Some tips for keeping warm in interstellar space. I mean, Canada.

IF YOU LIVE in Canada, or northern USA, you know how nasty Winter can be. Also, if you live on the moon or in interstellar space, where I hear it gets almost as cold as Winnipeg.

Like me, every Winter you ask yourself What on earth am I doing here? Okay, I also ask myself that in the Spring, Fall and Summer. In the Winter, I just add “…in this cold country.” Why do I stay in such an inhospitable climate, year after year, when there are places in the world where you can live on the beach, basking in the life-giving rays of paradise, until a beaver-sized scorpion bites you and you go blind, and then slowly die as thick yellow foam erupts from your mouth.

And that’s how I remember why I stay in Canada.

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Make anything funny with this one simple trick

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LAST MONTH my family went on a mission. It was my son’s idea, and it went like this: from a hat each one of us picked the name of a family member and went to the local department store with a budget of $10 to buy that person stocking-stuffers. There was also a rule that what you bought had to be either a) edible or b) practical. So, naturally, I bought googly eyes.

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My Grade 11 English Teacher, Mrs. Joyce, Marks Christmas Carols

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Jingle Bells

Obviously the bells jingle: that’s what they are made to do. Try “bells, bells all the way.” (See Strunk and White, “Omit needless words.”) Also, does the protagonist have some sort of objection to a multi-horse and/or closed sleigh? If so, explain; if not, cut. C-

Let it Snow

Do you really mean to say that the weather outside is filled with fright? If so, this is a pathetic fallacy. And who exactly is going to “let it snow”? Who could stop it snowing? Use the indicative mood to invigorate your prose. C

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

What is the significance of the chestnuts? You open the scene with them but don’t do much else. Remember: if there is a gun on the mantle in act one, it must be fired by act four. Perhaps the roasted chestnuts could explode and disfigure Jack Frost, or the reindeer could eat them and lose their powers of flight. This would create an interesting narrative problem for Santa to resolve. “Yuletide carols being sung by a choir” should be “a choir sings Yuletide carols.” Avoid passive voice. D+

Little Drummer Boy

What on earth is a pa rum pum pum pum? Does the drummer boy suffer from some kind of compulsive tick? Is he trying to communicate an important message. Is the pa-rum-pum-pum-pum akin to the “ou-boum” of E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India? Explore. D-

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer

If the nose is said to glow, then it is implicitly very bright. Show, don’t tell. D

Silent night

Silent? With the quaking shepherds and the streaming glories and the singing hosts. Do you know how many people are in a host? And they’re singing. Try editing this one with a view to making it about a rowdy night. C

O Christmas Tree

Twenty-four lines to establish that it’s a nice tree, because it has green and sparkly branches? Remember: brevity is the soul of wit. D-

Winter Wonderland

Too much going on here. First there are bells, then glistening snow. Why has the bluebird gone? And what is the significance of this “new bird”? Why even bring birds into it? Clearly this story is about a couple who are so eager to marry that they’ll let a snowman “do the job,” as you so vulgarly put it. The rest is just confusing. Cut. C-

Away in a Manger

The baby is either away, or else in the manger. I don’t understand how the protagonist can be in the barn, and then looking down from the sky—all within a few lines. This is fine if you are writing in a genre, such as science fiction, that allows for teleportation. Perhaps you could re-write this as an extra-terrestrial carol about futuristic travel. C

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I Paid $7 for a Powerful Secret and This is What Happened

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TODAY ON MY WALK I saw not one, but four dogs wearing boots. That’s when I started doing something I do a lot, which I call logicalling.

Obviously the dogs did not ask for boots, or pick them out, or put them on. For thousands of years, dogs have been doing fine without sweaters and boots and dog-house air conditioning, an actual thing, and they’d still be doing fine if it weren’t for people with too much spare money.

Why, all-of-a-sudden, in the year 2014, do dogs need winter boots?

