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Author Archives: ianmdudley

About ianmdudley

Writer, lover, reader, father, taxpayer, husband, and son, though not necessarily in that order.

Why NASA needs me to participate in their next social media event, or better yet, space mission

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to participate in DSN50, a NASA social media event celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Deep Space Network.

It was an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which I blogged about.

Except it turns out it wasn’t.

NASA is hosting another once-in-a-lifetime social media event, this time to witness the test launch of the new Orion space capsule.

(Not to be confused with the similarly named, nuclear pulse propulsion Orion spacecraft.)

Turns out, for this particular event, applicants must write a short essay justifying why they should get one of the few available slots.

Naturally, I started mine, when I realized something.

All I've ever wanted in life was to be an astronaut and to be hugged. If only there was a way to combine the two...

Imagine! This could be me!

I was aiming too low.

I shouldn’t be aiming for attendance at one of the nearby space centers to view the launch.

No, like NASA, I should be aiming for space itself.

Therefore, for the benefit of any NASA HR personnel who just happen to regularly read this blog, I humbly offer you compelling, irrefutable reasons why NASA should accept me as their next astronaut.

(Despite having no job application on file. Do I need one of those, or is a blog post considered enough?)

First and foremost, I am an engineer. So if we run into any of your run-of-the-mill, typical space-program-type issues, I am well-equipped to solve them.

I also happen to be a huge science fiction fan. Books, movies, TV shows, radio programs: I love them all. If we run into any unexpected problems, such as first contact, facehuggers, flux capacitors on a forced feedback loop or the like, again, I’m your go-to guy when it comes to dealing with it.

I am led to understand it can take a great deal of time and patience to get into a spacesuit. Well, I’m covered there too: I have five-year olds I regularly dress (they stubbornly refuse to learn how to do it themselves, the bastards), and if that doesn’t prove patience and perseverance, well, I don’t know what does.

Also, as just mentioned, I have two five-year olds at home who are stubborn and unwilling to dress themselves. I am really motivated to embark upon an extended trip. The further away from my home, the better, and you can’t get much further than low Earth orbit.

At least, with our current crop of spacecraft. You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to warp drives.

No idea.

And as a responsible, loving father of young children, I am eager to not leave them (permanently) fatherless. So you can count on me to avoid taking any reckless risks while in space.

Yup, I definitely won’t be forgetting to close that airlock door after a spacewalk.

In fact, I’m so reluctant to leave my children (permanently) fatherless that you will need to hire some muscle to actually get me into the launch vehicle. But I promise, once I’m in the vacuum of space and the only chance of safely returning is complete and total cooperation, you won’t find a more reliable and industrious astronaut.

By the way, a fresh-faced Daddy and his two young kids?

Photo op gold.

Plus I just had my teeth whitened. Don’t want that to go to waste, do you?

But lest you start thinking you should send my kids into space instead of me, let’s get back to what makes me a great candidate.

I may be that most dreaded of creatures, the pocket protector wearing engineer, but I’m not all awkward and uncomfortable around people, afraid to make eye contact and spewing jargon in lieu of meaningful communication.

I’m also an English minor. As this blog clearly demonstrates, I can (and will!) convey any sciency stuff we encounter to the masses, and in simple terms that even I can understand!

(Note: if there are complicated terms involved, you will need to simplify them for me before I can convey them to the masses. But it’s space, how complicated can things get?)

Lots of complaints from ungrateful astronauts about the food you provide them? Not from me! For the last six months, in an effort to bulk up, I’ve eaten only creatine powder, consumed straight from the jar with just a straw and a little water to lower the viscosity.

After six months of this, I don’t care what you send up with your astronauts. Cheese Whiz? Tang? Cricket dung? Don’t care. It can’t possibly be as dehumanizingly unfit for consumption as creatine sludge.

On a related note, my doctor keeps telling me to lose weight. I can’t think of a better in-your-face way to shut her up than to drop down to zero pounds. Am I right?

Which reminds me. Think of the endorsements you can get through me to help fund the space program. Weight Watchers alone ought to be willing to pay me millions upon my safe return.

