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09/01 Direct Link
Am I the only one who doesn't like the beach? Isn't it too bright and noisy and crowded, and aren't there always wriggling children heedlessly darting around you with each step? Isn't the water filled with gelatinous mystery goo and stringy clumps of seaweed, both of which make a bee-line for your legs when you enter the water? Isn't there the distinct possibility and danger of stepping on a ray or a skate or a jelly or a man-o-war? Don't you feel the numerous beach dangers encroaching, always encroaching, even in your land-locked state or country?

09/02 Direct Link
He stood at the top of a lightly-used stairway, waiting for people to begin ascending. When he heard the footsteps, he began to slowly walk down the stairs, until he encountered the person coming up, at which point he got a terrified look on his face and turned around to run back up the stairs.

The point was to see whether people would chase him or not. If you want to know what this would prove, welcome to the club.

At the top of the stairs, his colleagues were there with clipboards, and he was standing among them, smiling.

09/03 Direct Link
"This seems kind of dangerous," I said, filling out the forms consenting to the use of my data, which was just an "X" to indicate that I did not chase the subject.

"We did consider some people might reach the top of the stairs in a semi-agitated state," said the team leader, "so we developed a phrase to shout out to immediately calm them down."

("OK," I thought, "maybe I'll get something out of this weird experience if I can learn the psychologically-proven phrase that can calm the type of person who becomes enraged by a fleeing stranger.")

09/04 Direct Link
"The way it works," the team leader continued, "is that if Greg feels he is in danger, he shouts out the code word "pancake! pancake!" to alert us. When the agitated person reaches the top of the stairs, we will shout out, in unison, 'We're graduate students!'"

I was beyond disappointed in the secret phrase, and I feared for their safety.

"So far we haven't had to use it, though," he said, "and actually so far nobody has chased Greg at all, not even a little bit. Most people just decide they didn't want to come up here after all."

09/05 Direct Link
The hilarity of "bunny ears" in a photograph is proportional to the outrage caused when they are discovered. Back when I was young and I managed extend my middle and index fingers in a 'V' over my brother's head, I got to enjoy the delicious wait for the photos to be developed, and the blame and condemnation that would follow for ruining a beautiful family moment.

Now-a-days people discover them immediately and can just re-take the photos. It is a stone cold drag.

I want to go back in time and "bunny ears" someone in a daugerrotype.

09/06 Direct Link
I don't know that it makes sense to yell at a baby. You yell at someone because you want to change their behavior, but having one language in common is a must.

As I understand it, the consciousness of a baby is like a boundless sea of pudding. It is only as they mature that they are able to differentiate between things and understand concepts like 'stop that.'

Your baby doesn't know his place in society, and he certainly doesn't know that he's not supposed to spill his beverage while flailing.

This has been "Parenting Advice from a Childless Man."

09/07 Direct Link
It's a powerful idea that seems like it should be obvious: when you have a thought, you don't need to follow it. You can instead acknowledge the thought for what it is, and watch it float past you like a soap bubble. It pops. You can go back to whatever you were doing before you had the thought.

I have spent whole days following negative thoughts that made me feel worse and worse as they pulled me by the nose down and down a brutal spiral, and it never occurred to me that I had a choice in the matter.

09/08 Direct Link
I start simply, but once a foundation is established I begin work on elaborate, towering spires that are marvelous to behold. Higher and higher I go, displaying my mastery of arch and cantilever, drawing my inspiration from architecture both real and fantastical. For me this is not a hobby, but something I am truly compelled to do because I do not like to wash the dishes.

I rarely get to show off my creations because before long I realize I need a cup at the bottom of the construction, and I mistakenly believe I can pull it out without consequences.

09/09 Direct Link
water, water, get a glass of water
put it in your mouth, put it on your hair
put that water everywhere
it falls from the sky so don't worry if you waste it
it comes up from the ground, so don't forget to taste it
water, water, wow-wow-wow, it's the greatest molecule I know
Some people write it like an 'H' a '2' an 'O'
Don't be afraid to spill it on your pants
Wring them out and water your plants
Join me in this water dance
And if you don't then we can't be friends, no way.
09/10 Direct Link
I have to say, I love a nap. Flopping down motionless on the couch, a bed, a floor, or just about any flat surface and losing consciousness and muscle tone would be amazing.

After about an hour I'll wake up thirsty and groggy and really cold, and I won't be able to function for another hour after that while I recover. I'll have moved forward in time without having experienced anything with nothing to show for it but wrinkly pillow indentations on my face. It's so great. Napping is a favorite activity, even if I can't identify the good part.

09/11 Direct Link
I don't have a table near my reading chair, so I keep the teacup between my legs. I bring the pot up from the floor and ever so carefully pour some more in from time to time. It is a risky business.