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I’m Not So Sure About this Whole Follow Your Dreams Thing

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ONCE AGAIN, I am rocking the achy, fevery, too-tired-to-move-around thing. I should probably cook some real food, but meh. The good news is that, if a bag of Moritz Icy Squares and two teaspoons of horseradish can cure an infection, I should be fine real soon. If this is not a cure, then at least it was lunch and we’ve all learned something scientific about infections and their relationship to Icy Squares and two teaspoons of Armoracia rusticana.

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Let’s Put On Our Science Hats

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THE OTHER DAY the United Nations released a report on global climate change, whose title I don’t recall but I’ll guess is something like OMG We Are So Screwed People, and it concludes that:

– the Earth’s climate has warmed at a rate faster than any other time in the past 800,000 years
– it is 95% certain that global climate warming is anthropogenic
– if global greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions are not reduced to zero by the end of this century, we will miss the below-two-degree-celsius target we need to meet if we’re to avoid volatile and catastrophic weather events.

Okay, now for the rest of this you’ll need to put on your science hat. You have a science hat, right? Good! I’ll wait here until you’re ready.

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How Hard Could It Be to Have a Billion Twitter Followers?

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OKAY, first of all. So I joined the Twitter around February, nine months ago. That means I’ve been on it long enough to make a baby. Which I guess means that I have made a tweets baby, or maybe it’s a Twitter baby, because premise-conclusion is how logic works and you can’t argue with it. Because it’s logic. Anyways, I’m thinking that when my baby grows up, all the other kids are going to call her “twit,” which is so wrong. But that’s for another post.

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That Month I Decided to Respond To All My Spam

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It’s Friday and sunny out, so here is a welcome-to-the-weekend post. Hope you enjoy it.

A FEW YEARS BACK I got tired of getting spam email. For some reason, there was a month when I suddenly got a huge surge of it. Now, most spam is just nonsense email generated by a computer somewhere. But some of it is less spam than scam, and as we all know a lot of spam nowadays preys on older folks who are vulnerable and not especially Internet saavy. This kind of spammer is particularly reprehensible, and I decided to do something about it. I started to mess with them. I set up an email account under the name Tyler H. Masterson, and for a month I responded to every spam message that looked like a real person was behind it. Some of these ended up being weeks of exchanges. I’ve lost most of them, and some were just me being rude, so rather than post a bunch of mean emails, I’ve selected a few of the more lighthearted, funny ones. Here we go ….

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And Now For Something Completely Different

I am most at home among those who’ve an appreciation of the absurd. To detractors this would perhaps be characterized as the silly or, at further depths of condescension, the juvenile. I don’t much mind either characterization and will plead guilty as charged if pressed to do so. You see, my people have a touch of anarchy about them as well as a suspicion (perhaps more than a suspicion) that human pretension, and especially the human pretension toward civilization, is at bottom ridiculous and thus fit for ridicule. An effective mode of ridicule I find is the raspberry, the gesture which indicates that its object is regarded with a lowly contempt precluding a need of serious rebuke. Better still is whimsy for its own sake. On that foundation rests my preference for comedy and comedians aspiring to no identifiable social purpose, for examples and in no particular order Gilda Radner, Jackass, The Mighty Boosh, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. This preference took root in my childhood, which suggests the term juvenile does have merit.  Continue reading “And Now For Something Completely Different”

Facebook, Narcissism, And A Sociologist For Hire

Soraya Mehdizadeh’s study, “Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking,” was cast into the cybersea earlier this month, and media bit the hook. How could they not, baited as it was with the suggestion that Facebook is “a particularly fertile ground for narcissists to self-regulate.” Google the name “York University,” and even before you go to the site, you’ll see a reference to the study, in the search engine’s results listing. You may well have Googled this topic already, Google being the most popular website on the Internet — and the only site, according to many sources, more popular than Facebook. There is however more to be said about the study than Facebook = Narcissism, which in any case is a mis-description. Let’s look a bit deeper into it, shall we. Continue reading “Facebook, Narcissism, And A Sociologist For Hire”