Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Few Changes

So I hacked into the CSS for this erstwhile beautiful template to make it all my own. Decidely craptastic and the victim of a geek thinking he can make stuffs look nice. (here's a hint why that's bad, programmers designed Frontpage, as well as, I'm sure, not a few of the American Cars on the road today (honestly, Pontiac Aztec, you can't tell me that wasn't thrown together by a bunch of engineers from MIT after a power failure wiped out the amazing design the actual designers had spent months doing. It honestly looks like someone made a car out of one of those fudge chunks you see at fairs. Or, just as easily, those MOUNTAINS OF CHOCOLATE that used to be portrayed in the DQ commercials).

But hey, I wanted to make this my own, so there you have it. I also bought the domain www.periodically.org, so now you can tell all your friends you read Periodically.org, not some random effusive ramblings of a writer wannabe who couldn't get Niteowl as a blogger URL so got THEniteowl.

Geez louise, uncool even in the nerdosphere.

Anyhoo, someone remind me to post a buncha links to some very very funny stuffs on the internets that the average non-nerd might not know about.

Oh, well, it's not really that much of a bother, here are two, at least.

The first one is a doozy. Alright, in the programmer world, new languages pop up, 'cool' ones, ones that do neat things very cleanly, or do old things in new ways, or do new things in old ways the way current languages should have done them. Before you all go comatose, I'll try and huck an analogy your way.

Let's say you got this saw right? Ok, that's your current programming language. It cuts stuff, and stuff. It does it's job. Then along comes another tool, this is a jig saw. It's lighter, it can cut through fricking coping for god's sake, it's pretty dark cool. It can also be hanged (hung? shit, I'm so using this word the wrong way) in your workspace much easier. And then along comes the black and decker jigsaw cordless thingamadoohickey. And it's even better. So there is a natural progression of languages. Some are made to be very cool. At least from a coder's perspective.

Ruby is such a language. I won't bore you with details except to note that the more or less official manual for Ruby is this, written by some fella by the name of why. Yes, why. Yes, it's the sort of name that will inspire many "Who's on second?" type of discussions. I have neither the talent nor the inkling to go down that way.

So anyhoo, this fella is super popular. In the blogosphere, I think he would actually be completely out of mine. He'd be the sort who'de be invited to conventions just on his blog. Luminaries in tech would quote him, or reference him in witty Silicon Valley banter. He's that cool. But that's besides the point. My point here is that the guy is a bloody genius. Bordering on completely insane due to his truly awesome sense of absurd humour, but there you have it, love him.

He's like Robin Williams and Bill Watterson's love child with a little genetic splicing with Salvatore Dali and maybe a pinch of pure, brazen, wild eyed and heroin induced madness. He's that good.

And the second is.. Well, it's nerdy within nerd. I'm not even sure if an analogy would work here. If I know you in real life, and we meet up for some social event, I'll explain it to you. If you are nerdy enough, then let me just say one word "Penultima".

Like a Many Layered Cake of Frustration

There are many stages of The Writer. As far as I can tell, each level you get to seems more populated than the one before. It's like some perverse inverted pyramid of frustrated and aspiring scribblers. Here are the ones I can identify:

1) Denier
This person reads like it's going out of style. Reads tons and tons and then maybe an ounce more. Has many opinions on books, writers, writing, etc. Mildly entertains the notion that he might, just might -- if push came to shove came to forcible coercion -- have a book in him. Refuses to entertain this possibility one iota further.

2) Acolyte
Firmly believe that they can write. That maybe even writing is in the stars, tea leaves, or the droppings of a particularly prescient goat. Read tons. But now reads tons ABOUT writing, and ON writing (Orson Scott Card's "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing" and Stephen King's "On Writing" are pretty darned good). Maybe subscribes to a writerseditors/publishers/agents blog. Maybe subscribes to 20 of them.
Starts joining various writer's forums.
Words coming, not so much. Perhaps as quick molasses upstream during a snowstorm. Probably slower.

