This book is an excerpt from “Bk.: A Not-so Novel”. Coming in ’23.
This book will scare you. This book will give you bad dreams. I wish I could say it’s just a story. I wish I could start “Once upon a time…”
This is an H-bomb. If one of these was dropped on you it would blow up your whole town. Not just you and your house, not just your block or neighborhood but your whole town. It would kill all your family and it would kill all your friends.
You say you have a friend in the country and that friend won’t die.
Not right away. But the bomb spreads a poison dust as far as the wind blows.
Your country friend would breathe the poison and drink it in water. She will hurt and be sick before she dies. She might wish she lived in a town so it wouldn’t take so long to die.
This is what it looks like when an H-bomb blows up. If you are 20 miles away and see this, your eyes will melt. The town is smashed and catches fire.
The bombs come in rockets that fall out of the sky. Right now in Russia there is a rocket pointed to your town.
Some Russians are waiting to launch it.
At night while you’re asleep and all day while you are at school or playing these Russians are waiting to kill you.
If they launched right now your town would blow up in half an hour. If your family got in a car and tried to drive away you would be blown up in a traffic jam of frightened people. You can’t drive far enough in half an hour to get away from the explosion.
Don’t worry, though. There are American rockets aimed at Russian cities. Right now Americans are waiting for a signal to launch our rockets to kill Russian families.
Does this make you feel safer?
Let’s pretend the war is over. All the Russian and American rockets flew through space and most landed on the people they were supposed to kill.
You and I were lucky. You were exploded into small pieces and I was burned to death in the fire in my basement.
Let’s pretend we’re ghosts and float over to Russia to see if we won.
It looks like other countries got bombed.
This is the face of Brian Doyle lying in a refugee camp near Dover in the United Kingdom. He lived in a little town near a big English city.
His skin got burned on his arms and the back of his neck.
He can still see because he was looking the other way when the bomb blew up. He breathed too much poison dust, though.
We’ll see a lot more like him.
We cross over the English Channel to France. Everywhere we see ashes and smashed houses, burnt trees, dead animals and people.
This is the worst war ever and it only took 3 hours to happen.
This little baby is Bridgette Poulenc.
She has vomited on the first day because of poison from the H-bomb.
Her mother carried her out into the country and died.
No one hears her crying.
We float on to Germany.
There are some tents with lots of people around them. It is a hospital camp.
Most of the doctors were killed in the war. The doctors who can still walk try to help, but each of them has hundreds of burnt, broken, and poisoned patients.
The doctors work very hard but they can only help those who aren’t hurt very badly.
They are sad because they know most of their patients will die.
This is Dr. Kirstin Baum taking care of some of the sickest patients on their pallets.
She hasn’t slept in two days.
She works harder because she feels sick from the bomb poison. She knows she will soon be too weak to help anybody.
Then she knows she will die.
It smells bad now. There are too many dead and not enough people to bury them all.
Wild dogs and cats get fat and then sick from the poison they ate in the bodies.
Not many of the dead are wearing soldier’s uniforms. Didn’t you think wars were for soldiers to die in?
In World War I most of those killed were soldiers.
In World War II half the killed were civilians, not soldiers.
In Your War, World War III, almost all those killed won’t be soldiers, but ordinary people.
This is progress.
Many of the smartest people in the world spend their lives inventing weapons that can kill more and more people. We pay them with our taxes.
What would the world be like if those smart people were paid to invent things to help us–new medicines, new energy sources, new ways to grow food?
You say, “I’m too sad. I don’t want to look any more.”
But we must go to Russia for this book to end.
[Illustration of Sasha goes here.]
Here is a boy called Sasha, about your age. He was too near the bomb that came from America. He spent 2 days trapped in a basement until he dug a hole outside.
In about 2 weeks he will begin to bleed inside his body and blood will appear under his skin.
But now he feels better and for 2 weeks he will feel well, although important changes are occurring inside his body.
Sasha liked to play soccer. He wanted to be an astronaut someday. He liked chocolate bars best of anything and his favorite toy was his bike.
While he was in his basement digging out, Sasha listened to his dad cry for one whole day before he died.
His mom never came to the basement. She ran off to find Misha, his little sister, when the war sirens started to howl.
