Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Skipped Chapter 5: In Which We Learn The Future Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be

[If you haven't already done so, please consider reading Chapter 1: Play Time, Chapter 2: Growing Pains, Chapter 3: The Course of True Love and Chapter 4: Time in a Bottle before proceeding with Chapter 5. However, reading the final chapter first could be considered somewhat appropriate, in this case.]

Hello, and welcome to the end of our tale. For reasons that should be apparent soon, an Omniscient Narrator is required from here on. So the universe blinked like Barbara Eden and your wish was granted, before you even knew you needed to make it. Consider this your guided tour of the end, and the beginning, and everything in between.

So. The universe, it turns out, operates under a few hard truths that aren't open for debate, no matter how much we might like to. It can be disconcerting, for example, to consider, that, viewed from the proper distance, every creature that has ever lived or will ever live is indistinguishable from the next. Certainly, close inspection will always reveal individual characteristics, but pull back far enough and... bang! they all start to look alike! Fred and Ethel: who can tell the difference? Man and mouse: two peas in a pod! Towering, mighty Redwood and sentient ectoplasmic cloud from Orion Three: identical twins, separated at birth! And those births lead inexorably to deaths, bookending a series of meaningless-from-a-distance events (Life, to those in the midst of one), every one of them the same, as viewed from the wrong end of the telescope.

And is it at all comforting to learn that, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, there are no coincidences? Perhaps one doesn't immediately recoil at that thought, but does the notion of random chance imply free will, and if so, does the harsh confirmation that both are myths fill the mortal heart with dread? And if it did, would the universe care one bit?

But surely none of this unwanted didacticism interests you nearly as much as the plight of one Richard Dunfrey, yes? All this talk of birth/life/death and things happening for a reason hardly seems to apply to the matter at hand, you'd point out.

So what of Mr Dunfrey? Let us turn our collective gaze toward the sixty-three year old gentleman, sweeping floors and collecting trash at the Waterloo Science Institute, in the year 2029, as Richard and his contemporaries would refer to it. Four years earlier, Richard's money finally ran out. The accumulated retirement wealth of his parents, barely touched by them before first she, and then he, completed their cycle of birth/life/death, kept him well-supplied with alcohol and pain-killers and satellite TV, as well as a comfortable hole to crawl into, for nearly two decades. But then it was gone, and it was time for Richard to jump off a very high bridge, or get a job. It didn't take him long to figure out that returning to accountancy was no option, since the Tax Code stands still for no man, and eighteen years is a very long time to be out of the game.

And so Richard found his choices limited. With encouragement from sister Laurie, who'd long since given him up for dead but in the span of one long conversation late into the evening sensed a chance for his resurrection, our Mr Dunfrey walked into the Material Waste Office at WSI with head held high and walked out a recycled member of society. Was it his proud bearing that landed the job, or the referral he received from his brother-in-law? Irrelevant to Richard, and to our story.

Much more relevant is that, on this particular night, four years after rejoining the world of the living, Richard wasn't the only person inside the walls of the Science Institute. It's of course no coincidence that Richard was there, nor that Dr Peter Schuman was there, nor that Schuman and his co-workers were doing what they were doing. Only incomplete data would ever lead one to think it were.

"Hey, Dunfrey," Dr Schuman said, looking up from his computer screen and taking that opportunity to remove his glasses and rub his weary eyes. "How are you doing tonight?"

"Can't complain, Dr Schuman. You guys need to cut back on the coffee, though. There must've been a dozen mugs in the meeting room tonight. What's got you all so busy? Last night half the team was here when I made the rounds after eleven. Those are some crazy hours!"

Peter Schuman probably didn't feel the weight of his next words bearing down on him, but even if he had, it wouldn't have changed anything. It couldn't have.

"Well, I could lose my job telling you this, my friend, but by tomorrow morning it'll be all over the news anyway, so what could it hurt? Come on. I want to show you something that you'll tell your grandkids about."

Richard didn't think it appropriate to tell his companion that he had no children, let alone grandchildren, but simply smiled in response.

The two men left the offices and moved through several access-controlled doors to the facility's lab, which was beyond Richard Dunfrey's security clearance to enter, but not Peter Schuman's. Once inside the large room, filled with tables, shelves and computer monitors, the scientist lead the janitor to a glass-enclosed white chamber the size of a large phone booth.

"Do you have any idea what this is, Richard?"

"Well, I'm guessing it's not a tanning station, so no. No I don't."

"You're looking at the world's first, but most definitely not last, honest to God, certifiably authentic time machine!"

Richard fixed the other man with a stern look that softened quickly. "Hah! I guess I must look pretty dumb, for you to think I'd fall for that one, Doc!"

Schuman blushed, and looked away and then back again. "I'm terribly sorry, Richard. I didn't mean any offense. But I wasn't joking! That's a time machine, even if it's not much to look at."

Richard Dunfrey could only stare back. Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, a tiny voice began to scream just then, but he ignored it.

"We've been working on this for years, you see. We knew we were on the right path as far back as early '24, but it's taken us this long to work through the complex algorithms, build the right components and to come up with the right material to use."

"Material?" Richard's voice cracked as he spoke, and the noise inside his head began to grow.

"Yes! Yes! That's one of the most exciting discoveries we made, just recently! We've fashioned a new substance that was utterly critical to our success in this area. It's unlike anything that's existed before! For one thing it's extremely sensitive to the chronal energies we've harnessed."

Richard ran his right hand through his grey hair. "I... I'd like to see this new substance," he said, though he already knew what we was going to see.

"Oh, of course! It's all part of the tour, now, isn't it? Haha. Yes, just let me unlock the container," he said, and applied the thumb and forefinger to either side of a reader on a nearby table, causing the lid of a small box to whisper open hydraulically.

Richard closed his eyes because he didn't need to see to know what Dr Schuman would retrieve from the box. He didn't anticipate the scientist using a small set of forceps to handle the item, but he wasn't at all surprised to see what rested between the metal tongs.

"I've... seen that before," Richard said through gritted teeth.

"What's that? No, I'm afraid that's impossible, unless you've been in here snooping over the last few days! No, this was only finished last weekend, and quite the cause for celebration it was, too! Just look at it! Who's ever seen a shade of green quite like that before? We've dubbed it the Temporal Retainer because of its unique ability to absorb the energy involved with time itself! Extremely exciting stuff, eh? It's demonstrated other characteristics, too, that we've only begun to understand."

"I don't expect that you'll believe me. Hardly anyone ever did. It's hard to..."

But before Richard could say another word, a loud claxon began sounding, causing both men to reach to cover their ears.

Recovering first, Peter exclaimed "Oh my God!" with a look of sheer terror on his ashen face. "That's.. that's impossible! We can't have lost integrity!" He turned toward the time chamber as he spoke, dropping the forceps as he did so. "There's no way we could've built up another energy to break the... I must..."

Between the screeching voice only he could hear, and the alarm bell in the lab, Richard Dunfrey couldn't have formed a conscious thought to save his life, and yet still he reached down to the floor and picked up the green object he'd encountered several times before, and held it tightly in his fist.

As he did so, an inconceivable wave of time exploded outward from the small chamber before him. In a period of time so short that no human scientist had ever coined a unit small enough to describe it, everything in the universe recoiled from the violation it'd just experienced, ending all existence in a burst of whiteness that enfolded everything, from one end of the universe to the other and everything in between.

And this was the final secret of the universe revealed, spelled out in glorious detail for all to see, except that there were none to see it. And the secret was this: that every universe, like every creature in it, has a life cycle to be observed, if you could just gain the proper perspective to take it all in. They're all the same, these universes that come into being, exist for a few paltry billion or trillion Earth years, and then end. And they all begin the same way, and ultimately end the same way, no matter how much the microscopic details between the terminus points may change from one to the next. They all end, as we just laid witness to, when the inevitable finally occurs: some sentient race, somewhere within the vast expanse of the universe's boundaries, travelling along the path to enlightenment that leads to the wheel, or space travel, or unified mind collectives, or transmutation, stumbles blindly upon the ability to manipulate time. Always the same. Indistinguishable, in all but the basest considerations. Sometimes, a race perfects time travel first, and avail themselves of the opportunities it promises, only to learn how limited those opportunities actually are. Or perhaps a mistake is made right at the initial moment of discovery. It doesn't matter; the fact remains constant that time is easily broken by those who learn how to touch it, and sooner or later, at some point, it's mishandled, and time ends.

Only to start anew. Because that's as inevitable as the ending. The energy has to go somewhere, after all. And so a new universe is born instantly on the heels of its predecessor, and the cycle begins again. An endless series of Big Bangs and White Outs and Big Bangs and White Outs, laid back-to-back-to-back-to-back for all eternity. And the details that happen in between the bookends are always the same, identical in all ways except the details, which are after all only of interest to the fleeting inhabitants of each universe who live just long enough to see an infinitessimally thin slice of the show.

But of course no one survives to see the next act because of the destructive force involved in pressing the Reset button. All of the matter returns to its original shapeless form, in order to be dispersed anew each time. Some immeasurably small amount of that energy escapes each time, and so a select few of the universe'e creatures are born with just the slightest touch of awareness of the shape of time around them, and they become prophets and seers. To them, the nature of the universe is clearer, at least. They see time as it truly exists, an unchanging sequence of events that are pre-determined from the moment of creation. Most who are gifted in this way shy away from this knowledge because of the inherent implications about free will, and choice, and destiny. Entire religions form and flourish and die combatting such notions, while still playing off the knowledge of an inevitable ending to their own purposes.