3) Blazingly Wild Amateur (my current level)
Thinks he's mastered a few tools. Has maybe completed a novel or two. Most definitely has finished a few short stories. Blissfully unaware of the rejection that awaits him. Keeps all his darlings unsubmitted. The looming wall of rejection is pretty scary. He's gone from "wanna write" to "time to see for whom the bell tolls". This process, as far as I've heard, is long and arduous. Lots of submitting, lots of rejection, but most importantly of all, writing and improving, writing and improving.

Other levels shall be detailed in further posts. And purely from an observer standpoint.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Name in Print, Sort of.

You toil at the keyboard. Mashing the keyboard mercilessly; plotting, revealing character, spouting metaphors, crafting with all your writing ability to create readable fiction. Stuff that people would actually want to read. Not just stuff that coworkers and close friends feel compelled to cursorily glance through, nodding ever so slightly with a carefully crafted smile of 'enjoyment'Stuff that would entertain, and maybe even get a chuckle.

Maybe someday, someday it'll see print.

Then a cryptic email from the Ubyssey yesterday, something along the lines of 'we were able to fit everything in'.

My heart leapt.

Could it mean that my Space Cowboy piece would actually be published in a real live (student) paper?! That was pretty darned exciting. Sure, I've made my way into the department newsletters, which was pretty cool, but this is the first time my fiction had seen print.

On the other hand, they were printing absolutely everything. It wasn't like there was quality control on it. I was just as likely to see haikus on warp core field generators, I'm sure, than see some talent from a budding Asimov. But it's still something to see your stuff in print.

So lunchtime I run to the SUB, and pick up three or four copies of the Ubyssey's Friday edition. And lo and behold, they didn't only print the hallowed winners, but also the likes of lowly folks like me. If this was track & field in grade school, I'd be getting one of those ubiquitous 'Participant' ribbons. Maybe with a cursory phrase at the bottom informing me that I "Get An 'A' for Effort!".

I ruffle through the papers frantically. Passing by the new upgrades to the campus, the current state of the UBC Basketball team (men and women's), and all other sundry things. And wham, there it is. My name, finally in print. My piece, which I thought wasn't entirely atrocious, in print. "Hayden Smith : Sardonic Space Cowboy".

Except...

Except the title looks odd. "Sardonic Space Cowboy". Somewhere deep inside me dies slightly. I know what's going to be next. The next line smacks me like a buckshot of kryponite upside Superman's unsuspecting buttocks: "by, Hayden Smith"

Fantastic.

Here's first place, second place, third place, and mine. If you want to see what mine looks like in print, here's the two pdf files that have my story.

It was pretty interesting to read all the pieces. They were all fairly solid, IMHO. I really can't say how the first three won and the others didn't. My only quibble was that many of them didn't seem to have a plot perse. I'm one to talk, I write extremely simple plots. But at least there is one. Then again, maybe the style of 'not a whole lot of plot' is normal? Or maybe (probably) I'm just bitter.

I'll let y'all read and tell me what you think (as if I'll get an objective opinion here, I can see your nervous smiles and nods from here!).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cleanup and More Rejection

So I just cleaned up a few of the blogs I was linking to since, apparently, they weren't linking to me. The buggers! I mean, that's ok. One of them is a highly traffic IP law blog run by a friend of mine. And the other is a Guild Wars thing. Either way, I can't imagine most people were clicking over there anyhoo.

And when I say friend, I mean friend I've met over the internets. Because that's what we geeks do. Find people to prattle endlessly to over the net. And then we listen to them prattle to us. Invariably, we are of the same opinion. And if we're not, then graphs, polemics, counterpoints and ripostes are issued. Links, references, footnotes and maybe a few quasi experts are put into play, should it come to that.

But I digress.

Other news!

