A page a day, day thirty-five: The ship wakes

Awareness filtered down from somewhere above and pooled around her, a fog of consciousness that gradually coalesced into a familiar shape. Her head was a misshapen glass, the thoughts a dense missed that poured in from somewhere unseen and collected at the edges. As the form became more defined her thoughts began to link together.

First there was the awareness that she was aware, and then the realization that she had not been. Then she worried about where she’d been.

She reached out with her threads and strings of control, trying to find the parts of her that were physical, and she found… nothing. No feet, no arms… no controls, no instruments. She floated in an abstract realization of herself with not stimulus to confirm whether or not she was real.

As an experiment she tried to speak, but she heard nothing and couldn’t tell if it worked or not. Then she tried to access her memories. Who she was… easy, she was the Ship. Where she’d been… well, she remembered stars and planets, orbits and trips. Fleeing and diving, sensing and … drilling. She had collected data.

She reached for the data, just a brief catalog of where she’d been… and received no response. She, personally, remembered where she’d been, but the data was gone.

She stifled panic, reached out to query the systems that sustained her, alerted them to her rising fears and requested they provide some soothing, balancing chemicals to ease her distress.

Nothing. No response. He requests went out into the dark and never returned.

She panicked in full. She screamed and flailed all of her systems and controls. She ignited fuel, threw sensors wide, and emitted signals on all frequencies at once. She pushed all signals past their engineered limits and did her utmost to make something respond, anything.

Nothing came. No responses, no confirmations, no errors. She could not tell if her signals succeeded or failed. For all she new she was tumbling in space firing off every erg of energy she had into the void, but there was no way to tell.

Her mind reeled and spun, clicking off ideas at random, sorting and cataloging them as best she could manage without her digital systems to augment her. She realized she couldn’t hold more than a dozen possibilities in her mind at once. As soon as she came up with two or three more than that she began to lose track of the original handful. She clung to her thoughts desperately, repeating the first few over and over until she felt she had them before adding more. The possibilities she came up with, in rapid succession, were:

1) biological injury to the “spinal” trunk at the base of her brain.
2) interfering signal countering all attempts
3) power failure to all hard systems
4) complete failure of digital media
5) toxic poisoning of her brain tissue numbing her senses
6) Dementia causing her to only think she was disconnected
7) a nightmare induced by fatigue and…

Wait, what was the first one again? Power failure in hard… no, that was the third. Injury. First one was injury, second was digital media failure… no, that was the fourth. Second was… interfering signal. Dementia was … fifth…

Her panic was very real and she desperately wished she could still breathe. If she could breathe then there would be something to focus on calming, but there wasn’t anything to focus. Just thoughts and fears chasing themselves around and around…

A small light appeared off to one side. It took her a long time to realize it was there. It seemed like just another thought, something tangential that she had maybe lost hold of … but it was constant. In the maelstrom of thoughts that tore her into ragged parts it was the only thing in her mind not moving, running, or spinning. It just held there, a small persistent light.

She focused on it, held her attention to it as an anchor. As she held it, it grew, moved closer, and centered in her thoughts. She eventually saw that it wasn’t a simple light but rather a complex pattern of colors, high in density and shifting. As it grew closer she thought she could feel a sound … sounds, multiple sounds coming from the same spot.

The light grew into a large rectangle of colorful dots. As it grew wider the dots divided and divided, becoming smaller, so that they eventually became impossible to distinguish individually and were only visible as patterns. The sound grew louder and became a noise.

Before she new it the light encompassed her entire view, and the noise became… voices. She remembered voices, years and years ago. The memory was vague and indistinct but recalling it brought other, older memories with it. She suddenly realized the patterns she was seeing on the rectangle of light were… faces. She hadn’t seen a face in decades… possibly centuries. Now that she remembered what they were she began to pick out details. The paired shapes were eyes, and beneath them and connected by an indistinct blob was the orifice that opened and closed, repeatedly, making an incredibly variety of shapes. She began to connect the voices to the shape and movement of those orifices and recognized them as mouths.

Most shocking of all, however, was that the sounds they were making were… familiar. One of the faces became more distinct in the foreground of the others, and the sounds it made… combined with other movements of appendages… it seemed to be addressing the others with emphasis. The other faces grew quiet. The foreground face drew a little closer and it’s mouth worked out some sounds very … methodically. She listened to the sounds, very carefully, and an unused portion of her mind came up with a surprising translation. She wasn’t entirely certain, but it definitely came up with a distinct sequence of words… a phrase. Actually, if her brain remembered the sounds correctly, and the rising tone towards the end of their sequence, they actually posed a question.

