Rant: Email Sorting

So I’m going to take a day off from writing short stories to rant about emails.  I tend to sort my emails into general categories, and determine whether to read them based on what category they fall into.

Spam (From: ladksfjadlkfawe69696969@hotmail.com Subject: 3nl4rg3 j00r p3n15)

These are spam messages.  They are almost never opened, unless I want to get a good laugh out of how much bigger I could make various body appendages.

Updates and Deals/Advertisements (From: Cheap-4-U Deals Subject: Save 11% on Brazilian waxes when you bring a friend!)

These aren’t spam, but most of the time I treat them as such.  They are almost never opened unless they pertain to something super relevant.  Most of the time, I can get the gist from the title of the email without ever needing to read them.

Facebook (That one friend you haven’t talked to in five years has just poked you!)

These are almost always deleted, except for wall posts, which I will read in email format if I don’t want to be bothered to visit Facebook.

Important emails (From: My girlfriend Subject: Innocuous title that could have deeper unpleasant implications!)

Girlfriend messages are always read.

Replies (From: Professor Subject: Re: your unexcused absence in my class)

Replies are always read.

But here’s the annoying category:

Messages that are important enough that they should be read, but pertain to vaguely uncomfortable life decisions (From: Graduate program that raises feelings of unworthiness Subject: Information to know about applying to us, better have references lined up!)

These messages are too important to ignore or delete completely, but I don’t want to open or read them – they just take too much effort!  I don’t want to have to invest this much energy and worry in an email, so I tend to simply ignore them.  This results in them piling up in my inbox, still at the top of the stack, still patiently waiting to be opened, but never actually touched.  This, dear readers, is my procrastination.

Horrible news?  I’ll read it and groan.  Great news?  I’ll read it and cheer.  Slightly disappointing news?  I will leave it alone, never reading it, and put it off forever.


Okay.  Time for my nightly tally of all that I own.  Let’s see how today fared.

Four shirts, two pairs of pants, my coat, my shoes, my hat, and my gloves.  One of my shoes is starting to develop a hole.  That’s going to be tough, because it’s difficult to find my size.  Next time I’m at Goodwill, maybe I’ll get lucky.

My sign.  I keep it with me.  Making a sign seems pretty easy – cardboard is everywhere – but I have to spend money on a marker, and that same amount could buy me a hot meal.  Every dollar counts.
Sunglasses.  Have you ever stood outside next to a line of cars in full sun?  It’s agony.  I might seem less personable, less real, when I’m wearing them, but they save my eyesight.
My backpack.  Sure, having a picture of a superhero on my backpack may look ridiculous, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?  Heh, heh.  That’s kind of clever.
A pocketknife.  A knife does a thousand different things.  I thank God that I haven’t had to use it on any people, other than to cut my own hair.  I pray that I will never have to make that choice.
My water bottle.  It is rather ironic that I got it at a job fair, from a realtor agency no less!  At least, I assume that it’s ironic.  I don’t laugh much these days.
My wallet.  Inside is five dollars for emergencies, my library card, and my driver’s license.  I guess that’s another funny thing, me having a licence but neither an address nor a car.  But there’s so much that can’t be gotten without photo ID these days that it is really worth the $20 that I need to spend every couple years to get it renewed.  And I don’t really have any other forms of ID lying around, so I need it.
My journal.  I thank the college student that tossed this half-used notebook away; I’ve made far better use of it than he did, I’m sure.  I flip open to my daily total, count the droppings that people deemed worthy of donation.  I am worth $57.64 today.  I make careful note of this. 
It will cost me $20 for my bed and dinner tonight.  I get up and shuffle down the block to the local branch of the bank.  A few of the patrons give me looks of disgust as I enter, but I have become immune to such gazes.  One of the tellers knows me.  Her smile is the brightest part of every day.
“Here for your daily deposit, Mr. Andrews?” she greets me, ignoring the dirt on my hands, the crumpled appearance of the bills, the unsorted change, the smell of me.  Somehow, I am still worthy of a smile.  “How much did we bring in today?”
I hand over $37, and she makes a careful note of the amount, her hands so neat and manicured.  I am never as clean.  I don’t think, even with a year to bathe and scrub, I could be as clean as everyone else seems to be.  She takes the money and places it in a drawer.  I used to longingly eye that drawer, the bills inside.  Now I am apathetic.
“Do you want to know your total, Mr. Andrews?” she asks.  I already know the total.  It is in my journal.  It is not much.  But it is my last refuge, my last measure of worth.  Someday, I will have enough for an apartment, for a job, for a life.  I shake my head and shuffle back outside, back into the cold, to make my way to the homeless shelter.

