03/01 Direct Link
I can be stubborn, oversensitive, obtuse, thoughtless, cold, proud, jealous, petty, and I could keep going but I'm working under a word limit here.

All of the above, and possibly worse, apply to everyone. I just started with myself out of a sense of fairness.

Knowing "I can be a real pain in the ass sometimes" is an essential component of emotional maturity and a foundation of healthy relationships, since it allows us to be more forgiving when others are less than perfect. Inexplicably, most people I know are beyond offended when this basic fact is pointed out to them.

03/02 Direct Link
You are a human being, so you have needs that you can't meet by yourself. Nobody is completely self-sufficient.

There are people in your life you expect will meet those needs, but you don't always communicate exactly what you need effectively. Sometimes you communicate your needs to them in the form of criticism.

There are 7 billion people on the planet, and a valid response to a request to meet one of your needs is "ask someone else."

I personally will not be held responsible for your unmet needs. Like anyone else on Earth, I don't owe you anything.

03/03 Direct Link
Conflict is unavoidable. If you don't have any conflict (n.) in your life, it means you don't have anyone to conflict (v.) with, and you will conflict with yourself about the fact that you don't have anyone to conflict with.

The very thing that makes other people so fascinating is also the root of conflict: other people are not ourselves. This is in some ways unfortunate, but in more important ways it is essential and wonderful. It is how it should be.

Personally I can't abide any level of conflict whatsoever. What this says about me is probably not good.

03/04 Direct Link
There's something very pleasing about a dried split pea. Each one is a perfect hemisphere, smooth and flat on the bottom. They have none of the irregularities or variations of your dried lentil, your dried chickpea, or your dried lima bean. I pick up a handful and watch them fall into the bowl, each one a polished green gem.

I like to imagine the field in which they were grown, possibly somewhere in Canada, rows and rows and rows of strong, healthy pea plants stretching to the horizon, and now I feel lucky to have them here in my hands.

03/05 Direct Link
Since the temperature is in the single digits today, I am glad I took the time yesterday to make an enormous pot of split pea soup.

Proper split pea soup is a solid green mass with no visible liquid. You should be able to turn it out of the bowl onto a cutting board and slice it with a knife. This is achieved by adding lots of potatoes and cooking the absolute hell out of it.

The solidity and warmth of the soup, served alongside a slice of the darkest rye bread imaginable, does you good on a cold Sunday.

03/06 Direct Link
Half of the time I want to move farther north into the wilds of Canada. I'd live in a cabin in the woods, grow a beard, wear nothing but plaid flannel, stare out the window at the snow, and spend all day writing about and eating peas.

The other half of the time, I think about moving farther south where winter as I know it does not exist. I imagine the warmer weather encourages a more communal life and thus warmer people who spend their evenings at enormous outdoor picnics, dancing together to exotic rhythms under strings of colorful lights.

03/07 Direct Link
I recently watched some 80s commercials.

One thing I noticed is that the antiperspirant commercials of my youth were very creative and effective in terms of finding semi-realistic scenarios in which the characters were forced to stick their faces directly into the underarm areas of members of the opposite sex.

Seeing them now, they make my stomach churn in panic and make me question whether my current antiperspirant is up to the test (doubtful?), and whether I should seriously consider the product on offer in the commercial, since the actors seem to be having pretty good luck with it.

03/08 Direct Link
I understand why people who want to work on big projects can't do it in their free time after their eight-hour day job. An eight-hour job is draining even when you enjoy it, even when you're doing something so enjoyable that you sometimes think "I would do this for free."

Still, after eight hours of doing anything, you have expended a good deal of your energy and you need some down time. "I need down time and possibly a drink" is not the right frame of mind with which to enter a challenging project. Quit your day job.

03/09 Direct Link

This commercial is about Lilly.

The problem with Lilly is that she's a moron. She doesn't know the difference between 'your' and 'you're' or 'patients' and 'patience', and we watch as she commits one orthographic howler after another only to be rescued by the software her employer has installed on her computer.

"It was a great day," she tells her boss, presumably because the featured software did most of her work by turning the garbled nonsense she typed into English. Lilly, your days are numbered because the next version of that software will write the responses for you.

03/10 Direct Link
Of course I'm freaked out by how quickly time has gone by.

As I understand it, the healthy reaction involves focusing on making the most of my future rather than getting hung up on the past.

This does not come naturally to me. My instinct is to wallow and mope about missed opportunities and deny the possibility that there's anything left to look forward to, so the whole thing has been a pointless waste of time. I'm trying hard to force myself to experience the healthy reaction, but I only have so much energy and the days are often long.

03/11 Direct Link
In the last month of my 37th year, I discovered BAMBA.

BAMBA is an Israeli peanut snack. The ingredients are as follows:

- Peanuts
- Corn
- Palm Oil
- Salt

BAMBA was sold in a one-ounce package in my grocery store. BAMBA's flavor can be described as "peanut" and BAMBA's texture can be described as "exactly like the cheese curls of your youthful days when your Mom would pour them into a small dish while you watched your favorite TV show."

