long beard

To my Master (Lock)

From a July 10th writing workshop class:

O Master... Lock
You are so shiny, wearing your thick sandwiched plates
You could stop a bullet
I saw it on YouTube

Your keyhole is like two letter Ls - an upside down one and a backwards on perched on the end of it.
I'd love to open you up and see how you work
But you're patented
And I lost your key

You are Master Lock number 22.
22nd in a proud line of Master Locks.
Who is the most Masterful Master?
Master Lock number 1? Or Master Lock number 315?
Where were you patented? Do all the other locks from the other manufacturers acknowledge your supremacy?

Secure all my belongings, O Master Lock.
Keep those other junior high kids from stealing my books and leaving them in the toilet.
Keep them from playing keep away with my things at recess.
Keep them from discovering my use of the women's underwear section of the Zellers flyer as my locker liner.

You give no clue as to where you were made.
Were you Made in the USA, land of the free?
Were you Made in a Chinese factory just for me?
Have you travelled farther than I'll ever go?
Have you locked the poetry in a 14-year-old girl's journal?
You are as inscrutable as she was.
long beard

Where I'm from

From a July 10th writing workshop class:

I am from not-quite-the-sea. An Island surrounded by water*, but I grew up on a farm. I never liked fishing. I don't like seafood.

Similarly, I majored in English but I studiously avoided poetry, as one professor put it.

But I smelled the sea on the boat and it meant I was going somewhere. I find the smell of the sea exciting. Now if only I could travel on it.

It's our right to leave Canada. But no other country is obliged to take you. But the Sea has no countries. The Sea is always open.

Smell of travel
Sight of distance
Feeling of adventure
Taste of possibilities
Sound of emptiness
No countries
Always open
Farmboy on a boat

* - Waitaminit, aren't all islands... yeah. Silly Will.
long beard

Thoughts on my name

From a July 10th writing workshop class:

In English the meaning of my name can be found on Page 1125 of The Really, Really Big Book of Baby Names. In Mother it means I'm about to be lassoed into some novel unpleasantness. It's an off-the-shelf generic name. If I ever change it, it will be to something new and different. This reminds me: I helped English teachers in Polish classrooms and every class had six kids named Przemek.

I didn't start truncating it to "Will" myself but the kids in school took it upon themselves to do so and eventually I went along with it. I self-identify either way, depending on my mood and the formality of the situation.

The best moment for "William" was when my childhood sweetheart said "Oh William" to me in the summer of Grade 8 after I said something that would have to study for three more years to achieve the status of corny joke.

The best moment for "Will" was near the end of Grade 11 when my classmates shouted it repeatedly during my candidate's speech for the position of Student's Council Vice President. They shouted and stomped and cheered.

And like how this is going, my friend running for President ran out of time and they cut his mic.
long beard

Synesthesia exercise: Yma and her dog

Her voice sounded like a blueberry muffin and her hair was the colour of music. I relied on her too much.

There's an Alanis Morissette song called "You Owe Me Nothing In Return" and like many of her post-Jagged Little Pill songs there are parts that have the effortless grace of letting bowling balls roll up the basement stairs but they're so full of meaning to me. I tuned into Alanis' interview with Jian Ghomeshi and I was floored by how effortlessly the feeling of her words massaged my brain. I'd been watching her songs so much that in some small way I became her.

you owe me nothing
for giving the love
that I give

you owe me nothing
for caring
the way that I have

I wrote you that to convey the idea that my friend Yma was spookily unconditional in her love for me. All I had to be was am, and that was enough. I loved the taste of her arms around me.

Then she got a dog. A small dog.

It smelled like a tax return and barked like a pineapple. When we walked together, the dog would dash aggressively at other dogs and it was all strawberries and raspberries and mangoes between them. I didn't understand how it thought it could win.

"But I'm worth it!", Yma would say.

I hear the biophysicists are working on a smell cancelling device. When it smells a tax return, it generates a birthday party to cancel it out. When there's an audit, it generates a party where you bought the perfect gift that was thoughtful and needed and appreciated and unique but not too ostentatious and the birthday person loves you a little bit more than they already loved you, which was a lot.

