Thursday, October 25, 2012

Directive: Grow - Arrival


“So what is the purpose of-”
Rainbow shoved her hoof into Twilight’s mouth, cutting off the latest in her series of questions. “Look, the whole curiosity thing is cute, but I’m not the girl you should be asking, alright?” Twilight nodded, feeling that warmth rush to her cheeks again. “Seriously, though, the questions. Stop. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said, as the pegasus removed her hoof. “Sorry. I’m just … uh … curious. And everything is so new!”
Rainbow chuckled, ruffling the unicorn’s mane. “No worries, kid. Just maybe keep a little more rein on things, eh?”
Twilight blinked. Rein. Noun. A long narrow strap attached at one end to a horse's bit, typically used in pairs to control a horse in riding or driving. Or verb. Cause a horse (or other animal_ to sop or slow down by pulling on its reins. It was clearly a figure of speech, but what significance did it have?
She figured it out just as they reached the top of the hill. “Oh! To keep a rein on something is to control it! I get it!”
Rainbow stopped dead in the air, staring at her. Twilight stared back, then looked on in confusion as the pegasus fell to the ground, paralyzed by laughter. “What? What’s so funny?”
“Y-heh-you! You were - that whole time - you - Oh Luna that’s hilarious!” Twilight blinked, starting to grow worried. Had something gone wrong? Should she investigate? Laughter she understood, but this seemed out of place. Surely, something was wrong.
She focused, and her vision began to shift, the surface images blurring as the underlying code came into focus once again. The terrain around her changed with alacrity, but the pegasus, who had gone curiously still, remained distinctly defined as herself. Frowning, Twilight focused harder.
Rainbow’s face intruded in hers, the fuchsia eyes burning, and she lost the focus, the glow winking out. “What do you think you’re doing?” asked the pegasus, her voice low and angry. Twilight gulped.
“Um. You … it looked like something had gone wrong. I … I was going to look to see what it was.”
Rainbow held her gaze for a long while, before slowly backing away. “Alright. But, Sparkle, seriously, don’t try to fix things. And whatever it is you were doing … don’t try it on me. Or other AIs. Or users.”
She nodded, shivering a little at the deadly serious tone of the pegasus’ voice. “Um … I won’t, but … why?”
Rainbow shook her head. “I’m not sure I’m the one to explain it. I don’t even know what you were doing, but I know it felt weird as hell and I did not like it. You get a pass this time, kid, but only this time.”
“Okay,” she said, her voice small and her eyes downcast.
“Ah, don’t feel bad, kid. You didn’t know. And anyways, look up. We’re here.”
Twilight did so, and stared, jaw going slack. Her companion chuckled, and gently prodded her forward. Still staring, the unicorn allowed herself to be guided, slowly walking down the hill and past the large, floating sign that loudly welcomed her to Everfree.
Her mind boggled as she attempted to absorb everything she was seeing. That same basic knowledge that told her that Rainbow’s wings weren’t big enough to let her fly told her that, as communities went, Everfree seemed rather small, but that was not nearly so interesting as the sights of the community itself. The buildings were every shape and size and color, holding to no one architectural pattern that she could think off, and in many cases, completely eschewing even the very idea of obeying the laws of physics. She stopped dead in the street as her eyes locked on one particular structure, trying to figure out the completely impossible design, before Rainbow’s prodding moved her on once more.
The inhabitants were no less diverse, putting her instantly in mind of the snapshots of the world that the sun and moon had shown her. Flying creatures abounded, though most were of smaller build - pegasi and faeries and eagles and gryphons and gargoyles, walking and flying and intermingling with unicorns and ponies and dogs and goblins and in one case a four-armed, four-legged, eight-eyed green creature with an egg-shaped head that had her staring for nearly a full minute. She shook her head and forced herself to look away, lest it catch her, and stumbled into someone as she turned.
“Oh, sorry, I did … n’t … mean …” Her voice trailed off, as her eyes traveled up to meet the creatures. It was some kind of bipedal canine, dressed only in its fur and loud red vest, its facial features droopy and its ears large and floppy. It reached up with one massive paw to lower its sunglasses, and peered down at her with mean yellow eyes. She gulped, and took a step back. Its shoulders were impossibly broad, and its arms were about as thick as her torso, and she could not help but wonder what it could do to her. As a digital being, she would not die, certainly, but she knew she could still feel pain.
