Category Archives: things I shouldn’t talk about

The Tenuous Serenity of Not-Knowing

As I start writing this, it’s the morning of November 4th. The day after the election. It’s an event I’m guessing folks will eventually refer to in historical if not straight-up superlative terms: The French Revolution. The The War of 1812, The Tungusta event, the Election of 2020.

(Actual Footage)

This is, as they say, a big one. It feels melodramatic to say, “This is the election that will define America,” but it’s probably true. More than that, I hope this *isn’t* the election that shows what America has become.

Despite the fact that the election was yesterday, I don’t know the results. I did what I could leading up to the event. Donated money to places that fight voter suppression. I helped make arrangements so everyone who works for me or Worldbuilders had the day off so that they could vote or support other people who wanted to vote. I’d made sure friends were voting. Years ago, I started a newsletter with the hope of urging people to political awareness/activism, and it’s been trundling along quietly ever since.

Of course, this morning all I can think about is that I could have done more. That I should have done more. I always feel like I should be doing more.

Nevertheless, I don’t know how the election turned out because last night I focused on spending time with my boys. After I finished my afternoon meetings, we went for a walk. Then we made dinner plans. Then I read them a chapter of Slow Regard. (Something I started a while back on a lark, I wondered if they would enjoy hearing me read, and was startled at how into it they were. I could write an entire *other* blog post about what that’s been like all by itself.)

We read together and we cuddled. We brought the empty garbage cans back to the house. Did some chores. Had a feelings talk. Made and ate dinner together. Cleaned up and did the dishes and had our evening treat:

(Tim-Tams sent to me by the lovely folks at Ludo Cherry.)

Then we did our fun thing for the evening. We were going to watch Kipo and some Adventure Time. But when the time came, our mood had shifted, and instead we watched some Youtube videos: one about a guy called Rollerman, and another about people who do that thing where they jump off mountains and glide like flying squirrels.

After each video, I told the boys that I loved them. I told them I would always support them in whatever they chose to do in their lives. I told them their bodies belonged to them, and they were the only ones who got to decide what happened to them.

I also told them that I admired these people in the videos. And that flying down a mountain looked really cool, and part of me wishes I could do it. And that I was glad that there were people in the world who were willing to pursue amazing feats like that.

BUT I also told them that they could never do either of those things. Ever. They agreed.

We then watched some Minecraft videos. (We’re partial to the flavor of brilliant madness produced by Dream and his friends.) After that, the boys told me that while my choices were my own, and I was an adult and free to do as I liked, that I should never *ever* mine straight down. Especially when I was in the Never and wearing all our best equipment. I agreed.

We have a good relationship.

Then it was washing face and hands. Brushing teeth. And, because we managed to hit our bedtime, we got to read, so I read them the final two chapters of Slow Regard, and we talked about it until they fell asleep.

That was my evening. At no point did I poke my nose onto the internet to find out what was happening with the Election. There was nothing I could do at this point but worry, so I avoided it. This is a skill I’ve been trying to develop this last year: The Life-Changing Magic of Sometimes Just Not Thinking About It. (TM)

Today, I still don’t know what’s up. It’s the boy’s busiest school day, they each have three zoom classes. Breakfast and lunch. Tidy the house. A little e-mail. Setting up a video play date. There’s a lot to keep busy with…

(One of the things I’m keeping busy with is this blog. Pecking away at it here or there. Right now Oot is having his virtual Spanish class while Cutie is listening to the audiobook version of Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess. (Yup, there are novel versions of the amazing comic. They’re both written by the Foglios, and if you buy it off that link you’re *also* supporting Worldbuilders.)

But here’s the thing, as the day progresses, I still don’t want to get into my e-mail or on social media for fear of seeing news about the election. Don’t want to message anyone for fear they’ll let something slip and shatter my fragile not-knowing.

Last night this was such a good strategy. I was proud of it. I was peaceful. I felt I’d made a healthy choice and enjoyed quality time with my boys rather than engage in pointless, self-destructive media engagement.

But today I’m walking on eggshells. The boys and I rake leaves and I think, “Surely if Trump was voted out, one of my friends would have pinged me with delighted crowing… so that must mean he’s still in.”

Then I think, “Surely if Trump was still in, one of my friends would have been unable to avoid howling in agony in my direction, so he must be out?” Plus I’m pretty sure it would be raining blood and the sky would be the color of burning tar.

But nothing is happening. It’s a really nice day out. We rake crispy bright-coloured leaves. We eat pickles and biscuits and soup for lunch. The boys practice their knitting.

I know something big must be happening, but right now it can’t touch me. I’m in an odd liminal state that reminds me nothing so much as when my mother died.

