One of the Smells I Smell Every Day

Some really spicy food hurts your mouth. It's immediate and it's specific. Then there's the other spicy, like good Thai food. I'm talking about the kind of spicy that doesn't immediately burn your mouth, but instead builds slowly and affects your whole body. The kind of spicy that makes you sweat and gives you the sniffles.

It's misleading to say that the bathroom at work stinks. It doesn't have the kind of odor that immediately insults your nose -- it just smells strange. It would certainly be even more misleading to say it didn't stink; There's no doubting that someone's colon is to blame for this, but it's not so bad when you first walk in. The more you breathe the air, the more the stink begins to build, until it starts to affect you, and I mean really affect you. You get light-headed, you start to get confused. Things get blurry. Then all at once you realize that holy shit you can't finish, and maybe you should've asked for "medium-hot" instead.
  • Current Music
    The Raveonettes - Sleepwalking

I am a Bright



You probably know this about me already, but I don't believe in astrology or voodoo. Or in past lives, ghosts or Santa Claus. Or God.

If you're the same way, you've probably noticed our worldview isn't very popular right now. Policy decisions are being made under the assumption that everyone believes in something, and those who don't are amoral and irrelevant. People are dying in wars over religion. So-called psychics are preying on the bereaved for profit. Every major newspaper runs a column wherein someone uses the alignment of stars to predict the future. Hardly a nuance of our lives can be found free of the scars of supernaturalism.

The line between fact and wishful thinking is barely sharper than it was centuries ago. While the scientific method has provided us with immeasurable riches in information, humanity continues to pick and choose the bits we want to redeem for answers.

There's a movement out there to fight this. I've mentioned it before, but I think a reminder every year or so is probably appropriate. Please, please check out the Brights if you have any interest in helping this situation.

It's not a club. It's not a group with membership. It's simply a loose collection of individuals who have chosen to label themselves "Brights" as part of their larger effort to help the way we're perceived in the world.

I think the word "renaissance" is beautiful. What about you?

The Drummer

She looked just like Keri. I walked into the club and recognized the drummer. Since I only know a few people in Los Angeles, I thought I must have been imagining it, but her face kept catching my eye. I stared. I tried to place her.

Then it hit me all at once. Images of her life came streaming at me... well, the miniscule part of it that happened around me. All those agonizing feelings of helplessness came back, all of the regret about not taking the time to know her better while she was alive, all of the bleeding empathy for her kids and for the friends that did know her better.

It was haunting, in the most literal sense. After her set, she was mingling with the crowd, and always managed to be close to me, no matter where I was. Somehow it got stuck in my head that walking up, telling this complete stranger what was on my mind, and giving her a hug would alleviate some of my angst about Keri.

It's totally crazy, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was exactly what I needed to do. I knew it would be therapeutic. I started to get crazy thinking about this, and every time our eyes met, I could just imagine she knew what was on my mind, and was inviting it.

I got so wrapped up in this that I started to actually feel guilty all over again, like I was once again missing an opportunity to somehow connect with, console or somehow support Keri. I hid from her glances. I avoided eye contact. I kept my head lowered in shame.

I was sitting in chair in the corner of the room adjacent to the room with the stage, trying to be alone with my thoughts to work out what was going on in my head, and to focus on what I was experiencing. Her band walked in and sat on a couch near me. Then she walked in with a photographer, and she introduced him to two people named Matt and Dani. Keri's husband and best friend were named Matt and Dani.

I had to leave.

The Little Boy's Game

There's a little boy who lives in a big city. He's pretending to be an adult. He has bills and a phone. He buys food and goes to a job he pretends he can do.

Teams of people are assigned to supporting his game of make-believe. He has a boss, bank tellers, insurance agents, and billing reps at the power company. It's really an elaborate production.

The little boy misses his dad. He gets tired of the game, but nobody is willing to let him stop playing. He tried pretending himself a day off, but not hard enough; someone else pretended him an important deadline.

He met a girl who agreed to pretend she liked him. They acted out a couple of dates, and now she's pretending to be okay with how much time he spends playing the boring parts of his adult game. He pretends he'll make it up to her.

He's getting good at the game these days. He's found some parts of it he really likes, and he stopped worrying about growing. He stopped growing. He stopped learning. He stopped growing.

He doesn't really care about the real world and its real people like he used to. He plays the game too much. He's good at pretending to be an adult. He's given up trying to become one.
  • Current Music
    The Notwist - One Step Inside Doesn't Mean You Understand

Death

Two deaths have impacted me today.

The second, a murder outside of my apartment, only complicated my afternoon.

The first, the death of a friend, has permanently changed me. I've always felt much closer to her than I really was, because of a particular shared experience: She was my only friend with kids. Sharing something like that at our age transcends a typical friendship, and possibly even obviates one. I'm not sure if she felt the same way, but I felt like I understood a lot about her implicitly, especially those things that were most important to us.

Every second I let my mind idle, I see her little girl, and imagine her plaintive eyes. I've seen those eyes on my little girl from time to time, but I can only imagine the depths of the soul to which they can penetrate with her little girl's new perpetual longing behind them.

I'm different now -- I'll always have that image floating on the surface of my consciousness, wretchedly tragic and beautifully moving.

Stuck in Santa Clara

I just wrote an entry over on my big-kid blog. I know, lots of things have been written about the pope, and you're sick of it, but if Jesus can be resurrected, then maybe I can beat some life back into this horse and give a new perspective on the whole thing.

Anyway, I'm stuck in a hotel in Santa Clara. I'm out here for a conference. I'm essentially bored out of my mind, so I started thinking about a pen name. Some of the stuff I write is political and serious, but for the funny stuff I try to write, I think what I'm missing is a name that convinces people it's okay to laugh at what they're reading.

