Archive for March, 2014
I recited a revised version of Ten Minutes a Day at the JoCo Cruise Crazy 4 open mic, because it’s about how to start doing the things you’re passionate about when you’re not in a position to literally quit your job like all these JoCo cruisers did. I introduced it with some quotes from John Hodgman from this video, which can be seen with more context in the JoCo Cruise Crazy 2 Q&A.
Here are the words I intended to say:
Ten minutes a day:
that’s all you need
to realise your dreams —
not as hard as it seems!
Ten minutes can always be freed.
Ten minutes a day,
a sixth of a clock,
to keep up your writing,
the forced march providing
the force to march through writers’ block.
Ten minutes a day
can’t be denied,
to read through your bookshelf
and castle your rook self,
with culture of kings by your side.
Ten minutes a day,
one day at a time.
To inch past the worst of it,
combat inertia that
nothing excuses, must try if it uses just
ten minutes a day.
Don’t you forget
to learn a new language:
word spread, grammar sandwich.
Ten minutes to keep your tongue wet.
Ten minutes a day,
not big amounts,
to work on your fitness;
don’t tire yourself witless,
but even a small workout counts.
Ten minutes a day,
on or offline
to maintain your friendships;
accept rain, and send drips,
as long as it’s something, it’s fine.
Ten minutes a day —
find it somehow!
Deny social network fun;
finally get work done.
You’ve got all these things to make, it’s really not hard to take
ten minutes a day.
That’s all you do.
To try meditation —
You have to take some time for you!
Ten minutes a day;
it doesn’t take long
to tidy a tight space,
put junk in the right place,
and live with things where they belong.
Ten minutes a day;
put down those chores
to teach well your baby;
remember that maybe
its life will be bigger than yours.
Ten minutes a day?
I can do that!
Grab life while I’m alive!
Did all the things, and I’ve
got what I’m leaping for now,
and I’m sleeping for
ten minutes a day.
That’s all I need. [yawn]
Night dreams are boring,
my real dreams are [sound of snoring]
The main change since the last version of this poem is that I replaced ‘if you’ve spread spores’ with ‘put down those chores’ and moved that stanza nearer the conflicting advice to tidy up, because in the end it’s all about conflicting advice. The ‘spores’ line always seemed like grhyme scraped off the bottom of a barrel anyway. Also, people might take offense at my likening parents to fungi (not that there’s anything wrong with fungi), and if they’re going to take offense at my views on reproduction, I’d rather they react to The Family Tradition.
I’d recited an earlier version of this at an open mic in Geneva, which went well: my stated goal for that performance was to make the audience yawn, and I succeeded. But I was nervous that people would think it was over when it wasn’t, so I started the last few lines while people were still laughing too loudly about the previous ones to hear me. It’s a good problem to have, I guess. So my goal on the cruise, aside from getting all the words right (I got six words wrong, but they weren’t the most important ones, and I don’t remember whether ‘sleep dreams’ instead of ‘night dreams’ was a mistake or a premeditated improvement) not hesitating or rushing too much, and not dropping entire lines or displaying as much high rising terminal as I did at the last JCCC open mic, was to wait until the laughter died down before continuing with the last few lines. I succeeded! Achievement unlocked: elementary stagecraft.
My dictionary says that ‘stagecraft’ doesn’t mean what I thought it meant, but I’m sticking with it because ‘stagecraft’ is only two letters away from ‘spacecraft’. It’s a pretty cool thing to have. On the subject of spacecraft, I highly recommend seeing Atlantis on display at Kennedy Space Center; the way they show it to you is great. I’ll put up my video of it later.
While practising the poem, I got pretty self-conscious about the corny/overwrought rhymes, and wondered whether it was worth wading through them to get to the laugh line. Oh well: stagecraft! Jack Conte from Pomplamoose was hosting the open mic, and I think he is made of stagecraft. Hank Green was also hosting, but he made it pretty clear that he is made mostly of quarks. Hank Green, we’re not so different, you and I.
A few people who heard this poem at open mic have told me they were inspired by it, and are making progress on various projects because of it, and that’s great. But when I wrote this it was out of frustration with the idea. It always takes more than ten minutes, and there are always other things to do in the day, and if I try to do more than a few of these ‘ten minute’ things there isn’t enough time for sleep. Maybe I need to be stricter about stopping when the time’s up no matter whether I feel like doing more or am still waiting for my nearly-five-year-old Mac Ayu to let me start. I put in the ‘teach well your baby’ stanza almost as a joke, because I’m amazed that people with children have time and energy to do anything else at all, and yet they are told to spend just that wafer-thin amount of extra time doing each of several conflicting things to raise their children better, as well as all the other things. If you really only have ten minutes a day for a child, consider spending them on contraception.
