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09/01 Direct Link
Some of the things I wrote last month didn't make a lick of sense. I knew this when I wrote them, but I was sleepy and wanted to go to bed.

Here is my hope: someone will come along (or I will come along, later) and read them, and interpret them in a way that does make sense.

It is sort of a long shot, I know. But the act of interpretation is as important as the act of writing, and if the person who interprets what I have written is drunk enough, he or she might find something meaningful.

09/02 Direct Link
I used to make CD mixes all the time. I'd draw a picture in marker on the front, and name the mix after the picture.

Today in an old box I re-discovered the conceptual nightmare that was the "BIG EYE CAT MIX." (The hole in the CD was one eye of a cartoon cat.)

It showed my early preference for starting off mixes with instrumentals, but quickly went downhill and became completely unlistenable by the fifth track. A twenty-minute John Coltrane recording followed by Incense and Peppermints? Really?

The BIG EYE CAT MIX was a crime against music.

09/03 Direct Link
I just wiped out a whole mini-civilization of tiny brown flies.

They were in my aloe plant's soil, and I love that aloe plant. I asked my parents, both of whom have green thumbs, what to do.

"Put some soapy water in the soil" they said, "and it will hurt their stomachs and kill them."

Flies have stomachs. And brains, and hearts, just like you and me. They meet another fly, and make a little fly family, and they eat the roots of my aloe plant for their family dinner.

I am feeling a little bit guilty right now.

09/04 Direct Link
Want to know what I did today? It's like a diary.

I woke up with a headache, and I was very thirsty. I made hash browns with the potatoes I bought at the farmers' market, and had a pot of coffee.

It was too hot to make lunch, so I ordered some Chinese food. It was oily and sweet. My fortune cookie said I would get something nice in the mail.

I took a walk in the park and saw a turtle swimming in the pond.

Later I drew a picture of an alpaca. I think it was pretty good.

09/05 Direct Link
I don't like wearing a watch on my wrist, so I keep a cheap one in my pocket. Sometimes when I pull it out to check the time, people notice it and think it must be a new kind of tiny cell phone.

"Whoa... what is that?" they'll ask, eager to keep up with the gadget curve.

"Just a watch," I say, holding it up.

If they have a blackberry holster or a bluetooth earpiece, I like to fuck with them.

"Yeah, but it's pretty cool... It has a stopwatch! And a light!"

I demonstrate the light feature.

"Technology, huh?"

09/06 Direct Link
NUMEROLOGY

"Well... six, I guess."

"Ok, but why six?"

"Like, if I had six candy bars, I could share them with people."

"Couldn't you also share eight candy bars?"

"Yeah, but eight... eight is too many, who buys eight candy bars? It works with other things too, anything... just pick something -- name something..."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"OK, like shampoo bottles. Hey, you are my closest friends, I'd like to share this shampoo with you, because I have six."

"That works just as well with eight!"

"They came in a six pack. What is your fixation with eight, there's no eight-pack, get serious."

09/07 Direct Link
(Mr. Steamed Dumpling for grape-nuts.)

Good morning, sunshine. Pull up a seat here in my breakfast nook. You know, grape-nuts are my favorite cereal. I've been eating them almost every morning for three years. (This is 100% true.)

Grape-nuts are healthy. They're packed with vitamins, protein and fiber, and they have no added sugar. They teach us the redemptive power of suffering with a satisfying crunch.

Finish off a big bowl of grape-nuts first thing after you wake up, and take comfort in the knowledge that you've already been through the worst part of your day.

09/08 Direct Link
I have a lot of people are going to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Company and the Company shall be entitled to a refund of the purchase price of the product or as part of the products name of the person who is not board certified may still be an excellent physician has been practicing law for over twenty years of experience in the field of view of the fact that the two are not the only one who can not afford to pay for the cost of the project.

(I will explain this tomorrow.)

09/09 Direct Link
If you go to the "Google Labs" page you'll find a link to "Google Scribe," a new experiment they are working on. It's like a word processor that tries to offer suggestions for your writing.

I started with the word "I," took all of its suggestions, and got ninety-five words of nonsense. I didn't know what to write yesterday, anyway.

I used to be a proofreader, though, and I can tell you that this little sample was easier to read than some of the things actual humans have handed to me.

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords...

09/10 Direct Link
Friday Night at the Dumpling Residence

The wine store on Lark Street was selling a 2002 Cannonau di Sardegna (yeah, I've never heard of it, either) so I got a bottle. The guy said he's been saving it, and it is at its peak now.

It's good! I'm pairing it with grape-nuts out of the box, which is also my dinner (I guess?) and after I write this I'm going to watch Ashes of Time (the one that came out in 2008, so I won't feel like I'm watching it through a layer of mud for the first time.)

09/11 Direct Link
If your abdominal muscles are too rock-solid, cats and small dogs will not want to come over and sleep on your stomach.