The short fiction piece I submitted to the Ubyssey (student UBC newspaper) Sci Fi Contest didn't make the cut. Oh well. I imagine they got a metric ton of submissions. Maybe mine was so blazingly brilliant they didn't want to draw attention to my deathless prose that would shock the world a second renaissance of reading.

Or maybe mine just sucked.

Or maybe a humourous sci-fi short about a space cowboy named Hayden didn't fly well with the prof who was judging (who happened to specialized in Greek tragedy and the classics). Yeah. Anyhoo, that's my second submission to a contest. For those of you keeping score at home this would make it :
Newspaper Fiction Contests - 2; Me - 0

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Learn A New Thing...

Man, you really do learn a new thing everyday. There have been a few shocking realizations I've had over the past month or so:

-bizaare is spelled bizarre (how bizaare)
-scythe is pronounced "sithe", not the phonetic way. Which is the way I've been pronouncing it in my head for my whole life. My entire youth spent reading Advanced Thresher Sci-Fi and Buckwheat Fantasy novels, for naught!
-George Eliot was a woman, real name Mary Ann Evans.
-Terry Gilliam is American.
-Robocop is a Criterion Film. I shit you not.
-Uhm, oh damn, just after I post this, I find that, this movie is a Criterion film as well. Maybe I don't know what being a Criterion film really entails..


Alright all (three) readers of my blog, post and lemme know some earth shattering facts you've learned recently.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Hayden Smith : Sardonic Space Cowboy

The following is short story I wrote for a contest. A piddling tiny contest that I'm sure to get a nice rejection letter from. But hey, it's the effort that counts goldurnit. It's actually a heavily heavily heavily modified excerpt from the latest novel I'm working on "Hayden Smith : Sardonic Space Cowboy". It's about a guy who works for The Beta Bank corporation. But only a few Earthlings even know that "They" are out there. "They" being space creatures and aliens and all that good pulp sci-fi stuff. It's kinda James Bond meets Men In Black crosses Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. Kind of. Except less mysterious, less funny, and less actiony. The worst of all possible worlds, really.

Anyhoo, hope you enjoy it.