The spontaneous Mr. Creosote reference in the last paragraph made me think of this extra stanza:
Ten minutes a day:
it’s just wafer-thin!
To add to your total,
Conserve it, but don’t hold it in.
Which is kind of gross and kind of negative, but if you have something you want to create, and you just spew out whatever you can in ten minutes, it’s better than forgetting about it or using up mental energy fretting about forgetting it. If time is your nemesis, fight it with emesis.
Once upon a time there was a princess with only one eye. Now, we need two eyes to see depth, so the one-eyed princess could only see people as they looked on the surface, and not how they were in their hearts. Such a handicap would make life difficult for a commoner, but a princess’s only job is to find a handsome prince to marry, and her one eye made her exceptionally good at determining handsomeness, so nobody worried.
The princess was kind-hearted, and she grew to be very kind and pleasant to anyone she thought good-looking enough to be a good person. She was less kind to the plainer-looking people who she assumed were not as good. Being a princess, she didn’t often have to be around people who looked bad. The ugliest people she saw were servants, whom she was allowed to treat poorly.
And so the time came when the princess was expected to marry. Princes voyaged from far and wide to meet the princess at a grand ball. The King and Queen were careful to only give invitations to the very handsomest of princes, lest the princess displease handsome princes by showing how badly she treated the less handsome ones.
The princess’s handmaidens worked tirelessly to prepare the princess to meet her suitors, and were only called names in return. One of them was losing her hair from worry, and the princess treated her all the worse for it. On the eve of the ball, the handmaiden could not bear to continue, and gave the princess a mirror, so that she may groom herself.
For the first time, the princess saw her reflection. She saw the smooth skin where her left eye should be, and how ugly that made her. She saw that she was even more worthless than the ugliest of her servants. She ran out into the rainforest by the castle, crying as much as her single eye could. She threw herself down by a pond, and saw her reflection in it, the smooth skin reddened and swollen with trapped tears. “No handsome prince will ever love someone as ugly as me!” she wailed.
Now, a chameleon walking nearby heard this, and being a smart chameleon, he knew that there were benefits to marrying even an ugly princess. So he changed himself to look like one of the handsome princes he had seen entering the castle.
“Oh!” said the princess as the prince appeared beside her. “You look like a mean old tax collector. Kindly give me my taxes or go away.” So the chameleon went away. The princess looked at her reflection again, and saw that she did not deserve the taxes.
The chameleon waited for a more handsome prince to arrive at the castle, and changed himself to look like him. When he approached the princess, she said, “Hello, there, Sir! You are surely a knight. Do you need a stable girl? For I am clearly not fit to be a princess.”
The chameleon said, “Sorry, Miss. I thought you were my horse,” and went away. The princess cried so much into the pond that the water, and her reflection, became clearer, and the ugly red bulge where her left eye ought to have been grew to the size of a plum. She saw it and knew that she did not deserve to live.
Just as the princess was about to throw herself into the water and drown, the chameleon came back, disguised as the handsomest prince he could find. He held the princess by the waist to keep her from falling in. “Oh, thank you, your Highness! You have saved me!” she said. “But I am not deserving of your kindness.”
“It was simply the right thing to do, ma’am; the pond does not deserve to be so sullied,” replied the chameleon.
The princess agreed. “You are right, of course, your Highness. But is there anything I can do to repay your good deed? Through some accident of birth, I am a princess, so I can give you anything you want.”
The chameleon replied, “As a handsome prince, I already have almost everything I could wish for. But I am a friend of the forest creatures, and my own kingdom does not have such vast rainforests as yours. So I ask that you marry me, and when the time comes for you to take the throne, let me rule as King in your stead.” And that’s exactly what she did. When the chameleon became King, he ordered the people to move to the outskirts of the kingdom, so that the rainforest could grow and give more room for his chameleon family.
The chameleon did not always treat the princess well, but as he was so handsome, she could tell he was a good person who was kinder to her than she deserved. As he had two eyes, the chameleon could tell that the princess was a good person who was kinder to him than he deserved, but he did not always treat her well. And so, they lived happily ever after.
My last post here said that JoCo Cruise Crazy would have a ball pit. Due to hygiene regulations, that ball pit became an imaginary ball pit, but there were still at least two real ball pits on the ship. The one I brought was sewn onto my pants for the annual Fancy Pants parade. Anyone who wanted to get into my ball pit would have to at least buy me dinner first.
