Chatter #64: May 30, 2002

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM

Hi! It's been a while, huh? The site has been a bit neglected latelyif it weren't for the people who add stuff to the Chaos Project (thanks, guys!), it would have been totally stagnant. I haven't been able to create anything new in the last month or two, but I've found a few things to add to the site. Plus, I have a whole lot of babbling to do, right now. So sit back and experience a Chatter flood!*

* - Or run for your life. I wouldn't blame you.

A Death In The Family

Late last week I killed and buried a fairly large piece of myself. The process was painful; what made it even more painful is that not only didn't anyone seem to care much, but nobody even noticed. It hurts to realize how unimportant I am, how wasted my years of activity were. I'm angry and bitter, and am trying to figure out what to do about the hole in my life.

I've been following politics all my life, it seems. As a 9-year-old I cheered when Nixon resigned; I majored in political science (and anthropology) in college, and once I got online I was very active in all sort of political venues.

For the past six or seven years I wrote political articles, analysis, and comedy under an anonymous pen-name. My articles were published by quite a few political web sites; never for money, but I did have some exposure.

But the election in 2000 was a terrible shock to me. I was horrified and infuriated at what I saw as the theft of the US Presidency. If this could happen once, what was to stop it from happening again? Etc., etc.. So I started writing more furiously than ever.

Now, most often I'd been writing for a site run by what you might call a net celebrity; a writer of political humor, one of those people who've had more then a little success with their site. I'd started writing for this guy when he wasn't very big, but over the years he'd gotten bigger and bigger. It may have been a coincidence, but as he got more well known he used my stuff less and less often, and after a while he stopped replying to my emails at all.

Hmm. That sounds a bit weird! I should make it clear that I didn't email him often, only when I had material to submit to his site—I feel quite safe in saying that my behavior was quite proper. But I'll also confess that I found myself feeling more and more like a nobody who was no longer worthy of the star's attention.

I hate that feeling. And I hate the whole cult of celebrity that has been overpowering American society. So I stopped submitting to the star's web site, and mostly wrote in the forum associated with his site. I also had some articles published elsewhere, occasionally.

I wrote some good stuff, I think, plus some angry and not-so-good rants. But recently it became clear to me that ultimately, I was wasting my time. A few of my pieces received some distribution, but this path was not going to lead to anything more. And even more frustrating, it was clear that there was not going to be any sort of real organization or effective movement by internet progressives. They're too damned interested in arguing with each other, gossiping, and indulging in futile rage to spend time actually making a difference in the real world. So what's the point?

So I decided to stop reading the star's site, stop reading and writing on the forum...and probably to give up all internet politics for a long time, possibly forever. I'm even considering giving up politics altogether; the first day after I quit I turned off NPR and enjoyed silence on my commute for the first time in a long time. And I discovered something strange: somehow all the noise, the talk and the music that we're all exposed to every day drowns out thinking. When the noise stopped I found myself actually thinking more. But this sounds a bit freaky. To tell you the truth, I'm kind of flailing around right now, not at all sure that this is really going the way I want it to. But what the hell. Welcome to the Chatter stream-(well, trickle)-of-consciousness!

Anyway, I wasn't strong enough to keep from peeking in on the forum I'd left behind, to see the reaction to my departure. I was surprised to see that the last acrimonious thread I'd been in had been entirely deleted. As for the rest of the site, well, it was a good lesson in humility and my true worth: my departure hadn't made even the slightest ripple. No one noticed.

That does hurt, I'll admit.

So what now? I don't know. I have a large hole in my life, in my self, that needs to be filled somehow. And by something meaningful, something that I'm not only proud of but that actually improves my life. What that will be, I don't know.

Incidentally, just in case anyone wonders: I don't expect to end up dropping this site the same way. Let me rephrase that: I REALLY don't think I'll ever drop this site. I get enough letters and comments from readers to know that my work here is appreciated, and that makes it worthwhile. Plus we're getting something like 250 unique visitors per day, which is pretty good for a niche hobby site.

Nobody seems to understand or care much about the death of my political persona; and heck, they're probably right not to care. It's probably not a big deal, and I'm probably wasting too many pixels whining about all this. Still, here's the one thing I was proudest of writing. I actually submitted it to a number of magazines, but not one of them was interested. Perhaps the piece is too literary for the political mags, and too political for the literary mags; or perhaps I just suck. But anyway, I liked it.

Unless you're some sort of poetry maniac it would probably help if I gave the inspiration for the piece first. It's a poem by A.E. Housman that I read when I was young, probably in an AP English class; the final lines stuck with me, and years later I looked them up and found the poem on the internet. I really liked it, and for some reason decided to memorize it. It was easier to do than I thought. So here's the original poem, which (I'll repeat) is NOT by me, but by A.E. Housman. I really should look up more of his poetry.