We can call it the Weight Watchers NASA Certified Weightless Program. It’ll be huge!

I’ll cut you in for, say, ten percent?

And how can you judge an applicant without the context of current events?

You can’t, of course!

Which is why I am proud to state, for the record, that you have nothing to be worried about with me when it comes to Ebola. I haven’t been anywhere near Africa, let alone West Africa.

And Texas? I wouldn’t have my cremated remains sent to that state, let alone a viable, working body. So with me, you can rest easy, knowing the odds against my coming down with Ebola during a mission are astronomical!

Finally, if you still aren’t convinced of my bona fides, I will add only this:

If NASA can send monkeys and dogs into space, surely you can get me there too.

Though if any of those animals are available to talk about their experience, let me know. Like I said, I’m a little worried about leaving my kids fatherless, and talking to someone who’s been through the whole process would ease my nerves considerably.

And I’m really good with dogs.

Well, nice dogs.

Not dogs like mine. They’re jerks, and I don’t get along with them.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you and learning when I should report to space camp (by the way, I’ve always wanted to go to space camp).

Respectfully yours,

Ian M. Dudley

 
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Posted by on 27 October 2014 in Astronomy!, Science!

 

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Facts? I don’t need facts! Just a gut feeling and a strong opinion to back it up. Plus YouTube. YouTube helps.

One of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen is Alien.

In fact, it is the scariest movie ever.

Hands down. Case closed. This is not a democracy, you don’t get a vote.

The scene when Brett (played by Harry Dean Stanton) dies? Walking into the darkened chamber, towards all the hanging chains, water dripping down?

First time I saw that, I hit pause every half second, did a little circuit around the room, then watched another half second.

Keep in mind, up to that point, the big alien hadn’t been revealed yet.

And I was watching the version edited for broadcast television.

Aaand to this day, eleven months later, I still hit pause every half second when I watch it.

Things went downhill (for me) from there.

That viewing also launched a deep-seated fascination for the Alien genre.

As well as a recurring nightmare.

So when I found out about the new game set in that universe, Alien Isolation, I knew I had to check it out.

This is my review of that game.

First off, full disclosure: I haven’t played the game.

How can I write a review if I haven’t played it?

I look at it this way: having no knowledge of other subjects hasn’t prevented me from having strong opinions about them, so why should a computer game be any different?

Speaking of which, I have a few suggestions on how you should vote in the upcoming mid-term elections. Leave me a comment with your voting district, and I’ll be happy to tell you how to cast your ballot.

Besides, I may not have played Alien Isolation, but I’ve seen it.

I watched the entire play-through on YouTube.

I love YouTube. You can watch any game play-through you want on the service.

It’s like Netflix, but with better selection.

And it’s free!

So, now that my review credentials have been established, Alien Isolation.

Terrifying. Jumped countless times. Held my breath longer than I should have. Dropped my tablet at one point. Shattered the screen.

That scream? Nothing compared to the shrieks triggered by the game.

When you hear the alien stomping towards you, the pounding footfalls getting louder and louder? Unmitigated trepidation.

I do have to say, however, game play seemed rather straightforward. The video I watched, the player got through everything without any mistakes or going down any dead ends.

Point A to point B in a straight line. It was almost as if she’d played the game before.

This is also, I am saddened and shocked to report, a violent game.

People are getting killed left and right, front and center. By each other, by aliens, by androids.

Gruesome, and honestly, a totally unnecessary component to Alien Isolation.

That’s what’s wrong with kids today: they are playing way too many games with double-jawed, chest-bursting antagonists in them.

We’re teaching our youth to kill anything even vaguely foreign, even when all these foreigners want is to hug (our faces).

For shame.

How is the next generation ever going to learn the art of negotiation, of reaching détente, if all we ask of them now, during these formative years, is to skulk about and kill things?

Plus looting. You also have to loot bodies, shops, supply depots, if you want to survive this game.

I can almost forgive the violence, but never the looting. Property rights never get enough respect in these games.

