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I wrote a little ditty in [livejournal.com profile] starkyld's journal. I liked it so much, I thought I'd reprint it here, for the masses.

"Hate my life!" "Windows 5UX0R5!"
All the strife, all the hucksters.
We're reading along,
Although it feels wrong,
Surfing in a journal wonderland.

No more posts from the [livejournal.com profile] bluebird;
Read the hosts from the new [personal profile] bird.
She writing about shoes
And getting the blues
Somewhere in the journal wonderland.

In our weblog, we can post a lyric
Or another quiz you gotta try,
Or show how your masturbation's pyrrhic
Since doing it will make a kitten die!

Later on, we'll hit random,
Stumble on someone's fandom,
Then follow along
Der sturm und der drang,
Surfing in a journal wonderland!

Vignette.

Dec. 17th, 2002 01:54 am
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I wake up slightly to the sound of the river passing over my head, water that would cause flooding and gridlock and agony for the city while I slept. My body is wrapped in sheets and quilts, and my eyes flick between a grey cloudy light and black cloudy dark, and my mind drowns in the sound of rain, and my soul is disgorged like an overbloated corpse from the sea of dreams. A sudden splash of impetus twists my body like a rag, and my arm falls onto the empty side of the bed, resting on something other than mattress. And for a less than a moment I feel a warm body, peaceful, her oblivion to the tempest outside offering me a sweet, second-hand solace, a warmth to fold myself into. Soon enough, though, the form defines itself: cold, small, rigid. It was my dictionary, left at my side during a recent bout of insomniac solving.

Thank you, Life, for interrupting my dreams with a taunting metaphor. No, really, it made my day.

My life isn't empty. But it's not as full as it could be. And as long as there's an empty space next to me, it'll be filled by whatever's handy, usually from my bookcase. A book has many things to offer me, of course, but what have I to offer it?
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Haven't gotten back to doing even these. Sigh.

Anyway, I've already posted two flats, a Deletion and a Padlock. The next example is a Letter Bank. First, a word or phrase is chosen in which each letter is used only once, like "kitchen". This is the "bank." Then, a longer word or phrase is made by using each letter in the bank as many times as necessary (although each letter must be used at least once). From "kitchen," one could form "thick neck" or "kick in the teeth", but "necktie" wouldn't work (since the "H" isn't used).

Here's an brief example from the February 2002 Enigma. The bank is the two-word phrase represented by "KITCHEN"; "KICK IN THE TEETH" is the longer fifteen-letter word:

LETTER BANK (6 3, 15)
The Pope should excommunicate all tyrants
And set them as examples to aspirants
Who think that absolute regimes are bitchin';
Then all will know KICK IN THE TEETH's a KITCHEN.
=TABLESAW, West Hills CA
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With my new computer and many new things around my house, I've been disinclined to continually update, which saddens me a bit. To give myself something to post for a while, I've decided to put up dome of the word puzzles that I've written for the Enigma, the publication of the National Puzzlers' League.

The puzzles that grace the pages of the Enigma are unique. The majority are called flats and involve a set of words or phrases that interrelate somehow. For example, if you change the fifth letter in the word "irrigate" you get the word "irritate;" this is called a fifth-letter change. (Simple enough, then.) These words form the answer, also called the "base", to the flat.

The kind of base forms the title of the puzzle. The text of the puzzle is written in verse. (I don't know why, they just are.) Each time a word from the base would be used in the verse, the baseword is replaced with a "cueword." Cuewords are usually easy to spot because they are in ALL CAPS and often clash with the rest of the verse. Using the irrigate/irritate example, a sentence might go "Whenever I have to ONE my crops, I get mad and TWOed." (Note the way that "irritate" was conjugated. This applies to making plurals as well).

To make things easier, the flat comes with an enumeration that tells one how long a word is and whether it's capitalized or not. The enumeration also includes tagging that will tell you which dictionaries to find words in. As a default, the NPL uses Merriam-Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary, which can be found online at www.m-w.com.

