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Giant Steps' Journal

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Friday, July 2nd, 2010
11:07 am - Exhortation

“Where LOVE is in any of these pancakes?” wailed Maurice, turning them over with his fork one by one, giving each only the most cursory examination for love before throwing it on the floor. “Where love is?” he cired again as, coming to the bottom of the stack, he tossed the fork down too, freeing his hands for wild gesticulation.

“Have you no love? Any of you, have you no love left for this life good fortune and sacrifice have made you?” This was a more sophisticated critique of pancakes than I was used to. Everyone else seemed very used to it, though Zerberg additionally looked ready to punch a hole in a wall.

Maurice warmed to his topic, and dismantled much of the kitchen while touching on themes of creativity, mental health, sportsmanship, family, betrayal, the opera, the Roman Empire, plate tectonics, sex, and the insidious effects of comfort. A great deal of food ended up on the floor. Johnny came with a mop and waited glumly.

I wondered if love could be a going concern in a kitchen that served two thousand meals a night. I tried to imagine what that would be like. It was a joke.

“Thank God,” someone muttered, and I turned to see a smiling boy of seven or eight come running in from the dining room. He wore white sneakers and a gray silk suit with a gray tie. He hurried through the crowd. Maurice cut off his improvised speech, and his old fat face took on a guilty look. “Come on, Papa, don't be upset!” the boy cried. “It's dinnertime and the tables are full. There are hungry people everywhere.”

Maurice muttered loudly to himself, “Hungry people, do you hear that? Have mercy. They want food here? God help them all,” and then forcefully to everyone, “Get to work, now, there are hungry people here!” We needed no encouragement but hurried back to the thousand tasks he had interrupted. Maurice let the boy lead him away. “It's all right, Papa,” the boy was saying. “One of the customers tonight is a real princess, Papa, really,” and out they went.

There wasn't a minute of it that should have made Maurice less ridiculous to me, but it did. I thought I knew what his problem was, and I felt sorry for him. Also I felt restless after that.

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Thursday, August 20th, 2009
10:58 am - Able was I

Like everyone, I have a mirror image, and we do not have much to say to one another, for whatever I might say, he would say, and so I think whatever I know, he knows. But we meet every day or so and I help him shave his chin and brush his hair, and he helps me with mine.

One midnight, walking through a park in V____, I turned a corner and found him just turning the corner from the opposite direction. We sat down and talked of this and that, finding that we had much in common—too much, really. We sat at a bench; we were silent a while; we puzzled over the meanings of ”left“ and ”right“, ”east“ and ”west“, and ”clockwise“. It wasn't much of a conversation.

After a while we parted, each of us continuing his stroll.

I wish we had gone back the way we came.

Everything here is backwards. My house is reversed, as are the roads that lead to it. I cannot drive (and now refuse even to try). Every clock poses a problem of one kind or another. I hesitate every time I come to write an S or a 3. I have adapted in other respects, but though I can now read, still my brain rebels when I open a book and see a full page of mirror-type. I have nightmares.

I went back to V___. I could not find the park or the corner.

My mirror image and I still meet daily, separated by glass as in prison. We still do not have much to talk about. I know he is suffering as I am. He looks older.

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Tuesday, April 14th, 2009
8:04 am

She punched me on the arm to wake me up. "I like these cinnamon rolls now," she said accusingly. "With the orange frosting and it's your fault."

I sat up in bed.

"It's like whenever I'm around you, you're making me try new things and stuff that I don't like and it's got to stop," she said. "I'm a person. An individual. I have likes and dislikes. And I like my likes and dislikes. I don't want to be just a clone of you." She took a bite of cinnamon roll and scowled. I rubbed my eyes while she chewed. "It's like you're trying to destroy my soul," she said.

"I'm trying to destroy your soul," I echoed.

"I knew it!" she yelled and stormed out. "It's over between us! I don't ever want to see you again!"

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Friday, March 20th, 2009
7:53 am - A non-negative review
The Null Book of Mathematics by J. Orendorff
0 pages
Harwood Press

It is not easy for the layman to determine how seriously to take The Null Book of Mathematics, and curiously enough, consulting mathematicians does not help. Every one this reviewer spoke to cheerfully agreed that the slender volume is completely unreadable, but while some called it “trivial”, others said it was “of fundamental importance”—and then the whole lot refused to admit that they had disagreed on anything.

Despite the raging copyright controversy, with angry claims and counterclaims still flying and the curious expression “contains infinitely many verbatim copies of” being thrown carelessly about, the publisher claims the book has been an unvarnished success and is planning translations in 26 languages. One imagines a rush order for three thousand “Estonian” stickers.