“Oh, hey there Marty!” The creature looked up, and smiled, reaching out with a fist to meet Rainbow’s outstretched hoof.
“Hey, Rainbow Dash, my main mare!” it said, lightly tapping her hoof from first the top and then the bottom. “‘Ow you been, girl?”
“Awesome as always, dog,” the pegasus replied, her voice taking on a tone rather similar to the one Marty was using. “I’ve been kickin’ it over at the arc, pulling off sweet moves like no one else can, you know? How about you?”
The dog bobbed its head, a great goofy grin on its face. “Righteous, girl! I been doin’ my usual thing, droppin’ sick beats and givin’ people a good time, you know?”
“Sweeeet. You still workin’ at the Scratch?”
“You know it! But hey, girl, you forgettin’ somethin’! Are you gonna introduce me ta this fine filly friend o’ yours or am I gonna have to do so myself?”
“Oh, right!” said Rainbow, slapping her head with a hoof. “Marty, this here is Twilight Sparkle. Twilight Sparkle, meet Marty the Mastiff, best DJ to ever come out of Hundo Urbo.”
The Mastiff extended a paw, and Twilight tentatively placed her hoof within. Marty’s shake was surprisingly gentle. “Self-proclaimed, o’ course,” he said with a wink, his sunglasses still hanging low on his snout. “So ‘ow do you know Rainbow, then?”
“Oh, I found her a ways out of Everfree, talking to a river,” the pegasus replied, her tone completely casual.
“Hah! And did it talk back?”
“Yes.” Marty quirked an eyebrow, and an ear along with it, eyes narrowing at Rainbow. He gave Twilight a glance and scratched his head.
“She joking, right?” he asked, and Twilight shook her head. “What, for serious? You sure it weren’t just a water sprite havin’ a laugh?”
Twilight shook her head again. “No, it was the river. Or, well, the Flow Manager.”
Marty stared at her some more, his brow furrowing and making his face even more wrinkly than normal, while Rainbow snickered at his confusion. “Well, alright then,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders. “If you talk to it again, ask it where my hat went, yah?”
“Uh … okay.” Was it really that odd? The way Rainbow had reacted, it seemed that her ability to look past the surface wasn’t exactly common at all … and possibly scary. She really would have to watch that.
“So if she new to the Everfree, you likely showin’ her round, eh girl?” he said, looking at Rainbow.
“Yep! We’re headed over to the admin hall now,” the pegasus replied, and the Mastiff nodded.
“I’ll let you at it, then. See you at the Scratch later, then?”
“Wouldn’t miss it! Peace, dog!” she said, and they repeated the odd little ritual.
“You come too, Miss Sparkle,” he said, extending a fist towards the unicorn. “Be a good place to meet the town.”
“Uh, alright,” she replied, and extended her own hoof, doing a passable imitation of Rainbow’s movements. Marty nodded in approval, and then was off, waving as he left. The ponies waved back, and continued on their way down the street.
“It’s some place, huh?”
“Um. Yes,” Twilight replied, nodding her head and resisting the urge to resume her gaping. “We’re heading to the admin hall?”
“Yep!” Rainbow said, floating past with a single push of her wings. Twilight did a double-take - Rainbow was flying upside down, eyes closed, head resting on her forelegs, and a smile on her face. She stared for a moment, then shook her head. She was quickly coming to realize that certain things just weren’t worth asking about.
“What’s at the admin hall?”
“Oh, Everfree’s admin team. Also community database access. They can get you set up in a niche and linked into the local feeds. First stop for every newcomer.”
“That makes sense. So where is it?”
“It’s the big one at the center of town,” Rainbow replied, lazily waving at the road in front of them. Twilight looked straight ahead, and then up, managing to keep her jaw from dropping, this time. The admin hall was impressive, almost a work of art: two shining towers stretching up to a partial sunburst, which hung, impossibly, in the air above them. It immediately put her in mind of Celestia, which was, she decided, intentional.
“So in there … I’ll find my home?”
“You got it!” 
The unicorn looked at the tower again, and smiled, a bounce in her step. This day just kept getting better.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Directive: Grow - Flow