More information on all of these topics can be find in the NPL Guide, and I'll give more information as it becomes necessary. For now, here's an easy puzzle to get you started, from last year's December issue:

DELETION (6)
At TreeForever, fake perennials
Built to last through bicentennials
Leave small bits of plastic offal
On the plant floor by the troughful.
Pity, then, the lonely runt who's
ONEing up by sweeping ONE TWOs.
=TABLESAW, West Hills, CA

(This flat is a deletion, which means that "ONE" is a six-letter word, and "TWO" is a five-letter word that can be found by removing one letter from "ONE". Both words are in MW's Tenth Edition, and neither is capitalized. Good luck!)
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A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

That's how I feel about me and sexuality. I can usually identify myself in one of two states, very broadly and somewhat inappropriately named "sexual" and "asexual." When I'm in "asexual" mode, everyone around me seems pretty much equal. I talk to people I need to talk to when I need to talk to them. I usually stay focused on my own thoughts or on the abstract ideas; I like looking at buildings and nature. I also like listening to or watching the news. When I'm in my "sexual" mode, I am very aware of the bodies around me. I take special time to notice the form and face of every woman in my line of sight. Sometimes I study them and wonder who this person is as I drive by never to see her again. I find myself smiling a bit more when dealing with saleswomen. I listen to lots and lots of music.

What I find most interesting is that, for me, there isn't all that much difference between the two "modes." That is, each one offers benefits and drawbacks that balance so well that I don't usually mind which one I'm in. While being "asexual", I conserve a lot of mental and emotional energy and am often able to accomplish a lot more in a faster period of time. If I'm really stressed, even if I'm in a "sexual" period, I'll switch back to "asexual" to get everything done. I learn a lot, and get a lot of logical thinking done. Most of all, I usually remain very balanced, emotionally.

Of course, this doesn't offer me some of the thrills I get when "sexual". And I'm not talking about "sex", I'm talking about the brief feeling of elation from the scent of a beautiful girl I pass on the road, or the soft touch of a pretty cashier handing me my change. Yes, there are the pitfalls of heartbreak, but even before that, though, I find myself paying for these thrills with attention. Moments of elation are wonderful, but they can wreak havoc on a long train of thought. Swiveling my head to catch of the glimpse of the woman whose face obstinately remains concealed behind hair prevents me from realizing that I just passed the restaurant whose hours I wanted to check.

Overall, then, it all comes out equal. Dangerously surfing the sea of complex human relations for the rush of adrenaline or stoically passing over the undercurrents of sexual tension dedicating one's self to a longer journey, I find that I get out what I put in. And since I enjoy both outcomes, I tend to let my Fate and Whimsy shift me between the two.

I bring this up because I'm noticing a shift in the last few weeks from "asexual" to "sexual." First, I noticed that my flirting had kicked up a notch. Quite a few notches, actually. I didn't quite notice this at first. Most of my flirting is verbal, as is quite a lot of my interaction, and the verbal componenet of flirting, for me, is much like solving a cryptic crossword puzzle: listening to the conversation, testing out possible double meanings, shaping the words to fit my will, the will to compliment a women. So at first I thought I was just flexing my verbal muscles for a newly appreciative audience. But that wasn't all.

I started "noticing" women to a much greater extent. This probably would have gone unnoticed except that, at the time, I was still finishing up Museum Piece (Shoot, I still have to write about that). Remember how I mentioned that "asexual" mode can accomplish more linear thought? Well, my train of thought was getting noticeably disrupted by the women in my vicinity. No one particularly stunning, just women, around, making me wonder about them instead of wondering about how to finish my poem puzzle.

If I needed confirmation, I got it the other day when I felt my body noticeably change as I exchanged my chair at Bed Bath and Beyond with a very cute, petite girl whose eyes I held for longer than was necessary for a business transaction.

So, what now? Well, I enjoy it and get distracted more often. It's a fair trade-off like always. And maybe, this time, I'll even be able to capitalize on it and bring myself back into the dating world again.
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[livejournal.com profile] veek likes to see the leaves fall, but for me, nostalgia comes easily on a Sunday afternoon, any time of the year. Of course, nowadays, I don't get many Sunday afternoons, so you can bet I'm enjoying this one.

It's an odd melange of emotion. There's an afterglow of contentment for a fantastic and invigorating party combined with the thrill of performance that came with presenting Museum Piece. But there's also a sense of loss, an acute awareness that I'm missing someone to share this day with. Which fuels nostalgia, joyous and painful, that I hadn't been able to experience in such an unadulterated form in a while.

I put on music I haven't listened to in years, sometimes, because I haven't been in the mood to hear them, this mood. It's the reason I keep so many CDs, I know that, eventually, my emotions will swing around to a place when I'll want to hear that particular music. Jobim, Dudley, Lara played loud, sing along, with the windows and doors open letting the soft, seductive breeze slips silently through the canyon into my house while I wash the dishes and put away the chairs in my warm comforting pajamas. I remember family, friends, exes and time alone, desperate and exultant all throughout my life.

