How to Pick Up on Prehistoric Girls (And Other Matters)

I had a cold well over a week ago. The cold is gone, but I still have this lingering tickle in my throat. It’s making me cough constantly — the kind of cough that if I were in a movie or play would mean that I would be totally dead by Act 5. It does have a sort of cool death-rattle quality that’s good for freaking out my coworkers, at least. But I wish it would stop now.

Gotta say, between this cough and catching the flu earlier this winter (for the first time in over a decade), my immune system is really falling down on the job. This worries me a bit, since a kick-ass immune system is part of my genetic heritage. Honestly, I figure it’s pretty much all the Prehistoric Goers had going for us. Obviously we weren’t particularly big or strong or fierce, so we couldn’t bash Ogg’s head in with a club and carry off Ogg’s wife. But we could wait for Ogg to drop dead from disease! Woo-hoo!

Anyway, while I’m calculating how much cheap knock-off Benedryl to take so that I can actually get an hour or two consecutive hours of sleep, here are a few quick links for your reading pleasure:

  • Robert J. Sawyer is interviewed on Ficlets. He sure has won a lot of awards!

  • It’s Raining Evans: Seriously, first there’s Evan Almighty starring a self-righteous Congressman named Evan. Then there’s Superbad starring the awesomely talented Michael Cera as a hopeless nerd named Evan. And if that’s not enough, Sam managed to find this D&D themed webcomic. Hmmm. I’d like to think that “Evan” is going to be the hip new baby name someday, but I don’t think this is our year.

  • Finally, Matt Feeney of Slate Magazine asks, “If you like ‘300’, are you gay?” The answer, Mr. Feeney, is yes. This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Silly Questions.

How to P.O. a T.W.

Today I opened my mailbox to find this letter:

To all Current or Former Sun Microsystems and SeeBeyond Technology Technical Writers:

A lawsuit entitled Dani Hoenemier v. Sun Microsystems has been brought in California Superior Court, Santa Clara Counta on behalf of a proposed class of current and former Technical Writers (“TWs”) employed by Sun (and/or SeeBeyond Technology Corporation) since September 21, 2002. The lawsuit alleges that TWs, such as yourself, were misclassified as exempt employees, and should instead have been treated as “non-exempt” employees subject to all the regulations that govern non-exempt employees, including the obligation to track hours worked, the right to premium pay for overtime worked, and the right to mandatory unpaid meal breaks or additional compensation for missed meal breaks. Sun alleges that it correctly classified its TWs as salaried exempt employees, that it is not obligated to classify and treat them as hourly employees, and that it therefore should not be required to do so.

This letter is to advise you of the pendency [EG — “pendency”?] of the lawsuit and that Plaintiff’s lawyers wish to obtain your name, address, and telephone number for the purpose of contacting you to obtain information regarding Plaintiff’s case against Sun. The Court has not yet determined whether this action shall actually proceed as a class action. You have no obligation to talk to Plaintiff’s counsel, but you also have the right to do so if you wish to do so. Sun is prohibited by its policies and by law from retaliating against you for speaking to Plaintiff’s counsel.

You do have the right to refuse disclosure of your contact information to third parties. If you do not wish to have your name, home address, and home telephone disclosed to Plaintiff’s counsel to enable them to contact you, you must return the enclosed postage pre-paid, self-addressed postcard by July 17, 2007. Unless you exercise your right to privacy in this manner, you will be deemed to have waived that right and your contact information will be disclosed to Plaintiff’s counsel.

If you have any questions regarding the release of your private contact information, you may call Rosenthal & company LLC at 1-800-xxx-xxxx.

Please do not contact the court.

Thank you.
To which I had these thoughts:

  1. I have great sympathy for class action lawsuits against corporations in general. Often people who have been wronged simply have no other recourse.

  2. I do not know Dani Hoenemier personally, but I have met technical writers who are like Dani Hoenemier. Technical writers like Dani Hoenemier make life more difficult for those of us who prefer to make our living doing honest work.

  3. As someone who still has affection for his ex-colleagues at Sun, and more importantly as a current SUNW shareholder, I hope this suit fails catastrophically.