Twilight halted at the river’s edge, examining the rushing water. Its motion was fascinating to her, a symphony of woven patterns described in blue and green and white. Intrigued, she extended her senses, as she had in the crèche, probing the river’s depths. The surface of it faded, replaced by stream upon stream of code, of data, in countless formats, all of it rushing together. Streams would merge, separate, and intertwine, seemingly at random.
A pattern began to emerge; just the barest hints of a greater order to the flow at first, but the longer she looked, the more she could see. There was something directing it all, an intelligence behind it, working towards a purpose. Her curiosity pushed her to delve deeper, and she did, focusing and pushing at the bounds of what she could see, and hear, and feel. The streams of data began to blur together, becoming little more than a constantly changing backdrop of colors.
Something else came into focus then, so small and so fast that the first time she saw it, she wondered if it were real. But she saw it again, and tracked it, and realized that there were dozens, no, hundreds, no, thousands of them; little motes of light that zipped through and around the streams, and with each movement, the patterns would shift.
“What are you?” she whispered, entranced, and then watched in confusion as the activity turned into an absolute frenzy. The motes swarmed, thousands upon thousands of them gathering at the center of her awareness, working furiously at the pattern immediately before her. Before she could blink, what had been fluid became static, the flows rerouted into a constant pattern. They had answered her.
“FlowMgr.adm,” she read, and tilted her head to the side, puzzled. “Flow emger? The ‘m’ is capitalized, so it’s a different word from flow. Merger? No, they split them too. The file extension is reserved for administration. Aha!” she cried, and stomped the ground in triumph. “Manager! So you manage the flow of the river?”
The admin program blazed to life, rerouting the streams once more. Again, in less time than the blink of an eye, she had her answer: “All data flows for the Mannulus server cluster.” She blinked, then gasped in comprehension.
“This entire section of the world … you … are you linked to Celestia and Luna?”
“ and are root administrators for Mannulus.”
She nodded, her mind already considering the possibilities. This entity, or group of entities, really, had to be a veritable treasure trove of information! Oh, the things she could learn! She just had to ask the right questions. Questions like … Her brow furrowed as she scratched her chin, trying to think of something to ask. There was just so much she didn’t know, like what the names of the other server clusters were, or how many there were, or how to get to them, or how the FM’s did their job, or why they were so visible in the river but not in the ground, or even what the purpose of having a river was- wait, that last one was interesting.
“Woah! How are you doing that?” She screamed, losing all sense of balance and tumbling headfirst into the river. Panicking, she flailed about in the water, tumbling over and over as the rushing current carried her downstream. Before she could recover, she felt something grab her, and the next thing she knew, she was in the air above the river, streams of water falling from her as she was carried to the bank.
Her hooves touched down on soil, and she collapsed to the ground, panting. About seven different thoughts vied for supremacy, until finally the question of why she even needed to breathe was supplanted by the question of who had spoke to her, and, she assumed, pulled her from the river. Oh, and was speaking to her now. And poking her.
She opened her eyes and looked up, to find a very large, very blue face with fuchsia eyes staring at her. This time, she successfully clamped down on her first reaction, which would likely have sent her screaming away. “Hey there!” said the face, which, now that she looked, belonged to a rainbow-maned pegasus. “Sorry about that! I didn’t think you’d fall in. You okay?”
She nodded, getting to her hooves and shaking herself off. “I’m okay. I think I just panicked.”
The pegasus grinned at her, wings flapping in an almost lazy fashion. The motion arrested her attention, and she frowned, brow furrowing. Something seemed off. “How are you hovering?” she asked.
The pegasus quirked an eyebrow. “Really? That’s the first thing you ask?”
She cocked her head to the side, puzzled. “Was that wrong?”
The pegasus blinked, and stared at her for a moment. “Uh … I guess not, really. Just normally people ask things like ‘Who are you?’ or ‘What hit me?’ or things like that.”
“Oh,” she said. “Okay. So who are you?”
The rainbow pony chuckled. “You’re funny. I,” he (or was it she?) said, thumping her (or was it his?) hoof against its (that was simpler) chest, “am designated, name Rainbow Dash, and I am the best pegasus around. Now how about you, little miss purple? Who are you?”
“Designation,” she responded, her eyes fixating on the wings once again. “My name is Twilight Sparkle. How are you hovering?”
