Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tortured and "Twitter"pated (Long Version)

Brian and Carolyn (my brother-in-law and sister) challenged me to go a week posting only "twitter" length updates of 140 characters or less.

The above sentence is exactly 140 characters long.

You see my problem?

Here's the whole story. It is, perversely, probably the longest blog post I will ever write.

If you already followed the drama on facebook, let me just mention that I've added in a fair amount of translation and commentary. If this is completely new to you, take it in chunks. My facebook friends seemed to find it very amusing, but they got it piecemeal, over a week.

Okay, fine. I will also break it up and publish it in smaller sections, like a serial. I want one consolidated version, though, and this is it.

It all started with a rant about the treatment of ward musicians. I don’t even remember now what set me off, but one evening I started writing. Everyone else went to bed and I thought “Just a little longer…another hour…”

I ended up writing all night. I’ve done that before, but normally it has been in the context of “Aaah! The deadline for this research paper is noon tomorrow!”

The voluntary part has happened before, but rarely, and not in years.

In the end, I surveyed my ten-page blog post and wondered “Was this worth it?”

Later that evening, I was chatting with Carolyn and mentioned my foolishness. I quote with minimal editing.

She answered, “Brian, by the way, had a BRILLIANT suggestion last night. He said that you should give yourself your own writer's workshop project. And then he had an idea, namely every facebook post you make has to satisfy twitter guidelines. (You have 140 characters. And only 140 characters).”

[I’d like to point out that Carolyn could have expressed that idea by saying “Brian thinks you should try an exercise. Confine your posts to twitter guidelines: 140 characters, no exceptions.” That would have been 113 characters, as opposed to the 279 she actually used. –ed.]

I said, cogently, “Aaaarghhh…? Eeeeek….”

Carolyn added, helpfully, “And you’re not allowed to say ‘see my blog: hyperlink’”.

(Curses! She had exactly anticipated my brilliant plan to circumvent the rules.)
I mulled, pondered, and ruminated. (Because if I accepted, I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things for a week.) “Are you saying,” I asked, “that I’m long-winded? And not disciplined?”

“I just think it would be funny!” said my sister. “It would make your writing sharper! You should pick a random week and try it.”

This time I mused, reflected, and cogitated. “Interesting exercise,” I admitted. “Like that time I wrote six word and twenty-five word stories.” [See “
Exercises in Concision.” –ed.]

She caught me with my defenses down. I had to admit my misadventure from the previous night demonstrated a need for discipline and brevity. Further, I was sleep-deprived and not thinking very clearly. (Also, I could see the potential for this to be very amusing as I squirmed desperately.)

I accepted.

For that week, August 14th – 21st, I kept my facebook status updates painfully short. I kept comments on friends’ posts short, though I slipped up a few times and forgot to count characters. I neglected my blog. I did write a few emails and engage in some longer online chats, but I think I kept the spirit of the agreement well.

Consolidated below are all the posts and relevant comments. This is kind of like “deluxe edition” with restored cut scenes and director’s commentary. (All post-production commentary will appear in this font.)

You, the reader, can “watch” the entire experiment evolve. You can watch as I stumble, wince, laugh, learn, and ham up my suffering for humorous effect.

As my friends teased, commented, and encouraged, they became part of the conversation, then part of the drama, then integral to the story.

When I asked for the impetus behind this idea, I learned that Brian dislikes lengthy reading. Apparently he has suffered from wading through my verbose posts. I’m torn between saying “nobody forced him to read them” and gushing “it’s so sweet that he soldiered through them despite this antipathy!” I’ll go with the latter.

@ Brian: Thanks for the “twitter” idea. Thanks also for your sacrifices in my behalf. You aren’t required to read my long blog posts, but I very much appreciate the effort. But “b-i-l”--you are required to read this blog post, though. It’s part of my revenge.

B-i-l challenged me to do go a week posting a max of 140 characters per update. He's evil; I'm intrigued. Let the self-abnegation begin!

Top of Form
Clint Kimball  The worst part is it took you 6 extra characters to tell us how many characters is was. Imagine stopping at 99. You might as well take that extra character to report 100.

Gail Homer Berry Report exists outside character count. (38) <-- Sentence 38 characters, not 43.

Clint Kimball I guess I should have done a character count before making the assumption. It's a valid exception.

Carolyn Homer Thomas You do know that "Brian" and "b-i-l" use the same number of characters, right?

Gail Homer Berry Carolyn--true, but "b-i-l" explains the relationship to those who don't know his name.

