So next week we make the transition from CWI to Fluor Idaho
out at work – moving from one contract to the next. And as I’m not a direct
employee of either CWI nor Fluor Idaho, you’d think it wouldn’t affect me.
But it does, in that I’m being laid off. For a day.
That just means my Memorial Day weekend will extend through
Tuesday, rather than ending on Monday. Old contract expires March 26, but the
new one doesn’t kick in until June 1. I don’t understand why things work out
that way, but the important thing is I still have a job.
Still undetermined, however, is how things are going to work
under the new contract – because we’re not just moving from A to B. We’re
moving all the way down to X as what have been two separate waste treatment
projects – our work at RWMC and work “across the fence’ at AMWTP are now one
big happy family.
I have not even an inkling of how that will affect me as a
technical writer. I assume they have at least one like me over there. Will we ever
interact? Trade jobs (that doesn’t seem likely) or never cross that fence into
the other’s territory (also likely) or get some kind of cross training so we
can help each other out (that would make sense, but this is government work, so who knows if what makes sense is going to
(I’m going through all of this just like Guy Fleegman from
Galazy Quest, “Just jazzed to be on the show.” I don’t even care if I’m there
as plucky comic relief, just as long as there’s a steady paycheck in it all
(now I’m channeling Winston Zeddemore).
NOTE: Editing continues on Doleful Creatures. This is a possible new chapter, shaping a character whose presentation has shifted quite a bit in this edit. Manuscript formatting stuck in the copy/paste, so I'm leaving it in.
Chapter Twenty-One: Whoso Is Simple, Let
Him Turn In Hither
Aloysius hated being the fool.And fool is what
Landi would call him.
“But who’s more foolish? The one dead, or the one
alive?” he growled. And his world remained dark and small.
“She has forsaken the foolish,” he said quietly.
“She deserved the wise.”
As he walked he studied his feet. Quick march down
the muddy path, claws raking the dirt. Brush aside the wet grass and fallen
branches with his forehead and snout, rarely slowing, always going. Brambles
stuck in the fur on his head, and sometimes an eye scratched by a bent nettle.
“Fool,” he whispered.
“A fool you are not,” Landi said.
Aloysius’ eyes stung as he heard her speak.
“You are wise, like your father. Like your father
taught you to be. He was no fool. Stubborn, yes, the both of you. But not
foolish. Never,” Landi said. “When the ice dam threatened to flood the setts
closes to the stream, your father showed his wisdom. Those who didn’t listen
and didn’t move are the fools. The poor, drowned fools. They will listen to
you, the wise ones. Talk to them, please.”
“But it is Jarrod they love.”
“Nonsense,” Landi replied. “You’ve lived with
these beavers longer than Jarrod. They know you. They trust you. And if they
love Jarrod, perhaps it is because when they say good morning to him, he
replies good morning back, rather than grunt a reply or not reply at all. It is
in that you are foolish.”
“My father never taught me to suffer fools.”
“Yet he suffered them all the time, Aloysius.”
“They came to him for advice and he chased them
“As was his way. But he went to find them after,
even after your mother died, and they were always glad of it.”
“They always came back. Even if he bit them.”
“I know Jarrod is your friend,” Landi said. “He is
dear to me. But the beavers will listen to you as well. They are being foolish,
with this scheme of theirs. You know it. Building a dam that big will bring the
humans here, and you know what humans can do. Tell them. Tell them and they’ll
“They will hate me,” he said. “They want this. I
hear them talk every night of the deep water. The wide ponds.”
“They may well hate you. But only for a little
“Or for a long time. They fill their heads with
deep water, water where the mud settles and where they can swim clear with
their eyes open. They will say I, an outsider – even a beloved outsider –
robbed them of what could have been.”
“Or revere you for preventing what could happen.”
“Could. Could. Not will. There will always be that
regret, in the backs of some minds. The wonder if they had built the dam that
long, that tall, and let the ponds fill that wide and that deep; the wonder
that man might not come at all and leave them in the deep peace they desire.”
“Will you let them have Jarrod as a hero?”
They both laughed. Timid Jarrod, afraid of the
water. Rebekah would dive with the beavers and swim, if only briefly, with the
badgers, as fearlessly as she flew with the hawks. But Jarrod jumped still at
his own shadow and cried warning if so much as a sparrow flew unannounced over
the heads of the kits.
