Monday, April 22, 2019

Angry Ocean

She had forgotten the sound of the ocean, living now as she did inland from the unreliable cities, which daily faced a pounding that anyway was not the sound she yearned for.

There had been talk not so many years back of sea level rise, always expressed in millimeters, like the drip drip drip of a tub that wouldn't quite shut off. It had sounded gentle, even aggravatingly slow, like the sequel of a movie announced five years out that you're not sure you'll even live to see.

No one had said the water wouldn't just rise but come from every other angle, too—as deluges from the sky above, as floods rolling down from the mountains or as walls of water crashing in from an angry sea. The gentle, relaxing lapping of waves, and with it any sense that the ocean was ever even benevolent, had fallen away.

Why hadn't they said? OK, they said. But they didn't cry out, like you would if a tidal wave was coming fast. And this was really that—a tidal wave—just slowly, to be assembled in parts, like a jigsaw puzzle.

But unlike a jigsaw puzzle, there was no order to the pieces. Just a box full of leftovers, a chaos that was refuse of many once-orderly puzzles belonging to lots of people, and a prayer just to happen upon a couple of pieces that sort of fit.

The rain was pounding, but the weatherman didn't think it would flood too badly in the next few hours. So maybe this was a time to sleep and prepare for the onslaught anew. At least she was high up, away from the ocean.

But she missed the ocean, and she worried her memories of its once gentle nature might one day drown in a flood of too much reality.

Author’s Notes:

If you got value from this post, please “Share” it.

In early June 2014, my wife and I attended a writing retreat hosted by Cary Tennis at Le Santucce in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy with a dozen or so other writers and soon-to-be friends. Last Saturday, almost 5 years later, some of us tuned in for a virtual reunion, and of course we did some writing as part of it.

The prompt to which this was a response, was “She had forgotten the sound of the ocean.” As today is Earth Day, it seemed a good day for me to share the piece with others.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Plutocratic Denial

First sea level came for the islanders, and I continued to deny—
   Because “those people” are poor, and this is their lot in life.

Then hurricanes took out some coastal cities, and I continued to deny—
   Because I had business elsewhere, so got in my jet and steered clear.

Then fires came for rich homes in California, and I continued to deny—
   Because I was conservative, and California was full of liberals.

Then the heat took farms and spiked food prices, but I continued to deny—
   Because this was why one hoards cash, to weather rough times.

Then, finally, no one came to my dinner parties.
   Too busy “just surviving” they said,
      those with the good manners to return an RSVP.
      What was the world coming to?
   In this moment I had an epiphany—
      This might actually involve me!
      How inconvenient, this sudden wave of truth.

By the time it all came tumbling in on me, supply chains had folded
      and there was no one left even to bribe.
   Was I the last? Would anyone read this? No way to know.
   But, I smiled, neither anyone left to deny
      that this had been just a bad run of weather.
   Nothing more.


Inspired in form and spirit, of course, by Martin Niemöller's post-WWII poem “First they came...”

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Vote Today. Vote Democratic.

Rights are more fragile than we wish. Operationally, they are little more than laws that require a supermajority to change ... or a majority of SCOTUS to ignore.

Our nation is more fragile than we wish. We imagine there will be other elections, other chances to win. But that is not the GOP plan. Their plan is to occupy the treehouse and to pull up the ladder behind them, to undermine those elements of democracy that would permit others to challenge their complete authority.

Our planet is more fragile than we wish. We imagine the climate debate is something we might ultimately win, but physics doesn't work that way. It will quickly become uninhabitable due to Climate Change, and the race is not against each other but against an unyielding clock. It matters to act now, and every bit of delay is a nail in humanity's collective coffin.

If you are not voting today, if you are not voting for all Democrats today, you are by implication agreeing that the GOP should continue dismantling rights, dismantling democracy, and dismantling the habitability of the planet.

Vote Today. Vote Democratic. The GOP have shown themselves poor stewards of our rights, of our nation, of our ecosystem. It is important to stop them before they rob the US and all humanity of a future in their ugly, selfish, reckless quest for power at the expense of all else.

Kent Pitman, November 6, 2018

Monday, October 9, 2017

Twitter140 vs Twitter280

I've been thinking about this Twitter 280 thing. I'm worried Twitter doesn't understand why people like it. I'm worried that in the search to find itself, Twitter wants to become Facebook.

Twitter is not a tool for publishers. It is a tool for readers. Its value is that it fights the overall trend of the Internet, to make publishing too easy. It forces people to edit relentlessly, to make things fit. That value is destroyed by giving people a comfortable amount of room to publish without thinking.

Every other forum on the network wants to allow enough space for people to say what they want, to publish what they want. This is fun for people who think they have something to say, but it's not fun for people listening to them. I fear that the people who love Twitter, who find it a fabulous tool, are not going to be happy in a world that removes this impulse.

It's not that I don't sometimes wish I could say more, but I have respected that there was a reason not to. But now there is a pressure to change. And I've been pondering how to strike a balance between just digging in with the #Twitter140 crowd and blindly accepting #Twitter280 as the answer.

A proposal of sorts

It occurs to me that the central feature of Twitter is the main feed. This is a stream of elevator pitches, bids to readers to care about a topic. This is what I think must be preserved. I don't know that I would have picked 140 characters. I understand its arbitrariness. And yet it has worked well. I just don't think 280 characters is needed there. I'd like not to disturb that. I want people to think hard about how to present an idea, so that as a reader I will see a stream of crisply edited ideas.

But when I see an idea that someone has thought carefully about, I want to respond sometimes in detail. I may not have a lot of time to spend on my reply, not as much as they should have in opening the conversation. But then again, anyone reading that particular topic must be caring about the topic, or they wouldn't have clicked in. So it seems reasonable for replies to be slightly longer, perhaps 280 since that is the proposed amount. I think I'd be OK with 280 character replies.

But what if someone wants to retweet those? If they've been sparing in their reply, keeping under 140, they should simply be retweetable. But we could have different operations for retweeting longer replies. We could have "Retweet Elided", which would put in an ellipsis (…) as the 140th character. Or we could have "Retweet with Summary", where it was the job of someone retweeting to summarize the response in a way that points through to the underlying post. I'm sure they could come up with a way to visually relate these in a way that respected the main feed and allowed one to see the summary and expansion if the reader wants to click through.

I think this kind of hybrid approach, which retained the 140 character feed and allowed for more expansion in the meat of a conversation, would continue to offer Twitter value. But I think they're on the brink not of finding an answer, but of losing their essential character. That would be very sad.

Author's Note: If you got value from this post, please “Share” it.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Collusion illusion allusion elusion

In response to a tweet by @Limericking, I wrote this limerick in a tweet:

By treasonous channels he learned
His opponent was soon to be burned.
Though sad he’d not led it,
He lusted for credit.
And with that collusion, votes turned.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Limited-Time Offer

Climate is cancer.
Delay is hope we've squandered.
We can't buy it back.


Originally published to Twitter in response to a tweet by David Brin.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tenuous Tenacity

Life is a calm room,
 hurricane raging outside,
 paper walls between.