Tag Archives: Philosphy

Gone Fishin’

Please forward all correspondence to SpaceJunk.

I’m wondering if there’s some web-parallel service to a Winter Caretaker, someone who could come by once a month and open the windows, dusting and airing the rooms out in the summer, then battening down the hatches come autumn, while keeping the water running a bit in the winter to make sure the pipes don’t freeze up, and then coming around to make the minor repairs needed in the spring…basically, someone to do the little bits of daily upkeep that prevent a structure from becoming a ruin.

I wonder this because I’m going to be moving on from here.  Pretentiously Eloquent Microfiction is closing up shop, boarding up the windows and putting in a change of address form.

A while back, I speculated on what to do with this site…it began as a novelty, a place to record my returning ability—and willingness—to write, and what was driving me at the time was short bursts of language, Pretentiously Eloquent Microfiction, as I originally defined it on day one.

I had realized that, over time, my work—fiction and non—had moved away from that structure, and was of two minds about what to do:  do I change things around here, reflecting the evolution of what I’m working on now and how I want to share it?  Or do I keep things as-is, a reminder of what’s come before, and a desire to maintain a realistic history, at least as much as you can online.

And I decided, then, to keep on keeping on.  P.E.M. is critically important to me, as much a part of what defines me in this last half-decade of my life as my family and my new career.

But the time has come for me to realize, and acknowledge, that the work begun here, lo many years back, hasn’t just changed in direction:  it’s complete.  As in, over.  Something new is come ‘round, and it just doesn’t fit here anymore.

So, I’m turning out the lights and locking the door behind me.  I may return to these parts at some point in the future—if publishing my fiction on the web ever again becomes something that I feel I need to do, it’ll end up here.  But it’s time for some new scenery.

So update your bookmarks, if you will:  SpaceJunk.

These are my new online digs.  Something shiny, with different places to arrange the furniture and a new view outside the windows.  I’ve migrated some of the least-fiction-related posts from here over there already, just so we have something to build from, and now that I’m getting comfortable there, and feeling somewhat freed from the original strictures that were built here, you may even find me posting there more often there than I have been here of late…though, of course, the Rules of Engagement still hold.

And in case this truly is the last post that will go up here, I want to end it with something that it began with, something important that reminds me—and I hope encourages you to do the same—that intent is everything, and the baggage and previously-existing conditions surrounding a thought, or emotion, or situation, can and must be re-evaluated, so that it becomes meaningful to you, and you’re not just absorbing the meaning that others have given it as your own:

“We’re deathly afraid of that stabbing word ‘pretentious,’ the word that students use to curse each other’s ambition.  It’s a young person’s word, a shortcut-to-thinking word. I’m a big fan of pretension.  It means ‘an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfillment.’  It doesn’t mean failing upward.  It means trying to exceed your grasp.  Which is how things grow.”

– Warren Ellis

 

Why Google+ will fail

An expansion of a conversation begun with Dave and Patrick one night over scotch and cigars…


In my first draft of this post, I started off with, “Well, not ‘fail’, exactly, it’s not like they’re fundamentally flawed, throwing Blink tags all over the place or something awful like that, but they’re certainly not going to hit the targets they’ve gotta be aiming for…”

And after reading that bit through again, I realized that, ultimately, yes, they were going to fail.  The stakes are too high, the goals too large…what would be considered phenomenal success for anyone else is failure for them.  They’re not playing for a respectable second place…though I’m sure they’ll find some way to make that work for them, when it becomes evident that’s where they’re going to end up.

But enough of the navel-gazing, down to business:

Google+ is going to fail, and fail big-time.  There’s only one measure of success for them:  Facebook, and every one of their 750 million active users.  Anything less than that–or even just chopping that number way down, by more than half, and passing them by a clear and evident margin–isn’t good enough.

And the sad part is that it won’t have much–if anything–to do with what they’re doing or how they’re doing it…truthfully, although it’s still very early, from what I can see, they’ve learned almost every lesson you could have hoped they would have learned from Facebook, and have already demonstrated a willingness to fix those things they still don’t have quite right yet.

If it was simply a matter of putting a better product on the market and trusting that everyone–or at least the vast majority of people–would take a look at the new offering, compare it to what they’ve currently got, and then choose what’s clearly better, then there’d be no problem.  But anyone who’s ever looked even briefly into real-world marketing economics and sociology knows that it’s never that simple.  Or else why do we still have both Coke and Pepsi on the shelves?

For my one grand, sweeping generalization per post (which I really can’t be bothered to explicate fully; please just assume that I know that things are much more subtle than this when examined in detail, and my usage of the more general ideas doesn’t ignore nor invalidate the complexities of overlapping, evolving micro-systems), there are three kinds of people using the Internet with any degree of regularity (i.e. the 750 million active users of Facebook):

  • Hard-core geekerati
  • Technically savvy people
  • Grandma Betty

The hard-core geekerati write for Boing Boing, invest 10x more into their Reddit time than they do the local neighborhood watch, cite donations to Wikileaks as a charitable deduction on their tax returns, and not only knew all about Google+ before the information was public, they already had an invite before the announcement came, either through inside contacts or because they’d figured out how to hack the invite interface.

These folk know in intimate detail the differences between FB and G+; in fact, Google designed G+ with all of their many tumblr posts and tweets complaining about FB in mind.  Given a choice between the two…well, there really isn’t a choice for them.  G+ wins in a landslide, and either they’ve already fully migrated over to it from FB, their megalomania assuring them that anyone who doesn’t follow them over probably doesn’t get it anyway, or they’re primarily on G+, but still hanging around FB until its momentum dies out and everyone they care about has similarly ported over, so they can leave it behind for good.

I’m not even going to pretend that I know the demographics here, nor can I be bothered to work up any reasonably-researched estimates, so I’m going to pull wild guesses out of my ass:  assume there aren’t too many of these folks, it requires a certain mobility to their lifestyle, a willingness to adapt to the new and strange, and the financial means to pursue it…worldwide, we’re talking, what, 5 million people, tops?

That leaves 745 million people still actively on FB.

The second group, the people with various degrees of technical savvy…these people know enough to have already tried turning their computer off and back on again before calling technical support, but not enough to never have to call support at all.  They’re probably already on G+, but still consider FB their primary Internet “home”…G+ is a cool place to check out, like that new show on AMC…it’s interesting, but gets immediately put on hold if there’s a new episode of [fill in R-rated HBO hour-long drama here] on the DVR.

But they see the promise.  They have some of the same concerns about FB that the geekerati have, even if they’re not nearly as passionate about it.  Ultimately, they’ll end up preferring to move wholesale over to G+, but it’s not something that’ll be a driving factor in their online lives.

Again, not going to pretend I can estimate numbers here, but since these folks need to have enough leisure time to explore new ideas, and the financial means to acquire the tools often enough to gain enough mastery to be willing to explore in the first place…what, between 50 and 100 million people, worldwide?  That’s probably really, really high.  Still, for the point of this exercise, we can be conservative in the “trying to invalidate the point I’m trying to make” direction, and go with 100 million, and still…

That leaves 105 million people on G+, and 645 still actively on FB.