Hayden Smith, Sardonic Space Cowboy

The bomb had a nice display: green and black with a thin blue border. Hayden wasn't positive -- alien languages were indecipherable, by definition -- but he suspected it was counting down to a very fatal explosion.
He breathed deep. Everything's cool."So that's the way it's going to be?"
"I know your type, Mr. Smith -- all swagger and guns --I don't care for it. Tell your employer to stop trying to collect. Oh, and I'm keeping the package."
"Let's be reasonable life forms, Mr. Xerk. Disarm the bomb and pay for that package. No need for anyone to get hurt." Hayden clenched his jaw. This was not a conversation for a luxury interstellar hotel: persuading a shady client to, if he could, refrain from blowing you both into messy bits of gristle.
Mr. Xerk grinned, revealing long silver fangs, distinctly Ghederian. His smooth demeanor, expensive suit, and finely coiffed hair, made it easy to forget.
"Oh, don't worry, you're the only one in harm's way. And you almost won't feel a thing."
Hayden put his hand to his revolver.
"I could just shoot out that porthole and blow us into space."
Mr. Xerk's grin faltered.
"You wouldn't... be so, reckless!"
"As an employee of the Beta Bank Corporation, of course not. As an Earthling, absolutely, bravado's in our blood." Hayden's heart hammered faster.
A thin trickle of sweat ran down Mr. Xerk's face. His eyes darted between gun and bomb as he walked back slowly.
Hayden patted his right pocket. It was still there, good. He narrowed his eyes. "You're not really going to blow that bomb, are you? They don't make these luxury rooms _that_ sturdy. Overpriced mini bar and tasteful decor do not a blast-proof room make."
"Oh, it's just a small biological weapon. It would be in your best interests if you left now, Mr. Smith." Mr. Xerk's gills flared. His holofront must've been low on power.
Hayden could either run or dispatch Mr. Xerk. He knew which would lead to continued employment at Beta Bank; and which would lead to crappier and crappier assignments -- if not outright death (the on-shift manager was given quite a bit of latitude).
The bomb beeped higher and higher.
As a general rule, Hayden was not a fan of things that beeped higher and higher. They tended to precede a Really Bad Event. A malfunctioning robot, a microwave on the fritz, a biological weapon about to release its payload.
Mr. Xerk gave him one last fang filled smile, and took out his detonator. Damn, thought Hayden, can't pay for goods, can't even wait for a timer to count down.
Hayden blew the air out of his lungs, drew his gun, and fired at the porthole. The weapon roared. The first few shots starred the glass, the fourth shattered it.
Rushing air filled the hotel room. Mr. Xerk was knocked off his feet and pulled towards the porthole, the empty cold of space clawing at him. He let out a hollow scream, his hands scrabbling at the walls and floor, and was sucked out.
Hayden holstered his weapon, and laid flat on the ground. He reached into his right pocket and clicked on the transponder. He had high hopes for his Bob. He was pretty sure he had trained him well enough, but Bob had his quirks. Unpredictable, near catastrophic, quirks.
Space finally pulled him out of the room. To the right (or to some direction, everything was relative) he could see the blaze of a young star. The hotel was renown for finding breathtaking astral sights. And this one was a doozy. If not for the view, then for the cosmic rays, ultraviolet radiation, and nasty particles that were bombarding him. It was going to be a short mission if Bob didn't save him. A very short mission.
A half second later his ship flew by, its cargo doors opened and pulled him in.
It was a small, just big enough for him and a passenger, with a cockpit at one end and a footlocker at the other. It was sparse compared to the exterior, which Hayden had fitted with fancy body panels, a few pinstripes, and a flaming skull.
It looked far better than it ran.
He stumbled to the cockpit, fell into the pilot's seat and hit a worn yellow button labelled "Emergency Medi-Ray". It dealt with all sorts of ailments. Right now, those would be hypothermia, radiation poisoning, and a wicked case of the bends.
"Well pardner, that went smooth didn't it?"
Hayden got up and shook his head. Of all the upgrades he bought, getting a western drawl for Bob was the most regrettable.
"The client was... reticent."
"Can't win 'em all y'know. Always will be a faster draw, a younger gun edging in on yer steer."
Hayden punched in the coordinates for Beta Bank, deciding to not fly there manually. Experience had taught him that maintaining course in the blankness of space for hours on end was dangerously boring.
The LightScream 9800 spun up, and with a low kachunk, he was off.

***

"And that's your entire report?"
"It's all there High Manager 2nd Class Skornt. The client refused to comply with contractual obligations, so I dispatched him."
"Vented him into space."
"Yes." Hayden hated debriefings. They was always a lawyer listening, to ensure Beta Bank was clear of liability. The interview was invariably hostile, with the not so subtle threat of a pink slip driving the entire discussion.
Skornt looked up from the report scrolling by on his flexiscreen. Hayden tried to decide which of the three eyes to focus on. In the Bank, there were no niceties such as holofronts. You just dealt with whoever was in front of you. Even if it was a purple, three eyed furry behemoth with a deep authoritative voice. At least they kept their Translators on, there would be alot of screaming and pointing otherwise. Well, _more_ screaming and pointing.
"So, what, you have another assignment for me? Or can I return to my humdrum existence on Earth until such a time as you folks need me?"
"I'm glad the Bank can add some modicum of excitement to your life, Mr. Smith."
"It's certainly not for the paycheck."
"The Bank is not in the habit of paying more than it has to. And you Earthlings, Xorn bless you all, work for surprisingly little. Oh, and it says here you're two demerit points from a pay cut. Now that would be exciting, wouldn't it?"
Hayden changed the subject. "Earth can be pretty boring. Especially since most everyone is still debating your existence."
"_My_ existence?"
"Oh, you know, the existence of all you... non-Earthlings."
"Ah, yes. Yes. What an odd quandary you earthling agents are in. Odd, and distinctly unprofitable to discuss." Skornt got up from his desk, and glanced meaningfully at the door.
"So... right." Hayden left.
The Bank, or at least the part of it he saw, was actually quite boring. Lots of metal and plastics all in brain numbingly dull colours: beige, whites, off-whites, eggshell, off-white eggshell. They even had carpet. Or something like it.
Hayden had never thought he would ever have to report to a suit in an office. He wasn't the type. But he supposed an office in an interstellar space station for a multi-galactic banking corporation wasn't as mundane as all that.

