Web Writing

Dusting off the poet

It’s been a long time since I’ve indulged in any poetry at the site. Been a long time since I’ve haunted to look for just the right verse to suit a picture or a mood.

This week, I oiled my inner poet and set it on its creaky way only to find out that has undergone a rather significant reorganization. Faced with ‘new’ and wondering if there was anything in there for the inner geek as well as the inner poet, I explored about.

One new feature, or at least, new to me, is many of the poems now is have a topic association. For instance, if a poem is related to aging, other poems related to this topic are listed in the sidebar. This goes beyond groupings of poem by poet, period, and era. It definitely goes beyond keyword searches. It’s given me much thought, and new ideas, in my own continuing search for the case-insensitive semantic web.

The site also has a listening booth, though perhaps it already had this and I didn’t notice. Anyway, the listening book contains readings by poets and readings about poets, including my favorite Dylan Thomas.

Having satisfied the geek, at least for the moment, I returned to the poet, though poet is inaccurate and even a conceit, because I can barely walk and talk at the same time, much less rhyme. If, though, code is poetry, then I wield a mean curly bracket with the best of them. As for loops, you should see me loop–sexiest thing since fishnet stockings.

Returning to my poet, I accessed the improved search engine and searched on the keyword “words”; finding not one but two really great poems from contemporary poets among those returned. Since I’ve been remiss in letting my inner poet out for a walk, I’ll publish both.

Sorry, no photos to accompany the works. The weather continues in the 90s and heavily humid, and I have had no desire to sweat and puddle my way through new venues (though I must break out of my cave tomorrow morning before I bite the cat from cabin fever).

A Quick One Before I Go by David Lehman

There comes a time in every man’s life

when he thinks: I have never had a single

original thought in my life

including this one & therefore I shall

eliminate all ideas from my poems

which shall consist of cats, rice, rain

baseball cards, fire escapes, hanging plants

red brick houses where I shall give up booze

and organized religion even if it means

despair is a logical possibility that can’t

be disproved I shall concentrate on the five

senses and what they half perceive and half

create, the green street signs with white

letters on them the body next to mine

asleep while I think these thoughts

that I want to eliminate like nostalgia

0 was there ever a man who felt as I do

like a pronoun out of step with all the other

floating signifiers no things but in words

an orange T-shirt a lime green awning

How can you not love a poem that has a line like o was there ever a man who felt as I do like a pronoun out of step with all the other floating signifiers? This poem should be required reading for everyone who has found the truth. Then it should be required for everyone who thinks they have lost it.

All She Wrote by Harryette Mullen

Forgive me, I’m no good at this. I can’t write back. I never read your letter.

I can’t say I got your note. I haven’t had the strength to open the envelope.

The mail stacks up by the door. Your hand’s illegible. Your postcards were

defaced. Wash your wet hair? Any document you meant to send has yet to

reach me. The untied parcel service never delivered. I regret to say I’m

unable to reply to your unexpressed desires. I didn’t get the book you sent.

By the way, my computer was stolen. Now I’m unable to process words. I

suffer from aphasia. I’ve just returned from Kenya and Korea. Didn’t you

get a card from me yet? What can I tell you? I forgot what I was going to

say. I still can’t find a pen that works and then I broke my pencil. You know

how scarce paper is these days. I admit I haven’t been recycling. I never

have time to read the Times. I’m out of shopping bags to put the old news

in. I didn’t get to the market. I meant to clip the coupons. I haven’t read

the mail yet. I can’t get out the door to work, so I called in sick. I went to

bed with writer’s cramp. If I couldn’t get back to writing, I thought I’d catch

up on my reading. Then Oprah came on with a fabulous author plugging

her best selling book.

Another brilliant line and somewhat, oddly sad: I regret to say I’m unable to reply to your unexpressed desires. But now I have a highly original way of apologizing for unanswered email. What is your excuse?


The story of Sparky

A friend of my roommate’s shares a house with her husband out in the middle of a corn field — literally the middle of a cornfield–somewhere on the Illinios side of the Mississippi. They live happily in the small home with two dogs and three cats, and I imagine various other assorted and sundry wild animals.

Three weeks ago, T heard her one of her dogs barking outside and went to investigate. High up at the top of a power pole was a cat that her dog had ‘treed’. They shut the dog up in the house, but didn’t know what to do about the cat.

T got the idea to bring out some food and see if she could lure the cat down. She brought out some cat food and set it down on the ground. Well, evidentally, the cat was very hungry, as it started down immediately, and, to T’s horror, ended up falling from near the top of the pole.