A Shropshire Lad - LXI

'Terance, this is stupid stuff:
You eat your victuals fast enough;
There can't be much amiss, 'tis clear,
To see the rate you drink your beer.
But oh, good Lord, the verse you make,
It gives a chap the belly-ache.
The cow, the old cow, she is dead;
It sleeps well, the horned head:
We poor lads, 'tis our turn now
To hear such tunes as killed the cow.
Pretty friendship 'tis to rhyme
Your friends to death before their time
Moping melancholy mad:
Come, pipe a tune to dance to, lad.'

Why, if 'tis dancing you would be,
There's brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.
And faith, 'tis pleasant till 'tis past:
The mischief is that 'twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half-way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I've lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.

Therefore, since the world has still
Much good, but much less good than ill,
And while the sun and moon endure
Luck's a chance, but trouble's sure,
I'd face it as a wise man would,
And train for ill and not for good.
'Tis true, the stuff I bring for sale
Is not so brisk a brew as ale:
Out of a stem that scored the hand
I wrung it in a weary land.
But take it: if the smack is sour,
The better for the embittered hour;
It should do good to heart and head
When your soul is in my soul's stead;
And I will friend you, if I may,
In the dark and cloudy day.

There was a king reigned in the East:
There, when kings will sit to feast,
They get their fill before they think
With poisoned meat and poisoned drink.
He gathered all that springs to birth
From the many-venomed earth;
First a little, thence to more,
He sampled all her killing store;
And easy, smiling, seasoned sound,
Sate the king when healths went round.
They put arsenic in his meat
And stared aghast to watch him eat;
They poured strychnine in his cup
And shook to see him drink it up;
They shook, they stared as white's their shirt:
Them it was their poison hurt.
-I tell the tale that I heard told.
Mithridates, he died old.

- A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

And here's the piece I wrote, inspired by the final section:

A Poison Shrub

There is a Leader in the East:
A wholly-owned corporate beast,
Who never saw an eco-crime
He wouldn't pardon, any time.
His water, it is filtered pure;
His food, untainted, we are sure;
But when it comes to public health,
He hears the siren song of wealth.
Carbon dioxide in the air
He says the trees have put it there;
Salmonella in school meat,
He laughs to watch the children eat;
He pours arsenic in our cup
And smirks to see us drink it up.
He smirks and pockets tons of cash
to fill the bulging far-Right stash.
-I tell the tale that I heard told.
George W., his heart is cold.

- Quasit (199?-2002)

...and that's the end of that.


So much to tell. It's been so long since the last installment of Chatter. I shouldn't have let all this time go by. (Note to self: keep up with Chatter! Well, try, anyway.)

I was pretty crushed about losing that house that we'd looked at (see Episode #63, "A Hope Crushed"); it had a lot of space and a tiki bar, which is something I never imagined I'd want (after all, I don't drink), but which I totally loved when I saw. It also had an above-ground pool (which was interesting). On the other hand the yard wasn't huge and worst of all, it was quite close to the local housing projects; the neighborhood wasn't good.

We didn't get it, as I mentioned before. I was crushed, and felt that I didn't want to be looking at houses for a long while. But Teri is indefatigable (sometimes), and kept looking.

Now, I'd used up all my sick time, vacation days, and personal days when Sebastian was born last year; in fact, I'd gone so deep into the red on all my time that I'm only now close to getting to being positive again (barely). So when Teri went to look at a couple of houses I couldn't join her.

Hmm. She doesn't read this site often (hi, honey!), but she just might; who knows? So let me put it this way: Teri has fundamentally good judgement, but sometimes she gets enthusiastic about one feature and loses a little bit of perspective. For example, the first dump that we looked at should probably have been condemned; it was a multi-family house in a slum (actually three houses down from our apartment) that was in pretty poor condition AND had a completely paved back yard. What use is a paved back yard, I ask you? But because that house had some pine flooring on the second floor, Teri loved it. I wasn't comfortable with the place, and long story short, we discovered that house hunting can make for fights.

We'd also discovered that the house market was absolutely awful right now. Every house on the market was going for MORE than the asking price, often before it was even shown! People were making offers on houses they hadn't even had a chance to see. You see, Woonsocket RI is literally on the border of Massachusetts, and housing prices in Mass have been insane, and getting crazier over the past few years (I blame the landlords association for killing rent control, the bastards). For example, the apartment we're in now has three large bedrooms, a large kitchen and pantry, a large living and dining room, and a smallish bathroom that needs work—but it's the whole first floor of a multi-family. We also have a garage there. Our rent is at least $400 less than what it would be for the same place ten minutes closer to Boston, and as for apartments within 20 minutes of the city, you'd be VERY lucky to find one like that for less than $2000 a month! Which is insane. Housing prices are likewise through the roof in Massachusetts. For the price of a shack in Dedham (MA), you could buy a real mansion in Woonsocket (RI)!

