All posts by erik


It’s nice to be here! Allow me to introduce myself. My name, as you might know, is Erik. I know a version of most of you, but I like to just make a few introductions after I skip into a new timeline. I know, I know, you might have heard this before, if this timeline is like any of the other ones. I seem to get around. And unlike some of me, I like to be upfront about being a semi-stranger to this track. These things happen and I’ve found it really doesn’t really pay to lurk around the corners unobtrusively. It seems like the Erik before me was a fairly decent (if somewhat moody) guy, and I guess I’m very similar. You might not even notice. (I’m just glad he [like me]) saved his passwords in his browser. It makes things so much easier in the transition.

I hadn’t really noticed when this happened, although last night while working late a key part of my work computer’s system had gone missing within a day or so without any real possible way of it happening. But I just figured “Computers, you know?” And I do, so I didn’t pay it any mind. That is until I took a shower this morning and noticed something really odd. As I was reaching for my towel I looked down and noticed that one (or both) of the cats had stolen the plastic caps off the bolts holding down the toilet. I mentioned it to Debbie so she could be on the lookout for them, but she tells me that I never put them on. I specifically remember doing it and put the two events together.

So here I am. I hope the placeholder me that was here before was kinder than some incarnations of me that I’ve run across. Or at least after, if you get my meaning. I try to be kind and I like to draw out a laugh here and there, and I hope I can be of some assistance where needed. Just let me know, I hope we’ll have some fun times.

Erik ’67 timeline prime (in my view).

Second Lucid Dream

Back in September I had my first lucid dream that lasted more than just a few seconds. This morning I had my second. I had fallen asleep thinking about a video I’d seen on twitter of what has become a common theme: someone raging at someone else. This particular one had a maskless redneck sucker-punching a young protester in a mask that was holding a sign. At some point in the dream I was in a crowded theater (no virus overtones) and I noticed that Cjaye, a former coworker, was sitting in the row behind me a little ways away. She waved at me and said it was funny running into me so soon after last time. I hadn’t seen her this century. I was pretty happy to see her though.

The movie started and it was a rehashing of the video I’d seen. I recognized it and that I had been thinking about it. I thought, “This must be a dream”, and with what has been the training I’ve been doing I looked at my hands. This time my right hand’s ring and index fingers were significantly smaller than the others, which were normal sized. I was happy that I didn’t have to stay in the theater, and I got up and walked towards the emergency exit near the screen and went out. I exited into what I thought looked like a big old 1950’s style apartment building. I headed to the exit and thought, “I want to go to the beach”. As I exited I was in a big city like New York, but I thought, “The beach is just around the corner”. The light slowly shifted from ambient directionless light to bright California sun coming from behind the next block of buildings, so I turned that way.

I got past the buildings into a rocky area with a lot of people that gave way to very granular sand with a pinkish hue. The beach was packed and there were two UPS trucks on the packed sand at the tideline, one the normal delivery truck, and one a bigger box-truck that had the Ryder logo and yellow coloring 3/4 of the way to the back, but the last 1/4 had the UPS logo. It seemed to be a demolition derby situation and the delivery truck was stuck pointed into the surf while the box truck did a big Tokyo-drift slide smacking its back end into the front of the delivery truck.

I started down the beach, weaving in-and-out between the revelers, and saw another stuck UPS truck with a frail grandmotherly-type woman sitting in a hole in the sand by the back tire. She was scooping out sand from her hole and sprinkling it on some sort of screen while her Whippet dog was standing on its hind legs helping sift the sand. It made me laugh and I kept going trying to find a spot to stand in the surf away from the action.

