No Comment…

So, where is Lilly?

“Off making house calls, I think. She’s on a binge.”

Oh, no. What kind this time?

“She’s returning visitation cards, or something. Trying to make contact with people who have stopped by. From what she says, most of them were just solicitors – they don’t even have a place to return cards to. The others were amusing, but they simply described a mood or an incident and left absolutely no room for discussion. Still others had interesting information, but then it only served to send her bounding off to some different location altogether, and she forgot where she started from in the first place. I think she’s a bit discouraged.”

“Returning visitation cards went out with the Victorian Era.”

“I understand that, Professor. But we all know how Lilly is: whatever trappings appeal to her from her travels, she drags around with her. Doesn’t think twice about what century she’s in. It’s part of what makes her endearing.”

“Endearing. Of course she’s endearing – that’s not the point. The point is, one simply cannot inflict their own idiosyncratic perspectives on others. Would you do a critique on someone’s diary you peeked into? Certainly not. What Lilly doesn’t realize, is that there is a certain form of etiquette practiced in these circles. One can make comments, but not serious ones. They can be encouraging, supportive, or even mildly argumentative. Anything more substantial is strictly reserved for the inner circles.”

“The inner circles?”

“The mere handful of faithful followers who have established an actual relationship with the author. The clicks, if you will.”

“That sounds awful. I thought this was the new age. Bold public forums and all that.”

“My dear Ann, you know there really are no new ages. Life is just one great circle coming back around onto itself. As for boldness… hmpf… bold is bold no matter what century you find it in.”

“So what are we doing here then? It all seems quite pointless, doesn’t it. The ultimate distraction to keep people from doing any real work. Narcissus looking into the water, if you ask me. I’m afraid at this point, I’m ready to throw in my towel with Lilly, and vote no on the continuation of the thing.”

“And just what is your definition of real work?”

“Don’t get philosophical, Professor, I’m perfectly in earnest.”

“Then follow Lilly’s example and look into it a little further before you make your final judgment. There’s still three days left of the experiment, you know.”

“I can’t see much of anything else to look at. We’d all still meet for agenda meetings – I’m not saying that. The only change would be that it’s private. We wouldn’t have to deal with solicitors. I’d hardly call that a loss.”

“But you’ve left out the lurkers.”

“The lurkers – good grief, they sound worse than solicitors – how could anything good come from them?”

“Not all lurkers are sinister in the blogosphere, Ann. They are the silent ones. The masses, actually. Many of them log on and read faithfully every day. They are inspired, bored, or incensed with what you write. They might even remember it sometime during the day, but they rarely – if ever – make a comment. Then again, there are the time travelers.”

“Really, Professor! I thought we were having a realistic discussion here.”

“I’m being perfectly realistic. The nature of cyberspace is that nothing gets thrown away. Add to that the fact that things are written and displayed with the utmost immediacy, so that the passer by – even if he passes by ten years from now – feels as if it’s happened only moments before. Almost an encapsulazation process of thought. Rather like a photograph.”

“What an extremely fascinating idea.”


“I should probably do like Lilly, then, and make a foray out into the realms before I cast my ultimate vote.”

“We all should.”

“Suppose I can’t think of anything pertinent to say? They seem to change subjects faster than I can think about things, much less form a decent opinion.”

“Then you do what the majority of readers do. You simply lurk.”

“I don’t think I like that suggestion at all.”

“No comment. And don’t forget to turn off the blog.”

What’s happening on the farm today: Ah, we have had the first fire of the year in our little stove, and it seems an official affirmation of fall. That warm dry heat that chases any damp chill away and makes homemade bread rise to perfection. Outside the leaves are turning lovely colors and there are pumpkins on the porch. I think fall is my favorite season.

Habit status: Day 11 (and slipping)


A Problem of Spiders…

Close the curtains a bit, Ann, the solicitors have found us.

“Already? But we haven’t even been here two weeks. How on earth could anyone find something this obscure in two weeks?”

“In real time it’s been much longer, ladies. I doubt it was a person, anyway -- it was probably a spider.”

“Good lord! You mean there’s no cleaning service either?”

“Of course not, Lilly. Only the design and forum are guaranteed. We have to take care of everything else ourselves. I’ll make a note here on the bottom of the agenda to put one of those ‘no soliciting’ signs out. That’s not what they call them, though, so it will take a bit of research to figure out just how to do it. Professor, do you think you could find time to help with that?”