That’s a story I don’t know if I’ve ever told on the blog. Simply said: I got the call in the middle of the class I was teaching. I had a strict no-phone policy, but I’d told my students I had family stuff going on, and I might have to answer the phone if a doctor called. I stepped into the hallway, found out she was dead, then went back into the room and taught the rest of the class. Then I taught my next class too. Only they did I go home, get in my car, and head down to Madison to spend time with my Dad and Sister.

When I came back to Stevens Point two days later, I hung out with a friend. It’s so odd to think of now. I haven’t had local friends in ages, so the thought of just meeting someone casually for lunch seems so odd. Doubly odd now, as after the last 8 months, just the memory of eating in a restaurant feels surreal.

But back then it was odd for a different reason. This was back in 2007, two months before my book was published. Way back when I had local friends in town. All of them knew what was going on: that my mom had the sort of cancer you didn’t get better from.

I wasn’t on social media in a meaningful way. Social media didn’t really exist in the same way back then. The only reason I’d finally caved and bought a cell phone at all was because my mom was sick. As a result, my friend didn’t know my mom was dead.

When we got together to hang out, I didn’t tell them. Part of it was the fact that I couldn’t imagine how to bring it up. But the bigger part was that if I didn’t tell my friend the news, for the space of the meal I didn’t have to live in a place where my mom was gone. Down in Madison everyone knew. We were making funeral plans. Consoling each other. Offering support. I was soaked through with the incessant oppressive reality of her utter non-existence.

But my friend didn’t know. They weren’t sad about it. They didn’t mourn at me. Didn’t offer comfort. That meant that back in Point, for the space of a meal, things could just be normal a little while longer. Just for a while.

That’s what I feel like today.

As I finish writing this blog, it’s 3 AM on November 5th, two days after the election. I spent the day with my boys and despite my best efforts, I’ve become dimly, inexorably aware of the fact that it’s not just me that doesn’t know what’s up with the election. Apparently everyone’s in a liminal state. I still haven’t checked the news.

I’m not sure if I’ll post this. It certainly won’t be the first blog I’ve written and then left to lay fallow here.

If I do launch it. I hope y’all are doing as well as can be reasonably expected. I hope you’re experiencing a flavor of not-knowing you enjoy, or at least find pleasantly palliative. I hope for all of us, this isn’t merely the joyful bliss of an unseen iceberg. I hope for all of us, it’s more the tense uncertainty that comes before opening a gift you’ve been desperately desiring.

Or, if not that, a gift like the ones my grandfather gave me ages ago: a pair of soft pajama pants, wool socks, traction grips that fit my shoes for ease of winter walking….

Not gifts I wanted at that age. Gifts that were, quite frankly, annoying and irritating in the moment. But also the only gifts I used for decades afterwards. Gifts that improved my life in small, meaningful, persistent ways.

Here’s hoping,

pat

Also posted in a ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms, Cutie Snoo, ethical conundra, mom, musings, Oot, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat121 Responses

The Coming Storm

So. Tomorrow we launch our yearly fundraiser. It’s our 10th anniversary. A big milestone.

Worldbuilders is my pride and joy. It has changed my life, and I’m as proud of it as I am of my own sweet children, and I love it as much as I love my children. It is a force for good in this weary world, and I’m so proud of the fact that over the years beautiful geeks of all nations have come together, raised nearly 8.5 million dollars, and made the world a better place.

We’re going a lot of new things to mark our 10-year anniversary. We’re pulling the trigger on a plan I’ve been slowly assembling for years. (It has to do with D&D) I’ve been mulling it over for ages, and I’ve finally figured out how to make it work…

On top of that, I think this is the year I’m going to pull an arrow out of my quiver that I’ve been keeping in reserve for a *long* time.

But the biggest news of all is that we’re changing the format of the fundraiser itself. Worldbuilders isn’t going to be a four weeks long (plus a little) this year. This year we’re doing the whole fundraiser in two weeks. Less than half the time we normally use to let it all play out.

It’s big stuff. And we’re making all these changes for good reasons. And they’re good choices. I have high hopes for this year. I think it’s going to be our best year ever.

So now, tonight, I should be writing a blog where I rile y’all up. I should do some cheerleading. Get you excited about what’s coming….

And that’s the blog I sat down to write tonight. But I’m not feeling it.

So instead, tonight, at 2:17 am, I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m not excited. I’m stressed.

No. That isn’t even the real truth.

The truth is, I’m scared.

It should come as no surprise to any of you who have read this blog over the years that I hate and fear change. There’s a reason I still live here in Stevens Point. There’s a reason I still wear the same coat I bought in college. There’s a reason I still use my beloved, 30-year-old Model M keyboard.

(This keyboard has seen some shit, y’all.)

