February 2004

Dwarf Mammoths

A discussion on extinct dwarf mammoths is in progress over on Making Light. The idea of having one's own dwarf mammoth as a pet is very popular--not surprising given the number of SF/F fans in Teresa's readership. Read the popup titles of the web links in Teresa's blog for a wistful fantasy subtext about having a pet mammoth named Anacreon (who may or may not ride in Tor's zeppelin).

Here's my extrapolation: Eulogy for Anacreon

Anacreon, departed friend,
I struggle still to comprehend
genetic spells unwinding death
that granted you contemp'ry breath.
I watched you grow from calf to bull,
from wrinkled kid to tusks and wool.
We swam; we romped; we drank the sun
from dawn's first ray 'til day was done.

I loved your voice, your clarion trunk,
your shrill fanfares when we'd both drunk
our fill of wine, virtue and verse,
no more time's dirges to rehearse.
Contented in the zeppelin's shade
we set a blanket down, arrayed
with wine, fresh fruit and cheeses for
our picnic feast atop the tor.

Yet mystic forces rule unseen--
cruel irony in life's machine.
Had I known of your namesake's fate
those grapes would ne'er have graced your plate.


The following text began its life as a comment added to Socar's blog on The Next Canadian Idol. Her Slim Hoser video clip is a work of unparalleled importance in Canadian pop culture. It deserved a serious review.

What appears superficially to be an overt lampooning of both the tv idol genre and nineties rap has a deeper and more sinister edge than either. Here the undercurrents of violence from the gangsta-rap tradition have been carefully wrapped in the unashamed self promotion of its dons, filtered with the unconscious ineptitude of star-struck youth, then reflected in a parodic mirror so distorted that the resulting image can only be described as daringly original art.

If it wasn't for the self-mocking comic tradition that is now deeply entrenched in the Canadian psyche this seminal work could easily be dismissed as a puerile piss-take spawned by the ennui of an exceptionally long Sunday afternoon. An experienced examination of the timing of the supposed slips, the contrived non-Canadian accent and the apparently raw sound mixing shows that such is not the case. It takes an experienced production team and a large budget to perfect that spontaneous, amateurish, home-video ambiance.

Looking at the clip through the glasses of performance art history tells us that Socar has produced a work that is doomed to be misunderstood. Her bravery in showing this to the hoards of philistines shows how passionately she believes in following her muse. Perhaps the people of next century will look back and posthumously recognise a true Canadian idol.

Saluting Scott

Today, Virge salutes Scott Adams. Scott satirises technology business practices so well that one is tempted to think he has spies in one's own workplace. His comment on motivating employees hit so close to the bone that I accused one of my colleagues of having regular email exchanges with Scott.

Scott's comics are reassuring. We are not alone. His scenarios are inclusive, bonding us against the common enemy of systematic blind stupidity.

Scott Adams shows his expertise
by portraying our lives with such ease;
for the bright engineer
knows mismanagement by fear
breeds the demotivation disease.

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Different Morning

This morning was a different morning, but mainly because I made it different. Last night I wound back the alarm from 7am to 6am. I had intentions to find an hour and a half of uninterrupted private time to write. There's time like that after midnight every night but it's not the same. At that end of the day I'm not motivated.

I'd been reading more about the process of writing. One common message shines through. If you want to be a writer you have to write. Do it every day. Make time for it. Do it even when you don't feel like it. Is this starting to sound like discipline?

At six the radio blared. I killed it and crawled out of bed. I'm not a morning person but this was something I could make work by shear force of willpower. I'd thought it through last night. If I was quick with the alarm and got myself out of the bedroom quietly then WifeOfVirge would drop back to sleep for another hour and I could tap away quietly in the study. I shuffled across the carpet in the dark.

"Whoops. Sorry Gandalf. Didn't see you sleeping there."

In the kitchen I started making coffee. I switched on the light in the study.

"Wake up computer," said I as I jogged the mouse.

"I said, wake up computer!" I moved the mouse again.

Murphy was testing my resolve. I hit the reset button. That gave me time to check email on another computer while the reboot and disc check trickled through. It was morning so my will was strong. I cleared the spam and closed the browser--no distractions for this little black duck.

By 6:06am I had hot coffee, a willing computer and I had BIC. BIC is a special recipe for writers. It stands for Bum In Chair (or Butt In Chair if youall prefer). It's part of that business about making yourself write. I considered my start a success.


"Shhhhhh! What's the matter, Gandalf?" I should have known this would happen. "You thirsty, puss?" I poured a bowl of milk and placed it down for him, wondering how to avoid further disturbances to WifeOfVirge. I closed the bedroom door. Coffee, computer and chair were waiting for discipline, determination and some other d-word that has something to do with writing... derring-do? depravity? dementia? Never mind.