For Lady Fatima, unfortunate enough to be born with this gift at a time when the end was only a few generations (a blink!) away, so desperately close as to be nearly within her own lifetime, it became harder with each year to convey truths from her use of second sight. By the end of her time, her only recourse was to sell lies of comfort and joy to those who she knew would barely outlive her, regardless of the fullness of Life they felt about themselves.

And so our story ends. As should be clear, though, the end of one story is always the beginning of another. So be of good cheer! One door closes, and another opens!

"But wait," you say! "What of the green object, the so-called Temporal Retainer, the emerald imp that bedevilled Richard Dunfrey again and again, coming and going like a shiftless friend?"

What indeed?

At the moment that Richard Dunfrey, and Peter Schuman, and everyone else on the planet Earth, and every other sentient creature in the universe, were all whisked from the stage, one thing survived, albeit in a most unconventional way.

The chronal energy released in that lab affected the Resonator in a manner that would've done its creators proud, had they only survived long enough to appreciate it. Because of its specific composition, two significant events occurred as the universe ended its dance. First, the object bonded at a molecular level with its surroundings, which happened to be one Richard Dunfrey, more specifically a cell or two of his tightly clenched fist. This was one of the characteristics the object's creators had just began to explore, and something that would've been immeasurably helpful in its planned trips through time, once living creatures had ventured with it. Would have, could have, but never did.

Secondly and simultaneous with that wonderous development, the object's sensitivity to things temporal resulted in it being thrown through time, in the only direction it could move, given the dead end that the future then represented. Like a rock thrown across a pond, this unthinking thing skipped out across time, on its inevitable trip to points gone by. Each time it dipped back into the timestream, still moving backwards but in normal time, it found its way to its home base, as it were, in the person of Richard Dunfrey, wherever he happened to be. As it did so, it released some portion of the energy with which it had been thrown, so to speak, imbuing its host with glimpses of times it had passed in its reverse path to him.

So a drunken forty-one year old Dunfrey briefly observed the object of his anger, blinking into and out of existence while he crawled ever deeper into a bottle. For the time traveller, the past was where it had come from, and so Richard saw the white glare of existence ending. This vision was correctly interpreted by the slumped Dunfrey as his own death, but he failed to appreciate the grander scope of what he'd seen. For all that it mattered.

Flying back and back again, the object next reappeared sixteen years earlier. It flew up into Richard's outstretched hand on that bridge, and imparted the second vision to its host: that of Kate's eventual involvement with another man, undoubtedly because of her physical contact with him as they stood there. It then remained in the twenty-five year old's pocket while he and Kate walked backwards to Kate's apartment, where Richard carefully placed the green anomaly into a cupboard in the kitchen. All this was accomplished before moving on again.

Each hop shorter than the one before it, the object next appeared in the Grade 9 Dunfrey's backpack which was then removed from the locker and placed on his back, just as Richard was shown a vision of impending doom for his school mates. He carried the object around with him for several hours afterwards, moving like a film in Rewind mode, backing into this classroom and that one, before finally placing it in Paul McClusky's locker and closing the door, after which it lost contact with its host again and vanished back out of the timestream one final time.

And then, a mere 5 years later (or earlier, from Richie's point of view), running out of temporal energy, it performed its final dive back into normal time, arriving under its host's pillow, where it expended its last reserve of time-travelling juice unwittingly granting the nine year old a prophetic dream of the near past (or immiment future, depending on your perspective) in which he received the brunt of his mother's temper. Depleted of all temporal energy, it could do nothing then but take part in Richie's games, in which superheroes placed imaginary bombs in dangerous places and then flew away backwards to confer on their scheme. Eventually Richie tired of this inverted playtime and wandered out of the house, moving backwards to a point in the woods where he dug a shallow hole for his toy and placed it in the cavity. Richie then proceeded to cover it up until only a small rounded portion was left exposed, before wandering away forever.

From that point on, things got considerably more boring as the Resonator moved very little, except as continents shifted and the planet formed over the next few million years while time continued to unwind relentlessly. Eventually this billion year old item, no longer recognizable and yet still itself, found its molecules, along with the tiny molecular structure of Richard Dunfrey that it had bonded with, present at the birth of its universe, where it could finally die. And thus Richard Dunfrey, in a fashion that no human mind could've accepted and yet Lady Fatima somehow knew, managed to be present at both the end and the beginning of existence. And of course all of this, as time moved in both directions (or not at all, if the truth be known), happened because it always happened and always would happen, every detail pre-ordained and every creature on a path whose grip no force could break, lest it break everything.

Or so the story goes, at any rate.

Oh, and Trick or Treaters?

We've had 9 so far tonight, and it's past 7:30 (so we probably won't get too many more). That's right, 9 trick or treaters. And, just to be safe, we've got candy for about 40. I can already feel a month-long sugar high starting to kick in...

Final Tally: 12

Who's the good-lookin' nerd in the JLA T-shirt?

That's me, of course, with 25,999 of my closest friends. Not all of them fit in the picture, but you get the general idea.

Over seventy posts in a month? Who has that much to say?

Today marks the end of my first month of blogging on Blogger (and what little I'd been before that, on MySpace, was spectacularly unspectacular). I seem to have produced just over seventy posts in that time, or an average of around two and a half blog entries per day. From what I can tell, that's a high output. So it seems unlikely I'll be able to maintain that pace going forward, but on the other hand, I love to write! Probably moreso than most people blogging these days, in fact, so maybe others' experiences don't apply? But once again: only time will tell.

By my unofficial tally, I've had comments from 5 people so far: Tammy, Vicki, Jim "The Human Calculator" Hinckley, Danelle and Peter J. Tammy deserves special mention as # 1 Fan Supreme, having commented more than all the others combined, although I fear that has more to do with procrastination (where schoolwork's concerned) and boredom than any intrinsic value within the blog material itself. Regardless, though, it wouldn't be the same experience for me without her, so thanks and kisses go out to her!

Now I really should start working on Chapter 5, since I know it's going to take a few nights to get it done, and done right.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Chapter 4, on the other hand...

... only took about an hour to write. Given that it's a drunken stupor written by a non-drinker, it's probably a brick or two short of a load, but I'm trying.

And Tammy should be happy she only had to wait a couple days for Chapter 4. Chapter 5 wraps it all up (in a bow, if I'm lucky) and is going to take awhile. The clues are all there, although I'll be the first to admit they're obscure. Hopefully the story will be fun to read regardless of whether or not you buy the resolution completely.

Skipped Chapter 4: Time in a Bottle

[If you haven't already done so, please consider reading Chapter 1: Play Time, Chapter 2: Growing Pains and Chapter 3: The Course of True Love before proceeding with Chapter 4.]

It's not like I needed that stupid job, anyway! I got money left over from dad's estate and I'll just live on that for awhile. If those jerks're gonna get all bent outta shape just cuz I have a drink or two at lunch, screw 'em! Who wants to work with a buncha uptight pricks, anyway? I'm glad to be leavin' all that crap... all that lousy, mind-numbin', ass-kissin' crap behind! No more fillin' out sick day reports in triplicate, no more gettin' my head chewed off for bein' a few minutes late for meetings, no more fuckin' lectures from ol' Stewie! I'm sicka alla that... that...

Yeah, I'm just gonna sit here in this comfy chair, enjoy a little JD on the rocks, an' think about alla the stuff I'm done with. Like, OK... I'm done with Kate. Well, OK, maybe she was done with me first! But still! No more workin' so hard everyday to make like I didn't know she'd dump me in the end, on accounta knowin' it before we even got married! God damn stupid green piece of crap, showin' me stuff I never asked to see! Never wanted to see. Never shoulda seen. I shoulda been on that school trip. Why can't I stop dreamin' about the ones who...

Nah, that's stupid thinkin'! What's it matter? On the trip, not on the trip, whatsa the difference? Here I sit, just me, and JD, and we couldn't be happier! I ain't even missed Kate that much over the last six months, so who cares? She's got herself a new man, and surprise! he's a doctor! Didn't see that one comin', much, did I? Course I did! Whatta I look like to you? Stupid? I may be crazy, but I ain't stupid, stupid! Hah! I'm with Stupid. Stupid is as stupid does. Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Huhhhhhh. I'm tired. I wonder what Laurie's up to. Maybe I'll call her. Where's that cellphone? Why's it always goin' missin'? Jesus, at least you could find phones before... now they're always fallin' between the cushions and behind the bed and... Aw never mind, Laurie'd just rag on me for drinkin' anyway and who needs that noise? I'm better off here by myself anyway. Just me and... where'd I put that bottle? Here, bottle bottle... Oh there you are! Tried to hide, didn'ja, but I found ya!

What was I gonna do again? I was gonna... no, that's not it. I was lookin' for somethin'. What the Hell was I lookin' for? Hey, look at that! I musta been lookin' for my li'l green buddy, my li'l now-you-see-me, now-you-don't magic whatchamacallilt, cuz there you are! Look atchoo! Sittin' right there on my table, all innocent like, like you didn't just appear outta nowhere, like I could reach right over and... nah, I don't think so, buddy! I don't even think yer really there. Maybe you were never there. Maybe I been imagin' you all along.

Now what are you...? Oh no you don't. Don't! I don't wanna see no more stuff from the future! Oh, so that's the way it's gonna be, huh? That wasn't much of a vision, you know what I'm sayin'? Just a big white light.. oooh, scary! I'm shakin' now! Go toward the light, Richie! Yeah, I'll get right on that! You know what? Yer fulla shit, that's what!

Ohhh, and now yer gone again! Did I hurt yer feelin's this time? Well, guess what? I don't care! I don't care if yer right or if yer wrong, or if you saved my life or if you screwed up my Kate.. I just don't care anymore! I'm just gonna sit here and enjoy my only friend in the world, Mr Jack Daniels, and to Hell with any green bullshit things that don't even exist! I got everythin' I need right here and nothin' else matters right now.