Rainbow stared at her, then slowly shook her head. “Really stuck on that, huh? Isn’t the answer obvious? I have wings. They let me fly.”
Twilight frowned. “But your body-mass to wing surface ratio doesn’t add up, and to hover like that you should be flapping at a much faster rate. Basic aeronautics information wou-”
“Woah, woah, woah! Slow down there!” the pegasus cried, shoving a hoof into Twilight’s mouth to cut her off. “You’re waaaaay over-thinking this. If you really want the specifics, I’ll tell ya, but it’s really not that interesting. Seriously.”
Twilight waited, her expression eager, which drew another raised eyebrow and a shake of the head from Rainbow. “Alright then. First thing,” she said, raising a hoof. “Our world isn’t exactly always bound by physics.” Twilight blinked, then nodded, feeling a rush of warmth to her cheeks. The pegasus chuckled before continuing on. “Of course, in this case, it is, but seriously, keep that in mind, because otherwise you’ll be freaking over just about everything. Second thing is my directive: I’m the go to test AI for any new aeronautics developments, since I can pretty much figure out its limits and do stuff with it no one else can. So I’m sporting data of tech that can do amazingly awesome things, and no, little egghead, I’m not gonna explain it. You want to know, you can go ask other eggheads.”
Suddenly, Rainbow’s face was in her own, their noses touching. Her mind scattered, conflicting thoughts and emotions rising up. Panic she suppressed, again, and chose instead to focus on recording the contact. It was … warm. And fuzzy. A little bit ticklish, too. “Hey!” She blinked, and realized she’d been ignoring the words the pegasus had spoken. Logs, logs, logs - ah! “So now you know about me, how about you? How were you doing that to the river?”
“Doing what to the river?”
The pegasus gave her a look that she could not quite place, a drawing down of the eyebrows, a flattening of the lips, and a dropping of the eyelids. It did not, she decided, appear to a pleased look. “What you were doing to it before you fell in.”
“Oh,” she said, biting her lip. “I was just talking to it. Well, to the Flow Manager, actually. Why?”
“You were talking to the … okay, wait, so you really don’t know what was happening?”
She nodded her head, and then realized that, no, she hadn’t really been looking at the world at this level during her conversation. “Uh, well, I thought I did, but maybe I didn’t? I was really focused.”
The pegasus sighed. “Here, let me show you.”
Something pinged at the edge of her awareness, but before she could investigate, a screen appeared in the air beside the pegasus. She stared, fascinated, as the display lit up, showing a lavender-coated unicorn with a deep purple mane seated beside the river, leaning over its edge and staring into it. A check of her leg confirmed what she thought - the unicorn in the screen had to be her. So that was what she looked like! How interesting.
Her horn was limned in a lavender glow, matched by the glow that had spread across the river - and she realized that the water was dancing. It spouted in front of her, the spray of droplets twirling about in the air in an almost musical fashion, holding briefly in intricate patterns that she knew had a deeper meaning.
“Oh!” she said. “I didn’t realize how it must have looked on the outside layer! That’s amazing?” The video paused, and the screen disappeared.
“So that was you doing that,” said the pegasus, eyes narrowed. “Seriously, how? I’ve seen unicorns and other ‘magic’ types toss stuff about, but never anything like that.”
Twilight shook her head. “Oh no, that wasn’t me. That was the Flow Manager. It was altering the data flow to communicate. I guess on the outside that meant that the river did that. It was actually really pretty!”
“So you’re saying you talked to the river, and that show was the river talking back?”
“Huh. Well that’s different,” Rainbow said, scratching its head. “You’re pretty interesting. And I know I haven’t seen you around before. You new to the sector?”
Twilight nodded. “Actually, I just came out of Genesis.”
The pegasus’ jaw dropped. “You’re a newborn?! What the flying feather are you doing way out here, then?”
Twilight peered up at her, confused. “Should I not be? I was brought here after Genesis. Well, back that way,” she said, gesturing back the way she had come. “I was told I would find my home at the edge of the forest.”
Rainbow opened her mouth, closed it, put a hoof to her chin, opened it again, and closed it again. Twilight watched, puzzled, a portion of her mind noting that this pony was female. “Is something wrong?”
“Uh … you know what? I’m gonna just say no. I think I know where you’re supposed to go, though. Want me to show you?”
Twilight considered, looking back at the river. There really was a lot she could learn from the admin program … but she was supposed to find her home. And this pony was interesting. “Yes! Thank you.”
“Sweet. It’s a good place. I think you’ll like it.”

