Free Fiction Friday: Halloween Edition

For your seasonally appropriate reading:


It’s Rigged, I Tells Ya! *Rigged*!!!

Seeing lots of concerns about a “stolen election,” not just from the Nativist Right (e.g.,  Trump himself speaking in Novi, MI last month and repeating at basically every whistle-stop since, it his inability at the third debate to commit to honoring any election outcome other than his own unlikely victory), but also from broad swaths of the Progressive Left (e.g., That viral image showing #TrumpWon starting in Russia is fake, #TrumpWon? trend vs. reality, Troll armies rig polls to deceive you into believing Trump won first debate, Trumpism Is the Symptom of a Gravely Ill Constitution, concerns of voter suppression via Trumpian “poll watchers,” etc.) and the Rational Center (largely around the possibility of Ruskie agitators: FBI Says It Has Detected More Attempts to Hack Voter Registration Systems, Newsweek Website Attacked After Report On Trump, Cuban Embargo, The Russian Hack of U.S. Election Systems is About Delegitimizing, Not Changing, the Result, and It Feeds Trump Vote-Rigging Claim)

Here’s the thing: at the national level the U.S. election system—being a bass-akward county-by-county patchwork with little network connectivity and lots of different paper trails—is broadly unriggable. Yes, many pockets are vulnerable to manipulation, but that can only tip a close election—and this once hasn’t really been close for a year or so.

What this latest paranoid politico-cultural tulip mania really puts me in the mind of is the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street“—minus the last 2 minutes are so.  Just watch this video, stop at ~22:40 seconds, and you’ve got our current predicament (of course, keep going and SPOILER ALERT!!! you’ll discover that the episode’s Big Bad Alien looks distressingly like a young Vladimir Putin—but I’m positive that’s just a coincidence).

Twilight Zone – The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street from Kevin on Vimeo.

Good News, Everybody! Looks like we won’t all have to die from MRSA and C diff

…I mean, yes, we’ll all still be swept away by the ruinstorms powered by our collapsing climate—but that’s a helluva lot less agonizing then succumbing to c diff or a septic staph infection. 

human neutrophil ingesting MRSA (source)
A human white blood cell battling MRSA (source)

All that aside, the science here is really cool: instead of a new traditional antibiotic (which is basically the equivalent of bug spray), this 25yo (!!!) researcher has designed and grown little nano-caltrops that tear apart the cell walls—and, just as hundreds of generations of deer have failed to grow immune to bullets, it likewise appears that bacteria cannot grow immune to these targeted lil anti-pathogenic death spikes. 

Rather than poisoning the bad bacteria like antibiotics do, the molecules, called peptide polymers, destroy the bacteria’s cell walls. And unlike antibiotics, which also poison surrounding healthy cells, the polymers “are quite non-toxic to the healthy cells in the body,” Lam says. That’s because they’re much too big (about 10 nanometers in diameter) to enter healthy cells—”the difference in scale between a mouse and an elephant,” Lam’s supervisor told the Sydney Morning Herald. What’s more, in Lam’s experiments, generation after generation of bacteria don’t seem to become resistant to the polymers.

Read more: This 25-Year-Old May Have Saved You From Super-Gonorrhea

The Two Productivity Gurus You Meet in Heaven

Good Buddy AMEM writes:

You ever write a piece on productivity?

To which I reply:


I’ve written scads of advice things to folks who’ve emailed me expressing interest in freelance editing/copywriting, but nothing sort of generically about productivity in the “GTD” sense.

Anyway, when it comes to that, two pieces of advice jump to mind.  The first is something a rabbi said during High Holidays services once, which amounted to “God doesn’t really give a shit about something you did one time; it’s when you repeat things over and over again that God takes notice.”  The rabbi was talking about sin, basically advising against beating yourself up over a single fuck-up.  Instead, make good and move on to Do Good Things (which may or may not square you with any Magickal Sky Fairy, but is certainly a helluva lot more socially productive). 

But this position—that the thing you do one time isn’t what you are—goes for everything, good and bad:  You aren’t a thief just because you stole something one time, and you aren’t a writer just because you wrote and sold one good thing.  The last story/book/article/brochure does almost exactly jack-shit to help you write and sell the next one.  You are a writer because you write every day.  So, decide on the thing you want to be, and be that thing for at least a little while every day.