But apparently Mass residents were catching on to this and flooding into Woonsocket like a riptide, blowing rents sky-high and buying houses left and right. People were actually cruising the streets, looking for "For Sale" signs, and while we were at that dumpy multi-family three or four interested buyers approached our agent—and the house hadn't even been publicly listed yet, they were drive-by buyers! Our agent told us that at a recent open house they'd had thirty-seven buyers show up before the doors opened! That being the case, Teri would have to make an offer the INSTANT she saw a decent house, if we were to have even a prayer of getting it.

Perhaps you can understand why I was nervous? I couldn't take time off from work to go and see the many houses that Teri wanted to look at, and if she saw a good one she'd have to make an offer—and potentially a huge commitment on behalf of BOTH of us—before I even got to see the place. Scary!

Fortunately my sister-in-law Jen was visiting Teri that day, and went with her. So when Teri called and told me that she really liked one of the houses that she'd seen that day, Jen was able to get on the phone and give me what I figured was a more impartial opinion (she and my brother had also just bought a house, so I knew she was pretty knowledgeable). From what they both said I had to agree to make an offer.

We made the offer for just exactly the asking price (which was the most we could practically afford, anyway). I was sure they'd turn us down, which would give us more time to keep looking. But to my amazement they accepted the offer. It turned out that the owner was eager to sell, and didn't want to deal with the hassle of dealing with dozens of offers and negotiations. We'd gotten to the house first, thanks to our buyer's agent, and that was why we got it.

And the inspection turned up no major problems, and when I saw the house I liked it, and a Rhode Island housing program accepted us for a particularly low loan rate (thanks to John Sebastian for making us a family of three, plus thanks to Teri getting laid off and thereby lowering our family income), and the loan went through, and we're closing on June 7th!

So what's the house like?

Well, first off it's located on the other (i.e. "good") side of the tracks—literally. Our apartment is a few blocks on the "wrong" side of the tracks, not in the greatest neighborhood; the police have been seen driving up and down it more than once, and one time we saw an arrest right in front of our place. The house we're buying is a ten-minute walk from our old apartment, but in the opposite direction from the tiki house, further away from the projects and on the other side of the train tracks. While one end of the street it's on is rather shabby and run down, overall the neighborhood is better.

The house was built in 1835! It's in the city's historic register, although not the state's. That might be because at some point someone put in new vinyl windows and white vinyl siding. I could be wrong, but I don't think those things were available in 1835. It's called the Bradford House, by the way. There's a faded plaque on the front of the house that says so. Eventually I may look up information about it, but so far all I know is that someone named Bradford was a high state government official in the 1800's.

There's no garage, and not much space between it and the houses on either side (basically not much more than a driveway's worth on one side, perhaps twice that much on the other), but the fenced-in back yard is quite large for the area (it's perhaps 35 feet square?) and surrounded by bushes and trees, which give us a bit of privacy. I'm really looking forward to barbecuing again (our landlord banned it at our place), and even more to seeing Sebastian play in the yard. Even though he probably won't be able to walk for a few more months, there's a beautiful wooden swingset and slide we can put him on right away. He loves swings, and laughs like crazy when we push him.

The house is white, with a nice white picket fence and two odd benches flanking the front door; an American flag protrudes on a pole from one of them. The front yard is small, but nicely landscaped. The doorbell is really neat; it's an old-fashioned one that pulls and rings a real bell inside, with a very pleasant chiming sound.

The house has a living room and dining room, each with fake fireplaces; since there isn't a working chimney, those fireplaces will have to stay as is, although personally I like real fireplaces. There's a small TV room which will also serve as a guest bedroom, a HUGE bathroom which has an enormous tub but no shower (we're going to have one put in), a large eat-in-kitchen with pantry, and a...well, I'm not sure what you'd call it, but the sink and refrigerator and stove and some cabinets are in a separate room off of the eating area of the kitchen. Out the back is a little mud room (what does that name mean?), and off of that is a three-season glassed-in porch which looks out on the large back yard.

The basement is clean and has a high enough ceiling to allow me to stand comfortably, for the most part. It's heated, too, which is good because—and this is definitely weird—there's a bathroom in the basement! And yet the basement itself is not finished: it just has painted concrete/stone walls. I can't understand it. Anyway, the bathroom down there has a very large shower stall, but since the walls and floor are concrete I can't imagine feeling comfortable using it. However, the toilet works and the sink is a small but beautiful old marble relic (which also works). Teri thinks we may build a family room in the basement eventually. We're going to have the washer and dryer put in down there and make a little laundry area to start with.

The second floor (upstairs) is a little odd; the slant of the roof intersects the ceilings. The master bedroom is huge, reaching from one side of the house to the other. Across from that room are two smaller bedrooms; one will be a nursery for Sebastian, while the other will be a den for me. All three bedrooms have huge closets, basically walk-ins, although the door to the closet in the den is only about four feet high thanks to the sloping ceiling.

