Welcome to ...


Journal Archives - December, 2002

    About Us
@   Journal
    Old News

  Site Map
  Ley Lines
Navigation: Current Journal Entry (link to site front) | Previous Page (November 16-30, 2002) | Next Page (January 2003)

December 1, 2002 ... It's time for a brief pause for blatant self-congratulation: I successfully completed my self-prescribed writing challenge, BaMoJoEnt. The month of November has come and gone; my journal received a steady stream of entries, one per day (if one glosses over the late posts caused by Internet breakage). 30 days, 30 entries, over 16,000 words.

I haven't been quite as voluminous in output as if I'd undertaken NaNoWriMo, upon which the idea was based -- but I was also setting my quality bar a little bit higher; and I was also settling into a new job at which I don't get online, so the vast majority of my posts were written in the brief window between work and sleep. Some days I didn't have the time to write anything at all -- Thursdays, I would often get home after midnight and be expected to return to work for normal business hours on Friday. Fortunately, I took my own advice and wrote a few entries in advance for a filler file -- which saved my bacon once or twice.

I also snuck in a concept from the newspaper business: the news budget. At a newspaper, every day, you have to decide what stories go on what page and how much space you're going to allocate to them. In many ways, a journal is simpler to budget for ("one story"; "as much room as it needs"), but the fact of limited writing time, and the commitment to post once a day, forced me to write down all of my post ideas, rank them, and decide which ones to run when -- taking into account how topical a given post was, what order I was introducing concepts in, and what sort of follow-up each would require. At times, I had my writing planned out for upwards of a week in advance; had Ouroboros not crashed and burned and taken my planning file down with it while it was powerless, I might have had the entire month tentatively scheduled out by the halfway mark. The budget, if nothing else, forced me to organize my ideas much more coherently, and be more pragmatic about if and when I would follow up on all of my writing ideas.

Between those tools, some plain old-fashioned determination, and a disturbing lack of common sense in the "it's 4 AM, I should get to bed" department, I did it.

I don't think I'm going to maintain this pace now that BaMoJoEnt II is over. I'd like to spend a little bit less time writing updates and a little bit more time catching up on my e-mail and posting my backlog of TTU stories. But I'm proud of myself. Long-term persistence on creative ideas has never been my strong suit, but I set myself a month-long goal, and kept it.

Maybe next year I'll have to join NaNoWriMo proper and write a 50,000-word novel for November. Heck, Elynne did. And I've been itching to write more fiction for a while now.

December 3, 2002 ...

There's No Such Thing As Bad Press: Part 37 in a long series

In which Baxil again tracks what people are saying about him elsewhere on the Internet

I think there's a certain critical threshold beyond which you can consider yourself to be (at least locally) famous: when people complain that you're famous. I mean this in all seriousness. Fame is a snowball rolling downhill. When it starts feeding on itself, that's when you get an avalanche. When you have the name recognition that engenders complaints about name recognition, then you're known enough to stay known.

I responded to that complaint by observing that fame is aggravating, because it lowers the level of discourse in two ways. One is that the people who don't have the name recognition don't get heard as often, despite the fact that they may have something to say that's more profound or relevant than the "big guys." I often feel uncomfortable because it's so hard to find other people talking about draconity -- not that they're not out there; just that they're hard to find -- and it seems like the pat response to questions on it is "Go read the FAQ." I know other people have useful things to say. I hear them in the forums all the time. But they slip off the radar.

The second way is that when fame self-perpetuates, it starts to calcify. I've been writing for Tomorrowlands for two and a half years. I've built up just enough word of mouth on the site that I don't feel like I'm drifting off into obscurity. But find my name being dropped somewhere on the 'net, and chances are that it's either a link to the Draconity FAQ, or else a link to Tomorrowlands pointing out that Baxil wrote the Draconity FAQ. And this despite not having touched it in four years. What incentive does this give me to create new works? I feel like fame is holding me back, that way; if I had to keep producing content of that quality to stay relevant, I'd probably be writing a lot more.

Anyway. The other way that you can tell when fame has hit that threshold is that people start attributing to you quotes that aren't yours. "The furry community is, by and large, bi and large" is funny, witty, and more true than it should be; but I honestly don't think I've ever said it, or that if I did, it was overheard from someone else first.