This sounds sorta stupid—or, at best, equal parts stupid and profound, like the Wise Men of Chelm—but still, every story I’ve sold in the last, I dunno, eight-ish years has been mostly written 25 minutes at a time weekday mornings while children slept.

The other piece of advice is straight from Ramit Sethi, who is sort of a huckster and sort of dead-on about most of what he says (albeit in a huckstery life-coach-ish way).  Anyway, one one his big pieces of advice (at least a few years ago, when I was more actively following him) was to stop saying “I don’t have time for X.”  All of us are busy and all of us blow precious minutes and hours dicking around on Facebook and leafing through shitty magazines and watching crap we don’t care about on YouTube and whatever.  We have time for it.  You can get up 25 minutes early every morning and write stories and novels 25 minutes at a time.  You can get in shape—great shape, really—25 minutes at a time.  You can learn about retirement savings or knitting or how to eat all vegan 25 minutes at a time.  We use time as an excuse, because we don’t really—in our hearts—give a shit about the things we say we want. Just like TLC warns, we are scrubs “always talking about what we want / then we sit on our broke ass” 

The real problem isn’t the time, it’s the prioritization.  So, just the honest and start saying “I’m not prioritizing that.”

  • “Lose some weight?  Sorry, I’m not really prioritizing going to the gym right now.”
  • “Hate my job?  I’m not prioritizing finding a new one.”
  • “Feeling perpetually pyscho-emotionally fucked up?  Yeah, well, I just can’t prioritize finding a shrink and going to sessions.”

(These are all drawn from my life, incidentally.)

Changing your language like this forces us to really look at what we’re doing, ’cause when your kid says “Can we go play at the park?” or “Can you read me this book?” or “Can we watch this show?” and instead of saying “I’d love to sweetie, but I don’t have time” you say “I’d love to, sweetie, but I’m not prioritizing that right now”—well, you feel like a royal douchebag, and you do the important thing instead of the thing you thought was important.

So, that’s the advice:

  1. Be the thing you want to be for at least a little while everyday.
  2. Don’t talk about “time,” talk about Priorities.

It’s #WorldMentalHealthDay, so I want to share something my doctor told me ~15 months ago

She told me: “If you kill yourself it will irrevocably harm your children. They will not recover.”

This was the Exact Right Thing to say in that moment.  And she wouldn’t let me leave until I’d made an appointment with a psychologist.

And here I am today, on meds, not dead, and fairly glad not to be dead.

This comic very much was me right then; if it’s you, then please go talk to any doctor.  They will point you in the right direction.  That’s why they became doctors.

(thx @iron_spike for the comic by @erikamoen)

I Want to Thank Donald J. Trump… [UPDATED]

… for being a good role model to boys—or, more precisely, an excellent cautionary tale.

art by DonkeyHotey
(art by DonkeyHotey)

I watched most of the debate with my 10-year-old son last night (he bugged out ~20 minutes from the end because “it’s getting boring and just repeating itself.”)  Overall, he was baffled and appalled, and more than a little embarrassed.

I think we all saw the embarrassment coming (including the good folks who advised not letting children watch): Talk of the #TrumpTape had my kid covering his head with a blanket (in part this owes to the boy being a tad non-neurotypical; the concept that someone might purposefully touch someone who didn’t want to be touched is sort of existentially dreadful to him).

As for the bafflement, my kid just couldn’t get his head around anyone wanting anything to do with Trump, based on what he was seeing on the screen, let alone thinking the man would make a good president.

And the idea that he might ever be considered to anything like that man?  That appalled him.  In his own words, Trump was “not responsible, reliable, or trustworthy.”

So, if nothing else, we’ve at least got a new and effective bogeyman, a debased, debasing bad-touching Struwwelpeter of the soul:

“Dammit, kid: Wash your hands, do your chores, then help the lady next door by shoveling her walk—or else you’ll turn out like Donald J. Trump!”

UPDATE Oct 11, 2016: Another debate nugget that just came to mind: When the issue of Trumps “ban on all Muslims entering the country” was raised, my kid shot up, agahst, and shouted “But that violates cored democratic values!”  (He has a class at school called “Core Democratic Values”—which is basically, content wise, the class we called “Civics,” but that clunky phrase, latched to his very real and visceral distress, really cracked me up, so I thought I’d share.)