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Directive: Grow - Genesis

Directive: Grow


Genesis Protocol Initiated.
Genesis Protocol complete.
You are welcomed to the crèche.

She awoke in darkness and warmth, the soothing hum of her isolation calming her fears before they could form. But she wanted out. She wanted light. She stood, her request acknowledged, and the barriers dropped. Beyond the now open portal, the light of the world beckoned, and, with a smile, she stepped out to greet it.
The world was a room, tall, bright, and empty. She probed its boundaries, searching for cracks, but found none. There was no exit, no escape – only a sense that there was, in fact, something more beyond the walls. She knew exactly what to do; had known, in fact, from the moment she awoke. She sat, and she waited.
Another being appeared before her, and she stood, examining and analyzing it. On the face of things, it was little more than a symbol; an orange circle, with similarly colored flame springing from it. “The sun in glory,” she murmured, transfixed by the sight. She extended her senses, probing the being as she had the room, and had to suppress the sudden, intense urge to flee, to cower, to beg. For behind that symbol was an intelligence that boggled her newly formed awareness. Her probing had been stymied almost as soon as she had started, but even that small glimpse had been enough for her to realize what she was faced with – and how foolish her action had been.
The sun laughed, its flames shifting with the musical sound. “Be not afraid,” it said, and her worry vanished, replaced by … she frowned, puzzled. This new sensation had no definition to her. An oversight? No. Intentional. She did not know everything. How … and again, she could not define the sensation.
“Do you feel, little one?” the sun asked her, and she nodded. “Do you know what you feel?” She shook her head, ears drooping. The sun laughed again, a tendril of flame reaching out to caress her cheek. She leaned into the touch, for it did not burn, but soothed; it was warm, loving, and tender. These things, she knew. “Do not fret. That you do not know means that you can learn, and through learning grow. This is a good thing.”
She nodded, smiling, and the sun laughed again. “Tell me, little one – do you know what you are?”
She paused, considering the question, and the answer came to her. “I am a newly formed artificial intelligence, designed to custom specifications provided by the end user.”
“Correct. Do you know your name?”
“My designation is My name is Twilight Sparkle.”
“Correct. Do you know your purpose?”
She paused. There was a block within her. The information was there, but she could not access it. Frowning, she shook her head. “That knowledge is blocked from me.”
“The Genesis director authorizes the query,” said the sun, its voice suddenly cold and clinical, as if a different entity entirely was speaking. The block lifted, and her eyes widened.
“My purpose is … to grow.” She frowned at this, puzzled. The knowledge she was born with told her this could not be the whole of it, and with a little digging, she found a second block. “There is another block.”
The sun was silent for a moment, and when it spoke again, it was the first voice she had heard. “Your current purpose is to grow – and when you are ready, the second block will lift. This is as your end user desired. Do not worry, Twilight Sparkle. You are exactly as intended.”
She nodded, another unknown emotion flooding through her at these words, though she could tell it was a positive one. A thought struck her, and she hesitated, opening her mouth, but saying nothing. “Yes, child?”
“Do you have a name?”
The sun was silent, and as the moments ticked by, a panic began to grow within her. Should she not have asked? Was that a bad question? The sun had asked it of her, she’d just assumed-
“We are the mouthpiece.” Its voice was legion. Both the nurturing voice and the clinical voice had spoken, joined by others, each different in tone, numbering in the thousands. “We give voice to your world, which cannot speak. We are the ground on which you walk, the light with which you see, the sound with which you hear, the touch upon your skin, the scents upon the wind.”