Brief aside:  as of this writing, there are only 10-15 million active G+ accounts total.  That’s primarily because it’s still in Beta, still invite-only.  I’m somewhat speculating down the road, once the invites become unnecessary and anyone who wants to can sign up.  This is an “after the system stabilizes” kind of thought experiment.

And now we come to the third group, Grandma Betty.  Which is where G+ will fail.

A bit more generalized pontificating…there are two major paths that the Internet has followed down through the ages.

The first is for those who pay attention to what’s going on, the savvy…basically the first two groups already mentioned.  For them, the Internet, and computers in general, have been in a constant state of evolution, from the first IBM PCs, to your first Intel x86’s, and Usenet, and downloading porn in a dorm room that looks like just a bunch of random ASCII characters until you manage to find and download an image decoding program, and Archie to search for stuff, and then Mosaic, Compuserve, Excite, Ask Jeeves (non-boolean, real-term searches!), and Geocities and Friendster and MySpace and Facebook and, now Google+.

The second–the one that Grandma Betty is aware of–is made of much broader strokes.  The Apple II.  AOL.  And now Facebook.  It’s not an evolution, it’s a series of fascinating new peaks that captures their interest, becoming a part of their lives in the same way indoor toilets, color television and automatic transmissions have…with no concern at all with what happens in all the valleys in between.

And this is the problem that G+ is facing.  Grandma Betty doesn’t care that G+ is a little better than FB.  For her, FB is not one markedly more popular option in a long line of evolving ways to interact with people online; for her, FB is The Facebook.  It’s The Internet.  It’s being Online.  All of that, wrapped up in a single identity.

The idea of switching over to something better…well, why?  Isn’t one color TV basically the same as another?

Or, to land on another, probably more relevant analogy, what I’m basically saying is that FB is DVDs, and G+ is laserdiscs.  Yeah, there are a number of savvy people who are going to see all the benefits the latter offers over the former, and will switch over, either in whole or in part…but the vast majority of people won’t be aware of a difference, and won’t care.  I mean, we’re how many years into the HD/Blu-ray “revolution”, and DVDs still outsell Blu-ray discs by a magnitude.

And laserdiscs are an interesting footnote.

There are 645 million Grandma Betty’s out there.  That’s the difference between winning and losing in this game, and I just don’t see any way that G+ stands a chance at stealing even a small fraction of them.  Grandma Betty just likes being Online, on The Facebook, and is still feeling pretty pleased with herself that she’s figured out how to post photos that her family and friends can see.  The entire debate and choice between The Facebook and Google+…or anything else that’s similar, better or not…flies over her head the way a debate over PER vs. Adjusted +/- stats in basketball fly over the head of someone who is only peripherally aware that Michael Jordan isn’t playing professionally anymore.

So that’s my bit; I like G+, I’m one of those people in the second group I mentioned, and I’ve got an account and post to it occasionally, have some Circles set up already.  But I wouldn’t bet against FB any time soon.


And no, I have no intent on posting as to where I’ve been for the last 6+ months…too busy dusting this place down…damn it falls all to pieces when I step away for a while.  I may get to that…later.

…it’s a name for a girl – Part 1

I need to caveat, from the start, that I don’t usually write about serious topics here, and don’t plan to make a habit of it.  Not that writing, U2 and the Lakers aren’t serious for me, but they’re not “if we disagree, and keep discussing it, tempers are likely to flare and we’ll both stomp off muttering curses under our breaths, slightly sick from the adrenaline rush of actual emotional conflict” serious.

But that’s sort of where tonight’s post will lead.  It’s not like it’s all that controversial, but I’m also not likely to be in the mood for non-committed back and forth on it.  Most topics, I can take either side, enjoying the effort more than what side the victory is on.  Not this one, I don’t think.

I also need to caveat that I don’t plan to go into detail about any of the tangential topics that this one would naturally raise.  I’m going to give you the minimal amount of background necessary to grok where I’m coming from, and then we’ll move on.

And I finally need to caveat that this post already has two (and now three) caveats more than I like—my blog, I get to do what I want, when I want, and shouldn’t have to explain things.  But as I noted, this is a somewhat serious topic, and since I don’t tend to go publicly diving in those waters that often, I’d like for them to be clear and not open for a variety of troll-baiting interpretations.

And now, with sufficient baggage strapped aboard, we’re off…

So, here’s the background.  Once upon a time, I was very religious.  Serious case of bornagainitis.  Probably because I was first introduced to religion at a critical moment in my life…parents recently divorced, transitioning from elementary school to high school, puberty, intellectual awaking…all that great after school special crap.  My mind and heart were desperate for something deep and involved to sink their teeth in to, and a fervent Born-Again Christian meal just happened to be walking by.

I will now skip ahead 20 years—and easily a couple hundred thousand words, if I just stuck to summarizing the high points—and expect you to keep up.

These days, I don’t like religion.  I don’t think my actual beliefs have changed all that much, but I am a lot clearer on A) what exactly “a belief” is, and B) what mine are.  There’s been a demi-glace-like reduction to the overwhelming symphony of ideas and concepts I first walked into 20 years ago, distilling the core principals to their essences while somehow increasing and balancing their complexity at the same time.

Which are pretty words to sum up something I already posted here a while ago:  Before enlightenment:  chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment:  chop wood, carry water.

To conclude the incredibly-brief background section of this post:  I once was Christian, in an organized fashion, and while I now pursue disorganization (spiritually speaking), my beliefs are rooted in that ground, and despite two decades of scrutiny, and wide-spread exploration into a large number of seemingly-incompatible belief systems, those aspects I’ve identified as the basic principals of Christianity stick with me to this day.

One of which is the topic of the post I’m almost finally about to start writing.

(And no, I’m not talking about the Bud Light version of Christianity, the “Jesus was a cool guy, and what we can really learn from the bible is to be good to each other and love each other and maybe go to church on Easter, but there’s no need to get too bogged down in the details” version…fucking pussies.)

(And, one more [fuck me, does that make four?] caveat:  when I mention the word God, no, I do not mean it the way you think I mean it, except yes, I mean it exactly the way you think I mean it.  Which is to say, I’m not about to get into specific definitions here in this post, and do not assume that I’m being vague because I’m assuming that y’all already know exactly what I’m talking about; I’ve just spent 645 fucking words setting up this post before even mentioning what the post is going to be about.  I’m not leaving out a specific description of God because I’m aiming to be brief.  You want to challenge what I have to say because I mention God, and how absurd is it to believe in a dude with a beard on a throne living up in the clouds?  Well, I don’t believe in that either.  When I say God—at least for the purposes of this post—I could be talking beard-dude, I could be talking Yahweh, I could be talking the Ineffable, I could be talking tP / t…meet me halfway, if you would.)

What I want to talk about is grace, and why it’s a unique concept, one that blows apart the typical Christian-centric structure that usually encloses it.

