09/01 Direct Link
I guess I spent enough years in school that a certain spot in my stomach is permanently reserved for back-to-school jitters. I still can smell the sharpened pencils.

In an attempt to be cheerful and upbeat, I had for several years told people that "school wasn't so bad," but now I feel that I can admit that it was a sort of nightmare factory, and if I had been able to, I would have dropped out in the second grade. However else my life would have gone after that, I would at least be able to enjoy September.

09/02 Direct Link
This black tea is very aggressive. It doesn't give the relaxed alertness I look for in a tea; it's making me feel jangly, edgy, and restless.

This is a nasty and cruel tea. You don't drink this tea with a good book; it seems designed to be enjoyed before going out for an evening of violent crimes.

Darjeeling Giddapahar Review
TASTING NOTES: Hints of blood and suffering. The beverage of choice for murderers and thieves. Pair this tea with a defrosted blueberry bagel for a truly wicked experience.

09/03 Direct Link
I walked in the front door and gave my mother a hug.

"Your father," she said.

I raised both eyebrows, as if to say "go on," even though I knew what she had to say would not be anything good.

"... bread! He's baking bread. He's been doing it all day. Baking!"

The house did smell really good. His baking annoyed her for some reason, but I am used to this. I imagined the three of us sitting around the table enjoying freshly baked bread and laughing together, nobody annoyed about the bread, and nobody annoyed at anyone for any reason.

09/04 Direct Link
I am not at all naturally funny. I have learned through various sources that the way to be funny is to be sort of a jerk. I have tested this method on friends and acquaintances, and sometimes it works, but more often I think I only succeed in being a jerk (and not even a funny jerk).

At the same time, I can naturally be shockingly inconsiderate, which is a distinguishing feature of the jerk. So, my interactions can combine artificial jerkiness (in an attempt to be fun) with genuine jerkiness, and the sum is overall some really bad behavior.

09/05 Direct Link
I have experienced the problem of contact with with people who are "too nice." You end up wondering what they want from you, and you worry that in their minds they've already formed a secret contract, like "I will be nice to you, and in exchange you will give me X."

Overly nice people can be perceived as wimpy or creepy or boring. This creates a weird tension, and it becomes necessary to temper niceness with something else, but you become who you pretend to be, and eventually something is permanently lost, and maybe that's not an altogether bad thing.

09/06 Direct Link
Last month I mentioned the sinister giraffe toy I had bought a while ago for a friend's baby. This toy was designed to be chewed and pulled on, and who even knows what sorts of things a baby would do to a plush rattling giraffe, but I convinced myself that it was the child safety equivalent of putting a loaded revolver on a hair trigger directly into Baby's crib, and then egging him on to mess around with it.

I have not changed my stance, and the giraffe still sits on my bookshelf, occasionally asking me how old I am.

09/07 Direct Link
Her e-mail background is a repeating pattern of red flowers, and the legibility of her messages suffers because of it, as in, the flowers severely obscure the text.

"Would y[flower] like to [flower]nd meet me at [flower]?"

She knows this, but she really likes that flower. She feels represented by this background.

I set up my e-mail client to completely remove all formatting from her e-mail. When she saw that I had one of her messages open and the background was missing, she was really upset. She said I had taken her personality out of the message.

09/08 Direct Link
Bumbling around the internet as one does, I found this tip from Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan:

"You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well."

This is what I needed to hear. I am often discouraged and disappointed by the nonsense I come up with, but she's right. In another tip, she compared writing to exercise: it often hurts and you have to make time for it.

09/09 Direct Link
When numbers enter my head, they become symbols: a squiggly line, a triangle, a spiral, a little cartoon skull and crossbones. I am amused by the shapes, sure, but I am not so amused when people ask me to do things with them. What's a squiggle minus a triangle? This is what it's like to do math in my head.

Go ahead and give me some statistics. This is @# percent better than that, this building is %&|! feet tall, and I will pause a moment to take it in, realize I have no idea what you just said, and nod politely.

09/10 Direct Link
Two unrelated hair tales for you today.

Tale one, a Pakistani man I am acquainted with stopped me on the sidewalk. "What's wrong with your hairs?" he said. Taking him seriously and quite alarmed, I reached up to make sure my hair was still there, while he said "It's so white. Ha-ha!"

Tale two, the barber today asked if I would like my eyebrows trimmed. I have never been offered this service before.

If you are as skilled a practitioner of catastrophic thinking as I am, you know these are very related, and it's all over at this point.

09/11 Direct Link
"What was the last game you played?"

"It was Bananagrams."

"Was it fun?"

"It depends on who you're playing with, what kind of mood everyone is in, what other activities are available, whether or not you've eaten anything or had anything to drink recently..."