We’re changing the fundraiser this year. And I know it’s for the best. But… I don’t like changing things that work. And the truth is, Worldbuilders has worked amazingly well for almost a decade now… We’ve raised over 8 million dollars to help people all over the world. We’ve helped tens of thousands of families. We have saved lives. We have given families hope and peace. There are children out there who are fat and happy because of us.

And still, tonight, the evening before the fundraiser, I’m scared.

I’m scared people won’t like the changes we’ve made. I’m scared people will be confused. I’m scared we won’t be able to get the word out to new people. I’m scared donors from previous years won’t come back….

I’m worried people won’t realize the fundraiser is *so* much shorter this year until it’s too late. I’m worried that they’ll show up on December 13th, when we’re normally still going strong, and realize they’ve missed out on everything.

I’m worried I haven’t done enough to prepare, and this year will be a failure, and it will be my fault.

Aaand that’s it. I don’t have a sudden reversal to end with. No big closer. No ray of light.

I was kinda hoping if I started this blog I could write my way out of this feeling, but it’s still here. I’m worried that it’s all going to be a trainwreck, and thousands of kids will go to bed hungry because I screwed up.

I just literally sat here for five minutes (It’s 3:05 now) wondering what I can possibly say to pull this blog up into something inspirational.

And I got nothing.

But what else can I do but put my head down and bull forward? My little boy has been filling up jars with change so that he can have enough money to buy a cow for Worldbuilders this year. So we’re going to do that. (I feel a little better thinking about that.)

(He’s so much older than this now, but I love this picture.)

Also, y’know what? Here’s a picture of him with a fake mustache because it’s my blog and I an post pictures like this if I want.

Also, here’s my littler baby dressed up as a bug.

(Cutie AF)

Oh. Wow. When I was scrolling through the files in my media library, guess what I just found.

This:

Hell. Every once in a while I can really put some words together, can’t I?

I guess I’ve got to take my own advice, don’t I? I’m not as good at this as I’d like to be. I’m not as organized or as clever or connected as I wish I were. I’m scared all of this is going to fall apart around me and that the fundraiser will fail.

But what can I do? I guess I’m going to Bilbo it up.

So when I wake up tomorrow (Monday) I’m going to e-mail people and call in favors and do interviews and pull strings and contrive every of trick I can think of to get eyes on the fundraiser this year. Because we’re giving away some *cool* stuff, and I want the geeks of the world to come donate money, make the world a better place, and win some cool shit while they’re at it.

I hope you’re ready, everyone.

I hope I’m ready too.

Either way, I’ll see you soon.

pat

Also posted in boding, Heifer International, hubris, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about, trepidation, Worldbuilders | By Pat101 Responses

What We’re Doing & How We’re Coping

So it’s been pretty quiet here on the blog since the fundraiser ended. Partly that’s because I’ve been trying to focus my energy on laying in some infrastructure in my life so that I can be more productive (and that tends to be boring to blog about.)

But don’t assume that silence means inactivity. Home office here has been a whirlwind as my team has been working on fulfilling the Tak kickstarter, drawing prizes for the worldbuilders lottery, and shipping the everyday store orders in the Tinker’s packs.

(And because I know people will ask in the comments: if you missed the kickstarter, you can order Tak over here in the Tinker’s Packs and yours will ship as soon as the Kickstarter is fulfilled. Which will be super soon.)

WaitingUSPSBoxes

Does that sound like a lot of packaging? Because it is.

Mindy

(Seriously, you can barely move in HQ right now)

But while some of our quiet is due to things being busy, it’s not the entire reason for our silence over here. The truth is, pretty much everyone I know is pretty emotionally distraught over things happening in the world right now, Worldbuilders employees included.

I’ve collected a good team over the years. They’re intelligent, empathetic, good-smelling people. They’re socially aware, and politically active. They wouldn’t work here if they didn’t care about making the world a better place.

And… well… not to bullshit around. But we’re all kind of scared right now. There are things happening the the US and around the world that make us very worried for our country and our people.

But when everything seems awful, what do you do?

Well recently, someone sent me a link to this, telling me that it’s helped them recently.

Bilbo it up

It’s a part of a blog I wrote years ago. At the time I was talking about charity, but that particular quote rings even more true these days than it did then.

Because the simple truth is this: When things are bad, all you can do is what you can do.

Which is perfectly accurate but also kinda useless in terms of a strategy.

As I mentioned before, pretty much everyone I know is freaked out right now and feeling some version of, “I have to do something, but what?”

Part of what I’m doing to help is that I reach out to my friends to see how they’re doing. I try to console or comfort if I can. I give them someone to talk to. And if they’re looking for it, I give some advice….

