Category Archives: Writing

Dog Haiku

The first thing Lura and I did after getting home from our honeymoon 15 years ago next week was adopt an adorable stray mutt we named Meekay. Wednesday afternoon he breathed his last breath. I have of course started a tribute poem, but in the meantime here are some hilarious dog haiku to serve as a memorial.

Meekay, our small, black terrier mix dog at the age of 7


Note: The authorship of these is matter of some debate. If you know who actually wrote them please let know so I can give due credit.

Love my master;
Thus I perfume myself with
This long-rotten mouse.

I lie belly-up
In the sunshine, happier than
You ever will be

Today I sniffed
Many dog behinds—I celebrate
By kissing your face.

I sound the alarm!
Paper boy—come to kill us all—
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

I lift my leg and
Whiz on each bush.
Hello, Spot—Sniff this and weep

I sound the alarm!
Garbage man—come to kill us all—
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

How do I love thee?
The ways are numberless as
My hairs on the rug.

I sound the alarm!
Mail carrier—come to kill us all—
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

My human is home!
I am so ecstatic I have
Made a puddle

I sound the alarm!
Gardener—come to kill us all—
Look! Look! Look! Look! Look!

I Hate my choke chain—
Look, world, they strangle me!
Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack!

Sleeping here, my chin
On your foot—no greater bliss—well,
Maybe catching mice

Look in my eyes and
Deny it. No human could
Love you as much I do

The cat is not all
Bad—she dots the neighborhood
With Tootsie Rolls

Dig under fence—why?
Because it’s there. Because it’s
There. Because it’s there.

I am your best friend,
Now, always, and especially
When you are eating.

My owners’ mood is
Romantic—I lie near their
Feet. I fart a big one.

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To Serif or Not to Serif

The debate of whether or not to use serifs in fonts has raged almost since Gutenberg invented the printing press back in 1440. What are serifs, you may ask? Serifs are the little decorative marks on letters, like the bars on the top and bottom of the capital “I”. Sans-serif literally means “without serifs”.

Since I write both fiction and rulebooks, I looked through an assortment of our roleplaying books and novels, and also some boardgame rules.

In our roleplaying books serifs are very dominant. I checked a sampling of our GURPS 3/4e, D&D 4e, OVA, and HackMaster 4/5e books, and they were exclusively serif fonts other than tables and sidebars in HM; sidebars, examples, and sample characters in OVA; and monster blocks in D&D. In other words, they use serifs unless the text is small enough that the serifs might make it harder to read.

Possibly the oldest novel in our collection is my much-loved and rather battered 1978 edition of Heinlein’s Space Cadet. It uses sans-serif for chapter headings and page headers, but serifs otherwise. My wife’s 2013 library book is the same – and some people say that’s the problem, but I’ll go into that shortly.

Boardgame rules are less cohesive simply because they come in a number of formats: sheet or two of paper, pamphlet, booklet, the box or similar material (Ultimate Stratego’s rules are written on the card used to divide the board while players set up). From what I have seen, those that print on card- or pasteboard tend to use serifs, while those on simple paper don’t. Munchkin uses fonts that fit the game’s mood, resulting in a mixture of serif and sans fonts in booklets. Pyramid Arcade includes a 75-page rulebook, entirely in sans serif.


The serif debate is as nuanced as any, but most people seem to fall into one of two groups:
* In long lines of uninterrupted text serif fonts are easier to read because the serifs help guide the eye.
* Sans-serif fonts are “cleaner”, and therefore easier to read. Serif fonts only seem easier to read because they are what we are used to.

I fall into that first group, but also agree that sans-serif fonts look “cleaner”, but in mixed case sans serifs can be confusing. Think of how the word Illinois looks without its serifs. In all caps or or all lowercase it doesn’t matter, but in mixed case capital “I” and lowercase “l” look exactly the same.

As a compromise I have developed the habit of using sans-serif (Arial for screen or Verdana for print) for headings, especially if they are all caps, and serif (Times New Roman) for text. Purely out of curiosity, I mocked up a fake page from my roleplaying game’s rulebook with one written completely in Times New Roman (right), and the other with Verdana headings (left).

Font Test with mock up of rpg rulebook page

So which do you prefer?

Happiness Jar #7 for 2017-03-27

Had several good things in the last week. One was the big 50th wedding anniversary party for my parents on Sunday – a goal far too many people these days will never reach.

I also finally got back to work on the lite game I made and then abandoned five years ago. First thing was copyediting the original post. How it got past my usual meticulous proofreading is beyond me – the number of errors was appalling. But it’s fixed now, and version .2 is nearly done.

Our God of Truth vs the Liar-in-Chief

This is a follow-up to “Is Donald Trump Really a Christian?


The God we serve is one of TRUTH

Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6 (NET)

For everyone who does evil deeds hates the light and does not come to the light, so that their deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that his deeds have been done in God.
John 3:20-21 (NET)

and LOVE

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8 (NET)

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40 (NET)

and CARING

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

Then they too will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?” Then he will answer them, “I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.” And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
Matt 25:41-46 (NET)

and PEACE

Reject a divisive person after one or two warnings. You know that such a person is twisted by sin and is conscious of it himself.
Titus 3:10-11 (NET)

Finally, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, and humble. Do not return evil for evil or insult for insult, but instead bless others because you were called to inherit a blessing. For,

the one who wants to love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from uttering deceit.