Sasha is looking for them both, his mother and his sister.
He is so hungry he eats leaves and dead birds, which lie on the ground everywhere.
Sasha can’t see us because we’re ghosts. We see him and we smell the bad smell from all the dead people.
His hair begins to fall out in patches and he gets tired and fevery. In the third week his mouth begins to hurt, his throat burns, and he has diarrhea. He is very skinny.
At night Sasha hides to sleep. The people who didn’t die seem angry and crazy when he meets them.
Sasha dreams of his father crying.
During the day we watch him hunt for his mom and sister.
We never see him smile.
Sometimes he throws up and lies down for a while. Sometimes he seems dizzy. The bomb poison is in him.
Ulcers grow around his mouth and then they spread to his stomach.
In the 4th week he will die.
When this book is over ask your parents what they’re doing to make sure you don’t die this way.
I’m sure they are very busy people.
ChipWits is a classic robot-programming game that was an award-winning bestseller in the 80’s.
In 2008 MacLife magazine named ChipWits the 8th-best Apple/Mac games of all time.
More enthusiastic reviews.
ChipWits by Doug Sharp and Mike Johnston
Excerpts from reviews:
“ChipWits is a program that every Mac user should have.” Byte Product of the Month review
“If you have only one entertainment/educational program in the disk cabinet next to your Macintosh, ChipWits should be it.” Icon Review magazine review
“A fantastic program that is as educational as it is entertaining… Hands-on trial and error environment combined with attractive screens and animation create a world where playing and learning become (as they should be) one and the same.” 5-star INFO64 review
“We described ChipWits as a ‘revolutionary’ game package, and we think that when you see it you will agree. However, it’s more than just a game, it’s ‘edutainment’ at its best. In our opinion, the program is so innovative that it overleaps other education and game packages in the same manner that Filevision brought new concepts to the ‘data base jungle’. We predict without hesitation that ChipWits will become a cult favorite among Macintosh users and their children of whatever age.” The extensive and egoboosting MACazine review
“… so much fun you won’t even realize you’ve been educated until you leave the environment. Young or old will delight in this educational treat.” The MACazine Best of ’85 Award blurb
“IBOL is nearly perfect introduction to programming for nonprogrammers.” MacUser 5-mouse review
“ChipWits from BrainPower is the best, certainly most enjoyable, introduction to programming concepts that we’ve seen. Its icon based language is wonderfully innovative, and the program’s design is both refreshing and highly educational.” MacUser’s Editor’s Choice 1985 Award
“ChipWits is delightful and delightfully easy to use… I found ChipWits to be highly educational as well as highly entertaining… I also found ChipWits to be very challenging and even addictive on the more difficult play levels…. It’s an excellent program that teaches by osmosis…” Commodore Power/Play review
“Not too many reviews come with a guarantee, but this one guarantees that if you like programming, you’ll love ChipWits.” MacWorld review
ChipWits is being revived and updated. The current build is playable.
CW is being coded on the Unity Platform.
Contact Doug Sharp at firstname.lastname@example.org
1973-9 Taught Special Ed and 5th grade
Taught myself how to program by bringing school Apple II’s home on weekends.
88-92: Epilepsy disables me and ends my game career.
92-7: Worked as a coder and manager in Microsoft Research’s Virtual Worlds Group. Sexy tech, awesome coworkers–geeks, artists, musicians.
97-2003: Epilepsy Disables me and causes brain damage
2002: Spent 6 glorious, painful weeks at the sci-fi writing workshop Clarion West
2004-2012:To heal I moved to a remote lakeside Wisconsin cabin where Janet Brissom visited me.
2012: Moved to Vashon Island, an enchanted isle in Puget Sound.
2013-14: Finished Channel Zilch and Hel’s Bet.
Here’s An article about why it took me 21 years to write Channel Zilch.
Currently working on a Middle-Grade (age 10-16) sci-fi book called Castle Rising–Medieval Kids vs. Alien Pirates. I hope to finish by the end of the year.
Mommy, what’s a Boogafoo?
In 1974 while I attended St. Olaf’s Paracollege, my best friend Larry Heyl ran the Moog Studio. He taught me how to plug patch cords and fiddle knobs to wring squawks out of the Moog Modular Synthesizer. I was earning a hand-rolled degree in Creative Studies so I added Torturing the Moog 101 to my curriculum.