But honestly? I’m calling because desperately looking for help myself. So if my friends have good strategies, I steal them or pass them along. I pick their brains because most of the people I know are smarter than me in at least two or three different ways.

So with the hope that it might be helpful to some of you out there, here’s what some of my crew is doing these days….

  • Brett – Do Research & Talk to People

Brett Monkey

One of the frustrating things about media today is that most people tend to filter their news through Facebook and Twitter, neither of which are ideal venues for nuanced discussion or information dissemination. It drives me nuts to see bad, lopsided, or blatantly spun “news” get shared and retweeted without a second thought. I know I can’t change minds, but at least I can try to get people thinking about the news they share.

I’ve been researching quotes, statistics, and claims put forth in memes and shared blog posts from both sides of the partisan divide since before the election, posting links to reliable sources that either support or refute the information. Snopes is a good, easy-to-digest source (yes, I know, “scandal” and all that, but it doesn’t affect the reliability of the data they compile), but links to the Associated Press and Reuters are solid, as is NPR. If there are several sources that have the same information, find and link to all of them. I usually have several browser tabs open on my phone, just in case I need to look something up.

People will argue with you. They’ll post their own sources and memes to persuade or deflect you, or just to assert their point of view. That’s great–you get to do more research, and you’ll have a better understanding of how they view the issue.

Stuff to watch out for:

1. Topic drift. Stay on target, address only the claims put forth in the original article or meme. If someone tries to argue with you by bringing up something that’s tangentially related or used to deflect (“Trump will release his taxes when Clinton releases her emails”), remind them that you are discussing only the original topic. Stick to your guns, but stay calm.

2. Be patient. Don’t devolve into name calling or one-upmanship. You are trying to give accurate information, not start an argument.

3. Ask for counter-arguments from other valid sources. This will start a dialogue and give others a chance to defend their beliefs with their own evidence. Encourage them to keep explaining their point. If it turns out they’re right about something, let them know.

4. Be open to the possibility that you might be wrong. If you’re wrong, it’s not a character flaw. You might not have the whole story. You might be too close to the argument to see it objectively. These are emotionally-charged times, and we’re all human. If someone you disagree with turns out to be right, admit it and thank them.

5. See things from their perspective. It’s very likely that you both agree on the big picture, but disagree on the source of the problem and the solution needed. The more you listen to someone explain their position, the better understanding you get of how they reached it.

6. Be cool. Be Zaphod Beeblebrox cool. Don’t resort to name calling. Don’t start your own topic drift. Don’t bring up old stuff. You’re better than that. You have access to facts and data the likes of which we’ve never had before this day, and you can use it to build your platform, argue your case, and–probably not change anyone’s mind, but get them thinking. And that’s what we want: we want people to start really thinking about stuff.

TL;DR: Fight “alternative truth” with solid facts from reputable sources. Stay cool about it. Understand that you probably won’t change anyone’s mind, but you might get them to start looking up facts for themselves before they click Like, Share, or Retweet.

  • Amanda – Write Letters to Your Representatives

Amanda Draccus

I’ve been feeling very helpless for the last few days, and most of my coping mechanisms haven’t been all that great.

But there’s a lot of productive things that can be done, and while I’m kind of exhausted these days, it’s important to funnel this destructive energy into the policies I disagree with, and not, you know, myself.

I remembered a video I watched from Hank Green this last summer, and I’m using it to have a system to write to my representatives.

This video was made shortly after the Pulse shootings this summer, so it’s focused on LGBT and gun control issues, but you can use this script to write about anything that’s important to you.

Representatives are much more likely to respond to a hand-written letter than an email or signature on an online petition. I actually got a letter back from one of my representatives, and while he didn’t change his vote, he thanked me for my honesty and he gave me a genuine and thoughtful response. He really read my letter (or a staffer did, but still, *someone* did), and it had an impact.

So imagine if he had been inundated with these letters. Maybe we can make a real difference. And making your voice heard is what democracy is about.

Though, honestly, a letter is great, but a call is better.

  • Nicole – Call Your Representatives

Nicole

It seems like there’s something new happening every day that needs our attention, and with the list of points to discuss with your representatives only growing longer, it’s getting harder to keep it all straight.

It’s overwhelming, to be sure, and while it’s got me feeling like this uphill battle may never be over, I realize now more than ever that giving up is not an option. The more issues that need to be discussed, the more important it is that we discuss them.

I’ve started using 5calls.org to help me stay organized in my effort. While their list of issues that need attention may not be 100% complete, it’s a great place to start, and a great resource for phone numbers and even provides talking points and scripts.

The best part of this site is that it prompts me to make another call immediately after I finish one, which helps me maintain my momentum once I get started.