***

Humans were alarmingly stupid. As soon as you were sure they couldn't get any stupider, as soon as you established an appallingly low baseline of stupidity, they did something to lower it.
It was disconcerting.
Mr. Xerk , of course, had a ship ready to phase him away when he was blown into space. It wasn't cheap, particularly for an independent businessman such as himself. But he had planned for it.
He didn't really think the human would do it. It created a perfect getaway for Mr. Xerk: no body and death assumed. He could walk away free and clear from the unfortunate business with Beta Bank, and with his package obtained at... reduced prices.
It was everything to Mr. Xerk. But for Beta Bank it was a bauble, nothing. But they were sticklers for rules: unpaid goods and loans had to be collected. Which was why they sent the cannon-fodder human after him.
Mr. Xerk poured himself a drink -- the sort one avoids before operating heavy machinery or high calibre weapons -- and leaned back in his chair. It was a nice chair, high-backed and covered with the leather of a recently extinct animal.
He unwrapped the package, slowly. It was an answer to a few of his more pressing... business issues.
The contents unwrapped, he blinked.
His drink clattered to the floor.

***

Crap, thought Hayden. He had forgotten to return Beta Bank's package. Double crap, he had also forgotten to retrieve his favourite Knight Rider lunch box he had used as a decoy. It was likely floating out in space, with the late Mr. Xerk.
Despite all the danger and bad treatment, he still loved his job. He really thought he was getting the hang of the whole space agent thing. And then he had to do something like this. A vain hope that this slip up wouldn't result in demerits crossed his mind, which reality shot down remorselessly.
Oh well, he thought, it was too late to do anything about it now. He'd return it after the show, one of the many westerns he loved. Where the gunslingers were quick, the women quicker, and death was rode on lead and fire.
A whiff of charred something wafted into his house. The neighbour was once again barbecuing mystery meat. Oswald was an annoying neighbour. The worst was that he was also nosy and had 911 on speed dial. Hayden could almost forgive Oswald's use of a bath robe, black socks and flip flops as suitable daily wear. But a neighbour on first name basis with the 911 operator was the worst sort for a Beta Bank agent.
Not that things happened in Hayden's neighbourhood. But if he slipped up once, he knew he'd have half the towns emergency response at his door. And if there was evidence of him with anything that linked to Beta Bank, there went his job.

***

Backwaters irked Mr. Xerk. He had been to the dune filled copper mine world of Rso, the barren moons of Eodm, and even the garbage planet Zephyr Regis 49. But the outer reaches of space where the inhabitants thought your existence was 'quaint' and 'pure fantasy' was the worst kind of wasteland.
He almost cursed his foresight in tagging the human. But he did need that package. Clients were so much harder to gouge when you didn't have their life-saving medicine. People could be quite cavalier about money when the spectre of death was at the door.

***

"I'm telling you Gladys, that man. That man doesn't look right at all." Oswald was agitated. It was one of those bouts when the 911 speed-dial was most likely to be hit. Repeatedly.
Gladys was sure the good folks at the Emergency Response Unit had long blocked their number. "Nonsense Oswald, and put on some shoes, for crying out loud, it's 4pm. "
Oswald waved her off.
"That boy. That boy. I know he served our country. But sometimes they come back not right in the head. He could be," his voice dropped to hoarse whisper, "a drug dealer!"
"Just step away from the window Oswald, you're dangerously near my daily quota for embarassment."

