28 March 2014

the one where it seems like i am talking about a game but really i am talking about life

this morning i got a record. see?

i play tetris a lot - like, every day. usually just one round, maybe two, of this one style of game: single, marathon, 20. that means i'm just playing against the machine, and i'm playing an ended (as opposed to endless) game, and the pieces will fall at the highest speed. in the ended game, you have to eliminate 200 rows.

every eliminated row counts for some points but there are only two ways to make big points: t-spins and tetrises. t-spins are when you turn a t-bar to make it fit into a t- or cross-shaped hole. you don't have to eliminate a row to get a t-spin, but it counts for more if you do. there are a variety of ways to set up a t-spin. a tetris is a 4-row elimination and there is only one way to get a tetris: build up four rows with an aligned opening that a long-bar will fit into.

when you're not used to the game, t-spins seem like chance encounters. for a t-bar to appear just when there is a t-hole?? that seems like mere luck. however, when you've been playing for a while, you start to see the opportunities. you've got that list of upcoming bars on the right side, so you can predict a few steps ahead. if you've got a t-bar coming, and an l-bar in hand, and the existing structure is primed for an l-bar to make a t-hole... well, easy-peasy. place the l-bar, spin the t-bar into the t-hole - wah-lah! t-spin.

TETRIS IS LIFE 1: when you are experienced, you see through luck and realise there are things you can do to set up your own success.

not every game is a record-setter. i mean, sure, at first you're making lots of progress and frequently setting records, but the margins narrow after a while and it's harder and harder to have a break out game. you have to play more games, the margins are tighter, and sometimes you'll have a superior game going, but it'll still fall short of the record.

TETRIS IS LIFE 2: the closer you get to greatness, the less margin you have for error.

with tetris, how the pieces drop is out of your control, so you have to get better at knowing what to do with each piece no matter what order they fall out of the sky. you can put one aside, in the hold box, but only one. sometimes the randomness is in your favor, sometimes it's not, but the more you know about the pieces, the better off you are. whereas a certain sequence of pieces would defeat an inexperienced player, someone who plays a lot doesn't get flustered because they've seen so many scenarios that they have a pocketful of optional moves.

TETRIS IS LIFE 3: you can't control what comes your way, but you can get good at controlling the things you can control, so the stuff you can't control won't defeat you.

when i mentioned the "20", that's the speed the pieces fall. at speed 1, the pieces inch-inch-inch down the screen. when you first get started, that's all you can handle. you have to have the time to assess the piece, visualize how it will fit in the existing structure, determine if it needs to go right or left or spin. at the lower speeds, after the piece hits, you still have a second or so to adjust it. at speed 20, the piece drops directly onto the existing structure. your only chance to adjust it at all is to practically already have it moving the split-instant it appears.

TETRIS IS LIFE 4: if you want to play at the top level, you have to be quick.

like i said, not every game is a record-setter. in fact, some games are real stinkers. maybe i'm having a bad day, maybe the pieces are falling in an impossible order, maybe the DS buttons are acting up because the battery needs to be recharged. whatever the case, not only is not every game a record-setter -- some games are not even finishable. when these blow-up disaster games start to materialise, your best bet is to draw down the pieces as fast as possible, end the game, and start over.

TETRIS IS LIFE 5: know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. sometimes all you can do is cut your losses and live to fight another day.


this concludes the one where it seems like i am talking about a game but really i am talking about life.

thoughts? don't keep 'em all bottled up. leave a comment!

23 March 2014

the practice of defining miracles.

this morning, i was pleasantly plucking grapes from the vine, and i ran across a raisin-ified grape. you'll see it every once in a while, a raisin among the grapes. it'll invariably be just the one, all dried out but still connected to the tiny little individual vine-branch that is allocated each grape, tucked there between its fully-inflated neighbors.

what happens to cause one raisin among the grapes? how can it still be connected, yet mummified? was there a blockage in the stem, stopping nourishment from reaching just the one? was it an insufferable brat whom its peers starved? did it starve itself, tiny little anorexic fruit?

it's a mystery and it got me thinking about how some folks would say this sort of thing is a miracle and some folks would call it science, and THAT got me thinking about the miracle-science dichotomy. the miracle-science FALSE dichotomy, rather.

i mean, where do you think scientists come from? someone sees the raisin-on-the-vine and says, miracle, and that's the end of it. that's faith - just accepting that some things happen because there's a plan mere humans can't understand. someone ELSE sees the same raisin-on-the-vine and wonders what caused it. that doesn't mean they don't think it's a miracle, they just wonder about the mechanics. that's where scientists come from.