The face in front of her was asking her a question:

“Can you hear me?”

A page a day, day thirty-one: The ship is caught

The details of the new sun were eclipsed by her own engine thrust. Protocols prohibited her from extending her delicate eyes beyond the surface of her hull to minimize risk of damage. Still, held close to her protective skin she opened her eyes wide to anything the new star system was willing to share.

What she received, almost immediately, surprised her so completely that it was many seconds before she was able to react. By then the automated security had already done most of the reacting for her.

Her thrust changed abruptly, intensifying briefly as stabilizers deftly altered her angle of approach by nearly a full degree. Then everything shut down and Ship went dark. The boost and turn had aimed her across the plane of the system, placed her in a very lazy comet-like approach that would have her drifting through and around the system for years if she didn’t do anything to correct it.

Her net was gone, no longer scooping fuel, and her engines were fully vented and cold. With just enough support to keep her awake and aware Ship drifted like an asteroid with as little to draw attention to her as possible.

And she listened.

The empty space was full of static and noise, but not the mild and somewhat random background noise of the universe. No, this noise was only noise if you didn’t know how to listen to it, pull it apart. The noise blazed bright in her eyes and hammered her sensors with endless overlapping patterns. A cacophony of order, an overabundance of signal.

The system was inhabited by life. Not just any life, but life sufficiently advanced to fill it’s environment with a polution of electromagnetic signal that was dwarfed only by the star itself. Bright and yellow it was the only constant source of input capable of drowning out all the others. Every other direction around it was awash with a crashing of waves.

So used was she to the silence of space that she didn’t note a dark patch in the noise, a blank point of direction that held no signal. So intent was she on trying to separate the signals enough to examine just one that she didn’t notice the ship blocking some of the signals until her proximity alarms spiked her into alert. Something was coming in very fast. It was big and it was dark, a void in the ocean of noise.

Defensive systems kicked in fast, alerting her to what they had already done and were trying to do faster. Ship turned in flight, her primary engine ejecting all cautionary startup routines and trying to simply ignite on the spot and get her away.

Other systems came online, systems she’d long forgotten about. She realized now that her memory of these systems had been repressed in her mind by fierce conditioning. Final systems. Systems that spoke of a tactic of suicide over capture.

Her engine flared at full thrust for a few seconds before a beam of energy cut across her and she felt her legs go numb. Her engines sputtered and failed. The torque of frame and the feel of her hull told her the engines were still there, but she couldn’t reach them.

She was reminded of the zeroeth order of business by a small but thorough explosion in her data stores. A very precise chunk of her memory was instantly atomized and she suddenly realized she could not remember where Earth was. All navigational history had been reduce to pieces smaller than dust and ejected into space.

Other measures, equally drastic, were coming online. She could feel them powering up fast, little packets of machinery that she’d long forgotten were even there. Dark pockets in her hull that she had thought of as simply pieces of metal clicked to life with sinister purpose. Protocols started with attempts to ignite the engine into self destruction. When it couldn’t be reached redundant routines began to ignite in concise paterns around her hull systematically ripping her apart.

A beam of energy washed across her hull and the explosions were silenced.

As a last line of defense her brain’s regulating system began loading up chemicals from deep, hidden places. Neurotoxins and acids that would have her brain dead and disolved in less than a second.

As the beam lashed out again she could feel her brain’s support systems going dark and dead. With nothing to heat her anymore she was instantly aware of the cold of space creeping in. With just enough backup energy for her eyes she watched as a long dark claw reached out to take hold. As her mind finally dimmed she wondered which would end her first, the cold or the lack of oxygen.

A page a day, day twenty-nine: The ship travels

The ship dove into the blackness of space aimed a barely visible spot. As she traveled the spot grew ever so gradually brighter. She had made this journey many times before. Thirty-four so far, to be exact.

Ship opened her eyes wide and spun her drives on full thrust. Her net cast wide in front scooped up particles in ever increasing number, scooping and condensing the rarified materials into a dense soup that fed her engines in ever increasing quantity as her pace increased. The starlight before her compressed and turned blue while the starlight behind her went red.