Maybe I'll watch a li'l TV if I can just find that remote...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dark by 6:00 PM? What of the poor cyclist?

This is typically the day of the year when I look outside around 5:45 or 6:00 in the afternoon, realize it's pretty much pitch black out there, and think, "Oh, right.. biking home after work's going to be a problem now, isn't it?" (Yes, it's Time Change Weekend!) From a purely selfish point-of-view, I wish they'd hold the time change off another month, because November's often an OK month for riding my bike to work. Considering I only averaged 2 days/week in October this year, thanks to the rain and more rain and then some more rain, I guess I'll be lucky if I can get in even half a dozen more rides before parking the bike for the winter. But it's just that little extra impediment of having to get out of work by no later than 5:00, in order to make it home before dark, that I could really do without in November.

Not that it's all about me... but couldn't it be?

Odds & Sods

I finally had a chance today to read Planetary # 26, which I'd bought this week. It appears this'll be the 2nd last issue of that great title, and it pretty much wraps up the amazing story that's taken about 6 years or so to tell. For my money, this is Warren Ellis' signature comic series, although I know many folks prefer Transmetropolitan, a title I've never gotten into. Planetary is the kind of series that, once the final issue comes out and they announce a mega hardcover collection of it, I'll spend the ridiculous wad of cash required to own a second, unified copy so I can re-read it more easily and loan it out to interested parties (like I do with Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Sandman, and Kingdom Come, and wish I could do with Miracleman, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing issues, and The Dark Knight Returns, but don't own the hardcovers). It's just that good!

Speaking of Ellis, I think I'm adding his blog page to my short list, since it seems to be interesting. For example, I loved the article he posted the link to proving that vampires are a mathematical impossibility (take that, Buffy and Anne Rice!).

And finally, I catalogued a couple weeks' worth of new comics today, and discovered that the collection is sitting at 25,999. That's right: 1 comic shy of 26,000. And the funny part is: a Civil War spin-off title, Civil War: Choosing Sides, was supposed to be out last week, and I had planned to check it out and buy it if it looked good. But it never made it here, at least not to my local comic store. So I was that close to hitting 26,000 this past week!

What If They Held A World Series, and Nobody Cared?

OK, that's not fair: fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers almost certainly cared about this year's World Series. But anyone else? Anyone? Bueller?

I was primed to get right into the Series this year, despite the Mets not getting there to complete what I'd hoped would be a classic match-up. But it just didn't live up to.. well, anything!

The rain delays and rain-out certainly didn't help. SportsNet did a viewer poll after the rain-out, asking whether people were losing interest in the series because of the weather problems, and the results were more than 2-to-1 in the affirmative. In the midst of an exciting playoff match, no amount of delay will de-rail most fans' enthusiasm, but that's hardly a description of this one.

Ironically, the last couple games of the series were the best. It was just starting to get interesting, what with the unbelievably bad throws to third base by the Tigers pitchers combined with great offensive bursts by both teams. Leads were actually changing hands during the game! Had things gone just a little better for the boys from Detroit, they could've won either or even both of Games Four and Five, and we could've travelled back to Motown for... who knows? Maybe some thrills?

The one player who I'm likely to remember from this year's World Series is Curtis Granderson of Detroit. Among the first comments I heard about Granderson was one of the Tigers coaching staff quoted as saying, "I don't have a daughter, but if I did, Curtis is the kind of young man I'd want her to marry." That caught my attention, not the least of which because Van Slyke's white and Granderson's black, but also because you don't normally make comments like that about athletes if you think they're liable to get charged with drunk driving, assault, or discharging a firearm sometime in the near future (you know: the typical extracurricular activities of today's young athlete). Then I saw him interviewed at the start of Game Five, with the Tigers facing elimination. He'd been all over the highlight reels the game before, when he slipped and fell on the wet outfield and allowed a fly ball to hit the ground and get the Cards back in the game. But in the interview, he was gracious, enthusiastic, every inch a gentleman and way too mature to possibly be only 25 years of age. In fact, he reminded me of another favourite of mine: Derek Jeter. Only time will tell if he'll have the sort of career Jeter's had (to date) but if skill and a good head on his shoulders counts, he should do well.

30 Rock, Why Do You Crack Me Up So?

For the past couple TV seasons, I've pretty much sworn off the half hour comedy format. I don't know if the genre has just gotten worse over time, or I've seen too many thousands of hours of it to be able to enjoy it anymore, but whatever the reason: sitcoms tend to leave me cold nowadays. I sample the odd few minutes of Two And A Half Men, How I Met Your Mother, or (while it was still on) Everybody Loves Raymond, and it's always the same: telegraphed jokes, unlikable characters and humour aimed at the lowest common denominator. Or maybe I'm just too old for any sitcom that isn't The Simpsons. Whatever.

And then we tried out 30 Rock when it debuted earlier this month. It's the brainchild of, and stars, Tina Fey, from Saturday Night Live, who I've always enjoyed in her Weekend Update role on that show. So we put it on our Give It A Try list for the new season, and had almost forgotten about it by the time it started (it was by far the latest debuting of the new shows on our list). Fortunately, I hadn't really forgotten about it (actual lists, on actual paper, are a good thing!), and so we caught the debut around the middle of the month. And I proceeded to laugh more in that half hour than I normally would in a week of sitcoms!

It's hard to say exactly what works so well about 30 Rock. The premise is oddball, to say the least: Fey plays Liz Lemon, head writer and producer of The Girlie Show, a sketch comedy show that's doing OK in the ratings but has generally stayed under the radar of NBC execs, allowing Fey and friends to basically do whatever they think is funny. Then Jack Donaghy, hilariously played by Alec Baldwin, arrives from another GE division (where he revolutionized convection ovens by introducing a third type of heating) to take over as Lemon's boss and work his special magic on the show.

In the series debut, Jack sends a reluctant (to say the least) Liz out in search of movie funnyman and eccentric-to-the-nth-degree Tracy Jordan (played so over the top by fellow SNL alumnus Tracy Morgan as to almost seem like he's on a different show) as a guest star and potential new regular on The Girlie Show. Clearly modelled after Eddie Murphy, complete with gangsta entourage, but amped up beyond anything even Murphy could be accused of, Jordan's recent escapades include running down the freeway in his underwear screaming, "I am a Jedi!" and being found on someone's roof. It's quickly apparent he's not all there, and yet he has huge audience appeal as the cast of the The Girlie Show discovers when he makes a brief cameo. The studio audience goes nuts, and the ratings go through the roof. By the next day, the show's been renamed to TGS Starring Tracy Jordan, and Liz has to run damage control with the female lead (and her best friend) who's now relegated to second banana status.

The episode from this week had bossman Jack deciding that Liz needed a special someone in her life and so he took it upon himself to set her up with Thomas, a former co-worker of his. Liz fights the idea but since she's not doing so well on the boyfriend front lately, she eventually relents. After handing Liz a wad of money with which to go buy herself some better clothes for the date, he considers the dumpy outfit she's wearing and feels compelled to add, "... at a store that sells women's clothing." That evening, decked out in a drop dead gorgeous outfit, Liz heads out for her blind date, only to discover her date's with a Thomas alright: Gretchen Thomas. Jack had pegged Liz as a lesbian and so naturally set her up with his hottest lesbian friend, Gretchen. The two women quickly become fast friends, despite the lack of any romantic future for them, but even that's doomed when Gretchen realizes she needs to move on to someone with whom she has more prospects. Desperate not to lose her new friend, Liz offers to make a pact: If, in 25 years, they're still single, she'll try to play for the other team (so to speak) and, while she's not really into that lesbian stuff, she'll allow Gretchen to "do things" to her if that makes her happy! At which point, Gretchen walks, of course, throwing over her shoulder a parting shot of disgust that prompts Liz to exclaim, "Hey, wait, that's the same thing my boyfriends always say!"

Not sure if I've captured the feel of the show well or not, but three episodes in, I have to say I'm starting to love it! Tina Fey, in the tradition of Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore (but updated for 21st century sensibilities and sense of humours), isn't afraid to write herself into the most unattractive situations, all in pursuit of laughs. Her character's endearingly flawed in all the right ways. If you didn't love her, the rest of the show wouldn't work; but how can you not? After all, she was going to make a pact to let a lesbian "do things" to her rather than end up alone!

30 Rock. Mondays at 8:00, on NBC. Half an hour of pure fun!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Yeah, that's sure a lot of words, alright!

Some brief comments about what I just finished writing, while it's fresh in my mind.

As I'd expected, Chapter 3 of my little writing experiment Skipped turned out to be a lot of work (if sitting at a keyboard, typing away, can really be considered work when there're people who break their backs doing actual physical labour everyday). I spent about five or six hours writing it, not counting the hour or so of prep time I did upfront, laying out what would go where. That's considerably more than either of the first 2 chapters, maybe more than both combined. Fun!

Also, for the inestimably-obsessed-with-numbers Jim Hinckley, I should point out, since it's only obvious to the blog owner, that Chapter 3 was blog entry # 64. Sixty four. Two to the power of six. Trust me, he cares about things like that. God help us all.

When next I post, maybe I'll write about 30 Rock. Funny show. Tina Fey. What's not to like?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Skipped Chapter 3: The Course of True Love

[If you haven't already done so, please consider reading Chapter 1: Play Time and Chapter 2: Growing Pains before proceeding with Chapter 3.]


[A fortune teller's tent at the circus. Enter Jamie and Rich.]

