06/01 Direct Link
I hope to leave this world having done more good than harm, and as it stands I'm not doing so well.

Even just living a quiet and benign lifestyle is not enough, since by simply existing you're taking up space and oxygen and resources and so on. Then you hurt people (99% of the time it is accidental) just by interacting with them, and you've probably stepped on ants, and you have a lot to answer for.

When you're that far behind on your goal and losing ground every day, it's natural to become paralyzed and end up doing nothing.

06/02 Direct Link
Parents are the laughing people in the photographs scattered around your house. They existed before you ever did. Who are they, really?

They did not always stand for order and restraint, but they are the ones who made you do your homework and stopped you from eating fudge for dinner. Please recognize that they are people, too. They have seen pain and disappointment, even if they never show it. Show some sympathy when Mother chases Father around threatening to scoop out and eat his eyes, or when Father threatens to drive the car you're all riding in off a cliff.

06/03 Direct Link
He's a paranoid pseudo-spiritual misogynist and he needs to be taken down a peg with an indirect attack on a fictional character who somewhat resembles him. I will teach him the error of his ways and simultaneously redeem myself for what could only have been interpreted as an endorsement, and I will do it all with the power of words. The whole thing will be so subtle, of course, that no one will know what it is really about and there will be no risk of confrontation or hurt feelings. This is how you regain the moral high ground.

06/04 Direct Link
My very good friend from Albany would like to get married, but she hasn't met the right guy. (To me this is backwards, but we're talking about her now.)

She feels she shouldn't have to settle, and I agree. She insists on someone who is not: unreliable, mean-spirited, inconsiderate, crude, dishonest, boring, unambitious, or indifferent towards dogs. If you know such a specimen, my friend would like to call dibs. Please ask him to report to the DC area for reassignment, and do not try to date him yourself. Come on, you ladies, please respect the rule of dibs.

06/05 Direct Link
When the oceans inevitably rise to cover whichever continent you are on, which book will you take with you when the rescue ark comes along?

Will comedy seem unfulfilling and insubstantial at such a time, or would it keep you sane? Will a grim tale in which everyone dies at the end appropriately strengthen your resolve for the difficult times ahead? Or will you choose a book about basic ark repair? Or are you not rich enough to afford to get on the rescue ark in the first place, in which case your choice is simple and you'll just drown?

06/06 Direct Link
A lot of our communication, when divested of the apparent content, boils down to "Hi, I am alive, I exist, please acknowledge." This is one of those communications.

As of 11:05 p.m. on May 6, 2014, I can tell you that I am a person, alive and reasonably healthy, and the weather is somewhat hot for this time of year. I am drinking a seltzer with lemon and thinking about the fact that tomorrow is a Saturday. I have the sensation that I am very real, and that you are, too. I want to tell you some things.

06/07 Direct Link
This is just like when little kids tug on your sleeve and they talk and talk about the weirdest things, and when they run out of things to say, they just start making things up -- bizarre, meaningless things because they haven't learned how to tell real stories yet, and you get bored and ask them what the point is, but no, they are not trying to communicate with you, they just want to be heard. They can't get enough of it, but they're eventually told that words are for communicating, and they have to keep their crazy stories to themselves.

06/08 Direct Link
I only have one recurring dream, and it is this:

I've lost my high school class schedule. I can't remember where I'm supposed to go next, and the halls are starting to clear out. The schedule is probably in my locker, but I've forgotten the combination.

Then I find that I can't remember anything about what we're doing in our classes (almost as if I'd graduated 15 years ago), and I realize I have not done homework for years. I just stand motionless in the hallway of my old high school and panic for a while until I wake up.

06/09 Direct Link
What dark passions roil in the spaces between the cubicle walls? What fiery agitation lurks in the lusty breast of the clerk? What are the secrets, the knowing smiles, the closed doors?

The modern office, with its atmosphere of repression and compliance, is, just beneath the professionalism, a slow unfolding of human desires struggling to break through human-made boundaries.

(Some teenager is going to read this and say "Woah I need to find an office job right now," but I am just bored in the office and I really want to play Minesweeper, but it is against our policy.)

06/10 Direct Link
When I leave work, I have to walk past his driveway. He sees me coming and he gets on his little plastic tricycle. I don't know how old he is -- he is whatever age kids are when they are about two feet tall. He shouts "Wahooooo!" and comes tearing down the long driveway.

He stops an inch away from my foot.

"Wowww!" I say. "You almost hit me!"

He doesn't say anything. He never does. He just looks up at me defiantly, as if to say, "Man, this is what I do." This kind of thing never happened in Albany.