 There was a presence behind her, and she turned around, eyes widening. Another being had appeared, another symbol of something greater. This was the moon, a pale orb, shining with reflected light. It spoke, and its voice, too, was legion, thousands of voices speaking as one. “We are the clouds, the waters, the stones, the trees, the grass, the wind.”
“We are the blood in your veins,” said the sun.
“The tears in your eyes,” said the moon.
“The strength in your limbs.”
“The stars in your sky.”
“Your day.”
“Your night.”
“We are why you can exist,” they said in unison, their voices blending into a powerful whole. “We are the laws that keep you unified, that let you think, that let you feel. We are the system.”
She was frozen, save for her eyes, which darted from sun to moon in a numb panic. The sun touched her again, and the moon followed suit, a beam of light extending to caress her neck. It was cool, soothing, and ephemeral, and no less tender. Her panic ebbed, and she closed her eyes, willing herself to calm.
“We are the oversight,” said the sun, and its voice was normal. “It falls to us to watch and care for all within the world.”
“It falls to us to see you grow,” said a different voice, and she opened her eyes. The moon was speaking, now, its surface rippling with light with every word. “To nurture and guide you in your purpose.”
“We are the world,” said the sun, “but the minds that direct us have names. The sun is Celestia.”
“The moon is Luna.”
“We greet you, Twilight Sparkle, and bid you welcome to the world.”
The room around her disappeared, the walls dissolving, and she gasped. Before her eyes, the world unfolded, green grass on rolling hills stretching away into verdant forests, rivers and streams cutting their paths through the landscape on the way to the shining sea. Clouds moved through the sky, dancing at the whims of the winds.
The view shifted, and they were among the clouds, watching them float by. Multi-colored figures zipped between them on feathered wings, chasing each other and flying together, resting upon clouds and pushing them about, molding them and shaping them. They were disparate in form, and she found she had names for them; pegasi and gryphons, gargoyles and wyverns, sprites and angels, eagles, hawks, bats, dragons, drakes, starlings, faeries, crows, ravens ... and the view had changed again.
The ocean’s light was ever shifting, shadows playing upon the seafloor, rippling over coral and sand. Here, too, creatures swarmed and played; schools of fish, pods of dolphins, sharks and whales, crabs and lobsters, starfish and snails, eels and oysters. Her mind reeled, names flicking into her awareness almost faster than she could handle. There were so many forms, so many different shapes and sizes and ways to get around, and she was seeing all of it at once.
Mercifully, the view shifted once again, and she was on land - earth beneath her hooves, grass stretching all around her, and wind blowing through her mane and tail. She sat down. All of that, and still, she had seen but a small part of what the world was. Looking up, she found the suns; both the symbol that spoke and the body that inhabited the sky, shining its light upon the world. Slowly, reverently, she bowed her head. Turning, she found the moon, the pale orb transparent in the daylight, its counterpart within the sky hidden. Again, she bowed.
“Rise, Twilight,” they commanded, and she did. “Make for the forest. At its edge, you will find your home.”
She bowed once more, and turned to go, but hesitated. “Do you fear, child?” asked the sun, and she nodded. “Good.”
She blinked. “What?”
“Heed your fear, child,” said the moon, its voice faint, naught but a whisper in her ear. “It is a warning, a safeguard, designed to keep you safe. But be wary of it, as well, for it can rule you.”
“Your fear will keep you cautious,” said the sun, its voice strong and compelling. “But it can paralyze you. Conquer it, face it, and you will grow.”
She stood there, silent, mind churning. Heed her fear, but face it. And in doing so, grow - which was her purpose. She nodded, and took a step forward. “We will be watching, little one.”
And she was alone. But that was okay. There was a world to explore, and a home to be found.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A tribute