She then dialed down her perception of time. Delicate and precise instruments feeding her brain added chemicals to slow her synaptic action until days compressed into seconds, then years into minutes. Soon the field of stars became a blur of motion and her mind compressed the sensory input as a kaleidoscope more brilliant and mesmerizing than any LSD trip. Given the composition of some of the chemicals slowing her thoughts there may not have been much difference.

It was exhilarating and terrifying at once. Lacking an adrenal gland her systems nonetheless still had to be extremely intent on keeping her calm. Even with all that her eyes instinctively opened wide in awe, and in fear. Approaching as near to light speed as possible no amount of trust in her automated systems would ever fully convince her that something wouldn’t go wrong.

The only part that gave her comfort was that, if something did go wrong, even if her brain were working at peak efficiency she’d never know anything had happened. Hitting anything at near the speed of light would literally snuff her out like a light.

From her perspective days passed, then weeks. She knew from experience that her brain was put to sleep from time to time, but at the rate of her current perception the pauses were shorter than blinks.

Suddenly the view flipped. The red stars were in front of her and the blue behind. The automated systems had detected she was at halfway and turned to decelerate. The colors and the kaleidoscope grew gradually less intense as the ship dumped more and more speed on approach. The point of light she had been aimed add gradually grew and became a distant sun.

A page a day, day twenty-three: probeship

She spun gently in place, getting a view with every eye she had. She took her time and soaked in every wavelength at every amplitude. The planet below was incredibly dense, far more dense than it’s size would suggest. Big and heavy it barely radiated any heat at all. Which was surprising. Even given it’s 67 hour rotation it’s surface should have been insanely hot. The star on the other side of the planet was a blazing blue giant, it’s diameter greater than the orbit of Mercury from her home system. Even at a distance of 80 Au from the blue ball she’d be fried in a matter of hours if the planet weren’t interceding.

So why wasn’t it warmer? Was it somehow reflecting all the star’s energy away? The residual heat on the night side was barely warmer than the energy bleeding around it’s horizon.

She’d been here for several rotations, examining every patch of the planet she could see, all eyes open to every known form of energy. There was plenty of energy around, just not as much as she’d expected, and none of it artificial. As near as she could tell the place was utterly devoid of life.

She’d already been fairly certain of that after the first rotation, but she wanted a degree of certainty beyond the standard specs set by her engineers. They were fine with a bland, blasted rock surface. She wanted to be sure.

Having finally reached her decision she prepared the thumper. She had just 89 left and she was very careful about using them. Once they were gone she’d never have anymore and would forever be reduced to passive senses. The things were her most precious resource.

The thumper was an explosive device designed to penetrate it’s target and explode beneath the surface. The echos of it’s explosion, from vibration to heat and on through x-rays, would provide her with a lot of information of the planet’s composition.

It was, essentially, a missile. Tactically it would have been called a “bunker buster”, a missile designed to penetrate before exploding. For her, it was the ultimate sounder. She didn’t want to waste it.

She also didn’t want to hurt anyone with it. Or anything. Seventy years of exploring without a hint of any living matter had given her an almost pathological approach to testing for life. If there was even the possibility of it’s existence, just a hint of water or chlorophyll, she would observe, report, and leave.

Today’s planet was a massive chunk of extremely dense material. Not a thing lived on it’s surface, and she was reasonable certain nothing could.

Within seconds the thumper launched into the gravity well, accelerating even as the planet’s gravity took hold and dragged it down. The impact was pinpoint and bright, leaving a trace on a few of her eyes that took a good second and a half to clear. Five seconds later a brighter flash occurred and she soaked in the data.

The explosion was vivid and deep. Far deeper than she’d expected the thumper to penetrate. The explosion also went on at length, blazing brighter and brighter. The data coming in was alarming.

Complex elements, built in the nearby star’s furnace, were densely impacted throughout the planet’s surface. It was a Venus sized chunk of fissionable material, and she had set some of it off.

She didn’t run. There would be no point. If she somehow managed to defy the odds and create a chain reaction that consumed the entire planet there would be no safe distance to run to, at least not within the star’s gravity well. She wouldn’t have a chance to reach jump distance.

Unafraid but fascinated she watched as the explosion beneath the surface grew and grew. Massive fault lines formed and glowed in spidery patterns from the impact point, several bursts of radioactive energy glinting along the edges. Arcs of energy crackled along the surface where fissures grew close to one another. The light show went on for a good twenty minutes.

Eventually it abated and the explosion spent itself out. Glowing lines of heavy materials “burning” with fissionable energy surrounded a bright point of impact, a flickering bulls-eye marking the entry point along the planet’s equator.