I slipped and fell down on the sand in a small clearing of people where there were several big Monitor lizards and a very large poisonous snake that was an orange and creamy blotched monster. The snake came after me and I was trying to scramble away on my back by pushing my feet and elbows in the sand, but I wasn’t making progress in typical dream style. The snake got near my legs and I gently tried to push it in a new direction with my knee when I remembered I was dreaming. I waved my hand over the snake in a magician-style movement and the sand underneath it sank and the snake disappeared into it with only its head poking out of the hole. It flicked its tongue at me and stayed in the hole. The Monitor lizards took an interest in me but found themselves sitting in holes with leashes on them held by the people nearby as I passed. I was really happy that I’d been able to just stop the monster chasing theme in such a fun way.

I kept on going down the beach and ran into one of my Middle School math teachers, Mr. Alba. It was strange seeing him. I liked him as a teacher, but he didn’t have a huge impact on me. In fact, the only thing I can really recall from his classes was when he was naturalized as a citizen he came to school in a blond wig because he was an American now. He recognized me and I exchanged pleasantries with him and kept going down the beach.

I came to a little shop that was selling books and saw one that I recognized as a Dr. Seuss book, but its spiral bound cover was was laminated and grimy. The title was like 20 words long each in a different color. I tried to read them, and I knew they were funny, but in usual dream fashion I couldn’t make the letters spell out anything. I really wanted to remember what the title was so I could put it in this blog post, that I knew I was going to write, but the harder I tried to focus on the words the more frustrated I got. I think that’s what finally woke me up.

I was much happier with this lucid dream than the last one. Things seemed to work better as I tried less to control what was going on, but just change the things I didn’t like. It would be great to be able to regularly handle issues in my dreams that I don’t like, but I wonder if whatever anxiety causes conflicts needs actual resolution in dream fashion, and not removal by magic. But I don’t feel that the frustration of being chased by monsters, trapped in crowds, or whatever, is really resolved by my dreams. And who really wants to have chronic nightmares? I very seldom have good dreams. My wife wakes up laughing often, at least as often as I wake up almost screaming. I think I’d prefer her experiences.

Lucid Dream

I hadn’t intended to do a sequential series of dreams, but in this turbulent time I’ve been pretty loaded up with them, at least when I can sleep. Last night a cat woke me up about her usual time after four in the morning. I let her out and when I went back to sleep I was having a strange dream where a friend from high school had been sent to look for me by my wife. He rode a bicycle up pulling a trailer with a fish tank full of water on it. I had had it with the world and was leaving town and my friend knew he had to kind of talk me down. We stopped on the corner of the busy street heading back to my house where I saw the smaller aquarium from my desk tipped over in the gutter with a top corner broken off. There were fish everywhere and I started picking them up and brushing the leaves and dirt off them and putting them in my friends trailer aquarium. I started noticing these weren’t my fish, and they were salt water fish, but realized fresh water was better than no water and put them in the tank, too.

We got back to my house and got the fish inside and as I started dealing with the rescued fish I recognized the dream for what it was. I think I’ve written before about the pet store my brother and I owned and how I have reoccurring dreams about going back to find the neglected tanks of fish that were abandoned for decades. In reality we moved all the fish from our store home to my parents house, nothing was lost, yet I dream often about fish suffering in too little water with no food for years.

When I began to suspect that I was in a dream I actually did what I had tried to do for years to recognize that I was dreaming, I looked at my hands. I’d heard that your brain has a hard time realistically representing common things, but you usually don’t try to perceive detail in a dream. My right hand was backwards on my wrist with my palm facing away from me, and my middle, ring, and little finger were one piece with lines where they should be separate, like a toy. As I tried to spread my fingers I had to use my left hand to pull on my little finger. They separated with some effort, but it was like pulling on gum and they stretched and parted from each other then snapped back together.

Since the time in high school when I read about lucid dreaming in Omni magazine I’ve tried to be able to control my dreams. But on the few instances I have actually realized I was dreaming the dream immediately shatters and I wake up. In this dream, after I realized it for what it was, I looked around and nobody was in the house with me anymore, but the dream didn’t end. I’d always wanted to fly in my dreams, but on any flying dream I have I don’t get too much sky, just bump along the road or up a mountainside. I decided I wanted to try flying and began swimming up towards the ceiling. As I got close I could kind of see through the ceiling and I broke through and the roof of my house splashed away from me like water and I climbed up into the sky… for about a minute. Then I found myself bouncing along the street unable to climb higher.