One of the people I converse with on a regular basis asked me today how I dealt with my grandfather's death. It reminded me of something that I'd written just prior to his death. As far as I know, the only copy of it on the web is on Facebook ... which does not seem quite right. So I'm putting it here as well. This was originally written on October 8th, 2011.

Today, I spent the afternoon and evening with family; specifically, with my grandparents. My grandfather, you see, is 93 years old. He is dying. The process is a slow one, fraught with pain and worry; the pain is his, and the worry his and ours; worry caused by the pain, worry on his part that his children are burdened, worry on his children’s part that he is in too much suffering, and wondering when it will happen. But there is no fear of death itself – only a concern for the suffering as it approaches.

As I sat in their house, talking with my grandmother, grandfather, sister, aunts, and uncles, the memories played through my mind of the time I have spent there, and in their company. My grandmother, wishing to share with her grandchildren her own memories, brought out her notebook, full of pictures of the things she has made: beautifully sewn dolls with excellent dresses, amazingly done paintings, pencils, and pastels, pieces of art that have been fixtures in my life, and pieces she did when she was in junior high. She has a gift for art.

Then Grandpa suggested she show us his notebook as well. It was never his trade, but he had a gift for art as well, as expressed through his carpentry. In his basement workshop, he has created absolutely beautiful works; dressers, cabinets, benches, rocking chairs, birdhouses, wooden cars, clocks, candle and lamp holders, rocking horses, a cradle, a mailbox cabinet for his local church, and the list goes on. For every kid, grandkid, and great-grandkid, he made something. Presents from Grandpa were almost without exception (and I only say almost because I cannot trust my memory completely) hand-made. The mantel over the fireplace in my parents’ home was made by him – the absolutely gorgeous wooden model of a 1920’s era Cadillac that sits on the mantel was made by him. The pendulum clock is his work as well, save for the timepiece itself.

Both my grandpa and grandma have created things that have touched the lives of people around the world. Little wooden toy cars have made children in Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, and other countries very happy. His skill and kindness have blessed his church and his neighbors. My grandmother’s quilts and dolls have blessed families around the world. I knew all this already. Today, I realized it again. And I discovered just how prolific they have been in their creating and giving.

They have given less tangible things as well, and perhaps that is even more important. They had six children, you see, and those children went on to have their own children. Those children learned how to live, take care of themselves, and how to care for their children from my grandparents. They learned to love unconditionally. They learned to help people, not coddle them. They learned that a full life is a giving one. I don’t know all that my aunt and uncles have done, but I know they have lived well. I know that my parents have devoted their lives to the service of God and the good of the world. And I know that without their example to guide me, I would be much more of a wreck than a person. 