Veluria Ponsonby’s Epiphany
Wherein two horrible dogs perform behavioral experiments on an innocent fellow.
Moog Modular Synthesizer like the one in the St. Olaf Moog Studio
To me the Moog was a machine for making weird noises so I pushed it into uncharted territories of sonic strangeness. I didn’t emulate any musician but indulged in pure sonic experimentation. I taped a handful of tracks and called my album “Babie’s[sic] First Words” Twenty years later my daughter renamed it “Boogafoo Music”, which stuck.
Doug Sharp in ’74
I carried around this 2nd-gen tape for years before digitizing it, no charge for the tape hiss
We kept track of our Moog patchcord setups with this worksheet
St. Olaf Moog Studio Gear:
- 1 x 901 oscillator bank with 3 oscillators
- 2 x 921 oscillators
- 1 x 905 reverb
- 1 x 903A noise generator
- 1 x 904 filter
- 3 x 902 voltage controlled amplifiers
- 3 x 911 envelope generators
- 1 x 951 keyboard
- 3 x 901 oscillator banks, 1 with 3, 1 with 4, and 1 with 5 oscillators
- 2 x 4:1 mixer
- 4 x 2:1 mixer
3 x stereo tape machines (Revox A77, Tandberg 6021X, Ampex 601)
PTSD is a monster. PTSD is a cage. PTSD distorts my self. It keeps me away from people I love. It keeps me from doing things that I love.
My PTSD is sometimes a blunt instrument to my psyche, brutally knocking me down when pain hits my limit. Usually my PTSD subtly handicaps me, chains me in ways that I can’t fathom nor address, much less battle or finesse.
Because I live in the midst of constant trauma, my trauma isn’t in the past–it’s in the past, present, and future. PTSD that develops “in response to prolonged, repeated experience of interpersonal trauma in a context in which the individual has little or no chance of escape” is called Complex PTSD (See Wikipedia article), sometimes called DESNOS or Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified.
The primary trigger my CPS agony is animated conversations with bright, creative people. The trauma is interpersonal because the pain is caused by conversing. The person I talk to doesn’t (usually) mean to traumatize me, but the reptilian complex of my brain classifies the trauma as an interpersonal attack.
Links to Chapters:
I sliced up some of the longer chapters to make smaller chapters so numbering jumps around:
“That dot? It should be bigger.”
“It’s big. So far away it’s small.”
“I know that.” She squints, sighting along her arm. “Like I cover up that big volcano with my thumb.”
“I know that.”
“You got it–far makes the volcano small. But Home is a zillion mountains big and a zillion clicks away.”
Giggle. “I can cover it with my eyelash.” Giggle. “It makes my eyelash sparkle. Try it.”
I squint and rotate my head minutely. An old man’s blur. “Sounds wonderful. All I see is a blur. My eyes aren’t young.”
She considers that and moves on.
“When can I go to the Party?”
“To The Party at the Earth place. Where our cousins are.”
To the right of the evening star a brighter dot blooms and burns… out.
“A spark! Is that for the party?”
“Bigger than a spark, sweet. It’s a rocket ship slowing down. That’s what I brought you out to see.”
“About a day.”
“Is it robots?”
“It’s our long-lost cousins. When they get here we’ll have a family reunion to remember.”
“Best party ever.”
I am honored that John Scalzi has published my article about Channel Zilch on his blog.
Some books take longer to write than others.Channel Zilch took longer to write than most. But to be fair, author Doug Sharp has a very good reason for that. Here he is to explain.
It only took me 21 years to finish Channel Zilch.
Channel Zilch is the story of ex-astronaut Mick Oolfson and geek goddess Heloise (Hel) Chin. NASA canned Mick for stunt-flying a space shuttle; his one desire is to return to space. Hel is a testosterone-surfing evolutionary roboticist, cortical multitasker, and aspiring midwife to the technological Singularity. The first book in the Hel’s Bet series, Channel Zilch begins with the theft of a space shuttle. And that’s the easy part.
Here’s the deal:
In 1992 I needed a new computer game project. I was droolingly bored cranking out lucrative contract code. My game career was dead. I was determined to resurrect it.