Jamie: See? Check it out, Rich! It's totally like I expected! Check out the table with the crystal ball, and the curtains, and the incense! It's, like, right out of a movie!
Rich: And that's a good thing? You really think that Lady Fatima getting her interior design tips from old black-and-white Lon Chaney movies is a sign of authenticity?
Jamie: C'mon, man. It shows she's committed to the role! She's probably just giving the rubes what they want, that's all.
Rich: And by rubes, you mean us, right? You know it's just a scam, so why are you so eager to blow twenty-five bucks on something like this?
Jamie: Hey, at this point, I'll take whatever advice I can get!

[Enter Lady Fatima from behind a curtain.]
Lady Fatima: And what sort of advice do you seek, young sir?
Jamie: Holy crap! You scared me, lady! Is that part of the act, too? The whole appearing-suddenly-and-unexpectedly thing?
Lady Fatima: You entered my tent, seeking to know your fortune. I came. What could possibly be unexpected about that? Now, though it grieves me to, I must ask for payment. Have you both coming seeking Lady Fatima's guidance?
Rich: Nah, I'm just along for the ride. He's the only one wanting to have his palms read.
Lady Fatima: Lady Fatima is not a palm reader. I provide answers by sensing your aura and divining the paths you walk that are perhaps invisible to you. Such is my blessing. Such is my curse.
Jamie: [Laughing] Well, you've certainly got the act down pat! I'm almost buying it! Actually, I am buying it. [Hands over money.]
Lady Fatima: Thank you. Now what is it you wish to know?
Jamie: Well, I'm thinking my girlfriend's maybe cheatin' on me, but I don't really have anything to go on beyond a feeling. Can you look into my future and see if it's true? [Winks at Rich.]
Lady Fatima: As I said, I can divine the path you are on. I know naught of your female paramour. I can tell you that your lack of trust will long keep you from making a commitment; but I cannot say whether your fears are justified or not.
Jamie: Well... what kind of a rip-off is that? That's no help! You're basically saying it's all my fault if things don't work out with Gloria!
Lady Fatima: Lady Fatima does not.. rip off.. anyone, young man! Would you like to know your prospects for wealth, or how long you may live, or perhaps what employment opportunities await you?
Jamie: Screw that! You're nothing but a fake! I'm outta here! [Exits.]

Lady Fatima: [To Rich] A moment, if you would.
Rich: Um, I should probably go make sure he cools off before he does something stupid like punch out a clown.
Lady Fatima: Your friend is not my concern. You, however, have an aura the likes of which I've never seen in all my seventy years. Do you know the book of Revelations?
Rich: You mean, in the Bible? I'm not really what you'd call religious. I guess I know it's the last book, and it's all about Armageddon and the end of the world, and all that.
Lady Fatima: Those of us blessed with the gift of second sight, throughout the ages, have known that all things end. Hence, the prophets report it as fact, and most religions include final days in their scriptures, which they then use in their attempts to hold sway over their disciples. While I will not live to see the end of everything, I could tell when you entered my tent that you will. You will be there on Judgment Day, though little judgment there will be, I suspect. And yet... somehow you also hold the beginning within you.
Rich: I have no idea what you're talking about, but you're kinda freakin' me out!
Lady Fatima: It is not important that you comprehend. You walk a path that nothing, no force on Earth, could move you off of. I am truly sorry if I frightened you, but know this: you still have many years ahead of you, so make the most of whatever joy comes your way.
Rich: Yeah, whatever. Live long and prosper, to you, too, crazy lady! [Exits]

Lady Fatima: [Alone] Would that I were crazy. Would that I were.

Act 1, Scene I

[Laurie's apartment. Enter Laurie and Vanessa.]

Vanessa: I can't believe you're trying to fix me up with your brother! You know I hate blind dates!
Laurie: Hey, I promise, Rich doesn't have a foot fetish, and he doesn't collect dolls!
Vanessa: I've already lived those nightmares.. I'm guessing your brother's the type who likes to wear women's clothes or fondle himself in public!
Laurie: Yeah, thanks for that ringing endorsement of my family tree! Look, he's a good guy. A bit subdued sometimes, but he's got his reasons...
Vanessa: Oh, here we go! What's the matter? Did his basketball coach try to kiss him in high school? Or did he finally stop peeing the bed around the time he started having wet dreams?
Laurie: You're a real bitch sometimes, did you know that? Never mind, forget I said anything. Forget I even mentioned setting you two up.
Vanessa: Oh, c'mon, don't be all pouty. I was just teasing. What's big brother's skeleton in the closet? I can keep a secret, you know!
Laurie: Yeah, right! Seriously, never mind. It's something that happened a long time ago that he never talks about anyway. If you do go out with him, you've got to promise me you won't start bugging him about having some secret! Are we clear?
Vanessa: Of course we're clear, dear. Now you've got me intrigued about the mysterious Mr Dunfrey. You have Vanessa's official blessing: go ahead and make it so, little sister!
Laurie: [Looking uncertain] Why am I just sure I'm going to regret this?
Vanessa: Never in a million years. Your brother has no idea how lucky he is!

Act 1, Scene II

[Split stage. Table and chair with telephone, stage left. Couch with small table and telephone, Rich lying on couch, stage right. Enter Laurie, stage left.]

Laurie: OK, big brother, you'd better be home! [Dials phone number.]
Rich: Hello?
Laurie: Hey, bro, how are ya?
Rich: Hey, Laurie! What's up?
Laurie: Do I need a reason to call my only brother?
Rich: No, but I'll bet you've got one! Why else call me on a Saturday morning?
Laurie: OK, you caught me. I want you to meet a friend of mine from work. She's really nice!
Rich: Oh, for God's sake, don't tell me you're trying to set me up again? I don't need my little sister making blind dates for me!
Laurie: I just want you to be happy! What's wrong with that?
Rich: Nothing. But I'm happy enough without you trying to play matchmaker! Those things never work out.
Laurie: This time'll be different, I promise! Look, she's a really busy girl but she's free this afternoon. So how about if you two meet at Miles', at one, and see if sparks don't fly?
Rich: One o'clock? Today?!
Laurie: Yeah, I know it's kinda short notice...
Rich: Kinda?? It's almost noon already! I haven't even showered yet.
Laurie: Look, when opportunity knocks, you need to answer the door, right? I'm gonna call her now, and if I don't call back, assume you're good to go. One o'clock at Miles'. OK?
Rich: [Pause] Yeah, OK. Bye. And thanks, I guess.

Act 2, Scene I

[Miles' restaurant. Clock shows 2:10. Several table and chair sets, most empty. Vanessa seated alone at one set, tapping foot. Enter Rich.]

Rich: [Looks around. Approaches Vanessa.] Hi, are you Vanessa?
Vanessa: Oh my God! You actually had the nerve to show up, over an hour late? Do you have a death wish?
Rich: I'm really sorry! I lost track of time, and then I couldn't remember if Laurie said one o'clock or two o'clock. But now I'm guessing it was one, right?
Vanessa: Well no duh, Einstein! And the only reason I'm still here is I had a feeling you'd eventually slink in here, and I didn't want to miss my chance to do this - [Throws contents of wine glass in Rich's face] Eat shit, loser! [Storms out]

[Enter Kate, from nearby table.]
Kate: [Hands Rich a napkin] For all I know, you may've deserved that, but really! Who sits in a restaurant for over an hour just to throw wine in a guy's face?
Rich: [Wipes face.] Well, apparently she does! Sorry if we disturbed your meal. But now at least you can tell your friends you got caught in a Blind Date Drive-by. Should make an interesting water cooler story at work on Monday, anyway.
Kate: Yeah, it probably will. Well, better luck next time. [Starts to return to table.]
Rich: Hey, listen. I know I probably just made the worst first impression in the history of Mankind, but... As far as I can tell, you might be lunching alone, and I'm definitely facing a Table For One scenario now myself, so what do you say we share a table? You know, make room for other customers?
Kate: [Looks around.] Yeah, you're right. That 2:30 lunch rush is probably about to descend on us any minute now.
Rich: OK, so that was lame. But you're not going to throw wine in my face for it, are you?
Kate: [Laughing] No promises on that front. But... Sure, why not? I hate eating by myself anyway. I'm Kate, by the way.
Rich: Hi Kate. I'm Rich, and maybe someday I'll be famous, too!

Act 2, Scene II

[Miles' restaurant. Clock shows 4:45.]

Rich: You're not seriously suggesting The Two Jakes is as good a movie as Chinatown, though, are you?
Kate: Well, obviously not as good! Chinatown's a classic! But I just think people are unnecessarily harsh toward Jakes, because it is a sequel to such a great film. Judge it on its own merits, and it's an OK movie, not the abomination it's been labelled. It's not like we're talking about Psycho and Psycho II, after all!
Rich: You like horror films?
Kate: Definitely! Who doesn't?! The scarier, the better!
Rich: Oh my God. I think I may be in love!
Kate: Careful, buster! I've still got half a glass of wine left!

Act 2, Scene III

[Miles' restaurant. Clock shows 7:20.]

Rich: That's my sister for you! Her hearts always in the right place, but her head's.. well, you saw Vanessa, right? Hey, I think we'd better order dinner soon or they're going to kick us out. [Pauses.] Are you up for that?
Kate: I'm sure I had other plans for today, but for the life of me, I can't remember what they were. Waiter? Can we get a couple menus, please?

Act 2, Scene IV

[Miles' restaurant. Clock shows 9:00.]

Kate: So that's how I ended up not getting on the cheerleader squad in high school! It was clearly a case of mistaken identity...
Rich: Clearly.
Kate: ... but who wants to be a cheerleader anyway? How about you? On the football team? Date any cheerleaders?
Rich: No, I didn't really... I wasn't much for... High school wasn't a very happy time for me.
Kate: How come?
Rich: I... There was... There was this really weird thing that happened to me that sounds too unbelievable so I usually don't bother even telling people about it.
Kate: You can tell me. If you want to, I mean. I'll believe you.
Rich: Well, no you won't, but... So I was in Grade 9, and I was supposed to go on a Science field trip, except I knew something bad was going to happen....