I don't know what I'm going to do about all the tax returns on the living room floor, though.
long beard

Shopping reasonably-priced web hosts for free speech

Update, 1:45pm Monday: I'm back! With Crosswinds, still. It was a spam-related issue - not spam I was generating, but spam coming through my catch-all e-mail account on willmatheson.com. I get lots and lots of RandomName@willmatheson.com automated spam - I hardly ever *see* it, but it does load up my Gmail and I guess Google was like 'eff this'. Crosswinds has disabled the catch-all e-mail for all of their accounts and going forward I'll have to manually set up aliases. Oh, well. This sort of problem would probably follow me wherever I go, so no more catch-all, I guess.

If I'd read their updates, I probably would have figured out that my e-mail was part of this e-mail problem. Mine was "was one of the biggest and the one that came up in [the] investigation."

So, again, my suspension had nothing to do with free speech, unless you count spam from the shysters of the internet as free speech, and I'm continuing on with these same people because shit happens sometimes. But this information might still be useful to you.

* * *

Web hosting providers leave themselves a lot of discretion in what they will allow to be hosted. I would like to see more with an ethic like, "We're hosted in Jurisdiction X, so it has to be legal in Jurisdiction X, and follow in good faith the 'first, do no harm' principle, though we may disagree on what's harmful. Provided you're not using our services to run a baby meat distribution network, we will attempt to notify you about any infractions and give you an opportunity to bring your site back into compliance."

On or before Friday, I appear to have been suspended by my web host Crosswinds. I've been searching hither and yon to find other stories of people having been suspended by them, and I did find this story about their having yanked the site of someone critical of the censorship on GeoCities, but I haven't seen anything else. If you have any stories to share, please post them here.

Around, I think, 2:15 ET on Friday afternoon, I sent an e-mail asking what was up, but I've yet to receive any kind of response, and all visits to my website result in this lovely orange picture. I've been locked out of my FTP and web-based control panel, too. But my e-mail still works.


I'm hopeful that there'll be some kind of response today. I have a backup of my static material, but I would like to run one last backup of my WordPress blog because I haven't done one since June 9. It won't be a complete disaster - I was composing things in Word, generally, but it'll be annoying to manually bring it back to where it is now.

I'm dread-assuming this is about free speech - I'd 'love' to be proven wrong, that it's about usage or something, since quantitative problems are usually easier to solve than political ones.

Either way, I may need to find another web host. Here is my current short list:

NearlyFreeSpeech.NET - They take free speech very seriously and have a prepaid pay-as-you-go payment model. You could run a simple static text-and-client-side-script site for pennies. My site is is rather data-heavy though, with tons of photos and video files, which would result in a much higher price than what I pay now. I really like the simplicity - the content has to be yours, the content has to be legal in the US, and that's it. They may, though, donate to a charity working for the opposite of what you want, if they find what you want offensive.

1984 Hosting Company - Based in Iceland, which the people there might have a decent shot at making into a haven of freedom of expression. I really like their self-description, but their terms are tragically much less strident. They can suppress "any materials or information that are, in the opinion of 1984 ehf., illegal, harmful or ethically objectionable." Not having had a chance to have a few beers with these people, I have no way of knowing what they consider "illegal, harmful or ethically objectionable" - I mean, what if Peter MacKay was working in their policy enforcement department?

Dreamhost - It seems like these guys are free speech defenders in practice as well as principle. They host the American Nazi Party website (I verified this with Who-hosts.com) and, according to this blogger, "refused to take down Prophet Muhammad cartoons even after a denial of service attack was launched against them by Al-Qaeda sympathizers." I figure, if they'll host Nazis, I shouldn't have anything to worry about, right?

(By the way, if you're thinking "How dare he link to the American Nazi Party?", that's exactly why I did. While we're on the subject, here's a Louis Theroux documentary on the subject of white supremacists in the USA. From what I've seen of his work, he engages his subjects - whom he might vastly disagree with! - quite calmly and rationally. A good example, I think.)

CrocWeb - Based in Montreal, which is already a good sign. They allow legal adult content. They're not an "unlimited" host, but I think I'd fit in their 50/500 storage/transfer plan.

HostPapa - Another Canadian web host, this one is committed to using renewable sources of energy. They don't allow hardcore pornography, so I wouldn't recommend using them if you wanted to do much porn at all because "what's hardcore?" is not a discussion I'd want to have if I had any stakes at all in it. (Specifying that it must not involve animals is a nice touch. I like specifics.) Still, some web hosts prohibit swearing for fuck sakes, and this doesn't seem to be one of those. But I might smack into their limits pretty quickly. The price is low, but I might receive in service what I outlay in money.