just because you wonder about the mechanics, that doesn't preclude your belief in a creator who has a Grand Plan that encompasses raisin-grapes. i'd venture to guess that the more you learn about the mechanics, the more clear it becomes you'll never understand the whole system. i mean, it's complicated, all in all.

mathematics and physics and other branches of science have their "givens" or "constants". someone proved them at one point, and you accept that person did the work correctly, and other people take it that person did the work correctly, and people stop checking that original guy's work, and pretty soon everyone's building on the "givens". the result of all this believing and building on belief is that the community's reliance on these givens increases while the individuals lose touch with the original proof. that's faith.

1. wondering about the mechanics doesn't preclude belief in a Plan or a Planner.
2. faith is faith, whether it's in scientific givens or spiritual givens.

spiritual faith vs. scientific faith? it's a false dichotomy.

i mean, c'mon. whether you believe we banged randomly out of a dusty cloud of energy or you believe a creator spoke us into being, it's not like any of us were there. maybe it's a little of both. maybe a creator spoke to the dusty cloud of energy. maybe the random bang banged out a grand planner along with banging out us.

who knows? no one alive KNOWS.

but - we DO all BELIEVE.

we believe the lights will come on when we flip a switch, as surely as we believe the sun will rise every morning. we believe in things we can explain, and we believe in things we cannot explain. we have faith in data, and we have faith where there isn't any data.

the spiritual among us can accept miracles without needing explanation. the scientists among us wonder about, attempt to quantify, and attempt to explain the mechanics of miracles.

science is the practice of defining miracles.

19 March 2014

a perspective on passion

remember when i saw that guy riding his horse down the street outside my house? here... the post is... it's RIGHT HERE.

remember that? yeah well, after i saw that guy and googled and found out what was up with him, i signed up to get emails from the long riders guild. just this week, i received an email from the long riders guild. let's see what they have to say.

"Dear Long Riders, Explorers, Scholars and Friends of the Guild,"

the only category that i come close to is "friend of the guild" but the sad truth is i'm more of a stalker than a true friend. in fact, sometimes i'm less than a stalker... i do trash most of the emails without reading them. #friendoftheguilt

"After thirteen years of constant service, the Long Riders’ Guild website has been..."

oh, great. the first time i read an email in like three years, and they've gone out of business, closed down the website, project over. all those folks out there riding all those horses will just have to go home now. terrific.

"...described as one of the pioneers of the equestrian internet age."


(who knew there was an equestrian internet age - amirite??)

"Housed and protected within this humble-looking site is the world’s largest source of equestrian travel wisdom, where thousands of pages document the history of mankind’s mounted travels."

i smell a book deal!

"Months of work have resulted in the website having undergone intensive internal improvement. Out of date material has been retired. Vital new sections have been created to further explain the principles and practices of the world’s equestrian explorers."


"Because it is visited by readers from all parts of the world, many of whom do not use English as their primary language, the format remains easy to navigate and quick to use."

interesting how they've equated speaking english with being able to navigate complex websites.

(okay, shut up. i know they're talking about language-independent navigation. settle down.)

"Meanwhile, there has been a corresponding explosion of equestrian travel news from all parts of the globe. Nearly 50 new Members have joined the Guild from various countries."

'nearly' 50. bahaha! an EXPLOSION of NEARLY 50! woo! that's just funny. i mean, good on 'em for recruiting and whatnot, but c'mon. it's funny.

"The Long Riders’ Guild has mentored or assisted more than 150 Equestrian Expeditions. Exciting new expeditions are about to set off, including the first ride across the length of Japan by the veteran New Zealand Long Rider Ian Robinson. Plus, many remarkable journeys have recently been completed, including German Long Rider Gunter Wamser who completed his epic 20,000 mile ride from Patagonia to Alaska."

wait. what? 20,000 miles? that's, like, YEARS of riding. that is seriously impressive.

"During the twenty years since the Guild was formulated Long Riders have successfully journeyed across every continent except Antarctica. A new feature on the website explains which equestrian explorers have been entrusted to Carry the Long Rider’s Flag."

well, now i am wanting to be entrusted. i only have one smallish hurdle: i am terrified of horses and could in no circumstance be alone with one for even a few minutes. they'll probably overlook that, though, don't you think?