I complained two paragraphs ago that most of my mentions online are for my draconity writings. Of course, there's always the oddball reference that comes out of left field. In this case, the deep, arcane world of online dictionaries. Apparently Tomorrowlands is among the world's premier references for the word "ouphe," a small creature seen in the card game "Magic: The Gathering." I reckon this is because, back in college, some dorm-mates and I added a "Green Ouphe" to our UCSB Expansion Set to match the game's official "Brown Ouphe." We also speculated at length about the social structure of ouphes, and even figured out what sort of noises they made. For a while, the ouphe cry became our official outburst whenever someone pulled a spectacular move out of nowhere that threw the game into chaos. Eeep!

Last but not least, the link that made my day came from a bulletin board where someone pointed out the Chibi Jesus page (and specifically the suggestive one of Judas' kiss). Their comment? "It's official, I have seen it all."

I'm glad I could do my part to spread a little subversion around the 'net.

December 5, 2002 ... They tell us today that Bigfoot is dead.

Ray Wallace, who contributed much of the Pacific Northwest's lore about the beast, died late last month at 84. His family is now going public with his posthumous confession: that he spun the legend out of whole cloth. The footprints that started the craze in 1958? Wooden carvings. The film that's the best photographic evidence? Some guy in a suit.

For the record, in the absence of other compelling evidence, I believe Wallace. There's something about deathbed stories that invites credulity. Especially when the confession purports to restrict the world, and remove wonder from it. To believe that Wallace chose to completely turn around and lie about the myth as his final, unalterable statement would require us not only to believe that he had a motive for doing so, but also that he so disliked the world that he wanted to lash out at it and mislead it as a final, singular act of defiance. I think if that were the case, he wouldn't have lived his life as he did.

Thoughts of Bigfoot aside, there are a lot of unexplained phenomena out there, and a lot of people seem to have claims on the matter. A great many of those claims, (probably) like the Pacific Northwest's localized yeti, are going to be hoaxes. Some will just be elaborate practical jokes, done for the sheer laugh of it ... but a great many of those hoaxes will come from people who either desperately want to sell an idea, or else just crave publicity, even if it's the anonymous kind that comes from seeing something you did on the news.

As such, I find it extremely hard to believe that I am the first person to whom the idea of a meta-hoax has occurred.

Think of it. A strange event occurs; the media is suddenly all over, for example, the apparent transformation of cats into dogs in a New York suburb. Now, most people will approach this with the idea that there must be a mundane explanation; after all, if cats can really spontaneously turn into dogs, the world doesn't work at all in the way that we think it does. If you want to leap into this strangeness and fabricate an event that "continues the hoax," you have to work against this. If you report a cat transformation, and your story isn't compelling and airtight, you'll be dismissed as a would-be hoaxster or crank. But what if you were to -- not knowing anything about how the original mystery occurred, mind -- set up a vaguely plausible "explanation" that you could demonstrate to the media?

After all, people know there's a logical explanation, no matter how much they may secretly hope otherwise. All it takes is a stupid magic trick, an explanation of how "you" "fooled" the world with the original event, and suddenly the entire phenomenon belongs to you.

Now that's easy fame. It's like going through all of the elaborate preparations to set up a world-class paranormal hoax ... but involving a fraction of the work.

The sole problem with meta-hoaxing, really, is the difficulty of recanting. Once you've provided the world a logical explanation, it gets very difficult to protest: "Uh, actually, I pulled a cheap trick to make you think I gave all of those cats away to shelters. In reality they'd have been overflowing if I did something like that. I have no clue what happened to those cats; all I can tell you is that they couldn't have vanished the way that I supposedly made them vanish." Maybe there are shapeshifting cats in Manhattan; but who's going to believe that, once it's successfully been "disproven" once? If someone has shown a way to "manufacture" the effect, then obviously someone else must have manufactured it in the first place. ... Right?

The best thing about meta-hoaxes, from an attention-seeker's point of view, is that they're a way to make a reputation as a hoaxster work for you instead of against you. If you report a flying saucer and you're known as the guy who "conveniently" finds evidence of strange, otherworldly things every other week, nobody is going to take you even remotely seriously. But if you have a reputation as a con artist, this lends credibility to your "debunking" work. Think about it. How many professional skeptics are former stage magicians?

I believe that there are many "strange, unexplained" things out there that really aren't strange or unexplained at all. Bigfoot, probably, was one; I'll watch its passing with a note of regret at our world's diminishing possibilities, but won't mourn the re-framing of an urban legend. However, I do think that there are things out in our world, and in the worlds we reach through our senses and our hearts, that are genuinely mysterious, and are genuinely beyond explanation, even with the most methodical, comprehensive foundation of beliefs we currently possess.

I think it's as dangerous to outright deny the strange as it is to embrace it without any discrimination. The latter leaves you open to any hoaxster who comes down the pike. The former ... well, as I said, I would be extremely surprised if I was the first person to consider the possibility of a meta-hoax.