Definitely not on my list:

Netfirms - Gave to the Thai government IP address and associated e-mails of a commenter who criticized Thailand's lèse majesté laws. It's alleged they provided this data without requesting a court order, subpoena, or warrant from Thai authorities. This host deserves special mention because it's a Canadian host. We can't fall into the trap that a host will stand up for us just because it's in Canada.
long beard

The Phyllophaga Tales

June, the glorious month, arrive!
The promise to on the spring night fly!
I am the emblem of the gentle weather!
I will dine on root and shrub and heather!
Take care when opening the door
It would please me in your house to soar!
I just want to be your friend
Drink a beer with you at day's end!
To watch the game on your couch you'll plonk
I want in, too! Say I in window bonk!

On Twitter you give me lots of grief
You'll curse my very life too brief.
I suppose that's what a scared person does
Scream and run when you hear my buzz.
But I just want to be big and free
And perhaps amuse humanity.
Next time you see me hanging on your screen
Please leave me be and don't be mean.
I may get in your face or clothes
But very soon I will forever repose.

Enjoy what's left of your summer
And I'll try not to be such a bummer.
When you hear me BZZZT BZZZT BZZZT
You don't have to run or run and whizz.
There's no danger; I don't bite
Though I suppose I might give fright.
Please enjoy your evening fun
No need of air conditioner to run.
While we as insects, not contrite
We will be warriors of the night.
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long beard

Let's get government out of the marriage business

In a recent episode of Penn Jillette's podcast, Penn's Sunday School, he talks about how marriage as a governmental construct is unfair. I'd go as far as to say it's a government-subsidized questionably-grounded morality, inasmuch as single people are paying for the freer ride of married people. We can have fair and equal next-of-kin, access, employment, custodial, beneficiary rights and the like without subsidizing marriage.

Here is my pseudo-transcript of an excerpt. It's from episode 118 (episodes / MP3), starting from 84 minutes:

* * *

Co-host: "Oklahoma state lawmakers propose legislation that would throw out marriage in the Sooner state altogether." [story]

Penn: "Well, that's what I have always said. When I was on Glenn Beck... every time I put a thing on Twitter about Glenn Beck, I have to deal with 20 trolls saying 'This is the worst thing ever.' I don't agree with Glenn Beck on stuff, but I get along with him. I try to be nice to him. He's always been nice to me. Whenever I talk to Glenn Beck about the gay marriage issue, and he would say, 'Well, we don't wanna give special rights, or do this or that...' and he's kind of come around on that. But I always say I just don't understand at all why the government is involved in marriage in any way, shape, or form.

"I am, ultimately, if I speak honestly, I am against gay marriage, but I'm also against heterosexual marriage. I don't understand why who people are having sex with - providing it's consensual adults, and you've got to say all that, but you know I mean that - why that's the government's business at all. I mean, how come when we had all these big revolutions saying that sodomy should not be illegal, and gay sex should not be illegal, why did it go the other way? When marriage first hit this country, when they first started putting marriage into the whole thing, most people were against the government being involved, and religious people, too! It seems like, if you're going to do marriage, it's such a personal, such an important thing that that is perfect - absolutely perfect - for religious institutions to handle.

"If you want a marriage that's a Mormon marriage, or you want a marriage that's a Baptist marriage, or you want a marriage that's a marriage in Islam, it seems like that's perfect for them to do that, and then if you want some sort of contract that says 'This is who can visit me when I'm in the hospital, this is who gets my will, I wanna leave my money, I wanna leave my property to somebody - to be able to do all of that, it seems like that can all be done in the civil courts, and there doesn't have to be a definition of marriage. How can 350 million people agree on what marriage should be? [emphasis mine] And every time they do that laundry list of things where they go, 'You know, if we say...' - Scalia, on the Supreme Court - [he] made that statement that's pulled up everywhere that says if you make gay marriage okay, what about people that want threesomes and foursomes that wanna marry, and what about beastiality? - a whole list of things - and I look at that list and go, 'Yeah, what about those? Would that be okay?' You should be able to make any deal you want, and the courts can enforce a legal contract - what that legal contract is should be decided on a case-to-case basis.

