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Below are the 18 most recent journal entries recorded in 99words' LiveJournal:

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006
10:09 am
REALITY

Vanity Fair is running an essay contest. They request 1500 words on the nature of reality in contemporary America. I can do it in ninety-nine.

What is reality? I know the answer.

Like the ad says, reach out and touch someone, hopefully not a stranger on the subway, but someone you know and could grow to trust. Do you feel their warmth, and the way the skin of their arm compresses slightly under your fingers? This is real: what we can touch and smell for ourselves. Everything else is suspect.

So feel; smell. Only then will you be certain
Sunday, August 13th, 2006
1:43 pm
DONUT

Nobody needs a donut. Nutritionally empty, it’s about as healthy as getting hit in the head with a stick. It is sweet fluff wrapped around nothing. A donut is a ring made of sugar not brass, grasped by those who want a quick reward. While it almost never fails to satisfy, the satisfaction is fleeting.

Don’t mistake me – I am not a member of the Down With Donuts party. Far from it. But we choose best when we choose wisely, knowing a thing for what it is.

So I choose knowledge, and pastry in moderation. Or sometimes the reverse.
Monday, August 7th, 2006
10:39 am
DRAW

Do you have a draw? No, but I have a mailing list.

There is a devil's bargain at the bottom end of the music business. Artists book jobs, hoping the venue's customers will become their new fans. Venue owners book artists, hoping the artist's loyal supporters – their "draw" – will add to their coffers. Sometimes both parties are disappointed. When that happens, I serenade the barista while we both wish we were elsewhere.

Still I persevere, secure in the belief that good results will eventually follow good actions. I don't always win, but am willing to settle for a draw.
10:36 am
EXPECTATIONS

I bought a motor scooter. My midlife crisis says that high gas prices were the reason, but it lies.

I also own a pickup truck. It has a huge engine and power everything, taking me anywhere I want in speed, style and comfort. Yet for me, la dolce vita is doing 30 in a 35, crowded to the shoulder as trucks like mine pass impatiently. Less speed, more cold. The little scooter that could works its way slowly up the hills.

When I ride, the wind blows the cobwebs off my thinking. I have time to re-examine my expectations.
Monday, May 15th, 2006
5:04 pm
ENTERPRISE

On the original Star Trek series, there was always a nameless extra who beamed down with the landing party and got killed before the first commercial. "He's dead, Jim." At work, my goal is not to be that guy.

For software developers, "Enterprise" has a different meaning. Enterprise standards increase reliability and reduce risk, building quality into your company's process. Like exercising or eating your vegetables, they are equal parts common sense, training, and discipline. Persistence is rewarded, but not instantly.

My five-year mission: to boldly go where some have gone before – and to take my company with me.
Wednesday, April 26th, 2006
11:42 am
ANNUAL

Every spring I plant flowers from seed. I never tire of watching the warm moist earth, waiting for the first sprouts. Then my little friends make me happy with their color and beauty all summer long.

I wasn't born with a green thumb; it took me years to overcome my ignorance. Now I sow with confidence, knowing almost to the day when the plants will emerge. I follow them through their life cycle, harvest their seeds for next year, and dispose of the dried husks once the flower-souls have flown south.

Gardening has taught me to appreciate everyday miracles.
Friday, February 24th, 2006
10:04 am
OTHERS

If it's true that you can't change other people, you can only change yourself, then I know what to do. I should change myself – into someone who can change others.

Too bad it's not that simple.

How do you get what you want from your life if so much of it is determined by people and things over which you have no control? At the end of this sentence, I'll have nineteen words left to give you the answer.

I don't know. I just don't know. Ten more.

Maybe the answer's in the other essays; can you find it?
Friday, February 17th, 2006
9:40 am
ELEVEN


Nine and eleven dance together. One divided by nine is .111111, repeating forever. One divided by 11 is .090909, also endless. They are yin and yang. Combined, they zip up, never fully resolving even as they are uniting. They are infinitely almost complete, just like us people.

The difference between them is not two, but one. Looking at .111111, you hear it chanting "One too many, one too many," while .090909 whispers "Just one more, just one more." They both yearn to be ten.

While many find themselves at sixes and sevens, I find myself at nines and elevens.
Wednesday, February 15th, 2006
2:54 pm
FAILURE

I am afraid of failure. And I have failed before. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop doing things I might fail at.

I used to be pretty fearless. While prudent with my money and my physical safety, I was always ready to try something new if all I was risking was my time and my pride.