Brian Thomas But "@Brian" will link to me (34)

Gail Homer Berry @Brian--just posted a comment on friend's page. 88, but 163 w/link. Legal? (74)

Brian Thomas Twitter still forces 140 characters or less. Try next time; I'll let this one slide

Gail Homer Berry Looked it up. Fascinating. Won't use it, but next time I'll break things up as 2 posts. Thanks for absolution; you know I'm trying hard. (136)

Gail Homer Berry @ Brian--I'm even brief on comments @ friends' pages. Forgotten maybe 2x, but even those were short (200-250). Major discipline! (128)

Week 3 since Bear's disappearance. Probably sulking, supplanted by the usurper Theodore. More disturbing: Daniel refuses to mount a search. (139)

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Carolyn Homer Thomas I particularly liked this one. Drama!
Gail Homer Berry I'm worried. Where is he? Need to mount a Bear hunt! Maybe he'll switch allegiance to me, since I actually care? (109)

Commentary: Daniel came back from Idaho (and a trip to Bear World) with a new stuffed bear, whom he named Theodore (“Teddy”). I kept anticipating friction and jealousy, especially since Bear had been packed away somewhere and never actually got to see Bear World. Poor little guy! (I was in Indiana.)

Daniel kept insisting that the two bears were getting along beautifully and even that Bear was mentoring this new protégé. The impressionable newcomer certainly seemed to have picked up some behaviors from the elder Bear though he was never quite as hyper.

Slowly, though, I saw signs of trouble in paradise. At first both beaers slept together. Then they took turns in Daniel’s bed. Then Bear disappeared.

Bear has gotten lost before, and he usually turns up again within a week, claiming either to have snuck out and had an amazing adventure, or to have been enjoying a mini-hibernation.

After two weeks I was more concerned, though, and three weeks in I was growing increasingly worried. What if Bear had skulked away to see if anyone even noticed? What if he was injured? What if Teddy’s innocence was an act and the ambitious youngster deposed, or even disposed of, his rival?

Dreamt "Sound of Music" prequel. Maria abandoned @ Protestant orphanage, "apostatized" to Catholic choir @ 12. Film flopped. B-i-l is evil. (139)
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Gail Homer Berry See previous status about a week of "twitter style" only updates. 1 hr in, losing my mind. Arrrgh. (99)
August 14
"Twitter" abbreviations r like ancient Hebrew. Old scrolls, no vwls (vowels), ok. But information age? Seriously? Sad language devolution.

Translation/Commentary: “Twitter” abbreviations are like ancient Hebrew. I can understand that on old scrolls, which were painstakingly difficult, messy, and stinky to make, people lacked space for extras and were highly motivated to abbreviate. I also have sympathy for people trying to carve stone or metal, especially if their language evolved as a pictoral system for representing traded goods. But in today’s information age, with Moore’s law still going strong? Shouldn’t we have the bandwidth to do better? Between annoying space constraints and human laziness, we’ve seen a sad devolution of our language

[Larry Bernard re-posted this.]

Gail Homer Berry Larry--you saw that I'm doing "twitter style" updates for a week, right? Hence my abbreviations...and my rant. 1 hr in, losing my mind. (135)

Tedra Richter Isn't that MOST semetic languages, tho?

Gail Homer Berry Tdr--prbbl. Hbrw's jst th mst fms. Pls Jwsh frnds hv mntnd th mssng vwls. & 'v rd abt t n bks. Nd trnsltn? (107)

Translation: Tedra—probably. Hebrew’s just the most famous. Plus Jewish friends have mentioned the missing vowels. And I’ve read about it in books. Need translation?

Gail Homer Berry With vowels, above comment minus last two words would be 134. Saved 27 characters. Worthwhile? Nope. (100)

Brian Thomas I am quite proud for you for not devolving with the twats. (67)

Comment: “twats” is a very derogatory term for idiots. I had to look it up.
Just read "Bear's Baptism" story to writing camp kids using Theodore "Teddy" to act it out. Ultimate usurpation of poor Bear! Guilt! (132)

Reading Les Miserables. Do we feel sorrier for the ex-convict raising a teen-age girl, or for the girl being raised by a clueless ex-con? (137)

[Someone asks if these short posts will become a permanent style.]

Gail Homer Berry [Name]--just for 1 wk. It's an interesting exercise & builds character. Seems I'm replacing quality w/quantity, tho. Feels like a poor trade. (139)

P.B. Gail... I personally like your longer posts! Keep 'em coming!

Gail Homer Berry @P.B.--aww, thanks! I appreciate that.
Brian Thomas--look what you've done. I'm maybe disappointing loyal readers. Satisfied yet?

Brian Thomas Perhaps if you feel you're replacing quality with quantity, you should post less while remaining terse? (113)

Gail Homer Berry @Brian--GRRRRRR. [Snarl]
Also, do you really want that? R u saying I'm annoying either way? (92)

Brian Thomas I'm saying, why dilute concentrated wit? (49)

Gail Homer Berry 140 characters is not always sufficient, even with extreme discipline. Example in next status update. (101)

Gail Homer Berry @ Brian: Status update (about dream) now up. Pthpt! (52)

Jan Grambo My haiku:

Jan Grambo Garrulous Gail writes/terse communications:/fascinating!

