Omir the Storyteller

Stories. Music. Politics. Technology. Baseball. Friends. Family. Potrzebie.

Friday, July 22, 2005

They say your dreams reveal your inner self


I'm not sure if this fact should worry me or not.

I don't always remember my dreams, but I remember dreaming last night that I lost my hat. Now if you know me, you know this is not necessarily unusual. "Do what you do best," that's what I say, and I excel at forgetting where I put things. When I forget that I put them under my seat at Safeco Field until two days later, or that I put them on the bus that just left, that's when things get dicey.

Anyway, last night I dreamt I left one of my baseball caps at the movies. This was a bit unusual in that I left it at a theater in Redmond, and I think the only theater I've ever been to in Redmond was the Bella Botega multiplex, and that only once. So why I dreamed I left it at a theater in Redmond, I don't know. But then, this is a dream.

So, I'm on the bus to go get my hat, and oddly enough, I'm heading across the 520 bridge, but toward Seattle, away from Redmond. And then things take a turn toward the surreal, because next thing I know I'm in front of a multiplex on North Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. Now keeping in mind that this is a dream, it's still pretty peculiar because:
  • The bus ride from Seattle to Austin would take several days;
  • The last time I was in Austin was 14 years ago;
  • At that time there were no multiplexes on North Congress Avenue, at least the part I was familiar with (between the Capitol and the river);
  • And if someone were to build a multiplex in central Austin, it would not be on North Congress Avenue, which is most likely one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in central Texas.
Anyway, there I was, in one of the back foyers, trying to find a manager to ask about my hat. I was just standing there, minding my own business, when some revelers in what I vaguely remember as Mardi Gras regalia splashed some cold water on me. Up here in Seattle I would have been outraged; down there, I just remember wanting to find a manager after this had happened, but still to ask about the hat. (If you've been in Austin in July you know that a splash of cold water can be a blessing.)

Well, the manager finally shows up. I do a bit of a protest about the water and ask about my hat. She has me follow her down a maze of twisty little passages, all alike . . . and at the end of the maze, she drenches me with ice water.

At that point I woke up and decided to go do something sensible, like work on a router I'm building for my home network.

And the moral of the story, considering that this was all a dream, is probably: A cat can look at a king, but not both. Is it lunchtime yet? Where's my hat?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The King's Three Questions


Once upon a time there was a king. He was not a kind king. In fact he was kind of a cruel king, and he loved playing nasty and sometimes fatal tricks on those around him. For instance, one day he called his royal advisor in to him.

The royal advisor bowed low before the king. "Yes, your majesty?"

"I'm bored," said the king. "Let's play a game."

Uh oh, thought the royal advisor. "Yes, your highness," he said. "What kind of game?"

"I'll ask you three questions. If you answer all three of them correctly, I will give you three bags of gold. If you answer two correctly but one incorrectly, I will give you two bags of gold and cut your head off. If you answer only one correctly, I will give you a bag of gold, and cut your head off twice. And if you do not answer any of the questions correctly, I will cut your head off three times. Is that clear?"

"Uh, your majesty," said the advisor, "you cannot cut off my head three times. I only have one head."

"Shut up. I am the king. I can do whatever I want."

Again the royal advisor bowed, and bowed to the inevitable. "Yes, sire," he said with just a hint of a resigned sigh. "What are the questions?"

"They are very simple questions. The first is, how many stars are there in the sky? The second is, precisely how deep is the ocean? And the third is, what am I thinking? Move along now. Have a nice day. It'll be your last."

The royal advisor bowed, backed out of the throne room, and started thinking that maybe he should have become the king's aquarium cleaner or his accountant or something with a bit less responsibility. And as he was thinking, who should he ran into but the king's storyteller. Almost literally.

"Good morning, Royal Advisor," the storyteller said, "How's it going?"

"Not well, I'm afraid," the advisor said. "The king wants to play a game with me, and I am afraid I am going to lose."

"What kind of game is this?" the storyteller asked.

"He has asked me three questions, and I have to answer them all correctly or I lose."

"Oh, really. What are the questions?"

"The first is, how many stars are there in the sky? The second is, precisely how deep is the ocean? And the third is, what is the king thinking?"