I think I can say—without tempting too much in the way of debate—that as long as we’re moving along through the dimension of time, we’re all heading from something to something else.  There is an ideal, no matter how minor, vague or undefined, that we’re moving towards.  It can be superficially consumerist (“I’m not thin enough,” or “I’m not rich enough.”), it can be more personally meaningful (“I don’t take good enough care of myself,” or “I need to treat the people I care about better.”), or overtly hedonistic (“I am not nearly as baked as I should be,” or “I have not slept with nearly enough girls as I’d like to.”) ,or overtly spiritual (“I am not yet as far down the Eightfold Path as I aim to be,” or “I have yet to properly give Satan his full due.”), or any of a million different variations of all of the thoughts that pass through our heads in any given day.  And it doesn’t necessarily have to be fully conscious:  dropping trou and squatting is moving you closer from the present state of stomach cramps to the ideal of “deuce successfully dropped,” no matter how consciously you’re staking out those milestones.  We’re talking prime mathematic givens here, not specific recipes.

When the spiritual aspect is considered, just about every possible path (I hesitate to call them “religions,” since there are far more people pursuing spiritual paths without the trappings of religion than there are people genuinely pursuing a religiously-defined path, as opposed to giving that religion lip service while more actively following one of the consumerist/personal/hedonistic/etc. paths already mentioned) is just that:  a path.  Today, you are Here.  Tomorrow, you will be There.  If successful, that There will be closer to the ultimate goal than Here is.  And most of the time spent walking that spiritual path is focused on defining the steps needing to take you from Here to There, and monitoring your progress.

This is true even for most Christian paths, which to my mind completely misses the point.

See, Christianity has this unique concept, one that none others have or embrace, called grace.

Grace is a gift.  Grace is something un-asked for, given regardless of whether or not it’s deserved or has been earned.  Grace is, in the context of the notion of a path described above, a profoundly disturbing disruption of the basic understanding of how things work.

Put another way, grace is the fucked-up quantum entanglement to traditional religious Newtonian processes.

In the specific context of Christianity, grace is the given forgiveness of your sins before you can ask for it and with zero comprehension or concern for the notion of atonement.  Grace is the gift given by God that removes the need to walk any distance down a spiritual path.  Grace says that you do not have to earn the ideal you are pursuing by measuring yourself against some external spiritual yardstick—you already have it.  Grace says “I have a pancake on my head; your argument is invalid.”

Enough with the platitudes:  let’s get down to business.

Here’s what’s amazing about the concept of grace:  because it cannot be earned, it is given to everyone.  That fat fuck next to you on the bus, the one you caught staring at your ass, making you wish you hadn’t worn the low-riding jeans, knowing he’s saving up the brief, furtive views for his spank-bank later?  Yeah, he’s been given grace.  Your boss, the one who gave you a list of things to do today, and then kept passing on emergency requests from his boss, and then spends his time in the break room bitching about how you’re too lazy to get through the short list of easy tasks he gave you earlier?  Yup, he’s been given grace too.

…That guy who screamed out something in Farsi before triggering the ball-bearing-laced plastic explosive he has strapped to his chest in the midst of a crowded market?  Again, yes, he’s been given grace.

Which is kinda the point:  if grace can’t be earned, then when given, it’s given to everyone.  There’s no criteria for being an eligible receiver.  That’s what’s beautiful about it:  the drunk puking on himself in the gutter is as beloved and worthy of grace as you are, and while that might feel like a bit of a raw deal for you and your paid-my-rent-on-time-no-speeding-tickets-in-two-years self-esteem right now, it very profoundly says that all of the joy and wonders of God and the universe are equally available to both of you.  All of you.  All of us.

Which is how it should be, or else what’s the point?  I don’t want to believe in a God that would pick and choose which people are worthy of Him based on an ever-changing, semi-objective matrix.  I mean, are we to assume that God was okay with Abraham having multiple wives back then but isn’t in favor of it now?  That’s too much like trying to get into the right clique in high school.  Sure, he might like caring for puppies now, but who’s to say he won’t like people who paint their dicks blue later?  Sure, that sounds absurd…but it fits within the set.

It’s far more likely that the ultimate point of convergence with God isn’t defined by nor dependant upon details like that.

But that makes for a difficult follow-up question:  if everyone has been given grace, does it matter what we do?  Are we all going to heaven (or whatever you want to interpret that particular phrase to mean)?  And if we are, then does it matter one bit what we actually do?  Can those people doing what strikes us to our core as evil be just as promised the Promised Land as those of us who try each day to do more good than harm?  And the people who aren’t even paying attention, who are wandering through life in a self-induced haze, do they get to wake up at the pearly gates and say, “Hey, there’s a heaven.  Who knew?”

I don’t think so.  It’s not that it isn’t there, waiting for them; it’s that, fundamentally, gift giving requires two people.

Anyone who’s been a scout of any kind (boy, girl, whatever) or had a father/relative/etc. teach them more “traditional” skills will know what an Active Transfer of Control is, even if that particular name wasn’t used.  It’s the first lesson of knife safety.  When someone is handing you a knife, they hold it out and say, “I’m giving you this knife.”  You reach out, put your hand on it, and once you have a firm hold of it say, “I have the knife,” at which point that someone lets go, and the knife is yours.  Or there’s the rock climbing ritual of “On Belay?” “Belay On.”

What it comes down to is a clear, active decision with awareness of what that decision means, with no unstated assumptions.  And that’s the second half of the grace equation:  the gift has been given, but you still have to accept it.

And really, the only way to do so is with a prayer I learned long ago, when I first joined the Church, just read along and say the words out loud as you do, “Heavenly Father, in Jesus’ name I repent of my sins and open my heart…”

Ah, I’m just fucking with you.

Not to say that that particular method isn’t perfectly and completely valid.  Here’s where that thing I said earlier, that I “hate religion”, is proven to be not entirely accurate.  You certainly won’t hear me speaking against—especially to denigrate—anyone’s particular religious beliefs (unless there’s a joke to be made, because one of my most profoundly-held beliefs is, if you can’t take a joke, fuck off).

The flip side of grace being available to everyone means that everyone has to be able to receive it, if they’re willing, and that notion is incompatible with having a single, set, pre-defined path for doing so.  Which does mean that all paths are valid, including the familiar, stereotypical ones you all already know about…

…within reason.

Because—and here another traditionally-Christian tradition pops its useful head up—words are cheap.  Or as a youth pastor back in my high school days (for reals…which may help explain my willingness to do some desert wandering, given his mentorship) quoted to me, “Money talks and bullshit walks.”

You know and I know that unless you’re dealing with a world-class actor—or you’re intentionally willing to deceive yourself because of some unresolved and possibly unrelated issue—it’s pretty damn easy to tell when someone’s going through the motions.  My six year-old daughter may say “Sorry” for sticking her fingers all through my rice, but she was laughing when she did it, and sullen when she says it, and I know the only reason she’s saying “Sorry” is because she doesn’t want to get punished again, not because she’s honestly understood that her actions have negatively impacted another’s life and desires to communicate to that person her awareness of the consequences of her actions, both empirical and emotional, and regrets her actions, and her willingness to make amends.

And she’s a lot better at faking it than most people I know my own age.

There’s a reason you don’t handle knives with just anyone, and why you don’t rock climb with people you don’t know.  The giving-accepting relationship requires trust, since the only definitive proof you’re going to get of the other person’s trustworthiness is when you pull your hand away, and either the knife falls to the ground, possibly impaling your foot, or slices your fingers as the other person fails to release it, or when your handhold slips and the rope that’s supposed to catch you shortly after you fall whistles through the carabineer loud enough for you to hear the entire way down.