I went back to swimming through the air instead of flying and the dream changed. I don’t remember much of what happened after that, but I do remember that every little while I checked my hands and realized I was dreaming again and I’d try to fly without any real success. I suppose the next time I do it I ought to give up trying to fly and see if I can teleport instead. Or maybe I’ll try to create something and see if I can come up with something cool to do in my waking life, something that goes in a different direction than I habitually make.

Actually, maybe I should just settle for making something at all.

A Pair of Dreams

I had a couple of interesting dreams last night. In the first I was hanging out with my brother and some of his friends. We were going to some costume party and I had on this 70’s-ish one piece jumper that had frilly bellbottoms and sleeve cuffs with a kind of hotel-carpet print that was loud and flowery. It also had a matching hat that was almost like a pointy-wizards hat, but truncated at the top with a little rim. The hat’s brim matched my frilly cuffs. Everyone thought my costume was pretty crazy. Jordy, my brothers friend, had a batman costume, but it didn’t look like Batman, you had to think about it, and when you did you thought it was pretty clever. My jumpsuit had a lot of pockets with zippers and I kept finding new pockets full of stuff. My left breast pocket had a handful of quarters and nickels. I was glad to find that the costume had a zipper fly as I was searching, because I was wondering how I was going to go to the bathroom without skinning out of the whole mess.

I got up to the counter to buy my ticket to get in and said, “One, please,” fishing for a handfull of quarters in my change pocket.

The ticket lady said, “What?”

One. Please.”

She said that the tickets only came in pairs, and cost $10 because it was a date thing. I said, “Oh, my wife doesn’t allow that, I’ll just pay full price and go in alone.” They thought that was crazy and were putting up a fuss when I woke up. In the bleary waking-up I was disappointed that nobody would get to see my wacky oufit.

In the second, I was back in the pottery studio just before it was closing. Everyone was working furiously trying to finish the work for the semester as people were taking down the stuido equipment. I couldn’t find my locker to get my stuff, and I kept going up and down different stairs looking for where my locker should be. I came down a set of stairs into the glaze area and saw my apron with my name on a piece of masking tape on it and started to put it on. It turned into a pair of overalls that had a tag that read Erin, not Erik and Erin took it away from me because it was hers.

I turned and saw a overly-large teapot of mine on a shelf that would have held maybe a gallon-and-a-half of tea. It was a very tall teapot and had a big dome lid. The lid was glazed on and I knew it wouldn’t come off. I took ahold of the lid with the palm of my hand wrapped around it and twisted really hard and I heard a glassy snap! and it came free in my hand, but it had broken away a chunk of the top. I didn’t really like the piece, anyway. Just then John Shaw, the instructor and a good friend of mine came over to see how things were going. I was so happy to see him. He looked at the teapot and asked, “What have you got there?” I handed it to him and he said, “Well, this is interesting.” and we stepped inside the broken edge of the pot. We walked down and around the side of it, or maybe a kind of spiral ramp inside the wall. John was pointing out the stoneware representations of draped curtains and textured carvings. He was saying, “Oh, that’s really nice! Why did you put it inside the pot?” I didn’t know, but I remembered being kind of proud how the textures had turned out. He told me I should save them for another piece. I picked up some stone draperies bigger than me and walked on. We got a little farther and saw many tiger and lion sculptures on textured stones that were life sized. I told him I hadn’t carved those, but had hired it out to a friend because I didn’t know how to make animals. John said it was a good idea.

We were just exiting the teapot when I woke up just 3 minutes before my alarm was supposed to have gone off, but I could feel the dream still right there and thought I could have just gone back to it for a couple minutes. I really miss my time with John and Diane and how they always had time to critique work, or just shoot the breeze.

