Category Archives: commentary

The Impact of Therapy on Creative Writing

I often write poetry as a form of therapy. But, I have found in recent months that, some events or feelings for which I would have written a poem, instead I have made a note of it, under a heading “to bring up with my therapist.”

It need not be this way. Longer ago, further back, I would write the poem, and then discuss the poem with my therapist.

One such event that I took to therapy without writing a poem happened at the end of October, after a concert I performed in, involving the delay my brain sometimes has in processing inputs. I talked about it with my therapist at my next therapy session. But as a result, there’s no poem. I’m going to rectify that soon, and will add the link when I do.

Google Maps Place Reviews

Dear Google,

No, I do not wish to review the place I went hiking this evening. That’s why I ignored it the first time you asked. I don’t care if I’m in the top 20% of Park reviewers. I don’t care if I took pictures that no one else has in your prying algorithm’s eyes.

It’s my relative secret. I went to two other hiking trails, and they’ve become so popular there was no place to park. I don’t want this trail to suffer the same fate. True, the relative difficulty of the boulder scramble discourages many.

(Note that this portion is not required to get to the waterfall)

And people who aren’t familiar may lose the trail, never making it to the waterfall.

Sure, other people know about this place; it’s not a true secret. But I prefer to reserve my knowledge of it for close family and close friends, and only to impart it by hiking it with them.

A little pūkana to show I’m serious about wanting to keep this my “secret” 🙂

So yes, I’ll review it on my WordPress blog, where it will dwindle in relative anonymity, and have little chance of blowing up. I know, this won’t help me increase my ranking above the top 20% Park reviewers. Please see above.

Happy surveilling,



There are things I am willing to do but don’t want to do: this is part of sacrifice. There are things I want to do, but am not willing to do: this is part of self-mastery. There are things I … Continue reading

Pregnant Pause

The thing that’s nice about a pregnant pause is it has a very short gestation period.

Vain Imaginations, Reinterpreted

Booksreadr scrapes the web and creates a digital library from whatever PDFs and probably other ebook formats it finds. They grabbed my book and added it to their library. (I sincerely hope it was only the 20% free version, but I’m not willing to give them my credit card information to validate my address so they can give me a free account, as I’m skeptical of them and their product, based on how little contact information they give.) But they apparently didn’t like my summary. It appears they took my description written in native English, machine
translated it to some other language, and translated it back to English, making for a rather amusing though ridiculous rendering of the description. From on 26 November 2014:

Imaginations is just an assortment of verses created within 2000 to 2014’s span. The verses variety in character from heart-wrenching to heart, from unique to governmental felt, to inventive from term play. There’s a workout on avoiding while looking through the banned windows many tales up the exterior stairwell of the mindset building on the college university, Jumper, followed closely by the light a brand new although medical undertake the topic, Vapor Space. A few of the animals highlighted are leaders and gnats, ostriches and finches and kangaroos and politicians. In these websites, springtime winter, and drop can be found; summertime are you able to discover? Demise exists: the demise of family members and also the demise of feelings. You ll discover systems and resources: fax devices and teapots, metronomes along with a smartphone; garbage and books. Should you seem cautiously, you’ll find Orwell and Theodore; serenity, and finally.

My actual description from

Vain Imaginations is a collection of poems written over the course of 2000 to 2014. The poems range in nature from whimsical to political, from heart wrenching to heart felt, from word play to imaginative. There is Jumper, a thought exercise on escaping while staring through the barred windows several stories up the external stairwell of the psychology building on a university campus, followed by the lighter Steam Room, a fresh albeit scientific take on the subject. Some of the creatures featured are gnats and giants, ostriches and finches, foxes and kangaroos, wasps and politicians. In these pages, winter, spring, and fall are present; can you find summer? Death is present: the death of emotions and the death of loved ones. You’ll find tools and technologies: metronomes and teapots, fax machines and a smart phone; textbooks and trash. If you look carefully, you can find Teddy, Bradbury, and Orwell; and at last, peace.

There was a famous attempt at machine translation in the early days of artificial intelligence (well, famous in the field of AI). The phrase “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was translated to Russian then back to English. The result? “The vodka is good but the meat is rotten.” So this Seattle, WA company (at least, that’s where their terms of use agreement says court cases will go; the domain is registered in Panama) is doing about as good as circa-1960’s MT. Way to go.

P.S. If anyone has a booksreadr account and can tell me how legit they are, I’d be interested to know.
P.P.S. Whether the actual phrase “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was put through an MT system in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s is a bit apocryphal. But there were MT systems that translated from English to Russian, and from Russian to English, which made similar messes of idiomatic speech.

What of Columbus?

Of late there are many sources claiming Christopher Columbus was unworthy of a federal holiday a despicable rascal. See this “article” on the oatmeal  and this one on I saw the oatmeal article last year. A friend who is a teacher shared it with me. The following is what I shared with her, and now with anyone open minded enough to not jump on the revisionist bandwagon without long contemplation and deep investigation.