So in the end, I have to confess I’m glad I didn’t buy the game.

Playing would have been far too stressful for me.

In horror movies, the sheer terror comes in brief moments, followed by lulls where the audience gets its breath back.

This games doesn’t have that. It’s decidedly lull-free. And while that might be sustainable for a few minutes, I can’t take it non-stop for hours.

Besides, I have kiddos. I couldn’t possibly play a game this scary while they’re around, and I sure as hell wouldn’t play it after they’ve gone to bed, alone and in the dark.

I asked the Missus if I could have the kiddos sit on my lap while I played in the dark, but she just frowned and muttered under her breath.

That’s her way of saying no. I don’t have any evidence to that end, but I’ve got a gut feeling.

 
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Posted by on 15 October 2014 in Other Blogs

 

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That’s not ambient sound. That’s the sound of victory! Or coffee being brewed. Maybe both.

So I’ve been playing with my Zoom H4n recorder that I mentioned in a previous post. You know, the one that’s made me more self-aware.

I’ve used it in a lot of settings:

Sitting down to a family dinner.

While reading a bedtime story to the kiddos.

During an argument with the Missus so I could point out later the exact moment where I won.

(Note to self: pointing out where I won an argument with the Missus leads to a far more unpleasant argument that I definitely lose.)

Using the toilet to study the direction water flows when flushed.

But none of those seemed…appropriate to share. Those recordings are either too intimate or too “Eww, my ears! I can’t unhear that!”

So I did the unthinkable.

I went outside.

Now while you can’t hear it, there is sunlight out there. It burns your skin with prolonged exposure.

Or, if you’ve been holed up in a darkened room with nothing but an LCD screen as a source of illumination for years, a not-so-prolonged exposure.

I wanted to share the sound of me slathering on sunscreen, but the Missus informs me that is one of those “Eww, my ears!” moments.

The Missus also said the only safe way to do this is to take myself almost entirely out of the equation.

So I did. I’m in the recording, but only as an observer. And the sound of my observing is very, very faint.

Also, at a frequency only dogs can hear.

Which explains all the howling in the background.

So, without further delay, I present to you the deeply not profound, and absolutely, totally, completely devoid of any sorts of Easter eggs at all, me writing in a crowded coffee shop.

The sound quality is so good you can hear the cockroaches mixed in with the coffee beans scream when the barista grinds them.

Mmm, cockroach-flavored coffee.

Hey, don’t knock it! At least it isn’t that coffee picked out of cat poop or elephant feces!

 
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Posted by on 7 October 2014 in 3D sound, Writing

 

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An Open Love Letter (and Dire Warning) to my 15-Year Old Self

Dear 15-year old me,

I am writing this to you from an age…considerably beyond 15.

If, by some miracle of Science, you actually receive this letter, stop reading now.

Seriously. Read no further.

I’m not kidding.

Life turned out just fine. Great, in fact. So keep doing everything you’re doing / I did, exactly as you’re doing it / I did it, and we’ll all end up happy.

Continuing to read this letter might cause you to alter course and screw everything up.

Sure, avoiding that impending wardrobe malfunction during the Christmas play sounds like a good idea to you, but it isn’t.

So. Stop. Reading. Now.

Who am I kidding? I know me. There’s no way 15-year old me will stop reading this letter, just like I didn’t stop reading the letter from 85-year old me.

(I hate to say it, but 85-year old me comes off as a lech. “Screw the ‘half your age plus seven’ rule!” indeed.)

I thought centerfolds in the paperback version would boost sales, but I'm not sure these are the sales I want.

Centerfolds in the paperback version of your books sounds like a great idea, but look at the type of fan you invariably attract!

OK, so 15-year old me, being young, reckless, and having no respect for your elders, clearly you’re still reading this letter.

Fine. I guess I can aim for small improvements.

Inconsequential ones.

Things that won’t alter the course of history, mine or Humanity’s in general.

I have four words for you:

Vinyl padded toilet seat.

I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Ew! Grampa toilet seat!”

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

These things are awesome.