I guess this didn't enter into my friend's mind when he paid two dollars to download something onto his cell phone that promised "six-pack abs" in two weeks. I found it while trying to figure out how to play Tetris.

"What's this thing?"

"Oh, I thought it would help me to get six-pack abs," he said.

"How does it work?"

"It makes your phone ring when it's time for sit-ups, which apparently is always."

09/12 Direct Link
STEAMED DUMPLING is on vacation.

His imaginary cat, Charles Alexander Fluffington, has been responsible for this month's content thus far.


That is my standard excuse for everything. The truth is that I have been spending my nights packing my belongings into boxes and looking at tips for living in the Arctic Circle, in anticipation of accepting this awful new job.

Then they made their offer, which was a slap in the face both to my profession and to me personally, and I cheerfully turned them down.

Now I can unpack my sweaters and settle back into this nice, comfortable rut.

09/13 Direct Link
We had started another bottle of wine when she had a sudden and intense craving for cookies.

"Aargh, I need cookies cookies cookies," she shouted, kicking her feet in the air and giggling.

I struggled to measure the flour, partly because I was drunk, and partly because she kept pulling it out of the measuring cup and trying to sprinkle it in my hair.

We finished three bottles of wine and an entire batch of cookies that afternoon, and we spent the rest of the day spread out on my carpet groaning and laughing and feeling unbelievably happy and sick.

09/14 Direct Link
On warm days, there's a guy who sits outside his apartment on State Street and smokes a vanilla cigar. He's blind, and he looks very old and somewhat withered, but he's out there almost every day, with a tin can to catch the ashes. He always has a smile on his face.

His cigars smell really good, too, and I notice them from all the way down the block as I'm coming home from work.

He wasn't out today, and I knew it was because it was too cold. I might not smell that vanilla cigar again until next spring.

09/15 Direct Link
At any given time, there is a finite set of English words.

Therefore, there is also a finite set of 100-word groupings of words.

That set becomes smaller when you restrict it to English sentences that are grammatical and meaningful (see "Colorless green ideas..."), and even smaller when all of the sentences relate to one another logically. There aren't that many!

What I'm getting at is that every possible 100-word entry exists already, in a sense, and we're just discovering them.

Does thinking about it that way help you when you don't know what to write? Me neither.

09/16 Direct Link
It was another conference in a long summer of intolerable conferences.

Even the most technical ones are run by dippy flower children who think all of the attendees need to "get to know each other" first by breaking into small groups.

My group had nine women in it. They were talking about the different roles they play. Wife. Mother. Daughter. You know.

Before long it became a numbers game, and they were competing with each other. One of them over-reached with "citizen" to bring her count up to twelve, and the woman to my left reflexively hissed "you whore!"

09/17 Direct Link
Everyone pretended they hadn't heard in order to preserve the illusion of a friendly ice-breaker. There were smiles all around. I needed to get out of there but fast.

"Ladies," I said, standing up, "excuse me."

I legged it for the lobby.

"Wait, hey," said the citizen, "you haven't told us anything about yourself."

I didn't turn around.

Not a looker in the bunch. I didn't need to be there when they started scratching and biting.

The actual conference wouldn't start for another fifteen minutes. I stepped outside onto the streets of an unfamiliar city to look for coffee.

09/18 Direct Link
I decided to jump off the wagon tonight. I was tired of riding everywhere, and tired of feeling healthy all the time. I needed to feel the ground beneath my feet again. I missed that rotting feeling in my innards.

I am looking for liquid courage, and a liquid that is smooth and satisfying, and a liquid cure for whatever personality disorder I have. I am not cured yet. I'll let you know.

(You will know it by the sound of my head hitting my desk.)

I am looking for unity. Unity with the sublime and unity with my desk.

09/19 Direct Link
I walked down the street for half an hour. I had ditched the conference, so I needed to find a different pointless waste of time.

My feet were starting to get tired when I found myself standing in front of The Deserted Island.

I had no idea there were tiki bars in Philadelphia, but I figured I could kill five hours in one.

I took a seat at the bar and tried not to order a Mai Tai.

"Well, fine... which of your goofy drinks has the least fruit in it?" I asked.

"That'd be the Mai Tai, pal."

"Dammit."

09/20 Direct Link
You may have already formed your own opinions about the kind of guy who hangs out in a tiki bar at three o'clock in the afternoon.

That's fine, but since for the moment I was one of them, I was trying to keep an open mind.

"My ex-wife took my boat," said one.

"I haven't found the kind of relationship I deserve," said another.

It was not actually a conversation so much as a series of overlapping monologues. These guys were hooked on self-pity in a big way, and I suddenly wished I had brought something to read.

09/21 Direct Link
Several Mai Tais later, I started to get hungry.

"What's on the menu?" I asked.

"You're in luck," said the bartender. "Every Saturday we have a roast pig brought in."