And he must turn away from evil and do good;

he must seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer.

But the Lord’s face is against those who do evil.

1 Peter 3:8-12 (NET)

Donald Trump, on the other hand, used bankruptcy laws to steal tens of millions of dollars from his employees and contractors, and stole from them a second time by refusing to pay taxes, forcing them to pay his fair share. He also encourages his followers to hate all Muslims because of the actions a few terrorists, but handwaves away the same complaints made against whites who commit acts of terror in the name of Christianity.

From that and many, many other things he has done and said it is blindingly clear that of all the things that Donald Trump is – reality TV star, thief, liar, sexual predator, hypocrite, thin-skinned egomaniac – one thing he most certainly is not is a Christian.

Now obviously the fact that he isn’t a Christian doesn’t make him unqualified to be President. I regularly thank God that America isn’t a theocracy, and pray that it doesn’t become one. Trump’s faith – or the total lack thereof – has no bearing on whether or not he is qualified to do the job. But…

  • The fact that he tells very public and obvious lies and expects people to believe him does show that he is unqualified.
  • The fact that he throws very public hissy fits every time anyone calls him out on one of those lies or disagrees with him in any way does show that he is unqualified.
  • The fact that he refuses to even talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with him does show that he is unqualified.Among our closest friends are Pagans, atheists, Jews, and who knows what else. Also among them are Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, and Liberals, and I’m an Moderate Independent with mostly Conservative leanings. I value their opinions as they value mine. The refusal to even listen to anyone else’s viewpoint is immature, egomaniacal, and very un-Christ-like.
  • The fact that he pretends to be a Christian in order to use people’s faith in God to trick them into trusting him does show that he is unqualified – and a world-class hypocrite.
  • The fact that he is comfortable being publicly supported by white supremacists and other hate groups does show that he is unqualified – and a complete moral vacuum.
  • The fact that he thinks dictators like Vladimir Putin – who have government-run media companies tasked with keeping the masses ignorant and under control by only showing them his “alternate facts” – are great democratic leaders does show that he is unqualified.
    • That is precisely why Trump fights so hard to discourage his followers from seeking the truth about anything – he doesn’t want them to learn the truth about him or what’s really going on in the world.

I’ll let Jesus Himself wrap this up with the words He spoke to another group of people who refused to see the plain truth standing in front of them:

If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Why don’t you understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot accept my teaching. You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I am telling you the truth, you do not believe me. Who among you can prove me guilty of any sin? If I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? The one who belongs to God listens and responds to God’s words. You don’t listen and respond, because you don’t belong to God.
John 8:31-32, 43-47 (NET)

What Is a Poem?

Before the crash I wrote poetry fairly often, and even got an award for one I wrote in middle school, but after the crash I suddenly stopped. The soul exception was the free verse I wrote after Columbine. That poem is notable for two reasons: I wrote it while staying awake for more than 24 hours while watching news coverage of the event (and skipping all of my classes), and it’s the only free verse I have have ever written, and likely ever will.

Ask five people what a poem is, and you’ll get at least six different answers. My favorite poetry always has defined meter (but sometimes break from it for effect), as do all but one of the poems I’ve written, but free verse strays far from that. I won’t do more than mention “prose poetry” here because I don’t want to sidetrack myself, but that’s another case where one person’s poem is another’s paragraph with randomly-inserted line breaks.

Then Twitter and texting came onto the scene, and the English language will never be the same. Merriam-Webster has probably been busier adding new words than they have ever been since Noah Webster wrote the original nearly two centuries ago.

Over the past year I have become more active on Twitter despite my deep Depression, so it was only relatively recently that I discovered Twitter poetry, and with it came a renewed interest in poetry. In the two decades since the crash I have often written poetically (mostly to my wife Lura), but no actual poems aside from a brief one for her every once in a while (usually shared publicly via Twitter or facebook, if you’d like to read them). Last year I even signed up for an online course called “How Writer’s Write Poetry“, but only managed to stick with it through three lessons before Depression and busyness distracted me from it.

I have tried repeatedly to write poetry over the past several years, including making a roleplaying character that only spoke in haiku, but can never seem to stick with it. That’s why I was so intrigued when I learned about Twitter poems. Reading many of them over the days following my discovery is what got me thinking about what constitutes a poem.

The essence of haiku is to show just enough to let the reader’s imagination take over, making the reader an integral component of the art. As Matsuo Bashō famously said: “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of.” As a result I’ve seen some wonderful three-word haiku, and even wrote one I may share someday, but that got me thinking about how short a poem could be and still be a poem, leading to this:

scream
catharsis

Only two words, but to me it is quite evocative because it is something I have experienced so often. Others who have felt the blessed relief that can result from a good cry or scream may feel something in reading that, but does simply being evocative make it a poem?