I sometimes wonder if I would be better off doing my reading in a coffee shop, like the one down the street. They have comfortable chairs and tables. Maybe there is a lady there drinking coffee and having a muffin who would genuinely like to have me interrupt her reading time with questions about what she is reading.

09/12 Direct Link
Someone has put a tomato plant in the public park. The plant is about four feet tall and apparently healthy. It is surrounded by a cylinder of chicken wire, fastened by a combination lock. There are no tomatoes visible on the plant.

Sometimes when I walk past it, I assume it must be an art installation, making a comment on public vs. private property, or maybe modern man's relationship with nature. Other times I think, no, it must be an ethics experiment, to see whether anyone would take the tomatoes when they had ripened. What else could it really be?

09/13 Direct Link
A man in an online comment has outlined his plan to send in "the troupes" to fight ISIS, also known as ISIL, Daesh, or the Islamic State. Whether he means to send theatre troupes or troupes of macaques was not immediately clear, but I can see either being effective in their own unique ways. A theatre troupe can perform a play about tolerance and love and change hearts and minds. A troupe of macaques can run around and steal their fruit, leading to severe vitamin deficiency, which in turn leads to the loss of their will to fight. Problem solved.

09/14 Direct Link
I have given nicknames to the people who make announcements over the public address system.

"Very Important" chews over every syllable, obviously reluctant to give it up before moving on to the next. She over-enunciates because she wants to make sure you've heard her very important message.

"Screechy Scratchy" sounds as if she's injected a lifetime's worth of cigarette smoke and whiskey directly into her vocal cords. Her voice hurts me the most.

"Droopy" is a man who sounds like the cartoon dog Droopy.

"The Good One" is a guy who just makes announcements clearly at a reasonable volume.

09/15 Direct Link
I know some people who get excited by the onset of autumn. They look forward to cool nights and (inexplicably) expensive coffees spiked with artificial pumpkin flavorings. They expect hearty stews with large pieces of potato and carrot will make them happy.

Not me. I rage against the change. I expect that by force of will alone I can stop the earth in its orbit and let it be early September for just a bit longer before the months of cold and darkness envelop us.

(I self-identify as "a northeast kind of guy" so moving is not an option.)

09/16 Direct Link
I try to take the macro view, to keep myself from going crazy. In the macro view, nothing really matters. Planets fall into suns and black holes and each other all the time, and planets are formed.

Individuals have no significance at all in the macro view. Individuals are parts of a larger system, growing and reproducing and dying in a hundred generations before you can blink you eyes. In the micro view it's a million horrible tragedies all happening at once, and who can look at that without going insane? In the macro view it's just how it is.

09/17 Direct Link
There's an older woman I see every morning, walking her dog as I'm walking to work. She is as friendly as she feels she is required to be, and I imagine in her working life she was a feared school principal or ruthless corporate CEO.

Her dog (I don't know what kind he is) is the most proper dog I have ever seen. He holds his head high, and lifts his paws in a dignified and elegant fashion when he walks. He does not bark, and he pays no attention to the chattering squirrels. The woman will tolerate no nonsense.

09/18 Direct Link
This story is about a Caucasian male, age 45. He is five feet and six inches tall, and weighs around two hundred and fifty pounds. He is possibly of Italian ancestry. He has short brown hair, parted to the right, and a thick brown mustache. He has a pleasant, round, face and a gap between his front teeth.

I would like to tell you more about what the man did and said, but I have run out of words for this entry. At least now you know what he looks like, which is all some people really care about anyway.

09/19 Direct Link
I was awakened by an altercation outside my window this morning. My neighbors were holding a yard sale, scheduled to begin at eight, but a small group of oldsters had arrived an hour early and were demanding to see the goods. Rebuffed by the yard sale organizer, they rioted, indicating to the owner that "early birding" was a valid expression of yard sale enthusiasm and the success of her sale depended on their business.

My neighbor screamed "You are BANNED! You are all BANNED from my yard sale!" and the oldsters fled.

After that I couldn't get back to sleep.

09/20 Direct Link
I came up with a light opera to be performed in the middle of a wedding ceremony. I didn't write it down and tragically I've already forgotten most of it.

The idea is that in the middle of the wedding, a band of DINOSAURS enter and interrupt the proceedings. The DINOSAUR KING informs the group that they mean to kidnap the not-yet-married COUPLE and take them to live under their volcano so that they can learn about love. Dinosaurs have not gone extinct, he explains, but they have forgotten how to love and they need an intensive refresher.

09/21 Direct Link
The DINOSAURS were drawn to the wedding venue, he further explains, because they were searching for the world's foremost experts on love, and they were pointed to this COUPLE, who, he is informed, love each other very much. The DINOSAURS advance menacingly.