"Anything else? Tiki Spinach? Come on, fella, help me out."

He rummaged around behind the bar and pulled out a dusty bag of pretzels.

"Here, I guess you can have these," he said.

"Wow, pretzels!" One of the guys at the bar perked up. "You've had pretzels back there all this time? How come he gets pretzels?"

The bartender whipped around.

"Because he knows how to tip, you worthless sleaze."

09/22 Direct Link
The tiki bar was starting to make me uncomfortable.

I tried to share the pretzels with the other guys at the bar, but they just gave me scornful looks and muttered among themselves.

The bar got darker and the ukulele music grew louder and the eyes of the tiki statues began to glow.

I guessed it was time for me to get out. Besides, the thought of staying to watch those sad men sit around a little pig, silently picking at it, was more than I could handle.

I walked outside, clutching the bag of pretzels, and hailed a cab.

09/23 Direct Link
On the way to the train station I saw a small park and asked the driver to drop me off there. The station was only a few blocks away, and I had about an hour to wait before catching my train back to Albany.

I sat down on a bench near a small pond surrounded by willow trees. When I reached into my bag, I found a booklet about the new XML schema I had picked up at the hotel before the conference. I started to read, and when I looked up I noticed that I was surrounded by ducks.

09/24 Direct Link
It was still technically summer, so the sun was up even though it was getting late. The ducks milled around me, suspicious and hopeful. I threw a few handfuls of pretzels to them, which they ate with gusto.

"Winter is coming, guys," I told them. "Yeah, bleached enriched flour and hydrogenated soybean oil is exactly what you need."

Fortunately, the booklet seemed to cover everything that was taught at the conference. I went back to reading while the ducks crunched their pretzels.

"You don't mind if I sit here and read this for a while, do you?"

They didn't mind.

09/25 Direct Link
"I don't know why they needed to have a conference about this," I said, throwing the last of the pretzels on the ground. "You could spend fifteen minutes reading this booklet and you'd get it. I guess some people will take any excuse to get together, huh?"

The ducks realized I had run out of food, and began to waddle back to their pond for the night. It was time for me to go home, too.

I'd explored a new city, skipped a boring conference, gotten free pretzels, and fed some ducks. It had actually been a pretty good day.

09/26 Direct Link
If you want to blame someone for the preceding story, you can blame me.

If you want to blame two people, though, blame me and Raymond Carver. I read his story called The Ducks because I thought it might be a break from his usual chain-smoking alcoholic jerkbags, which it wasn't. In fact, there were barely any ducks in it at all.

If I was trying to show up Mr. Carver, though, I failed, because:

(a) He's dead anyway, and beyond caring about such things, and

(b) His story is better than mine, even though mine had more ducks.

09/27 Direct Link
Sometimes when I get a book from the boxes in my bedroom (my bookshelf collapsed a long time ago), I find an incredibly tiny spider living inside.

How do they manage to get inside of a closed book? Is my apartment actually clean? (It is! Really!) What do they do with their days?

Well, I hope this little educational song will straighten things out to your satisfaction:

Bibliophile spiders!
They're excellent hiders!

They hide in the nooks
of your journals and books,

Absorbing the knowledge
you paid for in college,

Left there by their mommas
to eat all your commas.


09/28 Direct Link
Irrational fears of my life:

* Railroad spike driven through frontal lobe somehow, and I become an asshole. Friends point out that I was less of an asshole pre-spike. "Did we ever really know him?"

* Haunted by ghost of Raymond Carver for making sport of his story that wasn't even remotely about ducks. Master of American short fiction (deceased) follows me around and makes hilarious farting noises every time I sit down.

* Eggs (any variety) laid on, in, or near self. Consumed by larvae. A bad end.

* Can't make gunpowder, penicillin, polyester for when I accidentally travel back in time.

09/29 Direct Link
"Maaan," says Ryan, "the girls from Orchard Park are hot! So hot!"

Steve agrees, but says the girls from Frontier are even hotter.

In an almost identical discussion last week, I had pointed out that hot girls seemed to be evenly distributed among the regional high schools. I was shouted down, so this time I keep my mouth shut.

Andrea is crushed when she overhears Bret ask why he is stuck in the dump with the least attractive girls, and I wonder whether I could transfer to a high school where I could meet some friends who aren't such chuckleheads.

09/30 Direct Link
Obviously, chuckleheads are also evenly (and liberally) distributed throughout the population, so high school Steamed Dumpling was right to stay where he was and maintain his silence. Present-day Steamed Dumpling looks back at high school Steamed Dumpling and acknowledges that he, too, was a chucklehead in those days. Future Steamed Dumpling will look back at the September 2010 batch and wonder why he bothered to write it.

I really had to force myself to write anything this month, and I'm 35% glad that I did. My life-long theme is striving confusedly and half-heartedly towards an unknown goal.