What I Couldn’t Write In March 2016


Pieces from March’s scraps file. All text free to a needy author that can use it. Better luck with it than I had.

seeming like it might be — cut from like ten essays this past month because it doesn’t mean anything. It just slows down moving from the start to the end of the sentence. I don’t ever have any reason to put that in somewhere. I just type a while and look up and there it is and I have to eradicate it. This is some kind of grammatical zebra mussel. I would just leave it in a trash bin, on fire, but if you really want it go wild. Sorry. The rest of the scraps are more promising. Don’t take this one.

So I admit to being torn about National Haiku Pedantry Month coming up this April. We need to get some discipline back into the art form. Right now it’s just what people use for comic verse when they aren’t up to writing a limerick. But then we have thirty whole days of having to pretend we approve of haiku pedants. Some of these people are fine, pointing out that there are actual syllable counts and it’s not just a short-long-short line thing. But then there’s the guy you know who’s going to leap up on a desk, shaking a yardstick around, and hollering, “It’s not just syllable count! You need nature imagery and a cutting word! Where is the cutting word in this? Well?” And you just know he goes home to sulk that all he can find are yardsticks around when it would just make his day to get a meter stick. A haiku pedant like that isn’t going to pass up a good fight with the Pun Control Squad. You know them. They admit there might be such a thing as a pretty good, amusing pun, but they haven’t seen one. And they’re going to take action. — Cut because, of course, National Haiku Pedantry Month is November.

very — cut from about forty posts this past month because I don’t even like having it there. It’s just too easy to make my minimum word count. Also I guess I have a minimum word count even though all my popular posts are two paragraphs long and comment on a picture from the store.

So we trust that we have commutivity and that there’s a multiplicative identity within the collection of elements. And that if the product of two things is zero then at least one is zero. I know that sounds crazy, like specifying that a triangle has to also not be a square. But this can happen, and let me show you how. — Cut from my essay about Dedekind Domains because I realized I wasn’t even halfway toward saying all the rules one of these things had to meet and oh good grief this is why people hate mathematics.

You in your spectacle of arrogance, incapable of imagining that someone other than you might ever need something that isn’t “the chance to gaze in adoration at your alleged magnificence” — Cut from a draft letter to an estranged friend I’ve been trying to reconcile with even though it’s seeming like it might be hard to figure out why, exactly.

I perused the closed-captioning transcript of this episode so that I can say with confidence — cut from a TrekBBS post about Star Trek: Voyager because we were debating a Kes episode and who’s got enough time in their lives for that? Not Kes, obviously. Ha ha! I’ll explain why that’s funny in a footnote [1].

This hoodie makes me feel pretty, oh soooo pretty. — Cut from the back of an index card we were using to keep track of scores at a pinball tournament yesterday. Not sure who wrote it. It’s seeming like it might be one of our friends who had some hard luck on the game Jack-Bot. But he has got a hoodie that’s become a merry in-joke ever since the state championships back in February.

Go off and be happy, insofar as you think that’s wise. — Cut from waving bye to a friend because it does sound kind of Ashleigh Brilliant-ish.

[1] It’s funny because I was trolling for the chance to show off that I know what “peruse” means. The chance never came, and never does.

Well, Actually, Autocorrect Saved Me


I have autocorrect turned on in my text editor for good reason. Despite my age and my level of education, it’s clear that I am not going to sort out how to spell “connoisseur”. I can either accept help or stop using the word altogether. There’s a similar problem with “accommodate”. I admit I sometimes get that right by accident by remembering to double up the letters I forgot to double up last time. I don’t know why that doesn’t work with “connoisseur”. That’s all to explain why I was typing with autocorrect on.

The sentence I was trying to write started out “Well, actually”, and the autocorrect decided what I meant was “We’ll actuate”. This happens. I erased the start and tried again, and got as far as the first `l’ in “actually” before we were actuating again. I don’t usually have this sort of problem with autocorrect. I give it a steady diet of “ahve” and “teh” and let it do what it will with “centre” and “theatre”. This should keep it happy.

My intention starting the sentence with “well” was to warm up to it. I’m wary of committing too strongly to anything without serious thought. A good “well” gives me an extra syllable to delay whatever I’m saying. If I say it aloud I might delay long enough that someone else interrupts me, and I can avoid having to say anything. I’ve often given the impression of social grace by saying only “well” and listening in wide-eyed panic that I might have to say more. And by “actually” I meant to clarify my focus wasn’t the obvious consequence of where the discussion had been, but a related point.

