Happy Birthday Story

Stories reveal our humanity.  We can use them to learn more about each other, and how to better ourselves.

And sometimes, they are simply a good story.

My friend is celebrating her birthday around now, and was taking a walk to relax and reflect.

She came across a neighbor’s pond, and stopped.  There stood a Great Blue Heron.  And it was only ten paces away.

Around these parts, the heron is famously shy.  The fact that it was facing away from her may have helped.  Regardless, the fact that it didn’t notice her was incredible.

What made this chance encounter so much more poignant was that her late father’s birthday was also around this time.  And she missed him terribly.

What made this chance encounter so incredibly poignant was that her father’s favorite bird was the Great Blue Heron.

My friend stood, frozen, for quite some time.  Then she started singing happy birthday to her father.

It’s important to understand that my friend has a singing voice that is angelic.  She sings in the symphony.  Even her silly ditties are a joy to hear.  So when she started singing to the heron, there’s a good chance even the heron could tell it was something special.

Then my friend got to the part where you mention the name, “Happy Birthday dear Daddy…”

And the heron turned its head to look at her.

She froze, only for a second, her heart in her throat.  Then she finished the song.

And the heron flew away.

Stories reveal our humanity.  We can learn from them.

And sometimes, they are simply a good story.

Happy Birthday, Friend.

 

Story Time: Animal Sperm

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Stories are ways of playing in our behavior sandbox.  This one’s risque, but based on natural fact.  Humans are built to have sex for fun.  Most humans.

They always get their egg.

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Two men sat at the bar, very late.  They’re strangers, but Carol, the friendly young bartender chatted with them and served them the same drink on the house.  So they talk.

Alan was an older doctor, with insane work hours.  His much younger second wife must have missed him terribly, because he’d discovered her in bed with two other men.

Ben was younger, rugged, larger, and reluctant.  Alan insisted, looking for anything amusing, refusing to believe that Ben’s story was sadder than his.

Ben glanced at the bartender.  She smiled back from the other end of the bar.  “I have to move again,” he said sadly, “because of her.”

“I knew you knew her.  Girlfriend?”

“No, and I don’t know her,” said Ben.  “I only see her here, for months.  But I know women, and she wants to take me home tonight.”

“Why is that a bad thing?”

“Because I want to go with her.  I haven’t been with a woman since the last city.  Months.”

“That’s crazy.  Why should you have to move?”

“I know it’s crazy, but it’s the way it is.  Look, I’m not smart like you.  I get a grunt job where I can make a half-decent living and settle in.  Eventually I need a woman, I just do.  I find one, or she finds me, we hit it off, and we end up in bed.”

“Still not a problem.”

“She gets pregnant.  Carol will get pregnant tonight.”

“Now you’re crazy.”

“Maybe.” Ben downed his whiskey.  “But it happens every time.  Seems most animals have sperm that works, first time, every time.  People don’t, so they can have sex a lot.  I got animal sperm.”

“What about contraceptives, birth control, diaphragms, off-period?”

“Doesn’t matter.  My sperm even figures out how to break through a condom.”

“Vasectomy?”

“Done twice already.  Somehow the tubes fix themselves.  Doc wanted to write it up but I bugged out.”

“Pulling out?”

“Can’t do it fast enough.  Somehow the sperm knows.”

Alan sipped, thinking.  Carol chatted them up, poured Ben another, stroked his hand, and went to work the other side.  Alan looked up at Ben.

“Have you thought about going gay?  I mean, it’s kind of fashionable nowadays.”

“Yeah, thought about it, but not my style.  No, I love women, but I can’t have em.  I go as long as I can and then, wham, bam, here’s your baby ma’am, moving on.”

Alan slapped down a c-note, told Ben the drinking was on him, and that he appreciated the story.  He left, found a hotel room, and slept well.

He kept visiting that bar for several months afterwards, and Carol did indeed get larger in the tummy.  He never saw Ben again.

 

 

Valuing Your Virginity

Virginiest of them all.

I came across a wonderful post written by a talented young woman today, and must salute her courage.

She made a point about being a virgin, and how that was a gift she intended for her future husband.  It’s a wonderful sentiment, its value is certainly recognized by society, and almost every culture and religion reinforces the idea.

But it’s misplaced.

To understand why, let’s go back a few years.  Back when the term was first used, almost a thousand years ago.

Society was climbing out of the dark ages, and needed more ways to help categorize people as life became a bit more complex.  Every time a holy book needed to be translated, it didn’t hurt to update the fundamental concepts with new terms.  That’s why, for followers of Christianity, Mary the Mom of Jesus eventually became Virgin Mary.