In the mid-80’s…
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Snow is thin on the ground. I hiked to the Tamarack Bog today to see if the Pitcher Plants were poking through.
Here’s a Pitcher Plant with frozen water inside it.
Travis is great at improv acting so long as his part is that of an enthusiastic dog. Trav-trav is a Collie/Shepherd/Something mix.
Today he looked particularly Colliesque so I called him Lassie which devolved into this piece of Canine Improv Theatre:
For those of you too chronologically deprived to catch the Timmy/Collie reference, here is the opening of one of the best TV shows ever: Lassie.
Timmy was the clumsiest boy on Earth. His inability to avoid falling into wells stressed out poor, sweet Lassie day after day after day.
Travis and Mika and I evened the score.
Last week Martel Lake froze and I thought canoeing was done for the year.
This week we got a warm spell – temp in the 40’s F – so I decided to give canoeing one last shot.
I love icebreaking in a canoe. The ice was crumbly around my dock and along the shore so I was pretty sure I could make it to open water.
I wanted to get some crunchy icebreaking sounds so I stuck my trusty Zoom H2 in my jacket pocket and got this [crunchy ice with intermittent narrative at 2:00; best crunching sounds start at 4:05]:
I was too busy breaking through the ice to take pix until we hit the open lake.
My dock is in the distance just right and up from center. We paddled through the thin shore ice and then broke through the white patch above.
It felt good to break through to clear water. Icebreaking with a canoe is great arm exercise because you need to chop into the ice with the paddle and haul the canoe forward up onto the ice, breaking it with the weight of the canoe. Repeat until clear of ice.
Thin ice you can just cruise through. It makes a tinkly sound as it shatters.
Mika and Travis were not happy with our expedition. It’s Wisconsin’s Annual War Against Deer and gunshots in the distance kept them nervous.
After our icebreaking adventure I tied Mika to a tree and put away the boats and accessories for the winter. I hung lifejackets from the rafters of the screen porch while Travis watched, amused:
I pulled my canoe onto the bank, where snow will soon cover it.
The next time I canoe I’ll hear loons.
I wrote this essay about compassion in 1975 at age 23. I was looking through old writing today and decided to post it, though it hasn’t much to do with Thanksgiving.
I still stand behind its spirit and intent and admire its earnestness and idealism.
I’m sorry to say that Dwayne was not a friend of mine. In fact, I doubt whether he had any friends. He was in the Monroney Junior High School Band with me, though I can’t recall what instrument he played. I do remember that he was very short, looked years younger than his age, and that he cried a lot. It was considered good sport by some to taunt him into a blubbering rage.
I don’t remember participating directly in hostilities toward him, but I smiled indulgently whenever I heard that he was crying again. After all, he was an immature crybaby who played only with elementary school kids, so he should expect to be teased.
I moved to a different area and school and when I returned three years later was informed that Dwayne had joined the Marines. Dwayne in the Marines, we all thought that was pretty funny. The next news I heard of him, two years later, was not so humorous. Dwayne was in jail. He had forced a car off the road and raped the woman driving it.
That news troubled me. As an aware young liberal I believed that crime was often a reaction to an oppressive environment, but up until this that idea had always been remote and stereotyped – an economically oppressed person holding up a store to keep from starving. I saw that Dwayne’s crime was a reaction to the particular oppression of his environment; he had been emotionally scarred, systematically denied friendship, and to keep from emotional starvation had tried to steal some love. I saw that I had been a part of the oppressive social environment that had driven him to make his desperate bid for intimacy.
Being a nice person, I didn’t like to think of myself as an oppressor. Why, then, hadn’t I befriended Dwayne, something he so obviously needed? Easily answered, he was not what one looked for in a friend; he was immature, strange, and unhappy, and anyone who befriended or even showed kindness to him risked becoming an outcast for associating with a person who everyone considered an asshole. Basically, Dwayne had no friends because his personality and other personal attributes were socially unacceptable. How had he become so different from the rest of us?