Gail Homer Berry @ Jan. Saw 6/6/4. Thought "Not 5/7/5"? Researched, learned that's English simplification 4 kids. You captured Gail/terse juxtaposition! (136)

Jan Grambo Actually could be 5-6-4, if you pronounce Gail as one syllable

Jan Grambo It also fits the classical concept of a surprise in the second line and the results of that surprise in the third line. Terse communications is certainly a surprise when paired with Garrulous Gail!

Jan Grambo BTW, when you posted a haiku in a different post, how did you get each new line without hitting enter? I just used the / slash mark, but you accomplished three separate lines.

Gail Homer Berry Shift-Enter, pressed together, starts a new line but doesn't "post." (69)

Jan Grambo Thank you!

Gail Homer Berry NP. (3)

Translation: No problem

Eric & Daniel have gotten sanguine about the nightly "lights out/book arrest." Now Sam also hands over books as soon as he sees me coming.

Aislinn Ricker Mellor It's really hard for you to be this concise isn't it, Gail? How long does this challange last? You're doing admirably so far!

Gail Homer Berry Yes, this exercise, which lasts six more loooong days, is good discipline. [Long-suffering sigh.] Thanks for the moral support. (127)

Brian Thomas Now if only your posts had words cavemen like me could understand. (94, including this text)

Gail Homer Berry @Brian: Me hyper-verbal, loquacious wordsmith. You math person. [Gail points] Word woman...math man. Ugh! Caveman capiche? I mean, u get it? (140)

Brian Thomas Grunt (9)

Gail Homer Berry Grunt = 5. My character tally @ end falls "outside" the post proper.

Brian Thomas (69) <-- There it is! (25, your style)

Gail Homer Berry Thanks, forgot to append tally. (32)

Awesome dream! Leprechauns, hilarity, Vorlons...can't do it justice. Brian's loss. Neener!
Sorry, other readers.
P.S.: I lied. No dream.

Commentary: This was the “dream” status update I mentioned to Brian, two updates higher. I was trying to make a point about how some stories are just too fascinating to be compressed. Sadly, I invented the whole thing to make a point, but I was honest enough to admit my prank at the end.

Real dream(s): 1. Kidnapped by eco warriors who tried to brainwash me. 2. Ronald stole my couch cushions for NSDM. 3. VTs cleaned my house.

Note: NSDM is a “National Security Decision Making” role-playing game Ronald really likes. I don’t recall now why he needed the couch cushions.

#3 is my first boy to let me to eat him "a little bit." Nibbled delicacies: a few fingers, a toe or two....Sweet Sammy. (Also salty.) Yum!

"I think they could hold a civil trial over a missing lunchbox, but not a full criminal trial as they imply." Eric on law merit badge hmwk. (139)

Note: Eric was working on homework for a scouting requirement. It involved reading the transcript of a mock trial.

Years ago, I heard a story about a girl @ BYU Japanese house. Unable to communicate nuanced feelings, she had a nervous breakdown. Sympathy! (140)

Gail Homer Berry
(Explanation of target language immersion "houses.") (98)

Commentary: If you check out the link, you will see that BYU has special “language” dormitories where people can have an immersion experience without the expense of travel. Regular classes are still conducted in English, but at “home” people are required to speak only in the target language.

The story I heard was that a girl who had taken Japanese classes signed up for this specialty dorm, but she was surrounded by people who had served missions in Japan and who were already fluent.

Hypothetically speaking, I can see why it would be horribly frustrating, especially if she clashed with her roommate but couldn’t express “This morning was the 36th time you left the apartment without turning off your stupid, screeching alarm!”

Add in “My fiance dumped me and I’m not sure why” without the ability to hyper-analyze with her friends, and I can see why it might be too much for some people.

You can understand that the inability to express “nuanced” ideas was driving me nuts, too. Several years ago, I said on my blog, “
Given a unilateral choice between “A” and “B,” I'd write an eight-page essay explaining the historical origins of A and B, the potential consequences of both choices, a weighted evaluation of why “A” is 30% more preferable than B, but, really, that's ignoring the broader issue, because we ought to be re-examining the question from a different perspective; how “C” is a growing minority option, but ultimately, in another twenty years, I think sane people will recognize that “G” is the best of all possible approaches; my predictions, not only of how the debate will play out, but how it ought to play out (though it won't); and...”

Nuance, Sigh. How I missed it…
"I'm not even going potty all the way! I'm only going potty a little bit!" --Gail trying (unsuccessfully) to divest herself of an audience. (139)
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Clint Kimball Almost all of your statuses have been 136+ characters. I get the sense you're struggling with that upper limit. (112)

Gail Homer Berry Too true. (9)

Carolyn Homer Thomas Is it mean of me to delight in your struggles?

Clint Kimball Yeah, I don't feel bad either. I have no problem whatsoever rubbing it in your face that I can use as many characters as I want in my reply. (141)

Gail Homer Berry @ Clint -- HAHA--! [Laughter syllables truncated by stupid rationing requirements.]