It’s been a fairly melancholy day and I can’t really stop thinking about those dreams. You can tell because I’m actually writing something, which I’ve been pretty hard pressed to do, lately.

The First Time I Arted

I did the mandatory creative things as a child: finger painting, the Kindergarten low-fire clay coil-pot for mothers day, coloring. I never thought I had any aptitude for art, even after took an aptitude test in middle school that said I should be an artist. In fact, the day I got the highly anticipated aptitude results was the day I began losing faith in the system*. I had been looking forward to finding out what direction I should take and I was devastated upon reading ‘Artist’. I don’t know what in my innocuous answers led them towards artist, but I suspect an underlying current of weirdness in my answers. Looking back, I suppose I might have scored in the upper decile for weirdness. Maybe that was the key visible in the aptitude test: the kid is weird, maybe his only function will be to annoy the establishment.

The beginnings lie with my dad having a drawer in his dresser I used to peek into when nobody was noticing. It had nicely organized envelopes of foreign money, mostly coins that just fascinated me. I especially loved the New Zealand kiwi’s on the dull grey and bronze metal bits, and the word Lire on the Italian money. There were also old broken watches and other discarded, but not cast off, bits of life’s accumulations. I have drawers and boxes (and boxes) of that, too. Most likely everybody does.

At some point I began to get some instruction from my dad on fixing things, which began with taking things apart. I remember him opening up the TV with stern instruction to never touch the capacitors. He’d pull out tubes and we’d head to Sears where we could plug the tubes into a big testing machine and discover what was broken and get a replacement. I began my own experiments with disassembly, usually not involving repair in any form, although there was the one success with a stuffed animal music box, but that’s another rambling story.

I think when I was about 10 I asked my dad for one of the watches that was mechanical in nature from the drawer. I figured out (or was shown) how to take off the back and get at the itty-bitty screws and took the watch apart into the smallest pieces and laid them out on the table. I found all the individual pieces interesting, but the chassis was the crown jewel. I hadn’t ever seen anything like it. There were so many facets, holes, and mount points that I couldn’t imagine holding such a design in my head to make it come out as a functioning timepiece.

I started wearing watches when I was in middle school, because that was part of becoming an adult. Keeping track of time was important. I had a very hard time accepting that, and it’s still something that rankles me to this day. When I was about 14 or 15 I’d gone through several cheap swatches. I still played like a kid and they weren’t particularly shock resistant. I had one that I particularly liked that had a big rotatable diver-type bezel that had orange and black sections. I’m a particularly fidgety person and I’d twist the dial all through classes. When that watch broke I was heartbroken. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I could replace something with an identical item until I started wearing only white Converse Skid Grips a few years later.

I couldn’t quite toss that watch, and I hated that my whole life had become slave to knowing when something needed to happen, so I had a moment of quiet rebellion. I carefully disassembled the watch to its smallest pieces, set aside the chassis and face, then dumped all the loose gears, screws, and hands into the body and closed it back up. I casually wore it around for weeks trying to not draw any real attention to anything unusual about my timepiece, although when anyone asked me what time it was I’d shrug and say I didn’t know. When someone pointed out I could look at my watch I’d then hold out my arm and rattle the pieces at them. I believe this cemented my reputation as a weird kid and I’m fortunate enough to have eventually found some other weird kids so I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life writing manifestos.

I had not considered it art at the time, and it’s only been in the last few years when I started looking for the germ that set me on my path that I realized it was that expression of frustration with the loss of childhood’s idyllic freedom. Unconsciously I’d created a crude piece of art. I’m still surprised that my 7th grade aptitude test** recommended I become an artist or a forest ranger. I suppose it’s a little late to look into forestry jobs.

* The most anxiety producing question in my whole childhood was “What are you going to be when you grow up?”

** Somehow I still have the test results in my files.

Closing Doors

Back when I worked at the University I always looked forward to the yearly SuperComputing conference. And even after I got laid off I kept following it on Facebook and news feeds to see what was going on. Today it just seemed so beyond the scope of what I have time for, or ever will again, that I finally unfollowed.