First, how is it that most of us stay on good terms with our peer group? A person in frequent friendly contact with others tends to improve his or her social skills and so remain acceptable to his age group as it matures. In contrast with this benevolent cycle of growth is Dwayne’s vicious cycle which inflated an early difficulty in socialization into a tragic crime. Dwayne’s initial socialization problem was probably due to personal troubles caused by being an orphan who was adopted late. His early unpopularity denied him the friendly social interaction that would have allowed him to develop the social skills that make one acceptable to one’s peers, and lacking which he remained unpopular. On top of this lack of social skills were the problems of loneliness, low self-esteem, and constant overt harassment by the more insensitive around him. His environment was overwhelmingly oppressive. In fact, he was as oppressed because of his personal characteristics as any human has ever been because of race, or any woman because of sex.
Dwayne’ s oppression is not unique; it is but an extreme example of a destructive element of our social system that touches us all. Dwayne was judged to be inferior and so excluded mainly because of his unacceptable personality, though no one really knew him. Whenever one person forms a poor opinion of another based on superficial knowledge much the same social mechanism is at work. Judgment based on insufficient evidence is called prejudice, and there is a prejudice based on personal characteristics, mental and physical, just as real and destructive as our prejudices based on race and gender. We are all familiar with racism and sexism, but most are unaware of personalism.
A technique often used to make people more aware of sexism is to draw parallels between it and racism, and in the same way it is useful to compare personalism with racism and sexism. The first similarity that hit me was that each prejudice has its own vocabulary of abuse: racism — nigger, wop, honky, etc.; sexism — chick, bitch, piece, etc.; and personalism — asshole, jerk, fuckhead, creep, bastard, etc. These terms serve to make an object of their target so as to obscure that person’s humanity.
Another parallel between the three prejudices is that they are learned, no matter how “natural” they might seem. In much the same way that one learns that members of certain races are inferior, and that each sex has its own limited role, one also learns that certain types of personalities and physiognomies are inferior. The three prejudices vary from culture to culture; sexual roles and the races considered inferior differ in each society, as do standards for judging personality and beauty.
Personalism, like sexism and racism, fosters a feeling of superiority in the prejudiced by labeling some people as inferior. And, most heartening of all the similarities between these three prejudices, there have always been some people immune to them: non-racist whites working for civil rights, non-sexist men working for female suffrage, and there can be no more profoundly non-personalist statement than Will Rogers’ “I never met a man I didn’t like.”
This statement is a good introduction to how personalism works in practice, for, as hate to racism and condescension to sexism, dislike is the active tool of personalism. (Dislike – not to like, “like” having a very revealing similarity to “to be like”.)
The criteria used for choosing who to dislike are much more complex than simply discerning the openly apparent signs of race or sex. Some “reasons” for disliking a person are his: intellect, too much or too little; opinions; dress; habits of speech; way with money; friends; moodiness; height; etc. There are limits on just about every personal attribute, to overstep which invites rejection, aversion, dislike.
Most of us are careful to conceal our socially unacceptable characteristics except from those who already like us, but there are those who won’t or can’t or are only partially successful in their attempt to hide their “defects”. Other more subjective “reasons” for disliking a person are; hearing bad things about him; meeting her under unpleasant circumstances; his possession of traits one dislikes in oneself; embarrassing oneself before her; feeling inadequate in his company. Yet all these subjective causes of dislike are usually ascribed to shortcomings in the other.
One would think that if a valuation of another person had to be made at all, it would be undertaken only after careful and unhurried deliberation. In fact, though, it is common practice to form an opinion of another quickly after very limited and superficial interaction, which is characteristic of all forms of prejudice. The way we judge people is so culturally defined, subjective, and done in such a haphazard manner that it is objectively meaningless.
As prejudice is always disruptive to communication between people, blinding one to the complete and complex humanity of another by focusing attention on a fragment of her whole, dislike is a barrier between humans. You can never really know a person unless you like him, for only to a friend can a person reveal herself without fear.
Dislike feeds itself, rejecting that which would tend to undermine it; any action performed by someone we dislike usually tends to confirm our low opinion of him, though the same act done by a friend might be interpreted favorably or laughed off. Once dislike enters a human relationship it distorts all interaction and communication. Once A begins to dislike B he notices mainly B’s unacceptable characteristics, ignoring attributes he might admire in another. B soon notices A’s attitude towards him and this alters his behavior around A, confirming A’s low opinion of him. B resents A’s attitude, begins to notice A’s disagreeable features, and soon they dislike each other equally, effectively shutting down any meaningful communication between them.