***

Hayden still had his gun on. It made him look like a war vet weirdo, but it made his movie marathons more authentic. The movie was getting to the good bit. Where the unshaven, ugly criminal faced the ruggedly handsome but in the end good-hearted outlaw. Hayden held his breath.
A flicker across the street caught his eye, it was Oswald's curtains. With Oswald it could be anything, but was most likely nothing.
A sound came from the door. He glanced over. The handle was turning slowly, which was odd -- it had been stuck for years. Which was why he used the backdoor (which in turn was one of the many reasons Oswald distrusted shim).
Hayden closed the curtains, and drew his gun. The door openly soundlessly.

***

Mr. Xerk reached into his suit coat and pulled out a massive handgun. It was almost too large to be real, and it wasn't, after a fashion. It was a ray gun.
He could just as well incinerate the entire house. But that might arise suspicion. And besides being a heavy blow to the local rodent population, it was unlikely his package would survive.
The Ghederian walked slowly into the house. Slowly, upright, so as not to arise suspicion.

***

Hayden hid in his crawl-space watching Mr. Xerk. That was one huge ray-gun.
Aliens with long fangs were one thing. Aliens with long fangs and over-sized rays guns who came back from the dead were worse.
Hayden swore under his breath.
It was one thing to blow this guy away. It was another to blow him away and avoid suspicion.

***

"Looks like Mr. Smith has a visitor."
Gladys ignored him, and focussed even harder on her crossword. "English; Achtung! What on god's green earth could that be?"
"You know, unlike you Oswald, some people do have friends come and visit."
Oswald picked up his phone, his finger poised over the well worn key for 911.
"Quiet woman. You think I do this for my own health? It's for my family's protection. For the good of the neighbourhood."
"Our family, consists of us and two old, mildly senile cats. It's hardly worth the eternal vigilance Oswald."
Oswald only turned back to the house. It had gone quiet.
"Oh, danger. One word, Achtung! Right."

***

"Why don't you come out and show me where the package is. I don't hold any grudges."
"A Ghederian who doesn't hold a grudge? Please."
Mr. Xerk spun and fired. A soft beow sound betrayed the gun's deadliness, its ray cut a grapefruit-sized hole through three walls.
"That's just no way to start a peaceful negotiation is it?"
Hayden liked his home. He liked his home better without the ray gun burns and a bloodthirsty Ghederian in it. Unfortunately, he liked it even more when it wasn't surrounded by a S.W.A.T. team informing him to "Come out with his hands up."
He fingered the trigger. Ray guns were surprisingly quiet. But Oswald wasn't going to miss the repeat of Hayden's revolver.
He kept inching his way in the crawlspace, and dropped out of a hidden ceiling hatch behind Mr. Xerk. He put his gun against the back of Mr. Xerk's head, and pulled back the hammer with a solid click.
"Drop the toy gun."
Mr. Xerk dropped the weapon, it landed ground with a heavy thud. He chuckled.
"Oh we were just having a misunderstanding. I was just startled by your voice, so I shot. Please, lower that... weapon, and we can finish this like civilized life forms. After all, I'm sure you are not allowed to be found anywhere on Earth with a strange exotic alien in your home. Certainly your government has rules against this sort of thing. At the very least, your employer."
Hayden became a professional solider to avoid these sorts of quandaries. They made his trigger finger itch. He knew Oswald was waiting for even the slightest hint of trouble...
There was really only one option. He clubbed Mr. Xerk with the butt of gun, and the alien crumpled. Hayden shot twice at the ground.
And waited.
The sound of sirens sounded off, a few blocks away. Hayden got his escape hatch ready. A hidden narrow passage that went under the house thirty feet to a capsule launch pad, which would bring him to his ship.
He rummaged through his kitchen drawer, brought out a small spray canister labelled WAKE THE DEAD! He emptied the bullets from his revolver and placed it in Mr. Xerk's empty ray gun holster. He then gave the Ghederian a good spray, and slipped down into his passage.