Writing practice: ACTION!

I sprinted down the darkened street.  Fortunately, the previous barrage had knocked out the power to the street lamps, cloaking my mad dash in darkness.  I could hear the blades of the helo above me as its searchlight panned across the ground.  They were still looking off to the left, where they had seen my previous muzzle flashes.

Up ahead, I could see the outline of the safe house.  They must not have decoded its location from the missives, or it would have already been razed to the ground.  Ducking to keep a low profile, I quickly keyed in the combination to the front door’s electric lock.  The bolt snicked open and I ducked inside.

I wasted no time making my way to the concealed weapons cache behind the hallway wall panel.  Most of the items within were nothing more than I expected; I hastily reloaded my handguns with fresh clips, slipping reloads into the pockets of my coat.  A larger, bulky case behind the assault rifles caught my attention.  I heaved the case out of the compartment with a grunt and laid it upon the floor.  I flipped the latches open and lifted the lid.  Despite my anxiety, a smile grew across my face.

I stepped out onto the front porch of the house.  Frustrated with my disappearance, the helo had resorted to a grid pattern, and was even now slowly panning down the street.  I lined up the tube on my shoulder, squinting through the laser sights, and pulled the trigger.

Boom.  The chopper erupted into a fireball, a momentary artificial sun hanging blazing in the sky before crashing to the earth.  The flash of red lit up the light.  Unfortunately, it revealed another danger.

I cursed as I ducked below the railing and slotted another charge into the rocket launcher.  The death of the helicopter had revealed a line of tanks rolling down the street.  It would be easy for them to trace the path of the rocket, and even as I reloaded, the second floor bedroom of the safe house gained a new window.  I shielded my eyes as chunks of debris rained down.

I didn’t stand a chance in a face to face confrontation with a half dozen Abrams.  Vaulting the railing, launcher still in hand, I unloaded over my shoulder as I sprinted across the street towards the commercial buildings on the other side.  The lead tank made a grunting noise as the rocket round blew it apart, but its fellows were already leveling their main guns.  I dropped the empty weapon.

The tanks couldn’t catch me as I wove between buildings, but I could now hear the thwomp of another incoming helo.  My eyes strained as I looked towards the sky.  I caught the flash of a neon sign off the blades as the chopper swung down towards me.  The spotlight clicked on, sweeping towards me, and I knew that I’d soon hear the rolling thunder of its autocannon.

I dove unceremoniously into a bush as the helo swept past.  As soon as it had passed over my hiding spot, I rolled out, drawing my 1911 with one hand and grabbing for an alternate clip with the other.  I chambered the alternate clip and slammed it into the gun with a practiced, smooth motion.  The incendiary rounds tore through the fuel tank of the chopper.  “That makes two,” I thought to myself as it burned a hole into the ground.

I switched back to normal rounds for the 1911 as I ducked my way through the darkness.  I still had to make it to the extraction point, but I had given my opponents something to consider.  I was not going to go down easily.

Conversation 1

“Look, I’m just saying that it’s really hard to get published. Have you ever tried to enter a writing contest?  Million entries. We’ve got no chance.”

“Yeah, everyone wants to be a writer. That’s why I don’t want to be one.”

“What?  Why not?”

“It’s like you said. Everyone is trying to be one, right?  Submitting manuscripts and stuff?”