  4. If Plaintiff’s lawyers thought I might view this suit with even a shred of sympathy, that hope was lost when Plaintiff’s lawyers chose to include that asinine opt-out disclosure refusal form.

  5. We were all salaried exempt employees, you numbskull.

Oh, and if any Sun Microsystems attorneys happen to stumble across this post, please note that I would be happy to assist you in any way I can.

Best regards,

Evan Goer

The Hats of War: A (Not Quite) Zombie Apocalypse

In honor of Blog Like It’s the End of the World Day, here is my “Hats of War” story from Viable Paradise X. This story doesn’t quite match the strictures of Blog Like It’s the End of the World Day — it’s not about my day today, it doesn’t actually have zombies — but eh, close enough.

The Story of the Story: the “Hats of War” was a writing exercise dreamed up by instructor James D. MacDonald. We had to write a story to be included in an upcoming SF anthology, “The Hats of War”. MacDonald had been lecturing about writing using various props, including a white model house. Our stories would have to include that white house, plus a gag gift we had been given on our first day (in my case, a bag of little rubber bouncy balls). I’m pretty sure he made up the exercise on the spot. As for the clothes-based theme — particularly the reference to linen — I think I just had fabrics on my mind, because I had been chatting so much with Barbara and learning about spinning and wool and linen and related topics.

Also because of her I can make a pen out of a feather. How cool is that?

I ended up writing this story fragment very late at night. I had just finished reviewing a couple of other people’s pieces for next day’s breakout session, and was about to hit the sack, when one of my roommates (Bart or Chris) asked me, “hey, how’s your Hats of War story going?” Wait, people are actually turning in this crazy exercise? I guess I have a bad sense about when James MacDonald is joking.

And no, it doesn’t have a proper ending. Hey, what do you expect for a Draft Zero story? Given the genre, I think you can guess how things are going to turn out.

And now… The Hats of War! (Rated R for nudity and cartoonish gore.)

The Hats of War

It was a happier time, a more innocent time. We went about our business – worrying about the war, yes, worrying about the election, yes, worrying about terrorism, nuclear proliferation, genocide, the meltdown of the only biosphere we have… yes, we fretted about all this and more.

But we never expected the nanopants.

Lynn spotted the house first. It rose from the snowy landscape like a godsend. A beautiful 19th century white house. Our sanctuary. Snowdrifts piled against the garage, and no lights shone. I approached the door, shivering.

Pound-pound-pound. Nothing. Pound-pound-pound again.

I could see the door was barred and the edges well-caulked.

“Hello!” I called. “Is anybody there?”


I checked my shotgun ammo. Just four more shells in the bag, plus the one I had loaded. In the store we had ransacked, the shells had been in the corner, buried underneath an overturned rack of marble-sized rubber bouncy balls. I should have taken a few for good luck. No matter. I patted the shells. In this brave new world, you made your own luck.

I circled to the window. It was boarded up and well-sealed. I couldn’t wait any longer for an answer. I took aim at the window.

A muffled voice called out, “Who’s there?”

“It’s Mark and Lynn,” I called out. “Please, for God’s sakes, let us in!”

There was nothing.

“I have a bag of shotgun shells,” I lied. “And a few backpacks of canned food.”

The voice called out, “Are you wearing linen?”

Lynn tugged at my arm as she shivered. “Does he think we’re idiots?”

“Well,” I said, “I, uh,”

“Are you wearing fucking linen?!”

“No!” I called out. “Jesus Christ, is that a crime?”

“Strip!” called the voice.



We pulled off our jackets, wriggled out of our jeans. What else could we have done?
There was a wrenching noise, and the door flew open, tearing away the caulk. A middle-aged man stood framed in the door wearing overalls, a modified double-barreled shotgun pointed at us. A timid-looking college-age kid with sandy hair stood behind him.

“Look, mister,” I said. “We ain’t looking for trouble. We just need shelter…”
In answer, the man raised his gun and fired two quick blasts.

Behind us, a pair of black slingback stilettos splintered into fragments.

“They’re right behind your ass, MOVE!” He began reloading.

I looked behind me, and God help me, I froze.