First off, they’re soft. You can sit on the toilet, reading a book or surfing on your phone for hours, without that pesky leg-numbing consequence.

And yes, I said ‘surfing on your phone’. You’ll just have to wait to find out about that one. Suffice it to say, you are not surfing around inside the toilet on a phone.

Although that is a highly rated spectator sport in this time.

Not that I watch those contests. The people who watch them are vapid nihilists, not to mention imbued with incredibly poor taste.

Second, the vinyl stays cool during the summer. No more of that unpleasantness associated with sitting down on a hot, hard toilet seat. No sir!

Yes, the seat does stay cold during the winter, but that’s a mere trifle to fix! Just slip on the wool toilet seat cozy and you’re good to go.

Literally.

Just make sure you get the machine wash safe wool cozy. Dry clean only is no fun.

Third, the vinyl cleans up so easily. All you need is a solvent-soaked rag, a respirator, and some bleach.

Never stains.

Ever.

Unlike the leather padded toilet seats, which, by the way, turn out to be a short-lived fad.

Very. Short. Lived.

(Yes, I am taking a simple sentence and breaking it down into several one word sentences for dramatic effect. That’s how we write in the future. It’s. Legally. Mandated.)

But most importantly, the old toilet seat you replace with the padded vinyl one?

Superb blunt instrument.

Sure, the Missus will give you a lot of grief about throwing it out, or moving it into the garage, or anything but leaving it next to the bed.

(Yes, I said ‘Missus’. Turns out Becky Wallace was wrong in third grade when she said you’d die alone and unloved. If 85-year old me is to be believed, you don’t just not die alone, but you aren’t alone several times with a bunch of progressively younger Missuses! Although I got the sense money was a little tight when he finally got around to penning that missive.)

But you get the last laugh when, last night (mine, not yours), I (and, technically, you) am the victim of a home invasion robbery and I (there is only one hero in this story, and eventually it will be you) knock out the burglar with the discarded, supposedly useless, and surprisingly unyielding toilet seat.

Oh no, what have I done?

This is why you should have stopped reading this letter when I first told you!

Don’t you see? Now we’ve both been exposed to the deadly Toilet Seat Paradox.

What do I mean, your simple, uncomprehending 15-year old mind is asking?

I mean this:

What? You thought I didn't really have a vinyl padded toilet seat, that it was just a plot device for this entry? You don't know me, do you?

Makes a marvelous swishy sound when you get up.

Late in life, I am introduced to the joy of vinyl toilet seats by my much younger seventh wife, who is also apparently fixated on getting me to up my life insurance policy.

One day, after that toilet seat is mysteriously coated with an excess layer of olive oil, I slip off and find myself mortally wounded. In the brief moments I have remaining, I scratch out a letter to my younger self on a sheet of toilet paper using, well, we won’t go into what I used for ink.

And against all odds, that cry for help reaches me (my me, not your you).

Middle-aged me (that’s me again, not you, because if 15 is middle age for you, that would be really sad and I would be dead right now, which is even sadder), being distracted by the young kiddos running around, focuses on the opening of that letter, the joys of vinyl padded toilet seats, rather than the dangers associated with them and younger seventh wives with an affinity for olive oil.

Naturally, I (that’s middle-aged me, not 85-year old me) rush out to try one of these fabled toilet seats, fall in love with it, and as a result, end up owning one before my murderous future wife can introduce them to me.

I can only presume that in so doing, I learn of the importance of checking for oily residue on the toilet seat early enough that I survive the attempt on my 85-year old life.

I certainly hope that’s the case. I don’t want to die so young!

In addition, I also inadvertently provide myself with a weapon to fend off that home invasion robber. If I hadn’t had that toilet seat, the thief would have made off with my priceless collection of Troll Dolls.

(By the way, get in on that Troll Doll action right now. The sooner the better. Those things don’t just hold their value, if you keep them in the original packaging, they end up being worth two, sometimes even three times their original value!)

However, the paradox doesn’t end there.