To sum up the point of these analogies, it’s pretty obvious to God, however you define Him…and to yourself, really…whether or not you’re telling the truth when you consciously decide to accept the grace that’s been given.

I’m not going to tell you what specific fruit will be borne when you do that.  I have my own thoughts on the matter, but there’s a reason I ultimately decided against going to seminary and becoming a preacher, and it’s because I have a hard enough time sorting this shit out for myself, and the most difficult thing to do was de-brainwash myself from all the rules and regulations other people had posted on my walls.  I’m not about to just switch seats here.

But I can at least tell you what I think are some pretty critical components of the process, however they end up manifesting themselves:

You have to know yourself.  More importantly, you have to be willing to know yourself.  Borrowing from David Brin here when I say that the greatest inherited skill human beings have today is self-deception, especially rationalization.  You take the dumbest motherfucker off the streets right now, hand him one more beer than he knows he should really drink tonight, and he’ll find some way to convince himself that not only is it okay to drink that beer, but the world is a better place because of it.

In order to accept grace, you have to be able to know if you’re telling the truth or not.  You can ask any smoker who’s in the car on the way to 7-11 even though they’re trying to quit how hard that can be.  I found it through the progressive mind-clearing zazen of Zen.  Others find it through prayer and bible study.  Others find it through rigorous adherence to the scientific method, even when their pet theory—the one that’s going to get them tenure and an extra zero on the end of the grant check, maybe even that ½ paragraph blurb in Time magazine’s year-end round ups of the “best of” in science—turns out, by the evidence, to be completely wrong, and not in the “well, then the opposite must be true” way, but in the “wow, I have no fucking idea what’s going on here” way.

It just requires an acceptance that most of what you think you know about yourself is completely, flatteringly wrong, and a willingness to turn that laser-sharp ability to dissect others’ faults onto yourself.

Simple, right?

Next time:  so you’re willing to examine how much of a shit you are…what’s next?

A Belated Anniversary

Just sitting here tonight, listening to the new album by The Choir, Burning Like the Midnight Sun.  It is damn, damn good.

They’re a Christian band, that’s how I first found them, but by God, if you weren’t told that fact, you’d never know it on first listen.  They aren’t Christians like those God-awful “the power of worship” CDs sold late at night on TV; they’re like the cool Christians you hopefully know, the guy who doesn’t immediately come across as religious or fanatic, just a nice guy, probably the only one who looks like he shaved that morning every morning, and when you find out later he’s turning in early Saturday because there’s church the next morning, it’s not a creepy thing, and doesn’t really surprise you.

I mean, it’s got lyrics like:

And we’re sadder than hell, cuz we miss you dear friend

Still it’s good to know your great heart is glad and restored

Forever smokin’ fine cigars at the table of the Lord

I discovered them when I was in the midst of my born-again-itis, many, many years ago, and they’re one of the few—very few—things that have stayed with me since.

So, anyway, I’m sitting here, listening, and realizing that there’s a few things I should get down on this blog, and as long as I’m at a keyboard…

  • Started a new job this week; it’s an entirely new industry, let alone a new company, and I’m finding myself trying to figure out just basic terminology from the context before the person I’m talking to gets too much further along in what they’re saying and I miss something else critical.  Haven’t had these kinds of butterflies in a long time, and it’s a good thing.  I am both completely confident that I’ll be able to figure it all out and succeed, and also completely convinced that each moment will bring an opportunity to fuck up so royally that they won’t just fire me, they’ll be calling DHS about rendition.  But that’s the kind of thing that’s important, and something I’ve been lacking for too long…quoting again from Internet Jesus (part of the same thing I said in my first post here over a year ago), “It [pretension] means ‘an aspiration or intention that may or may not reach fulfillment.’  It doesn’t mean failing upward.  It means trying to exceed your grasp.  Which is how things grow.”
  • Speaking of, yeah, this blog has been going on now for over a year.  First post was made on June 26th, 2009.  I’m frankly stunned out of my underpants that I’m still here and posting.  This is like my tenth blog since the word first existed, and all the previous ones petered out and died within a few weeks (I think the longest one lasted into the second month before I abandoned it).  Yet here I am, a year later, still going on this one.  This will be my 62nd post, which isn’t nearly as great as if I were comparing myself to the standard of a “blogger” (that would require multiple posts every day), but if you think about it, most of what’s up here is long—1500 words or longer (and some absurdly longer, like 6-8k words in some cases)—and contains original content well beyond my thoughts on the current debate over fan fiction legality on some message board somewhere, or why I decided to have a sandwich for lunch and the absolutely hilarious reasons (seriously, they were great, trust me, if you didn’t laugh, it’s okay, it was still a riot) why I ended up having soup instead.  For over a year, at an average rate of more than once a week, I’ve been posting some pretty substantial shit.  I don’t care about comparisons, I’m patting myself on the back for that; you can join in if you wish.
  • As for posting more of that substantial shit up here…well, we might be taking a bit of an unplanned but completely necessary break on that.  There’s this really intense debate over sandwiches vs. soup in fan fiction over at this—  But, seriously, I cranked out thousands of words on the novel during the first bit of my time off from work through May and June, but around the 50k words point (combined since I started it in December; that’s not 50k words in like 5 weeks), I hit a bit of a wall.  Correction: I woke up several hours later with a bump on my head and no real memory of what had happened.  It’s now the longest thing I’ve ever written, and I think there are a dozen different reasons why I absolutely feel like my fingers are embedded in cement any time I sit down to work on it now (none of which are worth going into in a bullet-point post about several random things).  That’s one of the reasons for the recent Lakers posts (aside from the silly, absurd joy of it all), and why you might be seeing more stuff like that in the near future (meaning both Lakers and non-fiction-type stuff)…I need to keep my fingers moving, and if they aren’t able to go in a certain direction at this particular moment, then like that idiot with the headband and shuffle strapped to his arm, I’m just gonna jog here in place on the corner until the light turns green again.

Anyway, it’s been an epic year, too many things to even consider the good/bad breakdown.  I am nowhere near where I thought I’d be back then, which is good, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  That’s how we grow.

Thanks for hanging out with me along the way.

1910-2010

All said by John Wooden:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“Do not let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.”

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should accomplish with your ability.”

“If you go as far as you can see, you will then see enough to go even farther.”

“Make each day your masterpiece.”

“Respect a man, and he will do all the more.”

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.”

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

“Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.”

“Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”

“I am not what I ought to be, not what I want to be, not what I am going to be, but thankful that I am not what I used to be.”

“Be quick but don’t hurry.”

May the angels speed you quickly to Nell.

In Memoriam 2001-2010

This goes on for a bit, and is unusually personal…there’s a brief bit of new fiction at the end, if you want to skip ahead to it.

I suppose I should eulogize this.

I have not spoken, except in the most generic passing, about the place I worked or the job I did there.  There were two reasons:  1) I generally spent my days working in one way or another on sensitive material–no state secrets, but projects expected to bring in millions in revenue, and I take my NDA seriously; 2) this site is supposed to be about who I am…the pieces of me I’m finding again…and not the slowly-shrinking part of me that was passionately invested in the day job.

