How many times have you woken up
and prayed for the rain?

How many times have you seen the papers
apportion the blame?

Who gets to say who gets the work,
who gets to play?

I was always told at school,
everybody should get the same.

How many times have you been told
if you don’t ask you don’t get?

How many liars have taken your money,
your mother said you shouldn’t bet?

Who has the fun? Is it always the man with the gun?

Someone must have told him,
if you work too hard you can sweat.

There’s always the sun.

There’s always the sun.

Always, always, always the sun.

How many times have the weathermen
told you stories that made you laugh?

Y’know it’s not unlike the politicians and the leaders
when they do things by half.

Who gets the job of pushing the knob?

That sort of responsibility you draw straws for,
if you’re mad enough.

There’s always the sun.

There’s always the sun.

Always, always, always the sun.

The Stranglers, “Always the Sun”, Dreamtime

Happy Birthday

About three years ago, as it became clear that my job was in its final months, I started thinking about possible exit strategies and new careers. Selling my multimedia development and programming business wasn’t a particularly viable option, if it had been worth anything, I wouldn’t have taken a job in the first place.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I wrote the first piece I was paid for at 16, and I ran my own book review magazine for a couple of years after I left the bookselling business, but it wasn’t until I did a technical piece for Step-by-Step Graphics that I actually got a check again. Then, for about six years, until 2002, I was writing books, articles, and online pieces on Flash and Director programming like nobody’s business. But I wasn’t doing it full-time and I certainly wasn’t making a living at it, two things that sort of fed into each other. Plus, I was writing computer tutorials, a market that went through constant book-and-bust cycles (one of which was the great tech bubble shake-out of 2000-2001). What could be worse?

Well, in 2005, I figured out what could be a worse market. Not intentionally, no, but just by my own stupid luck. I thought one option for the future might be to make a clean break with my career such as it was, and try to write a book on politics. In-between looking for work and worring about the future, I researched a book on Democratic Party foreign policy and its path in the aftermath of the 1972 defeat of Sen. George McGovern by President Richard Nixon, the man who was forced to resign from the White House less than two years after winning an Electoral College landslide. I wrote a couple of sample chapters, shopped it around to some publishers and agents, and ran into a wave of disinterest you can probably imagine, despite the timeliness of the premise, with the 35th anniversary of McGovern’s defeat coming up (at the time), the then-recent turnover of Congress to the Democrats, and the incredible low approval ratings of President George W. Bush. But no bites. Much time, energy, and money down the drain.

Basically, the impetus behind the book was that I’m sick of hearing things like “Only Nixon could go to China.” The reason Nixon was the one who could go to China was Nixon. If anyone else had gone to China, Nixon would have been leading the tar-and-feather brigade, jowls a-wobbling, howling that they’d “gone soft on Communism.” Nixon and the people like him were — on this side of the pacific at least — the entire reason countries like China couldn’t be approached a decade earlier when, say, McGovern suggested it, even before the Chinese Cultural Revolution. It may not have worked, Mao and the people around him certainly could have ignored any opening, but if it worked in ’72 it might have worked in ’66. McGovern’s first speech on the floor of the Senate was about opening relations with Cuba — less than two years after the Missile Crisis. What have the intervening forty-five years of embargo done for us or for the people of Cuba? But nobody was interested in that. At least I couldn’t find anyone.

The one positive thing that did come out of that sojourn for me, though, was the opportunity to meet McGovern, even for a little bit, at the conference held every year in South Dakota, on the first Tuesday of November in 2007.

Darrel Plant & George McGovern, 2007

Today’s George McGovern’s 87th birthday. Happy birthday, Senator.


I’ve been out of the fantasy and science fiction — and quite frankly, the entire book — industry for quite a while now, so I’d missed the death last month of fantasy author and fellow Reed alum David Eddings. A story in today’s Oregonian notes that he left $18 million — about two-thirds of his estate — to the college, endowing an English professorship, an English department scholarship, and maintenance of his archives at the college, as well as “supporting students and faculty studying languages and literature.” It’s a goal that I hope to emulate one day. Of course, first I have to get something written that will make me a few million dollars. Mine would be the Darrel Plant Anti-Poetry Endowment.

I remember that Eddings got his start in fantasy in the early 1980s while I was still working in a genre bookstore. Looking back at his biography and chronology gives me some hope; Pawn of Prophecy and Queen of Sorcery, the initial two books in his Belgariad series were published in 1982, when he was about 50 years old. That still gives me a couple of years yet to get off my ass.

Looking Out for Your Safety

[UPDATE 13 JULY] According to PGE’s pole guy, it’s not their pole. It belongs to Qwest. So they’re passing the letter along…

In response to this letter, I got a very nice call saying they’d have an inspector look at it next week and thanking me for the photos.

Dear PGE:

I’m writing to report an unsafe situation with a power pole on the west side of [redacted] Avenue, just south of the intersection at SE Belmont St.