It's not the sort of thing I'd do, because I don't believe in lying to the world. But if you're willing to lie in the first place, it seems as good a way as any other to turn that willingness to your advantage.

December 7, 2002 ... I was halfway to the stairs when I realized my mistake. I performed an about-face and returned to my desk, muttering curses out loud.

"What's up?" Rick asked, noticing my speedy return.

"I came back downstairs from the lunchroom to get my Swiss army knife, so I could open a can," I explained. "So I went over to my fanny pack and opened it up. I must have been completely on autopilot. I grabbed a pen instead." I showed it to him. I most commonly dig through my belt pouch to retrieve pens, when I need to write something down and don't have a writing implement on hand; despite having two in my pocket, and despite being in an office full of them, I apparently fell back into the habit. It had taken me nearly fifteen seconds to wonder why I had come all the way downstairs for something to write with before I remembered that hadn't been the purpose of my trip at all.

Andrew, sitting off to one side, overheard the conversation about my botched knife retrieval and smiled. "Proving once again that the pen is mightier than the sword."

Ouch. True. Was my subconscious trying to tell me something?

December 9, 2002 ... I have, for the longest time, considered "online surveys" to be Fluff. I am writing to entertain, educate, provoke, or (more typically) simply release my muse. Filling out little questionnaires asking for random trivia about you doesn't involve one's muse at all. Well, okay: Unless you do something completely off-the-wall, like fill out the survey in iambic pentameter.

Surveys, in other words, have long struck me as in the same category of "waste of bandwidth" as test results ("What type of citrus fruit are you? I'm a lemon!"), posting song lyrics that have been running through your mind lately ("'I'm so blue / What will I do / my lover walked away / hey, hey, hey.' OMG SO TRUE!!! I CRY!!!"), meme vectoring ("Did you know they've found bacteria two miles underground in solid rock? Link courtesy Slashdot"), or lengthy introspection about journal posting habits ("I have, for the longest time, considered 'online surveys' to be Fluff").

If my offhand dismissal of these types of posts offends you, don't worry -- I'm not exactly trying to claim the moral high ground. As I hope should be obvious from those last two.

At any rate: I try to avoid surveys. I usually feel like I've got better things to write. However, this evening, I stopped and thought about that for a few seconds. What's wrong with surveys ... really?

I actually usually enjoy reading them when my friends post theirs; due to the frivolous trivia-oriented nature of the things, and due to the deliberateness of the communication in which I most often engage with my online friends (i.e., forums and e-mail, neither of which are real-time interaction), I really do feel like I'm seeing another side of my pals by reading them. More often than not, I learn something, too.

Is it really such a good thing to avoid giving people that different perspective on me? Or am I just clinging to a creative elitism?

Granted, there are some 'survey' questions that are fluffier than others. ("What colors are you wearing right now? Who was the first person you fell in love with? Have you ever wondered whether you could buy the stamps that say 'first-class rate' instead of a specific value, hang onto them for a few years, and use them to send a letter after the rates go up?")

In some ways, you -- my regular readers; and, to some tiny extent, even my casual ones -- know a great deal about me. I am a dragon. I'm a page designer. I'm a college graduate; a libertarian; a backcountry enthusiast. I threw myself into Lake Washington last year, and I find it hard to believe what a different person I was just a year ago. I totaled my car last June; I broke my arm this April. (And I'm still fighting with the medical bills; but that's for another post.) Etcetera.

But, as The Verve says, "I'm a million different people from one day to the next." (Incidentally, you can download the song from here, legitimately if not necessarily legally.) So I think it might be worthwhile to fill out a survey or two in the next few days and expose you to a different side of me.

... Which won't necessarily stop me from writing my answers in iambic pentameter.

December 10, 2002 ... Survey delayed; it occurred to me that, what with the whole holiday shopping rush, the following entry is probably time-sensitive.

I consider myself a man of simple tastes. It is really rather rare for me to actively desire items, especially small ones I'm capable of affording myself. Furthermore, I've repeatedly complained about commercialism, materialism, and the sense of obligation inherent in the Christmas season. None of that has changed. But I don't inherently mind the exchanging of gifts, undertaken consciously and out of a sense of joy and affection; otherwise I'd also have to get all "bah, humbug" about birthdays. (And weddings. But I'm cynical about weddings for other reasons entirely, so let's not go there.)

The point of this being, I realize that some of my friends and relations actively like exchanging presents (or even simply giving them). If someone's determined to get me a present, for Solstice or Christmas or whatever they happen to celebrate, it might as well be something I'll appreciate, and I might as well find out about it far enough in advance to reciprocate as appropriate.