Maybe the final straw was discovering that the 2019 conference is in Denver and I’ve just never been able to get excited about Denver. The biggest highlight of the event, for me, was the roaming of a new city. Maybe that doesn’t say much for my commitment to computing excellence. I did, actually, learn quite a bit from the scheduled conference plenary activities, but the exploring seemed to really open up my mind and kickstart my creativity. We barely got checked into the hotel before taking to the streets wandering up and down looking for a meal somewhere that wasn’t standard fare. Then whenever time permitted we’d aimlessly wander streets we’d never been down until we’d seen as much of the city as we could take in. We calculated that in the eight days we were in New Orleans we might have walked nearly 100 miles. I saw a lot of cities that way: Austin, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Portland, New Orleans, but not Phoenix. Phoenix was awful. When two cab drivers refused to take me to my hotel because it was after dark, I decided that the couple times I walked the mile back from the convention center, in the dark (cowardly cabbies), was enough.

I imagine that I’ll still check in on the top 500 supercomputer list every year or so to see who’s currently winning the race, but there’s something that seems so sad about the choice to close that door completely. I had thought that my career would at least keep me in that orbit and that some day I’d be one of the old geezers like I’d see at the conferences.

I also got to wondering how many other doors are still cracked open. I closed my Rock Climbing door several years ago when I realized I’d never do that again and gave away my rack. I’d thought my Magic The Gathering door was open, but when my friend’s son told me everything was completely different now I heard hinges squeal as it nearly slammed. I think it might be jammed on an old elf deck, though. The hand-me-down upgrade to my golf clubs sits in the basement. A couple weeks ago I accepted I’d never golf again, no matter how much I’d like to. I’m similarly mocked by the fancy new clicker bindings and boots for my snowboard that sit shiny in their 1990’s boxes.

Closing doors is a part of life, only you start to reach a certain age and the doors start getting closed for you, and the frequency accelerates alarmingly. And here I reach the second crux that, I believe, everyone needs to pass. Closing the doors, and especially, having them closed for you, feels like part of you dying, and seems to leave voids unfilled behind the doors. Voids where you’d been putting memories, but never again. Maybe this seems like giving up, or failure, but it really isn’t. It’s just an ending. Things end. Like finishing a good book. The book ends, and you can think about the story, and you can walk again it’s now-familiar pathways when you need that story’s reminders, but the story has ended.

If that was all there was to it, though, it would be tragic. But there are always new doors to open. And, believe me, I can open doors faster than time can close them. (I wish I could get this idea of learning to paint in water colors out of my head.) This is the Crux Part II, bracing open the closing doors wastes a lot of time and energy that could be better spent diving through unopened ones. This is not easy. There is a lot of pain in closing the doors. It’s like a friendship that shouldn’t have drifted apart, but did. Especially painful if there wasn’t any reason for it to have done so. Maybe we need to be continually opening new doors so that the wonder of exploration offsets, somewhat, the pain of closing the finished ones.

Deja Vu

This is a story for which I really have no point, only it is something that happens to me quite frequently. I don’t have answers, or really any idea that this will broaden anyone’s horizon. But today it struck me quite hard.

I get a lot of deja vu moments, and frequently I can trace them back to dreams I’ve had in the recent past. This morning I was standing in my cubicle at work. I was cutting a strand of Poly Pull Line that the remodeling crew had used to run some temporary network cable through the ceiling. Line that I had scavenged out of a (clean) garbage can after they had finished cleaning up a week or so ago. It was good line, and my hoarder nature thought that it could be useful sometime in the future. I was correct.

Our office is in the process of remodeling all of the employee work spaces and we had to relocate everyone to some reclaimed space that had been part of the office library. There was space for all but four of us to be packed together like college roommates into a small grid of shabby 6’x6′ rented temporary cubicles. A few of the luxurious (?) cubicles that had previously housed most of the staff were moved into a corner of the basement, to be occupied by the remaining employees. The IT department, consisting of the CTO and yours truly, were relegated to the basement where my Rainbow of Texts says we belong.