I returned to the study. The post-milk bowl yowls at the end of the hall were background now. I was focused. I had a framework for a set of short stories, a list of potential themes and settings, some notes on my main character and a few scribbles on potential supporting roles. What I didn't have was a story to tell. I needed conflict. I needed something that would grow to an exciting climax and resolve leaving a feeling of satisfaction. I wanted multiple threads of plot that could surprise the reader by meshing, then combining in a retrospectively obvious conclusion. You're dreaming, Virge. Dreaming! Let's make that the third d-word.

I dreamed. The blinding revelations weren't available this morning. I think the revelation transport workers must be on strike or something. I checked the back of the cupboards for any orgasmic inspirations. None. Just a few moldy musings that even the mice couldn't stomach. Maybe dreaming wasn't the right word. I resorted to describing and detailing. I started to create a character to interact with my protagonist in the hope that a conflict would develop.

The mood of my house changed. DaughterOfVirge was up and getting ready for school. I made a wake-up cuppa for WifeOfVirge and returned to the chair. A couple of sentences later my concentration was being beaten back. Normality had marshalled its forces to repel my different morning. Time to beat a retreat.

On the plus side, WifeOfVirge had managed to get back to sleep, but only after getting out of bed and letting CatOfVirge into the bedroom for his morning session of "sit on the sleepy human". I had managed to get about an hour of quality time with my written romance. It wasn't a complete failure, but it wasn't enough of a success to justify the disturbance of sleep. I think I'll find some other way. (See how determined I am? See the analytical problem solver at work?)

Shaved and showered, dressed and breakfasted, I packed my lunch, grabbed my bag and waited for SonOfVirge to finish packing for school. To add to the charm of my different morning, when I went to pull my car door handle I recoiled. My fingers had found something firm and furry under the handle where I expected smooth, cold metal. As I took a step back, a huntsman spider slid down the door and plopped to the road. It scuttled... no scuttled is too small a word. It scurried under the car, or perhaps even scampered. Yes, scampered is the word. The cheeky scamp of a spider had been hiding under the door handle just waiting to surprise me. All the way to work my finger tips could still feel the fuzziness of that unexpected intimacy.

I decided I wouldn't tell FamilyOfVirge of my close encounter. It would only worry them. For the next week they'd be bobbing down and peering under the handles before opening, or trying to pull the door handles with something other than fingers. Besides, this was the first time it had happened to me in years of driving. I'm pretty sure that spider will tell his mates at their next meeting.

"Let's try hiding under the door handles," a young one will say.

"Nahhh. I did that last week. Didn't even get a scream," will be my scamperer's experienced response.

One of those blog things

I ignore most of the Answer these questions about yourself and What creature/character are you? quizzes. I did this one because: (a) it allowed complete freedom of choice (unlike the multiple-choice quizzes), (b) it was still very constrained--more of a puzzle or a word game, and (c) it encouraged humour no matter which band or artist you chose.

Choose a band/artist and answer only in song titles by that band: Leonard Cohen

Are you female or male: I'm Your Man
Describe yourself: By The Rivers Dark
How do some people feel about you: Last Year's Man
How do you feel about yourself: Waiting For The Miracle
Describe your ex-girlfriend/boyfriend: Seems So Long Ago, Nancy
Describe your current girlfriend/boyfriend: Dance Me To The End Of Love.
Describe where you want to be: I Came So Far For Beauty
Describe what you want to be: You Know Who I Am
Describe your car: Never Any Good; That Don't Make It Junk
Describe how you live: The Land Of Plenty
Describe how you love: A Thousand Kisses Deep
Share a few words of wisdom: Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On; Everybody Knows; I Left A Woman Waiting; In My Secret Life


It fills my heart with glee to see people in the USA starting to understand and embrace sarcasm. (Yes, I know I'm making gross generalisations about a huge and diverse nation of people. It is my observation that sarcasm is more likely to be misunderstood by an American audience than by an Australian audience.)

The ironic heart-filler in question came from Billionaires for Bush (via Letters of Marque).

Billionaires for Bush is a grassroots political action committee that advocates for the rights and interests of people of phenomenal wealth.

Still, there are people who miss the sarcasm. Another anti-Bush protest group at a Rove fundraiser mistook them for Bush support. The bowler-hatted and begowned Billionaires' response: "Buy your own president!" should have been enough of a hint.

What to say?

What should I say? I could tell you about the leftover chocolate mud cake in the fridge at work. But that's gone now. A few software engineers in a mid-afternoon mood demolished it. with coffee. and conversation. and laughter too. What chocolate mud cake? I see no cake here.

I could tell you of my plans to develop a phobia. Zemmiphobia sounds like a wonderful choice. People could tell me about their weird allergies and I could reply with my irrational fear of the great mole rat. Let's see them top that then.

I could tell you about my recent acquisition of Thud and how it constantly nags at me to start writing an AI opponent. That's a project that I know I would spend hours days weeks on. Play testing would start to fill every available minute. I'd wake up at night being hurled by dwarfs or clobbered by trolls. The coffee table would mentally map to the thud stone at the centre of the board. I'd start to model international politics on dwarf-troll interactions. I dare not allow the game to gain a foot hold.