An array of Ann Taylor tees and knits had trailed us all the way to the fucking farmhouse. A floral print silk Georgette tunic. A black pleat long white shirt with finished cut-away neckline. The trail of garments went on and on, floating towards us in the winter moonlight. A whole department store’s worth.
How could we not have seen them?

I froze, to my eternal shame, but Lynn didn’t. Lynn, shivering and naked, grabbed the shotgun out of my hands. She took aim and fired at the lead garment, a strappy little black dress. Her blast took a chunk out and twisted the tee around, but it kept coming. She reloaded, fired again. This one hit dead center. The dress fluttered to the ground and lay cold and dead in the snow.
The rest of the garments began to fly faster towards us.

Lynn looked back at me. “You can’t recaulk the door in time,” she said. She tossed me the shotgun. Stood up straight.

My brain unfroze as I realized what was happening. “No, Lynn!”

I love you, she mouthed. Then she turned and bounded into the horde of advancing apparel.

The clothes enfolded her, welcomed her. A gray herringbone skirt with back pleats wrapped itself around her middle. Lynn’s flesh instantly began to sizzle. The nanoparticles embedded in the skirt, originally designed to absorb and re-radiate summer heat more efficiently, discharged their stored energy into Lynn’s unprotected flesh. Lynn staggered. A gauzy scarf wrapped around her throat. A red Donna Vinci wide-brimmed High Fashion Hat settled over her head, her eyes. Blood began to ooze down as the hat contracted. Lynn sank to her knees in the snow.

I remember a strong hand yanking me in through the door. I must have been out only for a moment after that, because the next thing I knew, I was retching on the floor, still naked and shivering. I looked up, gasping like a landed fish, to see the younger man busy resealing the door with fresh caulk.

The older man had his shotgun slung over his shoulder. He put his hand on my arm. “She bought us time,” he said. “She died a good death.”

“No one,” I choked, “no one should have to die like that.”

“I know, son,” he said. “I know.”

Dance, Magic Tupperware Dance

You know all those stories about Fairyland or the Netherworld or The Kingdom of the Goblins? Where if you manage to get lost there and stay too long, you end up transforming into a permanent resident?

Fortunately, in most of these stories the hero or heroine escapes the foul clutches of the goblins. Or on rarer occasions, they get rescued by their extraordinarily hot and determined older sister. But what if nobody ever managed to escape? What if the lost souls just kept piling up over the years? What would the Goblin King do then?

Leftover party Tupperware is almost exactly like this.

After holding regular Sunday summer barbecues for several years, I have managed to accumulate quite a motley assortment of kitchen items. The rule seems to be that if the person claims the item in the next few weeks, all is well. But if that doesn’t happen, the item somehow morphs into “my stuff”, whether I want it to or not.

So I offer this plea: People! My cupboard of Tupperware barely closes at this point! Fine as your accoutrements may be, I honestly don’t need any more of them. My home is officially closed to your unwanted Tupperware, bowls, serving implements, shot glasses, and — this should really go without saying — boxes of frozen inedible shrimp!

“Pumpkin” “ale” in any season is right out!

The Goblin King hath spoken.

Many Bothans Died to Bring Us This Information

This is more for the Bay Area folks than anyone else.

From my old friend and professor Bill Fredlund, at the UCSC-affiliated Institute for the Study of Western Civilization:

History of Espionage

Taught by Bruce Thompson, Ph.D.

Join us this summer for a fascinating look into the world of secret intelligence. This course will exhamine how intelligence agencies have operated in crucial phases of modern history, beginning with the Elizabethan era. How they collected and assessed information, employed agents, planted moles, cultivated defectors and the extent to which those efforts had significant consequences.

We will also follow the trajectory of spies, moles and intelligence officers in modern popular culture, from the heroic playboys of John Buchan and Ian Fleming to the disillusioned heroes of Alan Furst and John le Carre.

Class begins Thursday, June 28, Ends August 30, 2007. Tuition: $300.

Call the Institute at 408-864-4060 to enroll.

I took Bill’s legendary Making of the Western Mind series for three years straight. As for his friend Bruce Thompson, I’ve taken two summer classes from him: one about the history of the Cold War and another about the long, complex relationship between France and the United States.

Elizabethan spies. I just can’t wait. Can you?