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Iseema bin Laden

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And now a word

A wonderful thing happened this week. Adil at, whom I have been reading for months (and you should be reading him, too), mentioned me kindly in a recent blog, and told people to take a look at Iseema's Diary while they were here. It got picked up by BBSpot and Metafilter and a few other places. (Not, may I point out, by Daypop.)

And thousands of people came.

They came, they read the diary, some of them looked around at other pages, and I hope to have interested some of them enough so that they come back on Monday.

But the most important thing, I think, is that they came not for a funny cat picture, not for a "Which X are you?" quiz, not for some freakish story, but for the writing. It's up to me to keep them here now. I will do my best.

So, welcome, new readers. Kick your shoes off. Put your feet up, get comfortable, make yourself at home, and as soon as I'm settled back in from my Virginia trip (which will be tomorrow), I'll be serving up some more helpings of what got you here in the first place.

But Adil is the one who gets to sit in The Chair That Swallows You Whole (so comfortable that you can't get out of it), so nobody else sit there.



Just write it

There's been a lot of cross-blogging look-into-my-eyes sort of thing again, and this time the blogging community has hit a subject that is very dear to me--writing--so I think I shall pitch in.

Jonathon Delacour gets into whether or not long essays belong on a weblog. Shelley Powers puts in her thoughts on the matter. Mike Sanders surprised me and veered off the topic after beginning to address it. I'll put in my two cents: Of course they do.

I didn't really "get" blogs when I decided to change my website into a weblog format. I was reading and Scripting News regularly, but not too many others at the time. But I got enough of the format to realize that it was a place where I could put out my writing, and see who responded. For the first few months, not many people responded. And then I got a letter published in Salon, and some people read it and because of it searched for, and found, my weblog. They sent me some very nice feedback, and I realized, hey--people are reading what I'm writing. A bit later, I discovered a whole weblog community out there, many of whom are now on my portal page, and discovered that the old commercial about telling two friends, and they tell two friends, and they tell two friends--works. But it only works if you give them a reason to come back.

That's where the writing comes in.

You want rules for writing a weblog? There are none. There is no overarching authority that can stand in front of a podium and proclaim to the class that they must write a weblog this way, or buy Rebecca Blood's book on weblogs, read three chapters and put out a "Hello, world" page. What it all comes down to is a matter of personal taste and style--no matter what people who have been blogging longer than we have to say. And may I take a moment to point out that the "I was here first so I know more than you" argument doesn't work. Things change. People learn new things, devise new ways to do old ones. The world moves on. This is known as "progress."

Do you want a weblog that is nothing but links and brief comments? Fine. Write one. An online journal? It's yours. Want one with posts that fill seven screenfuls on Jungian vs. Freudian dream interpretation? Then write your weblog that way. Humor? You got it. Politics? It's yours. Comments/no comments? Links/no links? Blogrolls/no Blogrolls? Kitchen sink included? You want it, you got it.

The thing is, the only element that truly counts in a weblog is the writing. The web is a communications medium. If you can't communicate, no one will read your weblog. And if you can write well, then people will read your words, and they will let other people know that you're writing something worth reading, and the Internet is a better place for it. I love reading Loriloo and Sharon and Meryl Evans, and they're three women who write weblogs of completely different styles. None of them is wrong; none of them is right. All of them, however, are weblogs.

Somebody pinch me, I'm dreaming

So I woke up this morning and did the usual morning things, and then sat down to check out the site stats from yesterday--which, come to think of it, I still haven't gotten to. Iseema's Diary seems to be getting a lot of attention. I'm glad you all like it. Come back in a day or so, because his journals from Camp X-Ray are due on the Cuban Cigar Express (shh... don't tell the Feds).

I would also like to point out to you all that I completely stole--er, was inspired by--the waterfall joke from Mark Twain's Diary of Adam and Eve.

Feel free to look around. All the doors and windows are open. Except that one. Don't go there.

Random actsof Greetness, again

I may be here in Virginia another day, so it's only fitting that I send a shout-out to some new regional visitors. Hey, Jackson, Mississippi! Hey, Conway, Arkansas! C'mon in, look around, have a seat, put your feet up. Hey, does Brazil count as the south? It's south of me. Well, hey anyway, Brazil!

