Fiction contest.

In the academic realm, I could research and write something new or tweak something I already have, but I should work out my target publication or conference first. A search for new ideas is always a little frustrating. There is an atmosphere in graduate school that no amount of colleague chatter will ever replace in the faculty evironment, and since finishing grad school, I have been pretty dry in this area.

There is game design, as well. I have one game finished and a second that needs testing (badly). I have wondered if perhaps this isn't the first place to look, in fact. Certainly, it can be one of the more entertaining pursuits. The problem is that there is little to be done once a game is invented. Most companies don't even acknowledge outside submissions, and those that do are generally small and specialized. Sadly, they aren't the right kinds of companies for what I want to keep designing, namely tactics-oriented games. Actually, I will go with anything that minimizes or eliminates chance.

So there I have it, my usual suspects. Anyone with a spare $100k can assist me by financing the production of my completed board game (if you like either Go or Chess, you are in line for liking my creation, if history is any indicator). Barring that, I guess I should review my options and pick one to pursue first. More on this when I have made a selection (before the end of the month, shall we say?).

The Blogging/Teaching Parallels

When I was 19, I had been working the writing lab at my community college for two years, and two incidents (perhaps I will share those in another entry one day) opened my eyes to one simple fact: I had to teach. I had spent years casting about, heavily medicated on as much as 240mg of phenobarbitol per day for my epilepsy (for which I still take Depakote), searching for a career.

Some people I knew had always had plans for careers, and in almost every one of those cases the plans worked out beautifully. Sadly, when one is on CNS depressants, planning a meal, much less a life, is a chore. In a way, my current difficulty echoes what I faced in those early and middle teen years, though I think the worst thing that my medication does is take the edge off of my emotions, leaving me rather flat except when I am in the classroom. My highs and lows, because my medication is also a mood leveler, are not so high and not so low.

Back to my story, though. I discovered something. It was not so much that I wanted to teach as that I needed to teach. The terminology I used, first with myself and later with others, I have come to learn is something many have used before me. I teach for the "lightbulb moments." Do you remember those silly cartoons in which the characters suddenly got a great idea (usually quite a stupid one, but entertaining for, not in spite of, that fact)? A little bell would ring, and a lightbulb would appear above the head of the character. Silly, right? Not so much.

I learned to spot the moments at which students suddenly grasped previously incomprehensible concepts. "You can hear and feel commas?" Yes, you can. Try it some time. Something, and it isn't a twitch or a smile, no; it's something so subtle I have never found the words to describe its physical manifstation. Well, yes, I have. It's as if a light were suddenly striking the visage of the student, illuminating him or her in some soft glow on knowledge. The power to guide someone there is more addictive than any drug I have ever heard of. I suspect that business executives and artists have similar moments, but I was built to be neither, nor should I be anything else that may have its equivalent. I must teach. I seek out those moments every time I step into a classroom. I find them less often, but they are there.

Blogging has a similar effect. I am not taking knowledge and matching it to people. Rather, through communication with people I have never, nor will ever, meet, I can effect change. I expected to brighten a day or two when I took a little extra time to hunt up what email addresses I could of people whose sites I had selected for links. Little did I know that in catching myself up (I have three more to read in toto to be all caught up) on these, I would find multiple comments, and beautfully written ones, on one site to which I had linked from another to whose site I had linked. I was floored. I was giddy. Even my medication could not take the edge of the joy I felt at having possibly helped join to souls divided by billions of web pages.

My relationships to my students are precious to me. I have only had one student ever so upset with me that she chose not to acknowledge me as she walked by, but then again, hers was one of the situations in which a passing grade was unavailable due to plagiarism (someone seems determined to try every semester, despite my best attempts to warn against it). Likewise, the ideas, or more precisely the minds behind those ideas, expressed in blogs are precious to me. If by chance something I do helps, so much the better. Sunshine, creator of That's Life, has given me pause to consider my own situation (and it is perfect since she shares her name with my wife). Her own musings on her previously neglected urge to paint gives me hope. I can only pray that her future posts will shed further light on how she found that outlet, much as I hope I will find my own.

Blogging and teaching, to deliver on my title, are similar in that they are both about making real connections. I don't mean necessarily between one blogger and another, though that may well happen. Rather, I mean between the individual blogger and his or her lost or missing self. Mine is out there, some place inside of me. Now, if only I had a map to myself, I might find it all the sooner.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Thanks to R

No, I do not mean the poet character R-13 in a novel that few have read. R was good enough to point out deficiencies in my new layout, and I hope that I have addressed them. Now I will go on to see if I can make some further minor tweaks to adjust for the new order of things.