"Now, I am married, and the reason I am married - the only reason I am married - is that I could not find one lawyer who would tell me that if we were not married and had all the paperwork done outside of marriage, if something were to happen to my wife, that I would be guaranteed custody of my children. Now my [sisters-in-law] and my in-laws are wonderful, wonderful people, and I trust them. But there is the possibility that if something were to happen to my wife and my in-laws were to go completely crazy, they could fight me for custody of my child.

"Once you're married, you automatically get those parental rights. And that is the reason. There are also financial advantages to being married, which seems really insane - there shouldn't be that at all, that is so unfair to people who are not married - it's just completely, completely wrong. And the whole idea of raising children and how you're gonna do that - marriage exists without raising children, so all those arguments go down the hole - but this Oklahoma thing you sent, it's not clear to me... is the person doing this in jest or ironically or to make some point?"

Co-host: "That's the reason why I sent it to you, it doesn't seem like it's being done ironically. They said that banning gay marriage was unconstitutional, and so this congressperson is a Republican, so it is kind of, like I said, a fight back against the courts declaring a gay marriage ban unconstitutional but it also just seems like he's saying we have to put every option on the table."

Penn: "Well, I would think that would be a great option. It's a huge step backwards to allow gay marriage and get more people wrapped up in this government sexuality, government relationship. It just seems insane. When marriage was first going to be the government's control, a lot of really important free thinkers - a lot of really important freedom fighters - fought against that really heavily. It's like everybody who is fighting for gay marriage now would have, 200 years ago, [been] fighting against government marriage to begin with. I don't see why you need to have the government make any sort of decision on that at all. And if you want to have a religious ceremony, and have that kind of stuff done, that seems great, it seems wonderful. It's a really good thing for churches to do, a really good thing for churches to do, but to take government marriage and call the same thing people who go to Vegas and kind of, for a goof, with Elvis, kind of get married, and then call that the really solemn ceremonies that happen in a church - to call those the same thing seems insulting to both parties.

"I am a real fan of the idea of pulling it back, but there's no way to do that. Now, all the stuff is including more, getting more people to be part of this government umbrella of government having to decide what marriage is. And then once government is involved in it, then all that stuff - you know, Teller's not married, I am married, and there's all sorts of tax breaks I get and yet my children - Teller pays for an awful lot of stuff for children, and he doesn't have children. It's just completely unfair. It seems like we could do this much better and much more real and honestly, easily."
long beard

Writing Exercise: "What do you mean you lost the winning lottery ticket?"

This was an exercise I did for the April 18th meeting of the writer's group at the Sherbrooke Library. Meetings are presently held every second Thursday night at 7pm. Newcomers of any experience level welcome.

"What do you mean you lost the winning lottery ticket?" she said as I rooted around in the office nook. "You must be making one of your attempts at a 'joke'."

This was not good. I hunted through the house in panic. Everything I wanted in the whole world was in that lottery ticket. Oddly enough, upon reflection, it wasn't actually that much worse than losing my car keys, the day I thought I'd dropped them in the snow somewhere. The car is almost as much of a promise as the winning lottery ticket.

My wife Selma was working in the kitchen and gave me a blank stare over her shoulder as I scurried here and there like a very large, maladroit squirrel. She was good at not saying what was on her mind. It didn't take much in the way of clairvoyance to deduce it was something like, "Again? You're such a screw-up, and even when you get lucky you screw it up."

Why was she with me? I wasn't asking myself that at the moment, of course - I'm asking you right now. Though in general, yes, I'm asking myself that all the time. I would describe all the places I was looking for you but you can probably imagine all the couch cushions I'm pulling up, all the bedsheets I'm shaking out, all the beds I'm kneeling or downright falling beside to look under, all the coat pockets I'm digging in, all the pants pockets I'm sticking my hand into... including the ones Selma was currently wearing. She wasn't impressed, but I didn't want to bother her while she was drying the dishes.

Drying the dishes is a very exacting process in our house. Many people just wipe them with a dishtowel but after even just a few dishes it gets greasy and then you start leaving the dishes feeling greasy. Sometimes if I'm in a panic I'll use paper towels, but don't tell Selma. Anyway, what she does is pick them up with tongs and rotate them slowly under a heat lamp. It's a very delicate process and she doesn't like to be disturbed when she's doing it, but I really wanted to find that lottery ticket.