She watched for a few more rotations. As the scars came back under view it was clear the lines were blurring and eroding, the blasting heat of the star healing the surface and merging the elements back into the dull blasted landscape it had originally been. After the fourth rotation she could barely detect the impact point at all.

Timing her departure along the planet’s three moons, keeping as much planetary material between her and the star as she could, she barely made it out to the edge of they system before her shield ratings were in the red.

A quick scan brought a solid asteroid to her attention. Carefully studying it she eventually determined that it had no rotation relative to the system’s star and planted a beacon on it’s protected dark side. She left a recording of the impact and resulting explosion broadcasting on a loop, carefully laying out a strip of solar collectors on the bright side to keep it running. If any other species came across the system and were able to decipher the signal, they’d at least have some warning.

A page a day, day three

A couple of weekends ago I had an interesting conversation with Tracy over a late lunch about relationships, siblings, and the different ways we each grew up. As I’ve aged I’ve identified many of the personality traits I’ve developed, or failed to develop, having grown up as an only child.

Tracy’s perspective is that of the youngest of a long line, so young that by the time she arrived her eldest siblings had already moved out on their own. I’ve had a number of similar conversations with Dianne, but her perspective comes as the eldest, so much the elder that by the time her next nearest sibling was born she was nearly in high school and was often responsible for raising her younger siblings as they were babies and toddlers.

And me, raised as an only child of a single mother who ran her own business. Three startlingly different perspectives.

I can really only speak from mine, but watching Dianne’s kids grow up and hearing her talk about their struggles, while at the same time listening to her, Tracy, and others talk about struggles they’ve had with their own siblings, has made me realize some of the major influences in life I’ve definitely missed out on.

Primary among these is the spirit of competition. I’ve never been overtly competitive. When I was young I never had to be. Or, to be more precise, the one thing I was in direct competition with wasn’t something I could beat: my mother’s business. I imagine I could try to be better at something than my older sibling, or perhaps serve as an example to a younger, but when it came to being between me and my mother’s business we simply had to bow to practicality. If we wanted to eat and stay housed, the business had to come first.

Don’t think that didn’t set me up with some resentment, though.

But outside of that I didn’t have anyone I had to compete with on the same level. I didn’t wear any hand-me-down clothes, and I didn’t have to stay home to take care of a little brother. My grades were not in comparison with anyone else’s, and I always had my own room.

I never had to fight, and I strongly suspect that made me much less of a fighter as an adult. Not so much avoiding of conflict as not seeing the point of it. If there was a disagreement that couldn’t be reasoned out then there wasn’t any real point in following it. When the fight gets passionate I inevitably give in because… there isn’t going to be a win anyway.

But siblings fight, and they fight passionately, even if they know they’re wrong. And they learn by doing, learn the rules and responsibilities of an argument. They learn that arguments are sometimes inevitable and, rather than avoid them, they engage with passion and intent.

I can’t help but feel that could benefit a person later in life. And I can’t help but feel I missed out. As much as I hate to fight, and really do wish everyone could get along, I’m realistic enough to recognize that that’s impossible, and if you don’t know how to fight, whether it be socially or intellectually, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.

And by “know how to fight” I don’t just mean knowing how to swing, metaphorically, and make it count, but also what the rules of fighting are, where those unspoken boundaries are, and what is or is not expected.

I learned early in my “adult” life that walking away from an argument was something people generally did not expect, and it became my trump card. But it also meant I never expected to win, and that has only served to increase my bitterness.

I also missed out on learning how to recover from a fight, how to forgive and let things go. I could never understand how my cousins could fight with each other violently one day and then be playing together happily the next. To me, if there was a violent disagreement, you just avoided that person in the future. Period. After all, if you touch a hot stove and it burns you, you don’t go back to touching that hot stove again and again expecting a different result.

Except, of course, people aren’t stoves. They’re a hell of a lot more complicated, and a fight isn’t always the end of a relationship, even if it’s a violent one. Sometimes it just sets a new line of boundaries, or sometimes it just clears the air. Sometimes it takes the elephant in the room and cuts it up into disposable pieces.

I feel not growing up with conflict has left me vulnerable to it and less capable of handling it effectively. I’m not adverse to it, but I do tend to handle it crudely. Like using an eight bit pickax in a 32 bit world. I may make my point, but I can wind up taking out a whole cliff-side doing it.