All of which is attempted justification for posting a wish list.

As I said, my needs are pretty simple, but there are a few points of vanity I indulge myself in.

  • Stuff with the Tomorrowlands logo on it. (Black, please.) My parents' birthday gift to me this year was a custom-made T-shirt with a Tomorrowlands logo on it. It's one of my favorite articles of clothing now. I'd also love some (more) vanity business cards, maybe a coffee mug to tote to work with me, or -- heck -- if you really want to be fancy, an embroidered logo on a dress shirt, so that I can advertise my website at work.
  • A pocket watch. I used to carry one, and gosh darn it, I'm really beginning to miss it. I don't care if I receive the cheapest, crummiest P.O.S. pocket watch in existence; it's the concept that's important. (In fact, I'd really rather have a cheap one; I'd have bought one myself long ago if I could have found one under $50.)
  • Local music. I am boycotting the major labels until the RIAA gets its head out of its ass about MP3s and stops treating me like a criminal for wanting to store my 600+ CDs in an accessible format. But this hasn't stopped me from enjoying the world's vast range of highly talented local and regional musicians. Buy me a CD of a local band you like. My tastes are pretty scarily broad; I'll probably like 'em too.
  • A simple tutorial and good reference on Cascading Style Sheets. O'Reilly probably has a pocket reference out. Nothing fancier than that, because CSS isn't that complex, and if the book is too big it'll get shelved and lost somewhere.
  • A topographical map, available at most outdoor supply stores or at National Park Service offices, of a backcountry location that you'd like to recommend to me as a hiking destination. Preferably somewhere that I won't break my arm. ;-p
  • A cheap, generic Macintosh keyboard (ADB or USB). Not just any cheap Mac keyboard -- I want this one for a specific purpose. I want to yank off all of the keys and rearrange them into a Dvorak layout. I can't do this on an Apple keyboard, because the key tops are beveled slightly, and this makes the keyboard awkwardly lumpy if the keys are replaced in the "wrong" positions. I want a keyboard so generic that it can be popped apart and put back together "the wrong way" and you can't tell the difference. The rest can be handled through standard Mac OS software.
  • Guitar lessons. Although, truth be told, I'd probably be just as happy getting back to a piano, if I had a working keyboard I could MIDI sequence with. Guitars are just a little more portable.
  • Hooking me up with a fairly cheap (let's say under $4,000) and extremely reliable car. Er, no, I don't want anyone to buy me one (unless they've got huge amounts of money to burn); I just want a tip telling me where to find one. I badly need a commute vehicle now that I'm driving 45 minutes each way to work. I'm currently on a loaner.
  • TTU stories. No, really. I'm an information age dragon; I hoard ideas. A piece of creative, sparkly writing I can examine and appreciate at my leisure is worth more to me than any physical, sparkly bauble. And despite my backlog there, I want more attention paid to TTU.
  • If you'd rather draw than write, make me a Chibi Jesus. Or, heck, best of both worlds: Do a character portrait of a TTU character.
  • Donate to a charity or beneficial organization on my behalf, spending the money you otherwise would have used to buy a gift to support someone who really needs it. I have done this in the past when even more alienated from consumerism than usual, and I think it's a habit worth holding onto.
Hopefully that will provide sufficient inspiration to the people who actively want to do something for me to commemorate the holidays. Hopefully, the rest of you can take this as an entertaining look into the sort of things that drive me, and not feel obligated by my statement of desires.

I don't expect gifts; turning a holiday into an excuse for purchasing is still a repugnant idea to me. And I will be stopping to count my blessings on the evening of the Solstice regardless of whether any of my frivolous little desires have been filled.

December 13, 2002 ... Twelve-hour days and colds. Ah, the simple joys of disappearing free time and then the lack of energy to do anything about it.

My nose is a water fountain tonight. I must log off and try to get a full eight hours of sleep for once. Hopefully I will be well enough to work tomorrow, because I don't know if anyone's available to replace me. The one problem with small offices.

December 14, 2002 ... Apparently, yesterday I contracted the 24-hour flu.

8:00 a.m.: Arrive at work. Feel okay.

12:00 a.m.: Eat a burrito for lunch. Feel stressed but fine.

3:00 p.m.: Have to redesign three pages. Feel a lot stressed and a little tired.

4:00 p.m.: Starting to feel like crap. Tired; drained; finding it difficult to focus. Officially beginning to suspect I have a cold.

5:00 p.m.: Have been picked up from work by roommates. So fatigued I fall asleep in the car. Starting to get a drippy nose.