In my enthusiasm for vinyl padded toilet seats, and with my judgement clouded by the sense of relief that my Troll Doll collection is safe, I feel compelled to write you a letter, extolling the virtues of this comfy bathroom accessory.

As a result, and foolishly ignoring my warnings, you buy a vinyl padded toilet seat decades before I first buy one.

Which means, by the time you buy a house and marry the Missus, hard wood toilet seats are a part of your distant past.

A fading, unpleasant memory.

And that means you don’t buy a vinyl padded toilet seat last week (my last week, not yours), and so you (by which I mean I) don’t have that old wood toilet seat by the bed last night (my last night, possibly quite literally).

Which means that I don’t have a blunt instrument to fend off that robber, and I am either dead or too despondent over the loss of my Troll Doll collection to write you this letter.

And. That. Is. A. Bad. Thing.

Very. Bad.

So please, whatever you do, don’t buy a vinyl padded toilet seat until you get that letter from 85-year old you.

It’s the only way we’ll survive the Toilet Seat Paradox.

 
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Posted by on 30 September 2014 in Angst, Life, Science!

 

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The Coriolis Effect and the Absurdity of Science

Have you ever wondered how the Coriolis Effect was discovered?

You know, the Coriolis Effect. The reason why water swirls clockwise down your toilet in one hemisphere, but counter-clockwise in another.

It’s not just something that sounds like the title of an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series.

But seriously, have you ever stopped to think how the study of the Coriolis Effect came to be?

Wondered at the circumstances that led to a fundamental advancement in our understanding of the laws of fluid dynamics and Newtonian physics?

Because come on, who stares in a toilet, watches the contents swirl away, notes the direction of the swirling, and then asks himself (of course it’s a man), “I wonder if it swirls the same way everywhere on Earth?”

I mean, imagine the grant proposal written expressly to explore this phenomenon:

PURPOSE OF GRANT:

To settle, once and for all, the age-old question: Do sh*t storms blow the same way regardless of location on Earth?

PROJECTED EXPENSES:

  1. Weekly stipend for food and housing, for an estimated 104 weeks
  2. One high-speed film camera
  3. One tripod for high-speed camera
  4. Film and processing for high-speed camera (this is in the days before digital, mind you)
  5. New state-of-the-art, low friction, remote-control flushing toilet with camera mount (in case tripod breaks)
  6. Cleaning supplies to eliminate secondary variables with respect to water flow and direction
  7. Round trip air fare (first class to minimize effects of discomfort, jet lag on effectiveness of scientist performing observations) from Western Hemisphere to Eastern Hemisphere, including freight costs for state-of-the-art toilet
  8. Years and years of therapy after spending so much time watching toilets flush

BENEFIT TO SCIENCE/SOCIETY:

Enable advances in toilet design to reduce over-spray and potential for unhygienic bathrooms. Potential military applications as well.

And then, then, come the years of scoffing at the so-called ‘Coriolis Effect’ when the resultant paper, creating a huge splash in the scientific community upon publication, is discredited as a fraud when no one else can duplicate the results.

Because that misguided male grad student falsified his data when, after months of staring at frame after frame of high-speed film showing turds circling in a bowl, he couldn’t see any difference between the two hemispheres.

Years later, historians wondered what it was that led him to lie.

Was it an accident? Did he inadvertently flip over the film from the Eastern hemisphere, creating a mirror image he mistook for an actual change in direction?

Was it a crack in his sanity? Did he delude himself into thinking a difference existed?

Was it the result of a feeble mind, unable to cope with the facts in front of him?

Did he fear for his freedom and reputation when the university oversight committee, catching wind of some project to capture toilet flushes with a high-speed camera, launched an audit?

Or was it the fact that much of his funding came from trial lawyers involved in a class action lawsuit against the major toilet manufacturers, claiming that water flow was not properly taken into account in the ubiquitous tank and bowl design, leading to unnecessary over-spray and unsanitary bathroom conditions?

We’ll never know. The scientist in question tore up his journals and notes and flushed them all down the toilet right before he was served with a search warrant.

Of course, as always with Science, the story doesn’t end here.