I did, however, flash my balls at people occasionally:
Ultimately, giving such a ‘special show’ to the Monarch of the Seas, Queen Courtney, won me a trophy, and the title of Best In Terms of Pants. Here’s the video of the parade from my own camera (expertly wielded by Simcha, who also took his own videos of the cruise), showing my humble beginnings and triumphant return:
And here’s a video from an angle that shows the rest of the parade well. You can almost see that when Jonathan Coulton is walking around humming God Save the Queen, I flash my balls at him and make him laugh a little:
I thought I had some fancy pants, and now I know it’s true. I looked at all the fancy pants and held the trophy high:
Everybody cheered, but I swear by Coulton’s beard, that everybody had the best pants. For while it may not seem like it from the fact that I was wearing toys bought from a baby store and making jokes about balls, I am mature enough to understand that the key to happiness cannot be in supplanting someone else’s pants. Chances are you’re best in everybody’s pants. There were shiny pants, blinking pants, gumbo pants (I liked them, and he did put a ring in it), squid pants, wrong pants and right pants; you can see some of them up-close in Atom Moore’s gallery.
Some of the balls were less securely attached than others, causing a wardrobe malfunction whereby a few of my balls fell off during the parade. This was fun, because I could throw them to my adoring fans (of which I have none) in the hot tub at the end of the catwalk. It looks like they were thoroughly examined. I’m told the people in the tub chanted ‘ball pit pants!’ to correct Her Majesty’s proclamation of ‘balloon pants’. Off with their heads!
The fancy pants parade was followed immediately by a movie night, which was followed by a concert. As I made my way to the concert, I heard that somebody had already added ball pit pants to the life-sized Lego statue of Jonathan Coulton that brick artist and JoCo Cruise Crazy 4 performer Nathan Sawaya had unveiled earlier in the week and left in the game room to be embellished. I was honoured!
The guy who took that photo got a bit creative with the later shots.
Some people wondered how I made the pants, and some did assume I’d used balloons, due to the difficulty of attaching and transporting balls. But they are, in fact, balls. I started with some old jeans that were starting to fall apart. After searching for playpen balls in the toy sections of various stores without success, I finally found some at a store called Babywalz, and bought two hundred. They were for babies, and definitely not the crush-proof kind Randall Munroe recommended for adults. As such, they were made of a quite supple plastic that was easy to get a needle through, so I could sew them on. At first I only attached them with one stitch each, and these were probably the balls that fell off during the parade. We each got a single playpen ball in our swag bags when we boarded the ship, but those ones were harder than mine and wouldn’t have been easy to sew. The swag bags also contained the pants/squid/robot/monkey playing cards that the one pictured comes from; while this post is not technically part of Writing Cards and Letters, I couldn’t resist using such a card. The pants cards were designed by Katie Rice.
I used nearly a hundred balls to cover the front, outer sides, and back lower calves of my pants. I left the other parts ball-free so that I would be able to sit down, and wouldn’t have to splay my legs apart to make room for my balls, as I have little experience in that. On the backs of my legs I sewed some coloured foam circles I found in the craft section of a bookstore… not as many as I’d intended to sew, since I only remembered to do that on the night before flying out.
The balls were not crush-proof, but as Randall Munroe warned us, there still wasn’t really a way to compress them for transport. My pants filled that third of my suitcase that I usually struggle to fill without going over the weight limit. As I continued my vacation to Kennedy Space Center, Chicago (including Fermilab) and MarsCon, I accumulated more and more souvenirs, and my victorious balls got more and more crushed. I still showed the pants to a hot-tub full of dementites at MarsCon, though, and once again threw some balls in for playing.
The tutu was a birthday gift made by my mother; if you like it, and you live in New Zealand, you might be able to get your own. The ‘great tits’ T-shirt (entirely necessary to balance the inevitable ball jokes) was from an ornithological society which has since sold its domain name to a more lucrative enterprise.
The other ball pit was created by Christopher Badell (not pictured), one of my thirteen roommates in the Presidential Suite, and also the official sponsor (in the name of his company, Greater Than Games) of the imaginary ball pit. He brought a few hundred balls to float on the surface of our suite’s private hot tub, which were fun to play with on the only occasion I had spare time to sit in a hot tub. There may be video of that later from another of my roomies (or ‘suities’, I guess.) I added a few spare balls from my pants to that hot tub as well, making a total of three hot tubs graced by my balls.