6:30 p.m.: Eating dinner. Nose has started to drip like a leaky faucet. Possibly have fever.

7:30 p.m.: Lying around at home feeling useless. Preparing to watch a lot of TV because "Firefly" and "John Doe" are on, and I'm actually enjoying following the shows. Definitely running a fever; throat getting sore. Gargle with an antiseptic mouthwash.

8:00 p.m.: Nose is, by now, no longer a faucet but a hose. Take an antihistamine. It brings the nose back to tolerable leaky-faucet levels for about three hours. I watch TV for a while because I'm so drained I don't have the energy for anything else.

10:30 p.m.: Stagger away from the TV and surf the net for a while, wrapped up in blankets. Post yesterday's whiny journal entry and stagger away from the computer. Nose is drifting back to hose status.

12:30 a.m.: Take a shower, which for no good reason seems to help when I've got a cold. Gargle with antiseptic mouthwash again because throat is hurting again. Collapse into bed and fall asleep reading at about 2 a.m.

10:30 a.m.: Wake up to alarm clock. Hit snooze button. Feeling tired. (Duh.)

10:45 a.m.: Alarm clock goes from beep mode into radio mode. Radio gets about 30 seconds into its first song when the house's power goes out and the battery back-up on the clock sends it back into beep mode. Wake up and stagger out of bed so I can go shut down my computer before the UPS complains. Feeling tired, perhaps more so than can be accounted for by simple morningness.

11:00 a.m.: Drop back into bed, fatigued. Assess situation. Nothing really hurts; throat not really sore. Sorta cold, but dressing up in thermal underwear seems to address that. Eyes a little tired; definitely running a temperature, but nose has cleared up completely. Decide I should be able to make it through the day at work, and get dressed.

4:00 p.m.: Eat lunch at work. Feeling revitalized, fairly hungry, free of throat, sinus, or fatigue problems. Glad I'm in thermal underwear, but haven't even been feeling all that chilly; fever appears gone. Forced to officially conclude I don't have cold symptoms any more.

3:00 a.m.: Typing this up. Have now been up for 16 hours, most of that spent quite productively; feel fatigued but not at all drained. Lymph nodes are swollen and have been for a while, but I can ignore that while they get back to normal, unlike hose-nose, which requires me to have a constant supply of tissues on hand, or fever, which requires extreme layering effort.

What the heck? From zero symptoms to full-blown flu misery to zero symptoms in under 24 hours. I'd almost suspect carbon monoxide poisoning except that: (A) nobody else at work was getting similarly sick; (B) we have a working CO detector at home; (C) I'm not getting nauseous.

I guess I should count my blessings and chalk it up to a fast, nasty cold and a top-notch immune system response. I'd much rather be not sick than sick, and I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The one concern I've got is that such a weird sudden onset and sudden relief might be a symptom of something more serious, but even that failed to turn up any likely suspects in an hour of web searching.

Frankly, even the far-fetched "I caught a Friday the 13th cold" is starting to seem pretty reasonable as explanations for the 24-hour fever go. I've had 24-hour diseases before, but those were bad boys -- vomiting and then dry heaving; cramps; a temperature so high and energy so low that I couldn't get out of bed to drag myself to the bathroom when I needed to barf. That's food poisoning, there. 24 hours of rhinorrhea, sore throat, and a temperature, with no nausea, headache, or stomach pain? I don't get it.

... Of course, if this turns out to be the early, harmless-seeming stage of anthrax, I am going to be so pissed off.

December 16, 2002 ... It's a Survey In Iambic Pentameter! As promised several days ago and delayed by semi-hypocritical gift list postings and 24-hour illnesses.

ACT I.  Scene 1.

NARRATOR: O reader of Tomorrowlands, too long 
          Have you awaited ways to scry the mind
          Of this site's humble author, known by name
          online and off as one 'Baxil,' a word
          that means 'beloved,' we've explained before.
          But soft! Through yonder window breaks the light
          Of survey questions, answered late at night.

(If you could build your house anywhere, where would it be?)
BAXIL: No finer place to live in have I seen
       In twenty-five short years down here on Earth
       Than sunny Santa Barbara, Calif.;
       And many were the days that I would ride
       From ocean's reach up back roads to the ridge
       Of Santa Ynez, that being the name
       the coastal mountain range is known by.

(What's your favorite article (or brand) of clothing?)
       Of clothing?  Eeuugh.  I cannot bear the thought
       Of buying clothing based upon a name
       That's sewn on some cheap label.  I'll admit
       A favorite type, I guess, though nothing springs
       To mind what that would be.