I do not want to go home. It's already in the sixties this morning, and will probably be in the seventies today. I'm thinking New Jersey is not going to be nearly as warm and comfy. And I don't have a Great Deck, just a Dinky Apartment Patio. Oh, well. The world awaits; I must rejoin it someday.



Let's all diagram sentences!

Do you remember word games? The really tough ones, not the black/white hot/cold ones. I thought it would be fun to take some of the search phrases that people found this site by and put them into some kind of paragraph sense. I haven't done this in a very long time, but it's a lot of fun to take disconnected phrases and try to make them make some kind of sense. It didn't take long--maybe fifteen minutes to get the story below. And it was fun to do. I may try to make this a regular thing.

The search phrases: belch videos,, where did new jersey get its name, how to get flies out of dead air, stealing electrical power, how do you pronounce aotearoa, corn nuggets, John Edward fraud, how did hela young die, old metal workers having lunch Empire State Building,, dress me up Osama, why Osama hates American cartoons

The results: While walking down Fifth Avenue, I saw some old metal workers having lunch by the Empire State Building. One of them was asking why Osama hates American cartoons. Another was talking about John Edward being a fraud. "Dress me up, Osama," he said, "Edward's so stupid he probably doesn't know where New Jersey got its name."

"Yeah," said another one, "but pretty soon his address is gonna be"

"Why does Osama hate American cartoons?" another asked. "I don't get it. Ooh, the wife packed corn nuggets!"

I left the old men eating their lunch and talking about how to get flies out of dead air by the vents without stealing electrical power. On the next block, a young man walked up to me and asked, "How do you pronounce Aotearoa?"

"I don't know," I told him.

"Well, then can you direct me to the store that sells belch videos?"

"No, and I can't tell you how Hela Young died, either." And so he left, presumably to look for the video store.


That sounds almost like a woman's name: Miscellany, the doctor will see you now.

Dolly sent me a hilarious link; John Dvorak, this one's for you.

Upon reading my search engine referrals, I've come to several conclusions. Number one: John Fraudward's days are numbered--my leading search phrase is once again "John Edward fraud". Number two: I'm going to take my favorite search engine phrases and put them into a paragraph for you. This includes phrases like "belch videos" and "how to get flies out of dead air." It's going to be a slow day here, I hope to have it posted later today.

Number three: Hi, everyone! Wow, I feel like I've been away for a week. Oh, wait--I have.



Doing the math

The time always goes so quickly here in Virginia. It has especially rushed by these last two trips; constant activity tends to fill one's days. So tonight I realize that I've only got a little more time to enjoy the differences between here and home. We're having cello practice at the moment, in the Great Room, with the fireplace going, and the hot air blower finally working right, and the dogs asleep in their separate dog beds scattered throughout the room. I just returned from getting a rub. Translation: They have a massage chair, and I finally remembered to use it tonight. Twice, actually--neck and lower back. We're going to push cocktail hour up to 9 p.m.; the West Wing is one of our favorite shows and it's new tonight.

It's the companionship that I like the most, and what I miss the most when I go home. It's the difference between being one of a family of four, and being one. It's amazing what a difference having someone to say goodnight and good morning to makes. Of course, one can't discount the effect of an eight-year-old who worships you on one's ego. It is simply impossible not to smile every time her face lights up when she sees you. Or when she hops sideways across the kitchen to bring you a napkin, simply because hopping is what eight-year-olds do. Or the way she sings an answer to your question, because again, singing is what children do.

She will cling to me Friday morning and tell me she doesn't want me to go. But tonight she is singing me the alternate verse to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and asking me to put it in my weblog. So here it is:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the closing of the school
We have tortured all the teachers, we have broken every rule.
We plan to hang the principal tomorrow afternoon
Our truth is marching on.

And she continues to sing the verse as she heads into the shower. I'm definitely going to miss being here.

Question and answer period

Since there are so many new folks checking me out these days, I thought I'd help you out by supplying a Frequently Asked Questions page.

I'm sure I'll be adding to it from time to time; feel free to send email if you have any questions I haven't answered yet. I am, as always, at your service.