“One can always find time, Ann. People like us have an unlimited amount at our disposal. I hardly think it will take much. You see, this kind of spider you’re talking about isn’t a bug it’s a machine. Thousands upon thousands of them, in fact. However, they operate on the same principle. Some little parasite looking for any possible opening into someone else’s living space. I believe all you have to do is turn the button on for an automatic human test, and that should eliminate ninety percent of them. See me after the meeting and I’ll help you with it.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“I don’t know about anyone else, but this will definitely have an effect on my decision when it comes to the vote on the fourteenth day. I don’t like living with spiders. Not even ten percent of them.”

“My dear Lilly, you – more than anyone – should know that no matter what territory one ventures into, there will always be some manner of spiders to contend with. Hardly a reason to stop explorations altogether.”

“Bit of a difference between traveling through public territories, Professor, and having these bug things come plowing through mine.”

“This is hardly your territory, my dear. You can’t pitch your tent smack in the middle of an elephant walk and then complain when it gets bumped by elephants. If you don’t like it, make some adjustments. Either move out of the way, or set up a bigger tent.”

“I suppose you’re right. But I still don’t like spiders.”

“Not many people do.”

“And I especially don’t like not knowing when they’re around. I don’t like this blog very much today, either.”

“Somebody turn it off, then, so we can make some readjustments.”

What’s happening on the farm today: Two days of good steady rain and the dried up red earth is finally starting to come to life, again. Everyone has startled awake from their summer lethargies with the shocking realization that there’s work to do. The squirrels are scampering to pack away their stashes of nuts, rocks, and horse manure in the shop drawers(whatever do they do with the rocks and manure?); the house wrens are lowering their standards in their choice of appropriate wintering nest locations; and Pops and I have decided it’s past time to get in the firewood.

Habit status: Day 10 (and on shaky ground)


Survival Instincts…

“What’s the good of light fiction when there are so many serious things going on in the world today? It’s too trite. It comes from another era and nobody’s looking back.”

“On the contrary, Lilly. I should think that light fiction would be even more important in times like these. It gives people a break. A smile, or a laugh… don’t you think living in times like these make people appreciate pleasant things all the more?”

“Not unless there’s something worthwhile in it. Why should anyone care about Stella’s misadventures with the Fat Man, without some secret revealed as to how she comes through it all? There’s no take-away value in a smile or a laugh, Ann.”

“Of course there is. Especially for all the Stellas and Fat Men of the world. Wouldn’t you agree, Professor?”

“I try to avoid those types, myself.”

“You see? That’s exactly what I mean! I say if my scribblings don’t start to contain anything useful, I shall have to give up the pen altogether.”

“Why, Lilly – you’d be dead. You know the only reason any of us have any life at all is because of the stories. Without words we wouldn’t exist!”

“What’s the point of being alive if you can’t contribute something?”

“My thoughts exactly. And being a man of science, I can tell you right now, that in order to be a contributor, a person must first have something to contribute. I told you, you should have finished college.”

“Not that, again. How could I possibly have done all my travels if I’d stayed home trying to finish college? But you do have a point, Professor. I must search through my resources for something of value for Stella and the Fat Man to contribute. It’s the only way to continue on.”

“It’s the only way for anyone to continue on, if you’re looking for secrets.”

“Good lord – I just saw somebody at the window! Who turned the blog on?”

“I thought it might help us regain some semblance of order around here. Why, we haven’t come up with any decent creativity since--”

“But Ann, you know we have to all agree. What’s D. Ann Graham going to say?”

“She’s too wrapped up in the magazine right now to even notice. Heavens, she hasn’t listened to us for days, and you know how that has the worst kind of effects on us. In fact, I’d be willing to go so far as--”

“You mean this isn’t an official agenda meeting? Blast it all, ladies – I’ve got things going back at the lab that shouldn’t be left unsupervised! Now, you’ve --”


“What was that?”

“Quick, Ann – turn off the blog!”

What’s happening on the farm today: It is the day the calves on the adjoining ranch are taken away from their mothers. Horrible moaning and bellowings of anguish that will go on for hours. For some even days. It seems language is no prerequisite to strong emotion. For me, it’s the longest day of the year.

Habit status: Day 9 (unofficially, that is)

About the Peanut Gallery…

“Do all these blog things come with peanut galleries?”

“I believe so, Lilly. Is that a problem?”

“It’s just that I am beginning to like the view from this window. I like the study, here, and the way we all sit around so comfortably and discuss things. Like sort of a family den, you might say. The kind where it’s perfectly alright to say anything that’s on your mind because it’s your own family and your own den.”