Mmmm...

Sorry, loves, but I'm going back to it. Anything more will have to wait until night fall, when the television is turned on, pulling me back to the present fiction broadcast to the nation, and when the chill and darkness of night force me back inside.

Till then, here's proof of my good mood, in the form of an unshowered, unshaven, uncharacteristically unself-conscious MellowSaw.
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This is, mostly, the tour I gave at my housewarming party, for all of you who were unfortunate enough to be unable to attend.

Come on back )

Coming soon, in Part Two: my bed, my computer and the now very famous working toilet in a thrilling action sequence!
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So, the Halloween miniparty went well, despite the dearth of planning. I overprepared in some aspects (games, food) and underprepared in others (timing, timing).

[livejournal.com profile] wjukknibs and K. arrived a little before seven. I was mostly done with preparations, although I was still brushing my teeth. We sat and talked for a while, [livejournal.com profile] wjukknibs found Halloween IV on AMC, and K. and he kidnapped my landlords' dog. A while later, [livejournal.com profile] cruciverbalist called, and I had a hard time understanding who it was. See, when she talks quickly on the phone and uses her lj name, it sounds like "Crew Sumerians" or something similar. Apparently she was waiting on a delinquent [livejournal.com profile] spacebanana at a Ralph's. No idea what [livejournal.com profile] spacebanana was doing or why she was late.

While we were waiting, wjukknibs, K. and I decided to begin a game of Give Me the Brain. Then, the rest of the party showed up. [livejournal.com profile] cruciverbalist and [livejournal.com profile] spacebanana had dragged along their friend [livejournal.com profile] estivalfiend. THey handed me some party snacks and spacebanana's jacket and darted back out to go trick-or-treating. And this was odd because spacebanana was the only one wearing anything like a costume. After a bit, wjukknibs, K. and I thought we'd try playing Give Me the Brain while we waited, but after I explained the rules and dealt the cards, the prodigal trio returned. So, we opened up the game that brought us all together: Zombies!!!

Zombies!!! was, as expected a fun game, made moreso by the addition of absurd zombie arrangement, funny zombie voices and pointless revenge on other players. The game includes one hundred zombies; we needed fifteen placeholders. There were that many zombies. (Thank you, Mr. Zombie Master.) As the game progressed, the pumpkin pie was finished, and most got some.

The game was great fun, but we had started late, and the game went long. This is because we spent a good deal of time doing silly things in between turns. Also because, when the game winning location was revealed, [livejournal.com profile] spacebanana put it as far away from anyone as possible. So as ten o'clock rolled around, there was still much game left, including at least fifteen zombies on the direct route that had to be dispatched. When it was 10:30, the time I usually go to work, the leaders were still several spaces away from the end. I started freaking out, a bit, and hopefully I didn't scare anyone as I demanded, "Just move your zombies!" and ultimately initiated a Lightning Round that froze all zombies in place. Ultimately, I kind of won. (I was one space away from the winning space, which was close enough for this late proofreader.) Even still, it took me a few tries. One more bad roll (after the three consecutive ones I had just made) would have sent me back to the start. But I miraculously rolled high enough, causing me to yell, "Yay! Everyone get out of my house!" Everyone left quickly and efficiently.

Despite my time-worry, it was a good get-together. [livejournal.com profile] estivalfiend was very nice, and although she seemed initially uncertain about such strange Zombies!!!-playing people, she was a lot of fun, and I hope I see her again in a non-vodoun capacity. Happy Halloween, everyone, and a happy All Saint's Day as well.

[Addendum: Amazingly enough, thanks to my close freeway access and some, ahem, zealous driving, I was about five minutes late. Had I not stopped for gas, I would have sped in on time. So, no problems.]
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The housewarming party commenced at 6:00 p.m. when I set up my cheese board.

It ended at 2 a.m. when [livejournal.com profile] wjukknibs went home.

In between, there were about fifteen people, in various shifts, including my family, my landlords, some friends, and [livejournal.com profile] cruciverbalist and [livejournal.com profile] spacebanana, whom I met for the first time.