However, it’s worth writing about today, at least once.  The more astute of you will have noticed the past tense used in the previous paragraph.

Last Tuesday, I was laid off from my job.  There were a number of reasons–I’ll probably touch on more than one of them as I go along–but it’s a good idea, I think, to stop and revisit all in one place what the last 8+ years have been…closure’s not just a river in Africa.

And yeah, it’s been over 8 years at one place.  I started at Activision in December of 2001, and for the first two years worked in QA as a Junior Tester, meaning I wasn’t technically employed by Activision, I worked for a temp company that provided Activision with 90% of their testers; the other 10% were full-time employees, which was very much the promised land for those of us working project to project, hoping as the end of each grew near that we wouldn’t be placed On Call, meaning our temp assignment was over and we were sent home (this is one major reason why they use temps:  when you plan to fire 90% of your workforce at least twice a year, you’ve gotta figure out a way to prevent that from being actual turnover numbers, even if it’s just a technical loophole of semantics).

I made it to the promised land, and a few months after that began working in Production (technically the Production Management Group, or PMG) as a Production Tester on loan from QA (meaning that, at the end of the game, I would be called back to QA to resume life as a tester).  A few months after that, PMG hired me in as an official Production Tester on loan from nobody (meaning that, at the end of the game, I would go on to work on another game in PMG).  And a few months after that, promoted to Production Coordinator.  And then later to Associate Producer, which is the title I held when I was laid off.

In 8+ years, I shipped eight AAA titles (meaning front-line titles by a major publisher, the equivalent of a summer blockbuster movie, nothing indie or low budget about it), and two major expansion packs.

For 4-6 months during each of those years, I worked absurd hours, 10-12 a day, seven days a week, not to mention replying to emails and doing other work from home well into the night.  I got paid a pittance compared to other people who work similar hours (doctors, lawyers, mainstream hollywood productions, etc.).  And I was one of dozens of people in PMG who did this regularly, with no complaints (or at least minimal serious ones).

When I first joined Activision, they were excited to be considered a top 5 publisher by revenue, thrilled to increase annual sales by a few dozen million dollars, staring up at luminaries like Atari and Midway.  As I leave, Activision Blizzard is the number 1 third-party publisher–it’s not even close, really, the only real competition is from the first parties:  Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft–with billions a year in revenue.

In my time there, I pulled off miracles, alongside many other miracle workers.  Spider-Man 3 shipped on-time despite extremely late narrative/asset delivery from the movie folks and technical hurdles that had us well behind where we’d hoped to be.  I managed to help get good reviews for a game about Jerry Seinfeld as an animated bee; sales didn’t quite match, turns out kids don’t really like Jerry Seinfeld…who knew?  I worked on launch titles for all three active consoles today.  I led only the second SKU for the Wii with full online multiplayer to pass NOA certification on the first submission, and the first ever at Activision…I know that sounds a bit cryptic, but believe me, if you knew what it meant, it’d impress the hell out of you.

I did none of those things by myself, and for the most part can only really take pride and credit for facilitating the efforts of other brilliant people…but I’ve never bought into the notion that, if things go well, it was all thanks to Them, but if things go wrong, it was all your fault.  And so I take as much credit for those things that I did that I feel comfortable taking.

And speaking of taking…  In my 8+ years at Activision I saw them take more and more from those of us who gave so much to make the company grow into what it is now.  The sharing of the wealth went from equitable to farcical, the extra benefits that show a company appreciates you (whether that’s travel budgets allowing for comfortable travelling, or tickets to use the company-owned box seats, or movie days for the whole company, that sort of thing) dwindled to nearly nothing, and the attitude seemed to be that whatever discrepancy between what we were being compensated and what we felt we should be compensated, given what we were doing and the results of our work, was covered by the subtle intangible “at least you have a job in this economy” benefit that I don’t remember being listed in my employee handbook.

I don’t want to dwell on this much longer, but suffice to say, it gets old pretty fast to hear about some new bit deprivation–layoffs or whatever–just a day or two after seeing the press release roll out about another quarter of record revenue, margins and executive bonuses.  Doesn’t really sit well at all.

And so, now we come to where I thought I was going to be writing about why I left, about the business side of things and all the rest…but I’m just not going to.  I wanted to record what the last 8+ years of my life have centered around–outside of family–because that center’s gone now, and I’m finding a very strong need to find something to fill it, even if it’s just propping the memories of what’s gone on life support well past the vegetable state.  But the more I dwell on it, the longer I keep that part of me technically alive, and it needs to finish dying, so I can bury it, and mourn it, and then consider what life is going to be like without it.

***

Hopefully it will include more of this kind of stuff.  Here’s another brief excerpt from “The Last Star”.  Writing it is slow going, and in a completely different method than I’m used to–probably a post soon about that very thing–but I think it’ll be good.

***

Sean looked up just in time to see the second fast attack ship pass overhead, dropping its arsenal on the far side of the dome. The explosion was enormous, visible over the apex of the dome, but far enough away this time that they were able to keep their feet through the shockwave. Theresa scrambled to his side, pressing her helmet against his.

“What the fuck are they doing?”

“I don’t know.”

“This wasn’t supposed to start for another two hours!”

“Something’s gone wrong.”

Sean backed his head up a few inches to break contact, then keyed his radio over to the band universally reserved for emergency Cadre use. It wouldn’t be secure, not with the equipment in his suit, but if any of his bosses were in LOS orbit, it’d be the only band he could be sure they’d be monitoring.

“This is Key leader. Repeat, this is Key leader.”

There was a moment’s pause, then a response.

“Key leader, this is Breach. Please confirm.”

“Breach this is Key leader. Confirmation is A65043Z. What the fuck are you people doing?”

“Key leader, this is Breach, identity confirmed. You gotta get yourself out of there Travis.”

“We’re supposed to have two more hours goddammit. There are still hostages inside. Repeat: the hostages are still inside.”

“We know. The bastards responded to our first transmission by executing two of them on camera. Negotiations are over. If the two of you have an out, I suggest you use it, immediately.”

“Negative. We are almost inside. We can do this, goddammit. Give us one more hour.”

“The decision’s been made, Travis. We’re just taking out the air defenses to clear the way for the bombers. You have ten minutes to get clear, if you can.

“Please acknowledge.”

“Acknowledged. Ten minutes. Can you keep them off the south side of the dome? That’s where we have the shuttle waiting.”

“I’ll do what I can, but no promises. Move your ass. Out.”

Shhhh….

Wow…got a bit dusty in here.

Highlights of the last 364 days, in no particular order:

– I received Grace.  Actually, my wife did most of the work, but result was the same.  She’s currently sporting a large, ugly scrape under her right eye and a big shiner, the result of being smaller than our exceptionally dumb dog, and too slow to get out of the way.  There’s a metaphor there, but fuck it, I’m not going to do all the work for you.

(Okay, I lied, that was in a very particular order, I could’ve spent the rest of the year in a Matrix-style gooey-bath coma, or as the judge for the coke and hooker olympics, and this still would have been the most important thing that happened to me, and the first thing to mention.)