Certain FRIENDS of the COUPLE stand between the DINOS and their intended prey. A very exciting swordfight ensues. Friends and family of the COUPLE are enchanted and delighted by the spectacle.

Sensing defeat is at hand, the DINOSAUR KING makes an emotional plea to the COUPLE to come down and live with him voluntarily. His people are desperate.

09/22 Direct Link
In his big moment, the DINOSAUR KING explains that he is motivated not by malice, but by a feeling of being responsible for the fate of his people. Although cold blooded, he believes dinosaurs need love to survive, and without it they really will go extinct once and for all. At this point in the production, pretty much everyone in attendance should be openly weeping.

Moved by the dinos' plight, the COUPLE invite the DINOSAUR KING to the front of the room, where they embrace him. The DINOSAURS and FRIENDS, moved by the scene, drop their weapons and cease hostilities.

09/23 Direct Link
Next is a show-stopping duet by the COUPLE in which they explain the nature of love in such a way that even a creature with a brain the size of a walnut can understand it. This duet is very nice. Very lovey-dovey.

The DINOSAUR KING says he thinks he understands, and will try to help his fellow dinos apply the lesson. As he's leaving, the COUPLE invite him and the dinos (who, if you haven't figured it out, are also friends of the COUPLE in green felt dino costumes) to stay and enjoy the wedding. They gratefully accept.

09/24 Direct Link
I have been bored in solemn weddings in the past, and I think something like this would really improve the experience for everyone. Including (and especially) your very conservative grandmother.

"Dear," she will say, "I just want you to be happy. And please, can I be one of the dinosaurs?"

The Dinosaur King (or Queen!) needs to make a statement that if the lesson doesn't stick, he or she will come back up to kidnap some other couple. This will lend some credibility to the fact that there will be another dinosaur wedding next week. I have thought this through.

09/25 Direct Link
One time Mary had a sort of thickening of the skin on a small part of her hand. It bothered her a lot, and I hated to see her unhappy.

"I have some strong salicylic acid in the cabinet," I said. "I'll bet it would peel that thing right off.

"Or," I continued, thinking, "it could give you a truly horrible chemical burn. Let's test it on an inconspicuous part of your body first. Where would you not mind having a horrible chemical burn? We'll test you out like we're painting a boat."

That comment got me into severe trouble.

09/26 Direct Link
The couple next door has a new baby. When they see me in the hall, they are sheepish about the amount of noise he makes every day, but my view is, baby's gonna babe.

I used to get severely annoyed at my neighbor's barking dog, but I am completely relaxed about the baby. I ascribe this to evolution.

I have read that being in the presence of a baby causes a man's testosterone level to plummet. I have not tested this, but my brain does become a soft, sticky, noise-tolerant mass of goo when I see or hear him.

09/27 Direct Link
I am not by nature a maker of lists, but I am trying. I have three cards on my desk -- one with tasks to complete by the end of the month, one by the end of the week, and one by the end of the day.

The idea is that I'm supposed to transfer tasks from the first list to the second, and from the second to the third, but I don't, and the 'this month' list becomes hilariously, unrealistically long. Then I get discouraged and recycle the cards and sometimes start over, but having forgotten half of the tasks.

09/28 Direct Link
If virtual reality becomes accessible to me, I want to wander around a realistic world and smack cell phones out of peoples' hands as they're walking around. Basically I am looking to simulate assaulting members of the public. I am probably a more dangerous and violent character than I would like to admit, but I have my reasons.

Today I got a dirty look from a person who wanted to walk headfirst into me while gazing at her phone. I pressed myself against the wall to get out of her way, and she tried to disintegrate me with her eyes.

09/29 Direct Link
Journalists writing about vegan food, even when they're being complimentary, LOVE to go into graphic detail about supposedly classic stereotypes of vegan food.

Cardboard is frequently mentioned, as is the color gray, and multiple synonyms of 'flavorless' and 'boring'.

Some get elaborate, as Jeff Gordinier does in today's NYT piece: "...tofu strips layered like paving stones over desiccated pebbles of brown rice..."

The thing is, fruit and vegetables are colorful and juicy and flavorful and exciting and sexy, so I don't know where these ideas come from, except that they get passed on from one bedeadlined writer to the next.

09/30 Direct Link
Why do bugs crawl up from the ground
Every time you're around?
Just like me,
They want to be
Close to you.

Why does blood rain down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Yes, you see, I want to be
Close to you.

Your dark smile could cause pneumonia,
It locks me in catatonia,
And it fills my soul with woe and rue,
Then you disappear, I catch my breath,
and can't believe in what is good and true.

You stand there, cheerless, wan, and pale,
And I feel my heart quail,
etc...

(I am sorry, The Carpenters)