(What's your favorite physical feature of the body?)
                                    It shames me so
       To say it: genitalia.  Poor design,
       And ugly as all sin -- the fact remains
       No other organ was thus engineered
       To give the body pleasure, which gets points
       from me.  (And lest you think I'm shallow, brains
       Rate highly on my scale, but the quest-
       ion asked specifically for features found

(What's the last CD that you bought?)
                     If mem'ry serves, it was
       Called "Hindesight," by Jim Hinde, an older man
       Who played a mean guitar, acoustically,
       And sang his ballads to Seattle's crowds
       At Pike Place Market. 

(Where's your favorite place to be?)
                             Anywhere can work,
       With one caveat: I must 'own' the space.
       In practice, what this means is that I find
       The places I most like become the ones
       Where I can be alone -- by chance, design,
       Or geographic isolation from

(Where's your least favorite place to be?)
                  Likewise, large crowds will irk
       The living daylights out of me, by gum.
       A Christmastime full mall leaves me struck dumb.


ACT I. Scene 2.

CLOCK: Hey, Bax? I hate to be a crashing bore,
       But look at me, and know it's time to snore.
BAXIL: Oh, drat.  This metered verse thing takes more time
       Than I expected.  How about I pause
       And come back at a time when my poor claws
       Are more refreshed, to finish?
CLOCK:                                 Chime, chime, chime.
BAXIL: And there's my answer. So I'll off abed
       And try to wipe this iamb from my head.

Exeunt omnes.

December 21, 2002 ... I'm nearly pure-blood Greek on my mother's side of my family.

I like Greek food. This, however, is nothing unique to my heritage; I also like Thai food and I have no Thai blood in me whatsoever.

I wear a Greek fisherman's hat, but this is due more to habit than any inherent racial predisposition. I happen to think that particular style looks good on me.

I'm most comfortable in Mediterranean climates, but by strange accident I grew up in one -- in the foothills of California -- so there's no clear answer between environment and genetics there.

I've never visited Greece. I have no immediate plans to. I have no burning desire to, although I think it would be neat, just like I think visiting pretty much any place around the world would be broadening. I could see spiffy ancient historical landmarks there, but the same holds true of the Pyramids, ancient Babylonian sites, etc.

I took Greek lessons as a child, at my mother's urging. I never had anyone to speak the language with, and quickly forgot nearly everything. Today what Greek study I do is in the service of English etymology. I probably know more Japanese off of the top of my head, from anime exposure, than I do actual, speakable Greek.

I liked "The Odyssey." I thought "The Iliad" was dreadfully boring. I can understand why "The Odyssey" has been made into a dozen movies while "The Iliad" is merely used to terrorize high school students.

I find Greek mythology fascinating and know the basics of much of it by heart. But then, I can pronounce "sidhe," name three tricksters offhand, and know which pantheon Munin comes from, so that hardly counts for anything.

In short, being Greek has no measurable, confirmable impact on my daily life. There is nothing that I can point to and say, "I do _this_ because I'm Greek." I don't have any Greek behavior patterns, unless there are subconscious genetic ones that I don't know about because I don't think to notice them -- and even if there were, I'd be suspicious, because saying "I must be Greek because I like raspberry jam" reduces Greek-ness into the basest possible stereotype.

So. Is there any reason for me to call myself Greek, at all?

What's the point? If it has no effect on my daily life, why bother? And if I were a real Greek, then wouldn't I love Greek food and devour Greek literature and know how to swear in my native language? Doesn't the fact that I can't point to any of those things cast doubt on my ability to call myself Greek? Shouldn't I just stop pretending and be, you know, a person instead of labeling myself?

Those are arguments I've heard, anyway. But most people wouldn't understand the point of throwing away part of their heritage just because they couldn't find a use for it. It's like telling someone who has taken a vow of chastity that they aren't allowed to call themselves heterosexual or homosexual. (Most people use that information, albeit behind closed doors.) Isn't that just a label boxing people into different categories, the same way as an ethnicity?

I have to make an active choice to identify myself as Greek. It's not like there's a checkbox for it in the government surveys that determine what gets printed on your driver's license; it's not like I couldn't escape it if I wanted to. Heck, if I weren't sitting here opening up my heart to you all, I doubt that anyone would know outside my immediate family. If I were to want to go join Greek culture, and go do Greek things with Greek friends, that would have to be an active choice, too -- I didn't grow up in a household where I did those things by default.

It's just something I can choose to call myself. There's no particular defense for the decision to do so or not. I could try to assign a meaning to justify taking a stand on my heritage, but in a lot of ways, I'd be reaching.

