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“There’s nothing there. Look at this stuff! It’s all pills and porno and porno pills.” McGruder scratched his pate under his hat with pudgy knuckles, embracing the stereotype.

“I don’t think so.” Billings brought up another archive, fatally strong wireless beamed harmlessly down through dirt and concrete to the ancient data center below. “They sent it to one another in huge volumes but separated it out before anyone could see it. Maybe they found it vitally necessary and themselves unworthy.”

“I think it was junk.” McGruder shrugged.

“I think it was scripture.” Billings spent the whole remaining day reverently browsing backups.

FREE TO GOOD HOME: One metahound, two years old, gray and white, leash trained. All shots are up to date and local taxes are paid. Good with other dogs and assertive cats but made nervous by birds and sudden noises. Tends to split into ~seventy much smaller duplicates of itself when startled. Doppels possess a spectrum of personalities making it difficult to know which qualities convey. Training to reassemble on command is incomplete as of this listing. Always a conversation starter! Great table manners and knows the eight standard tricks and commands. Fixed, but that’s obviously somewhat moot.

GREAT WITH CHILDREN.

Hanna’s least favorite class at High Fantasy U. was Evocation 241, “Literal Metaphors,” a sloppy crash course in phrases brought to life. Shelly loved it, naturally; even those who bend the universe to their will ten times a day have annoying college roommates.

“Why can’t you be normal?” Shelly looked cross during their lab. “Curses aren’t metaphors. They aren’t even allowed.”

Hanna coolly corrected her. “It’s a blasphemy.” Christ on a pogo stick bounced loudly, infinitely, in the aisle. “And yours is a pun.”

Shelly’s lunch mugged for an audience that wasn’t there. “Whatever, you – ” but a quiz burst and interrupted her.

There are lots of jobs worse than mine. I should know. Once medicine got too good the Youth Council capped the age on paid work and still there weren’t enough jobs. Mine is to open filled positions. The wilds are picked pretty clean but there are a few weathered industrialists behind facelifts, under bandanas, bending backs, breaking laws. Rooting them out pays but this one’s my last.

I crest the hill and he’s waiting for me. “You’re no kid yourself,” he says, gun raised halfway.

“Just old enough to need a new job,” I reply. I’m careful to miss his glasses.

I’m completely stealing the idea of Ommatidia, as noted below. Instead of writing 101-word stories I’m going to write microfiction of 100 words. I’m going to call them hyakus, in part as a play on the sound of “haiku” as a similar name for a familiar defined form of very small written product and in part because “hyaku” is Japanese for “hundred” as used in counting.

I wrote one a few minutes ago and scheduled it for Friday AM. I plan to write them for as many Fridays as they seem interesting to do.

Totally unrelated to weight loss, I am sad to see the end of Brendan Adkins’ Ommatidia. In his absence, I’m contemplating stealing the idea, dialing it back and posting a 101-word story here every Friday or something. Due to the breaks in time between them, they would almost always be independent of one another.

In February, the day after KJ and Arlena were here to go to The Borough, I weighed 295.5 lb. This morning I weighed 257.7. My goal is to lose at least another 15 or so, preferably another 30 or 35. Then the really hard part: figuring out how to maintain that rather than simply lose or gain. I’ve yoyoed my whole adult life. Stabilising is going to require a lot of fine-tuning.

In terms of methods, it’s the ol’ “eat less, move more.” Changes in cooking habits, eating habits, restaurant habits, etc., coupled with a huge program of walking. I find I really enjoy walking. Yesterday I went out in the early evening because the forecast said it would rain later that night. It turned out they were wrong – the rain arrived early – and a huge and violent thunderstorm pounded Durham while I was out on the American Tobacco Trail. I opened the umbrella, tucked my iPhone and headphones away in my backpack and listened to the rain fall and the sky shatter for a very pleasant 45 minutes or so while the storm moved past. Almost no one else was out on the trail in those conditions, but those of us who were really seemed to be enjoying it.

On Tuesday I was mugged while walking the American Tobacco Trail. I was in a place that was well-lighted, within a few yards of three houses and visible from at least three more. I was on high ground, in the open. I’m 6’3″, and I clock in at 270, so I am not a little guy who looks easy to push around. The guys who came up behind me, shoved me around and then robbed me were so casual and so calm that I can’t imagine I’m their first victim. When they were done with me they simply turned around and walked away, as casual as could be, like they’d done nothing more than put money in a parking meter.