Years later, after the lawyers settled their lawsuit, along comes some tree-hugging hippy scientist from UC Santa Cruz or the like who gets this ‘far out’ idea that maybe the comparison should be between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, man.

One grant proposal, sixteen months of globe-hopping observational experiments, and one labeled-on-the-inside-to-avoid-film-flipping toilet later, we now know that toilets do swirl in different directions, depending on whether you’re in the Northern or Southern hemisphere.

That’s how Science works, and why most Western religions now revere the Coriolis Effect.

The whole thing makes me sick. I don’t even want to know how many of my tax dollars went into this farce.

All I know is now I can’t flush a toilet without wondering, “Is the water flowing in the right direction? Are the pressurized jets on this low flow toilet altering the trajectory, and if so, and if enough people are using this model of low flow toilet at the same time, could the Earth be knocked out of its orbit?”

It’s questions like these that keep me up at nights.

Ya know, this also sounds like a solid premise for a grant proposal…

 
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Posted by on 23 September 2014 in Life, Science!

 

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I heard it through a high fidelity recording of the grapevine

I’ve never felt more alive and aware.

How did I achieve this enlightened state? Was it reached after hours of yoga poses?

With hot stones taped to my chakra points?

While high on peyote?

Not exactly. Though someone should try that and let me know how it goes.*

Yesterday my Zoom H4n digital recorder arrived.

Wait. Let me rewind.

(Pun intended. Except it’s all digital, so is it really rewinding when there’s no physical tape? Meditate on that heaviness, my flock…)

A while ago, I stumbled across ASMR. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

Really wanna know? Go to YouTube and search ‘ASMR’. Then watch some of the videos while wearing headphones.

The short version (because there are a lot of videos out there) is that hearing certain sounds is supposed to trigger involuntary ‘tingly’ sensations in your head and spine that feel pretty good.

The operative word here is ‘supposed’.

I appear to suffer from a form of what the ASMR community refers to as immunity.

As in doesn’t work. No tingles. Well, once, when I was half asleep, and something inadvertently went bang in the background of the recording I was listening to.

Then, I had tingles.

For the half second it took before I woke up.

So I’ve clocked twenty, maybe thirty hours total on a quest for an ASMR. And gotten maybe half a second of one.

Story of my life.

Dammit.

But never one to accept lemons from life, I found a citrus lining in all this.

I became obsessed with sound quality.

OK, becoming obsessed doesn’t exactly sound like a trade up. Just bear with me. It gets better.

Besides, it could have been an obsession with Justin Bieber. That would definitely be more lemon than lining.

I researched the community and the artists who had the best sounding (but still non-tingly) recordings.

As a result, I bought a Zoom H4n recorder. They’re all the rage with the ASMRers.

And I have to admit, it’s pretty cool.

But all this is my long, meandering way of getting to the point of this posting.

As of yesterday, I have never felt more alive and aware. Why?

Because my Zoom H4n arrived.

And I started using it.

Being a grandiose idea sorta guy, I hit upon the brilliant scheme of recording my evening walk with the family, well, for lack of a better term, we’ll say dog.

Sure, dog. That works.

So I recorded the walk. And then listened to it.

I’d share the recording here, but I doubt you’d find the sounds of my…dog…relieving himself on a tree all that entertaining.

Plus at the end I may have walked through a spider web stretched across my front lawn, hypothetically belonging to a spider I might have seen during the day so I knew it was HUGE and so I might have screamed in a piercing, unmanly fashion.

No one would want to hear that.

If it existed.

Which it doesn’t, as far as I’m concerned.

The surprise came when I closed my eyes and listened.

And heard the skitter of sure, why not, my dog’s claws on cement. And crickets. And a neighbor’s water fountain. And cars whizzing by.

Standard stuff. And frankly, if I hadn’t heard them, I’d have been bitterly disappointed in my new purchase.

But I also heard sounds I hadn’t noticed on the walk itself.

A barely audible family discussion in one house I passed. Another neighbor with a water fountain. The lonely wail of the heretofore thought extinct Red-legged Tinamou.