Another oddity about the place is that there apparently used to be a four-foot-square chimney which was sealed up and converted to storage space. There's a lot of storage space, which will be very useful. I'll be giving up my rented storage unit and putting the monthly rent straight towards the mortgage.

The house needs very little work; I mentioned the shower, and moving the washing machine and dryer hookups to the basement (right now they're in the kitchen). Some ancient knob-and-tube electrical wiring needs to be removed, although there's modern wiring throughout the house too; we'll have to add a few circuits, but that's minor. We were originally told that the house only had 60 amps, or something, which was apparently grossly inadequate, but it turned out that it wasn't true; it has the usual amount. We'll add some more outlets and dedicated circuits for air conditioners and other large appliances.

Fix one slightly broken step on the stairs, insert a steel support under one beam in the basement, remove peeling wallpaper from the top landing of the stairs and re-paint, and we're basically ready to move in! We'll also repaint Sebastian's room and put in wall-to-wall carpeting for him to crawl on before we move in. All of this shouldn't cost much.

The mortgage payments will be very high, and we'll be pretty poor for the first year or so, but we'll get used to it. We're hoping to move to a house closer to the city in five years, so that Sebastian can go to a better school and I'll have a shorter commute.

But anyway, I'm really looking forward to owning our own home for the first time!


Sebastian is still growing like a weed. As of this week he's 24 pounds; I'm not sure how tall he is, but he's definitely getting taller. He's also doing wonderfully in almost every way imaginable. A visiting nurse has been coming by every few months to check on his progress; at her most recent visit she ran a series of tests on him for things like fine and gross motor skills, communication, sociability, etc. The scoring for each section runs from one to sixty, with twenty being average for a child his age. He scored sixty in every category!

It's almost frightening how quickly he's changing. For example, the top two teeth were slow coming in; for about a week he woke up screaming every hour or so through most of the night. One night last week Teri and I walked in to the nursery at about 2AM to see an amazing sight: he was standing in the crib, clutching the railing and sobbing his heart out straight at the door! Even though he couldn't quite manage to sit up on his own yet, he'd managed to stand from a prone position. Later on I got to see how he did it: he rolled onto his tummy, then grabbed the bars of the crib and managed to pull his knees under him. He then pulled his body up higher with the bars, and slowly managed to get first on one foot, then the other. And he's only seven and a half months old! I admit that as his father I'm biased, but it seems to me that standing up by himself at that age is pretty astonishing.

Once he'd done it once successfully, of course, he started doing it more and more often—not just in the crib, but anywhere there's something to grab. It's amazing to see him standing there like a little boy, looking so pleased with himself!

The top two teeth have finally broken through, by the way. Thank goodness. Although apparently two more on the top are going to be coming in soon. We'll be glad when the teething's cute to watch him purse his lips and stick his little fat tongue out, but I hate to see him suffer.

Let's see, what else? He started crawling about a month ago; first by worming around on his tummy and forearms, with an assist from his kicking feet. I'll never forget the day I came home to see him start to crawl straight across the floor to me, his face lit up with smiles! And every day he's getting faster and better at it. He started lifting his body off of the ground and doing proper crawling just in the last few days, and I can see that we're going to have to be very careful. He's fast and determined...

He's also very good in public and in restaurants, by the way. Generally he's showered with attention from strangers who tell us they've never seen such a beautiful baby, and really seem to mean it.

Did I mention that he's been saying "mommy" the last few weeks? And it's starting to seem more and more likely from the tone of his voice and the increasing clarity that he knows what he's saying. Maybe some day he'll start to say "daddy", too...

It's funny to think that some day he might read this.


I've added a couple of new items to the site today: a review of a badly neglected book called Superstoe by William Borden in Pete's Non-Game Favorites, and the charts from the RuneQuest 2 book in the Sheets section. And what the heck, I completely redesigned the Sheets section while I was at it. Later (May 31): I've added a hyperlinked Table of Contents to Pete's Non-Game Favorites to make navigating through it a bit easier.

Previous Chatter

Chatter Index Next Chatter

Main Page

Roleplaying Adventures & HeroQuests

Generic & RQ Alternate & Add-On Rules
Alternate Rules

The Chaos Project: Magic Items, Found Items, & Chaos Features. Add yours!
Chaos Project

RQ3, RQ2, & CoC Character Sheets, a RQ Help Sheet, more
Character Sheets

NPC People, places, & Things
NPCs & More

Rune Art & the RQ Font

Random Thoughts From A Random Brain

Issues of my old zine, resurrected from paper


Battle Evil Online! Or get munched
Peasant's Progress

Game & Other Recommended Links

So what do you think?

[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: April 18, 2003. version 1.3