Right. Why was she with me? A long time ago a good friend told me that the person in a relationship who wants it less has most of the control. That, I think, was the case here. She's very precise. Don't let her see this story - I'm not so worried about her knowing the content, it's just that she'll wonder why I'm not using smart quotes and apostrophes and she'll check to see if I'm following some published writer's no-consecutive-paragraphs-shall-begin-with-the-same-letter rule. She also objects to my use of semicolons; she believes I go looking for opportunities to use them. Keep her away! I love you, dear.

I was having no luck finding the ticket, as if all my luck had been used up on the ticket itself. Not that good luck in one place comes at the expense of luck in another; it's unlikely that you'll flip a coin and get ten heads in a row but the chance of getting heads on that tenth flip by itself is still one-half. But I seemed to be getting nothing but tails now.

"Well, you have a year to find it," Selma said as I collapsed on the couch and wrestled some pillows in frustration.

Oh, great. A whole year to fret about where the ticket might be. Just another reason to dread looking at the calendar.

"By the way, did you put the wet clothes in the dryer?"

Oh, no. No. I raced downstairs to the washing machine.

In it were clothes. I pulled out the first pair of blue jeans on top of everything, and... they were dry. And there was a lottery ticket in the back pocket.

Thank goodness! I was awash in relief. Glee followed - I started dancing around the basement, kissing the ticket. Then I went back upstairs.

"It's okay, Selma! I was figuring out how big a wash it would be by putting the clothes in it and then I got distracted!"

She paused. "You mean my clothes aren't even washed yet?"
long beard

Writing Exercise: Use three random words

This was an exercise I did for the April 3rd meeting of the writer's group at the Sherbrooke Library. Meetings are presently held every second Thursday night at 7pm. Newcomers of any experience level welcome.

The official at the marble race held the green flag that would, when waved, signify the beginning of the contest.

“On your dents!”

“Stay set!”

“Roll!” he shouted as he waved the flag.

Now the marble handlers, having been poised with their hands against their marbles and their feet against the plastic, pushed with all of their considerable strength. Each marble seemed to heave itself from its restraint and find the freedom to pursue an inevitable surrender to gravity.

The first part of the course was yellow and it formed a funnel. This was a good chance to get ahead - a marble with any sense would try to find a way to cut to the inside and get down the hole in front of its competitors. But none seemed to have any, and so the deafening noise of the circling marbles continued for several long seconds.

The next few segments of the course were straights with curves at the ends, or they were jagged-straights that produced knocking sounds when the marbles passed through. In either case, there was no opportunity for passing.

Eventually the marbles would face a Y-junction - from their perspective, an upside-down Y. Now what? Which way was the way to victory lane? The handlers still at the top of the course could tell, but the marbles were bereft of sense and of agency. Some hit the gore between the legs of the Y and bounced left, but some bounced right.

Left was the way to victory! A few wheels and funnels and loop-the-loops later and six lucky marbles found their places: 1 red, 2 green, 3 blue, 4 cherry, 5 orange, 6 yellow. A few latecomers accumulated around the now-occupied finishing holes. No points for them today.

The marbles that went right ended up rolling down a chute with a jump at the end. By going off the course, they would be eliminated from competing in future races and would have to wait for the next season to chase the Roller Cup, provided they hadn’t already won enough points in the previous races to win it all (this hadn’t been the case for an eliminated marble yet but it remained a theoretical possibility). But one plucky marble forever endeared itself to the racing community when it managed to land on the POWER button of the remote control that lay on the floor. The handlers rejoiced - they could finally watch Family Guy.

The three words were: marble, flag, remote control.
long beard

New blog!

Hey guys, I've started a new blog! My first entry is here.

For those who would like to follow it here on LiveJournal, I've made an syndicated account for it:


It's unlikely that I'll see any comments posted on the LJ side, though, unless this blog gets to be really really big or something. Best to comment on the blog itself if you want me to see it.

I also made an LJ filter just for actual LJ people because my feed is way too full up with syndicated feeds:


I'll still post on LJ from time to time, especially informal things that don't merit a fancy-pants blog post but also don't fit into a Tweet or Facebook post, and even more so for informal personal stories as the LJ culture kind of supports that. The blog is an attempt to go "pro" (except for the money and merchandise and audience parts!).

WordPress isn't perfect, but everybody and their dog is using it and even though I've made my own content management system with PHP, I didn't want to reinvent the wheel. Or touch PHP ever again, really, when it all comes down to it. :-)