But I know on some level that “Well, actually” is the starting point of sentences composed by know-it-all weenies. They can’t see a discussion without finding a way that a word’s usage has shifted since the first dictionaries were carved out of igneous stone, in 1838, and want you know to know they know that and are thus better than you. I understand that. I’m a recovering know-it-all weenie myself.

I come by my know-it-all weenie nature the classic way, without technological aid. I grew up looking for any book that promised thousands of astounding and dubiously-sourced facts. The thicker the better. The bigger a series the better. I remember parts of David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace’s The People’s Almanacs better than I remember the names of my parents. And I have my father’s exact name. The complete works of Cecil Adams, even the minor books where he answers why Velma changes from the smartest to the stupidest character on Scooby Doo when her glasses fall off? Almost memorized. And that question was from Ask Dr Science anyway. If my parents had ever needed to get me out of their hair for a couple years they’d have just given me a Time-Life series on paranormal mysteries. And wait a minute, what were they doing from 1986 through 1989 that they didn’t want me interrupting anyway?

Why was it essential I gather all this stuff? I don’t know. I must have figured I’d someday be sitting on the front porch and a man wearing evening dress would pull up. He’d be in a horse-drawn carriage surely. He’d cry out, “You there! Lad! It’s an emergency! Can you tell me of some notable missing persons?” And I could promptly answer, “Judge Crater, obviously. And then there was this Austrian I think diplomat somebody who was in the 1810s or 1820s or something and he walked around a horse and nobody ever saw him again, how about that?” And he’d answer, “Excellent! You’ve saved the day!” And this despite the questionable taste of my reference. He would offer a sack full of obscure gold coins recovered from Oak Island, Nova Scotia, in payment. I would graciously decline, paid enough by having been useful when the need arose.

Of course this never happened. Through to age eighteen I spent about six minutes total on the front porch, and that includes time spent shoveling blizzards off it. It’d be impossibly unlikely the need would arise in that little window. And who’d pull a horse-drawn chariot through suburban New Jersey when we were still shoveling out after a blizzard?

And you know what know-it-all weenies are like. You can see their social behavior in the talk page of any Wikipedia article. They’re the ones arguing without any hint of irony or self-awareness that a longrunning web comic can’t be “notable” if the comic’s home page confesses it’s “the greatest comic strip you never heard of”. The “Well, actually” open is the challenge call of the unrecovered know-it-all weenie. Others know to ignore all the pedantic silliness which follow it.

So I thank my autocorrect for saving me from an innocently meant mistake, and the social oblivion which would follow. But this does make me wonder what other kinds of know-it-all weenie protection I have on my laptop. If I began a sentence “To be precise”, would it deliver a mild electric shock? If I started to write “In point of fact”, would it slap my hands? I considered starting a paragraph “Techincally.” I feared the computer would explode in a room-filling cloud of foam, leaving me unable to move until authorities cut me free. And I bet they couldn’t even name one foreign prince to cross the English Channel and rule from London since William the Conquerer, let alone two, like me. Clearly, I don’t know what I would do without autocorrect on my side.

The Perfect Crime


I’ve figured out the perfect crime for me to commit. It’s counterfeiting two-dollar (United States) bills and spending them (in the United States). Any cashier questioning the bills would go asking around and get told by some smug know-it-all legal tender pedant — there’s at least one in every store’s work shift — that there are so two-dollar bills, and while they’re rare they’re legitimate currency and you should feel stupid for not taking them, and maybe they’ll even point out those urban legends about Taco Bell giving you stuff (Taco Bell food) for free just to not bother them with two-dollar bills or how the mall’s cops laugh at people who think two-dollar bills are fakes. I don’t care about getting free Taco Bell food, but the principle is a good one.

Why this is really perfect is it’s perfect pedantry snipe bait: anyone ready to get all smug about knowing there are so two-dollar bills is going to be so busy showing how proud he is to accept them that he won’t suspect they’re fake. And if he does accept them and find they’re fake, he won’t tell anyone because it would be too humiliating to have his smug self-assurance of knowing that two-dollar bills are for real destroyed by turning them over to people who know that these two-dollar bills are not. By then, I’m long out of the store and have got my free books about Taco Bell.

Oh, except it wouldn’t work, because I’m a know-it-all legal tender pedant and so I know that I’d be unable to resist going back to the store and telling the legal tender pedant just how I put it over on him. And then he’d either turn me in or demand to be cut in on the scheme because it’s so good. So the whole thing is a failure. Now I can’t do anything with the idea. Too bad.