But he flew. Even though he flew neither as high
nor in as dangerous company as Rebekah, he flew. And he was male – something
the beavers regarded as supernal in a leader. And he told them of man – what
little he knew watching the sleepy denizens of Purdy Farm halfheartedly plow
and sow and harvest – and allayed their fears that man would come if they
pursued their dream of the dam and the pond it would hold.
Aloysius growled and shook his head.If he were
How many times had he tried to kill that flying
And how many times, at the last moment, had he
proved to be a fool and let the magpie live?
“Do we let things live,” his father asked, “Or is
it He who lets us live?”
Sparrows shouted alarms and darted from the lower
branches as Aloysius again shook his head.
Revenge, he recalled his father saying, is the
path that leads from the smoke to the forest fire.
Yet had he talked, they might yet be alive. His
Landi might yet be alive . . .
Aloysius felt the smoke in his eyes. It curled
about him, whispered in his ears and showered his back with soot as if in a
gentle summer rain. He felt each drop, each flake of ash, fall through his fur
to wet or burn his skin.
Forsake the foolish, and live. Go in the way of understanding.
His walking slowed as he felt the smoke, the ash,
tugging at his skin, pulling on his limbs.
He shook himself yet again but the smoke clung to
his fur. As the bellows and screams and laments clung to his ears.
That he had spoken.
That he had spoken.
“Shame,” he said to himself. “Shame and blot!” He
rubbed his paws, darted through the brush and stumbled into the creek, rubbing
and rubbing his paws. “Shame and blot,” he echoed. “Shame and blot.”
In the reflection in the water, he saw Landi. “Come,”
she said. “Eat of my bread, and drink – ”
“Shame and blot!” he bellowed and splashed out of
the water back into the brush. “Shame and blot.”
In honor of Burt Kwouk, British/Chinese character actor who
passed away today at the age of 85, I present a ranking of the best
Cato/Clouseau battles from the Pink Panther movies:
PROS: The scariest. First attack by Cato, so you don’t
really know what’s going on until the denouement. This could be a real assassin
trying to take out our favorite French detective.
CONS: Low on the physical comedy. And we don’t really get to
enjoy it until he picks up the phone and we figure out what’s going on.
PROS: We’re introduced to Clouseau’s Killing Blow after the
initial fight is over. And we get a peek into future attacks and the reason
behind their expected growth in intensity.
CONS: Way too short, as it’s over in less than 45
seconds.Again, little physical comedy.
PROS: Anticipation. We’re now primed for his attack, but it
doesn’t come immediately. We feel the tension build as Clouseau wanders the
apartment, hands in defensive positions. First surprise attack from unexpected
location. Clouseau makes excellent fight noises. First in-fight slow-mo and
in-camera fear shot by Clouseau.
CONS: Over far too soon. Cheap shot with the “Your fly is
PROS: “This is not the time/This is the time” joke.
CONS: SHORTEST FIGHT YET.
PROS: Cato in drag. Return of the “Time and a place” joke
and slow-motion disaster.
CONS: Francois taking an unnecessary hit.
PROS: Best Cato reveal as his face appears in the bed
canopy. Best weapons placement, randomly through the apartment. Best use of
fast motion and slow motion combined. Best kill shot on random apartment stuff
with death of TV. Best Clouseau weaponry ineptitude as he tosses his kendo
stick. Best involvement of a non-participating (Dreyfus) eating it in the
apartment below. Best bellow in fear from Clouseau. Best camera work following
Cato on the hunt. Best use of the “we’re back to back and then turn around and
see each other” gag. Best post-fight kill line: “Relax, I’ll get it.”
CONS: Hard to say. This one’s pretty damn good.
PROS: Best “falling through the hole cut in the floor gag”
with Clouseau trying to mix his breathing in with the sound of the saw.
Wonderful CLouseau noises as he chases Cato up the stairs. And I love how he
falls through the hole in the floor a second time, and how he pulls Cato
through the hole after the phone call is done.
He rages – rightly, I believe -- against corruption and
nationalism that have “discredited” the modern Olympic movement.
Here’s the part of his argument I want to explore further:
The truth is that incentives influence behavior. And
participants in the Olympics, at all levels, face overwhelming incentives,
financial and political, to cheat – or try to cheat – whether by using
performance-enhancing drugs, rigging the venue selection or raking off
government funds, which most nations borrow and spend like water in pursuit of
ephemeral economic stimulus.