Over time we started valuing the concept of “virgin” itself instead of the more fundamental concept those translators were trying to describe.

What was that fundamental concept?  It’s the same thing our courageous young lady wants to give to her husband.

It’s the gift of commitment.

It’s a way of telling someone that you are willing to stick by their side, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do you part.

Our young warrior (for that is what she is) worries that she will be inexperienced, or incapable of adequately pleasing her husband in that way.  Nonsense.  This is what she’ll need to keep him happy, and it’s what he will need as well.

That’s the value of “virginity” and it has nothing to do with sex.

As for the greater questions she raises about pornography and how it hurts young men and society, I may have covered that already.  If not, let me know.

 

 

Conspiracy of Silence

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The Rolling Stone magazine did a great article detailing known assault allegations against Don John, Predator-in-Chief.  I’m pretty ticked off about one aspect in particular, buying silence.

In particular, when a predator is done with his victim, he doesn’t want them to tell anyone else.  If the predator is rich enough, he hires a bunch of goons (lawyers) to give the victim money and a contract telling them to be silent.

The victim has sold their story, the truth, and their soul, along with their body.  They are no longer a victim, they are party to a contract.

The real victim becomes the truth.  And because the predator is still at large, more young women will come to harm.  The first victim has decided her pocketbook was more important than those other women’s dignity.

It makes sense that the predator himself wants his victims to remain silent, because it enables him to prey on others more easily.  If he’s rich enough, he can afford it.

But why doesn’t another rich person come along and buy out that contract?  For only a few extra dollars, the first victim can be just as rich, and the world would have her story.

Quid pro quo.  I’ll do you a favor if you do one for me.

If one rich person were to start doing this, than other rich people would do it to him.  As long as it’s only poor people who sell their voices, then the world of the rich is undisturbed.  But if one rich person were to come along and buy the truth, then someone richer would come along and buy stories embarrassing to him.

I’m confident that is how his lawyers would argue it with him.  I’m confident in this because to destroy the system of confidentiality agreements would also cut into the amount of money that lawyers make.  Anything that hurts their income is also one of the things they avoid.

Perhaps someone can crowd-fund social truth.  Perhaps.

Until we begin to truly value truth and values in society, we will continue to live in fear.  Women will be prey, alpha males will be predators.  We deify the rich and famous, ostracize the old and poor.

It’s better if we don’t talk about it.

After all, your silence is worth gold.

 

Buying Silence, Selling Truth

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The Rolling Stone magazine did a great article detailing known assault allegations against Don John, Predator-in-Chief.

The parts of it that make me angriest are those that purchase silence from the victims.

It makes sense that the predator himself wants his victims to remain silent, because it enables him to prey on others more easily.

But such agreements involve others, other men, other women.  These agreements involve parents of daughters, husbands, wives.  Why would these other people get involved in such a transgression of criminal activity?

For one thing, these other people we speak of are lawyers.  And lawyers are taught that ethics, morals, and the greater good are irrelevant.  The only things that matter are laws and verdicts.  The client’s interests are paramount, whether that client is a criminal, murderer, victim, or completely innocent.

Beyond agreements, there is also the ability to buy someone’s voice and become its owner.  The idea of “catch and kill” is something one of HIS friends has done to another woman who knew him.  She got money, he got silence.  She bought a house, he went on to harm another woman.

The women who remain silent, the women who sell their voices have their own conscience to contend with.  In some ways they can be considered almost as complicit as the predator himself.

They seem to be comfortable with selling their body, selling their tongue, even selling their soul.

Why not?  After all, it’s a free market.

Thanks for reading.

 

Scumbags Deserve Worse

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Recently a conservative cousin said women make up stories of assault for free publicity.

I find this belief incredible.  What’s going on in my cousin’s mind?

Maybe she thinks that when men become famous, publicity seeking women make up stories of how they were assaulted to get their names in the news.

Then why are there so many other “famous” men that don’t have hordes of publicity seeking women making up such stories?

Rhetorical question.  I know the answer, and there’s a good chance you do, too.

The stories are true.  The current man in power is a predator, a predator of women.

I can live with that.  After all, we study behavior.  We have to take what nature gives us.  The “majority” elected him, and he’s the head of the government.  Chances are he’s not the first predator-in-chief, and there’s a good chance he won’t be the last.

What can we do about it?

Here’s two names that have something in common: Natasha Stoynoff and Rachel Crooks.  Check out the article and you’ll find their names for the details.

These young women were assaulted by the Drumpf.  And they resisted.  Now their story is out there, but there is no proof.

Young women know they must be attractive.  Yet they have to avoid scumbags.  The chances of meeting a scumbag are excellent.  There’s a lot of them out there, and having a predator-in-chief only encourages them.