Brian Thomas Maybe next week we'll ask that you only write in haikus? (60)

Gail Homer Berry @ Carolyn: Short answer: YES! Long answer: Not if u laugh a lot. Mirth makes me feel appreciated & redeems some joy from this torture.

Gail Homer Berry
Brian Thomas...[pause]
What you ask? Impossible.
Vengeance. Five more days.

Brian Thomas
Impossible? No.
But you'd need to be concise!
(61 with this)

Gail Homer Berry
Now, would you really
Prefer such micro-stories?
Ha. Didn't think so.

Eric: I built a torture chamber!
Minifig: Aaargh!...
Mom: Eeeek!


Q1: Sociopath?
Q2: 1 pic = 1K words =>Overbudget?

117 +/- approx. 5000


Translation: Eric built a torture chamber and showed it to me. My first question was “Is he turning into a sociopath?” My second question was, “If I post a picture, and that picture is worth a thousand words, does that mean that I’m way overbudget in my character count?”

I had 117 so far, plus or minus 5,000 more characters if you counted the picture against me. And adding that tally brought my final text to 139 characters.
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Gail Homer Berry Lego guy dangles by feet over fire &/or lava while impaled by cruel guard's saber. (82)

"Dear Jon. Dishwasher broken. No water. Love, Gail"
Top of Form

Julie Kimball Really? "Dear John"ing on Facebook? Good Golly!

Gail Homer Berry @Julie--I thought of that interpretation. Sadly, I lacked the space to turn it into a gag. U did it 4 me, thks. (112)

Anyone want to have a brief conversation w/Eric about "the role of law enforcement"? Merit badge req. Due tomorrow. Yes, we procrastinated.

Brian Thomas Cops arrest people. Congrats on being done. (<<140)

Gail Homer Berry Eric: What do you think about the role of law enforcement in our society?
[Your name here]: [Two sentence soundbyte.]

--Never mind. Done.

Snoopy: It was a dark & stormy nite. Suddenly a shot rang out. The maid screamed.
Me: Everybody died & they all lived happly vr ftr.

Matthew Calabresi Sounds like a vague retelling of "Clue: The Movie"

Gail Homer Berry A demonstration of what we lose by imposing silly length restrictions. Disciplined brevity is good, in moderation, but so is nuance. Sigh. (139)

Teresa N Davis How much longer is this restriction happening? I miss your longer posts!

Gail Homer Berry 4 more days. Thanks.

Carolyn Homer Thomas Maybe we should ease you back in. You can get up to 500 characters for the week after? teehee.

Gail Homer Berry @ Carolyn--Nope. (16)

Gail Homer Berry @ Teresa--Glad you miss longer posts. Hopefully you still find this amusing short-term. (110)

Jan Grambo They say that every prose writer should switch to poetry now and then because it imposes restrictions on their writing that they would not normally have, and benefits their later prose writing. I wonder if this exercise will do the same.

Gail Homer Berry That's the idea. Like Emily of New Moon spending 3 years writing only non-fiction. Wouldn't let Brian bully me w/o hope of some benefit. (137)

Dream: Cuddling w/Jon, getting romantic. Then caught Sam running half-naked thru sprinklers, bugging neighbors.

So, just like real life.

Anyone else ever buy ice cream just to encourage prompt help w/putting away groceries? (87)
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Gail Homer Berry ^See, Clint? Short.
^Still under limit! (39+87=126)

Translation: the caret symbol “^” was supposed to be an up arrow, pointing toward the text above.

Matthew Calabresi I've bought it before as a midnight reward, then eaten it at 3:30 PM.
Bottom of Form

New paradigm: brevity thwarts decryption. I will embrace this format w/zeal, honoring the tradition that includes "sighted sub; sank same." (140)

Tressa Winmill Mitchell You know you're almost waxing poetic. You could work this to your advantage.

Gail Homer Berry Practice makes perfect.
Tennyson: 'To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.'
Gail: To edit, re-write, cringe, then misspell "shEld."

As Harry Potter character deaths mount, I keep offering grief counseling. Boys look bemused and refuse. No emotional investment! Weird... (137)

Church shoes: J, boots, broken toe; E, boots, growth spurt; J, ragged denim, other MIA; S, socks, dont ask. So much 4 going 2B seen of men. (139)
Top of Form

Translation and context:

The family were ragged and disgraceful in their footwear last Sunday.

Jon, who had a broken toe, wore boots, not dress shoes. An understandable medical exception.

Eric, who has just started Yet Another growth spurt, couldn't get his church shoes on and wore boots. At least they weren't sneakers or sandals, right?

Daniel, who had barfed recently, stayed home.

Jeff picked out the ragged denim shoes his Grandpa Homer had purchased at Goodwill. He looked so hopeful, I didn't have the heart to smoosh him into his own church shoes, which are also getting small. (He has a decent pair of ordinary shoes, but those were missing.)