  • Amanda Again – Take Care of Yourself

The hardest part of this whole thing, for me, has been the incredible desire to disengage. Bad news just keeps coming through, and we need to be constantly vigilant to stay on top of it.

But then my beloved Jenn tweeted something out that I really needed to hear.

Jenn saves my life

So I’ve had a game night or two where we’re not allowed to look at our phones. I’ve been reading a book and watching TV in the evenings rather than going on social media. I play Stardew Valley and revel in the simple living in that little town, flirting with every.damn.body.

I don’t take whole days off yet, but I’m considering it. One a week maybe.

And then, once I’m feeling a little bit better, I see what else needs doing. I look up phone numbers, I read multiple stories from a variety of sources, and I try to make sure I’m informed by more than the inflammatory stories that happen to line up with my beliefs.

***

My people are good people. I love them with big love.

But the fact remains, I don’t know what *I* should be doing.

Part of the problem is that I have a lot of resources, and that gives me a lot of options. I have money. I have a platform from which to speak to many people. (This blog, for example.) I admire the hell out of the folks who call and write letters. But I wonder if that’s the best thing for *me* to do with my time and energy.

I feel like there are a lot of people out there that want do do something. They want to make a difference, but don’t know the best way to do that. I feel like there are people out there who want to stay informed, but who are becoming emotionally exhausted by Twitter. People who want to want to be active, who want to help… But who aren’t sure how. They don’t know where to start. Or once they start, they don’t know where to go next….

For over a month now, I’ve been wanting to start a newsletter for people who want to be activists, but could use some help getting started. Or people who *are* activists but want to up their game. People who only have thirty minutes a week to spare, and want to use that time to the best effect. People who want help staying informed without burning out and being overwhelmed.

This idea keeps rolling around in my head. A mailing list that gives people tools and tricks for effective activism.

I have a list of people I’ve already been reaching out to, just exploring. Just seeing if they might be interested in helping me put this together. Folks who are smarter, more informed, and more organized than I am. People with good brains and kind hearts. Experienced activists of many stripes.

And yeah. I don’t need another project. Believe me. Nobody knows that better than I do. I’m too busy. I’ve got too many irons in too many fires.

But what’s happening right now is really important. And besides, I wouldn’t do this myself, I’d bring someone in to orchestrate it, because I suck at organization.

So. Here’s the question. Is this something y’all might be interested in?

If so, enter your e-mail into the form below. If only 8 people sign up, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief, send everyone a polite thank-you, and walk away from the idea.

But if 500 people are interested… well then I might start putting my team together. A 1000 people? Well, that means there’s a pressing need for activism advice out there. And I could help make that available to people…

So… yeah. If you’d be interested in a mailing list about political activism and things going on in the world, drop your e-mail here. Rest assured that if this moves forward, you’ll be able to choose your level of engagement. I can’t imagine sending out more than one email a week at the most…

So… yeah. There’s that. If you’re interested.

I hope y’all are doing okay. Take care of yourselves….

pat

Also posted in a billion links, How to be a Worthwhile Human Being, the man behind the curtain, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat81 Responses

The Obligatory Election Blog.

Well. Here we are.

I approach this blog with all the eagerness and delight of a man about to shut his dick in a car door. But if I don’t write it, I won’t feel good about myself.

The problem is, I don’t even know where to start. So I guess I’ll do what I always do, and just tell a story….

*     *     *

About a month ago, I got to hang out with one of my fellow authors. Partway through the conversation he turns to me and says, “You’ll appreciate this. I turned in my manuscript two months late.”

I did appreciate it. He’s one of the workhorses of the genre. Gets his job done on time. He’s a machine. Him turning in a book two months late is like me turning in a book fifteen years late. “Congratulations,” I said.

“I apologized to my editor,” he said. “Told her that it was this election. It’s ruining me. It’s all I can think about.”

“Was she pissed?” I asked.

He shook his head. “She told me pretty much every book for the spring lineup is getting turned in late. Everyone’s brainsick. Everybody’s a wreck about the election.”

I hadn’t known, but I wasn’t surprised. You can’t chop wood with a broken collarbone. And when your head is in a bad place, it’s hard to do work that requires your head.

Writing, if you hadn’t guessed, is pretty head intensive.

It’s cold comfort, I suppose. My writing hasn’t been going well either.

I’m scared. My faith in humanity has been shaken kinda badly. I am afraid for my country.

I’ve been thinking about the election a lot, too….

*     *     *

I don’t talk about politics on the blog very much. Not because I don’t care, but because at my heart I’m a teacher. And deep down in my heart of hearts, I know that talking about this election is kinda pointless, because everyone is way too hot right now. Everyone’s way too emotional. Everyone is way too certain of themselves.