So what CAN we do about it?

 

Play along.  Go aggressive.  Pretend you actually like them.  That’s what predators really want.  Affirm their sexual appeal.  They think their very presence is a turn on.

Go ahead.  Turn them on.  Keep your head in high gear, your heart and hands under control, and resist the urge to scream or cry.

Here’s the hard part.  Turn the situation to your advantage.  Maneuver him into a room without his clothes on.  Put yourself into a safe room with a phone and lock the door and call police.  Make him take you someplace with cameras and then run.  Better yet, tie him up and throw all his clothes out the window.  Make sure to broadcast pictures of him first.

Are these bad things?  Of course.  Are they as bad as getting assaulted yourself?  Probably not.  Will they solve the problem?  Absolutely not.

But they will start changing the perception of helpless young women.  That’s what #MeToo is all about, recognizing and talking about the problem.

It’s time to fight back.

There’s a lot of men who aren’t scumbags, and they’ll support you.

Good luck.  And start practicing those knots.

 

First Gift, Final Gift

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I’ve had a glimpse of how our society deals with death.  I spent ten days with Dad in a wonderful hospice house.  We spent the first half getting the pain meds out of his system, and the other half getting him strong enough so he could leave the place.

I spent many hours with him as cheerleader, advocate, and caregiver trainee.  However, there were many hours where he slept, so I got to know everyone.

What impressed me most was how many workers and volunteers truly care about their mission.  They are unsung, so I’m singing about them now.

However, there are also so many patients, mostly alone.  They were waiting.  Waiting to die.

Here’s the surprise.  Some of them are done.  As a gift to their children, they are content to hasten the process.

If you’re shocked, or sad, you should know that is how I felt.  At first.  When I listened to their stories it becomes obvious that many people are giving themselves up so that they are no longer a burden to their children.

It’s a wonderful gift.  It’s their decision.  And my only regret is that I’m not sure how many of those children appreciate that decision, that final gesture.

Creating a baby is only the first step to what will be a lifetime of joy.  But there are so many hard hours ahead.  Children who grow up tend to appreciate the gift of life given by their parents.

But the second greatest gift can be found at the end.  It is the parent letting go, and letting their child be free of their burden.  It’s sad to see them go, but it’s also a chance to celebrate their life and begin looking forward again.

To all those unsung parents who have sacrificed much during their lives, and then at the very end, life itself, for the benefit of their children, I thank you.

We should all thank them.

The best way to do that is to never forget them.

Mom and Dad.

 

Pride and Prejudice: Austen for Nerds

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Are you a romantic?  Know any nerds?

I’m both.  Today my romantic side lectured the nerdy side on why Jane Austen is so great.  Maybe your nerd might be interested.

 

Nerds know about computers and the software and hardware.  What follows is simplified, but generally speaking is how all computers work.

Closest to the user is a program, like chrome.  That program sits on top of the operating system, and that sits on top of the “shell” which sits on another operating system that runs directly on the processor.

Readers = computers.  We accept a file (book), getting information.

Now, lets talk about files.

Files means several things.  There are raw data or text files, there are files that are proprietary to a program, there are files that are themselves programs.  Files can also be “compiled,” and then there are a whole class of files that are compressed.  A compressed file can be any or all of the above files.

In general, a text file has little information for a given size, while a compressed file has the most.

Fellow nerds, here’s where the fun begins.

Ordinary books by ordinary authors are equivalent to text files being read by the browser.  Very low information content for a given size, almost no interaction capability.

Good books by great authors are like getting a compiled program complete with data files.  There’s a lot more going on between the pages than you see at first glance.  The book itself tells you how to run the program and read the data, so that you get an enhanced experience.  You can usually tell that you’re reading such a book because the author will tell you.

Then there’s Jane Austen.  At first glance her book looks like a simple text file.  Then you realize that there’s a program buried inside.  It’s not just any program, because she doesn’t tell you it’s there.  It sits in your brain and begins running, and it starts running on the data supplied by the book.  It’s a text file that speaks directly to the processor.

But it doesn’t end there either.  Because you can also feed it data from your life, your world, the real world.  And the program keeps running, giving you insights that weren’t there before.

Then you go back and read the book again, and again.  The book is a text file.  The book is a compiled program.  And more.

It’s compressed.  It’s compressed in such a way that it LOOKS like an ordinary text file.  But when you read it and it sits in your brain, it unspools, slowly, surely.

I figure that if P&P were written in uncompressed form, it would be somewhere around a half million words.  The book currently clocks in at 120,000.  That’s a 75% compression ratio.