"As always, this vital information is provided as a free public service."

okay, imma just say if you consider (nearly) 50 members to be an explosion, maybe you can't be hiding your services behind a paywall and whatnot.

at this point, the note starts to take on what i imagine would be characteristics of a long ride. namely: tedium. let's pick out some high points.

THE LONG RIDERS HAVE BROAD INTERESTES: "activities of the Long Riders’ Guild, including exploration, ethics, spirituality, historical research, literature and social justice."

LOOK - THERE IS A BOOK DEAL: "never-before-seen extracts from the forthcoming Encyclopaedia of Equestrian Exploration."

MAYBE LEAD WITH THIS IF YOU'RE CALLING (NEARLY) 50 AN EXPLOSION: "The Guild began with five Members from three countries."

THIS USE OF 'MOST' MEANS 'ALL' HAVE NOT: "Most of the Missing in Action Long Riders have been found."

MORE BOOKS: "Two new editions of Tschiffely's Ride have been authorized and published in the United States and Great Britain."

AND NO-DOUBT-THRILLING 'POPULAR' MUSICAL NUMBERS: "After being inspired by Historical Long Rider Aimé Tschiffely, renowned Canadian artist Corb Lund has written and released a popular song entitled The Only Long Rider I Know."

.....yes, i am poking fun, but in the end, i find it strange and fascinating that these people have a whole society with history, celebrities, books, music, a website and newsletter, and so on and so forth. they care about what they are doing - or, more than that. they're PASSIONATE about it. they are passionate about the structure, activities, morals, and history of what has got to be a very small group who are demonstrably participating in a highly marginalized activity. you don't get passion like that every day, and i'd venture to say the guild would not be as passion-infused without the work of the two people who send the newsletter: Basha and CuChullaine O'Reilly.

it's weird to me how this whole long-riding world is going on like a parallel universe to the world i live in. i mean, it's heartwarming to know that people are out there doing something they are passionate about, but at the same time, it's suffocating to think how many people there are in the world, passionately doing things that only a they are aware of.

16 March 2014


i rely fully on the unwritten rule* of starbucks.

at any given time, any starbucks patron can arise from their previously established station (e.g., table, etc.) or nest (e.g., armchair, etc.) and while completely abandoning all present possessions [including but not limited to all or some of: technology (e.g., tablet [digital], phone, ereader, laptop, etc.), reading material (e.g., book, magazine, newspaper, etc.), writing material (e.g., tablet [analog], ink pen, pencil, crayon, magic(tm) marker, generic marker, etc.), purse, bag, box, pet carrier (whether occupied or non-), food (whether minimally, partially, or un- consumed), drink (in any state of consumption and whether hot, cold, or tepid), et cetera and so forth and so on to the full extent of various and sundry goods and whatnots in possession of said patron] make a brief (i.e., to a maximum of 10 minutes) visit to another location (e.g., restroom, smoking area, vehicle, etc.) for any purpose, whether said purpose be known or unknown to selfsame said patron, and during which visit no employee, no other patron (nor child or designee thereof), nor any animal (pet or non-pet), nor wandering minstrel or hobo, nor any other animate being in any condition or for any purpose, may touch, alter, or move in any way the complete set of present possessions in possession aforementioned patron at the time of their temporary abandonment of same.

*not available at all locations. professional driver on closed course. your mileage may vary. any statements made herein are solely those of the author. no purchase necessary. residents of delaware and guam responsible for deposit. serving suggestion. kids, don't try this at home. frequent flyer miles may not be used. prices may change. one coupon per customer per visit. contents may be hot. all estimates valid for 30 days. wash separately in cold water. free the whales. all information provided herein for informational purposes only. please remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop. no animals were harmed in the making of this post. the contents for this post are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. carpe diem. caveat emptor. e pluribus unum. ego te provoco. ego te absolvo. houston we have a problem. carry on, my wayward son. only you can prevent forest fires. sláinte.