06/11 Direct Link
On another walk, I came across a young lady, maybe ten years old, kneeling in her yard. She was right near the sidewalk and moving closer, so I kept my eye on her, wondering what she was up to. She noticed me when I got closer.

"Hey!" she said. "I'm cutting the grass!" She held up a pair of garden shears and a small plastic pail, one-third full of grass clippings.

"Oh!" I said, still walking.

"I've been doing it for three days, look!" She held the pail up for my inspection.

"Good!" I said, still walking. "Good job!"

06/12 Direct Link
I was sixteen when I got my first job, wandering the stands at the nearby racetrack selling popcorn, pretzels, and peanuts from a tray strapped around my neck.

One evening, near the close of a monster truck race, a man in his forties spotted me and clambered down from the third or fourth row. He rushed to block my path.

"Hiii!" he shouted. "My name's Mary Jane!"

He made a gesture in which his hand, palm facing outwards, dropped sharply at the wrist.

I understand now, of course, this was his way of indicating that he thought I was gay.

06/13 Direct Link
At the time, though, the man's message was completely lost on me. I could only imagine he was either a person with special needs or that he had mistaken me for someone else. Either way, I had work to do. I gave him a sympathetic smile, stepped around him, and continued on my way.

I sometimes think about that drunk, obnoxious guy. I sort of want to know what he was thinking.

"Hey," he might have thought. "There are monster trucks to his left and he obviously isn't enthralled by them. He must be into dudes. I'd better introduce myself."

06/14 Direct Link
I took a different route home today, through a field near a wooded area that was loud with peeping frogs. The sun was going down, and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I noticed three small deer about sixteen feet away from me.

I had never been this close to deer while on foot before. I don't know much about deer behavior or deer-human interaction. Might they bite? Might they kick?

Fortunately, the deer did none of these things. As I got closer, they calmly leapt up from their grazing and ran for the trees, white tails wagging.

06/15 Direct Link
People with more deer experience might laugh at my concerns. My deer fears.

But that level of ignorance is what happens when most of your contact with nature is mediated by someone -- a zookeeper, a nature documentary, a city planner.

I saw a fat brown furry creature today, romping in the grass. What was it? I don't know. Was it venomous? See, nature documentaries have at least taught me there are very few venomous mammals. You will win an animal knowledge badge if you can name them all. (You won't find any of them romping in upstate New York, anyhow.)

06/16 Direct Link
What I forgot to tell you is that I told the "Monster Truck Guy" story to my former neighbor (the owner of the terrible dog "Stella d'Oro") and his boyfriend.

My neighbor's theory was that a person who goes through the effort to make such a spectacle of himself, his blood alcohol level notwithstanding, was conflicted about his own sexuality. His attempted attack on what he perceived as my own lack of masculinity masked a pain and sad confusion which he was willing to reveal to no one.

My neighbor's boyfriend said, "You should have punched him in the face."

06/17 Direct Link
Yesterday in the park a co-worker introduced me to his friends and their baby.

"His name is Broson," said the mother.

Broson. Bro-son. I tried very hard to suppress a giggle and end up doing a weird snort.

I tried to be extra polite to make up for the snorting.

"Hi there Bros..."

I got that far before losing it completely. In a last-ditch effort to conceal my giggling, I stomped on the ground and pretended that I had hurt my foot, but it didn't fool anyone.

Broson, I am sorry. I am sorry about your name.

06/18 Direct Link

I have this idea that I'm going to put oatmeal in my slow cooker the night before a work day, and then I'll wake up and eat it the next morning.

The idea is that it will be luxurious, especially as an alternative to the bowl of grape-nuts that I usually grind my way through. The idea is that it will save me time. It's just putting oatmeal and water into a machine, plugging it in, and going to bed. I think about it at least twice a week.

06/19 Direct Link
After writing about the oatmeal last night, I found the power within to actually do it. It took less than five minutes.

Sometimes people ask why I'm not even trying to date anyone, and the honest answer (which I never give) is I feel that I'm very flawed. Not more than average, but as a matter of principle I think you should figure some of your stuff out before you subject anyone else to it. Like my hesitance to begin small and insignificant tasks. I had hoped for a feeling of achieving my full potential, but it was just oatmeal.

06/20 Direct Link
My predecessor in this job wrote out a lot of documentation, and he included many parenthetical asides. A sample:

* Click the blue bar, then click 'filter' (I know, right?)

I'm not taking this out of context, I promise. What was he trying to communicate? I'm sure if he could read this out loud it would be completely clear.

Should I feel bad for deleting them? I always do.

Am I subtracting from the world's sum of joy when I make the documentation more clear? I sometimes make attempts at humor too, and maybe I should regard him as a brother.