Sam chose this moment to be difficult. First, he could only find one shoe of his normal pair; it's mate was missing. Next, he refused to consider sandals, crocs, or any substitute I desperately suggested. I searched the house frantically for the missing footwear, but to no avail. We were late to church.

In the end, I let Sam go in just socks. I carried him into the church building because Jon, with his broken toe, wasn't up to the schlepping of a wiggly thirty-pound three-year-old.

I'm not proud, but there you have it. Fortunately I don't go to church "to be seen of men."

When we got home, Eric asked for permission to play on the computer. He added, "But Sam's missing shoe totally doesn't qualify! It made us late!"

I agreed.


I even tried to keep things short when commenting on friends’ pages.

Extra 1:

When one person mentioned some of the odd things he’d heard in an LDS testimony meeting, I replied:
Fav F&T: "God sent this hurricane 2 help ppl repent" vs "Satan sent this storm 2 destroy us but I have faith..." Only I noticed discrepancy. (140)


My Favorite Fast and Testimony meeting:
Person 1: God sent this hurricane to help people repent”
Person 2: Satan sent this storm to destroy us, but I have faith…

It seemed that only I noticed the discrepancy.

Extra 2:

When another friend talked about her young son asking detailed questions about “the birds and the bees,” I suggested:

“Try acting it out w/stuffed animals. That always helps. I have birds and bees you could borrow, even. (102)”

She complained that these conversations always seemed to happen when she was trapped in a long car ride.

Answered I,
“Stay calm, think fast, and cause a fender bender. Works every time.”

That one was so short, I didn’t even bother with the tally.

As the conversation progressed, I added two more helpful comments:

“I was in the foyer at church, Very Pregnant, when a boy started asking how the baby would get OUT. His parents were nowhere in sight... (135)”

“A 4-yr-old asked me if trees could pollinate cars by mistake. This story wraps up reproduction, bees, & cars in a pretty bow. J (128)”

Extra 3:

A comment I posted elsewhere:

‘My teen lucid dream debate: Cute boy tries to kiss me. "I'm 15" "Just a dream!" "Still illegal!" "Say u were dreaming, no control!" 2 late. (139)’

(The dream ended before I could make up my mind. So, lots of worry, no actual action. That, in two lines, is a good summary of my entire angsty teen dating experience.)

Bottom of Form
I have not the space to enumerate here how I ABHOR potty training. Silver lining: this topic doesn't need nuance; it's universally VILE. (136)

Commentary: It was thoroughly horrible, but you already guessed that. I have chosen to spare you the details though. See? I am still capable of restraint, even without a character limit. Plus I want to forget the whole thing, myself.

Jon: How do u pass the Sacrament?
Eric: Um...?
Daniel: [Detailed explanation]
Gail: It involved systems analysis and spatial skills. Go #2!

Sam: "Ewic and I was wunning awound in da gwass! And I tagged him and he tagged me! And then I died."
Gail: "$$$$ 4 the lawn, now redeemed."

Home stretch: 1) 2.5 days of torture remain, 2) planning lengthy, loopy, loquacious blog post on it, 3) past screaming; mostly whimpering.

Teresa N Davis Looking forward to the loquaciousness!

Bottom of Form
Epiphany: I'm modeling stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, sadness...trying for acceptance & failing...jumping among 'em, jumbled. (138)

"Sam, change out of your now!" [Blanking on "swim trunks"]
Irreversible vocab damage? [Nail biting]
Jan Grambo Vocab intact - just a retrieval glitch.
James Wright I think someone just had a Mommy moment... mwaaahaaahaaa!

Bottom of Form
Apologies to Brian: I agreed to this.
Without nuance, it's easier to punchline you.
I repent; in future, I'll blame the Scapebaby.
Hearing Sam shout "uhbellyAYmus" ("expelliarmus") in the middle of FHE was cute... the first ten times. (103)

Aislinn Ricker Mellor Who was he trying to disarm? LOL

Gail Homer Berry Any & all brothers + (I suspect) tons of invisible monsters. Target rich environment, perfect for a budding magical marine. (123)

Commentary: “Expelliarmus” is what wizards in the Harry Potter universe use to knock a want out of an opponent’s hand.
[Part 1]
A baker's dozen years and week ago,
I married Jon (he's cute!), my bestest friend.

[Part 2]
Despite the ways I tease and cause him woe,
Yet loyally he laughs at me. The End!

Jon Berry I wouldn't have it any other way. You're wonderful, Sweetheart! I love you.

Commentary: I wanted to do say something nice about Jon who had been providing me with an appreciative audience throughout this ordeal. I tried to make the stanza eight syllables per line instead of ten, in the hopes that I could then squeeze it into one post, but I couldn’t get it to work.

I also considered abbreviating it brutally, like this:

A bAkrs dozn yrs & wk ago
I mArEd Jon (hEs cute) my bestst frend.
DespIt the wAs I tEz & cauz him wO
Yet loyalE he lafs at me. The end!