The Null Book is the only mathematics reference book this reviewer has ever read cover to cover in one sitting. It is indeed hard to put down half-finished. It neatly avoids the traps such works tend to fall into, such as uneven editing, errors, dull stretches, or an idiosyncratic choice of topics. One is forced to admit, at the risk of falling for what may be an elaborate practical joke, that The Null Book of Mathematics is a small jewel. A better index, though, would be welcome in the second edition.

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Saturday, March 1st, 2008
10:14 am - Those were the days
Halfway around the world,
in a city buried in sand three thousand years ago,
after our tools and brushes had been set aside,
after dinner had settled and conversation had quieted,
in darkness,
under a moonless black sky,
we would play flashlight tag.

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Tuesday, June 19th, 2007
12:23 am - Eep

I eeped the beeks and Bart eeped the zooks. That was not the problem. They both needed eeping, after all, and we both needed the money. I guess Bart did his job okay. The zooks didn't complain.

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Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005
3:21 pm - Upon returning home after five forgettable years

He chose the largest styrofoam cup they had. He pulled a spigot. Slowly, ominously, the cup filled with superheated black serum.

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Wednesday, August 17th, 2005
5:44 pm - Wandering Ones

Senator Phibbs had gone astray.

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Friday, June 11th, 2004
3:39 pm - Aftertaste

Artur carried limes with him everywhere for weeks. At every meal, he squeezed fresh lime juice onto his food. Every drink he took was adorned with a slice of lime. His taste buds adapted to it. He claimed he could no longer taste lime juice. Strangely, we became similarly accustomed to Artur's unusual habits, and often failed to notice as he went through his pre-meal ritual.

Artur had a purpose. At the end of two months, he said, he would drink a glass of water, and at that moment he would experience something no other human being had ever experienced: the taste of not-lime.

Artur died suddenly of a heart attack. One day he was at work with us. The next day he was gone. I am sure he died with lime juice on his breath. He never got to taste not-lime while among the living. But the undertaker cleans a man's teeth very carefully. Perhaps that counts for something.

As for us, we miss him. We had grown quite used to Artur's bright smile, his overgrown mustache, his quiet joking way. This world without him was suddenly thrust upon us: our first taste of not-Artur. It is bitter. We don't like it.

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Saturday, June 5th, 2004
10:16 am

Among my baby's favorite toys are his honey stirrer and his spatula. (Actual baby toys he spurns.)

Today I thought I'd start teaching him about opportunity costs (after all he is seven months old now) by offering him both, and when he grabbed one, I'd take the other away. So he grabbed the honey stirrer, and I started to set the spatula aside, but then he reached for it, and I didn't have the heart to deny him, so he ended up with both.

And then I thought, maybe I'm teaching the wrong thing here. Maybe I should be learning from him. Maybe there don't need to be opportunity costs in life at all. Maybe, when faced with a dilemma, it's always possible to choose both. You could base a whole philosophy on the premise that all supposedly exclusive choices are false.

But I wrote this journal entry instead.

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Friday, May 7th, 2004
9:45 pm - Puzzle

Ted wrote half. I wrote half. Which is which?

1a. I felt the kick against the inside of my belly. It's not going to be much longer. If only Johnny would get home from school, I'd feel safe. Where is he?

1b. When I woke up, Harvey was strangling me with his cord. I elbowed him in the ribs, back-flipped free, then crane-kicked his face for the KO. Who rules the womb? Who?

2a. It looked so smooth as she glided across the ice. There was no way she could perceive the subtle indentation a few meters in front of her. She fell skinning her arm to her elbow.

2b. Jon plunged thru the doors and cried, "It's Billy! He's fallen through the ice! He's drowning!" I was sure he was already dead, but Jo was lacing up her skates. Out she raced. We have a good view from here. The [...]

3a. Franz was the discount tobacco godfather. There was a little of everything in Franz tobacco—pencil shavings, confetti, Cheerios, fish food—and the occasional human body part.

3b. The trash that walks into the discount tobacco store never stops intriguing me. This crazy redneck bitch and her inbred boyfriend strolled in the other day. Before they had set fo[...]

4a. The boulder fell in behind me with a sickening thunk. The air felt thinner as the light evaporated, and I was breathless. I screamed until the echoes made my ears ache.

4b. I unloaded the boxes all day Thursday. If anything was romantic, this was. Straws filled her apartment. Straws in vases. She came in. She gawked. "I said I can't get enough Strauss."

5a. A rope bridge spanned the chasm. Out we crawled, wobbling. Cortez slipped. The bridge swung wildly. He hung, legs dangling, then proceeded as on monkey bars. Soon we all followed suit.

5b. Our guide left us in the dense foliage that surrounded us. The vines limited our motion as if we were giants entangled in a playground's jungle gym. We were hopelessly lost.