Research reveals that fretful mothers introduce BAMBA into baby's diet to forestall peanut allergy.

I am glad to have met BAMBA.

03/12 Direct Link
An ex-girlfriend would get upset with me because she felt I never got sufficiently excited about anything. When anything remotely exciting would approach, she would ask "Are you excited?" and I would say "sure..." but she didn't buy it, and she pressed me to be more excited.

One thing I am inexplicably excited about is the upcoming snowstorm. I want there to be a soft, cold, and fluffy disruption. I want society to work in a different way so that neighbors and co-workers and strangers all pitch in to help each other against the adversity it will provide.

03/13 Direct Link
The Norse end-of-the-world scenario is my favorite. It begins with the Fimbulwinter, three terrible winters in a row, one right after the other, in which snow never stops falling.

The thing about snow is this: it has such a huge impact on everything, but it's also absolutely silent. Not only is it quiet itself, it tends to absorb and muffle other sounds. The Fimbulwinter is a silent and gentle apocalypse. If I were in charge, I would leave out all the noisy "Twilight of the Gods" stuff that follows, and just have the world end in snowfall.

03/14 Direct Link

Wind and snow combine in a soft, silent disruption.


As snow accumulates, the paths that connect us to public life and each other are closed off, and each home becomes a private fortress. Man reverts to his primal state as comfort-seeking gives way to the struggle for survival.


Snow-bound, home-bound, the true faces of those you think you know are snow-found. Who will share beer with you? Who will help to shovel your sidewalk? Who will stay indoors and eat soup, shunning neighborly interaction and chit-chat?


(wait for applause)

Thank you.

03/15 Direct Link
Sometimes people have an ideological axe to grind, and when they grind it in public, sparks can fly.

One person I know is trying to replace 'childless' with 'childfree' in the vernacular, so she starts every other sentence with "Well, I'm childfree, so..."

Another guy is an open-source software advocate, and won't shut up about Richard Stallman.

Depending on where you live and the circles you travel in, the things you hear will vary, but what remains the same is that people react negatively to this axe-grinding when it becomes habitual and predictable, unless they agree with it.

03/16 Direct Link
We have a relatively new family member who has a deep yearning for close family connections.

Soon after she married my uncle, I think she realized she may have made a mistake. At first I think she assumed our chilly attitude towards her would thaw over time. She eventually realized that we are aloof and chilly with each other, too.

This new member was like, "Do you want hugs, do you want weekly pizza night, do you want to do a jigsaw puzzle?" and to a person we were like, "What? No. Fuck off and we'll see you at Christmas."

03/17 Direct Link
Once there was a cat who lived in a cozy house. The house had a roaring fire and cat food cans stacked on the shelves in neat rows.

The cat's woman was kind and attentive, but often left for hours at a time. Where did she go?

The catfairy appeared to the cat and granted her one wish.

"I wish for you to open the front door so I can explore the world," she said.

"I can do that," said the catfairy, "but once I open it, the door will close and I won't be able to open it again."

03/18 Direct Link
The cat agreed to the catfairy's terms.

She dashed out the door as quickly as she could. She would find the woman and learn the source of the strange smells she brought home.

The day was cold and rainy, and within seconds, the cat's fur was soaked through. She began to shiver. She heard her house's door slam. She instantly regretted her wish.

The world outside was nothing like she imagined. The birds that seemed so tempting when she was indoors now seemed larger than she remembered. Everything seemed larger, noisier, and more frightening than anything she had ever experienced.

03/19 Direct Link
I have a friend who is dating a fictional guy. I'm happy for her, but a little bit jealous. I have dated fictional girls in the past, and it's great, but I haven't been able to make it happen recently. Something in my imagination is broken.

Most people don't understand fictional relationships. Firstly, how can you know what you want from a relationship if you don't imagine one from time to time? Secondly, in a fictional relationship you're actually just dating yourself and realizing the comforting and nurturing voice that you should feel comfortable using with yourself all the time.

03/20 Direct Link
"And I say, Julius, a fine meal by any other name would taste as SAVORYYYYYY!!!"

"Hi, I was just wondering if you could keep it down."

"Sorry, man. I'm doing improv Shakespeare."

"What's that?"

"It's for people who haven't memorized any Shakespeare. All improvised. Want to try?"

"Um, sure... By the moon's soft glow, yea, her face gleameth..."



"Thou hast kill'd my noble brother! How like a pestilent rat do do so! Here's thy rapier, thou curdle-liver'd milk-sop! Yah! Yah! Yah!"


"Audiences are bored with soliloquy; they want sword fights and insults. Have at thee!"

03/21 Direct Link
As a result of the blizzard, I had the privilege of shoveling with P____, a local gentleman. We shoveled together for several hours, helping people to get their cars out of a parking lot.

P____ knows a lot about cars, apparently knows everything about everything, and freely calls women he does not know "honey," even when they've made it clear they wish he wouldn't. Based on his comments, compiled and cross-referenced, it is not unfair to assume he enthusiastically voted for our current president.