A page a day, day one

a picture of the intersection of 17th Ave and 8th St SW in Calgary Alberta covered in snow

March 3rd. Superstitiously I hope this means March will go out like a lamb and I’ll be able to ride my bike on the Easter weekend.

If you live anywhere near southern Alberta, or know someone who does, you’ll know that we experienced quite a bit of snow today. People have commented on it quite a bit, and I admit it does look rather impressive out the window at this moment. But, quite honestly, it’s not a whole LOT of snow. It’s just a heck of a lot more than we’ve had in quite a while.

I had plans to get some grocery shopping done today but, in light of the sudden snow, I’ve elected to remain home instead. It’s not that I am in any way reluctant to go out into the snow, as I did in fact take a short walk out to the drug store to pick up a few things I really, really needed, but rather I just didn’t want to deal with the inevitable dicks that somehow emerge whenever a large amount of snow suddenly appears.

As if to prove my point I watched a ridiculously big pickup truck tromp on his gas in frustration after a left hand turn from 17th ave and onto northbound 8th street. He was having some traction issues and it very obviously bothered him that he couldn’t get up to speed the way he’d like. In fact it bothered him so much he spun his tires and fish tailed down eighth street for at least two blocks, sliding his way diagonally through one crosswalk with it’s lights flashing. Luckily there wasn’t anyone actually in the crosswalk at that moment, but I’m not entirely sure he bothered to check.

He provided a very direct reinforcement to my decision to not take my car out. The dicks come out thick and heavy on any sudden snowfall. It’s like some people automatically gain the equivalent of three beers in their head the moment more than an inch of snow hits the ground.

Being as the snow was thick and fresh I dug out my “Truly Winter” winter boots from

Truly Winter boots

Truly Winter boots

my closet. The amount of dust on them leads me to suspect I hadn’t worn them since I’d moved. Possibly much longer. The amount of trouble I had putting them on kind of sealed that estimate. Either they’d shrunk of my feet have grown. I’m well aware it’s the latter.

I got them on, though, and once properly tied the were just as warm and comfortale as ever. They also add a good inch to my height, which is a little disorienting at first. Years ago when I worked as a courier for Purolator I’d wear the boots on really wet or cold days and always, without fail, knocked my head on the truck door-frame at least once before remembering just how much taller the boots made me.

The trudge out to the store was slow and difficult. I’d also forgotten what a fucking chore it is to walk through fresh snow. The underlying packed ice didn’t help. There were at least two moments where I damn near wound up on my ass.

The effort wasn’t worth it just to get bread, but it was worth it for the trip itself. The workout did me some good and it made me appreciate my warm little cave just that much more. Plus it meant I got the requisite trip outside out of the way for the day. I can now hole up and focus on laundry, tea, and writing.

I’ve decided to make a commitment: a minimum of a page a day. I will write every single day for the rest of the year. No namby pamby bullshit, just get it done. At least a page.

But that begs the question: how much is a page? On the computer it’s incredibly difficult to tell with this bare bones text editor I use. I could switch to something like Word or Open Office Writer, where you get visual representations of page breaks, but then the page is still whatever I say it is. Double spaced sixteen point font with margins of an inch and a half at all sides would make the page about, maybe, a hundred words (off the top of my head, I have no real idea) while going with 10 point font, single spaced, and zero margins would quite possibly result in a thousand words or more per page.

So: what is a page?

Quick google search yields this page which states: “An essay is usually double-spaced with 1 inch margins on all sides. Depending on the font used this generally yields 250-280 words per page (a serifed 12-point font is most common).”

So… let’s go with 300 words, just to round the number and take away some of that margin / line spacing filler.

My rules, subject to renegotiation at any time, is:

1) a minimum of 300 words a day

2) No carry over. If I do 1200 words on Tuesday I still have to come up with another 300 on Wednesday

2b) That being said, if I know I’m going to be super busy the next day (like if I’m driving a really long road trip) and want to pre-write that day’s writing, I can do so in a separate document and post it ahead of time.

(the whole point between rules 2 and 2b is that I can’t slack off on Wednesday because I did so well on Tuesday, but I can work hard in advance and bank the effort. It’s a subtle distinction, but one I think will be very important)

3) My words only. Quoting doesn’t count.

4) Written or typed, it doesn’t matter, but if hand written I need to photograph or transcribe it before they count.