15 March 2014

do you LIKE doing that?

i ran 18 miles this morning, and when i got home, my old man's golf partner asked, do you LIKE doing that? i gave the same pat answer i always give... oh, you know, i like beer and pizza.

now, it's true i like beer and i like pizza and i like beer+pizza, but i can't really run far enough to support a steady diet of beer+pizza, so... full disclosure: beer+pizza is not my (only) motivation.

but what can you say to someone who wouldn't run a step unless they're being chased by a bear who's wielding a machete? it's not like they'd understand even if i did take the time to explain. i find it simpler to tell folks something they'll understand, and everyone understands wanting to eat more.

and, that's not a lie per se. having a little more leeway in my diet DOES motivate me to run. so it's not a lie, but maybe you could call it an omission.

i mean, i MUST "like doing that". i must like running long distance, or i wouldn't do it. that being said, if i didn't run long distance, i would need to find another exercise activity to support my beer+pizza habit, so i'd be facing the same sort of questions. do you LIKE jumping rope for hours? do you LIKE riding your bike to omaha? do you LIKE plowing the same acre over and over with nothing but a spoon?

okay, sure. it's a given: i like running long distance. but if i say i like it, i know they'll ask why, and i'm not sure even i understand why i like it. maybe you can figure it out. here's what i know.

the lion's share of grown-ass folks out running long distance are doing so to prepare for a long distance race-type event. training for a marathon, a half, an ultra, something. they are running BECAUSE of the event. "what are you training for?" is the standard pre and post group-long-training-run parking lot convo.

okay, sure. i am training for a marathon.


i am not doing the long runs so that i can do the marathon. i am doing the marathon so that i have an excuse to do the long runs.

see? this is the level of crazy i am up against.

when i run long, i don't listen to music, i generally run alone, and i don't know where i'll end up until i get there. so... i like running long because i like a quiet head, i like being alone, and i like wandering around. (point of clarification: i like music. i just don't like listening to music when i run.)

what do i think about for 18 miles? mostly nothing. i don't know what my mind does or how it can think about nothing. in a way, it's like being asleep, because i have few memories from long runs, but in a way, it's totally not like sleep. sleep is being not-present and when i am running, i am just so totally present that i don't need to think about anything. okay, sure. i'll occasionally calculate the number of miles left or ponder what i'll eat when i'm done, but most of the time -- nothing. i am not thinking or processing. i am experiencing.

i ran 18 miles this morning, and if i thought my body could stand it, i'd run another 18 right now.

have you figured it out yet?

yeah, me neither.

09 March 2014

hello. yeah, it's been a while. not much, how 'bout you?

well, lifeguard training is over.


my classmates were a dozen teenagers. one seventeen years old, one sixteen, ten fifteen, and me. three years ago when i took the class, the student body makeup was about the same, but there were two significant differences: then, i was one of two in the class who had a smartphone, and none of the class had a twitter account. now, i'm pretty sure at least 8 of the 12 had smartphones, and at least as many had twitter accounts. so, i guess that says something about technology and social media.

the first time i took lifeguarding, i was sixteen, and i took it very seriously. the second time, i was much (much!) older and i took it very seriously. from what i could tell, all my classmates both times took the class very seriously, also.

the third time i took lifeguarding was this time, and again, i took it very seriously. from what i could tell, my classmates did not. well, some did, but some showed up late. or, didn't show at all. i personally witnessed many incorrectly performed maneuvers. and probably most concerning was that somehow, the instructor allowed this one kid to take like two hours to finish the written test and then she allowed that same kid four chances to success at the practicum. oh, wait, that was four chances the first time. THE FIRST TIME. that's right, she let him take the practicum twice.

look, i don't care. it's her signature on the card, vouching for our mad lifesaving skillz. what i want to know is, if it's this easy to pass, why the hell am i taking it so seriously?

i guess it's possible that my classmates weren't taking the class as seriously as i, either of the first two times. it's possible that i was distracted by my own deafening seriousity. it's entirely possible that i am an insufferable prick. but frankly, knowing myself, i have to say that's a bit far fetched. i mean, sure, i'm a prick, but i am totally sufferable.

if i was into dot-connecting, i'd say there's a connection to be made between these kids' lack of gravitas and the whole "smart phone possession with social media participation" thing. there's something different with kids today than three years ago, and a lot different between these kids and the kids of my youth.

okay, imma just say it: they don't work hard and take class seriously because they don't have to. they're entitled because people just give shit to them. i mean, c'mon. they have freaking smartphones, for godssakes.

i have personally witnessed a professional life SAVING instructor giving an actual practicum allow literally multiple chances and multiple complete cockups that would (in reality) have NOT SAVED ANYONE.

why don't adults work harder? they're all afraid the kids will say nasty things about about them on social media, band together, and marginalize their authority into complete unimportance. grown-ups are so afraid of being non-essential that, in an effort to remain essential, they give away the store, which IS THE VERY BEHAVIOUR that makes them non-essential.

and that, my friends, is irony.