Monday, February 27, 2017

"I'm A Moron. Common Mistake."

Honestly, I don’t try to complicate things. Things sometimes just get complicated around me.

Or, the other explanation – and given the evidence, it’s hard to dismiss – is that I’m a moron.

On occasion, I fail to be detail-oriented. That’s a flaw for a technical writer, and it’s something I’m working on. But right now it appears my occasional failure to be detail-oriented means I’m sitting once again in a cubicle in town as my new badge tries to make its way to me.

Here’s what happened:

About a week and a half ago, I got notification that my new ID badge for work was in. This is the high-security badge that’s the result of a background check and a wait of almost a year (it would be a year as of March 14th). All I had to do was set up an appointment to pick it up.

Here’s where the failure to pay attention to detail falls (and I can’t verify this right now, as my saved emails are on my work computer, and that’s where the evidence lies). 

Apparently in the email it says where to go pick up the badge.

Problem 1: If this is the case (and I’m about 90% sure it is, given the snafu-ed world I’m in) it’s out of their normal practice. Traditionally when I go to get a new badge, it doesn’t matter where I go to pick it up.

Problem 2: Apparently the reason this matters is that these badges can’t be made locally, and have to be mailed.

Problem 3: I wanted to pick up my badge on a Friday, for reasons. Mainly because I don’t have to leave work early (and I mean HOURS early) to get to where I’d need to be to get the badge at either location (one of which, though technically closer to my workplace, is hard to get to as shuttles don’t run there and I’d either have to drive out for the day or see if I could wrangle one of the scarce company vehicles for the trip). If I do it on a Friday, it’s a quick, fifteen-minute errand. Any other day, it would be a minimum of two hours.

Anyhoo, when to pick may badge up Friday, at the wrong place. Very likely my fault, as I failed to notice (likely) there was a specified pickup location. Still . . . 

Sunday night, my current badge got shut off. So I had to be let into the building this morning and am now frittering (and I mean fritterin; memorizin’ jokes from “Captain Billy’s Whiz-Bang” and all) away time as my badge and I try to meet up.

Had I paid attention to detail, I might have discovered where my badge was, and acted appropriately. However, wouldn’t it be nice if we were allowed to decide where to pick up our badges, because I’d pick in town every time just due to the inconvenience of getting to the other location. Those sending the badges out don’t seem to care.

Hopefully by the end of the day I’ll have this all un-fubared and everyone will just look at this episode as an unpleasant memory in an otherwise stellar-to-lackluster career (I have to be honest, because I will continue having my moments).

I’ll file this all under the rubric PAY ATTENTION, ZITBRAIN and try to learn from it. You’d think as an adult I wouldn’t have to keep learning these lessons, but, you know, being an adult is about 90% faking it until you make it.

Ironically, I saved this little self-missive in a public folder where anyone in Document Control could have seen it; fortunately it was only there for a few moments and in a little backwater that would have been difficult for anyone else to find. Still . . . evidence points to me being a moron. On occasion. And hopefully, those moronic moments are getting fewer and further between. One can hope at least.

Further bulletins, of course, as events warrant.

Update: Still badgeless. Badge is in town, but the computer system needed to activate it was down all day. So I try again in the morning.

SECOND UPDATE: I have my badge now. But the lady I saw first thing in the morning -- the same lady whom I've been talking since Friday to get the badge -- asked, first thing, if I had an appointment to get my badge. I wanted to scream. Then she said they typically don't hand out badges until 8 am. I was there at 7. Fortunately, her co-worker was much more accommodating.

Lemme Explain. No, there is too Much. Lemme Sum Up.

As I continue (still!) to work on Doleful Creatures, my object in this revision is to do the opposite of what Inigo Montoya says.

I’ve got to explain. I can’t sum up. Or if I sum up, I have to make sure the summation is shorthand for something I’ve already explained.

I’ve got a representation of God in my story, but he’s called He Who Marks the Sparrow’s Fall. There is, obviously, some reverence attached to him by one of my characters. But I get to the reverence part, and I see there’s no explanation. Or at least one the reader will understand.

I have to remember that readers can’t read between the lines. They can only read what’s on the page. That won’t stop them necessarily from making inferences, but if I want them to go in a certain direction, I can’t lead them there on inference alone.

This reminds me of a few things:

  1. Always put your work away and look at it again with a cold eye.
  2. Levels of edit matter.
  3. One of my USU professors said something like this recently: Teachers sometimes screw up explanations to their students because the teachers rely too much on the shorthand of their own experience to answer the student’s question. If the student asks their peers the same question, they have levels of experience that are similar enough they often can connect with the right answer because they’re closer seeing eye to eye.

This is why I continue to resist the rush to self-publish Doleful Creatures yet. It is just not ready. But I’m getting it closer.

Back to Inigo: His summation works not only because it’s humorous, but because the reader/viewer has already seen in longhand what he’s summing up. It works to get Wesley up to speed – he may indeed have questions – but it also works to keep the readers up to speed because they’ve already seen these events unspool. The reminder works where it needs to. Had it come any earlier in the story, it would NOT have worked. But I’ve known for a long time that William Goldman is an excellent writer, who knows this stuff already. I hope he learned it by trial and error, as I am. He could conceivably be a genius, I will grant. I’m not, so I have to keep plugging away. Not that I mind. Because I’m learning a lot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

“I Figured it Out”

I hate W-4s.

These deceptively simple forms play with my head – and my livelihood.

How many exemptions? How much to withhold? And how quickly do you have to change things when they go awry and you realize you’re letting the Feds hold onto way more money than you should?