This means that very little actual learning can take place. The people who agree with me aren’t going to agree with me *more.* And the people who disagree with me probably aren’t going to change their minds.

So why would I write this? God knows I’ve got better things to do. I mean, Worldbuilders is right around the corner. We’re crazy busy gearing up for that.

So why do this?

Well… because with moderate power comes moderate responsibility, I suppose. People read this blog, so if there’s the chance even a handful of you might find some merit in what I say… I kinda have to try.

So let’s tell another story….

*     *     *

Earlier this year I was on an airplane sitting next to an older guy. Sixties or so. Retired. We talked about Wisconsin, and farming, and charity, and eventually things wandered into the realm of politics.

It was a pretty easy conversation. This was maybe six months ago, before the primaries, so things weren’t nearly so crazy.

“Who are you for?” I asked.

“Clinton,” he said. “You?”

“Bernie,” I said. “I’d vote for Clinton though.”

He nodded agreeably. “I’d vote for Bernie.”

And that was about it. It was a nice conversation. It was nice to have a gentle disagreement with another human, but to know that ultimately we were both on the same team.

I’ll admit that I was kinda pissed that Bernie didn’t get the nomination. I had my heart set on him, and part of the reason is that I knew he would take Trump apart at the seams because… well… partly because he was an old white guy. And generally speaking, people are more likely to vote for an old white guy. We’re used to it.

Since then though, I’ve had a straight-up change of heart. These days, I admire Clinton.

Sure I disagree with some of her policies. Sure I disagree with some things she’s done.

But fuck. Show me someone I *don’t* disagree with from time to time.

This woman has been through hell and she is still in there swinging. She’s carved out of wood.

I’d be proud of our country if we elected her president.

*     *     *

At one of my events this week, someone asked me if I died, who would I want to finish my book?

It’s not an uncommon question. And I have thought about it. My books are important to me. They’re precious, and they need to be taken care of.

Despite this, when I was asked that question recently, I couldn’t name anyone.

But I can tell you this, I would rather it be someone with experience writing books. A Jemisin. A Sanderson. A Butcher. A Kowal.

If I die and someone says, “I’ve never written a book, but I’m sure I’d be super great at it!”

Please don’t let them write my book. Because that person would be an idiot. Writing a book is hard.

I’m pretty sure being a politician is harder.

*     *     *

Want a confession? Back in 1992, I voted for Perot.

It was a long time ago. 25 years. And I don’t remember much about the election. I was 19 years old, which is pretty much the same thing as saying I was a huge goddamn idiot.

Oh I didn’t *feel* like an idiot. I was completely self-confident. But trust me when I say this: self-certain is the worst kind of idiot you can be. (Think about Kvothe, folks. I kinda know what I’m talking about here.)

I don’t remember my reasoning for that vote, but I do remember feeling REALLY smug. Because I’d stuck it to the man. I’d rebelled. I’d shown the world what I thought of their fucking politicians! I’d voted for an outsider! I was a rebel! A free thinker!

Here’s the thing: if everyone’s trying to order pizza, and they’re either going to get pepperoni thin crust or plutonium deep dish, and you vote for “elephant” you’re not a free thinker. At best, you’re wasting people’s time. At worst….

*     *     *

My point is this: if you’re thinking of voting third party. I understand. I really do.

But distrust of *all* politicians is…. well… it’s kinda bullshit thinking. Politics is a special type of administration. It’s a job. It’s a set of specific skills.

Y’know why I like my therapist? Because he’s super fucking good at his job. And he’s good at his job because he went to school for it, and he’s been doing his job for over 30 years.

When I hire a plumber or a painter or an illustrator, you know what I look for? Experience.

You know why I decided to publish The Name of the Wind with Betsy Wollheim at DAW? Because she has a lifetime of publishing experience.

Hillary has a *ton* of experience in politics.

Trump has *no* experience. Not just less experience. No experience.

He has no experience in politics or international diplomacy.

No experience.

*     *     *

I know if you’re voting for Trump, there’s probably nothing I can do to change your mind.

But could you do me a favor?

If you’re only voting for Trump because of something Clinton did, could you head over to Snopes and see if maybe she really did it?

I would really appreciate that.

*     *     *

If you are thinking of sitting out this election, can I ask you for a favor?

Could you please vote?

If you trust me, I’ll vouch for Hillary. And for Feingold, if you’re in Wisconsin.

I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.

*     *     *

If you’re voting for Hillary, can I ask you a favor?

Can you call some of the people on your phone who might be sitting the election out? Give them a nudge? Maybe offer them a ride to the poll they need one?

Maybe send them a link so they can find out where to vote? How to vote? What they need to vote?