I’d condensed my belongings, which filled my office to a size I’d hoped I could fit into an 8’x8′ cubicle. I did not, however, have a good space for my white board, a key productivity tool. I’d decided to hang it via the aforementioned line from the tops of two cupboard-ish cabinet doors. As I reached out to pick up my disposable box cutter a familiar, yet strange, feeling came over me. I saw in a dream from earlier this spring my hand reach out and take hold of the green tool and extend the blade half an inch. I severed the distinct blue and white striped collection of nylon strands which immediately frayed apart seeking freedom from long-coiled imprisonment. I looked up across an unfamiliar officescape with it’s low ceiling and loathed fluorescent lighting. And as I saw it in the dream it happened in tandem with my waking morning.

I remember waking at that point from the dream. Upon immediate reflection, I didn’t recognize the room, in fact, I’d never actually stood in that corner of that room before, as previously it was wall-to-wall with rows of large steel filing cabinets. And I thought it odd that I was dreaming of purposely cutting nylon cord in a place which I didn’t know, for a task I wasn’t aware, while looking over a cubicle wall. And as it unfolded in my waking life there was a twinge as if I was being extruded between two realities. And as soon as it came, it left.

I don’t believe there is any mystic or cosmic significance to this. It was a nearly pointless event in a pointless morning. You would think if there was some purpose to it there should have been some sort of significance. Proposing to my wife, the birth of a child, getting a seconds advance intuition to ready myself for battling Thanos. But it was just a nothing moment and gone.

I frequently note these instances with a simple, “Woah. Deja vu.” that pre-dates Keanu’s “Matrix” exclimation.* Long time friends have been privy to many postulations on these events, with musings on reality and whether or not I am the source of all.**  I remember one occasion, Jack and I were trying to find our way out of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and we’d somehow gotten ourselves into some sort of ‘backstage’ section of the casino. It was a long square access corridor of some sort, sparsely lit with dim bulbs. I chopped a step and almost stumbled at the sudden squeeze of a memory of a particularly nasty nightmare. The next door would open to reveal a hoard of Doom entry level minions that would overwhelm us. But everything was so clear. Jack to my left. The ragged denim jacket which I was wearing with it’s newly minted smell of cigarette smoke, the brand of which I only seem to encounter in a casino. I muttered my “deja vu” and Jack asked if it was good or bad. I said, “Doom”, or something simplistic like that, yet we still opened the door into just another segment of empty corridor.

I’ve read that some scientists believe that the feeling of deja vu is just a concurrence of neurons firing and triggering a feeling of memory at the time we are experiencing something. Normally I’d buy that, but I remember my dreams. And, as the Queen of hearts said, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only runs backwards.”

Maybe I’ll go watch “The Arrival” again.

* Somebody owes me royalties.
** But that’s another story best left untold.

Mad Doctor Professor Bang

Sometime last year at a visit to my parents house my mom gave me the traditional Sheaf of Childhood Stuff to take home. And just as traditionally I just quickly flipped through it and dropped it in the recycling bin. My mom dug it out and said I really should take a look at it. I gave it more than just a cursory glance and found several early writing examples that I have no memory of ever creating.

So I give to you this day my story of mad doctor Professor Bang! Written, evidently, in September of 1576. (it is also apparent I hadn’t discovered commas before fourth grade, although exclamation marks seemed to be important)

Transcription for those who are hard of reading childhood printing (spelling has been corrected, but punctuation left as written):

It all began in the laboratory of the mad doctor Professor Bang. I stood back as the Professor pulled the switch and then it came from the dead! The mummy stood up it walked up to me! I heard him say that it would help him rob fort knots! I tore out he sent the mummy after me! I ran into the nearest police station. They shot him but he was already dead nothing happened. The professor called him back he stole the biggest diamond in the world! 2 weeks later I found out that he was going to take over the world with the biggest laser tank he wanted 500,000 in gold we got Steve Austen man he got the mummy and burnt him he broke the laser he gave back the diamond and locked up the professor

Somewhat derivative, and some copyright violation, but still earned a Great from the teacher.