06/21 Direct Link
You could put your hand out in front of you, fist closed, and put up a finger for each person who has your best interests in mind. You can decide the criteria, like whether they would have to sacrifice something for it to count, or whether they would expect a favor in exchange for helping you.

If you go beyond five, you could go to the next hand. If you have more than ten, I think you either don't understand this game or you're very lucky. I'm just trying to come up with activities to help you pass the time.

06/22 Direct Link

I hope a startled centipede
Won't bite me in the shower
I hope the evil dragon king doesn't find the third
of three ancient crystals
to increase his dragon power
The human race he would enslave
He'd make us toil and cower
The centipede would join our cause
for the incident in the shower

I'd bake the king a tasty pie
Of fruit and salt and flour
And take it up the thousand steps
To climb his dragon tower
Our centipede inside the pie
Would leap out and devour!
Thus centipedal regicide
Is mankind's greatest hour

06/23 Direct Link

* Citric acid instead of lemon juice - Tanginess without brightness
* Nowhere near enough tahini - I would like to taste it
* Nowhere near enough garlic - Even in the so-called "Garlic Lovers" variety
* Odd things mixed in - Some of the unconventional mix-ins end up being nice, but others, like avocado, cannot be forgiven
* Neutral vegetable oil instead of olive oil - it makes a difference
* Potassium Sorbate - I don't really know what it is
* Bland - strong flavors apparently frighten us

Brought to you by the Make Your Own Hummus Council. Slogan: "It seriously takes, like, three minutes."

06/24 Direct Link
I'm just writing to say that you are on the list of people I miss. This list is in front of me right now. You are the only one who is on it.

What I'm saying is that I've just written your name on a piece of paper for some reason, and now I am sitting here looking at it, and looking at your name made me think of you, and that is my pretext for writing.

Sometimes a letter has a middle and an end, but this one just has a beginning. I hope you don't mind too much.

06/25 Direct Link
Blogs and Twitter and 100words have not, as predicted, ushered in an era of self-absorption.

The easiest and best way to give your existence value is to make yourself useful and helpful and generally beneficial to others. This does not mean that reflecting on your day, your thoughts, and your experiences is anything to feel guilty about. Introspection lets you examine your motives and attitudes, and having an anonymous way to do this is a great help. We can write about ourselves a little bit every day without feeling guilty for navel-gazing. Also, we learn valuable rationalization skills.

06/26 Direct Link
Parents are the laughing people in the photographs scattered around your house. They existed before you ever did. Who are they, really?

They did not always stand for order and restraint, but they are the ones who made you do your homework and stopped you from eating fudge for dinner. Please recognize that they are people, too. They have seen pain and disappointment, even if they never show it. Show some sympathy when Mother chases Father around threatening to scoop out and eat his eyes, or when Father threatens to drive the car you're all riding in off a cliff.

06/27 Direct Link
I was unhappy about having to write yesterday, so I was goofing around and looking for a word to paste in, and I ended up pasting in a darker previous entry. I regret it now.

I was a bit upset that I think I've been sounding like David Brooks lately. I always read David Brooks, and then I usually wish that I hadn't. In order to prove that I am not turning into David Brooks, I would like to say 'fuck', and God is not even dead because he never existed, and federal government intervention is literally the best thing.

06/28 Direct Link
When I was quite young, I regarded people who lived in apartments as little better than vagrants, unable or unwilling to take the responsibility that came with home ownership. (For a six year old, I had what we might today call some severe socially conservative views.)

Later, as I began the ongoing process of mellowing out somewhat, I came to associate apartment life with freedom and fun.

A few of my friends have houses now, and more than half of their free time is spent doing yardwork and repairs. I have to stop myself from saying "just call the landlord."

06/29 Direct Link
We need monogamy. We're all pretty nice in general, but we hurt and disappoint each other in small ways all the time. Limiting ourselves to one person limits the damage we can do to all of those other fish in the sea.

We become used to the mini-sadisms of the person we're with, just as the body develops a callous. We can get so used to them that in time we may come to find them endearing.

If we jumped around between people too much, rather than developing defenses we'd become too damaged to function and society would collapse.

06/30 Direct Link
I guess I should come clean and tell you that I never really made that oatmeal. Let's call it fiction and say that it was a literary device meant to create a specific emotional response in the reader.

Or maybe I did make the oatmeal and this entry is fiction, meant to inspire a different emotion, like pity or disgust. Or maybe the "Steamed Dumpling" account is just a very complicated stealth advertisement for oatmeal, which is, after all, nutritious and convenient.

Because only I know the truth, I get to have it all three ways simultaneously. I like that.