That’s what I’m doing today. It will be hard.

Everyone is so tired of the election. Nobody wants to talk about it any more.

But we have two more days to make a difference.

This is really important.

Thanks,

pat

Also posted in a ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms, things I shouldn't talk about | By PatComments closed

Conversations with Cutie

For those of you who are keeping track, my youngest son is just a little more than two years old now. And far all ages have been good ages with my sons (so far) this is a particularly special age for me. It’s the age of language acquisition.

He’s a good talker, and has been using full sentences for a couple months now. But listening to him is still a bit of an acquired skill, because…. well… he’s still a baby, so all of his words don’t quite sound right.

By the way (Pat said, managing to tangent away from his primary purpose in the blog in a record-breaking two paragraphs) did you know that the reason it takes kids so long to talk isn’t primarily mental? A huge portion of it is actually physical. They lack the physical control required to make the proper sounds with their mouths.

It makes sense when you think about it. Learning how to pick up a pencil is hard, but learning to whistle is *way* harder. Learning how to accurately and consistently recreate the 42-46 phonemes that comprise American English…. well… it’s easy to forget how hard it is until you see a kid struggling with the process.

Think about it, your lips, tongue, jaw, and vocal cords all have to orchestrate things together *very* precisely just to make just *one* phoneme. Like an “Mmmmm” sound. And each phoneme has many variations.

Then realize that even a simple word like “more” has *three* of those phonemes. And all of those need to be pulled off correctly, together, in about a tenth of a second.

And that’s just for one word.

This is why a lot of parents do sign language with their young kids. Kids can understand you much younger than they can talk (Most folks who have studied a foreign language know the same feeling: being able to understand a question in your new language, but not answer it.) Babies can think in words much earlier than they can *say* most words, which means they can communicate with you much sooner than you think if you teach them a few gestures.

Cutie

(Don’t look so smug, little man. That’s a pretty sloppy “more.”)

The reason parents understand their kids better than anyone else is because we’re more experienced with our own children’s  particular accent and dialect. And even then, *we’re* clueless some times as to what the kids are saying.

This is why parents constantly repeat what kids say back to them. Partially we do this so children can hear a clearer version of what they’re saying, which helps them improve their pronunciation. But it’s also because we’re double checking what we think they’re saying. (And honestly, I’m guessing there’s some straight-up biological imperative mixed in there, too.)

Anyway, all of this is preamble and context so I can share a conversation I had with Cutie the other day.

Cutie: Daddy Faat es laou!

Me: Daddy’s fart is loud?

Cutie nods: Es yike ayafat.

I’m clueless here, so I look to Sarah.

Sarah: It’s like an elephant?

Cutie nods again: Daddy’s faat es yike a yion wohr!

Me: Daddy’s fart is like a lion?

Cutie: Wohr!

Me: It’s like a lion’s roar?

Cutie nods again.

So… yeah. Now you know. Even if you didn’t want to know, you still know. And you can’t unknow it.

Sorry about that.

pat

P.S. In case you were wondering, having kids is pretty great.

Also posted in babies, Cutie Snoo, day in the life, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat24 Responses

The Slow Regard of Silent Things

So my book is launching today, and so far I’ve spent the day trying not to think about it.

I am not a nervous person, but I’ll be honest with you. This book has me tied in a bit of a knot. I didn’t feel this way when Name of the Wind came out because I knew that book was good. I’d carried it around next to my heart for 14 years before it was published. I was confident in it.

But this book… When I finished it, I honestly expected it to just sit in a trunk for years. I knew I liked it. But I also knew it wasn’t like any sort of fantasy story I’d ever read before. At best it was arty, at worst it was incomprehensible. Bizarre. I mean, just look at the title: The Slow Regard of Silent Things. What does that even mean? My translators can’t figure it out, and I can’t articulate it in any sensible way. So in the rest of the world, the book is going to be “The Music of Silence.”

10455302_803231523020247_6671642388373659392_n

And yes, yes, I liked it, but it was *my* book. Of course I like it. An author’s view of their own work is never objective.

So today I’m nervous. I’m resisting the urge to go look for reviews. Actively fighting the urge. The almost overwhelming urge. That way lies madness.

So I go onto twitter instead. The first, best refuge of a desperate man looking for substanceless distraction. And instead I and see people talking about the book. They’ve already read it, and before I can look away, I see this:

@PatrickRothfuss Just finished the book. I can only compare it to Ulysses, but not boring. You just made art. Makes the world brightier.

— Deoch y Stanchion (@DeochyStanchion) October 28, 2014

And it helps. A little. The twitter handle lets me know the reader isn’t exactly objective either. They’re obviously a fan…

But the more I roll this around in my head, the more it troubles me. Ulysses was one of those books that I was supposed to read for class but I never did. All I really know about it is that it’s one of the all-time front runners for pretentious, literary self-indulgence, right?