"It was a simple yes-or-no question!"

"But nothing is simple because of these FACTORS, these innumerable, complex, multi-faceted FACTORS that turn every question, decision, and interaction into an insoluble problem that requires a lifetime of study to even approach, and, impossibly, we're expected to do everything in real time and on the fly."

09/12 Direct Link
I've been writing some real garbage lately, but I've been much more consistent with my garbage. Is this a valuable exercise? I think maybe that's the wrong question.

Am I improving in any appreciable way? Am I keeping my pencil sharp? Is there nothing better I could do with my time? Is this at least moderately enjoyable?

These are the wrong questions, too. Maybe the right question isn't about why I'm doing this, but about how it feels when I don't do it.


That's not it, either. Fortunately I am comfortable shrugging and aimlessly declaring any difficult problem "a mystery."

09/13 Direct Link
Whenever something happens at work, we have to put it into the log, which is one of those marble notebooks. Someone complains about the temperature, I write it in the log. Someone's lunch is stolen from the refrigerator, that also goes in the log.

The log goes back to 2005, and every single noteworthy event that has taken place during work hours on weekdays since then has been recorded, but the logs are extremely boring to read. If you're looking for juice, if you're looking for human drama, if you're looking for inspiration for something to write about, look elsewhere.

09/14 Direct Link
I just had the most disappointing pumpernickel of my life. If you had blindfolded me and given me this slice, I would have said "Not bad for plain white bread..."

Now, to get the lack of flavor out of my mouth, I need to go out and find a real pumpernickel, one as dark as my soul, one with such overwhelming rye flavor that it's like getting whacked hard in the face with a sock pumped full of nickels, one that is so heavy and dense that I won't want to eat anything else for the rest of the day.

09/15 Direct Link
"Catskill Citizens for Clean Energy" is a non-profit anti-hydrofracking organization, and you see their bumper stickers everywhere. Their web site is at, which of course I always read as "CATS KILL CITIZENS," which amuses me so much with its warning about the dangers of adorable and fluffy kittycats that I forget about earthquakes, burning rivers, and other public health catastrophes that come with shale gas extraction.

Although I am 100% a "cat person," I find the popular view of cats as psychopathic little monsters tremendously appealing. Oh, also, right, let's ban hydrofracking. Meow-meow-meow-meow!

09/16 Direct Link
(true story!)

If you go down to the park tonight, you'd better bring a chum.
If you go down by the bridge tonight, I hope you brought a drum.

The Cuban Cannibal Beat Brigade
May charm you now with its serenade,
Just make sure they don't select you for their picnic.

As long as you don't expose your ribs, there's really no need to hide,
Just chat, oblivious, on a bench, while they commit homicide,

You'll catch a whiff of their sweet MJ,
Relax, it's all gonna be okay,
'Cause this is how the cannibals have their picnic!

09/17 Direct Link
Picnic time for cannibals,
They have to eat, it's understandable,
Kiddies to be sacrificed,
To be polite, I think I'll have a slice!

Rowboats pass, they're unaware,
They just got engaged, I guess,
We can't expect them to care!

By eight o'clock you'd better motor
They'll eat every tourist and ev-e-ry boater
Because they're hungry little cannibals.


"The Teddy Bears' Picnic" is a sinister song warning the listener about a fantastic but dangerous scene onto which one might accidentally stumble, and this variation, which is one big inside joke, has the exact same goal, only it is slightly more realistic.

09/18 Direct Link
It's a wild world, but you can rely on your intelligence and skills to get by. I'll always remember you as an independent strong-willed adult woman, girrrl, yeaah.

I hope you encounter situations that will challenge you mentally and emotionally, but not too much, just enough so that whether or not you succeed, you will continue to learn, and I hope you aren't brought down by the superficial nature of our society.

And although you've decided to leave me, I'm not bitter, nooo, it wasn't working out anyway, let's be honest, I'm a bit clingy, huh, wow-wow-wowwww.

09/19 Direct Link
It's 8:30 on Monday night, and what I would really love right now is a cup of tea. I would like to make a whole pot and just sit in this chair and listen to music and drink the tea, but I have to go to bed soon, and the tea would keep me awake.

My second choice would be a small glass of wine. Just the cheap stuff from the cardboard box would be great, but I don't have any.

My legs are extremely sore from last night's run. I get today off, and tomorrow I run again.

09/20 Direct Link
One of my good friends just had a baby, and I joked that I would talk to her again in 18 years, because I expect that the baby will monopolize her time. From what I've heard, this is a thing that happens.

She called me the day after giving birth, and was very casual about it. She actually said "Hey, what's up?"

A small and helpless human came out of her body and she's asking ME what's up. I refused to respond on her terms, and peppered her with the sort of questions one is supposed to ask about babies.