It was a love poem. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead I sacrificed my pride (for you, Jon!) and broke it into two posts.
Gail: I thought maybe you'd say that you laugh at me because I'm funny.
Jon: ...I laugh at you for many reasons...
Kristine Kirkeiner Low I seem a bit behind, what are your numbered statuses referring to? Is it part of a quote book? Just curious!
Jon Berry Letter count. She's trying to avoid being verbose for a week. Brian Thomas challenged her to keep her posts within Twitter length limits.
Kristine Kirkeiner Low Ah! Ok I see!
Brian Thomas She's getting rather good at it, too
Gail Homer Berry
Oh, Brian, would t'were so, but, *sigh*, not true;
Jon's stanza should be one update, not two.

2 gener8 a plot, I always say,
Just torture karacters. O dire day!
4 now I no exactly how it feels
+ theres no plot, just silly poem peals.


“To generate a plot,” I always say,
“Just torture characters.” O dire day!
For now I know exactly how it feels--
Plus there’s not plot, just silly poem peals.

And commentary:

I faced layered irony.

Reading Lois McMaster Bujold taught me something amazing. When I’m writing a fictional story, I think “What’s the worst thing I could possibly do to this character?”—and then I do it.

And it works! You get all kinds of interesting and funny results that way. (Bwahaha!)

Now I was doing it to myself. And it worked! I got all kinds of interesting and funny results.

It was uncomfortable, though, and it gave me sudden sympathy for all the characters I’ve ever forced to experience messy minions, asphyxiation, orange polka dots, and long division. If things were reversed, what would they do to me?

This silly poem claimed that I was torturing myself to no good purpose since the exercise wasn’t generating a plot, just bad verse. (And I don’t believe suffering innately confers good karma: taking the epidural does not mean you’re a spiritual cripple who loves your baby less.)

The lack of plot was not entirely true, though. Yes, the length restriction were driving me batty, but I was also enjoying how the challenge was generating an awesome conversation among my friends, and that conversation, plus my “hammed up” suffering, were all becoming part of a greater, funny story.

I was torturing myself and tickling myself at the same time.

Yes, I’m crazy.
A new dIrectiv: 2 sAv spAs, I vow
2 spel "long vowls" w/capitals, lIk now.
& also swAr that I'l elimin8
rEdundant leters. This'l B so gr8!


A new directive: to save space, I vow
To spell “long vowels” with capitals, like now.
And also swear that I’ll eliminate
Redundant letters. This will be so great!

Phillip Porter And so it begins.

Gail Homer Berry @ Phillip--so what begins? The rapid devolution of "twitter/texting" English is already underway, and my insanity is also well documented. (138)

Matthew Calabresi I feel like I'm witnessing some sort of triumph of the human spirit, but it's of someone whose only goal in life is to bounce off of padded walls.

Gail Homer Berry
A padded cell no prison makes
if I have paper, quill,
And no restrictions on their use.
(Plus real food, not swill.)

Gail Homer Berry
A second thought--I'd get more done
Without my kids in tow;
But with no reader feedback...?
Nah, I guess that I won't go.

Gail Homer Berry
@ Matthew--I am laughing, still,
@ comment u just made.
My big regret? My meter changed.
I've played, strayed, prayed, and paid.

Commentary 1: 

It drove me crazy that I switched from straight iambic pentameter (10 syllables per line with alternating accents) in my original poem posts to a pattern of 8/6/8/6 syllable lines, albeit still in iambic feet in the comments. That’s what I mean by my “meter” changing.

Every time I re-read this section, I wince at the awkward transition. My readers should built up anticipation which helps them to “hear” the poem “correctly” the first time. If they’re expecting 10 and they get 8/6, it throws them off. (At least, it throws ME off, and I wrote the things.) Similarly, going from 8/6 back to 10 is also awkward. Sigh.

On the other hand, doing 8/6 couplets did let me avoid the horrible “mixd cAs” (mixed case) spelling I was forced to use for longer verses.

At this point, it was all about finding the best possible compromise.

Commentary 2:

I saw Matthew in the hall at church and told him how funny I’d found his comment. He had worried it might have sounded too mean.

I shrugged. “Oh, no,” I answered. “I’m used to hearing MUCH worse from my family…”

He said he’d be glad when the week was over, because the mixed case abbreviations were…”Aaaah!” He clenched his hands.

Exactly. Yes. I agreed it was horribly obnoxious. Again, one of those awful compromises.

Carolyn Homer Thomas I feel like Brian and I should have also imposed a "no non-standard abbreviation" limit on you, too. I HATE l33tspeak with a fiery passion.

Gail Homer Berry
I hAt it 2! But how else cud
I skwEz a 4-lIn stanza
In2 restrictions u impOzd?
Cant soar, just glide. Lufthansa!