T could only watch helplessly as the cat hit first one power line, with a shower of sparks; then hit the next power line, again with accompanying sparks. It landed, hard, on the ground and lay there, unmoving.

T screamed for her husband, ran into the house and called an emergency vet service. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t come out unless T could guarantee immediate payment–and she and her husband didn’t have the cash to pay for it. She then thought she would take the cat in to her vet herself, and ran back outside, stopping in amazement at the door when she saw her husband walking toward the house, the cat by his side.

They have a shed and T made a bed for the cat in it, putting out some food and water. Next morning, the cat was curious and interested, but T still wouldn’t bring it in the house–concerned about exposing her pets to unknown disease. During the day T then called all the cat folk she knew, asking if any would like a new pet. I and my roommate talked about it, but Zoë’s never been happy with other cats, and our home is too small to give each cat its own space.

That night when T got home, she noticed the cat didn’t seem to be doing well and concerned, took it into the vet. She found out that yes, she was a female, and no, she didn’t seem to be injured as much as she has a respitory infection. Oh, and she’s pregnant.

Armed with antibiotics, T brought the cat home, made her a home in a spare room (one of the dogs does not tolerate strange cats), fed her, gave her attention and a name: Sparky.

Sparky is very good with people but has had a rough time in the corn fields of Illinois. T noticed that she wouldn’t respond to her voice, and found out she had such severe ear mites that she was almost deaf, though they hope with the treatment, she will recover some of her hearing. But the dogs, who have come to accept her as a member of the household, can come right up behind her and the cat doesn’t hear them.

Sparky stays in the house during the day, but T takes her out in the yard for exercise in the evening. The cat has approached the corn field a couple of times, and T was worried it would take off. But Sparky would just look in the shadows among the stalks, rub T’s leg, and follow her quietly, and happily back into the house.

Last week, the tip of Sparky’s tail started losing fur and her tail became infected. Back to the vet where T found out Sparky’s tail had served as the exit point for the electrical current, and was severely damaged. To save her, the vet needed to amputate the tail. Unfortunately, with all the medications, the surgery, and the trauma, the doctor also needed to abort the kittens, or Sparky would not survive.

Today Sparky had surgery, and the vet amputated Sparky’s tail, aborted five kittens, and also found the current entry point — on Sparky’s hip. Fortunately, this should be treatable with antibiotics. Oh, and they spayed her, because no one needs more unwanted kittens.

In spite of being abandoned in a corn field, coming close to starvation, having a respiratory infection, being semi-deafened by ear mites, not to mention shocked by a power line and falling 20 feet to the ground, Sparky, will survive. By now, T has stopped asking if anyone wants her. She’s also decided that Sparky is not a good name. “She doesn’t look like a Sparky,” she told my roommate, when she called tonight, fretting over Sparky’s hospital stay.

I suggested calling her Lucky. T thought I was joking. Knowing T, I know I’m not.


Making do

As you may have noticed, I’ve re-designed my site. Again. Compared to the flames, the look is actually rather conservative, although I prefer to think of it as subtle.

While working on a client’s site this week, I noticed that after staring at her pages for a time, my own site seemed, in comparison, very harsh on the eyes. Eventually it got to the point where I would squint when I accessed the weblog. I don’t know if this effect is peculiar to me, but I didn’t like the fact that I might be causing people to half close their eyes when looking at my pages. I hope to generate reactions with my web site, but I don’t want ‘pain’ to be among them.

Now, with the soft greens, blues, and plums, though the design may not make you jump up and down with excitement, and it lacks some of the modern/with-it/hip flourishes, at least it doesn’t make you squint.

Issues of visual overstimulation aside, there is another reason I changed the site design: the purple pixel effect.

I’ve written before about the purple (magenta) pixel that runs down my monitor in my TiBook. Its cause is the continuous opening and closing of the lid, leading to wear in the connections between the video card and the display. Luckily, unlike others, I’ve only had the one line so far, but it is rather prominently situated about 1/4 of the way in from the left side.

For the most part, I’ve been able to compensate for the purple pixel. I’ve even learned to make use of it–it makes a great straight edge when aligning documentation in code and blocks of CSS in my stylesheets. Still, there are times when the purple pixel adds a distracting element and accessing my pages was one of those. The magenta clashed, horribly, with the flame design–really nasty.

With the new look, the purple pixel provides a bit of dash and color when I align the browser window so that the line fits just so over the break between the lighter green and the darker green in the left frame of the content window. Since you can’t see this, I captured part of the screen and then used PhotoShop to create a 1-pixel line the same color in the image–using my one-pixel screen aberration to accurately draw the line.