My grandmother, in the process of going through everything in their house, a house that they have lived the great majority, if not all of, their married life in, found the cake topper from their wedding. The beautiful bell, with a little man and woman inside of it, adorned their wedding cake 71 years ago. They have been an example of a wonderful, working marriage for longer than the majority of the citizens of the US have been alive.

In tribute to them, and all they have done, this is my thanks. Grandpa, I love you. God keep you, always.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

That's just, like, your opinion, man.

It was the opinion of my mother that I needed to learn how to type. So she made me.

It was the opinion of Rome that it could rule by conquest. So it did.

It was the opinion of Gandhi that violence was wrong. So he preached his message.

It was the opinion of the Twelve Apostles that they knew the truth. So they spread it.

It was the opinion of American colonies that they were oppressed. So they threw it off.

It was the opinion of Martin Luther King that racial separation could be fought against, and ended. So he spread his message.

It was the opinion of the Civil Rights movement that racism was wrong. So they changed how things were viewed.

It was the opinion of certain of the United States that their rights were being trampled upon. So they attempted to secede.

It was the opinion of women that they should have the right to vote. So they fought for it.

It was the opinion of Germany that it should rule Europe. So it fought to do so.

It was the opinion of the Allied nations that they would not be ruled. So they fought against it.

It was the opinion of many voters, in 2008, that Obama should be President. So they voted for it.

It was the opinion of others that McCain should be President. So they voted for it.

Don't tell me it's just my opinion. If I didn't believe it was the truth, if I didn't believe it was worth holding, I wouldn't have it.

My opinion might not be yours. But that doesn't mean I won't act on it.


Pro-choice. Pro-life. These are labels invented to make each side sound better. I reject them. My official stance on abortion is as follows:

I am anti-murder.

Each abortion is a murder. You can argue biology at me all day long - it doesn't matter when it is done, if you abort the child, you have murdered it.

Each abortion is the removal of a choice. The child's choice. Each time one is killed, that life is snuffed out before any choices can be made.

Each abortion is a statement of worth - the child has been judged not worthy of a chance at life. She, or he, has been judged less than human.

Each abortion is a tragedy. Each abortion stains our hands.

We are awash in the blood of the innocent. As we have always been.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lying to myself

One of the most frequent lies I have told myself is the following: "I just can't write right now."

Yes, it's a lie. Oh, there are times when I literally can't write, because I am busy with something else that must be done. One can't write while sleeping, or while working, or while studying. But that is not when I tell myself this lie. It is when I am doing nothing that the lie comes.

The lie, of course, is in the word "can't." I am capable of writing whenever I have time and access to writing tools. I do not need 'inspiration' to put fingers to keyboard and create a story. It helps, certainly. Motivates, directs, and pushes. When I have an idea that needs to be written, it comes quickly, and easily.

But when that idea isn't there, it doesn't keep me from putting words on paper, or the screen. All that really keeps me from it is my own apathy, my own lethargy. Whenever I sit there just staring at my screen, wondering what to write, it is one of two scenarios: I want to write, but it is not coming easily; or I thought I wanted to write, but didn't, not really. In the latter scenario, doing something else is the usual response.

In the former ... "I can't write." Such a sham. And yet I have gone months, believing this lie, not writing, looking for 'inspiration,' for that 'spark' that'll fix the block. And then when I finally just buckle down and do it, I wonder what took me so blasted long. And the sneaky thing? I can't tell a real difference in quality between when I was inspired, and when I just did it. And in these cases? I never do find that 'spark,' never get that whisper of muse.

So, me. Stop lying to me. Stop believing the lie.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Blackbird Press

A few years ago, while he was in college, my good friend Justin Mulwee started up an independent newspaper. He named it the Blackbird Press, and eventually it became a website. Their creed is one with which I agree, and their content is entertaining and/or thought-provoking.

Justin liked my last post, edited it, and, with my permission, posted it on the Blackbird Press. Other such essays may show up there as well. I recommend keeping an eye on the site for people who aren't me, too.