So I turn off twitter. I avoid reading e-mails that might even imply they have anything to do with my book. Then I grit my teeth and answer them anyway, because most of them are from my publisher, and I can’t just leave them hanging.

book

I just went online to find a copy of the US cover to post up, and I found this. This sort of thing warms my heart. Y’all are so enthusiastic and encouraging and kind. It makes me smile. It makes me think that things will be okay. My readers are up for something a little different. They’re geeks. They’re smart.

Then I picture the person above reading the book, their forehead furrowed, their expression screaming, “What the actual fuck Rothfuss? What the hell is this story even about?”

I hate the thought of disappointing people. And this is something that I didn’t understand until I was a parent. The more someone loves you, the more you have the ability to disappoint them. I love my little boy, and I get so irritated with him sometimes. Oot loves me beyond all reason and sense, and when I tell him no, I have hours of work to do, I can’t play, his face falls. Then he smiles a fake smile at me and tells me it’s okay. He’s only five and he already knows how to fake a smile to hide his disappointment. It breaks my heart.

I’m doing an event in Portland tonight in just a couple hours. It will be a good time. The Doubleclicks are opening for me, and last I heard we’d sold over 700 tickets.

What’s the point of all of this? There’s no point. I’m just rambling. Fretting.

I should go take a shower and see if I can do something to make myself look slightly civilized. Maybe eat some dinner. I should definitely Coffee-Up for my performance. Caffeine will probably help.

I hope all of you are well. If you’re reading the book, I hope you’re enjoying it. If you’re not reading the book, I hope you’re enjoying not reading it.

As always, yours in verbosity,

pat

Also posted in emo bullshit, things I shouldn't talk about, trepidation | By Pat268 Responses

Sophie’s Choice

I just had an unexpectedly harrowing experience on the internet.

While I like to think that I’m immune to clickbait, occasionally I leave the high road and tumble gracelessly down into the muddy ditch where I roll around with all the giddy enthusiasm of a dog who’s just found a particularly feculent turd.

(Pat pauses for a moment, looking up at the sentence he just wrote, and thinks that sometimes, just maybe, he should dial the vividity of his phraseologer down from 11.)

Anyway, I stumbled onto the following webpage the other day. I can’t even remember how.

Vote for the best Geek Celebrity Ever.

So I think, Okay, sure. I’ll vote in your little poll. I am wise in the ways of the geek. I have opinions.

The thing is set up as a series of X vs. Y pairings, and you have to vote for one or the other.

The first couple were easy. Obviously Felicia Day beats Peter Jackson. Obviously Johnathan Coulton beats out JJ Abrams. Tina Fey trumps Shatner.

You also have the option to skip voting on a particular pairing. This was first useful when I was given two people I’d never heard of before, a cosplayer and a voice actor. Rather than vote blind, you’re able to just shrug and get a completely new random pairing.

But I didn’t realize how essential the skip button was until this happened:

Don't make me choose!

I saw this, and a gear slipped in my brain. How could I possibly pick? The author of the second comic I’d ever read as an adult (Watchmen). The guy who Promethia. Top Ten. Tom Strong. V for Vendetta. Someone whose work has honesty changed my perception of comic art if not storytelling as a whole. Plus, y’know, wizard.

On the other hand we have Wil: creator of Tabletop, which is a force for good in the world. Co-founder of Wootstock, a source of persistent joy in my life. The actor that played Westley Crusher, a character that made my life suck a little less as a kid. Someone who regularly speaks truth to power, and a damn fine author in his own right….

It was a flabbergasting choice. It’s not like comparing apples and oranges. It’s like comparing sex and videogames. I had to skip that matchup.

Then this happened:

Don't make me choose 2When I saw this, my soul made the sound of ultimate suffering. I think I actually shouted at the screen. “Don’t make me choose!”

As the poll continues, it winnows out the people you don’t know pretty quickly. Then it gets rid of the people you don’t care for. With a little more difficulty you leave behind geek celebs you are merely fond of.

Then it starts to become excruciating. You are forced to make choices no sane person would ever willingly make.

Still the grindstone turns until you are finally confronted with something like this.

Don't make me choose 4

Don’t. Just don’t.

So. If you want to plumb the depths of your  own personal geeky faith, go ahead and check it out. I think the voting ends today.

pat

Edit: Monday July 21st. I just googled “Sophie’s Choice” because while I knew what it meant, I didn’t know the actual etymology of the phrase.

I don’t think I would have used it as the title of this post if I’d known the original referent.

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, geeking out, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat57 Responses
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