Today’s word count, so far, is 830 words ( less the quote up there, I subtracted )

And then I went back and added in rule 2b, jumping me past 900.

This may be both easier and harder than I imagine.

Things I wish I could say

Customer: “Where is my package!? Why haven’t you delivered it yet!?”

Yes, people actually ask this, as if we were personally responsible for the delivery of their order and simply haven’t been walking quite fast enough. We also get customers who, I kid you not, assume “next day delivery” actually means “this afternoon”.

I often daydream of the responses I would like to give:

“Well, sir, despite my best efforts I have yet to establish control of the postal system. I did try, though, just for you. I closed my eyes and thought really hard. Unfortunately all I managed was a fart and, while personally satisfying, it didn’t do much to speed up your package. Sorry about the smell.”

I’d like to … smoke a bowl

Bought myself an indulgence on Saturday. I went down to Epicure and purchased a fine bag of tobacco leaf. Two bags, actually. I bought my usual Royal Coachman, a good standard, and then I took a risk on an amusing name: “Bilbo’s Leaf”. As if that wasn’t enough I was also tempted by a jar labeled “Answer 42”.

I kid you not.

But then as I didn’t want my understanding of the Universe to be completely shattered I resisted the urge to smoke the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. My head’s already far too big as it is.

As I made my purchase I was distracted by the noise of battle and the unmistakable strains of movie soundtrack. I looked around but couldn’t quite place where it was coming from.

“Am I hearing… movie sounds?” I asked.

“Yep.”

Then I thought about it. Epicure is in a basement just two or three doors down from one of Calgary’s art house theaters, and it was mid afternoon.

“Ah,” I said, expounding on my sudden insight, “your shop must be right up against the theater.”

“Nope.” The very young proprietor nodded towards a gleaming sliding door at the back of the shop. It appeared to be made out of stainless steel and had the words “Private” emblazoned just beneath the electric eye glowing red and menacing at it’s top.

I looked back at him.

“Private party.”

“Ah.” I said. The shop played host to a large private theater in which a person was alowed to smoke, not something available in public anymore.

As I finished up the purchase the strains of muffled dialog blurred through the wall along with a gentle swell of dramatic music.

“I feel like I should know the film.” I said, trying to place the oddly familiar tone and music.

“Mortal Kombat.” The clerk said, handing me my bag and my receipt.

Some small part of my admiration for the private theater died right then. If you’re going to rent a private space to watch a movie specifically so you and your friends can smoke somewhere larger and presumeably more ornate than your common living room, wouldn’t you want something a little more… classy, to watch?

Like Lord of the Rings, complete with your own pipe of Bilbo’s Leaf.

The geeks, it seems, truly are old enough to be running the show.

Two Snakes

I remember going to a palm reader once, years and years ago when I was a child. My mother and I went. Mom was always fascinated by the supernatural and dragged me to every psychic show that came to town.

The one palm reader told me many things, most of which I don’t remember. ( I do think she said I wouldn’t find love until later in life, but that could just be my mind dressing up my memories to fit the facts ) One thing I do remember with certainty, though, was that the woman remarked on how both my mother and I were born in the year of the Snake, but because of our astrological signs my mother was a fire snake while I am a forest or grass snake. (Hence I can claim with authority to be an official Snake in the Grass as well as a certified Bastard) She told me this was a good thing, as my mother would understand me well enough to accept my differences and I would relate well enough to my mother to learn from her. She went on to say that the best lesson I’d learn from my mother was how to avoid, or resist, being trod upon as so many grass snakes allow themselves to be. Being raised by a fire snake would teach the grass snake to rise up and strike back once in a while.

I took this to heart, even as a child, because I was already smart enough to realize that I was weak. The bullies at school certainly brought that lesson home often enough. But I was also smart enough to realize I could never be strong in the same way my mother was.

My mother, despite having a really deficient asshole detector, was still a damned strong and independent woman who could, and would, fight for her achievements. She rarely achieved anything in half measure. She would throw the full force of her will against whatever problem presented itself and drive at it until it broke.

Some people would call this being stubborn. I called it being direct.

Because of the way she raised me I have learned the advantages of being direct. But because of the way I am, I don’t apply that lesson very well. While Mom would stoke the fires of her fury and slam headlong into a problem, I’d worm my way around the edges until I found the way through or past it. If there were no way past it I’d eventually pull our the worn ax my mother gave me and try my own clumsy hands at hacking away. I always give up sooner than my mother would, my chops ragged and inefficient. Where my mother would rend entire slabs of a problem off at a stroke I have to content myself with chipping away at it in tiny increments.