A person can’t really know someone she dislikes, and it also seems that one can’t really dislike someone she knows. Intimate knowledge of another person, no matter what “defects” he might have, leads to a sympathetic understanding of his problems and a diminished awareness of his departures from our culture’s ideals of personality and beauty. Most people have at least a few friends who they know well enough to overlook characteristics that might be reasons for disliking a stranger. And we don’t dislike the mentally ill and the cognitively handicapped, though they have in abundance the characteristics that in small quantities might inspire dislike, for our sympathies are engaged and we wonder not what we can do to avoid the person, but what can be done to help them.
Surely the most important consideration, as it is with racism and sexism, is whether getting rid of the prejudice might be a good thing, for both the prejudiced and the oppressed. Personalism is as damaging to everyone involved as are racism and sexism. A person who is rejected, to whatever degree, feels hurt by the rejection and tends to be less open for fear of further rejection. Continuous personal rejection can aggravate personal problems. The use of personalize standards in relating to others encourages a lack of empathy and even cruelty.
Personalism disrupts interpersonal communications, contributes to the tension in our society, and fosters unhappiness. It is an unkind method of dealing with others.
What, then, would be the consequences if personalism were eliminated? People would be respected no matter what their problems and would have a greater opportunity to work out their difficulties through friendly, supportive interaction and communication without fear of rejection. Cruelty would be reduced because it would be harder for a person to think of another as an object. Getting rid of personal prejudice would not mean that everybody would have to be best friends; attraction and shared experiences and interests would still be necessary to establish a really close relationship. Personal differences from the norm would be not only tolerated but welcome, further encouraging interpersonal openness. The heavily judgmental nature of our present social environment, in which some are treated as if they were less than fellow humans, would be transformed into an environment of mutual respect and empathy. Personalism is a relationship of human surfaces, empathy is the relationship of human centers.
What this transformation would take would be a large change in our motives for relating to others. Right now we are friendly toward those who make us feel good, those whose company is prestigious, and those whose friendship might be useful to us, all relatively self-centered motives, as well as toward those with unacceptable characteristics who we know well and sympathize with. We can internalize and use the fact the that friendly interaction can help a troubled person deal with his problems; respecting outcasts purely because kindness is a generous and helpful way of treating any person.
Dislike is destructive; being friendly toward someone can be more than a matter of attraction; it can be a constructive effort to help him grow. Friendly social interaction is the most effective preventative therapy.
In talking of the destruction and oppression caused by personalism my purpose has not been to promote guilt for damage already done, but to promote awareness of the nature and consequences of our behavior by providing a new and useful analysis of our social system in hopes of encouraging benevolent change. The ideas basic to this analysis are not new or original, but as ancient as the golden rule and the injunction to love your enemy, as widespread as “I’m OK, You’re OK” and modern schools [ed: 1975] of humanist psychology.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of the idea of personalism is its timeliness. It capitalizes on our present heightened awareness of racism and sexism by drawing parallels with them and using similar arguments – extends that awareness to include a prejudice until now unlabeled as such, and it may be able to draw on the same idealistic hope that motivates those who work against racial and sexual prejudice, the hope that all people will be happier when we eradicate destructive prejudice.
Only through awareness can personalism, or any prejudice, be attacked. With personalism it will have to be the aware, rather than the oppressed, that lead the effort to spread awareness, for at present the prejudice is so great that the assholes, the jerks, and the unpopular are most probably not going to organize to point out the injustice of their situation as women and blacks have done.
During the time I was writing this essay I came across a penetrating portrait of a victim of personalism in Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel (Scribner’s, 1929). In his description of a schoolboy, Edward Michalove, fictional counterpart of Dwayne, he shows remarkable insight into the destructive processes of extreme personalism:
At twelve he was a tall slender lad, with dark amber features, and the mincing effeminacy of an old maid. He was terrified in the company of other boys, all that was sharp, spinsterly and venomous, would come protectively to the surface when he was ridiculed or threatened, and he would burst into shrill unpleasant laughter, or hysterical tears. His mincing walk with the constant gesture of catching maidenly at the fringe of his coat as he walked along, his high husky voice, with a voluptuous and feminine current playing through it drew upon him at once the terrible battery of their dislike. They called him “Miss” Michalove; they badgered him into a state of constant hysteria until he became an unpleasant snarling little cat, holding up his small clawed hands to scratch them with his long nails whenever they approached, they made him detestable, master and boy alike, and they hated him for what they made of him.