Sounds that made me sit up, open my eyes, and say, “Hello, where did you come from?”

This really annoyed the Missus, since I was in bed at the time and she’d been asleep.

So tonight I walked again, and recorded again. But this time I found myself more mindful, more aware, and I picked out those sounds I had filtered out last night.

I felt a little bit more alive and a whole lot more aware.

Unlike that time with the peyote. I woke up from that with a migraine, a tramp stamp, and half a cat in my mouth.

Can not recommend. I’m still coughing up hair balls.

But all this New Age-y fulfillment will make me feel a lot better next month when the credit card bill arrives.

* NOTE: Ian M. Dudley is not a medical doctor, certified yoga instructor, licensed massage therapist, or psychedelic drug connoisseur. Attempt at your own risk.
 
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Posted by on 11 September 2014 in Life

 

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They had it coming, especially their ringleader, that tilde with the smarmy grin

I’m a murderer.

There. That’s off my chest.

Huh. You’d think I’d feel better after confessing. I certainly thought I would.

But I don’t.

I feel just like I did before I ‘fessed up.

Fine. Just fine.

I suppose it’s because the little buggers deserved it.

No, wait. That’s not true. They didn’t.

It was my fault. But they still had to die.

This happens every time I edit a book.

Or a blog post.

No, I’m not talking about my characters. You can’t kill people who aren’t real, and they aren’t real.

No matter how much you love them, or enjoy watching them undress in that one scene you wrote just so you could watch them undress.

Freak.

But words are real.

And letters.

You see, I have this funny habit when I’m editing. If I’m correcting a misspelling, or changing the tense, or switching from an -ed to an -ing ending, I feel a qualm.

I feel like I’m killing the letters, or, if it’s an ambitious edit, the words.

Replacing an upper case letter for a lower case because the word doesn’t start a sentence any more?

Feels like orphaning a child.

Right in front of the child.

(I named that letter Bruce, and now he’s grown up and fills my nightmares with a sense of being persecuted.)

Because the letters know it’s coming. They see the edit before it happens, just like I do.

They anticipate the coming death, but are powerless to stop it.

I suppose this makes the editing more fun.

Well, less drudgery-ish, anyway.

Anything to add excitement, and what’s more exciting that a little murder?

Yes, making screaming noises when you kill the letter ‘a’ (Ahhh!) or ‘n’ (Noooo!) is more exciting, but then the people around you in the coffee shop get all judgmental.

And edge away.

Definitely a great way to get more space when you’re forced to share a large table in a really crowded coffee shop.

But then you get thrown out and banned from the establishment for life.

Now that I do all my editing at home, the Missus has insisted I mustn’t scare the children by making my dying letters beg for their lives.

Personally, I think she’s worried I’ll give the kiddos ideas. They already make little wails for their Vienna sausages before popping them into their mouths.

“But I have a wife and a dozen mini sausages!” is a common refrain around the kiddo dining table.

Yes, it is my fault.

But enough about my kids. I hate parents who go on and on about their ‘wonderful’ kids. Let’s get back to talking about me.

I don’t know exactly when this anthropomorphizing started. I don’t remember doing it in high school or college. It must have happened after that.

Sometime between when I worked graveyard and when I attended my first nanowrimo write-in.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

The doctor has offered me medication that would make the letters stop whimpering just before I hit the Backspace key, but I find those drugs impair my ability to write.

If I have to choose between being able to write or letters and words living in a world without fear, I choose tormenting the letters and words.

Consider it payback, alphabet and dictionary, for all the words hurled against me in grade school by classmates who thought I was weird just because I preferred to read during recess and lunch, and listen to the teacher, and do my homework, and pass my tests.

Payback.

But it’s not just me, right? You other writers out there feel the same thing when you delete portions of your works in progress, yes?

Please, please agree with me.Or I’ll kill this ‘a’.

I’ll do it! I (Ahh! Noo!) totally will!

Thirty one letters and five punctuation marks lost their lives in the course of editing this posting. Happy? I know I am.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on 9 September 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
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