Act 2, Scene V

[Miles' restaurant. Clock shows 9:35.]

Kate: That whole experience must've just blown your mind!
Rich: Yeah. It pretty much did. And still does. But you actually believe me?
Kate: Jesus, who'd make up a story like that?
Rich: OK, but you don't think it's weird that I knew it was going to happen?
Kate: Of course it's weird! It's, like, the definition of weird! But strange stuff happens sometimes. I went out with three guys in high school, and every one of them had David as their middle name! Now that's weird! I have unexplainable dating coincidences; you owe your life to a premonition about a doomed school trip. And the Americans keep voting Republicans into the White House. Who can figure out the universe?

Act 2, Scene VI

[Miles' restaurant. Clock shows 11:05.]

Kate: Can you believe we've been here for almost 9 hours? I'm going to have to start paying rent on that last stall in the restroom if we stay any longer!
Rich: So... [Pauses.] What are you up to tomorrow? Are you sick of me yet, or would you like to maybe take in a movie? They're showing Alien and Aliens as a double bill at the New Yorker. Four plus hours of face-huggin', chest-poppin' fun. Who can resist that?
Kate: You're one sick puppy! Luckily for you, so am I! Sure, here's my number. [Writes out and hands card to Rich.] Call me in the afternoon and we'll figure out the details. And listen...
Rich: Yeah?
Kate: You show up an hour late, and I'll be forty-five minutes gone. Are we clear?
Rich: Yes, ma'am.

Act 3, Scene I

[Kate's apartment. Enter Rich and Kate.]

Rich: I'm sure you must have one around here somewhere! [On hands and knees, looking through cupboards in kitchen.] Is this the first time the sink's been plugged up?
Kate: Since I've been here, yup. Maybe it's your fault! After all, you've been practically living here for three months now. Maybe my plumbing can't take all that extra hair running through it!
Rich: Yeah, and I'm sure your long, lovely locks have nothing to do with -- Oh my God.
Kate: What's the matter? Did you find my stash of Playgirls? [No response from Rich.] Hey, that was a joke. I don't actually have any porn magazines on hand. Sorry!
Rich: [Standing up.] Wow, I've lived this moment before. This is just like when I found it in McClusky's locker. [Holds up small green object, shaped like a cylinder the size of a D battery, but bulging and round in the middle.]
Kate: [Uncertain.] What happened then?
Rich: He and I got into a fight. Had to go to the Vice Principal's office.
Kate: Don't try any rough stuff. I'm pretty sure I can take you!
Rich: I can't believe this. How can this thing keep finding me like this?
Kate: [Moves closer to get a better look at object.] You do realize I have no idea what you're talking about, or where that thing came from, right?
Rich: I'll bet you've never even seen it before, have you?
Kate: Nope. But that sounds kinda lame, considering you just found it in my kitchen cupboard!
Rich: Not as lame as you'd think. It has a tendency to show up and then disappear.
Kate: You're kidding, right?
Rich: I'm really not. Do you remember, on our first date, how I told you about what happened in high school? The field trip I didn't go on?
Kate: Of course I do, sweetie!
Rich: Let's go for a walk. I need some fresh air, and you need to hear the part of the story I didn't tell you before. Somehow I think it'll be easier to tell now. With a straight face, that is.

Act 3, Scene II

[A bridge near Kate's apartment, crossing a river. Enter Rich and Kate.]

Rich: And then it was gone again. Right out of my backpack, where I know I left it. Just like it disappeared from under my pillow, when I was little. And like it keeps popping up in lockers and kitchen cupboards. And I've always assumed it was responsible for... warning... me about the field trip.
Kate: I don't even know what to say.
Rich: Still believe me? Even this part?
Kate: I guess... I guess I do. I know you too well to think you'd possibly think this was a funny prank, or a joke.
Rich: Yeah, I'm not really one for practical jokes. Giving, or receiving. Though I sure feel like I'm in the middle of one whenever this [Pulls object out of pocket] shows up in my life!
Kate: Last time it showed up, it saved your life, Rich!
Rich: I know. But this time I think it's trying to ruin it.
Kate: What do you mean? Did it... Is it making you see something right now?
Rich: It just gave me a little glimpse, yeah. If I believe it, you're going to cheat on me. With a doctor.
Kate: Tell me you're kidding. Please.
Rich: I wish I were. That's what it showed me.
Kate: But I wouldn't... I'm not the type who'd... I don't even know any doctors! I can't believe this!
Rich: Me neither. [Tosses green object lightly in the air, catches it. Rears back and throws it off the bridge, toward the river below. It disappears from sight. No splash is heard.] And even if I did believe it, it wouldn't make any difference. Like the gypsy woman said, I should make the most of whatever good comes my way, and that's definitely you. Who knows what the future holds.
Kate: Gypsy woman? Help? Lost again!
Rich: Just another highlight in the Weird Life of Rich, Boy Freak. C'mon, let's go home and forget this ever happened!

Act 3, Scene III

[Outside a church. Enter Laurie and Jamie, dressed formally.]

Laurie: I can't believe my big brother's actually married! I never thought I'd live to see the day!
Jamie: Yeah, I was pretty sure I'd tie the knot before he ever did. I even thought Gloria was gonna be the one, but what a crock that was!
Laurie: Way I heard it, mister, you soured that deal, not the other way around.
Jamie: I just have some commitment issues, that's all. It's a common trait among the males of our species, don'tcha know?
Laurie: It better not be! My brother's just married the perfect match, so if he manages to mess this up...
Jamie: Not to worry, Laur. Even he's not stupid enough to screw the pooch on this one. Trust me!
Laurie: From your lips to God's ears, Jamie.


[Lady Fatima's tent. Young lovers are just about to leave.]

Girl: And we're really going to be happy?
Lady Fatima: Indeed, my dear. Your aura assures it.
Girl: And we'll have children, and they'll have children, and someday we'll be surrounded by grandchildren in our old age? That's been my dream, my whole life. And you see it with your special sight, Lady Fatima?
Lady Fatima: It will be just as you say. Your Fate is clear to me.
Girl: Oh, thank you, ma'am! That means so much to me. To both of us! Thank you, thank you! [Couple exits.]

Lady Fatima: [Takes money out of fold in dress, puts it away in old money box under the table.] No need to thank me, girl. You pay for the service, and Fatima does as she is paid to do. Paid to lie, and lies are all I have now. But you will be happy, for a time. Just as the other lovers will have their happiness, for a short while, at least. Nothing lasts forever, after all.

Enough Procrastinating.. Time to Start Chapter 3

I've got a little research to do for it, but otherwise it's full steam ahead on what I've expected, from the outset, would be the toughest chapter to write. Wish me luck, oh you faithful fans who number well into the twos or threes!

An Odd Request Gets Me Thinking

Someone asked me today if I had a photo of my comic collection, showing how big it is. I'm not even sure how to react: it's kind of a boring shot, even if I could get it, because we're talking about a room with heavy-duty shelving, 3 shelves high, each of which has four long white comic boxes on it. About 100 boxes in all, reaching right up to the ceiling. Impressive to me, because I know each box has 250 to 300 comics in it, but to the casual observer: it's a bunch of plain white boxes!

Back before Vicki and I got together, I had my comics out on lighter units of shelving, the comics stacked up in the open (no boxes to be seen). Now that was a sight to behold, even taking into consideration that I had less than half the number of comics then compared to how many I have now. It looked like a library in those days. You could walk up and down the aisles between the shelves and glance at the dozens of covers that were out on display, and maybe even flip through a stack (never mind that you could feel me tense up as you did so) to see that, in fact, each one was different!

When I moved out of my bachelor pad (and if ever there was an apartment that didn't live up to that label, it was mine), I knew I had to box up the comics in order to move them anyway so why not make that transition permanent since boxes provide much better protection for the paper than having them out on display (and stacking them vertically is better for them than lying horizontally, because the spines tend to roll when they're on their backs). I'll admit that was a tough decision to make because I knew it wasn't going to feel the same, having them hidden away as opposed to what I had been used to for probably ten years at that point. There was a real thrill, for me, to walk through the shelves when they were filled with stacks of issues, because the top comics on many of the piles changed from month to month, since new issues were usually plopped onto the appropriate stack, once they'd been read. So it was truly an ever-changing landscape, a feature which I loved.

Reminiscing about this just now brings to mind a dream I had within the last month. It was very vivid, and I think it was a type I've had before: I had to move my comics because of some change in the status quo (moving houses, or someone else coming to live in the house and having to free up space) and now that I think about it, the comics were still stacked in the open air in that dream! It seemed so completely natural, even dreaming it so recently, and there I was re-arranging a couple piles, just like I used to do: this one's gotten too high, so take some off the bottom and move them to the top of the other stack that has earlier issues of the same title. Yeah, that was a part of my life for years! (Now it's been replaced by shuffling titles between boxes, as runs stop fitting in the box they're sharing with other titles and need more space.)

So anyway, now I've added to my weekend list the notion of trying to get a reasonable JPG of all those white boxes on all those shelves!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Finding Me Too Wordy? I've Got the Cure!

For those of you who haven't been checking out Neil Gaiman's journal on a regular basis like you should, you might not know about Wired magazine's challenge that was sent out to genre and SF writers recently: "Give us your best 6-word short, short story!" The results are quite entertaining, I think! A few personal favourites:

Alan Moore: Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time

Charles Stross: Osama’s time machine: President Gore concerned.

Steven Meretzky: I win lottery. Sun goes nova.