Thankfully, the world has such a name: Dave. Dave Eggers, David Sedaris and Dave Berry all figured this out. You may not know this, but Mark Twain was born simply, "Big Dave." I've always thought I'd make a good Dave. Daves are generally more attractive than I am, and I think some good looks could really put me over the top -- you know, with the ladies. Daves don't have to worry about finding a jacket that doesn't look silly on them, or crazy tall-guy pants with immeasurably slim waistbands, because a typical Dave is exactly average in build. Dave doesn't need glasses, either. You see, Dave has superior genetics. One of those genes is humor writing, and the world recognizes that.

The obvious pick for maximum Davitude, would of course be "Dave Davidson," but I think that's a little too obvious. My mother decided that my first name could be a misspelled throw-away if I had an important middle name, so that I could go by "K. Branson" when I became a lawyer, or some other professional whose profession demanded a lofty name. With this in mind, I have my eye on "Daniel Avid Peterson."

Once again, a letter from the future:
Attention Misters Simon and Schuster:

I must thank you once again for this generous advance on my next book, Shit That Happened To Me, And The Dumb Shit I Said About It. This should allow me to feed my methamphetamine habit, and I look forward to finishing and submitting the manuscript for I Pushed Keys Methodically For Thirty-Six Hours Without Realizing That I Was Doing It, And Now You're Reading The Results, which is admittedly not as good as my previous works. Still, it contains a very balanced ratio of letters, which may be a good selling point.

Once again, thank you for believing in my name, no matter what crazy bullshit spews from my fingers.

Sincerely,
D. Avid Peterson
Yeah, I like that.

A TaxCut Review

Two states, two sole proprietorships, weird deductions, and possibly the worst software I've ever used in my life have not added up to a good time.

Do not, under any circumstances, ever give TaxCut the slightest bit of consideration. I know, it's sitting there on the shelf, twenty bucks cheaper than TurboTax, and really what's the difference? I mean, software is software right? And what, I'm going to use it once? How could it possibly be any worse?

Okay. I'm going to make a suggestion for you, potential TaxCut buyer: Become one of those hardcore militia men that lives in the woods and refuses to pay income taxes. Again, I know what you're thinking, it's drastic. You don't want to give up your comfortable life in wherever-you-live, doing all of your whatever-you-do. And you certainly want to be able to sleep at night without that fear that the taxman is going to come eat your liver, or however they collect debts these days.

I totally understand your concerns, but I assure you that after an hour or so of wrestling with this abomination, you'll want to throw your arms up and run to the woods. There's certainly no way you'll escape the experience not hating the income tax, and for the love of fuck, give me a goddamn gun!

So just save yourself the thirty bucks or so and trust me.

So after much effort, I got my federal and AZ returns figured out, and moved on to California.

The California forms it makes say very explicitly that you can only claim childcare expenses in California, but it imported my Arizona daycare info from the federal return. I could blank out some of the lines, but it wouldn't let me get past the page because it thought it needed an address. The line for total spent wouldn't zero. I could make it any other number, but if I made it zero, it reverted to the value on the federal form. ( $value = $override || $federal ... anyone?)

The same thing happened with the real estate tax I paid in AZ. So I had all these deductions I couldn't zero out, so I contacted customer service. The suggestion I got was, "don't worry about it -- print it, and fix it by hand. Uninstall the CA state software, and just file your federal return." I eventually gave up on the CA software being so totally broken that I figured I'd just file federal and AZ, then get an extension on CA and find a tax mommy to help me.


I should mention the customer service, where maybe one positive thing can be said about this software. Maintaining consistency is very important in developing anything a user will interact with; it keeps users from being surprised and confused when using the application. The TaxCut team has decided to take the terribleness of the application and use that to tie in the support experience. A user isn't shocked when they go from the bad app to the bad service. Service so bad, I might add, that the chat windows have the "copy" feature explicitly disabled, so that you can't make a record of how terrible it was. "Please don't worry about that. You'll be able to discard that form when it prints." That's a special kind of bad.

So, I uninstall the CA software and restart TaxCut. Everything seems cool. AZ is the only state listed. I click to one step in the process, and it pops up the "Before you go on, check the internet for updates" message it's been doing every time I click to this step. I let it check, and it says, "Before you go on, you have to save your return." I tell it okay, which I'd done every other time it asked.

Before you call me an idiot, you have to realize that I had to stop and restart this application for various updates, additions, etc. a zillion times. Each time, it automatically loaded my tax return when I started it. When I told it to save that last time, I assumed it was once again loaded, but thanks to a wonderfully opaque user interface, you generally have no idea what's going on in TaxCut. When I told it to save that last time, it wrote over my tax return -- my just-minutes-ago-completed, result-of-two-days'-effort tax return -- with a blank one. Well, to be fair, maybe uninstalling the CA software also uninstalled my return. Anything is possible. Well, anything frustrating and stupid.

I say fuck it. I'm filing for extensions and finding someone to do my taxes. I'll eat the $29 I spent three times on the various versions of TaxCut I needed, and the $99 I spent on a printer just to print my tax return, and whatever this tax person charges me. I'll eat it all so I never, ever have to see that program again.

As a software developer myself, I realize how tight deadlines, bad managers and other things outside of a contributor's control can drag an application down, but this thing is so insufferably and inexcusably bad that anyone who had anything to do with its development, from the head programmer to the guy who gassed up the trucks that shipped it, should really reconsider what they're doing with their lives. Maybe they ought to move to the mountains, too.
  • Current Music
    Lost Patrol - Out Of Date