I have been writing Twitter poems for Lura more and more often over the past year, even one a month for a while. The forced brevity of the format means I can’t be my usual flowery self (a bad habit English teachers spent more than a decade trying to curb), and that has helped my writing in general. The character limit also means that the resulting poems are so short that I can’t agonize over them for months or years until I think they’re perfect, as I have done with several short stories for years now. In fact, I must instead treat every tweet as if it was a haiku, making sure I get my whole message through without any extra words.

As an example of what I mean, and because it’s Valentine’s day, here is the Twitter haiku I wrote for her last year to celebrate the 17th anniversary of our first date:

Seventeen years gone
Love lies sleeping beside me
Still watching her breathe

How did you read that poem? Was it sweet, or mildly erotic? Did you imagine me lying there watching her sleep and just being happy that she was in bed beside me? Or did you think I was just ogling her boobs as they went up and down? Could I have meant both? Was I saying that I was happy that she was still in my life after 17 years and that I still find her to be the most desirable woman who ever lived? The only thing you can be certain of is that I am still very much in love with her after 17 years together – the rest is up to your imagination and how you see the world.

That simultaneous clarity and ambiguity of meaning is why before the crash I wrote poetry almost exclusively (aside from the occasional essay, which is why blogging appeals to me so much). But since the crash, and especially since our wedding, I’ve written more prose than anything else, much of it inspired by things we have done together (even today we both tend to use tabletop roleplaying games to flesh out characters and settings).

Now that I realize how much I was telling the world when I sent that Tweet back in November, I have decided that I will end this by sharing with you my three-word haiku I referenced earlier. It is the most personal thing I have ever written, but I am sharing it despite my innate extreme shyness because it succinctly tells the source of the Depression that keeps me from blogging or doing anything else for months at a time. And even though I cry every time I re-read it or revise this post, maybe making it public will prove even more cathartic, and hopefully provide some comfort to others in my situation by letting them know that they are not alone.

longing
fatherhood
despair

Happiness Jar #3 for 2017-02-13

This is actually last week’s jar, but I’ve only now had the time to write it up because the good news itself has kept me busy – which is further good news since that busyness means I’ve only had one major Depressive funk in the past week or so, and that was Saturday night). After a several-month unintentional hiatus, we are finally going to be roleplaying again, in the Fairy Tail campaign I mentioned in “Happiness Jar #2“. The GM’s books should be arriving tomorrow, so we hope to be doing character creation before Pokémon League this Saturday, so that will probably be this week’s HJ.

Last week’s jar is that I finally settled on how I would do the Requip ability if I were the GM, meaning that as of Saturday I was able to make Natsu, Gray (mostly), Erza (and by extension the gun requippers, but their attacks are my current project since that’s the kind of character I’m leaning towards), and had a rough idea of how to do Lucy (Allies (Summonable, +20%, Magic, +10%; Must have the spirit’s key, -25%; Pact (??), -?%)), but don’t know enough about celestial mages’ contracts with their spirits to create their Pacts, so that’s probably as far as I’ll go on that.

Since I’m not the GM I’m not going to actually post any of that anywhere until he gets a shot at making his own versions, especially since he’s getting Thaumatology, which is near the top of our trpg wishlist, but I used Powers, which he isn’t getting, so our results will be quite different. In fact, everything I have made for the game is an Advantage – even Erza’s armors are Advantages like Limited DR, IAs, and Flight added onto armor purchased with money – and about half of them are Innate Attacks.

Once the campaign actually gets going (next week, with any luck) I’ll post everything, and with the GM’s permission I’ll also post his versions so it will all be available to anyone who wants to use or adapt it. If you do so then please leave a comment on that post, and leave a link if you posted your version somewhere. I always love to see how others build upon my work, which is exactly why our Constitution tasks the government with giving people patent and copyright protections “for limited times” to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”, but I’ll go into that in a future post.

Happiness Jar #2 for 2017-02-03

After struggling to come up with happiness jar #1, this week we’ve got two candidates. I’ll start with the second one first.

A few minutes ago I was picking up a stack of books that had fallen over and were keeping our elderly Australian Shepherd from getting to their water dish. Near the bottom of the stack was our second copy of GURPS Basic Set: Characters, which has been missing for months. The timing could not better since we’re getting ready to start a new Saturday afternoon campaign and the GM only has one copy of his own.

Earlier this week something amazing happened: my wife finally got health insurance. She’s had to do without because we couldn’t afford the premiums (even with subsidies) and NC’s Republican Congress decided not to expand Medicaid. Given how many pre-existing conditions the two of us have, we’re happy beyond words that she’s finally getting insurance before the US Senate makes it impossible again.

If you live in Buncombe County and have a low income or still don’t have health insurance, visit the WNC Community Health Service (WNCCHS, or “Winches”), a Federally Qualified Health Center in Asheville. They have been our primary care provider since 2010 when they partnered with Buncombe County government to provide primary health care to low-income residents like us. Because I have Medicaid most of their services have been free – even dental – and the rest are very inexpensive because they charge on a sliding scale.