Steven Meretzky: Leia: "Baby's yours." Luke: "Bad news…"

And I can't resist adding my own contributions (just to prove I can be brief, if only just this once):

Kimota94 aka Matt: Turns out, the power was on!

Kimota94 aka Matt: Which one's the brake again, daddy?

Kimota94 aka Matt: You've got me? Who's got you? (OK, I stole that one!)

Spotting the Stuff you Know in Fictional Works

We've all done this, right? For me, we'll be watching The Lost Boys and the Coreys (Haim and Feldman) are playing two over-the-top dweebs who work in a comic store when suddenly one of them starts sounding off about some specific issue of Superman from the 40s or 50s (which I probably don't own) in which blahety-blah-blah happened, but he's holding up an issue of the title that clearly was published in the 70s or 80s (which I probably do own) and I can't help myself: I point out to the lovely wife that he's full of shit because he's talking about a completely different era (but at least he knows a Superman comic from an issue of Action Comics, and I guess that counts for something). Or we're watching Heroes and one of the characters references an issue of X-Men as an example of time travel but he's off by one (X-Men #s 141 and 142 had the Days of Future Past storyline in it that the show's writers were thinking of, not # 143, as Hiro cited in that episode) so I do the unthinkable (in any other household) and Pause the program long enough to drag Vicki down to the basement and show her the comics in question, just so she knows it's close but no cigar! (And of course this makes me think I should write a blog entry describing some of my funniest such moments, as this one wouldn't even top the list!)

But my point is: we all know something really well, and can't help but pick up on it when a reference to that topic just ain't right. Not everyone's as demonstrative about it as me (or so I've been lead to believe), but I gotta think it's still making the wheels turn in the brain, at least. Some people live for spotting anocronisms in period movies (remember the famous scene in Cheers where Norm and Cliff did this?), others for spying techno-babble that sounds perfectly plausible as long as you'd never, oh, I don't know, used a computer before ("His word processor's thrashing trying to establish an IP address for his MIPS-router? Oh my God, are you kidding me?") and others still for catching mis-attributions ("That was Charlotte Bronte, you moron, not Emily! Have you ever actually read a book?"). If you're familiar with the material, sloppy crap like that just jumps out at you.

One of the counter-examples of this problem that I always think of happened within the pages of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park. As someone who's spent most of my 20 year career producing or being involved with software, I read something that absolutely rang true to me. In the story, someone had written some software for the monitoring system that kept track of the dinosaurs produced on the island. The concern was that animals would somehow escape the 'park' and so the software's job was to continuously find and count the number of each type of dino, to ensure none had gotten away. The brilliant bit of the story was that, in fact, some animals had gotten off the island and yet the program continued to report All Green for each type of animal. Eventually the characters realized the same-sex dinosaurs were reproducing by exhibiting dynamic gender-changes as supposedly some frogs (?) do in nature, but even that didn't explain why the tracking system hadn't picked up on the numbers being so out of whack, since it seemed highly unlikely that the number of new ones born would magically equal exactly the number that had left. What eventually came out was that the programmers, using the information they'd been given, designed the software to count each type of dinosaur until it reached the expected number, and then stop (and report success). Why? Because they'd been told the dino's were all one gender, meaning no new dino's could appear except the ones the corporation produced through the normal channels. So as long as the software found, say, 15 velociraptors, which was the number there were supposed to be, it stopped looking and moved onto the next type. I remember putting the book down, when I read that part, and thinking, "That's exactly the sort of bug we'll have so much trouble tracking down because the assumption was so embedded in the code itself!" Of course, out of all the projects I've ever worked on, not a single person (so far) has actually ended up being eaten alive or ripped limb from limb because of a high-severity bug that made it through QA!

Reading Material? Take a Number!

Seems like all of a sudden everyone wants to give me something to read! I just finished a really good fiction book (Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks) that I was two-timing with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which I'm very much enjoying but am only about a third of the way through. I generally like to have two books on the go at a time, because it gives me the variety to put one down (for the moment) and pick the other up, whenever the spirit moves me. But part of what makes that work (for me) is having two very different books to choose from, because then I'm picking between them, at any given time, based on my mood. So when Tammy, with just the slightest trace of pout in her voice, complained that she'd read almost all of my favourite books whereas I never seem to read any of hers (I guess the first Harry Potter book doesn't count!) it seemed like I should stop being such a bad parent and see what she had to offer. Her favourite book (aside: Tammy's favourites change on a fairly frequent basis, no matter what type of favourites we're talking about) is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. So that's what she'd like me to read, or at least give a try. So now I have that, which I read the first couple pages of and thought looked interesting enough, except that it's very similar to Middlesex, meaning I'll be reading two very comparable books concurrently, which isn't exactly variety!

And then there's PeopleWare by DeMarco & Lister, which so many of my co-workers are gushing about (despite it being a 20-year-old book) and which now I've got a copy of on my desk at work (I'm about 30 pages in so far). And Danelle's got a book on leadership that she thinks I'd enjoy, so that's on its way.

Add in 2 weeks' worth of unread comics, the 2 - 5 Agile article links that get referenced every day at work, the various blogs I'm following, the raft of interesting websites I track, and I find myself with more reading in front of me than I know what to do with!

Not that that's such a bad problem to have...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Game 4 in Rain Delay

Apparently even the weather didn't want to watch the game tonight, so it's socked St. Louis in a rainstorm at the moment. They're still saying the game might happen tonight, but how late do they really think people will stay up to watch it on TV (if it started in the next 15 minutes, it might be over by 1:00 am ET)? Of course, I'm just dumb enough that I'll probably stay up and stick with it until the game's out of reach one way or another, or it's over. But then again maybe not if it doesn't start until 10:00 or 11:00 ET.

Fortunately, tonight's episode of Lost isn't subject to weather and is underway right on schedule!

What Role Do You Play In Life?

One of the Retrospective activities we've used a few times is a really simple one. It involves each participant deciding between 4 roles that they feel they're playing, in a certain context. The context could be the Retrospective itself, or the project or events that they're doing the Retrospective about, or anything else. Essentially you're considering why you're here, where here represents whatever the topic of the question is. And the results are almost always interesting.

The 4 roles to choose from are:

Explorer - someone who's here because they love trying out new things

Shopper - someone who will try out some things while they're here, but will only buy if it's exactly what they're looking for

Vacationer - someone who's probably not going to buy anything at all but is happy enough to be here because it's better than working

Prisoner - someone who's here only because their boss told them they had to be; otherwise they'd be somewhere else

I find it's a fun exercise to do whenever you're wondering about your own (or someone else's) commitment to something. I've learned that I'm almost never a Prisoner because those are the situations I just wouldn't bother showing up for. I seldom act as Vacationer because I don't have the free time to spend on something that's unlikely to yield any worthwhile results. So I spend most of my life being Shopper or Explorer.

How about you?

By 'Popular' Demand: The 2 Squeezes!

No, I'm not talking about my wife and my girlfriend here! I'm referring to the two (or too?) exciting baseball plays called the Suicide Squeeze and the Safety Squeeze.

Both are types of bunt plays that will be used when a team has a runner at third and fewer than 2 outs in the inning. The idea is that you want to score the runner from third and aren't confident in your ability to do so through a base hit or sacrifice fly ball (to the outfield). A good example might be if you had the pitcher at the plate (National League parks only) or another weak hitter in your lineup. You'd rather try your luck bunting the runner home than risk a strikeout, pop-up or ground ball hit right at an infielder.

The essential difference between them is when the runner at third begins heading for home. In the suicide squeeze, the runner (based on a sign from the dugout or some signal from the 3rd base coach) sprints for home as soon as the pitcher begins his motion to the plate (doing so before that risks the pitcher pitching out such that the ball is thrown toward home but well outside the strike zone, preventing any bunt attempt and making it easy for the catcher to catch the pitch and tag out the runner when he arrives). It's called suicide because the runner's going to be Dead On Arrival if the batter doesn't make contact (the catcher catches the pitch and tags the runner out). So obviously it's important that the batter got the same sign (go/no go) on the pitch that the runner on 3rd got!

The safety squeeze takes away the risk of the runner and batter being out of synch, because the runner doesn't break for home until the batter has successfully made contact with the ball. However, since he's starting the run later, it's more likely that the bunted ball will be fielded and thrown home before the runner gets there. So there's more pressure on the batter to lay down a good bunt that can't be fielded immediately ("hit it where they ain't").

Personally, the suicide squeeze is one of my favourite plays in baseball (to watch). You always know something exciting is going to happen, unless the batter fouls the pitch off. But even then, you're waiting to see if they have the nerve to try it again (since the other team may well pitch out).

Now if only the World Series would live up to the hype this year. It's so far been one of the most boring championship series I've ever watched.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Making Retrospectives Better

I heard a great suggestion today at work on the topic of Retrospectives, those reflect-and-adapt opportunities that usually go hand-in-hand with embracing Agile principles in your workplace. One of the issues we've had to deal with in holding Retrospectives is that some of the attendees don't always buy into many of the activities that the organizer plans, for whatever reason (personal biases, past history with a poorly-executed example of that activity, poor job explaining it by the facilitator).

The excellent suggestion was to try an approach where you determine a set of possible activities and then let the team members vote ahead of time on which ones they'd like to use. This obviously assumes the team members/participants know enough about the activities to make a choice, so probably applies more to situations where a group is doing their 4th, 5th, ... Retrospective as a group, rather than their first few. Personally I love the idea of getting people more involved in that way, since it helps break them out of thinking like it's the facilitator's Retrospective and more in tune with it being theirs.

I'll admit, sometimes it's the little things that catch my attention.

With Friends Like These..