Last year I took a chance, and failed big and publicly. It was embarrassing. Now I am someone I don't recognize, someone who stands on the sidelines and watches instead of jumping into the fray.

Time to stop licking my wounds.
Wednesday, February 1st, 2006
10:09 am
PALIMPSEST

A palimpsest is a document that has been erased and has had a new message written on it. Close examination may reveal some of the original text. The practice harks back to the days when paper and parchment were precious. If the writer regretted or no longer needed the first text, the surface was scraped and used again.

The message changes but the messenger stays the same. We wrap ourselves in new ideas, though the old ones may show through.

It's never to soon to mess up your life; but it's never too late to make yourself a palimpsest.
Tuesday, January 31st, 2006
11:26 am
COPYRIGHT

I love music, movies, and books. I also love technology. I want to use technology to deliver the media I love anywhere, anywhen, with anyone.

This is fair use: I bought it, let me use it. I will tell all my friends about my favorite music. I might play it for them or even give them a digital version of a song. This is evangelism, not theft. This is advertising you cannot buy.

Restrictive copyright is like a vegetarian knife. You bought the knife, but if you cut meat with it, we'll sue you. Excuse me? Let's think again.
Friday, January 6th, 2006
12:37 pm
AMAZING

I am impressed by individuals who do amazing things: A waitress carrying four full plates on her arm; a virtuoso musician who plays with speed and grace; or athletes like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods whose consistent excellence marks them as someone special.

As a writer and a performer, I am always hoping for a little magic in my pocket. I want to create a spark that passes from me to someone in my audience. Those sparks are devious creatures. Often the people who make them can't see them until they are reflected.

I'm playing tonight. Wish me luck.
12:18 pm
HAMSTER

Panda was a grey-and-white teddy bear hamster with dark eyes and twitching whiskers. I never expected to love a rodent, but he was a special case.

What Panda wanted most was out. He would spend hours trying to climb up and force the lid of his cage. His out-of-prison visits with us only intensified his desire.

Panda finally got his wish. We found him on the floor next to the dogs' beds. We'll never know what killed him: the five-foot fall from his cage, or the urgent instincts of our other pets.

Beware of getting what you always wanted.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2005
3:46 pm
HEAVEN

What happens when you die? What remains when your body is discarded?

I am a mystic; I believe there are unseen forces and connections which enrich and confuse our lives. But I no longer think there is something immortal in me. I am a complex set of biological and chemical processes which create a personality and sense of self. When my system goes out of balance and that years-long biochemical reaction stops, I will stop too.

But believing that death is a final ending reminds me that this is my life. So I live to make this life enough.
Thursday, December 22nd, 2005
3:56 pm
ARC

Everything has an arc. Perhaps I should end my essay here.

A thrown ball rises, hangs suspended in midair for a moment (Oh, that delicious feeling of floating), and then falls to earth. Throw high and hard, and the arc will be long and gentle. Or hurl the ball to the ground for something shorter and steeper.

What if you are the ball? Or your dreams, or your love? Whether the arc is measured in minutes or years, everything will rise, hang, and fall. A ball on the ground is nothing to cry about. Pick it up and throw.
12:25 pm
EVOLVING

How are you evolving? Time passes and everything changes, including you. Have you noticed?

When we apply it to our own lives, evolution is a humanist pursuit. It implies that we are advancing, moving up and moving on as years go by. The song says "It's getting better all the time." But is it?

From now until the day you die, you will finish the process of becoming yourself. Will the completed work be the result of planning, or of chance? If we are evolving, we owe it to ourselves and others to encourage those traits worth passing on.
12:17 pm
AFTER


We know what happened after the ball; but what happened after "happily ever after?" Cinderella and the Prince were from different worlds. Her idea of a good day was sitting in the ashes of the fire to stay warm. How did that prepare her to be Charming's companion?

A lifetime of stories has shaped our expectations. We want our personal narrative to contain heroes, villains, conflict, and resolution. But the Happy Ending doesn't always come, or comes at an inconvenient time. Even when it arrives on cue, it is likely to be the Happy Middle. There is always "after."
12:15 pm
INTRODUCTION

Welcome to my experiment. On the darkest night of the year, I had an idea: a book of ninety-nine essays, each ninety-nine words long. The title of each essay would be a single word, and the title of the book would be "99 Words."

If you are reading this, then the idea was one worth pursuing. I must have convinced myself and a few others that there was gold to be mined from such a small pan. But the concept won't work without an explanation, and the explanation must not break the rule. So my first word is "Introduction."
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