2011: I still fight personalism when I come upon it. I refuse to let people call another “asshole” in my presence any more than I tolerate someone saying “nigger” to insult another.
The recent movement to stop school bullying is encouraging.
Every living thing is holy. Especially holy are sentient beings.
This world is more than enough for us to appreciate in our brief lives and we are blessed to experience what portion we do.
Love is the only reasonable goal.
Today’s ice and snow will melt next week when it gets up to 50. It’s nice to have a preview of Winter.
Wisconsin’s annual War Against Deer started today. Neighbors to the south built a major anti-deer emplacement. They started blazing away at dawn. I woke up with a traumatized Travis trembling and panting on top of me. Mika is unusually affectionate today because of all the gunfire.
I blast loud music to cover the sounds of the epic battle, which relaxes the dogs somewhat. The next 9 days of deer season will be trying for all 3 of us.
The Pad has been a social whirlwind this month. Tony Santucci camped with me on Ogre Island. Myrna and Paul took good care of me.
Angry Robot just signed their first two authors from their Submissions Open Month. I’m still waiting (im)patiently to hear from AR about whether they’ll publish Channel Zilch.
Snow expected Saturday so I’m stacking the last of my firewood today.
Next week is my dogs’ least favorite time of the year: Wisconsin’s Annual War Against Deer. I’ll play lots of loud music to mask the sound of gunfire.
I spent an hour paddling in the chill dusk wind. My poor little camera did its best, but the sunset was waaaay more intense than this photo.
Fourteen years ago I had one of the coolest, funnest, hectic-est jobs in my life: Demo God for Microsoft Research’s Virtual Worlds Group. I worked with coders, artists, writers, interns, and musicians to put together and run demos to show off our amazing Virtual Reality platform. I love to collaborate and the VWGers were a passionate, talented group to play with. At its best my job was exhilarating.
Demos are fickle beasts. Software in development is notorious for breaking when you demo it to anybody with clout. I remember frantically sprinting to my office to recompile a tearful intern’s project for an internal mass demo. I got it working and she was able to demo the work she’d spent months creating.
I had a blast in the Virtual World’s Group. Management politics was a mess but the geek troops made an amazing Virtual Worlds platform way ahead of its time.
Before becoming Demo God I was co-leader of VWG world-building tools with Kevin Goldsmith. We had lots of laughs and did good work.
Fourteen years ago – October 17th, 1997 – I sat at my desk trying to code. I’d done no work the previous day although I’d tried hard. My epilepsy pre-seizure symptoms had been bothering me for days and on the 17th I had to admit that my Brainrot was back. I couldn’t work. Every time I forced myself to code the symptoms got worse. I was sad and afraid.
My MSFT office door.
At age 25 (1977), while student teaching for my Elementary Ed certification at the UofMN, I had some strange, nasty spells and was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. While teaching my first 5th grade class I took Phenobarbital for a year, which controlled my seizures. I hated the drug – I called its effects “living in a baggie” – and when my symptoms abated I got off Pheno with my neurologist’s permission.
In 1988, while working on my biggest game to date for Activision – called Future Cop at the time – Brainrot hit hard. For 3 1/2 years (88-91) I was extremely sick and on massive doses of various numbing anti-seizure meds as we tried to find one that worked. By 1991 I was a candidate for brain surgery. Luckily the symptoms started to abate. Although I still had infrequent seizures and tons of pre-seizure symptoms I threw myself into completing the game, now called “Free D.C.!” Due to time pressure from company investors (release by Xmas or die!) the game was released before it was finished — the only one of my three games that wasn’t a hit.
In ‘93, through an insane sequence of events, I was hired as a programmer by Microsoft (not too likely with only a degree in El Ed.) I had 5 good years at MSFT although none of the projects I worked on made it to market.
