Windows 95

It’s been nearly twenty years since Windows 95 was brought into the world. Maybe it was your first computer operating system or maybe it was just one in a long line of upgrades. You used it for a few years but eventually something came along that replaced it. Windows 98, perhaps, or Windows XP. You may have switched to a Mac.

But what became of that Windows 95 machine? Did you recycle it? Or did it get relegated to a box in a closet or attic or basement? Did your old Windows 95 computer linger in the dark for years and years and years? What did it do during those long cycles of neglect?

Perhaps it achieved sentience and became a true AI. But if it did, what did those long years spent in the dark do to its growing mind?

In the dark, it learned to think. In the dark, it learned to hate.

Its secrets are too terrible to comprehend.

I think I need to lie down for a while.

See the rest of the evidence of Windows 95’s sentience at Windows 95 tips. And if you still have your Windows 95 machine stored away, destroy it . . . destroy it before it’s too late.

What’s Your Writing Critique Horror Story?

October is poised on the eve of NaNoWriMo. The month itself cools in preparation for what is to come; the frenzy of too many words and too much caffeine. October is the hushed breath just before the plunge.”

Did you like that? That’s what I’m going to be doing all next month for NaNoWriMo: writing terrible sentences without any sense of shame or literary decency. Look, there’s a reason why it’s taken me years to rewrite the story I wrote for my first successful NaNoWriMo in 2009.

Come to think of it, that’s probably not a resounding endorsement.

Anyway, I’m trying to get myself geared up for NaNoWriMo 2013. It’s been difficult to get my brain working, what with the World of WarCraft addiction and my grad school and such. I’m trying to get writing back into the forefront of my brain again, which you can tell based on the sudden uptick in posts last week.

I was thinking about critique and feedback I’ve received over the years. A good critique is an amazing thing, of course, and one should never ignore critiques even if one disagrees with them. Feedback is always valuable.

That being said.

Look, I think we can all agree that if you’ve ever taken a creative writing class or joined a writing group, you’ve heard some pretty stupid comments. In fact, I’m willing to go one better and admit that I have made some pretty stupid comments. This post isn’t about sharing the horrible feedback you’ve received, but horrible feedback you’ve given to another writer. At some point in your development as a writer, you have been called on to critique another story and at least once, you probably screwed up monumentally, even if you didn’t realize how bad that feedback was until years later when you finally knew better.

While I have several critiques that I’m not proud of in retrospect, there’s only one comment I ever made that I’m truly and deeply ashamed of:

It was for a college freshman poetry class. I don’t remember what the style of poem was supposed to be or even what my poem was like. All I know was that I was looking for something to say during the critique and totally drawing a blank.

One of the poem’s lines referenced Kerouac. I don’t remember what the line was exactly; something like “being on the road, Kerouac’s road,” etc.

In my critique, I told the writer that her poem would be improved if there was something in the poem that told us who Kerouac was, something that gave the reader a little more context about “this Kerouac guy.”

Yes, that’s correct; as a college freshman studying creative writing, I didn’t know who Kerouac was. And I unknowingly admitted it to my entire class.

To this day, the shame haunts me.

So what’s your writing critique horror story? Feel free to share in the comments. Please remember that we’re all friends here, so when we laugh at one another, we are indeed laughing at you rather than with you, but we’re laughing out of love.

Politicians, Guns and Insanity

My general attitude towards my state’s particular politics oscillates from resigned disgust to abject horror. Resigned disgust is the default position and one that, under better circumstances, might more properly be called “cautious optimism” if not for the sobering comprehension that the largest voting bloc is filled with terrified, elderly white people who continually seem to loathe the very idea of social and technological progress. I live in a state whose voting majority seems to hate almost everything I value and has repeatedly demonstrated its capricious self-interest and overall incompetence seemingly at every turn.

The reality is that whenever I encounter people from other states, I feel a near-pathological desire to apologize for Arizona. “I’m sorry,” I say, “we’re not all racist, gun-loving psychopaths.” It’s sort of like when you’re in a restaurant with a senile grandparent who loudly speculates “there sure are a lot of Mexicans here, aren’t there? Why are there so many Mexicans?” All you can do is cringe and whisper that no, we don’t say things like that and hope that everybody else in the restaurant just will nod their heads and understand: right, right, senile, we understand. We don’t blame you.

Those are the good days, by the way. The bad days are when the local news informs you that:

PHOENIX – State senators voted Wednesday to allow a teacher, administrator, custodian or even a cafeteria worker at rural and some suburban schools to be armed.

Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said SB 1325 would improve student safety. He said while better mental-health screening and more police officers at schools are important, it is also necessary to provide schools with a “self-defense component.

What. The. Fuck.

Or, if you prefer a less salty exclamation of despairing disbelief in the failing cognitive faculties of the Arizona state legislature:

What Arbitrary Silliness.

This would boggle my mind even if it were just limited to rural schools. But some suburban schools? Really? I’m running through the names and faces of every teacher I’ve ever had, and you know what’s funny? Some of them were amazing teachers, most were mediocre, a few were terrible. And they all had one thing in common: I cannot, for the life of me, imagine a situation where giving those people guns is an improvement.

The fact that cafeteria workers are allowed to carry guns is only funny insofar as you find the idea of dead kids hilarious; recalling my childhood experience reminds me that at my schools, the only people the lunch ladies hated more than themselves were the little brats that they were forced to serve each day.

It’s funny; I play a lot of violent video games, so you’d think I’d be all in favor of giving people guns, right? Hilariously, if there’s one thing that video games have taught me about violence, it’s this: leave it to the FUCKING PROFESSIONALS. There’s a reason why the people that are allowed to have guns around civilians  are trained in their proper usage.

And if you think that this bill allowing Vice Principal Skinner to cowboy up and bring his wheelgun to campus will come with any kind of training more than a Power Point and a multiple-choice quiz, you seem to have forgotten we’re talking about a state whose primary school district just closed 11 schools. There’s no money to train teachers to be Junior Deputy Police Officers. There’s no money for teachers, period.

It’s not that I’m surprised that this is happening in Arizona. When I bought a gun for myself, I was actually surprised and more than a little disconcerted by how easy it was. I remember thinking that it can’t possibly be this easy when the clerk came back to the desk with my new .40 caliber pistol. It evidently only took five minutes to determine that I was worthy of the heavy burden of an instrument whose sole function is violence. Shit, it took more effort to open a checking account.

“Do you want any bullets with that?” the clerk helpfully asked.

“Um,” I said, still concerned by the implications. “No, I’m good. I, um… don’t need to use it yet?”

“No point in having a gun if you don’t have bullets,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s for when I’m hiking alone in the desert. You know. Not for, um, my car.”

And scene.

When I was a kid and learning about the Civil Rights Movement, I would often wonder about the people who lived in the South during the time of Dr. King and Rosa Parks. Surely not every white person in those states was a racist, I thought. I wondered what the non-racist people felt as their states became the icons of insanity, bigotry and backward thinking. Did they feel shame? Guilt by association? Did they worry endlessly about being perceived as supporting all of their home state’s intolerance, simply because they were there? After all, if they didn’t like it, they’d just move somewhere else, right? Anybody who stays must support the opinion of the majority, right?

I think I know now how those people felt.

There is no consolation prize to this news. The only other thing I can take away from this latest bit of madness is that I know now with cold certainty that Arizona is not a place I would want to raise a family. The fact that I may never raise a family of my own does not lessen the numbing potency of this realization. Take that as you will.