So, the next time your non-nerdy friend tells you they are reading P&P, treat them with respect.  That’s no ordinary text file they are handling.

It’s goodstuff.txt.cpp.zip

 

Pride and Prejudice: Surprise Visit

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Near the beginning of Volume 3, Elizabeth and her relatives had a surprisingly nice time visiting Lambton and Pemberly.  It’s been a few days, and Aunt and Uncle have gone out for a walk.

Elizabeth gets some letters from home.  She reads them.  She gets upset.  And, surprise, Darcy shows up, finding her in distress.

We don’t think too much about this fast-moving scene, because he’s the knight in shining armor, the cavalry, the savior, the life boat, all of those things.  That’s why he’s there, right?

Mmmm, I don’t think so.

This Austen lady, the writer of P&P, she was way too good to make things happen for their own sake.  No, when it comes to the main characters, their motivations run deep.  So deep that even the narrator doesn’t know.

Did I mention I’m writing a book similar to P&P?  In the course of writing my book, I’m analyzing every sentence, every word that Jane Austen left on the page.  Even more extreme, I’m also analyzing the words she DIDN’T put on the page.

Let’s return to that pivotal scene where Elizabeth’s world is crashing down around her, ruin hastened by her wild sister, Lydia, catalyzed by the good-looking scoundrel Wickham.  The Gardiners and she have been there several days.  They have been introduced to Georgiana.  They have proven themselves worthy of the best society.

In Darcy’s eyes, there is nothing left to prove.

So as he walked in the door, expecting to see a happy, relaxed Elizabeth, what do you think was on his mind?

Marriage.

As in that fateful first proposal, he was there to try again.  He wants to walk in and sweep her off her feet.  And we know she’s ready.  She’s dying to die in his arms.  Everything is perfect.

Except it’s not.  Only the deftness of Austen can make this train wreck happen with perfect timing and perfect pitch.  Each of our lovers is ready to jump into each other’s arms, and each is suddenly cast down by wild outcast characters that live their lives regardless of the sensibilities of others.

Now read that scene.  Darcy comes in, love in his breast, and he’s devastated.  Elizabeth is ready to receive him, love in full flower, and suddenly she’s lost her reputation, her family is in disarray, and she may end up with a family member who will forever keep her soulmate at bay.

I don’t know of anything where someone is raised so high, only to be cast so low.  Not only that, but for it to be done without having to be explicit, that’s sheer genius.

Of course, that’s also sheer Austen.

 

Pride and Prejudice: Smarty Darcy

Great Novel, Great Novelist

There’s a scene where an incredible amount of plot is covered in a few pages.  For a writer to get away with something like this is awesome.

For Jane Austen, it’s all in a day’s work.

For a hack writer like me, what she did can be done.  It’s tough work, but possible.

The problem is that Jane also wrote it so that the chapter is so exciting that you don’t notice what she did there.  It flows like poetry.  It’s an easy read.  And the characters are so twisted around each other that the words illuminate both of them, yet specifically to that character.

Where does this magic happen?

Remember that chapter where Darcy barges into the house at Hunsford?  Elizabeth has a headache, begged off tea at Rosings, and he’s worried.  He almost bangs down her door.

Then he proposes.

What?

She’s floored.  He’s totally into himself.

Only moments earlier she learned that he’s responsible for hurting her sister, all because of Bingley.  In addition, Elizabeth hasn’t liked him since she met him.  And he’s been all icky goofy the entire time she’s been visiting Charlotte.

By the way, in the process of proposing, he also insults her, her family, and admits that he doesn’t really want to, but can’t overcome those powerful feelings.  What a romantic.

Spoiler alert for those who don’t know the story (and why don’t you?)… she says no.

In the process of saying no, she gives great reasons.  One of which is the revelation about Darcy breaking up her sister and Bingley.

An average writer would stop and explain how she could know his “secret” he hadn’t revealed to anyone.

A better writer would put the explanation somewhere else, like in the makeup scene at the end of the book.

An incredible writer would be able to show how Darcy figured out how Elizabeth figured out his secret through small signs littered among the pages.

However, if you are of Jane Austen’s caliber (don’t delude yourself) …

You don’t say a thing.  You know your character is smart enough so that he figured it out on his own.  He may even allude to his knowledge in the letter he writes her, allowing that Colonel FitzWilliam can substantiate his claims regarding the care of Georgiana.

But he doesn’t say anything.  He doesn’t ask anything.  Elizabeth doesn’t offer up the information.  And better yet, Jane Austen doesn’t touch it after that.  She doesn’t have to.  Her characters know their stuff.  And Jane Austen knows hers.

How’s that for being a smarty?