I can’t imaging having to listen to eight-year-olds all day long.

Teachers are the real heroes.

The Rainbow of Texts

For several years now I’ve been threatening to write about a concept I was introduced to in college by one of my favorite professors, Gene Fitzgerald, which he called “The Rainbow of Texts”. It was one of those mind-blowing concepts that is fairly simple on the surface but keeps getting deeper the longer I think about it. And I’ve thought about it for a long time.

I took my second year of Russian Language concurrently with a Russian History course from Professor Gene Fitzgerald. It was around the time Russia started to open up in the 1990’s, and I thought there was going to be a lot of opportunities there. However, I didn’t take into account my terrible ear for language. I did learn a lot of things that tangentially helped out a lot through my life, so don’t let anyone tell you a liberal arts education is only good for waiting tables.

The core thesis of the two-semester Russian History class was that we are all surrounded by a rainbow of texts that acts as a filter in how we perceive the information around us, as well as how we express ourselves. These texts are everything we take in through media, experiences, and interactions. Everything is a text and it colors the texts we take in and alters them as we experience them. Dr. Fitzgerald pointed out that two people who shared a great many texts could communicate much better than those with fewer texts in common. To better understand and communicate with Russians, you didn’t just need to know the language, but also their texts, such as history, art, and literature. We were required to read some of the near-universal Russian texts, such as Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground”, Zamyatin’s “We”, and of course, “Eugene Onegin” by Pushkin.

I did pretty well in that class, and I even got an A on my “Notes from Underground” paper while it was still in rough-draft form. It was probably the first paper I really enjoyed writing and put my feet on a compositional path, which I shirk to this very day. It did get me seriously considering my methods of communication. I had always felt like I was speaking my own language, and I started to see that in effect, we all are. The people with whom I connect most easily are people that understand the pop culture references and in-jokes that I continually reference. I worked with a guy about my age for a couple months at a tech place. We didn’t have a lot in common and at one point I showed him the Star Wars fan film “Troops“. He sat through it patiently without much of a reaction. At the end he asked me why the guy wore that mask the whole time. It turns out he doesn’t really go to movies and had never seen Star Wars, or even seen enough related Star Wars stuff to recognize the references in the video. In the end we found common ground in fishing and technology and became friends, but it was really an eye-opener to how different we can be, even in the same communities.

One day, while helping with a wheel throwing pottery class, I passed a couple students on the first day. The beginners get a demo and then are turned loose to suffer on their own for a bit before we start stepping in and helping correct the problems. These two students were throwing at wheels facing each other and the boy was doing pretty well, and the girl was starting to really get frustrated. I heard her ask the boy across from her, “Have you had this class before?” He simply said “No”, without really looking up from what he was doing. I saw her face fall at this and could feel the heartbreak of “why can’t I get this?” I backpedaled a couple steps and said to the boy, “Did you have a throwing class in High School?” He said he did, and the girl started to get a little angry. She said, “That’s just what I asked you and you said no!” I stepped in a little and asked the guy if he was majoring in science, and he confessed to being an engineering student of some flavor. I told the girl that she’d asked a specific question with the tag “this class”, which he responded in the negative. She thought it was a little pedantic, and I tried to explain that his answer wasn’t a personal affront or some sort of trickery, but was a reaction to an absolute that scientists tend to evaluate without thinking. I don’t think she really bought it, but it lives on in my personal rainbow as a prime example.