They took the following things:

  • $80 cash that I had forgotten I even had on me
  • the Conjured Glacier Water water bottle that Katastrophes brought back for me from BlizzCon
  • my driver’s license and work ID
  • a small card that read, simply, “Miracles,” given to me by the now-deceased owner of a now-defunct pagan store in Carrboro many years ago
  • one small umbrella
  • my car and house keys
  • my iPhone 3GS
  • my fancy noise-cancelling Klipsch headphones
  • the capacity to be in a crowded, public place without a reflexive, rising panic
  • $1200 so far in necessary purchases and fees to replace and re-secure property stolen or threatened
  • the exercise armband for my phone
  • the last rubles I possessed from my trip to Russia in 1994
  • my Election Judge identification card
  • a small backpack given to me by The Boyf
  • a flashlight
  • a wallet that had started to fall apart
  • two and a half work days
  • 19 hours and counting spent standing in line, shopping for a new bag, buying a softball bat to use as my “walking stick” in future, buying a new phone, waiting at the dealership while my car was reprogrammed for new key fobs and so on
  • the capacity to interact with a stranger without feeling afraid
  • approximately 7 hours of sleep so far
  • at least three peaceful dreams that were nightmares instead
  • some degree of dignity as I have had to share this experience repeatedly with neighbors and friends who use the ATT in order to warn them
  • the capacity to walk around a store without checking every single person I see in order to determine if they could be the people who mugged me
  • two pounds in regained weight as I sat idle instead of walking the ATT for exercise
  • several dollars spent unnecessarily at the grocery store due to no longer having my discount cards
  • my member card for Sci-Fi Genre
  • my original VisArt Video card from 1993
  • one check card, now cancelled
  • one credit card, now cancelled
  • $14.95/month in credit monitoring fees
  • a total of approximately three hours spent checking “Find My iPhone” to see if they would turn the phone back on
  • several hours speaking with police and emailing with people on my neighborhood listserv and those of neighborhoods near mine or near the scene of the crime
  • the capacity to think about a given topic for any length of time without realizing that I have slipped into a looped replay of the event itself
  • the capacity to have much respect for the neighbors who thought I would have been fine if I’d had a gun
  • and the minutes spent compiling this list, typing this post and revising it in future.

The thing that I find most frustrating about this is how they only had to invest thirty seconds of their time to steal from me for days upon days. They don’t even have to be here to steal from me. They’re still stealing from me. They will continue to steal from me every time I walk into Target and out of nowhere wonder if I’m going to turn a corner and see one of them standing there and what I’ll do if that happens. They didn’t physically hurt me but they did take something: they took my ability to live life the way I wanted to live it, walking around wherever and whenever on the assumption that in my town, in my neck of the woods, I would be able to enjoy a confidence about my safety. They took all those things and just walked away. To them, all that has no value.

I hope they all live long and healthy lives so that they can get very old, and very frail, and be jumped from behind when they’re out for a walk one day in a place they love.

One of my favorite writers of all time is H.P. Lovecraft, and my favorite of his works is At the Mountains of Madness. I love it and everything about it. Hell, the wallpaper on my phone is someone on the Internet’s homemade badge for team members on the Miskatonic University Antarctic Expedition. In an annotated Lovecraft collection I’ve got somewhere or another there are countless fascinating notes about how the story came to be written, and why, and what personal passions and fandom drove Lovecraft to generate a novella about Antarctica. In the same way space in general was the most fertile field of imagination throughout the 20th century, and specifically in the same way that Mars – by virtue of being the leading edge of our ability to do detailed discovery – has been a huge setting for the last ten years or so, Antarctica was this mysterious place full of countless potential secrets at the turn of the 20th century.

It is with a tremendous sadness that I see that Guillermo del Toro’s attempt to produce a big-budget adaptation of it, appears to be dead in the water for now:

After three months of deliberation, Universal Pictures, the studio that gave del Toro money for pre-production creature designs, has remained unwilling to give the director a greenlight, citing concerns over the film’s budget and likely R rating. On Monday, del Toro withdrew from the negotiations

Universal has produced some amazing science fiction films over time, and a lot of them have been flops at the box office only to be recognized, later, as having been truly visionary. Would this have wound up the same way? Maybe so, maybe not. Either way, I would have loved it. My friend Brian once pointed out that the thing that had him most excited about the adaptation was the possibility of Burger King cups with Deep Ones on the side. I mean, honestly, does it get anymore “crawling horror” than that?

I’m not wholly discouraged, though. What is the ultimate lesson of the Lovecraft story itself, after all, if not that we remember that those horrors that lie deepest for the longest time are the most to be feared? What freezes in obscurity may yet return to the world of the living, from time to time, if the right parties with the right determination insist on intruding on their slumber.

Sunday afternoon I walked the two miles to Doug’s house for a St. A’s alumni holiday party, aka “Happy Hall-idays.” I was the only attendee, due to the weather, but we had a good time anyway. I took a few pictures while I was out and about in case you’re interested.

…because I’ve got a new tradition in the making.

Last night KJ posted that Steve had, in conversation, wondered aloud why there aren’t more President’s Day carols. I’m snowed in and bored, and I felt that I could rise to that challenge. Behold, seven verses of the President’s Day version of O Tannenbaum:

Oh Washington, oh Washington,
Your wooden teeth delight us.
They were not real, but they are cool;
So we still learn of them in school.
Oh Washington, oh Washington,
You hated pomp and tyrrany.