I don’t have solutions to doping. But I think there’s one
viable solution that could get the corruption and fund abscondage out of the
way: Take the money out of the Olympics.
And you take the money out of the Olympics by hosting them
in cities that do not have world-class facilities and will not pay or borrow to
build them. Hold them, for example, in towns like the one I grew up in: Idaho
Falls, Idaho, USA.
At 58,000 people, Idaho Falls would not be the smallest town
to host the Olympics. But consider this: There are no gigantic sports arenas in
town. Melaleuca Field, home to the bush league Idaho Falls Chukars baseball team,
has only 3,750 seats. There are soccer fields and running tracks in town – but
simple ones, owned by the city or the two local school districts.
And those and other similar facilities are where Olympic
events could be held.
Laugh, clown, laugh. But continue listening.
Does every host city need to build enormous stadiums and
sports centers and Olympic villages to host a successful Olympics?> That’s
what the fund-absconders, bribe-takers, and perk-seekers want people to
believe. But when you get right down to it, runners and sprinters could get
used to running on a high school track. Soccer players could play in the OldButte Soccer Complex.
No one in their right mind would come to an Olympics stages
so spartanly, would they? Not if they’re looking to line their pockets or
hobnob with the hoi-polloi or scrape funds away from the masses. But maybe
people who like sports – remember sports, the events that actually take place
at the Olympics – would come to watch them. Hell, we’ll even spring for some
bleachers for the soccer fields so you don’t have to bring your own chairs. And
if you want a lunch, brown-bag it.
If there’s no perks, if there’s no millions of dollars
floating around for new complexes, there’s no money to steal. If there’s no
money, the money-grubbers go away, unless they want to start knocking over
lemonade stands on the way out to watch soccer.
I know I am not a logistics genius. But if you make the vast
amounts of money go away when you host the Olympics, the ideals of sport
remain, right? People can still win Olympic gold medals if they’re not doing it
in a $750 million stadium, right? Or am I missing something?
Call me a simple fool. I’m used to that. But I’m a fool who
believes the Olympics – or any event – could still be done, and done well, by
cutting 99.9% of the money out of it.
Here is why you read books over and over and over again,
especially if you’re a writer: You notice the hooptedoodle and how it adds, or
detracts, from the story.
First, a reminder of what hooptedoodle is. From Steinbeck:
”I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me
what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like
from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he
says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want
a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty
words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was
set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up
with the story.”
This gem comes from the
prologue to “Sweet Thursday.”
I’m re-reading Arthur C.
Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” (don’t get me started on the Gentry Lee
collaborations in later Rama books) and the hooptedoodle really stands out in
this one. Not that he’s got much there, but it is there, and when I mention it,
those who have read Rama through the eyes of a writer will know immeidately
what I’m talking about: The simps. Superchimps. Mentioned in one chapter, then
only fleetingly in the book. Not essential to the story or plot at all. Even
the simps’ caretaker disappears from the book. So the simps are hooptedoodle.
And the book would be just fine without them. Yes, they are a bit of good
science fiction (explaining the monkeys are there for cooking, housecleaning,
etc., able to do the work of 2.75 men per simp), but it’s science fiction
I have no idea how many times
I’ve read this book (I enjoy it immensely for its speculative story). This is
the first time I’ve noticed the hoopetedoodle, though. I don’t know why it
stood out this time. Perhaps because I’m editing a book of my own and noticing
it’s riddled with hooptedoodle.
Recognize hooptedoodle in
others’ writing so you can find it and kill it, when necessary, in your own.
I realized over the weekend that I left my “Rebuking
the Wise Man” post a little flat at the end, neglecting to explain further why
I brought Meredith Wilson’s “Sadder but Wiser Girl” into the mix.
Revision makes us wiser.
And yes, sometimes sadder.
But Meredith Wilson has
an anthem for revision:
I flinch, I shy, when the lass with the delicate air goes by
I smile, I grin, when the gal with a touch of sin walks in
I hope, I pray, for Hester to win just one more A
The sadder but wiser
girl for me!
What do I mean when I say revision sometimes makes
It’s more than cutting scenes or killing characters
– although that can be essential. It’s realizing that, sometimes, the story we
set out to write is not the one we were writing when we finished the first
draft. Or the third draft. Or the tenth. Revision is much more proof of
evolution than anything I’ve seen in the natural world. The story you thought
you had is not the one you end up with – unless you’re far more disciplined a
writer than I am, which is not outside the realm of possibility.