Yet a blizzard brought us together, shovel brothers working towards a common prosocial goal. AMERICA.

03/22 Direct Link
- I'm Chet Willoughby, and what a day for a blizzard. People, the soup's a'cookin', so don't come... a lookin'.

- That's right, Chet, meteorologist Julia Bakunin here, and keep it tuned to WDMP for all your blizzard action.

- Julia, the snow is currently falling at an astounding rate and the wind is really whipping it around.

- Exactly, Chet, and it's that combination of snow and wind that technically constitutes a blizzard.

- Is that so?! Julia, don't think about this one, just blurt an answer out: favorite soup?

- Um...

- Blurt it!

- (*laughs*) Um, tomato!

[This radio show is playing in my head]

03/23 Direct Link
Do you think "weather chat" is mere small talk used to kill time that could be used for real conversation? No. Our recent weather talk is deeply emotional.

At this point in the year we've had several days over 40 degrees, and we're reminded what it feels like to have sunlight on our faces. The bird of hope returns from the southern hemisphere and perches once more in our hearts.

Nature's insistence on continuing to snow, then, and covering the sidewalks with ice a day after teasing us with spring just feels like malice and pure hatefulness on her part.

03/24 Direct Link
One one side we have conservative sticklers for convention, and on the other we have liberals who believe that anything goes.

The issue is the inner-greeting comma.

Good morning, Charles,

Is clearly correct, and

Hi, Charles,

Is technically correct, but I find the comma after "Hi" unbearably formal and stuffy, and I refuse to put it in. Even

Hello Charles,

doesn't get the comma with me. This drives people CRAZY and I have been attacked from the right for leaving it out, and attacked from the left for feeling the need to include an old-fashioned greeting at all.

03/25 Direct Link
Now there are going to be people attacking me for calling it an "inner-greeting comma" rather than an "intragreeting comma" or "intra-greeting comma."

First of all, I've had it with your attacks. Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!

"Inter-" means "between, among" and "Intra-" means "within, in" (Garner, 2009). So obviously if we have to choose between those two, we would choose "intra-greeting."

While there is no significant difference between "inner-greeting" and "intra-greeting," in my view, "inner-greeting" does sound better and is, to my ear, slightly more clear.

(I don't know what to write about today.)

03/26 Direct Link
Our colleague, a Muslim, was going to give a lecture about her religion at the community center, so a bunch of us went out to support her.

One friend mentioned the possible risks our colleague was taking, speaking up about Islam in a rural area during intolerant times. Our colleague is already subject to harassment just for walking down the sidewalk.

She imagined out loud the overlap in the Venn diagram of "people who think it's appropriate to verbally abuse someone for her religion" and "people who think it's necessary to carry a firearm everywhere," which, she imagined, was significant.

03/27 Direct Link
I sometimes think of myself not as an individual, but as a member of a species. Just as the duck species has evolved to adapt to a certain environment, and the worm species has done the same, the human species has a certain environment and set of circumstances to which it is uniquely adapted.

This is not to say that individual humans or ducks or worms cannot thrive or be happy in different environments, but I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I were dropped into the duck's equivalent of a pond or a worm's equivalent of soil.

03/28 Direct Link
In response to yesterday's entry, wondering what really is the appropriate setting for a human being, I asked some of the "man in the street"-type characters who live in my head, and here are their responses in no particular order:

- "Among other humans."
- "A state of warfare."
- "Among musicians."
- "Running around naked on the veldt."
- "Working and earning profit for the man."
- "Alone in a ship at sea."
- "A socialist agrarian community."
- "A warm place with a good storyteller."

It turns out any one of those settings is realistically available to me, so it's unclear what I'm complaining about.
03/29 Direct Link
I have a good view of a barn out my kitchen window, and lately I have seen a small brown rabbit spending his mornings next to it.

I feel an impulse to put a water dish and some carrots and a blanket and a squirt gun (so he can protect himself from cats) out there, but this morning I realized this is the worst sort of unnecessary meddling.

That rabbit is equipped with strong senses, powerful legs, and the kind of cleverness that only wild animals possess. He doesn't need my help. That rabbit is perfectly suited to his environment.

03/30 Direct Link
In college many of my suite-mates were in medical school, and when one of them got a cold I would shout "Physician, heal thyself!" at them.

This is an example of a comment I could just as easily have kept to myself, because while I got a kick out of it, absolutely nobody else did. The net amount of pleasure in the world actually would have been greater if I had just made the comment in my head.

Getting sick is part of the human condition. I no longer say "Physician, heal thyself!" to anyone. It's out of line.

03/31 Direct Link
I stupidly scheduled my annual physical exam for my birthday this year.

I thought, "I don't care about my birthday! I'll just schedule one of the most unpleasant experiences of the year for this date to show how tough I am."

It turns out I am not that tough, and I care more than I realized. What an incredibly depressing thing it is to have your unfriendly doctor go down his checklist and comment on the biological aging process on the exact day that you are trying not to think about it.

I then ate a pint of ice cream.