The big drawback is now I tend to evaluate, and often over-clarify, my meanings. People ask me questions and are met with a blank terminator-like stare half the time as my brain scrolls down the list of responses, evaluating and choosing what is actually being asked, and how the response will be taken. I’ve been told this is off-putting and makes me look like I’m practicing a lie. I’ve often had my meanings misinterpreted, and on several occasions mistaken someone else’s intentions. One time in high school I asked a pair of girls if they were going to the game on Friday. It was a common social pleasantry that I had adopted to fill conversational voids while trying to masquerade as a human. One girl answered that they had a Laurel’s (LDS young women’s group) activity that they were going to. She added, “Do you want to come?” I laughed, thinking it was just an attempt at humor, and not realizing it was a date activity and I was being asked out. In fact I didn’t know about my faux-pas for a couple classes until I ran into the other girl alone and she gave me an earful. I did manage seek out the girl I’d hurt to apologize and accept the invitation in a sheepish manner. Up until that point I’d really not had a text in my rainbow that covered the possibility of me personally getting asked out on a date.

This topic of understanding has been really on my mind lately as I’ve been experiencing the seeming splintering of online society into tiny, vocal, like-minded groups that form their internet tribes. A post on a social media site that gets opposition from adversarial groups seems to have no real communication and lots of hurt. This is responded to by counter attacks and escalation. Doxxing and character assassination seem to be seen as valid responses. Very little actual communication takes place. When one party tries to reach out and explain their position the effort seldom seems to be accepted as genuine and nobody seems to find a commonality in the texts. I believe I frequently see both sides are more in line than not, but the language each side is using doesn’t have the commonality needed for a meeting of minds. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, and I know that, once again, I don’t have any answers. But I do think we need to take some time in attempting to understand each other rather than just refuting and rearming.

The Russians have a saying: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

And then where will our rainbows be?


Another Social Media Song Thing

A song you like with a color in the title: “Blue Monday” by New Order
A song you like with a number in the title: “Dig the Subatomic Holdout #2″ by Beulah
A song that reminds you of summertime: “Train in Vain” by The Clash
A song that reminds you of someone you would rather forget about: “Broken Hearted Savior” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters
A song that needs to be played LOUD!: “Hammer to Fall” by Queen
A song that makes you want to dance: “Not My Slave” by Oingo Boingo
A song to drive to: “Going to California” by Led Zeppelin
A song about drugs or alcohol: “Freezer Hash” by Elbo Finn
A song that makes you happy: “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” by Joni Mitchell
A song that makes you sad: “If I’d Been the One” by .38 Special
A song you never get tired of: “Waiting Room” by Fugazi
A song from your preteen years: “Fading Lady Light” By Jefferson Starship
One of your favorite ’80s songs: “Bad” by U2
A song you would love played at your wedding: “Ohayoo Ohio” by Pink Martini
A song that’s actually a cover of another artist: “Cold Cold Heart” by Norah Jones
A favorite classical piece: Any of the Brandenburg Concertos by Bach
A song you would sing a duet with on karaoke: “Walking to You” by Everything but the Girl
A song from the year you were born: “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield
A song that makes you think about life: “Brothers Keeper” by Aimee Mann
A favorite song that has many meanings to you: “New World Man” by Rush
A favorite song with a person’s name in the title: “Dani California” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers
A song that moves you forward: “Can’t Get You Out of My head” by Kylie Minogue
A song that you think everybody should listen to: “Echoes” by Pink Floyd
A song by a band you wish was still together: “News at Ten” by the Vapors
A song by an artist no longer living: “Isolation” by Joy Division
A song that makes you want to fall in love: “Any Second Now (Voices)” by Depeche Mode
A song that breaks your heart: “Bleed Like Me” by Garbage
A song by an artist with a voice you love: “Kind and Generous” by Natalie Merchant
A song you remember from your childhood: “King of the Road” Roger Miller
A song that reminds you of yourself:“Me and Jesus Don’t Talk Anymore” by Beulah

And one of the Bonus ones that didn’t fit anywhere: “The Ghost in You” by The Psychedelic Furs