Posts Categorized: Writing

Draft: Winter’s poem

High in the white pines
snow heavy limbs tip
the days’ drifts in a tumble.
The silence of the forest
disrupted by the weight of a squirrel
it’s body, a dark arc of fur
against bright skies
and evergreen, as it bounds
for the next branch, leaving
the sounds
of small avalanches
falling
to the ground.

 

(Inspired while out cross-country skiing with my wife on Lost Lake Trail in Northern Michigan.)

Story Draft: Social Media

At 3:46 am, while Anna Darson slept next to her husband of thirty-two years, in a ranch-style house along the frigid waters of Lake Michigan on a snowy weekend after Thanksgiving, an event was triggered, causing a program to gather data from various accounts, which culminated in an email delivered to Anna with the subject line: John’s Journey is Complete.

Anna, her breathes rising and falling, steady as the snow gathering along the lintel slept on, no mobile device or push notifications to beckon from her bedside. Her dreams were unremarkable. Flashes of joy. Blurs from the weekend, from the past. Their daughter Abbie, up from Chicago, making pumpkin pie with her father, George, as the Lions savaged the Packers in a surprising win. The cold air against her face. The bark of the dogs, steam rising from their muzzles, as they bounded through snowdrifts and back toward the house.

It was mid-morning, the exact time unknown, when Anna turned on the laptop in the kitchen to check the weather, when she logged into her email account and saw the message. John’s Journey is Complete? She thought. Her youngest son, living in San Francisco, was there a race he’d run? Anna enjoyed seeing those automated messages when John ran a marathon. Without expectation, Anna clicked on the email.

At 12:46 am, in the city of San Francisco, John Darson’s journey through life came to completion. John wanted to share his story with you. And, so, according to John’s wishes we’ve assembled the following timeline from John’s connected accounts and recorded metrics. Losing a loved one is always hard, but leaving a legacy has never been easier. ~ Journ.ey | The One Less Travelled By

Anna re-read the paragraph again. What was this? What happened? Was, John? Was her baby, her son? Was he dead? She shut the laptop. Stood and walked to the kitchen sink. Her hands shook as she gripped the counter. Her eyes were vacant. Aching to be filled by the whiteness outside the window. The cold reality of winter. She imagined walking out the front door in just her bathrobe, heading east through the hemlocks as they gave way to taller pines. Taking off her bathrobe and laying down in the snow. Feeling the cold against her naked body. The melt forming to her contours. The silence beneath the pine bows, the scent of the needles as numbness set in and she slipped away. Slipped away from this moment and the harshness sent her way. Then, her thoughts came back to the present. George? Abbie? They were out cross-country skiing. No point calling them. Let them have this time together. Anna opened up a cupboard, took down a glass and filled it. She then went back to the computer, opened it, read the email and clicked on the link.

But, what was there to read? There was no story, no legacy. It reminded her of boxing up the household after her parents died. Letters, recipes, ephemera full of love, along with the marks made by her and her brothers: the mismatched doorknob her dad never replaced and the screen door, ripped by her brother, and stitched up by her mom’s careful hand. But this? This journey, what was it? Anna read the top entry.

November 30, 2014, 12:46 am. Heart rate: 0 bpm.

No context. Just a time and a number. Anna scrolled.

November 30, 2014, 10:17 pm. Status update: Fun catching up with friends. Time to head home.

November 30, 2014, 8:02 pm. Check-in: Ozumo 161 Steuart St, San Francisco, CA.

November 30, 2014, 2:50 pm. Status update: Everytime is the wrong time to go to Whole Foods.

November 30, 2014, 10:22 am. Status update: John logged 120 points for #running!

November 30, 2014, 10:20 am. Heart rate: 117 bpm.

It seemed like the page scrolled on forever, but Anna knew it was finite. There would be a beginning, just as there was an end. Photos, videos, status updates, locations, heart rates, blog posts, it all came together in this digital collage in which Anna tried to find meaning, to make sense, but all she found was loss. She called John’s ex-girlfriend and it went to voicemail. Does one even know the friends of their adult children? In the account from Journ.ey there was a page to download all of John’s usernames and passwords. Anna thought about doing this. Thought about sending a message out in the hopes that his on lie friends would respond. But, then she got the call from the hospital. A human being, a voice with emotion transmitted across the country. The railing on John’s balcony gave way. He’d fallen five stories and passed on the way to the hospital. Yes, said the councilor, it’d been sometime after midnight.

The tears felt like they came from Anna’s gut. Grief rose out from the center of her. Fought it’s way out. She’d hung up the phone, but wasn’t sure when. George and Abbie should be coming back soon. Anna had said she’d make chill for them. Have a pot simmering on the stove. She waited for her family to return, for the shadows to lengthen on the walls. Anna waited as the heat switched off, as around the world updates flashed across people’s feeds, and the house felt colder, more remote. The snow continued and beneath it’s weight a pine bough crashed to the forest floor, the needles spreading out, dark against powder.