Vicki Jo Anderson, while researching many historical figures over the course of several years, discovered that

“history written prior to 1920 was often written of great men and women who performed great deeds. After 1920, history has highlighted the miseries of men…. Dean Belnap once stated: ‘Young people of our generation have been deprived of their birthright, which is to be conscious that they are the children of a high destiny in the line of great men who performed great deeds.’ One cannot appreciate the future unless there is an understanding of the past. It is the intent of [the book she was doing the research for] to illustrate from the lives of these eminent men, that one individual can make a difference.”

Of Columbus, Anderson writes:

“Disheartened with the greed and lust that were wreaking havoc in the newly discovered land, in 1496 he wrote to the king and queen, begging that the same laws existing in Spain be applied to the islands, and that all people–including the Indians–have the same justice.
He wrote: ‘Procure for the Indians, that are coming under our rule, the same rules and protections as those we have been speaking of [here in Spain]. These rules are to apply to those in power and those not in power equally. I want them to have the same protection like I have as if they were my own flesh.’ In 1497, he pleaded again:
‘I worry immensely about the future. I do not know what will happen in years to come. But we will discover new lands and we will negotiate in some of them according to the law of Castile and if this is not ruled by a strong hand then we will lose and rip apart our future and we will lose everything. I am afraid we will be misunderstood. I tell you to do it this way because gold is not everything.’”

Her source for the Columbus quotes is:

Columbus, Christopher. Letters to King Ferdinand & Queen Isabel 1496 Raccolta Collection. Raccolta di Documenti e Studi Pubblicati dalla R. Commissione Colombiana, pel Quarto Centenario dalla Scoperta dell’ America, Appendix Roma 1894, p. 270.

I am not saying by this that he never did anything bad, just that he may not have been as bad as recent history writers make him out to be.

Related Links:

If I Were a High School English Teacher…

Darwin city skyline from East Point Reserve

Darwin city skyline from East Point Reserve by Bidgee

If I were a high school English teacher, I’d have my students write a compare and contrast essay on the Hoodoo Guru’s song Tojo (lyrics) and Santa Never Made It Into Darwin by Bill Cate.

First I’d have them listen to Tojo, with a printed version of the lyrics in front of them, and write their initial impressions of the meaning. Then I’d play for them Santa Never Made It, with the lyrics to reference. Then I’d ask them:

The relative sizes of the United States, Cyclone Tracy and Typhoon Tip, the smallest and largest Pacific tropical storms recorded, respectively

  1. What did you think Tojo was about when you first heard/read the lyrics? Turn your page of initial impressions in with your essay. (I was thinking it was a love song: his girl abandoned him on Christmas eve, and he was so devastated that he didn’t bother with the traditions that year.)
  2. What motivated David Faulkner to write Tojo?
  3. The meaning of Santa Never Made It is pretty clear; what is the meaning of Tojo?
  4. What is different between the two approaches?
  5. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches?
  6. What information would be important to know before listening to Tojo for the first time to interpret it correctly? How does world knowledge affect our ability to comprehend the messages we receive from art, from media, etc.?

Hideki Tojo

Hideki Tojo

I’d award some bonus points to students who accurately describe who Tojo is; slightly less points for making a good guess. I would also possibly award various levels of bonus points for various levels of answering the question, “What would be required for a computer to understand either song?” It’s probably a good thing I’m not a high school English teacher: my students would have too much fun. Or I’d get fired for not following Common Core.

Is Suffering Really Necessary?

Author’s note: I wrote this last week, in two cities and over hundreds of miles in the air, before Robin Williams left our sphere of existence. While that event and the subsequent news and social media flurry may color how you read this, and while some of it may even apply, to think I am making any statement about that would be incorrect.

This post showed up in my FB feed the other day stating:

It is interesting to realize I was taught to believe that suffering was healthy. Suffering isn’t healthy, nor necessary. Ever.

Someone commented on that post saying that pain is necessary, but suffering is not. This idea is not restricted to that post or its comments. Over at, Josh Lafayette has an art print expressing this idea. And there’s a picture incorrectly attributing the idea to Buddha (the tl;dr version of the article: “Imagine someone in Asia posting ‘Jesus quotes’ (which are actually AA slogans) under a picture of Santa Claus, and you’ll get a feel for what’s [wrong with this picture]”).

The problem with reading the dictionary when you’re doing your spelling assignments in second grade is that you can’t let people misuse their native language with impunity. So let’s take a look at the root word “suffer“, as defined by the descriptive linguists at Merriam-Webster:
You won’t believe what happens next! Oh, sorry, this isn’t bait. I’ll leave that stuff on buzzfeed.


Today I celebrate the passing of the 365th day since my last auto accident. Yay! Hopefully, I can avoid what the image below intimates. Related Posts: My last auto accident

Silent Treatment: an Imagined Conversation while Heading Home from Work on a Friday Afternoon

“Nobody asked your opinion,” she said with a glare.
“Well that was awfully kind of nobody to ask my opinion, wasn’t it?” I replied.
“At least when I say good morning to nobody, nobody is kind enough to acknowledge my existence; at least nobody says good morning in return.”

Protected: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

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I deactivated my Facebook account last Friday. The time I was spending reading all the articles, taking all the quizzes, watching all the cat videos (okay, so I only had a few cat videos in my news feed, but I … Continue reading