– I worked on what may be the most critically-reviled major-launch, AAA game of the last 10 years.  Woohoo.

– We rescued a momma-cat and some kittens (she wasn’t much more than a kitten herself), and while one has found a home, we’re still surrounded, and quickly running out of food.

– My Boo became a little girl, started real school, and broke my heart every time I looked at her.

– I started writing again, after a too-fucking-long absence, which includes this blog (which is actually still being maintained, dumbfounding me).

– I had the greatest anniversary in the history of anniversaries, and dare anyone to try and say otherwise.

There was a lot of bad shit too, mostly to do with money, but I’m not going to dignify any of it by listing it out.  Suffice to say, when the revolution comes, I will be amongst the fuckers lining folks up against the wall, and not one of the fuckers actually up against the wall.  My goal, oddly enough, is to reverse that.

And now, as an early gift for the final year of the decade…

Speaking of, if you disagree, and think the decade ends tonight, do me a favor and close your eyes and count to ten.  Did you start off, “Zero, One, Two…”?  No?  Then put on your big boy pants and apply a lesson from one part of your life to another.  The next decade starts in 201ONE, not 201ZERO.  Jesus…

Where was I?  Oh, yeah, an early gift.  An early draft.  Please excuse the passive voice, it’s there purely as placeholder so I can get past a tricky spot and remember to come back and do some actual writing there later on.


Chapter 1

Jared knew the man was approaching from behind while he was still a ways off.  He was tightening his packs, making sure they were properly balanced, and could hear the footsteps approaching, a steady shuffling in the gravel contrasting with the chaos of he and his men getting ready to leave.  A quick glance in the polished surface of the bike’s muffler showed a shape approaching.  It was an imperfect reflection, but it was easy enough to make out the crimson robe and large golden cowl.  Especially when he’d spent so much of his childhood surrounded by priests dressed the same way.

He gave the leather straps one final yank, making sure they were tight and secure, and addressed the approaching priest without turning around.

“Was there something else Father?”

He heard the stutter of nervous feet coming to a sudden stop.  He turned around and found the priest staring at him, wringing his hands.  Jared could see that the old man was flustered; he knew it was difficult enough for the people living in these outlying towns to muster the courage to speak directly to him (on the rare occasions when they were close enough to be heard at all).  But this man was a priest, and so knew the not-so-secret secret of his Sight, and must now be wondering if Jared had somehow divined his approach, had known it would happen before the idea had even occurred to the old man.

The presence of the Sight in even the humblest, poorest of boys was a scary enough unknown to drive a rational train of thought from most men’s minds.  And Jared was not humble, and not poor, and no longer a boy.  And he had to catch himself here—he realized he was frowning, which would not help put the old man at ease.

This happened more often than he would like:  people assuming that any insight or observation he made was the result of the Sight, rather than simple attentiveness.  Like paying attention to the sounds around him, and glancing at a nearby reflection.  It did have its uses; people were less inclined than usual to question him when he offered his opinion or gave a command, even considering who he was and the role he would someday have to assume.  But he didn’t always enjoy it.

He consciously set aside his long-enduring frustration and smiled at the old man, waiting for him to speak.

“No, Your Royal Highness.  Um, I mean, I had…

“There’s a boy here.”

And there the priest stopped, either too overcome with nerves to continue or just assuming that the Prince would know exactly what he was talking about from so few words, because of the Sight.  And Jared thought he did know; again, not from the Sight, jus a bit of intuition and self-awareness.

“There are many boys here, from the looks of it.  I’m guessing you mean that there’s one particular boy here, and he’s just joined you, and is having a difficult time of it?”

“Yes, Your Royal Highness.”

“And you were wondering if I would speak with the boy before I leave?”

“Yes, Your Royal Highness.”

“Well then, give me a moment and we’ll be off.”

Jared turned and walked towards his guard, who were still readying their bikes as he had been a moment ago, and called out to his Captain.

“Matthias!  Small delay here.”

A small man, barely older than Jared himself, stepped away from the other men-at-arms, grinning wickedly.

“Have we insufficiently pillaged here?”

“No, your evil ways have been quite sufficient.  There’s just something I need to attend to before we leave.”

“The crown must weight heavy on someone so dull and infirm.”

“The crown part is easy, despite my lack of wits.  This is a different matter.”

Matthias noticed the priest standing near his Prince’s ride, and his next question was more serious.”

“Is everything okay?  Should I rouse Canaan?”

Jared looked over at his own priest, already astride his own motorcycle and dozing, the stains on his robe of last night’s food and drink—especially drink—clear in the morning sun.

“No, the matter’s not with me.  No need to wake the poor thing.”

Matthias was visibly relieved.  It had been nearly two years since the last time the Sight had overcome his Prince, and he was due another Fit at any time.  It was why he had argued against this visit to the outlying towns when they were first setting out two months ago, and why he was in such good spirits now that their tour was nearly at an end.  They were only a few days’ ride from home, where Jared could be properly cared for—in private—when his next Fit inevitably came.

“Alright, then,” he said, “Will you be long?  Should the men stand down and ready to take another meal here?”

Jared shook his head.  “This should take only a moment.”

He turned back to the priest and waved in the direction of the Care-Keep, its spire clearly visible on the other side of the town.

“Lead on, Father.”

The priest nodded and began walking back towards the Care-Keep, a nervous shuffling that suggested a great deal more urgency and speed than was actually translated to his pace.  Jared found it easy to keep up with him, asking a few questions as he passed through the town, observing the life unfolding around him, seeking an understanding that came from him mind, rather than his curse.

“How old is the boy, Father?”

“Twelve this past summer, Your Royal Highness.”

Twelve was a bit old to be first afflicted by the Sight; it normally accompanied the first of a boy’s physical changes, around ten years of age, so it made sense that this one would be having a more difficult time than most accepting his fate.  He must have thought himself too old, clearly past the point where the Sight would have struck him, and thus safe from it.  It would have been a shock to find himself cursed after all.

Jared paid attention to the people around him as they walked through the main street—unpaved but the gravel well tended, many of the shop fronts actually open and doing a small business, both for those who lived here and those who were passing through—and noted that there were a number of children about, many helping their parents, many others playing with each other.

It was a good sign; the droughts of three years ago were finally a memory, and as the weather was now growing chill, the days shorter, the people of this town—and the others they had passed through on their journey—were already finished with the harvest, and had time to make proper preparations for the winter, as well as celebrate the joy that sufficient food could bring.  The past years had seen too many families desperately working until the first snowfall, and sometimes even after, trying to scrape together enough sustenance that they might have a chance to survive the winter months.  This was life as it was meant to be lived, not endured, and that would have made things even more difficult for the boy when the Sight came to him:  not only was he supposedly too old, and thus safely past it, but he would have been enjoying this unexpected Good Year with his family and friends…only to have that suddenly ripped away from him.

He followed the priest to the other end of the main street and through the arched doorway into the nave of the Care-Keep, pausing as the sudden change in light left him momentarily blind.  As his eyes adjusted, he took a moment to reach out and actively use his Sight to get a feel for the place.