Oh Roosevelt, oh Roosevelt,
Social Security is great.
You couldn’t walk but hid it well;
By firesides you sat a spell.
Oh Roosevelt, oh Roosevelt,
You beat the Great Depression.

Oh Jimmy C., oh Jimmy C.,
You only got one term, I see.
But we don’t care because you are
The only Prez who has real heart.
Oh Jimmy C., oh Jimmy C.,
Y’ra decent human being.

Ulysses Grant, Ulysses Grant,
You doubtless saved the nation.
But politics was not your game.
Lackeys corrupt ruined your name.
Ulysses Grant, Ulysses Grant,
Regardless you’re a hero.

O James K. Polk, O James K. Polk,
Born in Carolina!
You took Texas; dropped tariffs, too;
Invented stamps; yes, we thank you!
O James K. Polk, O James K. Polk,
I’d like to give back Texas.

Grover Cleveland, Grover Cleveland,
The ‘Lectoral College screwed you.
You won three times, served only twice.
Your Pullman stance was not so nice.
Grover Cleveland, Grover Cleveland,
You kind of were a bastard.

O LBJ, O LBJ,
You’re tough to get a fix on.
Voting Rights Act; Great Society;
But did you whack Jack Kennedy?
O LBJ, O LBJ,
We’ll have to wonder always.

Share these lyrics with those you love when President’s Day comes around this year. May no third-Monday-in-February pass by in dreary silence.

All done.

Sleep now.

This year I’m writing a novel called Deal With the Devil, about a vampire and a vigilante hero and a self-styled super villain in Durham, NC. It’s sort of a sequel to Tooth and Nail, in that it stars Withrow. He shows up in lots of things I write, though, so really I guess it’s just part of the overall continuum of that fictional world.

Today I hit the 25,000 word mark. I was going to walk to the coffee shop to do my writing but I lazed around and didn’t have time and felt guilty about it because I haven’t worked out for jack in the last two weeks as the weather has turned and NaNo has eaten into my free time. Hitting the halfway point on a six thousand word writing spree, though, is worth it.

Ask ten {pagans, neopagans, Wiccans, Earth religionists, Druids, wizards, ceremonialists, etc.} for an opinion and you’re going to get at least eleven or twelve answers. That said, I feel fairly safe in saying, in reaction to Ms. O’Donnell’s statement that she “dabbled in witchcraft,” and on behalf of all of us, the following: thanks, but we don’t want her.

On the topic of neopaganism, I consider myself a technopagan and I believe technology and ritual serve very similar and sometimes interchangeable purposes: they are each an extension of human will, an opportunity to take refuge in comfortable and familiar sets of actions and ways of staying connected to the world around us. Given that in my view magic is a set of technologies we have yet to externally, objectively understand – that the mysteries are all just science waiting to happen – mixing them together is to me a no-brainer. Not every neopagan feels that way and I understand and respect that but I do not draw an arbitrary distinction between the traditional and the useful; nor am I particularly enamored of pseudo-archaism as a fashion statement. To me, magic is nothing if it isn’t useful and whatever gets the job done is as sacred as anything else – if one even wants to apply the term “sacred” to something like the tools of magic in the first place. I absolutely believe in the sacred, in forces and experiences and moments that are larger than ourselves and in the presence of which the greatest respect and dignity come from a quiet appreciation, but I don’t think I expand my own understanding of those moments by putting the vehicles that get me there on some metaphorical pedestal. If one can’t draw a circle with a laser pointer then there’s no way one can do it with a stick; if one can step into sacred space with a stick, one can do it with anything else at hand. Pretending that everything has to be handmade from fairy wings and unicorn toes would be, for my purposes, a failure to take off the training wheels. That isn’t to say I condemn someone whose ritual practices do celebrate the imagery and roleplay of historical fantasy or crafted arts or anything else! I’m saying that my preferred frame of reference is modern and technological; that the most effective tool is just that; and, maybe in my heart of hearts, that a given technology might be worth considering a little sacred for being the most effective or useful.

At any rate, my point: I’m nothing like alone in these views and I live in one of the white-hot centers of technology and cultural experimentation so why is it impossible to find other technopagans around? There are at least three neopagan groups in possession of or on the verge of purchasing permanent physical spaces in the Triangle but no amount of Googling has turned up anything like a technopagan group. Sheesh.

The Boyf thinks this means I need to start one, but good grief, I have enough to do.

Overheard as characters attempt to escape an ill-considered attack:

Red: “I could mount you, Yuri.”
Yuri: “Well, I’m Medium and you’re Small…”
Red: “See? I could totally mount you.”
Yuri: “You’d need an exotic saddle, though, because I’m a non-standard mount.”
Red: “Oh, I’d ride you bareback.”
The Boyf: “Jeez! Buy him dinner first!”

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