“Well, yeah…”

“But no matter how many are submitted, only a few are accepted. It’s an inverse. The more people want to enter, the lower their chances. So when everyone’s entered, your odds are pretty much zero.”

“Yeah, I got that. So I really might as well not bother entering then.”

“But everyone’s gonna think that. And all of a sudden the editors are all starved for material and start publishing left and right.”

“So I should submit my writing.”

“But everyone’s doing the same thing. You’ve got no chance again.”

“Lemme see if I’ve got this… There’s plenty of demand for my writing, but only at the wrong times?”

“Exactly. The time to submit is when you’re not submitting.”

“I don’t get it. Do I just keep resubmitting constantly, then, in hopes of hitting that right time?”

“Ah, but that’s what they’re all doing.”

“I can’t win at all, can I? Man, I give up. I’m out.”

“And now my own chances have gone up, since you’ve dropped out!  That’s why I’m telling this to everyone.”

“I get it!  The more hopelessness we cause, the more hope there is for us. It seems kind of sick and twisted though.”

“Oh, it definitely is. Haven’t you ever wondered why all the most successful writers are so insane?”

“So I can’t make it as a writer because…”

“…because you’re not enough of a sociopath.”

“I don’t think I want to read anymore. I’m going to be wondering about the writer’s intentions. Maybe I’ll just watch some TV instead.”

“TV?  Do you have any idea how competitive screenwriting is?”

Godsend – first glimpses

The godsend entered the village, and the people murmured.

It had been many months since a godsend had passed through the village.  Of course, there was always a few straggler, a few scraggly youths, sporting their father’s rifle, the dirtiness of their clothes matched only by the glint of false hope in their eyes.  Those were not true godsends.  They had not made a kill.  They had not yet brought down a god.

This man was different.  It was something in how he stood.  The villagers could see that he was a veteran, that he had watched an avatar fall, brought down a god, slain the unkillable.  He walked with the clink of weaponry.  The villagers admired the long hilt of the heavy sword rising over his right shoulder, the pair of machine pistols hanging at his waist.  He walked with the deadly grace of a killer.

The godsend stopped at the general store, replenished his supplies of food.  The owner, Hanson, later swore that he could see the reflections of the dead gods in the man’s eyes.  It was nonsense, of course; Hanson was known to make up stories for attention.  But the man was a godsend nonetheless.

The godsend did not tell the villagers where he was heading.  He did not tell them who he was hunting, whether he was in pursuit of a new avatar, whether he was tracking his next prey.  The villagers would not have known what to make of such information.  It would not have helped them.  The godsend merely continued on his way, passing through the town and out the other side, borne on the wings of whispers and stares.

The godsend was no longer quite like the others.  He was still a mortal; he still bled from his wounds, he still tired from his work, he still required food and sleep.  But he had gazed into the face of immortality and survived to pull the trigger.  He was tasked by Thoth to keep order in the world, tasked to hunt down those new gods who grew too powerful.  He carried out his orders.

He was a godsend.  His title was his job, his mission, his core.  The godsend exited the village, and the people murmured.