“Whatever does that have to do with peanut galleries?”

“Well, don’t you find it’s an odd feeling, Ann, to have someone looking back at you through the window… people from the other side?”

“I tend to forget it’s even open. What about you, Professor?”

“Considering the multi-million vastness of the Internet menu, it would be a rare occurrence if anyone ever dropped by, much less piped up with a comment. Personally, I find it much more incriminating to have to be careful not to use any forbidden phrases. There's machine police out looking for them, and they can go through millions in minutes. New regulations and all that. As specific as one has to be in the field of science, it’s practically impossible for me to beat around the bush or exchange one phrase for another when it doesn't have the same emphasis. I’m more comfortable back at the lab.”

“Speaking of the lab, have the cousins come back, yet? They’re up next on the agenda, as soon as we finish the magazine updates.”

“I haven’t seen them around in ages.”

“I certainly hope they haven’t gone and wandered into one of your experiments. That lab is too full of dangerous things to be letting them flit in and out of it as freely as you do.”

“Experience is the best teacher, and children need lots of experiences. What I have in there is a lot better for them than too many mind-numbing video games. Besides, it keeps them occupied so I can at least get some work done once in awhile. Which is what I should be doing right now, instead of enjoying leisurely conversation and refreshments with all of you.”

“We should all get back to work. The truth is, we’ve done entirely too much of this lately. Blame it on the pleasant atmosphere, or whatever. But at this point in the blog experiment, I would have to say that – considering the amount of work we haven’t got done while we were writing it, it doesn’t make a good argument for continuation of the thing.”

“Nonsense, Ann – do you always have to throw cold water on things? We agreed to two weeks. I don’t think we should take any votes on whether it’s good or bad for us until then.”

“Our weeks, or the rest of the world’s?”

“Ours, of course. And you know very well what day we’re on because you keep track of it on that little calculator thing at the end. You’ll keep us in line, the way you always do. Meanwhile, would anyone like to use what time we have left as a bit of a vacation?”

“Certainly not!”

“I move we consult the peanut gallery.”

“It’s time to turn off the blog.”

What’s happening on the farm today: First week back in my winter office and I can see it has been taken over by wild things. Sitting as it does at the very edge of the woods, the regular occupants of the area were quite disturbed at having me invade their space by being visible through the large windows, again. So far this morning, I have been ranted at by the blue jay family, scolded at by squirrels, spied upon by a dark-eyed thing I couldn’t quite identify that kept peeping through the window, and plagued by a myriad of bugs. I guess it wasn’t such a good idea to grow vegetables under the windowsill, after all.

Habit status: Day 8 (with objections)



First of all, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. We are not here to discuss the process of making liquor, or even getting Lilly’s characters out of the wine cellar. We are talking about a different type of distillation altogether. Although the general meaning is the same because the goal is to distill information down to its purest and most potent form.

“I hardly see what that has to do with my light fiction, may I be excused? The Professor says he’s on the verge of an important discovery, and promises a great deal of excitement if we will all meet him in his laboratory at ten-thirty.”

“I hope it has to do with the project he’s supposed to be working on, and not another one of his tangents. I don’t mind saying that this subject – in my opinion – has to do with all of our work. It’s much more than just finding the right word or turn of phrase to get a point across.”

“How do you mean, Ann?”

“I mean that in order to accomplish what one would like – in any profession, not just writing – one is driven to scale down on outside activities until optimum energies are directed mostly toward the goal. Rather like distillation, wouldn’t you say?”

“To a degree, yes. And I think you could also say that to do so not only allows one to accomplish what they set out to, but it even empowers them to do it. Thus, the potency aspect. In fact, that’s rather what the Professor’s demonstration is going to be about, although I’m sure his perspective will be much more concrete than ours. I think we should adjourn early and continue this discussion after we get over there.”

“Can we do that?”

“Of course we can do that. It’s our blog, isn’t it? Where’s D. Ann Graham?”

“I think she left already.”

“Then what the devil are we still doing here all by ourselves? “Turn off the blog and let’s go.”

What’s happening on the farm today: The hot weather is back – in October no less! Just when we put all the summer things away and started getting ready for winter. I think the animals are disgusted at the prospect, too. The big dog opened the back door all on his own and marched right into the cool air-conditioning without even being invited. I wouldn’t mind so much except that he never closes it again after he gets in.

Habit status: Day 7 (halfway there)