6a. It was a hardscrabble existence, hawking lemonade on the Saharan sands, but damn it, that was my family's profession dating back to the dawn of time, and I was going to keep on in the tradition or die trying.

6b. Her hardscrabble lifestyle had left her bitter. Still under twenty, she had seen more in her life than the sheltered children she now was in school with. She wondered how she would make friends with people so alien to her.

7a. Art dealers evolved to have no eyebrows so they always looked excessively enthusiastic, regardless of what they were talking about. It was fun to watch them waiting in line at the movies, changing their oil, [...]

7b. Effusive expression had always been the bane of her relationships. Guys just didn't seem to understand that she had to express her fears. Especially around the 14th. That's when nature had seen fit to make her uncomfortable and God forbid if she was going to let the worthless bastard she was with not know it.

8a. It's not like they were ever very good at talking since they were angel fish, but Hannah loved Jake and thought they should be everywhere together. He was a fish of a different mind sort.

8b. They had a rapport. An understanding. He washed her shoes. She stared at him in terror. It was the natural order.

9a. She led a discursive love life. People wondered if she really had such diverse tastes. Maybe she enjoyed the taste of change. Maybe she was searching for something that didn't exist.

9b. Without Caprice, his mind rambled without purpose. Today have jelly for dinner. Tomorrow polish the silver. Truxan, their doglet, missed her disordered logic too. They pined away without her.

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Sunday, January 18th, 2004
9:21 am - Ode on a Data Structure
A lovelier poem I never shall see
Than a red/black self-balancing binary tree.
To implement map<> or to implement set<>
No finer arrangement of bits have I met.
Her nodes, how they magically rotate in place,
With down-to-earth purpose and heavenly grace.
'Tis proven with strict mathematical rigor
The max/min height ratio shall never grow bigger
Than two --O ingenious! O marvelous Tree:
A lovelier poem there never shall be.

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Saturday, January 3rd, 2004
8:24 am - Snotty Pillow

Snotty Pillow is intended to be read as a comic strip. Each strip has four panels, all of them completely black except for the dialogue. The two characters are Lydia and Derf.

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Wednesday, December 31st, 2003
4:16 pm - Ozzylicious
Amid lost armies from the game of Risk,
Where ancient coins and M&Ms abound,
Between the cushions of my couch I found
The plastic wrapper from a compact disc.
"My name is Ozzylicious Double Wide!
Behold my white-hot beats, yo, and despair!"
The sticker screamed. "Don headphones if you dare
And listen as your brain gets deep-phat-fried!"
Beneath this boast, a second sticker read,
"Includes the hip-hop smash The King Is Dead!"
And yet another sticker, by the spine,
Proclaimed our price was fifteen ninety-nine.
Nothing beside remained. No disc, no beats,
Just endless cat hair, lint, and dryer sheets.

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Sunday, December 21st, 2003
12:32 am

Somewhere a door opened. Light poured into Jacob's dusty prison cell from above. It struck the wall and splashed onto the stone floor. It got all over Jacob, who was sleeping there. He got up, cursing, and stood on a rock in the corner as the light sloshed around and (once the door, wherever it was, finally closed) drained out through the hole in the center of the cell. He was soaked. It had gotten all in his hair. He didn't get back to sleep the rest of the night. Everything glowed yellow.

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Thursday, December 11th, 2003
10:34 pm - Contest winners!
The envelope please...Collapse )

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Tuesday, December 9th, 2003
8:19 pm - Torrh
A HistoryCollapse )

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5:18 pm - last call
You have just over 24 hours left to enter the interesting story contest. It closes at 5:30 ET tomorrow.

The competition's pretty tight, but so far nobody's used cross-country bowling, the permeability of free space, or rob zombie.

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Monday, December 8th, 2003
9:18 pm

The year was 1972. The doctor showed me Rorschach plate number one.

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Saturday, December 6th, 2003
9:56 am - Contest

This is your big chance to win fame, glory, and the admiring belly laughs of your peers!

Just reply to this post with a story. It doesn't have to be long, just a few words will do. The catch: your story must be composed entirely of my friends' interests. Style points for using mostly other people's interests and not your own.

For example:

guys with nice smiles
girls who kick ass
tasteful nudity


(Thanks to sawahbean, delitescence, and xenoweeno for these interests.)

No fair changing your interest list for the purposes of this contest. Play nice.

For your convenience, links to my friends' interests: alarmist, cmeador, crunchymama, damnange, daniele, delitescence, eeshroyer, fishsupreme, hal23x, jorend, justbek, magicalmo, mclaw666, oliviao, planx_constant, poormattie, sawahbean, schie, shishuu, taigh, tedshroyer, tuxmatt, underdamped, xenoweeno

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