The storyteller thought for a moment, and then said, "I can answer those questions."

The royal assistant started to feel the weight of the world lift from his shoulders. "Quick! Tell me the answers and I will give you the three bags of gold the king has promised me if I answer them correctly." He carefully didn't say anything about getting his head cut off, but the storyteller had been around for a while. He had a pretty good idea what was in store.

"No no no," said the storyteller. "I didn't say I could tell you the answer. I said I could /answer. the questions. I'll tell you what. Give me your cloak and I will go to the king tomorrow in your place." Now I should tell you here that in those days people wore hooded cloaks indoors as well as out, because castles were drafty cold places.

So the next day the storyteller went in to the king, wearing the royal advisor's cloak and with the hood pulled up over his head so the king couldn't see his face.

"Ah, Royal Advisor," the king said. "Just a moment. Guard? Come here and bring your dullest sword." Like I said, he was not a very nice king.

"Now. Do you have the answers to my questions?"

The storyteller nodded his head in answer.

"Very well. First, how many stars are there in the sky?"

"Your majesty," the storyteller said, using his best imitation of the royal advisor's voice. "There are four hundred fifty-five million, six hundred twenty-nine thousand, eight hundred and sixty one stars in the sky, and if you think I am wrong, you can count them yourself."

Hmmmmmm, the king thought. Well, I'll get the gold back with the next two questions. "Very well," he said, placing a bag of gold in the storyteller's hand. The storyteller put the bag of gold into the folds of his cloak. "Now, for the second question. Precisely how deep is the ocean?"

"Your majesty," the storyteller said, again using his best Royal Advisor voice, "the ocean is precisely a stones' throw deep."

"Aha!" said the king. "That is not correct. I can throw a stone much farther than that!"

"But your majesty," said the storyteller, "allow me to finish. If you take your royal boat out into the ocean, and then throw a stone over the side, you can measure how far the stone travels, and the distance the stone travels is the precise depth of the ocean."

Hmmmmmm, the king thought again. Well, I can let that one pass, because he can't possibly answer the third question and if he gives me an answer I can tell him I'm thinking something different. "Very well," he said, and placed another bag of gold in the storyteller's hand, and again the storyteller put the bag into the folds of his cloak. "Now for my third question. What am I thinking?"

The storyteller didn't hesitate. "Your majesty," the storyteller said in his Royal Advisor voice, "you think you are talking to your royal advisor, but in reality -- " and he pulled the hood back from his face to show the king -- "I am your royal storyteller!"

The king gasped. "What?" he cried. "I thought I was talking to my royal advisor!"

"Told you," said the storyteller, holding out his hand. "My third bag?"

Monday, July 18, 2005

On Dissent


Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. U.S. Constitution, Amendment I

What country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Thomas Jefferson

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Thomas Jefferson

It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority. Benjamin Franklin

Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. Benjamin Franklin

We are reluctant to admit that we owe our liberties to men of a type that today we hate and fear -- unruly men, disturbers of the peace, men who resent and denounce what Whitman called 'the insolence of elected persons' -- in a word, free men. Gerald W. Johnson

Do not regard the critics as questionable patriots. What were Washington and Jefferson and Adams but profound critics of the colonial status quo. Aldai Stevenson

Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots. Barbara Ehrenreich

May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. Dwight D. Eisenhower

In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but its effects. J. William Fulbright

Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed -- and no republic can survive. John F. Kennedy

You do not become a "dissident" just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. Vaclav Havel

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country. Herman Goering

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. Harry S Truman

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. George Orwell

The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don't agree with. Eleanor Holmes Norton

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it. Edward R. Murrow

Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate. Hubert H. Humphrey

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. John Stuart Mill

The most tyrannical of governments are those which make crimes of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right to his thoughts. Baruch Spinoza

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. James Baldwin

My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right. Carl Schurz

"My country, right or wrong," is a thing that no patriot would think of saying. It is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober." G. K. Chesterton

Has there ever been a society which has died of dissent? Several have died of conformity in our lifetime. Jacob Bronowski

Discussion in America means dissent. James Thurber

I like the noise of democracy. James Buchanan