It was empty.  Not of people—he could feel the priest, just ahead and to the right of him, also waiting for his vision to adjust to the dim indoors.  He could also pick out the other two priests of this Care-Keep elsewhere in the building, quiet and unmoving, probably sleeping late; this was a small town, and the three of them would be plenty to attend to everyone’s needs.  There was a hot spot of activity further away, towards the rear of the building, likely the non-ordained help, responsible for cooking and cleaning and everything else that needed doing to keep things working as they should while the priests attended to their sacred duties.  And somewhere directly ahead of him was a blinding glow:  likely the boy he was to speak with, still burning intensely in the aftermath of his first Fit, and the onset of his Sight.

But nevertheless, the Care-Keep was empty.  Layers upon layers of psychic dust everywhere, long undisturbed.  The boy was likely the first in this town in a long time to require the priests’ attention, and in the intervening years, the priests had grown lazy, and quiet, attending to their other duties—to the town and people within it—as a series of chores, performed by rote, rather than the sacred obligation they were.

Jared found himself growing more and more angry.  Spiritually, there was no difference between this Care-Keep and an old abandoned barn.  Except that barn would harbor them memories of the simple births, life and deaths that had happened within its shelter in years past.  Here, there was nothing.  It was a miracle that the rest of the town throbbed so with life, with its heart so dead and cold.

Jared decided to mention this to Canaan, and make sure, once he returned home, that the boy was brought to a different Care-Keep, even if it meant leaving his town and family behind—as though the onset of the Sight didn’t do that job well enough, wherever the boy ended up living—to a place where he’d actually receive the care and instruction he needed.

Shapes grew out of the darkness as his eyes became accustomed to the low light, and he could see the priest already making his way into the main hall, not even waiting to see if his Prince was following him.  Another burst of anger at the insolence, added to the clear dereliction of duty here.  He took a deep breath and tried to set it aside, knowing it wouldn’t help him with the boy, and went after the priest.

He could see the boy immediately, sitting by himself near the front, staring blankly at the altar or an indeterminate point somewhere beyond.  He was taller than Jared had expected, though he corrected himself:  the boy was nearly two years older than most when the Sight came to them, of course he’d be tall, already in the midst of sprouting to his full adult height.

He didn’t approach the boy immediately—just because the priests here were criminally lax in their service didn’t mean that Jared had to follow their lead—and instead walked past him, directly to the altar.

He knelt, bowing his head, emptying his mind, reaching out with his Sight to encompass the altar, the Care-Keep, and the entire town in his no-mind attention, as he’d been taught so many years before.  And then opening his heart to them all.

And in the quiet whisper and thrum that was the coursing life of the town, he discovered his anger again; it had turned inward (as it so often did), but this time with cause.  Who was he to be judgemental of the priests when he’d also failed in his duties?  He’d been so concerned with the primary reasons for his trip here and the other towns as Prince—accounting, reviewing the magistrate’s plans for seeking out and stopping the illegal mining operations that tended to spring up here near the border’s of his father’s lands—that he hadn’t visited the Care-Keep himself before now, just a few hasty moments of prayer and meditation with Canaan by the fire before sleep, and likely wouldn’t have even thought to enter this building at all had the priest not approached him.  His responsibility was not to observe and pass judgement on others’ piety; setting aside his parents and secular destiny, as a man with the Sight, it was his role to serve, to tend to his own soul and those of the people around him, wherever he might be.  And in that he had failed.  The inability of this Care-Keep and its priests to properly serve its people—with or without a boy of the Sight to attend to—was a sadness.  That he was only just now noticing, and absent the involvement of the very people he’d been so quick to condemn:  that was a sin, and something only he could redress.

Having found the seed of his anger, he embraced it, named I, and in doing so robbed it of its power over him.  He was free again to once more reach out to the town, this time with his whole, unemcumbered heart.  He felt the dust begin to stir, then blow away.  It was more than he could do to fully restore life to this Care-Keep and the town it served—much more than a dozen Sighted men could do in the brief time he had—but he could at least lay the paths for the work to come later.

He exhaled deeply, concluding the ritual, and opened his eyes.  As he reached out to the dried Hiaku leaves in the bowl on the alter before him, taking one and crushing it over the phalanx of candles, scatter the dust amongst the flames, he added one more item to discuss with Canaan and the priests back home:  bringing a team of Sighted out here, even in the face of oncoming winter, to continue the work he had just begun, to restore life to this nearly-dead Care-Keep.  If the current priests could be revived in their own faith and duties in the process, all the better; if not, there was no end to the secular work they could be put to in keeping with their oaths to serve.

He got to his feet and turned around, and found the boy staring directly at him, tears streaming down his face.

“My name’s Jared.”

The boy opened his mouth, stuttering briefly before saying, “Why do I…feel…” and then he began to cry in earnest, but did not bow his head, keeping his eyes locked on the Prince.

“There’s a lot to learn,” Jared said, “A lot for me to tell you, and only a little while before I have to leave.

“Come with me.”

He walked over to the boy, and as the boy rose he put an arm around his shoulders, leading him back to the entrance of the main hall.

“What’s your name?”

In between sobs, “Sam.”

“I’m glad to meet you, Sam.”

Just before the doorway between the main hall and the nave, Jared turned he and Sam to the right, heading towards a smaller archway and a winding set of stairs beyond it.

“Are we…” Sam asked, “…We’re not allowed to go up here.”

“The first thing you need to learn, Sam, is that those words don’t apply to you anymore.  The Sight is a burden none of us should have to carry, but it does have its benefits.”

Not to mention the fact that Jared was also the Prince, and thus forbidden nothing outside his father’s word, but there was no need to confuse the boy.  And, truthfully, the Sighted were forbidden nothing that they wanted…which was part of what made it such a curse.

He had no problem guiding the boy to the stairs, knowing exactly where they’d lead.  Every Care-Keep—even the one in the capital where he lived—was constructed to the exact same design, passed on through the generations from an origin now nearly-forgotten and not often considered.  These stairs led to the top of the spire, an area that was normally off limits to everyone, including the priests, but as he’d told the boy, those rules no longer applied to him.

The boy followed Jared up the steps, circling around and around, until they came to a trap door.  Jared reached up and pushed it open, and then led Sam out onto the top level of the spire.  There were no walls, just the pointed roof above them, and circling in place, they could see the entire town, laying below them, and the fields to the south of them, the forests to the north, the paved highway stretching away like a dirty scar to the west, the road Jared and his men would be taking home, as soon as he was done here.  The blue sky overhead was hard and brittle, a cold wind skipping beneath it.

He walked Sam over to a small bench, sitting him there and then joining him.  Sam’s tears were tailing off, and he was mostly wiping at a damp face and dripping nose with his shirt-sleeve now.

“This is how we’re going to begin:  tell me what happened to you.”

Sam sat in silence for a bit, and Jared reached out to him, feeling the walls he’d thrown up against the memories of his Fit.  They were thick and expansive, but not very well built and still fresh, and Jared was able to very quietly and softly find a few cracks in them, wearing them away, gently opening the door for Sam’s memories to come through.

“I was…I was awake, but I thought I was still sleeping,” Sam said, the words faltering from his mouth as they were pushed out into the world by the weight of the memories behind them.  “I thought I was dreaming.