The house is warmed, as am I. I want the world to walk through my house and see how wonderful it is. Come on, I'm talking to you. Buy that plane ticket; hop into that boxcar; hotwire that car; pole that raft up the Mississippi; drop the ballast from that balloon; lace up those roller blades; initiate that countdown; hop, hop, hop to it on your pogo stick. Make your way here. You're welcome.
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Also, my firm has re-upped its subscription to the online Oxford English Dictionary. This is a Good Thing. It means I get to jump around quickly looking for fun words. Here's some of what I found today:
chthononosology
'The geography of diseases'
mixschipe
wickedness (c. 1255)
shchi
Cabbage soup.
whoo-whoop, who-whoop
The shout of huntsmen at the death of the game.
Also of interest: doh, filk and Game Boy.
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In going through my boxes of stuff, I occasionally find something of interest. I was struck by this essay from my Junior year of high school. Here it is, retyped from the hard copy and submitted for your curiosity.


Tablesaw
English III (H); Period 1
Feb 23, 1995

"But What About Tablesaw?"

One of my friends at school told me about a Psychology class that she was in. The class was discussing popularity; the idea being expressed was that in order to be popular, one must conform to the desires of peers. One student then raised his hand and asked, "But what about Tablesaw? He's popular and he does whatever the hell he wants."

I never considered myself a popular person. According to Webster's, popularity is the state or quality of being "commonly liked or approved." In my experience, popularity has always been gauged by TV; the more sitcomesque one's life was, the more popular he was. I was never captain of any team; I didn't really like sports at all. My life in general was decisively less than spectacular. Accordingly, my years in grade school were spent out of popularity.

In the fifth grade, after moving to a new school and with adolescence raging towards me, I gained acceptance into my Mecca, and began my pilgrimage. First, I tried being really smart. I was resented after that. I tried making fun of the teacher after that. It worked for a while, but whenever I stopped, my popularity drained away. As a last resort, I went punk. The details of that experience make me shudder. I was left after seventh grade with only one year in which to achieve the golden mitre of popularity before my graduation.

However, during the summer I took part in a Pre-College program for gifted students. I'm not quite sure what happened, but I made friends there faster than I had in my entire life up until then. During those three weeks I didn't have to change myself to fit any norm; everyone there was so extraordinarily different that there was no norm. I was, as everyone else seemed to be, popular.

My experience left me as high as a kite, and when I returned to class in September, I realized that I cared about my classmates' opinions of me about as much as I cared about navel lint. I tossed conventionality to the winds and for that year I did what I wanted to do.

When I started high school, I found, to my dismay, that the people there weren't incredibly different from those in grade school. But after a few months, I discovered, to my relief, that I was not alone. There were others who felt the same way that I did about being accepted. (There weren't many of them, but they were there.) I developed friendships with these people, the only real friendships I have ever had with my classmates.

But during the three years in which I have coexisted with my high school, my aversion to popularity has had a paradoxical side effect. Like the fool in a court of kings, I have become popular. Admittedly, my name is not synonymous with fame, but as shown by the anecdote that launched this essay, I am considered by many to be popular. I may never be "commonly liked or accepted," but I am respected as being unique. And in a school where almost everyone can be classified as belonging to one stereotype or another, the question must be asked: "But what about Tablesaw?"

Back to it.

Oct. 6th, 2002 02:21 am
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I've been neglecting these, and I really do want to finish:

[livejournal.com profile] tamaraland
Gazed contemptuously and,
While lounging on the deck, spat
On a faux expat.
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I'm taking a break from putting things into boxes. Not only because I'm a bit tired and need a breather, but also because a little while ago, I took a few things out of boxes.

I have a box that I'm keeping for a friend. It's a box of evidence of a relationship. I've had it for years now, and I've never really looked at it, but today, while I was evaluating what, from my life, to keep and what to discard, I was drawn to the small cardboard box of mementos. I flipped through. All in all there wasn't much, but there was a large stack of communiques of various types, neatly stacked.

I didn't read the emails. I didn't want to or need to. I was already struck with how meticulously clean they were. They didn't seem to be folded or crumpled or to show any other marks of mishandling. They were pristine except for occasional stray notes, doodles, and periodic underlining of the text. It surprised me that my friends had been able to organize these aspects of his life so delicately, ultimately making it possible, then, to put it all into a single box to be given to someone else for an indefinite period of time.

I simply don't function like that. It's hard enough for me to keep my financial information in the same place where I could be expected to find it within five minutes. But I couldn't decide to be jealous of my friend's ability or glad that I lacked it. On the one hand, having that information organized, one can always refer back to something. On the other hand, always having the information at hand means, in a physical, or perhaps geographical, way, being unable to forget. There's always something there to remind you.

I have mementos from past relationships. A few are on display, like the only picture I have of a girl from Montana, but most are hidden behind, around, below, within the maze of information that is around me at all times. And it's times like this, when I'm moving or cleaning or otherwise sifting all of my possessions, that these physical memories, stored outside of my brain, come back through my fingertips and speak.