But just as Hester has that, ahem, experience Harold
Hill so likes, a writer keen on revision has studies his or her story to the
point he knows where the flaws lie, and has a general sense of how to correct
them, and goes on to do so, whether the task is pleasant or not. The sadder but
wiser revisionist plods on, though some of what he or she has experienced isn’t
all that pleasant and results in “winning just one more A” from time to time.
So, School District No. 93, you got your bond to build a
third high school. Whether or not I’m “fur it or again’ it” doesn’t matter.
It’s done. Here’s what I want to talk about: Traffic.
Has anyone in the school district office or on the school
board tried to pick up or drop off students at Hillcrest High School or
Sandcreek Middle School? And if you have, have you noticed traffic around the
schools is a bit of a mess?
OWEN STREET: If you’re not getting run over by an aggressive
parent dropping off a kid, you’re going to have to deal with a fleet of buses
squeezing into a really, really small space with all those cars. And there’s
only one way out.
THE DERRALD AVENUE PARKING FUNK: So you decide to take
Derrald Avenue into the school complex. Don’t do it at the beginning or end of
school – you’re going to get run over or blocked in or otherwise botheredby backups in the parking lot. Again, there’s
only two ways out.
THE EAST PARKING LOT FUNK: Abandon all hope, ye who don’t
want to turn left on Sunnyside or, worse yet, think cutting through the parking
lot to Derrald Avenue is a good idea. Once again, only two ways out.
Maybe that doesn’t sound all that bad to you.
If it doesn’t, you haven’t lived it.
I have children at both schools. If I want to pick up a
child at one school, I take a certain route to that school. If I want to visit
the other school, well, the same route doesn’t necessarily apply. Because
there’s no way through campus. Just to it.
I am no traffic engineer. You ought to talk to a few of
them, first for your existing campus in Ammon and second for your new campus.
They can help you look at your traffic
situation and show you, with a little bit of smarts and a little bit of money,
how to get traffic moving efficiently and safely.
I am no traffic engineer, but I’ve got some ideas you ought
to show a professional. Maybe they’re worthwhile.
A – Derrald Avenue/Owen Street Connection. Why not put those
streets through? Oh – I can hear it already. We don’t want traffic going
through campus. It’s safer for the children. Those same children who already
cross from the bus lot to the middle school on Owen Street, rather than on that
non-trafficked bit of greenery to the west of the bus lot and south of the
seminary buildings. Putting the streets through would give traffic another in
and another out to the campus as a whole. Worried about speeders? I don’t know
why. You’ve already got drivers blocking the tail end of Wen dropping kids off
or trying to weave through the buses going out of the lot. Why not put the
street through and give traffic a more natural flow out of the area?
B and C (combined) Lot Connection – Connect the high school
parking lot to Owen Street and separate the bus traffic from that exit. Again,
you’re giving traffic another way to go, away from the buses. Will people want
to speed through the parking lot? Not any more than they want to speed out of
the area on Owen Street. Separate the in and out traffic with a private road,
put in as many speed bumps as you want. Just give us another in and out that
doesn’t require circumnavigating Ammon to get to the schools.
D – Rawson Street Connection. Why not just connect Rawson
Street to the middle school loop? Keep the loop as a one-way street, but let
folks in and out at Rawson as well as at Owen, to ease congestion at Owen.
I know you’ll probably hear from folks on Rawson Street who
don’t want the school traffic. Well, have them talk to the folks who live on
Owen or Carolyn, and ask them if they’d like to see traffic eased a bit because
there is another exit/entrance option.
Making of the President 1960, The; by Theodore White.
Read in 2017
Asterix Chez les Helvetes, by Uderzo and Goscinny. 48 pages.
Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Double Down, by Jeff Kinney. 218 pages.
Essential C.S. Lewis, The; edited by Lyle W. Dorsett. 536 pages.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. 184 pages.
Good Intentions, by Ogden Nash. 180 pages.
Le Bouclier Arverne, by Uderzo and Goscinny. 48 pages.
Non Campus Mentis, by Anders Henriksson. 150 pages.
Up the Down Staircase, by Bel Kaufman. 340 pages.
Ze page total: 1,704 pages.
The Best Part
Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
"In my experience Miss Crisplock tends to write down exactly what one says," Vetinari observed. "It's a terrible thing when jouralists do that. It spoils the fun. One feels instinctively that it's cheating somehow."