One good thing: The company I now work for allows you to change your federal W-4 withholdings online, rather than via submitting a new W-4. That’s helpful. And while it’s less helpful that to change state withholding you have to submit a paper form (why, I have to ask) probably leaving that level pegged a bit higher is better, as we owe the state $59 in taxes for 2016.

A second good thing: I am effectively getting a raise in take-home pay, though insurance with the new company is spendier than it was with North Wind. That is, after the new withholding kicks in. Even then, it was more money, but now it’s even a little bit more additional money. Less I have to hide in the cast on me leg.

One bad thing: Still haven’t received that first paycheck. It’s all academic until the money actually starts coming in. All signals point to it arriving this week. Though you never know. And then I have to sweat as to whether the direct deposit thing is working or not afterward.

Life Held Home

On February 22, 2017, all eyes turned to TRAPPIST-1.

And then squinted a lot. Because this star, you can’t see it. It likes about 40 light years away in the constellation Aquarius.

The water-bearer. Remember that.

Because orbiting TRAPPIST-1, NASA has identified 7 planets, three of which may be warm enough to be home to liquid water.

The planets orbit in a tight group around their star, all well within a circle representing the orbit of the planet Mercury, in a clumpy, resonant configuration similar to that of the Galilean moons of Jupiter.

And I’m not surprised at all.

And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

Moses 1:33

We know there are worlds out there. That some have been found is exciting. But not surprising.

And yet so distant.

Who can visit them? No one, not form our solar system. Not with our present technology, not with our present lifespans. We haven’t been back to Earth’s own Moon for more than 50 years, and it lies a mere 248,000 miles away. The fastest objects ever created – the Voyager and Pioneer Probes, along with New Horizons – are barely beyond the orbit of Pluto, or barely beyond the shock wave that marks the beginning of interstellar space.
We are no closer to these planets than were our ancestors, starting up at the lights in the sky and watching them dance.

And it does not make me melancholy. Because they are not ours to have.

Nor are our planets for others, perhaps looking up at our distant star, much bigger than theirs. They may imagine life in a hostile solar system, where the light and energy put out by our star is so much more intense than theirs. Maybe they look at that third, possibly the fourth planet, as places where water and life may exist.

But they, too, never will visit. All life is held home by the vastness of the spaces between the stars.

Monday, February 20, 2017

"I Gots Millions 'o Emenies. And You is Ten or Twelve of 'em"

Donald Trump says the news media is the enemy of the American people.

A statement, which on the surface is complete trash and, even after deep introspection, is deep trash.

Neil Mackay says social media is “detestable” and represents “everything that is wrong with the world . . . I think it de-intellectualized us I think it has robs us of introspection, which is the most important thing a human being can have.”

Mackay is editor of the 18-year-old Glasgow, Scotland-based Sunday Herald, which, in an unrelated twist, is celebrating its 18th anniversary with plugs tied in with writer David Sharman’s reportage on Mackay’s comments.

I guess it might be fair to say Sharman or his editors saw an opportunity to smash the dull reportage of the paper’s 18th anniversary together with Mackay’s click-ready comments – but you’ve already seen the irony.

(Something else odd: says Mackay himself penned the missive at, but I’m finding it in an article by Paul Trainer at that website.)

So why, you’re aksing, did I bring Donald Trump and his asshattery on news media into this?

Because just as the news media isn’t the enemy of the American people, social media isn’t the enemy of introspection, or intellectualism. Oh, I suppose it can be. It does get pretty echoey. But for the most part I use social media to connect with other writers, to gather research and information for books I’m working on, and, at times, for introspection. I don’t even need German music to introspect, much to the horror of Sherlock Holmes.

Social media is a tool, and depending on how you use it, it can be both good and bad. But those who want to introspect can do so with or without social media, while those who don’t gaze at their own navels from time to time can ignore their bellybuttons to their heart’s content whether there’s social media around or not.

Says Delta1212 at, commenting on the story (summing up pretty well my thoughts on the subject):

It didn’t rob us of introspection. It just made introspective people aware of how many people around them aren’t.

The problem with social media is not that it changed anyone. It’s that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we tend to assume that the people around us are more or [less] like us. Social media opens a window into the thoughts of every person who uses it, which means that we have all suddenly discovered that we are surrounded by crazy people.

That the world didn’t seem to be like this before is a function of our former ignorance, not a result of the medium of our enlightenment changing our natures in any fundamental way.

Thus, Mackay can still be introspective in a world where social media exists, and those who weren’t introspective to begin with can go on being self-oblivious with a new platform to do it on.

The pity here, of course, is that we could all have a conversation on the detestibility and absence of social media introspection along with Mackay – but to do it, we’d have to get on some kind of social media platform. Oh, I guess we could all travel to Glasgow and try to meet up with the man and gaze out the train windows together, but that’s fiscally impossible and rendered grossly inefficient by the social media ties that could bind us all together if we could get beyond the roadblocks that exist in our own heads and are only mirrored on social media.

All of this, of course, was explained centuries ago – in an era devoid of today’s social media – by Plato as he described his Allegory of the Cave.

We are all of us watching the theater, the shadow of the spectacle, going on inside our own heads. Occasionally, we may rid ourselves of our ties and walk to the daylight, and thus see the spectacle in reality, not as shadows on the cave wall. Social media users aren’t all captives, and those prone to introspection aren’t all those who’ve escaped and are walking toward the natural light.

Still doesn’t explain Trump, however.