Language as the Gatekeeper

I am centuries late in saying this, but it bears repeating. Language is the gatekeeper to success in (almost) everything. I just finished speaking to someone who works here where I live. He has recently finished up in a program that improved his English, but what struck him was how many intelligent people he met while he was there. These are people who could do math like nobody's business, but because they are here in the United States, their opportunities in the business world had been limited by their English language skills.

English, at least as an academic field, is rather the whipping boy of students. After all, who needs to read Shakespeare to prepare for a job as a CPA? Try being a CPA who can't communicate effectively with clients, though. True, in that case Shakespeare (or any other writer) may be along for the ride in courses, but the simple fact is that without the language skills that come from dedicated work in English classes—without the ability to communicate at a high level with the people who make things happen in a chosen field—people cannot progress to the upper reaches. It's true, a CPA who routinely makes mistakes will quickly find out what a job search is like with no references, but when all else is equal, a better communicator will move up. Sometimes, better communicators will surpass people who have poorer communication skills but who are more talented in the field.

I've heard it all: "English degrees are for people who couldn't find real majors" is one of the more popular mantras. Never mind that more people get accepted to American law schools with English degrees than with any other degrees. Never mind that people with English degrees find their ways into advertising, publishing, education, and numerous other fields, often matching or passing people who have been trained in those fields. But this is not to say that the English degree is the best one out there. It's not. It's just one that leads to an incredible range of possibilities. Why? Because people who hold those degrees know how to communicate (even if some of us never learned to type).

Take it seriously, folks. Every one of the sites to which I have provided links is written by someone (or by multiple people, in a couple cases) who knows how to put it together. Now, if only I had been the one to start that conversation downstairs. He'll go far, that one. He knows the value of the word.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Ten to Start

OK, I have managed to winnow a lot of blogs that caught my eye down to just ten that I want to track. Why, you may well ask yourself, should you care about what I read? Why not? Anyway, here they are in the order to which I link them, which is not some ranking system, just the way I entered the addresses. As more catch my eye, this list could change.

Breaking News: I had my head shut in a sliding van door.
Khara doesn't update this as much as I would like, but she has fun with what she writes. The little quizzes and things that people fill out are fine and all, but a few random iPod shuffles here and there are more interesting to me. Also, she doesn't seem to take crap from anyone, and she lets people know it. On a side note, she got me using the "Next Blog" button, and that's how I got the rest of these.

Twelve Two Two Fondue
Amy and Bill, gourmands it would seem, take us through their comments on food and drink, menus and the restaurants those menus call home. There is humor here, and not the cheesy stuff I have seen on too many blogs. These two have wit, to use the correct term, and they serve it up pretty regularly.

Let's just give this woman credit for doing what too few people have the courage to do: looking in the mirror in both the real and metaphorical sense. She is working to better herself, lose weight, raise kids, and fight depression. No, this is not light reading, but light reading be damned when there's substance to be had.

E. David Morgen, ABD in English (that's more than I have so far) and closing in on the PhD. I saw that he and I were in the same field, end of story. I have not been teaching long enough to see my students move on as far as his have, but I can only dream that they will say such things about me those many years from now. This blog is sound reading for educators and students alike, never mind what parents will find there.

fluffy as a cat
Who could turn down a title like that? We're talking fun and serious in one bundle. No, I don't think she has ever gone all out to blog with a straight face, but some of what she gives comes from harsh reality. If you want playful, give it a try. Raunchy? Look elsewhere. Fun? Fluffy. Boring? Government press releases. Got the picture? *Allow me to amend my earlier statement. Raunchy? Rarely, and mostly via links.

That's Life
I love how this blog started. There is something of a "primordial blogness," if you will, to its inception. This is not blow-you-away exciting stuff; this is real life. It's what blogging is about. It delivers on its name without pretense. Give it a spin and see what you think.

Philosophical Dialogues
OK, it will be some time before I am current with this blog. Juan Galis-Menendez is a commentator far above the average for blogs. Don't expect a quick read, and even when you hunker down for these (usually) longer posts, don't expect them to be easy. You can agree or disagree with this man, but you will have to give him points for a well-structured case. Oh, and don't look for the usual pseudo-political stuff here. This is not pot-boiler drivel. Expect real thinking.

I do not speak Spanish, but that does not make a whit of difference. Gloria is giving us photography (stored elsewhere, of course) that has the feel of Robert Capa's work. Take a look for yourself and see why digital photography, despite its advances and convenience, is far from destroying halide photography.

The Department of Injustice
I will not say that I agree with all of the ideas presented on this page. I do not, nor am I likely to see future posts reflect only my positions. Is there any better reason to love a blog that deals with social and political issues? Why, yes there is! As with Philosophical Dialogues, this site has some cogent argumentation happening. Is it on the same level? I don't think so, but it's up there, and the issues are what people are more likely to expect in this kind of forum.

winter semester
I end with one that is hanging on by the barest of threads. There are only two posts so far, and the title suggests that before July this could be done. Still, what Emmalee has posted so far shows great promise. There is thought in what little she has, and she seems to have a grasp of, indeed a passion for, perspective. I don't mean this in the sense of looking at things from someone else's point of view; rather, and this comes through in the second post, something that could rapidly develop into literary cubism. Think I am pushing it? Maybe. Time will tell.