One of the handful of honest to God friends I have in the world these days, upon finally checking out my blog site today (I pointed him to it a couple weeks ago), had this response:

Holy Shit, you write a lot.

Now, I can't argue with that assessment (averaging 2 to 3 blogs per day is probably considered a lot in most circles, at least among the blog sites I go to that are manned by one person). But I guess it's slightly disappointing, as reactions go. I mean, I could've blogged about the weather 2 or 3 times each day and still qualified as doing a lot. I also could've provided a travelogue of my day-to-day life to meet this criterion. In fact, let's try to imagine what some of those posts might've looked like...

Blog Entry 11:

So I biked home today, and boy was it cold! Sure, I had my headband and gloves on, and an extra layer up top, but you still feel the chill on that ride, I'm telling ya. I miss the days of shorts and a T-shirt. But I did get to see some squirrels carrying nuts and other winter supplies around, and you don't get to see much of that in the warmer months! (Squirrels, it seems, have seasonal tendencies of their own though not as extreme as, say, geese, who actually migrate South for the winter!)

Blog Entry 43:

Tonight I'm watching some excellent TV programs! We just finished 30 Rock, the oh-so-funny new sitcom starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. I call it a sitcom but it's not your typical situation comedy since the premise is that of crew producing a Saturday Night Live type comedy, rather than just being about people at home whose jobs you hardly even hear about, like most sitcoms tend to be. After that, we watched Lost and wouldn't you know it, Locke went and rescued Mr Eko from a polar bear! A polar bear! On a tropical island! How silly is that? But still I love that show! And now we're watching The Nine, which is about nine people who were in a bank robbery and now they're not, but they can't help thinking back to when they were. Sort of like Lost, except with a bank robbery instead of a plane crash!

Blog Entry 219:

My boss can be so mean somedays! Today he made me go to a meeting that lasted for 3 hours. Three. Hours. And my laptop battery only lasts one hour and forty-five minutes, so that's over an hour during which I had to actually listen to the stupid arguments and discussions. There's no way that's fair, and yet there I was!

Blog Entry 498:

Here's my quiz, I hope you like it!

If you were a car, what type would you be?
If you could talk to any famous person, living or dead, who would it be?
If you had to pick one person in your family to go to the Moonn with, who would it be?
If you saw someone drop a $100 bill out of their wallet, would you tell them or just pick it up and keep it?
If you had to pick between losing your sight or your hearing, which would you pick?
If you could only watch one TV show for the rest of your life, which show would it be?
If you knew your best friend was cheating on his or her spouse, what would you do?

.. and so on ..

I mean, if it's all about quantity, that kind of stuff would suffice, right?


And I get to punch the first person to ask why I think my blogs are any different!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Skipped Chapter 2: Growing Pains

[If you haven't already done so, please consider reading Chapter 1: Play Time before proceeding with Chapter 2.]

From the files of William Hambrook, Vice-Principal, Woodside Secondary School, dated May 24, 1979:

These notes concern Richard Dunfrey, Grade 9 Student in Edward Mitchell's homeroom class. Mr Dunfrey was sent to my office on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 23rd after an altercation involving another student, Paul McClusky. I also interviewed Mr McClusky and those notes are also on-file. The two accounts essentially match, with the notable exception that Mr McClusky claims no knowledge of what Mr Dunfrey accused him of doing, as so often happens in cases like this. Details follow, in the form of an unofficial transcript of my meeting with Mr Dunfrey (since budgetary concerns preclude the hiring of an actual stenographer).

Hambrook: Well, Mr Dunfrey, you've been here for almost an entire year now and yet you still haven't learned in that time that we don't condone fisticuffs or violence of any sort in our halls?

Dunfrey: I didn't mean to start a fight, Mr Hambrook. I just lost my cool, is all.

Hambrook: Yes, well, losing one's cool is also not condoned, young man. What prompted this behaviour, then?

Dunfrey: It was just a misunderstanding, Mr Hambrook. I thought Paulie had stole something of mine because he had it in his locker, so I just got mad when he denied it.

Hambrook: And what exactly did you think he'd stolen? And it had better not be cigarettes or drugs of any kind!

Dunfrey: No sir! Nothing like that. It was... just something that I lost a long time ago, when I was a little kid.

Hambrook: Go on. You still haven't told me what it was.

Dunfrey: I don't think it even has a name, sir. It's this green rock or game piece or something that I found back in public school, but then I lost it again right afterwards. I don't even know why I remember it so well, but I guess I wrote a "What I Did Last Summer" essay around then and that kind of made me remember it ever since.

Hambrook: A green game piece? Like the little houses in Monopoly? You were fighting over something silly like that?

Dunfrey: No, sir, it wasn't actually a Monopoly piece. I used to try to think what it might be, so I guess I'd decided it was part of a game or something after I lost it. It was sort of, like, a green rock, round except flat on the top and bottom, which means it probably was made by someone. Although I guess it could've been natural, too. I don't really know.

Hambrook: So you lost this rock a long time ago, and then you found it in Mr McClusky's locker today? So.. what? You thought he'd stolen it years ago and you'd just caught him now?

Dunfrey: I know it doesn't make any sense, sir. I was just so surprised to see it again, but then Paulie said he'd never seen it before even though it was right there on the shelf of his locker, so I got mad! I've never seen another green rock like it, so it had to be the same one. And he just kept egging me on, denying he even knew where he got it from, so I shoved him, and then he shoved me back, and I guess it just all got out of control. I'm really sorry and I'm sure it won't ever happen again.

Hambrook: We'll have to see that it doesn't, Mr Dunfrey. I'll be talking to Mr McClusky next and I hope his account lines up with yours, for both your sakes. If so, I'll be willing to let both of you go with a warning this time, but you only get one warning, young man! Do you understand my meaning?

Dunfrey: Absolutely, sir! And thank you, sir.

Hambrook: Well, you go sit outside now while I talk to Mr McClusky.

Final Note: Since McClusky's account was essentially the same, and he stuck by his story that he'd never seen the item in question before, I decided not to pursue the matter further, as these things have a way of getting out of hand when given too much gravity by staff members. The object in question had been in Mr Dunfrey's possession during the shoving match and, seeing as only he seemed interested in keeping it, I let it go. He was quite right in his description: it's not like anything I've ever seen before either, but seemed entirely harmless: unlikely to be useful as a weapon and unsuited to hiding contraband inside of,as it appears to be solid.

From the files of William Hambrook, Vice-Principal, Woodside Secondary School, dated May 25, 1979:

A second set of notes concerning Richard Dunfrey, Grade 9 Student in Edward Mitchell's homeroom class. Mr Dunfrey was sent to my office, for the second day in a row, on the morning of Thursday, May 24th, following an incident with his home room teacher shortly after the bell rang. Details follow, in the form of an unofficial transcript of our meeting (since budgetary concerns continue to preclude the hiring of an actual stenographer). I'd already heard Edward's account of what happened prior to talking to Mr Dunfrey.

Hambrook: Well, well, Mr Dunfrey, you appear to be well on your way to becoming a regular around here. And believe me, sir, that's not a good thing!

Dunfrey: (He was visibly distraught.) I can't go on that trip, Mr Hambrook! I just can't.

Hambrook: No one's saying you have to go on the Science field trip, son. But you shouldn't be scaring your fellow students with gloom and doom predictions, either! That's very irresponsible of you, to say the least!

Dunfrey: But I just know something bad's going to happen!

Hambrook: You'll have to forgive me if I'm having trouble understanding why yesterday you were engaged in a shoving match with Paul McClusy and this morning you're convinced of some doomsday scenario. I must say, I'd just barely finished writing up my notes from yesterday's discussion and here you are again, with a completely different 'issue' bringing you to my office again. Can you at least explain why you're so overwrought about a school trip?

Dunfrey: It's hard to explain, Mr Hambrook. As I told Emit... I mean, Mr Mitchell...

Hambrook: You children today and the lack of respect you show teachers! Yes, yes, we're all well aware that you call Mr Mitchell by that.. name.. because he occasionally passes gas, but it's a medical condition, for Pete's sake! There's nothing funny about it! Anyway, as you were saying, you told Mr Mitchell.. ?

Dunfrey: Yes sir. I told him I had this terrible feeling yesterday afternoon when I put my backpack into my locker after Math class, and it was all I could think about last night. It was like I knew that something terrible is going to happen on the field trip. I tried to ask... Mr Mitchell to cancel the trip altogether, but he said that was stupid so then I told him there's no way I was going, and then he got mad because other people were listening and maybe they wouldn't want to go. I guess I yelled a bit, too.

Hambrook: I'm sure Mr Mitchell was simply concerned that you'd upset other students with your unfounded claims. Listen, Richard, we're not about to force any student to go on a field trip that they have reservations about. Just get one of your parents to send in a signed note explaining that you won't be participating and we'll arrange for some activities for you to do while the rest of the class is away. But you have to stop behaving so irresponsibly, do you hear me?

Dunfrey: Yes sir.

Hambrook: Very well. Oh, and by the way, I assume there've been no further incidents involving your mysterious green whatsit, or I'd have heard about them by now?

Dunfrey: Um, well, actually it's gone missing again, sir. It was in my backpack when I put it my locker but it wasn't there when I got home yesterday so I don't know where it's gone. I can't ever seem to hold onto it very long, I guess. My mom says I'd lose my head if it weren't attached, but I don't even know what that means.

From the files of William Hambrook, Vice-Principal, Woodside Secondary School, dated June 4, 1979:

In this terrible time in our school's history, I feel some reflections are in order before I can successfully move on.