***

Mr. Xerk woke with a snort.
There were so humans outside. He had never seen so many but would be damned if they would order him around. He felt for the lump in his coat pocket. This would be short work.
He strolled out, a smile on his face, the siren lights flashing across his bared fangs. A few of the officers gasped. The triggers of all fifteen weapons got itchier.
Mr. Xerk drew fast and aimed a weapon that was not a ray gun at the large armored car.
The S.W.A.T. team opened fire.

***

Skornt looked up slowly from his desk. Agent Smith looked a bit more spent than usual. Skornt put all three eyes back to his flexiscreen.
"Forget something, did you?."
"Yeah, well, I . Yeah."
Hayden handed over the parcel. Skornt brought out a small scanner and scanned it, without taking his eyes off his flexiscreen. He stopped for a second to check the scanner readings, then took the package, and shoved it in a large metal chute labelled "Incinerator".
"Thank you. And one more demerit for your permanent records. You're on.. thin ice, I think is the phrase."
Hayden groaned, and slinked back to his ship.

Monday, March 12, 2007

One Over, Three Down

Following is a short story I wrote riffed from my buddy Andy's office issues.

New Article for the Spring 2007 Newsletter

Yes, I'm lazy. Sorry for the lack of updates! I've just finished going through my final major revision/edit of "Dance Panda Dance", my first novel. Working on the start of my third novel, "Hayden Smith, Sardonic Space Cowboy". So I'm a bit busy. Here, for your edification, and hopefully amusement, is an article I wrote for my work's Spring newsletter:

Spring has sprung! Like so many things that tend to spring! Wonderful children's toys, Tigger of Disney fame, and well laid, highly lethal booby traps.

Commercials persuade us that spring brings sunny days and fanciful frolics among the flowers. For those of us used to West Coast weather, we know spring only brings rain that's slightly less freezing than winter rain. Instead of freezing immediately on our Gore-Tex™, it may linger a while, as super-cold flu-inducing wet, and _then_ freezing. For this we should rejoice! Rejoice and pile into our nearest retailer to buy consumer goods in the latest spring colours!

Despite the clash between idealized spring and reality, there's much to do. Spring cleaning, spring makeovers, anything that has to do with rebirth and renewal; as we all -- in our own ways -- go through the motions of our agrarian ancestors. Those who first noticed that "Hey, after that really cold time when everyone starves and stuff, things regrow!" It's as old as history itself.

For some, spring is celebrated with home repairs and/or upgrades. The chance to walk into a store the size of the Death Star; where professionals who actually wear tool-belts non-ironically walk in and feel quite at home. These are the same professionals who get phonecalls at midnight to fix things like joists and and correct poor flashing. And yet, for some reason, we think we can do the same because we've just watched ninety eight hours of HGTV and boy are we psyched!

But it's an admirable goal, where one can really polish up on curses, blue phrases, and the sort of swaggering talk that would make a longshoreman blush. Frustration piled upon anger layered upon anxiety: that's what home projects are made of. And besides, it's Spring! Spring, time of rebirth and such! If nothing else it gets us out of our comfort zones. For those of us less mechanically inclined, it gets us waaay out of our comfort zones. Home repair is a fantastic world where a thingamajig has a specific name (say, a grommet), and several different whatchamacallits which look suspiciously alike have a entirely different names (pliers, hand vise, c-clamp).

But no one said rebirth was easy. Heck, birth, by all accounts, is no walk in the part, there is no reason why a reoccurance should be easier. In many ways, the process of cleaning and fixing and making things anew all seem to share the same theme of pain. Which is a good thing. Pain gets our minds off the slightly less than freezing (yet more copious) spring rain, the thousands of ads telling us we are not experiencing a monsoon in the middle of a temperate rain forest, and the nagging fact that the two months of relative sunniness is still three months away.