In which the author received direction from the Spirit of Death.

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Death pulled up to the curb in a 1958 Corvette, the one made bright red with white trim. I was surprised. Death’s rides are usually the other way around in the color scheme.

“Sweet ride! I see you’re sporting more blood than spirit these days,” I said.

“You’ve seen the world out there,” Death replied. “Way too much blood, not nearly enough spirit.”

It is not unusual for Death to visit me. We have been friends, well, friendly, for a long time. Like now, Death often joins me on…

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My friend Tony said this to me yesterday: It’s weird as hell out here.

I can’t agree more.

Everything about life right now has something attached to it, a parasite sucking away any hope for joy, satisfaction, contentment. Everything is an effort doubled, tripled in cost because of the drain on our psyche. We are a people used to running a marathon and now we are barely able to walk to the corner store without feeling the pain of a broken leg.

The cancer in our culture has finally grown to the point where it is inescapable. Nothing is reliable…

In which the author admits to an unpleasant paradox.

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It is no secret that I am a control freak. I have had the need for some sort of control for all of my life. I have had to learn how to train myself out of being in need of control.

Back in grad school, my friend Angela had a moment to tell me that just because I would perform a task a specific way does not mean that is the only way to do it. That was news to me. I had probably heard that before, but it was that…

In which the author imagines a day in the life.

Martinez, Calif., Sept. 21, 1973 / Photo by

The COVID has already taken eighteen percent of my town’s population and the government collapsed months ago. But that doesn’t stop the fact that I need supplies and that my cat is not going to allow me to go another day without feeding him, not without increasingly persistent protest, anyway. So today is the day to go out.

I am fortunate that I still have a mostly reliable internet connection. I get most of my news from the few online sources that are still reliable. I have television, too, but…

In which the author casts personal morals as a fundamental force of nature.

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During this quarantine, it is no secret that I am burning through my long-neglected reading list. I am pleased to announce that I have finally completed Prof. Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. As a brief review of the work, I will admit that I am spoiled with the knowledge I already had of the topics he covered. Frankly, I wanted more from it, and perhaps if I continue with his later works I would find it. …

In which the author conflates personal grief with societal angst.

Frank T. Cat Sinatra Paulsen / Photo and crappy editing by author.

To be specific, my cat Frank died overnight between Friday and Saturday. Today is Sunday and I am still grieving hard for his passing. I suspect I will be for some time to come.

Frank was fifteen years and ten months old. That is a good long life for an American Longhair who is mostly Maine Coon. He lost most of his teeth about a year ago. It didn’t seem to bother him and he adapted to eating the food I gave him without any problems. But for the past…

In which the author totally misses the point.

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I’m going to talk about sex again today, Dear Reader, so if knowing that makes you squeamish already, then I recommend you move on to one of my other nihilistic pieces. There are plenty.

I am not alone in my daily struggle with the dichotomy of relating to sex as simultaneously sacred and profane. It is no secret among us that we hold up sex to a standard of human behavior that deifies intimacy. We also use sex to commodify interaction at all levels even to the point of using it as…

In which the author addresses that pain you are feeling.

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Dr. Robert Metcalfe, other than infamously predicting the collapse of the Internet, is notable for his assertion that the intrinsic value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes on that network. I am not new to using fax machines as an example of this law. A single fax machine, the analysis goes, is pretty useless. Two fax machines can communicate with each other and is still pretty useless. It is only until the number of fax machines, nodes, reaches some level of saturation that…

In which the author considers life in quarantine.

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Hey, kids, it’s me, the bitter cloud that goes with your silver lining coming to you live from my clean, well-lighted hovel perched on the edge of The Abyss.

In these precarious days, I am reminded of a book that was recommended to me many years ago, The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (). In the book, Preston recounts various historical episodes of filovirus outbreaks, culminating in the Reston, Virginia, incident. He balances the technical and the anecdotal well, and I strongly recommend it for a good read.

The point he makes…

In which the author demands satisfaction.

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Dear Customer Service,

As noted in my previous emails, which you have neglectfully ignored, I would like to return your product, anno domini 2020, which was shipped defective. Admittedly, I should have never accepted a shipment of your product, but in all fairness, I was asleep when it arrived and someone else signed for it.

I should have known that something was wrong with your product when it arrived on fire. That was disconcerting, but frankly, I’ve seen worse. To your product’s credit, the fire suppression system eventually did its job. Not without significant…

Stephen M. Paulsen

Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare). Debatably pretty. Lots of thorns. High-functioning depressive guarded by wit, sarcasm, and brutal honesty.

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