09/21 Direct Link
I am a great ice dragon.


I breathe ice crystals onto not just my foes, but anyone who crosses my path. This is not like the peppermint candy commercial where people find a frosty breeze invigorating and refreshing; if you are unprepared for the chill, you will be frozen in place until I move elsewhere. You will discover the absence of human warmth in my presence, and you will ask, "What's his problem, anyway?"

I am a cold-blooded creature, and it can't be helped. I don't want to hurt or freeze anyone -- it is just in my nature.

09/22 Direct Link
I am a little space heater.


Place me in a room and I will get to work trying to bring the temperature up to one that is comfortable for human beings. I will throw a small but appreciable amount of heat in your direction, and stand far enough back that it won't be overwhelming. I dispense a pleasant peppermint candy from a slot on my left side.

I want to melt the hard, angular edges of your life into gentle curves, if you will let me. These are my functions; just plug me in and let me perform them.

09/23 Direct Link
I recognize paid vacation days as a benefit of my job, and on an intellectual level I recognize taking these days to travel as a good thing, but I notice that simply being on vacation does not make me happy.

Part of the problem is that I am travelling alone. By myself, I notice a powerfully neutral feeling of "I am where I am," which is true whether I'm at home or on a roller coaster or on top of a mountain. Sharing the experience is what seems to let me get outside of myself, and that's the real vacation.

09/24 Direct Link
I'm not sure why I like traveling by train. There are often long delays and I often get sick from sitting next to passengers who should never have left the house, but it is my favorite way to travel.

It may be the rhythm of the tracks, or the sound of the whistle, or the presence of the cafe car (Amtrak's BBQ Vegan Burger is an unexpected travel delight). It may be the occasional fun encounter, like the time I met that extremely friendly Scottish family who actually silenced an entire train car because everyone wanted to hear their stories.

09/25 Direct Link
Jodi (yes, THE Jodi from 100words) was standing outside waiting for me. I had not shaved in two days (since I'd forgotten to pack my razor), so I looked like a scruffy madman.

She took a personal risk meeting a stranger from the internet in person, and I decided that leaping at her like a crazy person and then pretending I didn't know who she was would be the proper greeting. I cannot explain this decision.

Jodi took my outrageous behavior in stride and responded by treating me to a delicious and spicy plate of noodles. Jodi is really nice.

09/26 Direct Link
New York, NY is one of my favorite places to be. If there's something you want to do, you can do it here, and you can find twelve people who are exactly as enthusiastic about it as you are.

You can take a ten-minute walk, hear as many different languages, and really feel that you are in the center of the world, because in a way, you are.

If you feel like a weirdo wherever you live, come to this city and you'll feel sane and healthy and normal and energized. I know these are clichés, but they're true.

09/27 Direct Link
I was in New York visiting some friends from China, and they were very interested in the election.

"How did this happen?" they asked.

These are smart and sophisticated media consumers with an international perspective, and they know all of the talking points on both sides. In an attempt to be as neutral and non-partisan as possible, I began by telling them that the divisions in our country are becoming more stark and deeply-held, and there is a frightening amount of contempt and resentment.

"Yes, right, right," they said, "but we're talking about Trump. How did this happen?"

09/28 Direct Link
I'm trying not to think about it at all, but when I do, I guess I should just think of the fact that that Violeta sent me a photo of her C-section scar as a sign that we're really good friends.

In his essay "The Referendum," Tim Kreider writes, " side effect of parenthood is the dissolution of all personal boundaries, like squeamishness about our bodily functions."

It must have felt natural for her to not just tell me about, but show me, in a very clear, colorful, and close-up way, the thing that was causing her pain.

09/29 Direct Link
Jodi clued me in to the existence of chickpea fries, which are made from chickpea flour cooked, cooled in a pan, cut into sticks, and deep fried. Then you ignore the (probably wonderful) sauce they come with and put agave nectar on them.

Mary With the Deep Fryer left me because she said I "lacked ambition," which to me was code for "I want a boyfriend with a boat," so I feel that I probably dodged a bullet, however breaded and perfectly crispy that bullet may have been. This guy will learn to make his chickpea fries in the oven.

09/30 Direct Link
Trying to hold onto people, events, experiences, seasons, or anything as if they belong to you is the best way to make yourself unhappy.

My problem is that I'm not good at detachment. I am good at attachment. I might as well go out in a Velcro(R) suit and jump onto people, animals, buildings, sandwiches, weather patterns, and see whether I stick to anything or anything to me, even though I know I'll just collect dirt, lint, and bruises, and draw a lot of negative attention.

You know, when Velcro(R) gets all dirty and lint-filled, nothing sticks to it.