OK, this has been an entry both too long and too long in coming. I will call it a night pretty soon. When I return, I will get a little catching up done with these blogs and see where they lead me on my quest to scratch that silly itch of mine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Dangers of the Blogsphere

Sure, there is a risk of losing too much time reading and writing blogs, but that doesn't concern me. I can just suck it from other time-wasting activities. OK, that's taken care of. Still, there are problems that have recently come to my attention, and I would like to air those out here.

Everyone with access to an internet connection, and most libraries offer this now in the United States and other industrial countries, can say whatever they think, feel, or believe. The result is the most democratic form of communication and idea exchange ever to manifest on this planet. Bravo! Here's the problem. We are dealing with passion; rarely is fact the overriding force behind blogging.

The problem gets deeper in that we do not all share the same views, though it would be a boring world indeed if we did. What I may think, feel, or believe, insofar as what comes up in my blog, may offend others. For that I make no apology. On the other hand, many bloggers look around at the work of their fellow bloggers, and I am no exception. I comment where I have something to say, be it in support, in opposition, or by way of correction. In doing so, I may offend, and for that I make no apology.

Still, there are lines, and we (most of us, anyway) do live in societies that recognize individual thought and feeling. I am not immune to the impulse to respond with sarcasm when my back is up, and I have done so. Insofar as I may make errors in fact or judgement, I do apologize. But that is where is stops. I welcome comments and emails on what I write, both here and in response to other blogs. I encourage those who believe that I have done wrong to say so, for that is how we move forward as civilized beings. I ask only this: recognize the dangers everyone faces in the blogsphere.

We come from different backgrounds and have access only to the information others give us or that we could reasonably be expected to discover on our own. No amount of ad hominem vitriol will ever deliver fact, the one things we most sorely lack most times out here in the blogsphere.

Looking Elsewhere

It has long been known that one of the things that keeps blogs not only going but growing is the cross-pollenation that goes on within the community. I have begun using the "Next Blog" button to search for blogs I like. These will run the gamut from the downright funny to the intensely serious. So far I have isolated five with a couple more waiting in the wings.

Here's the catch. The number will never exceed ten. It's all about the king: interesting content. I don't want to track more than ten blogs at a time, so that will be my limit. Remember, I'll also be spending time looking for new ones to bump current blogs off the list.

Back to (un?)Reality

I think the world is arrayed against thought. If one wants to think—and I mean really think about something—when can the thinking get done? While working? eating? doing laundry? washing dishes? Life, or at least American life, seems to stand in the way of those of us who want to focus on something.

OK, it's true that I don't know where to look, much less at what distance to focus, but come on! It's tough to do any looking when the daily routine fills up with so many other tasks. The independently wealthy have an advantage: they can get by without work and then pay other people to do the laundry and the dishes. Liberty from the mundane at least seems to provide an advantage here. As of this moment, I am declaring my willingness to review all offers of patronage for whatever my art may be.

Update re: the Look

OK, if you are using a monitor set below 800 pixels as its display width, you won't see my sidebar on the side. Likewise, this will be an issue if you are using a browser window narrower than 800 pixels. Most people are beyond such numbers these days, so I just figured I would play to the crowd. Register complaints below.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fixing up the Look

Yeah, I know that the templates are quite reasonable here, but I originally went with the green because it was clean. I am keeping some green because it goes with the shades of grey I am using (no, it's not black, and you can check the code or use a color meter if you don't believe me). Fire those comments my way if you are having trouble, but please let me know which parts are difficult to read and why. I like pages that are clean and fast. And while I may post a picture every now and then, it won't be big, nor will it be often.

Oh yeah, and if anyone knows how to make the CSS used here work with window.innerWidth, let me know. I am trying to make the main portion of the blog equal to the width inside of the browser window minus 300 pixels. In Javascript I would just use window.innerWidth-300, but it fails here.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Like that second Star Trek movie . . .

I know I've dumped a lot here today, but then I am still running on no sleep, so here goes the last post of this calendar day.

Do you remember that things that Khan's people stuck in Chekhov's ear (sorry, the other character was only in that movie, so I never remember his name)? It dug in, causing no shortage of pain, and then wound around the base of Chekhov's brain, making him Khan's robot. The problem is that Chekhov did as he was told, but it almost killed him to acknowledge that it was in his head. That's how this thing is with me.