I hate it, too! But how else could
I squeeze a four-line stanza
Into restrictions you imposed?
Can’t soar, just glide. Lufthansa!


Well, obviously “Lufthansa” was a stretch. I was trying to evoke imagery of a majestic bird hobbled by a clipped wing, or a sleek airplane hampered by silly governmental regulations. Something that should be soaring but is just managing an awkward glide.

The best I could do there was to reference “Lufthansa” and hope it conveyed the idea of a commercial airline that had sacrificed comfort for cramming people together. Since it’s the primary airline in Germany, and since Germans are all about Following the Rules, it was the best I could do. Plus I was desperate for a rhyme.

Carolyn Homer Thomas considering you had another 30 characters with that one, I'm pretty sure you could have done it.

Gail Homer Berry
That last one, true. I did it to
Annoy you, natcherly,
But pause and think: though it pained you,
the "scorched earth" burned, more, me.

Gail Homer Berry
Some "triage" principles apply
to all my verse, I fear.
If I must change 1 vowel, then
perhaps I /all/ should shear.

Commentary: I did consider, seriously, capitalizing even words where it was unnecessary, like “mE” and “hE”, just for uniformity. I refrained. Aren’t you proud of me?

Clint Kimball If it were me I would have truncated your original post to:

"I've got it! I'll replace long vowels with capital letters and eliminate redundant characters! (95)"

Then again the truncation would defeat purpose of the post in the first place. Hmm...

Gail Homer Berry @Clint:

Two motivations have I: first,
From all this pain, make art;
The second--it's ignoble, aye--
To others, pain impart.

2 Ne 2:27

Commentary: I’m particularly proud of that one. I think it was the favorite poem I wrote that week.

The scripture reference is about how Satan is selfish and “seeks to make all men miserable like unto himself.”

It’s petty and cruel and I ought to be ashamed of myself. But I will confess I took an unholy pleasure in spreading the suffering around. And it DID help me feel better.

As Alcatraz Smedry would say, “I am not a nice person.” Also “
Authors write books for one, and only one, reason: because we like to torture people.”


Tricia Reynolds Humberstone This is just awesome. You are brilliant.

Gail Homer Berry
Dear Tricia -- I appreciate
Such comments from the crowd.
They keep me going, and suppress
My screams from "*ROAR!!!*" to "loud."

Tricia Reynolds Humberstone I am feeling particularly loved, now that I have my name beginning one of your poems...glad to be part of the fan club to keep you going.

Bottom of Form
If U cud undrstand my prEvyus pOms,
I pity U, mE, languj & al tOms.
The rIming is such fun thO; I intend
2 kEp it up 'til I or English rend

Tedra Richter thk u, e.e. berry. Lol


If you could understand my previous poems,
I pity you, me, language, and all tomes.
The rhyming is such fun, though; I intend
To keep it up ‘till I or English rend.
I wonder how stylometry wud pars
This wEks depar2r in2 vers and fars?
Wud it compAr & sA I am the sAm
or diffrent authors shArEn but 1 name?

Translation and context:

"I wonder how stylometry would parse
This week's departure into verse and farce?
Would it compare and say I am the same
or different authors, sharing but one name?

The article is by a man who wrote a computer program that analysis the stylistic fingerprint of authors. He described his method in more detail in the article, but the summary is that people tend to make unconscious word choices, favoring certain (for example) prepositions over others.

His program looks at several different factors, such as average word length, compares sample texts, and spits out probabilities.

I found myself wondering what it would make of a typical week of my Facebook updates, compared against the last week of chaotically spelled, terse posts.

Supposedly it’s very difficult to change one’s linguistic “fingerprint” in a sustained way. I believe that, but I also think this week-long experiment might, just possibly, succeed.

"But why'd a bug get in a tunnel in ow house? I don'BEEVE a bug comed in! A monstow bwoke da do' and da bug comed thwu. I don'wa'BEEVE dis!"

Gail Homer Berry (I saw a cockroach, screeched. Sam, out of bed (tsk!), asked how it got in, posited a monster scenario, and shouted "I don't BELIEVE this!")

Carolyn Homer Thomas I think you need to invite the monster exterminator back. (Ht: Brian)

Gail Homer Berry "Ht" Hint? Half time? Height? Haiti? Hats and tutus? High tide? Hot tomale? Histrionic turpitude? Drat, no more space. Hiatus/termination. (138)

Carolyn Homer Thomas hat tip. i.e. This was Brian's idea but I stole it.

I've hit my stride! I'm writing terse, cute odes.
Just ten. More. Hours. Pray I don't expl--

Comment: Okay, I just have to say that one was fun. Hehehe. And read “hours” as two syllables, “ow-ers.”

Jan Grambo I have to admit I am really enjoying these posts.
@ Jan: no, u shud say "It's fun,
But I'll b glad when this is done.
Pretend ur in my class, dEr GAl--
& ne'er chAnj speling mor. U'll FAL."