Twitter Haiku

Twitter Poem Experiment

Take three statuses and try to make them something greater than an individual tweet.

Hogwarts Launches MOOC

hogwarts

“After the Second Wizarding War, enrollment and retention have not kept pace with pre-Voldemort levels,” said Headmistress McConagall

Hogsmeade, Scotland—In a move sure to shake up the wizarding world, Hogwarts will launch it’s first MOOC (massively open otherworldly course) this year. Headmistress, Minerva McConagall, said, “in the spirit of experimentation and outreach, we are offering Care of Magical Creatures to any who wish to further their education. There are beings around the globe who do not have access to magical education.”

After researching companies like FutureLearn and Coursera, faculty at Hogwarts decided to partner with former alum, Parvati Patil and support her startup Lavender. “Of course, we respect muggles and how they educate their own; however, most magical beings do not own an Internet,” said McConagall. “Though he’s gifted in computer science and charms, we weren’t convinced by Dr. Andrew Ng’s proposal. To quote Texas wizard, Sullivan Blood, ‘It’s all hat and no cattle’.”

Lavender, named for Patil’s roommate, who died in the Battle for Hogwarts, uses crystal balls and a pensieve to open the classroom beyond the walls of Hogwarts. In third-world wizarding countries, like the United States, Hogwart’s MOOC is sure to be a game changer. “Beyond reaching beings in other countries, my commitment to Lavender is inspired by the Second Wizarding War. If a third war was to break out, concerned students could take classes from the safety of their own homes,” said Patil. Initial funding for Lavender came from wizarding startup investors Ron and George Weasley. When asked about their decision, Ron replied, “We thought it was a joke.”

Will MOOCs change the landscape of magical education? Headmistress, Olympe Maxime, of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic could not be reached for comment, while the new Highmaster of the Durmstrang Institute stated: “We view MOOCs as being in line with our commitment to the Dark Arts. We are currently developing a teaching methodology based on the Imperius Curse. Our completion rates should outshine others.”

Back at Hogwarts, Rubeus Hagrid is pouring lessons into his pensieve. “Magical creatures are all around us,” he said, “Whether it’s how to heal a hippogriff or the proper way to raise razor-backed barn owls, these are skills everyone should know.” When asked why Hogwarts chose him to teach their first MOOC, he replied, “It takes a massive man to teach a massive course.”

5 Ways To Not Write a Listicle

  1. Create a title that doesn’t involve numbers. There are exceptions though, like, DeLorean Hits 88 MPH; Travels through Time, or  Huffington Post-esque articles, Discover What 2 Plus 2 Equals, (the answer of course being 4).
  2. Write complete sentences and correctly use grammar. Imagine your audience has more than an elementary school vocabulary and reading ability.
  3. Don’t use bullet points or ordered lists for the content. Try paragraphs and transitions.
  4. Carefully explore a topic and set it in context.
  5. Provide references in a recognized format like MLA or APA.

Review: Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is a futuristic geek-fest that revels in the 1980's subculture of video games, Dungeons & Dragons, comic books, science fiction (novels and films), and cartoons. If you like these things and you're intrigued by a dystopian future where people forego reality for virtual reality, then this book is for you. The novel is fun, fast-paced, and addictive.

People in the novel log into a virtual reality called OASIS. There are thousands of worlds in the OASIS and they are created around individual's obsessions. Imagine something immersive like from the Matrix, but not as real. Then, imagine people having avatars and leveling up like in World of Warcraft or any other RPG. Take that image a step further and picture a world where all of the games are meshed into one universe and there are few bounds. See it? If you don't, that's fine, because Cline certainly sees it and aptly creates it in Ready Player One.

The plot of the novel is simple. The creator of the OASIS is dead. He's eccentric and in a Willie Wonka way turned his inheritance into a game. Whoever can decipher the puzzles, beat the levels, and find the Easter egg he's hidden in the system will take over his company, inherit his wealth, and control the OASIS. Things get complicated when the evil, corporate telecommunications conglomerate IOI puts together a whole division committed to finding James Halliday's Easter Egg. With the fate of the world and the virtual universe up for grabs, who will win?

Read the novel and find out. It's an escape, you may wish to lose yourself in.

Review: Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

I've been sitting here trying to think of smart things to say about David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. It's not that I can't think of things to say, but it's that I can't narrow it down to one pithy comment that sums up exactly what I want to communicate. Instead, I'll say, Cloud Atlas is:

  • Dreamy
  • Layered
  • Complex
  • Interconnected
  • Creative
  • Risky
  • Beautiful
  • Sad
  • Hopeful
  • Constructive postmodern
  • Introspective
  • Adventure
  • Science Fiction
  • Literary
  • Mystery
  • Genre crossing
  • Futurist
  • Smart

That works better than a blurb. It's a messy novel and deserves a messy description. And yes, I mean that in the best way possible. If Cloud Atlas is all of these things, then what is Cloud Atlas?
Continue reading “Review: Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell” »