The problem in my case is that I don't remember getting it put in. I feel the pain when it rises, but it never comes all the way to the surface. I can't grasp, can't recognize it, can't even catch a hint other than that it has something to do with a failure to produce. But produce what?

This is my call to any who may chance to read this: If you know this feeling, this frustration, respond by telling me how you manage it. It has hit me in the last hour that I am not merely feeling as if I am not producing; I feel, at the worst times, as if I am blocking creativity.

The Babel of Blogging

Sure, I'm running on no sleep. Still, that doesn't mean I am making no sense. Borges' "The Library of Babel" is my favorite short story, and I see reflections of it everywhere. The internet is a wonderful reflection of it in some ways, but blogging does it better. Follow me on this.

In Borges' fictional library (I should note here that the concept behind the story is not entirely original to Borges, though his version of it is perhaps the most compelling in all of literature) the universe is a library. That library is composed of connected hexagonal galleries with shelves along four walls of each and exits in the other two. Stairs go up and down, and sleep and lavatory arrangements are handled in little alcoves between (horizontally) adjacent galleries. OK, enough of that.

In the library are books of uniform format: 410 pages of 40 lines of 80 characters. The characters within the pages are limited to 25: 22 letters (startlingly like the Kabbalah's take on the Hebrew alphabet, but I have seen other numbers of letters from various sources), the period, the space, and the comma. Every combination of letters exists, but each combination is unique. Now, here's where blogs beat the internet as a whole.

While blogs are a subset of internet content, and thus they compose less of the possible universe of Borges' story, they are, unlike the complete internet, unique. People can link to one another's blogs, that is true, but the blogs are not duplicated wholesale in the way that many other things on the internet are. Does it matter that some people insert blog entries, in whole or in part, into their own in order to comment on them? No. In fact, it is expected by the Library. After a set number of combinations, patterns must repeat. The smaller the grouping of characters, the sooner a repetition will occur. If it is one character, the repetition will occur no later than the 26th character. If it is two, the repetition will finish no later than the 1,252nd character ((2*(25*25))+2). Obviously, this number gets pretty large pretty quickly, though. If you are interested, the general formula looks like this: ((n*(s*s))+n) where "n" is the number of characters in a string and "s" is the number of characters in the set of characters (letters in the alphabet being used +3).

Sure, the library also has tons of gibberish in it, but so do blogs (see preceding paragraphs or other entries here for examples, though many others exist). I really need to get my ISP to come clean about FTP and my webspace. You'd think that with more than 500 MB of space, I could put something up other than the crappy template stuff, but not a single person seems to know how to do it. Ah well. When I do, I will link to a Library page generator I wrote. It's really quite simple code, but the numbers are insane since the English alphabet has four letters more than the one in the story. I'll work out something with Hebrew characters, perhaps, in the future.

In the beginning

A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend of mine (on Friendster, of course) sent me a message out of the blue. Since then, she and I have been sending emails back and forth a third of the way around the world. Great, you say? Been there, done that? Yeah, well so have I, but it's been a while.

The whole thing calls to mind the years I spent exchanging letters (you know: paper, ink, envelope, stamps, waiting) with a friend in France. I suppose some might say she and I could not have been friends, real friends, at any rate. After all, we met when she got my name from a hotel clerk in Greece and swept me through the town so she and about two dozen other French kids (many were under 10) could practice their English. Still, as I sat down on the bus to head back to the airport, she came rapping on the window, address in hand. After two years I wrote her, and for years we exchanged letters, writing perhaps twelve or thirteen each way in a year. In some ways I know her better than many people I have met and spent time with in person, so I say she is my friend. But that's not what this is about.

I was writing my friend (the new one I mentioned in the first paragraph) an email not long ago, and I found myself going on about what was missing. My wife and I, despite periodic disagreements, are happily married. My wife is working on an advanced degree, and I am looking at breaking into full-time teaching, having paid my dues as an adjunct. Still, for years now—more years than Sunshine and I have been married—I have had something bothering me.

No, it has not been there every day or even every week. Nonetheless, it has been there, and it persists in being there at the most inconvenient times, namely whenever it chooses to return: I need to produce something. Now, before you cheer at my decision to blog, know that this is not what I need. In this latest email, you know, the one that made me start this thing, I prattled on for some while about what it might be that I need to produce. Do I need to write articles and other scholarly pieces? Short stories? Poems? Do I need to publish what I have been sitting on? Perhaps I need to market my board game (but who, short of Go players, really likes pure tactics these days?) until I actually sell it to a manufacturer.

I have no illusions; this blog will not resolve my troubles. If I am lucky, however, it may help me find the right spot to scratch, and that would be enough. Maybe, if all goes well, I will even accumulate a reader or two—people not driven off by a style many might find dry. Stay. Tell me what you think. Scratch a little, even, if you think you know where my itch might be.