Somewhere in that room, or possibly in boxes somewhere that I packed months ago, there is a picture of an old ex-girlfriend, exer than Ex. She's in high school, getting ready for, I think, Homecoming, wearing a green dress and looking lovely despite an obvious weariness in her eyes with the process of having her parents photograph her before the dance. Attached to it is a photograph taken of the two of us in Georgetown on some night out with a group of friends. I'm wearing a winter coat and my insulated arms hold her close; her black leather (faux-leather?) jacket wraps around my arms as well, and the dark clothing with the night flash makes her clear face luminous beneath mine. And when I find it, as I always do, I'll hold it in my hand and remember when I held her in my arms, when I fell in love, when we studied together and I couldn't stop staring at her pale shoulder, off of which her shirt had slipped, when we first kissed, sitting on a bench on the Washington Mall, when I cried, when she embarrassed herself and my friend in front of me while drunk, when she lied to me. And when I find it, as I always do, I'll ask myself whether I should simply let it fall away from me, into a dustbin and out of my life. And when I find it, as I always do, I will place it carefully into whichever pile I've designated for things that I'm not sure what to do with, where it will be covered by stray notes, or postcards, or newspaper clippings until I find it again.
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I'll continue where I left off yesterday. As you may recall, there had been many puzzles calling for trivia and ingenuity. The second part of the day called for appetite and playfulness.

Dinner )

One Two Many )

Cluesome, by Bluff )

Remains of the Day )

More Answers )

TueNYTX: 4:30.
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A browser crash has saved you from reading about the trouble I had getting to the house wherein was held the bimonthly meeting of the Los Angeles members of the National Puzzlers' League. Of the lost text I wrote, here's what it's important to know:
  • I don't remember things like teams and order exactly, so bear with me.
  • There was lots and lots of traffic getting to Conundrum's house near LAX.
  • NPL members use pseudonyms called Noms that we use in conversation and that I shall use in this report.
  • The first game was written by Music Man and was a "Stage II" game, named after the eighties board game of the same name.
Stage II, by Music Man )

Business Meeting and LaConic '05. )

The Case of the Heptaphobic Hooligan, by Bluff )

Make Your Own Treasure Hunt, by everyone )

Puzzle from NoCal whose name I forgot by Iolanthe, Wrybosh and someone else who I forgot )

The answers )

MonNYTX: 3:40. During the on-line NPL chat, there was much time comparison. I did adequately, considering that some solvers finished it in 2:15.

Rex.

Sep. 19th, 2002 11:06 am
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So, as I mentioned earlier, Ex has begun reading and commenting in my journal. I'm actually kind of glad. This may be a way to painlessly restart a friendship, from a distance.

She also directed me to her own webjournal. I don't feel comfortable giving the address even in this smaller area, but let me reprint a section I found early on.

I tried to work out (alone, in my head) a breakup that I had a long time ago... )

As you can imagine, this struck me pretty hard. But really, I don't have anything more to say, I think, than what I posted as a response:

So, yeah, I found you... )

I don't think there's much more to say, and I need to get to bed. Must wake up for Survivor Thailand, you know.

Band nice.

Sep. 14th, 2002 08:20 pm
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I didn't sleep well today. Here's the only bit I remember clearly. Keep in mind that it was printed in (a magazine?) and I was actually reading it in my dream. I can't remember the names of the boy and the girl, so those two are bracketed.
[Boy] was in the tower. He was having a meet cute with [girl] during a band nice. They started practicing together, he on his violin, she on her trombone; but eventually they moved on to others and the tower became a hurricane of noise. [livejournal.com profile] veek walked in on it accidentally, and had to play the role of Therese, who is easily duped by the couple. She threw [boy] a line, and he missed it. Threw two more before he finally caught on. Soon, he and [girl] were gigglingly bemusing [livejournal.com profile] veek, while she amusedly let them.

The sat for hours talking about their lives. "I've played at least three instruments for as long as I can remember." "Me too!"

They made beautiful music together.
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After work this morning, I walked five blocks up the road to attend the first parish mass of the new Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of the Angels. In doing so, I realized why the two people who were supposed to take over for me at work had not shown up. Large sections of Downtown LA had been blocked off for the Los Angeles Triathlon, making it impossible to get into the building.

On the way, I passed the still-in-progress Walt Disney Music Hall. It looks really ugly.