The tragedy involving the Grade 9 Science class last week has affected us all. With fifteen funerals behind us and another dozen still to come, including a special memorial ceremony for our friend and co-worker Edward Mitchell, there's clearly a pall hanging over our hallowed halls right now. I have every confidence that we all, both student body and staff, will bounce back from this, but I fear it will be a long and heavy-hearted summer for most. My heart goes out to Edward's widow and two children, and to all of the parents who suffered the greatest loss imaginable.

Preliminary findings all agree, however, that no negligence was involved in the accident that sent the school bus and all of its occupants off the road on that dark day. The general consensus is that the unseasonably heavy rainfall caused the slippery conditions, and with such poor visibility, it was all sadly inevitable, I fear. At any rate, from a purely rational point-of-view, it appears the school has nothing to fear in terms of litigation, thankfully. Small mercies at a time like this.

One final note is perhaps required. Since earlier files of mine recorded something which might, on the surface, seem related to this tragedy, it seems best to deal with it head-on. While a very unfortunate coincidence, Grade 9 student Richard Dunfrey's claims of disaster regarding the Science field trip, and his subsequent refusal to participate in it, must be considered just that: a coincidence. While we can all ironically be thankful for his irrational fear, since it inadvertantly saved his life, we mustn't fall into the trap of giving it any credence. Richard is a very fortunate young man, while twenty-seven of his fellow students, a teacher and a bus driver were not. But certainly any claims of paranormal activity, or Cassandra-like prophecy, should be treated as the rubbish they clearly are. It behooves the school staff, and the Board as well, to continue to downplay this bizarre occurence and focus instead on the job of grief management and recovery. We still have several hundred students prepared to finish out the year in a few weeks, as well as a graduating Grade 13 class to celebrate. Those must remain our priorities.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Song Lyrics That Won't Let You Go

I often find myself with song lyrics rolling around in my head, hours or days after I last heard them. Here's a random selection of some of the ones that come to mind and don't go quietly into that good night very often.

From A Little At A Time by Magnolia Electric Company:

"I start looking back for the things I used to live by
If only I could remember them
Even one of them
You can’t lose it all at once, can you really
Cause brother I’ve been trying
These days even stars fall only a little at a Time
Maybe if I send back the blues her broken heart
She will send back mine
A little at a time"

The daughter says MEC's music is depressing, and I guess I can see her point even though I don't have that reaction myself. I find Jason Molina's use of words and imagery elevates my spirit, rather than depresses it. In particular in the preceding passage, the line about sending back the Blues her broken heart makes my knees go all wobbly, it's such a perfect metaphor for trying to mend. Or at least that's how I always interpret it.

From I've Been Riding With The Ghost, also by MEC:

"I put my foot to the floor
To make up for the miles I’ve been losing
See I’m running out of things
I didn’t even know I was using"

Just a short little snippet that sounds so Country but goes so far beyond what I'd expect from that type of music. The paradox of the last 2 lines tickles my sense of the absurd, for sure.

From My Iron Lung, by Radiohead:

"Suck, suck your teenage thumb
Toilet trained and dumb
When the power runs out
We'll just hum

This, this is our new song
Just like the last one
A total waste of time
My iron lung"

Introduced, as I was, to Radiohead by a friend who said, "You love Pink Floyd so you'll like these guys," it seems fitting to include a selection that's so similar in theme to the cut-to-the-bone approach to lyric writing shown by Floyd on their best albums.

From Karma Police, also by Radiohead:

"Karma police
arrest this man,
he talks in maths,
he buzzes like a fridge,
he's like a detuned radio.

Karma police
arrest this girl,
her Hitler hairdo
is making me feel ill
and we have crashed her party."

While not entirely sure what "talking in maths" sounds like, if anyone would know, it's occasional commenter Jim Hinckley who I'm always reminded of when I hear this selection. And can't we all just picture the girl with the Hitler hairdo, and I certainly feel a bit sick when I do.

And no retrospect of great lyrics without some from the master:

From Mercy Street, by Peter Gabriel:

"looking down on empty streets, all she can see
are the dreams all made solid
are the dreams all made real

all of the buildings, all of those cars
were once just a dream
in somebody's head

she pictures the broken glass, she pictures the steam
she pictures a soul
with no leak at the seam

confessing all the secret things in the warm velvet box
to the priest-he's the doctor
he can handle the shocks

dreaming of the tenderness-the tremble in the hips
of kissing Mary's lips"

The single most evocative set of lyrics I've ever heard, I always scratched my head in wonder at what might've compelled a man to pen such a touching female tale. He credits the song "for Anne Sexton", so I just did a little research (only 20 years after hearing, and falling in love with, the song for the first time). Anne Sexton was a poet who committed suicide in 1974 (before this song was written), which explains the general tone of the song. She's credited as being a "confessionalist artist" so the line about "the warm velvet box" falls in place. She apparently even wrote a Broadway play called Mercy Street. The things one can learn when one makes the effort!

I think I've been at this too long now, as I'm starting to get loopy. Time to pay attention to the ballgame (3-0 Det in the 7th inning of Game 2).

Movie Reviews 'R' Not Us

I don't go out to see enough new movies to ever do much reviewing in a timely fashion (typically I've only seen about 10% of the movies that are Oscar-nominated by the time I'm watching the Awards in March, for example). Part of the problem is that I think most movies aren't worth paying $25 (2 tickets, please) to see, even with a super large big screen to project them on, and of course the other part is that these days you have to contend with people taking cellphone calls, commercials you can't Mute, babies crying, and morons chatting loudly like they're in their living room, just to see a new release. For the big action- or SFX-dominated blockbusters, like Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, and possibly Casino Royale, I'll do it but otherwise I wait for the DVD.

However, someone who does go to see lots of new movies and writes great reviews of them, is just a click away. Check out her Top 10 of 2004 while we wait for her to put some newer content up on her blog. Even if you don't agree with everything she says (like me), you'll find much to agree with and lots to think about.

Skipped Chapter 1: Play Time

My name is Richie Dunfrey, and Im 9 years old. Todays the first day of Grade 5 and Im sposed to write about what I did this summer. Mrs Supmet (my teacher) says we have to do this so I am. We have until morning recess to write about our summer. I don't know if I have all that much to say tho.

My mom, my dad and me, and my stupid little sister Laurie, whos only 7, went to Niagara Falls for a week in July. That was pretty good except Laurie couldn't go on the scary rides so Mom and her stood and waited for Dad and me. We went on some twice, they were so cool!

We also got invited to some pool parties which I liked a lot. I learned how to swim last summer meaning this summer I got to go in the deep end and everything. Laurie still has to wear water wings and stay in the shallow end but I don't have to stay with her now (FINALLY!!).

One day I was walking in the woods near our house by myself because Laurie had her friend Hazel over who I don't like and I found something pretty neat. I was walking along the path but then I saw something shiny in the dirt, near the big tree that got struck by lightning a couple years ago. I went over and it was like a green rock buried in the mud and stuff. I right away thought of kryptonite, the only thing that can hurt Superman, because it's green and like a rock, too. I didn't really think it was kryptonite, cuz even kids know Supermans not real, but it was fun to imagine it was. Anyways I could only see part of it on accounta it being buried, so I started digging around it until I could pull it out and see it good.

It was a nice green colour once I got the dirt off of it. It was about as big as my biggest aggie in my collection (aggies are marbles, just in case you don't know) but not so round, more flat on top and bottom but round in the middle. And it was the coolest green ever! When I was digging it out, I thought it might be an aggie since I could only see the round middle part and I was thinking how cool it'd be to use it at school when we all got back. But as soon as I got it out I saw it wasn't a marble. (No guff!)

Anyhow, I put it in my pocket and went looking for more cool stuff. After while I gave up tho as there wasn't really anything else all that neat there, just some pop cans and potato chip bags. And I saw some squirrels but they were up in a tree.

When I got home, I showed my mom and she said it was pretty. She didn't know what it was, which kinda made me happy cuz I didn't want her to spoil it by saying it was some dumb thing that grownups use for holding up a window or weighing stuff with. I wanted to be able to pretend it was all kinds of awesome things, and maybe it really was for all I knew. I built some Lego buildings for it to be in and then I made up a superhero adventure with my action figures (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and Robin) so they could find it (I pretended it was a kryptonite bomb) and save the city!

At bedtime, I put the kryptonite bomb (it wasn't really one!) under my pillow, just like I do with my baby teeth so the Tooth Fairy can find them. I didn't really think the Tooth Fairy would come that night, but you never know. That night I had a really weird dream where I lost the green rock somewhere and my mom was yelling at me for losing it! When I woke up in the morning, and checked under the pillow, sure enuff the rock wasn't there! I was a little scared cuz of Mom being so mad in my dream. I got up and I looked under my pillow again and under my spare PJs and even under the bed but couldn't find it anywhere. I went to tell Mom and Dad about it so they could help me look. Luckily my Mom didn't get mad like in my dream but just came to help look. Once I lost a Loonie I put under my pillow and Dad said it had probly fell down the grate in my floor that goes to the furnace and burned up. I didn't think that was what happened here tho cuz the rock was probly too big to fit through the grate.

But then I remembered that Laurie sometimes comes into my room before I wake up to play with some of my toys. So I said, "Maybe Laurie took it!" but when Mom asked her she said she hadn't. Since she was only a little kid I figured she was just scared to say so, so I kept asking her and telling her I wanted it back. And then Mom got mad at me, and it seemed just like my dream and I got scared again. So I went and got breakfast and looked for it more later. But I never found it again. I still think Laurie took it but I'll get in trouble if I ask again so I'll just wait until it shows up. It was a really cool rock!!!

I also had a birthday (I turned 9) over the summer, and there was a big cake with 9 candles on it and I got to blow them all out. But Mrs Supmet says time's up now so I gotta hand this in. I hope I get a A or at least a B. That was a lot of writing!