Every time Brainrot hit me I’ve been neck-deep in highly collaborative, exciting work: Elementary Ed teacher training and big collaborative software projects. I love to collaborate with passionate people but it’s kryptonite to me.
Fourteen years ago today I sat at my desk with a head full of sparks, unable to code. For the next months we tried to find tasks I could do for VWG but I was too sick to work. From 1997-2003 I had frequent seizures (I don’t black out but am incapacitated by them.) By the time my neurologist found effective anti-seizure meds (Lamictal and Keppra) my seizures had caused brain damage which resulted in my Central Pain Syndrome and cognitive losses.
Since 1997 I’ve tried, when well enough, to work. I had a brief clear spell in 2007 and coded a very playable version of ChipWits (Margaret did a great job creating the art) but was too sick to polish it to my satisfaction for commercial release. In the last few years I completed Channel Zilch and now Angry Robot is giving it a good long look.
For 18 of my 59 years I’ve wrestled with brainrot. I hate the pain and the years lost but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.
This is my 8th autumn at The Pad, the 8th time I’ve stacked firewood for the winter.
Six face cords of oak: $390. 3 canisters of propane: $240. A winter’s warmth.
The Wengers, local firewood barons, dumped the wood outside my fence 2 weeks ago.
I’ll try to haul 12 wheelbarrows of wood to my shelter every day—over 160 split logs. That’s about 1 row of logs in the small wood shelter.
Travis “helps” me every year by walking in front of the wheelbarrow and grinning at me while I stack the wood. My dogs appreciate a good Stupid Human Trick.
12 loads takes a nice bite out of the pile.
Next autumn I hope to stack wood at my new cabin in Washington state.
As much as I love The Pad I’ve decided to return to Washington state next summer. I’ve known for a while that the next stage of my life will be set there.
Daisy, Margaret, and me exploring our favorite camping area in the Cascades – the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.
I’ll be looking for a cabin within two hours of zillow.com for cabins near Skykomish and Index.. I’m centering my search Highway 2 just West of Stevens Pass. It’s fun combing
There are many good reasons for my move. Being closer to Margaret is important. I hope my future is writing Archie McPhee—what’s not to like?and most of my sci-fi friends are in Seattle and points south on the West Coast. I lived in Washington for 11 years, 93-’04 – working at MSFT and disabled with brainrot. I love the state. Mountains, ocean, Seattle, lots of fun geeks, and
I’ll miss my Wisconsin paradise. The seven years I’ve spent here were incredibly healing. Martel Lake will always be a part of me. I will try to savor each remaining day. This autumn’s leaves make that an easy task.
Unless Channel Zilch dumps a pile of money in my lap I’ll sell The Pad next summer after I hear the first Loon. I look forward to a hard cold winter.
If I make money in the future I’ll buy a cabin on Martel Lake and spend a few months here every year. As I hike my woods and canoe my lake I have the feeling that I’ll be back.
I’m honored and delighted that eighteen musicians from around the world liked the first 12 tracks of my 5 Dozen Bite-Sized Sonic Sculptures enough to remix them. 19 eerie, harsh, gorgeous, irritating reinterpretations of my dozen tiny tracks.
Download or listen here:
I haven’t heard about half of the tracks and am listening and relistening right now with a big goofy smile on my face.
I am a social being and hermiting is unnatural to me. The last 6 months of getting to know Jason Kavanagh’s circle of musicians reminds me of some of the best times in the computer game industry and at MSFT – working and joking with a great group of passionate and talented people.
Thanks to all the musicians who contributed to this album. I promise to get cracking on the next dozen Sonic Sculptures as my health allows. We’ll do another remix album in a couple months.
Link to itsu jitsu release page here:
Myrna Mae Berg camped on Ogre Island the weekend before she returned to her teaching job. She’s got a kayak so I happily canoed her supplies to the island.
I paddled over at dusk and we ate s’mores and laughed.
I don’t usually see pictures of myself from afar so it’s fun to see Myrna’s pictures of me during her Ogre weekend.
I left the dogs at the cabin for tonight’s sunset, something I rarely do. I floated in silence as the sunset ripened from greys to intense ruby.
Three deer came to the shore to drink. Kingfishers chittered angrily at one another while it was still light enough to hunt fish.When the sky turned pink Nighthawks hunted bugs in the sky.