Yet I'm proud of it anyway.

It's a big, anonymous, homogenous world, and being Greek gives me roots. Being Greek gives me options -- I doubt I'd have tried on a fisherman's hat in the first place if I hadn't found out about them through the culture. Being Greek forces me to broaden myself, because there are a lot of facets to Greek-ness, and to have any meaningful idea of what it means to call myself that, I have to have some broader grasp of what that heritage is. Being Greek gives me a way to relate to people who are otherwise strangers when I find out that we've got something in common.

There is nothing specific about being Greek that gives me those things. They all come from the decision to embrace one's identity, not the identity involved. A German, Aleut, Korean, or Syrian can draw roots, options, broadness, and social bonds from their heritage.

But those benefits aren't any less powerful for that.

I'm Greek. My life is richer for it. It gives me something to hang my hat on, so to speak, and I hope that everyone has something similar they can point to with pride.

December 24, 2002 ... It's Christmas eve. We're celebrating Christmas here at the house, in lieu of whatever solstice or year-end celebration would be most technically appropriate. As such, I have one or two presents to go prepare, and then I need to get some sleep for an undoubtedly long morning tomorrow. In the meantime, my co-worker James and I would like to remind you all of the reason for the season:

[spiffy animated nativity scene -- grab a graphical browser and 

... Nigel the cat.

Apparently it also has something to do with Druze businessmen saying Grace over a king-sized basket of French fries in the middle of a crate factory, but really, Nigel is the important thing.

Happy holidays, and meow.

December 26, 2002 ... In keeping with the theme of holiday kitties ... as it turns out, Nigel has a cousin, Miguel, as I found out when coworker James sent the following photo my way:

adorable kitty cat]

Miguel ate a string of Christmas lights one winter. I hear he's now doing seasonal temp work up at the North Pole. Something about filling in for a striking reindeer.

In other Christmas news, I got a pocket watch. It looks like a 19th century antique. It glows in the dark. (I didn't notice this until one of my co-workers pointed it out.) I am happy with my present, although the anachronistic aesthetic of Ye Olde Glowfull Watche is going to take a little adjustment.

December 27, 2002 ... Another of my holiday gifts (albeit one that I splurged on myself to purchase) was a drawing tablet. A neat little Wacom deal that I had to reinstall my OS in order to use, but hey, anything that gives me incentive to draw is worth it. Even if I'm still getting used to how the software works.

I also went out with WalksFar and the roommates to go see "The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers" on Christmas.

As such, I present the following comic. (CONTEXT NOTE: "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3" is a popular console game about trick skateboarding.)

[My Afternoon: A

[Graphical browser required 
to appreciate today's entry.]

December 28, 2002 ... Incidentally, do you remember my post on my Greek heritage?

Re-read it. Mentally change all occurrences of the word "Greek" to "dragon." Subtly modify the examples with specific cultural references to fit.

That's rather accurate to how I feel about my spiritual heritage.

December 30, 2002 ... Way back in the Industrial Revolution days of last March, I announced my resolutions for 2002 -- resolutions I'd made back in the Dark Ages of 2001, and have been diligently working on for 12 months. With the passing of another year, it seems an appropriate time to sit back and reflect on my progress.

A lot happened to me in 2002, on all fronts. I got fired for the first time in my life. I moved back to California from Washington. I changed careers (from "unemployed" to "employed," but on a finer grain as well). I ended a long-term relationship. My economic situation was one long roller-coaster ride. I turned 25. I visited an operating room for the first time in my adult life, and visited an emergency room in severe trauma for the third time ever. I stepped back into a game-master's chair to lead role-playing friends through imaginary adventures to fame and glory. I called 911 twice in a month and got interrogated by a policeman over a utensil. I successfully completed BaMoJoEnt. And rabid attack hamsters stampeded toward my website. (Twice, no less.)

And then there were the resolutions, and the misadventures thereof. I made five resolutions for 2002. In no particular order, here's a retrospective on how I met them (or failed them) over the last year, where they leave me for the future, and how effective I think I was in attacking those issues.

Take a backcountry hiking trip. PROGNOSIS: Met -- in spirit.
What's there to say about this one, other than that my intentions were in the right place? I made all my plans; I did all my packing; I even gathered some friends -- and then, the day we were set to pack out, I slipped in a riverbed before we even reached the trailhead and broke my ulna. The best-laid plans, etc.

Update the Draconity FAQ. PROGNOSIS: Minimal progress.
The FAQ itself is still in its retro, 1998 form. People are still citing it left and right, though, so apparently it hasn't outlived its usefulness quote yet. Not that that's an excuse -- the point of this resolution was to get me back more deeply involved with my spirituality and identity issues, put some more thought into them, bring them closer back to my daily life.