Of course, the cathedral looks pretty ugly from the outside too. I've heard it described as a faux-pueblo prison, and frankly, I find it hard to disagree. Outside the cathedral is a large plaza designed to hold many people during large ceremonies or gatherings. Empty, it looks pretty tacky. The tackiness is not abated by the Cathedral gift shop and cafe nor by the cheap plastic tables and umbrellas for those eating at the cafe.

Things start to get interesting when you see the Great Bronze Doors. I'm not quite clear why they already have the word "Great" as part of their name, but they are very nice. More impressive is the sculpture of Mary, which looks incredible when reflected in the morning light.

Moving into the ambulatory, there's, well, nothing really. It's dark, and you can't see anything much. As you progress, occasionally, you will be able to get a horizontal glimpse into the main body of the cathedral, but not much. There's no view of the altar, nor of the windows, just pews and some of the tapestries of the saints.

The light at the end of the ambulatory is reflected off of the gilt of the retablo. It's an altarpiece from 17th Century Spain, although I was unable to read the plaque to understand its direct significance to the present cathedral.

Finally, you turn the corner at the back of the cathedral, and suddenly, the entire cathedral is there in front of you. It's certainly very big, but the proportions were done very well, and I never felt small, or that I was very far away from anything else in the cathedral. And the alabaster windows are glorious. (The link leads to a picture of one of the lesser windows and doesn't do justice to the light the enters from behind the altar. When I entered the mass, the sun was behind cloud cover; and midway through the Mass, the sun emerged, and the cathedral lit up brighter than I would have imagined.)

The Mass itself was incredibly mundane. Cardinal Mahoney was there, but he didn't say the Mass or sit in the cathedra, he just sat on the side and performed as a Eucharistic Minister. In fact, one wouldn't have known he was there at all if it weren't for the bright red skullcap he wears. (And, of course, the mention that the pastor gave at the end of mass.) But overall, the Mass was just a normal Mass. There were microphone problems for the cantor; the many ushers were not always clear what to do next; etc. But it was nice, and at a perfect time, not far from my work.

Later, I went to a baptism. Then I went to bed.
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Recently, I've been thinking about the Northridge Earthquake. It's not because there was a very minor tremor just a few hours ago, it's because of another LiveJournaler, whom I am reluctant to name directly.

This person has a major crisis going on in her life, leading to much angst, quite a lot of it centering around whether or not she's doing the best thing or acting in the appropriate way. I don't know her very well (for values of "very well" equal to "at all other than what I've read, really"), so I'm reluctant to say anything directly, but I'm still thinking about it.

I can relate to a lot of what she writes about, not so much the specifics, as the instincts and reactions to crisis. Whenever a major crisis happens, my instinct is usually to get out of the way. Whenever an argument arose in the house, I just walked out and into my room, letting the others sort it out. The first time I consciously noticed was when my mother had a cancer scare, and I spent days and days in my room reconstructing every jigsaw puzzle I had.

But it's one thing to say, "Everyone reacts differently to a crisis," and quite another to see it in action.

January 17, 1994 )

The fact is that people don't always bind together in a crisis. They do if they need to, of course. Sometimes immediate survival depends on it, but most of the time, people bind together because that's what they feel they need to do, instinctively. They try to connect with everyone, and quite a number of people also say, "no thanks, I'm fine, thank you for asking," and just move them along. Major crises don't bring people together, they just make everyone crazy at the same time instead of spread out randomly.

When a crisis is only happening to yourself, and all of your friends are in a non-crisis mode, it's easy to feel like an aberration. And when someone else is responding to an entirely different crisis, it sometimes seems even more alienating. But when everyone is acting like a temporary lunatic and everyone knows the reason why, it's simpler to see that your own personal insanity is, if not normal, expected.

On the day of the quake, I saw a couple try to bribe the man at the 7-11 to get extra bottled water. Everyone was lined up outside the store and the manager stood at the door taking the orders and keeping the money while to helpers searched the aisles and back rooms to find supplies. Certain things were limited, though, water, ice, batteries and food to a certain extent. (I assume the magazines had no limit.) But really, no one in line was upset at this couple. That's just how these people react.

So whenever something really awful happens, I try to just let it happen. Trying to change the way I react just leads to inaction. And locking myself in a room and mastering Tetris eventually helps more than trying to be out and about while also being absolutely miserable in addition to everything else.

Addendum: While trying to find photographs of the damage to Topanga Plaza, I found "Twenty-One, Counting Up" by Harry Turtledove. Three months between me and the protagonist made this an eerie read.

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