Reflecting on the GRE

So I took the GRE yesterday.  That’s right – grad school, baby! 
In any case, I felt that I could offer a few thoughts on it.  Sorry that this isn’t fiction writing, but I’m feeling slightly burned out and I figured that some nonfiction could snap me out of the funk.
First off, time management is your friend.  I am an incredibly fast reader (not to brag or anything, of course), and I still found myself keeping a nervous eye on the countdown timer.  Especially in the math sections, time goes fast.  There is an option to “hide the clock” – don’t ever do it. 
Second, the GRE is a section-adaptive test.  This means that, depending on how you do in the first sections of math and reading, the second sections of math and reading become correspondingly tougher to keep you challenged.  In my case, this meant that I breezed through the early sections, at times even wondering if I was missing some twist because the problems just seemed so damn easy.  Then I hit the second sections, and everything changed.
I made it through the first quantitative and verbal sections with about fifteen of the thirty-five minutes remaining, giving me plenty of time to go back and check answers, doodle on the scratch paper, try to pull up the Internet on the computers for a quick Facebook break, etc.  In the later sections, however, I would finish the last problem, without having gone back to check any of my work, and realize that I only had five minutes left on the timer.  So be prepared for a major jump in difficulty.
Looking back on the test, verbal really wasn’t my problem at all.  I can only recall a few words where I wasn’t certain of the meanings; some of this comes from the amount of time I spend with my nose buried in a novel, of course, but a lot of it seemed to be common sense, or simply finding the word that was different from all the other, similar, answer choices. 
Quantitative reasoning, on the other hand, was much tougher for me, given that I have not taken a math class in four and a half years.  Several of the problems were very time-intensive to work out, and while I am fairly certain that a formula or two might have helped to speed the process, I was forced to resort to brute-force computation to derive the answers.  I did end up scoring slightly lower in quantitative reasoning, likely due to this approach.  I wish that my study book would have covered more math problems, rather than focusing primarily on verbal, but this is likely due to my time spent away from math classes.
The thing that I love the most about the GRE is that it gives me the unofficial scores immediately after hitting submit – no need to wait 30 days for the results, as was required by the MCAT!  I find the waiting worse than the knowing, so this was a huge relief to me.  When those scores flashed up on the screen, I felt the vast majority of my anxiety drain away.  Of course, the writing sections aren’t yet scored, as they require human readers, but I at least know that my spelling and grammar was largely correct, so I doubt they will bring me down too far.
Preliminary scores: 167 verbal, 164 math.  We will see if these change when I receive my official report in a few weeks.

A Buzzing in the Brain

Foreword: I thought of this story late at night, and was immediately repulsed by it.  If you’re squeamish or don’t like to think of things in your ears, you might wanna skip it.

Buzz.  Buzz.  I can’t get it out of my head.

Heh heh.  Literally.  God, I can feel it moving.

It all began in the bathroom the other day.  I was cleaning my hands but one of those tiny flies was buzzing around.  It was one of those really small ones, the type that are impossible to see or catch, but sound like a helicopter is coming in for a landing whenever they get near my ears.  The thing kept on swooping in front of my eyes and diving around my head, oblivious to my ineffectual swatting.

The damn thing finally landed in my ear!  Seizing the opportunity, I grabbed for a cotton swab while keeping my head still.  As soon as the swab was in my head, I vigorously ground it into my ear.

I had thought that the fly was just sitting on the surface of my ear.  Unfortunately, the thing had been perched right at the entrance to my ear canal, and my vicious swabbing forced it deep inside the ear.

The fly went berserk!  The buzzing of its wings sounded like jet engine attempting to take off inside my head. I could feel the sensation inside my ear, something painfully thumping against the walls of my inner ear.  I screamed, now clawing at the ear with the swab in hopes of dislodging the insect, or at least killing the horrible thing.

My attempts were futile.  Instead of dislodging the bug, it crawled even deeper into my ear.  I was on the floor, twitching, trying to find something to do.  Finally, after an agonizing eternity, I remembered that water or oil was supposed to wash foreign objects out of ears, lifting them up as the ear filled.

I grabbed for a cup sitting next to the sink and, panting as I struggled to control my movements and not flail wildly from the pain and disturbing sensation, I poured a cup of water into my ear.  At first, it did nothing, but then I felt that unmistakable sensation of water entering my inner ear.

Nothing was happening.  Nothing was happening!  I screamed again, from equal parts helplessness, pain, and rage.  But then, the buzzing ceased!  I felt a final brief scrabbling of horrible hairy lags inside my ear, and then the insect stopped its movements!  I threw my head to one side, and as the water flowed out of my head, I saw the hated fly emerge, trapped in the liquid.  I crushed it into oblivion with my thumb.

That was almost a week ago now.  The next morning, when I woke up, I could hear it.  A very faint buzzing noise that always seemed to be coming from my right, no matter which way I turned my head.  It’s been there for the last two days.  Water won’t flush anything out.  I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.

I think it laid eggs.