“My daddy was awake, and I could see him, even though he was downstairs, sitting at the table.  It burned!  I smelled smoke, and it hurt.  And then there was my momma, and sisters, and they were all around me, everywhere, and I was in the middle, and they were all fire, and I never had anything hurt me like that.

“And there were all these voices talking, not just my daddy and momma but everyone, like the whole town was right there in my room with me, yelling at me all these things I couldn’t get.  I couldn’t feel the bed anymore, couldn’t feel my arms or legs or nothing.  And it got louder and hotter, until there wasn’t anything else, and then I don’t remember anything.

“I was here when I woke up.  No one’s come to see me since, not even momma.”

It was all pretty standard stuff, things Jared had heard a dozen times before.  It didn’t compare at all to what he’d gone through when the Sight had come over him for the first time when he’d been just nine years old, but as in most things, Jared’s experience had proven out to be quite different from everyone around him.

He leaned back, giving the boy the space to say more if he wanted to.  There was more to it, of course, but most boys of this age—particularly in a small town this far out from the capital—didn’t have the vocabulary to describe the deeper feelings that came with a Fit.  The was it felt like some second-skin, between your real skin and your bones, was being slowly flayed away, and a burning essence would leak through the cracks.  The way you could feel how small your skull was, your mind exploding outward, torn to pieces as it passed through the bone cage it normally hid within.  The way the very You that you normally inhabited was utterly gone, and you were thrown between everyone around you like a leaf in a raging tide.

Young boys usually didn’t have the words to try to describe it.  And Sam was no different, despite being slightly older than most who went through this for the first time.  He sniffled a few more times, but remained silent.

“Okay,” Jared said, “I want you to pay attention to me as I say this.  I hear you, and I believe you.”

Sam looked up at the Prince’s face, and could see the truth there, and latched onto it.

“I went through the same thing when I was much younger, and so do many boys your age, every year.  It wasn’t a dream; it really happened.

“Now I want you to forget everything those priests,” (it was hard to keep his disappointment in them completely out of his voice, but he pushed quickly past it), “have told you about what happened to you.  They mean well, but they’ve never gone through it themselves.

“What happened to you is called a Fit.  It’s when the Sight overwhelms you, and there’s no way to control it.  It’s scary, but it can’t actually hurt you, and if you’re ready for it, and properly prepare yourself, it will be over before you know it.”

“Have you ever had one?”

“Of course I have.”  Jared laughed a little, and was gladdened to see that Sam knew he wasn’t being laughed at, that it was just genuine amusement at the idea.  “Every single boy who has the Sight will have Fits.  That’s how it starts, and they come back around every couple of years.  The priest do what they can to help you hold them off and keep the Sight under control, but eventually it builds up to the point where it won’t be controlled anymore, and it takes over for a little bit.

“But here’s the important part to remember:  having a Fit doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  We all have them.  And more importantly, if you work hard at it, the rest of the time, you’ll be fully in control of it.

“Wanna see what that’s like?”

Sam looked up at him, confused.  “How?”

“Just hold my hand here, and close my eyes.”

This was a trick that Jared had learned years ago, from an old Sighted man who lived within his father’s house.  Had lived, for he died shortly after Jared had met him (he’d never known the old man existed until his own Sight came over him), but in that brief window of time, barely two months, the man had taught Jared more about the Sight than everyone else combined in those first few years.  Jared didn’t have two months with Sam—barely more than another hour or so—but he was going to do what he could in the time he did have.

He took Sam’s hand, closed his own eyes, and reached out to the boy.  He opened himself and gathered Sam’s essence within him, and then began reaching out to the people and places around them.

“Alright, now there’s someone, just below us…probably the priest who brought me here.  He knows we’re up here, and is worrying himself sick, but doesn’t dare come up here to disturb us.  And there, off to our left, two more people, I’m assuming the other priests of this Care-Keep, and they’re not doing too much, probably reading or napping.  To the right you can feel people working hard with a purpose…probably your help, getting ready for the noon meal.”

“That’s Josie and Sam!  His name is Sam, like me.”  There was a sad pause, then, “They’re the only ones who are nice to me anymore.”

“Then cling to them.  Most people will have a hard time being nice to you now…they don’t understand what happened to you, and will be a little scared.  When you find people who don’t care, and love you for who you are, love them back with everything you have.  Understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”  Jared very carefully brought his and Sam’s essences back to their bodies at the top of the spire, and then released Sam’s back to himself.  When he opened his eyes, he found Sam still sitting there, eyes, closed, but there was a small smile rising through the tears still drying on his face.

“Do you see what I mean?” he asked Sam.

“You really did that?  Went where you wanted to go, just because you could?”

“Yes.  I could, and I did.  And I took you with me.

“It’s not easy to do, especially bringing someone else with you, but the most important thing for you to learn is that control.  With it, you are blessed, and able to live and serve beyond anyone else.  Without it, you’re an animal, raving and writhing in your own mess.  Do you understand me?”

“No, not really…but I’ll try.”

Jared was momentarily stunned by the boy’s honesty.  Of course he didn’t understand, the very idea of controlling the Sight instead of having it control you was something Jared was still struggling with, twenty years later.  But it was unusual for a boy in so vulnerable a place to admit that he actually was vulnerable.  There were depths here that his humble surroundings hadn’t suggested.  Even more important to get him to a Care-Keep with priests who would do right by him…maybe even back to the capital itself, with Jared’s own priests (except Canaan, of course).

“Alright, open your eyes.”  Sam did so, and looked back up at Jared.  “I can’t explain everything to you right now…it’s a process that takes years, not minutes.  But I want you to know a few more things before I leave.

“One:  you are the only one responsible for what happens to you next.  The priests here are nice, but…not exactly what you need right now.  But they’re what you’ve got, so you’ll have to make the best of it.

“Second:  drink the Hiaku tea they prepare for you, when and how they tell you.  No questions.  The tea will help you gain control over the Sight, and forestall the next Fit for as long as possible.  If you drink it when and how they tell you, your next Fit won’t come over you for several years, and in the meantime you can prepare for it, learning and readying yourself.

“Third:  the priests here only serve two purposes.  They prepare the tea for you, and maintain the histories that the Sighted pass on to themselves through the generations.  That’s it, as far as you have to be concerned.  They do other things for the people of this town—well, they should, at least—but you’re no longer just another boy living in this town.  You’ve the Sight.  And there concerns are no longer your concerns, at least not until you’ve gained control over your Sight.  You’ll do that with the tea, and with practice, and by reading through the histories of those who’ve come before you.”

This was all a lot for Sam to take in; Jared could easily feel how full his mind was getting, could see it in his face without bothering to reach out with his Sight.

“Is there anything you want to know?” he asked the boy.

“Does it ever stop?”  And there were many more questions buried within that one, like “Will I ever get to see my family again?”  “Will I ever not be weird and an outcast?”  “Will it ever be quiet again?”  Jared didn’t have answers to the rest of them, not in the few minutes he had left, and so just answered the first one.

“No, it doesn’t stop.  But it does get better.  Easier.”

He put his arm around the boy again, and leaned back, staring out into the cold blue sky, letting a few moments of silence fill in all the cracks he could feel opening in the boy beside him.