The dogs of blogs

Two of the things that make me laugh the most during my visits here are Heidi's dogs. Worf, the 100-lb Rhodesian Ridgeback (you're simply going to have to convert pounds to kilograms yourself; this is 'Merica, and I'm a 'Merican), was chosen by my friends. Sparty, their ten-lb. miniature poodle, was adopted perforce. He showed up around Christmas time one year, and managed for several weeks not to get eaten by Worf, who tolerates no other dog. Sorena was five then, and had begged and begged for a poodle (like the next-door neighbor's). The answer was, basically, "Over our dead and buried bones." The Universe heard, Sparty appeared, and ingratiated himself into their lives.

The thing is, most poodles are neurotic, and it is Heidi's belief that Sparty is more neurotic than most, having been, she thinks, left alone in an apartment bathroom all day by someone who finally got tired of his relieving himself in the bathtub on a regular basis. So that person dumped him, and he made his way here. His habits have changed significantly, but there is one thing that Spartacus (yes, his full name) does on a regular basis: Pees, anywhere, anytime, due to stress, fear, or simple confusion. The first thing he did upon coming out on the brand new deck was pee on it. The second thing was run from Heidi's husband, who was understandably annoyed and yelled at him.

Three moves in six months have upset Sparty to the point where he has been rechristened (if I may use that word) by Heidi's husband. His telltale puddles are everywhere. We now call him The Urinator. His tagline: "I'll pee back!"

I have walked this dog. I am not exaggerating when I say The Urinator has an inexhaustible supply. Good thing Heidi has an inexhaustible supply of patience. And disinfectant.



Sleeping arrangements

It used to be a wonderful thing. The guest room had a waterbed and was upstairs, far enough away from the kitchen that any superfluous morning activity, like Heidi's husband getting breakfast and going to work, couldn't interrupt my sleep. The waterbed was warm and soft and comfortable, and my nights here were frequently night after night of completely uninterrupted sleep, a blessing after living in an apartment with no real soundproofing between me and the upstairs neighbor. I could actually hear him turning over in his bed; we won't even talk about when his girlfriend visits.

And so the first blow hit me: Heidi tells me the guest room waterbed will be sold when they move, and replaced with a normal mattress. Okay, I can deal with that. It's a loss, but hey, I'm a grownup. I can buy my own waterbed. Someday. When I get my own house. But I digress. When they were in their temporary house, I slept one night on a rock disguised as a futon. The following morning, I delivered an acerbic monologue on why futons suck, and was rewarded by subsequently sleeping on a featherbed on top of a rock disguised as a futon, which made sleeping much more bearable, but still far from the bliss of the waterbed.

In the temporary apartment, there was a sofabed whose mattress was softer than blacktop, but not by much, and whose springs were sprung so much you'd have thought there were Slinkys in the bed. Heidi had an air mattress about two feet wide that we put underneath the sheet so that I could sleep without having my skin punctured by my mattress. I don't move around much when I sleep in any case; trust me, I did not move a centimeter while sleeping in that bed.

Tomorrow we are due to get the new guest bed, which consists of something called Swedish foam, which Heidi's husband--who sleeps on a waterbed--insists is the most comfortable mattress in existence. We shall see. In the meantime, I am once again on the futon/featherbed combination, which seems somehow more comfortable than it used, and I suspect that's because there are no attack-springs sticking out of it ready to disembowel me.

However, there is one new thing: The heat pump is right outside the guest room. It's fine when the heat isn't on, but when it's seventeen degrees out, one simply must put on either the heat or about fifteen layers of clothing. We chose heat. So the pump makes a noise not unlike, oh, a small jet engine. The first time I mentioned it to Heidi, she said, "Oh, that's a train." At that moment, there actually was a train nearby, so I decided she was right. The second time I mentioned it was yesterday morning, at which point she said again, "It's a train." I told her to stand closer to the window. She opened it and the room was filled with the roar of, oh, the equivalent of a small jet engine. "Oh," she said. "We'll have to put some plants there to muffle the noise or something." A rain forest around it won't muffle the noise, but I declined to point that out to her. However, later that day, when we were sitting around the kitchen table chatting, a train went by, and I couldn't resist saying, "Now that's a train."

Some days I just live for the evil looks people give me.

Last week's blogs are archived.