At Jan: no, you should say “It’s fun,
But I’ll be glad when this is done.
Pretend you’re in my class, dear Gail—
And ne’er change spelling more. You’ll FAIL.”


I felt like the rhythm was awkward in the first line. It works okay on a re-read, but I still stumble on it every time.

Also, I would normally say “Sister Grambo,” but there were obvious limitations here.

Tressa Winmill Mitchell I agree! Gail you should send these into a poetry magazine or maybe into a periodical that pubishes reader submissions? Maybe Reader's Digest, Saturday Evening Post, or The New Yorker?

Tressa Winmill Mitchell Could make a fun book, too!

Gail Homer Berry
@ Tressa--you are kind, but if I try,
I think "the stuf lIk this" would make 'em cry.


At Tressa—you are kind, but if I try,
I think “the stuff like this” would make ‘em cry.

Commentary: …and back to iambic pentameter. 10/10 and 8/6 are definitely my favorite meters; I just wish I had been more consistent.

Also, I don’t know if this is “publication” worthy or not, but I really appreciate your vote of confidence, Tressa!

Tressa Winmill Mitchell Well, if they are not too "literary" but are open to clever submissions, one might bite. You could consider your efforts this week as "practice" until you hit the right combination. Have you ever checked out the "Writer's Market" reference book? There are loads of mags out there you could take a shot at.

[All Hogwarts headmaster portraits rise in a standing ovation.]
[Boys start watching the 7th Harry Potter movie.]

Saleslady <3ed "Doorbell Doom" poem, begged 4 pic.
Dilemma: Jeff's mostly done w/naps but I want to keep it.
B dishonest? Have new baby?

Translation and context:

 An AT&T saleswoman came to my door this afternoon. She knocked, I answered, and she said "I love your poem. Where did you get it?"

"I wrote it," I smiled, and she lit up. "So you must be Gail!" she said, thus proving that she had actually read the entire thing. (Most solicitors seem to read the first verse, knock, and read a little more while waiting, but then never get back to it.)

"It's so good," she said. "I must have seen it somewhere..."

Now, figured she was trying for some flattery in the hopes of upping her sales, and I didn't take it too seriously, but it was nice. I can see why lobbying members of congress works, oh yes. I didn't buy what she was selling, but it does feel nice to be complimented, even when one suspects an ulterior motive. (Brandon Sanderson had a lovely analogy: something about how living on flattery is like eating only cheeseburgers--each fills you up enough that you don't notice what they're doing to your heart. Brilliant comparison.)

She wasn't pushy, though, and when she realized that I didn't carry a cable subscription, she immediately said, "Oh, well, I don't really have a competitive product for you, then. But it was nice to meet you. May I take a picture of the poem? I want to show it to the guys at the office. It's funny. And so much NICER than most of the signs I see..."

That made my day. I love positive reader feedback!

It also raises a dilemma, though. Jeff has mostly stopped napping. He keels over sometimes, but it's random.

I have been thinking about taking down the sign, which refers to "babies." I now have two toddlers, the younger of whom is about to turn two. [Whimper] If neither of them takes a regular nap, is it dishonest to leave the poem up?

I see three main options:

1. Be dishonest. Leave the sign up. Just because I LOVE it.
2. Take it down. Deal with the obnoxious doorbell again, instead of knocking. Grieve grumpily.
3. Have another baby. (There are obvious limits to how far I can take that strategy, though.)


Nicole Whelan The world could use some more super geniuses.

Gail Homer Berry @ NW:

My children r brilliant, it's true,
But if I had more in my crew,
I might go insane--
& pen bad refrains
4 pernicious poems on stew.

Commentary: After all those “formal” two-line couplets and four-line stanzas, I HAD to try at least one limerick. Don’t judge me. ;)

"Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck."

For everyone wondering why all my status updates for the last week have been 1) short, 2) followed by numbers, like "(138)", 3) occasionally even "pAnful to rEd" (painful to read), and, 4) most mysteriously, filled with odd poetry, let me reassure you that the the torture is over.

[Gail sings "Glory, glory, HALLELUJAH...!"]

It was a challenge to keep all my updates down to "twitter-length" parameters. I have a longish, redundant, verbally dense reaction to the experience here:

It's fine if you skip the alphabetical listing of adjectives for my verbosity. Actually, it's fine if you skip the entire thing.

Let's just all rejoice that I'm back to--heh, heh--"normal," shall we?

(816. Pthpt!!!)

P. S. @ Brian:
44786 characters, 7297 words, 30-ish pages.


Carolyn said...

AS much as I loved this experiment as it was happening, I must say...wouldn't it have made more sense to just do a "highlight reel" blogpost, with commentary, as opposed to this comprehensive report?

Gail said...

Carolyn! Bless you for your comment.

The whole point was that after all that suffering, I had to balance things out by being VERY verbose.

I like the "highlights" reel, though. Maybe I'll do that, TOO!