sab39

... indistinguishable from magic
effing the ineffable since 1977

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Dawn, the Alpha Dog

8/16/2007

One of the men I admire most in this world is my friend, Adam Dean. Despite being born with cerebral palsy, resulting in a speech impediment that limits the number of words he can actually physically say to almost single digits and a right arm he's entirely unable to use at all, Adam never thinks of himself as "disabled" and has achieved more than many "able-bodied" people even aspire to. He lives alone, doing all the day-to-day chores he needs to do for himself (just imagine doing all your chores one-handed). He has a very successful career as a lawyer, using a speech synthesis device (think Stephen Hawking) to communicate. On a personal note he's a loyal and generous friend. And now he's also a published author.

Adam's first book, "Dawn, the Alpha Dog... and Related Stories", is now available. The book is billed as a collection of short stories, but for the most part it reads as one coherent story told as a series of moment-in-time snapshots over the course of a relationship. It's well written and an engaging read, with characters that you can believe in and root for - or sometimes against.

The stories are written in the first person, and Adam gave the protagonist the same disability he has. One of my favorite aspects of the book was the inclusion of little asides that give insight into what it's really like interacting with other people when something as "simple" as speech is a significant effort. But at the same time the story is universal; the real communication issues in the story are the same ones anybody would face in Adam's character's situation.

I found the book to be strongest when it was telling a continuing story, and weaker in the occasional moments it lived up to the "collection of short stories" billing. One of the stories doesn't feature Dawn at all; it was a good story in its own right but felt out of place in the context of the book. Another focuses primarily on the protagonist's struggle against a (perceived) vice, with only a tangential connection to the relationship with Dawn. It's perhaps not fair to fault the book for the times it's exactly what it claims to be, but I can't help feeling that those pages would have been better spent fleshing out the main storyline.

My only other complaint about the book is that it's too short - I'm just greedy :)

One more thing: don't buy the book if you're going to be offended by discussion of sex. It's not by any means explicit or pornographic but it doesn't shy away from the subject, either.

Adam will be doing a signing of the book at Empire Books in Pullman Square, Huntington, WV, at 4pm on Saturday August 25th. I don't think my blog has many readers who happen to be in the Huntington area that don't already know Adam, but just in case...


 

Let us think the unthinkable

8/6/2007
"Come," he said, sweeping through the door to where Miss Janice Pearce sat glaring at a pencil, "let us go. Let us leave this festering hellhole. Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not in fact eff it after all."
-- "Dirk Gently", "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency", by Douglas Adams.

One of my favorite Adams quotes, and the reason for the new tagline on my homepage. According to Google I'm about the 14,101st person to use the phrase, but I don't think Mr. Adams will mind.


 

Curse you, thermodynamics! You win again!

8/6/2007

It's well known that the laws of thermodynamics forbid the creation of a "perpetual motion" machine - that is, any device that can run forever without any external power source. Many attempts have been made to get around this, but they've all proven to have some fatal flaw.

Many creative thinkers believed that the problem had finally been solved for good with the design of the CBTD, or Cat Buttered Toast Device. I first heard of the CBTD at least fifteen years ago. This ingenious creation is based on two laws of nature even more inviolable than those of thermodynamics:

  • A piece of buttered toast, dropped on the floor, will always land buttered-side down.
  • A cat dropped on the floor will always land on its feet.

The CBTD consists, quite simply, of a piece of buttered toast strapped buttered-side up to the back of a cat and dropped on the floor. By the laws of the universe, it cannot land cat-side down because then the toast would be buttered-side up, but it can't land toast-side down because then the cat would not be on its feet. The CBTD must therefore hover above the floor, spinning endlessly trying to resolve the dilemma.

Many scientists have pondered the CBTD over the years and almost all have come to the conclusion that it is indeed flawless - the holy grail of a perpetual motion machine has finally been discovered. (Animal rights activists have, sadly, succeeded thus far in preventing any experimental verification).

In the past 24 hours, however, research into the matter by a new entrant in the field has led to an extraordinary breakthrough, proving indisputably once and for all that the CBTD is doomed to failure. Careful observation of many cats has led to confirmation of the radical notion that cats like the taste of butter. Therefore, when strapped to a piece of buttered toast, the cat (possessing as it does considerable flexibility and a keen sense of smell) would inevitably lick the butter off the toast. Thus, the CBTD can only spin a few dozen times in mid-air before the toast, deprived of butter, becomes free to land either way up.

Thermodynamics has foiled us again! But it will be defeated eventually. After all, it was widely believed that nothing could travel faster than light, until that was firmly disproved - to the disappointment of scientists and normal human beings alike - by the discovery of PHSVT (Paris Hilton Sex Video Theory).


 
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