In that more abstract sense, I did at least do something, in that I posted a number of dragony journal entries, added some weight to the draconity section of the site, and have been peripherally thinking of therianthrope issues a great deal as part of my drive to flesh out the TTU story universe. Still, I'm dissatisfied with my relative lack of progress.

End the year out of debt. PROGNOSIS: Fate laughs at me.
The good news: I am now gainfully employed in a full-time, permanent position, which really was the critical factor, because it was lack of employment that was making me dig myself deeper into debt. The basically good news: I have stabilized and am in the black month-to-month, even considering that I'm trying to buy a car for the commute to work.

The bad news: In between the nightmarish broken arm bills -- and there's a whole separate story there, because I'm now fighting with a collection agency over $11,000 the hospital shafted me on, after they repeatedly told me they'd help me bill it to Washington State medical assistance and then sent me to collections while my back was turned -- and the remainder of the year in which I lived off of credit cards, I'm now in nightmarishly-behind territory.

I have retained a lawyer in order to deal with the collection agency, and if I can get them to bargain like reasonable people, then my 2003 resolution will be to pay off all or most of the $10,000 I'll be behind. Otherwise, I'm sorely tempted to meet the letter (though not the spirit) of my resolution by declaring bankruptcy. If it was just the credit cards, I'd feel like a total ass about that, but having a collections agency threaten me over the $11,000 bill that I was spending a great deal of time working with the hospital to address is a little like forcing me to buy the Pentagon a toilet seat because their tanks protect me, and then mailing me a $600 invoice after I give Sergeant Bunko a $20 bill and send him down to Wal-Mart.

Improve my relationship with Erin. PROGNOSIS: Met, believe it or not.
In January of 2002, when I made this resolution, Erin and I were together -- and seeing a counselor regularly to address issues in our slowly unraveling and non-intimate 2.5-year relationship. I made the resolution because I wanted to make fixing that a priority; neither of us was happy about being at odds with each other all the time, because we both loved each other and hated how distant we had to be in order to maintain our friendship.

That May, Erin broke up with me.

I convinced her to hold off on her decision until we could see our counelor one last time; we all talked, and she and I talked, and the mutual decision was made to put our relationship on "indefinite hiatus," which is a fancy way of saying "let's break up and leave open the possibility that we'll change our minds sometime down the road." So the decision was made; I decided to leave Squeeky Hollow to give myself some space to work on my other problems; I ended up moving two states away; and now we're back to the long-distance e-mail platonic, intellectual relationship that we had in the years before I moved up to Seattle.

As the year draws to a close, I look at where I am now, and I look at where I was 12 months ago ... and whether we intended it to work out that way or not, I met my goal. We are closer, happier people as friends -- and we are friends now that we have the space to not have to deal with each other's sharp edges -- than we were as roommates.

Maybe there will be a changing of minds down the road. Maybe there won't. But I'm glad: we've been able to reconnect in a way that we had been lacking for far too long, and that in itself makes this resolution an unqualified success.

Find another partner. PROGNOSIS: Indeterminate.
I didn't end the year with one, so it's not a "yes"; but I did get one and approach one or two more, so it's not a "no"; but if I can't find a partner who works out over the long term then I'm not finding a partner at all, so it's not a "yes"; but it was a good-faith effort even if it didn't last, so it's not a "no."

The only development in this department worthy of being specifically name-dropped was when I got together with Zephyra after some interesting fits and starts. We had a brief but intense relationship until I backed out in October with a request for more personal space -- while negotiation continues, right now I'm still in a need-space phase, and there would have to be some significant adjustments made to meet both of our needs (and deal with the fact of a long-distance relationship).

I approached the spirit of this resolution by putting myself back out on the market, but I'm going to need some more work to build myself into the sort of person who attracts the sort of person I'm looking for. If I had to boil it down to the bare bones, I'd call this one a qualified no -- but I can see the progress I'm made and the lessons I'm learning, and I don't want to dismiss that, because it's only through that learning that we can change and improve ourselves into the people we want to be.

In the end, that's what resolutions are all about.

Navigation: Current Journal Entry (link to site front) | Previous Page (November 16-30, 2002) | Next Page (January 2003)

Up to journal index

TOMORROWLANDS.ORG Home * Contact * Copyright Notice * About Us
Please report errors or broken links to the webmaster via the Contact page.

Page is script-updated. Design © 2000 Tad "Baxil" Ramspott.