I could tell you about a craft project that keeps begging for time, a partially written song, a list of absolutely brilliant but undeveloped story ideas (you know the ones--when you think them through completely you realise the brilliance was illusory), and a leaning tower of books waiting to be read. I have a whole superhighway of good intentions.

I could tell you about how I need to reorganise my days if I want to do any serious amount of writing. There is no guarantee of quiet uninterrupted time anywhere between 7am and 10pm. Past efforts to use the 11pm-2am time slot have been less than successful due to a reduced attention span in the early hours. It doesn't look promising. I've been reading Learn Writing with Uncle Jim. I need a disciplined regular habit if I want to make the transition from "perpetual wannabe" to "I am a professional writer: I tell lies to strangers for money."

Mr Virge, I'd like you to meet Mr. Self Discipline. Mr. Discipline will be your personal writing trainer. You'll come to hate him in many different ways.


In my dream this morning I was a young boy attending a youth club, yet old enough to drive a car. The dissonance didn't jar in the dream. It didn't even register until I reviewed my dream after waking.

I jumped as high as I could, straight up, arms stiff at my sides. Not very good. A basketballer I am not. The next boy jumped higher. A supervisor was chalking the heights on the wall. We had to get our heads as high as possible in each jump. Who knows what this activity was all about. To me it was just another physical activity. My poor altitude didn't phase me. I was never an athletic kid.

It was my turn again. I decided to try something different. I jumped with my arms straight up, then brought them down to my sides as I was nearing the top of my trajectory. It made a huge difference. I could easily beat the rest of the wall marks. I demonstrated my technique again and nearly touched my head to the ceiling of the old hall.

I wasn't aware of anyone else attempting to emulate my technique. I kept on jumping because it was a good thing to do. It was new and different. I could do it, so I did.

I tried to demonstrate it to another supervisor, but it didn't work. The ceiling was a long way away. There was another technique I had to use. Starting with my arms down low, I swung them up during my spring to give my body more upward momentum, then just before my head hit the ceiling I pulled my arms down to extend my jump. By pulling my arms down slowly I could hover for a while at the top of my arc with my head against the ceiling. This wasn't flying, but it came pretty close. It was a strange ability, but not strange enough to make me realise it wasn't real.

My car was outside. I left the hall, intending to go home but couldn't find my car. There were cars parked on either side of the street -- none of them mine. Of course! I'd driven my parents' old Morris Major and it was in the car park. I headed back to the off-street car park and woke up.

What does the dream mean? I can't relate the dream events to any recent concerns. The scene in the youth club is a poor match to my childhood memories of similar physical activities.

My parents' old Morris Major was what I drove in my university days. The car search could have been triggered by a moment's amusement last night in the car park of the gymnasium. As WifeOfVirge and I were getting out of the car, a woman exiting the gym wandered up to the black BMW parked beside us. She stopped, turned and walked back to a black Audi, two cars further along. I chuckled to myself, figuring she was probably now feeling very embarrassed and hoping that we hadn't noticed. The cars were both black, but not really alike.

Would that 30 second incident have been enough to trigger a dream? Was the association of mistaken car and gymnasium enough to dredge up childhood memories of gymnastic activities? Were there symbolic messages hidden in my jumping techniques? When BossOfVirge says "jump!" should I ask "would you like dints in the ceiling with that, sir?"

Wooooo, we can't have that!

When you look at the fuss the US media make about one breast, you have to sit back and laugh. How can any of them expect to be taken seriously?

I couldn't resist a little limerick for the world-shattering, absolutely sensational, how-could-they-let-this-happen Janet Jackson's Tit Scandal.

It left all the prudes in a titter
when Justin exposed Janet's glitter.
It's only a breast,
so why get so stressed?
Hell! We couldn't care if he bit 'er

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Even Emotionless Engineers Enjoy Egoboo

I read my page stats
to find some encouragement;
Pathetic, I know.

I found the answer to two riddles in my page statistics. Over the Christmas break I designed a simple detective game specifically for playing on a community forum. Each player makes a move by interacting with a PHP program on my site, then posts the html code generated by the game into a message on the forum. After playing a couple of rounds on EK in early January, the game died a natural death of disinterest.

While browsing my web page statistics today I noticed that the game page was still being accessed. People were still playing. I looked at the game state data to find out who was playing, only to find a list of nicknames I didn't recognise. A moment's googling answered another riddle. The names showed up on a private community that I'd observed (with some curiosity) linking to my site.

So, a special GreetingOfVirge goes to Eamane, Oogg, Domine, Saealorn, Dannalyn, Arigon, Cienya, Feni, Aarlaorn, fairsong, Celtin, Aliciarose, mindaarie, Lore, Dynamyte, Metelaze and Thorena (and any other names I might have accidently missed). I got a kick out of seeing your creative choice of weapons, suspects and locations.


glompless gloomivated
unsquee incynical unbounced
isolazy insignitpicky moodoubty unquisitive
shwhining blobful hungreed gormified sparkfree
shrugly gustly antigruntled deciwitted bleaghed hypathetic

Normal virgilantics will resume as soon as possible.