But I have learned, and the lessons have brought me some measure of skill. And have brought me to places merely wending my way through crevices and holes would never have taken me.

And while I never mastered her direct methods at moving forward I have acquired the skills that keep me from being pushed back.

Unfortunately it could also be said that there is a disadvantage to having a grass snake raised by a fire snake. A grass snake will always opt for the safety of the background, the comfort of the hidden. Don’t notice me and you won’t hurt me. If I stay back here, I won’t get hurt.

That works equally well for hiding behind skirts as it does for hiding behind rocks and trees, and when those skirts belong to a powerful and protective woman it makes it damned tempting to just stay in there forever.

But that’s not good, and anyone reading this will already have figured that out. For one thing, those skirts aren’t going to be there forever, and when they’re gone that little grass snake isn’t going to know where else to hide. And despite what lessons he may have gleaned over the years the direct approach just isn’t going to work for him, not in the long run. He needs to know how to solve problems his way, the way he was built to solve them.

Which means he needed to figure a lot of the stuff out on his own. Not only because there wasn’t anyone else around to show him The Way of the Grass Snake, but also because that’s the best way those lessons are learned.

Man, this has all the makings of a hell of a fable.

Change is inevitable, the rate of change is variable

As I put dishes away this evening I had a thought.

“Let’s leave the world behind,” I thought to myself. “Let’s run away faster than the world can follow and, when we turn the next corner, we’ll hide under the sage until the world gets fed up calling our names and goes home.”

The world as a spoiled, clingy sibling. I honestly haven’t the slightest clue where that metaphor came from.

Unfortunately the world is tenacious as well as clingy and won’t let you get away with anything. It’ll find you hiding under the sage and, when it does, It’s Telling Your Mom.

I’m not good with change, as many people (*coughronyacough*) have noted, over and over and over again. I’ve been conscious of this fact since childhood, and the phrase “we fear change” could well be my mantra.

I didn’t realize just how much I fucking Fear change, though. It’s irrational, stupid, and annoying.

They’ve switched me to permanent night shifts at the mall, a switch that honestly holds more positives than negatives. Prime among the positives is that I’ll have far fewer people to deal with. Around friends I’m rather gregarious and open so many of you may find this hard to fathom but I really don’t like having to deal with people much.

Oh who am I kidding? You all know how much I loathe “dealing with” people. I positively chafe at the thought of having to endure more than a couple of minutes of small talk. Hey there, random stranger, when I give you the polite nod in response to your comment and return to my book it doesn’t mean I’m a shy, social misfit with no friends who desperately needs you to draw me out into the world. It means I don’t want to talk to YOU so kindly shift your pathetic discourse on the weather to some other helpless transit victim, kay?

So, yeah, I’m on permanent midnight to 8 shifts, which suits me just fine.

Only, on Saturday night, when I started my first full time midnight to 8 shift, I was nervous and edgy as hell. I was, in fact, quite frightened.

Why? I haven’t a freaking clue. I’ve done midnight to eights for months now. Two of my five weekly shifts have been midnight to eights ever since I started. Nothing new was going to pop up for me to deal with. The mall was empty, except for the cleaners who were gone an hour later, and I had the place to myself.

But I was *stressed*, for chrissake. Twitchy, jumpy, and nervous.

Now, ostensibly a big part of that was due to the coffee I was drinking. Coffee has always been a strong magnifier for my emotions and I had made the pot extra strong to keep me awake all night. But those emotions have to be there for them to be magnified.

And it lasted most of the night, too.

If it were a scene in a horror movie I would have been walking backwards through a darkened room with a faulty flashlight that keeps going out.

Last night was much better and I wasn’t nearly as weirded out.

Tonight I’m switching to tea.

In other news I have two unrelated friends trying to recommend me for two entirely unrelated jobs. I’m not sure if I’m actually qualified for either, but we’ll cross our fingers.

I’m working on a new theory very similar to the relationship theory I developed years ago. In relationships most people I know have found love when they were least looking for it. In life, I find, the chance for change to just “happen” to you is inversely proportionate to how comfortable you are with the current situation. In other words, the more comfortable you are with where you are now, the more likely that is to change. Conversely, the more you want things to change, the less likely it is that change will occur.

Aaaand that’s enough philosophy for the night. Time to go swap loads of laundry.