The attached photo printouts show the location and results of a brief incident that took place yesterday afternoon (7 July) as I was returning to my car after lunch. The pole is supported by guy wires that extend north into the grass border between the sidewalk and the parking strip. The pole has a street number, an ID and bar code of [redacted], and several medallions attached to the pole.

Slightly Dangerous Power PoleLoose Wires

My car was in the first space of the parking strip, where the white truck appears in the first image. I was walking to my car, talking to my lunch partner, when I felt my leg brush against something. It was barely noticeable, but it was the loose ends of a guy wire attached to the pole.

There are two three-strand metal wires on the farthest offset guy for the pole. Both are loose, end well above ground level, and one of them, at least, is pretty sharp. I didn’t really feel like testing the other one. As I said, it was barely noticeable when I brushed against it, but by the time I’d walked a few more feet to the door of my car, blood was running freely down my calf from a gash four inches long.

Where You Can Gash YourselfBloody Leg

The last picture is actually the earliest of the images, taken after I’d driven the few blocks back to my home, and after I’d wiped off the first wash of blood when I got in my car.

Now I know it’s not electricity, and my gash, though bloody and long, was pretty shallow, but if I’d brushed up against the same wire with more force, or if my skin at the age of nearly fifty wasn’t so thick — say, for instance that I’d been one of the children from the Montessori school across the street — something sharp enough to make a slice like that could do some serious tissue damage.

So I’d like to make sure you and the city know of this hazard. More importantly, I’d like you to make sure that some sort of protector is placed on those wires so that they are no longer a hazard. If it’s not technically your responsibility for some reason, I’m sure you know better than I who is responsible for its maintenance.


Darrel Plant

Naturally, it was the same leg on which I’ve busted the knee and ankle.

To take your mind off the gore, cats!

Cats on the back patio.

Sales Taxes Again

Every now and then I remember that one of the reasons I started this blog was that I hated writing letters to the editors of various publications and having them disappear into the ether. Letter to the Oregonian:

In his op-ed about Oregon’s tax system, Wally Van Valkenburg makes a stunningly grand mistake when he claims that a sales tax is needed because the state “generates revenue from only two of those three sources” (the other sources being property and income taxes).

Enacting a sales tax doesn’t cause money to appear out of thin air. Every sales tax proposal in recent history has been accompanied by reductions in property and income taxes, a move that shifts the burden of the state’s revenue further onto the shoulders of the poor and middle class. And despite the airy speculations of sales tax proponents, taxes on tourism won’t create a huge windfall. The bulk of any state’s sales taxes are paid by its citizens. Even a large portion of any tourism-related sales tax would be paid by Oregonians; many of the tourists in Oregon are from a different part of the state. That’s not even taking into account the potential effect on decreases in income tax revenue from tourism-related industries whose sales would decrease when dollars spent on their goods and services go directly to pay sales taxes.

There’s also serious doubt about another standard claim of sales tax advocates. According to theory, the sales tax is less volatile than the income tax. But studies of actual revenue figures cast serious doubt on that claim, showing that they’re both relatively volatile.

It’s time for sales tax proponents to stop talking in generalities and put forth some real numbers to make their arguments. Anyone who tells you there’s an untapped “third source” of revenue is as reliable as someone who claims money grows on trees.

No Big Deal

Speaking about an eight-year-old CIA program that was unknown to Congress, a “former top Bush administration official” told The Washington Post:

The official said he was certain that, if the nature of the program could be revealed, it would be seen as “no big deal.”

Which is, of course, why the program was secret.

The Plan

@RasmusBoserup asked for suggestions on how to publish an indie game. This was my reply:

Wish I’d thought of that six months back.

UPDATE: I haven’t thought about this for a decade. As part of my blog updating plan, I’ve been embedding Tweets in the pages, but I just found out that Rasmus blocked me, presumably for this.

It’s Not What You Know

I’m the kid that no one knows

I live a life I never chose

With these thoughts in my mind

On my own, my own

I’m face to face with the unknown

My scary movie will be shown

I got one evil mind

Of my own, of my own

We take from one another

And never stop to wonder

How it feels from the other side

When nothing lasts forever

When stupid turns to clever

Why are you surprised?

Little know it all (little know it all)

Ten bucks in my hand

Little know it all (little know it all)

Don’t cry, I understand


I’m a target of the smart

They got ambition, I got heart

I’m analyzed and tagged

Before I start

So tell me, who can I respect?

I feel the leash around my neck

As I find out there’s shame

In the game (in the game)

We take from one another

And never stop to wonder

How it feels from the other side

When nothing lasts forever

When stupid turns to clever

Why are you surprised?

And I feel like I’m caught outside the box

And I feel like I’m sleeping when I’m not

Look it’s for a real thing, it’s for a real thing

You little know it all (little know it all)

Ten bucks in my hand

Little know it all (little know it all)

Don’t cry, I understand

You never know at all

Iggy Pop & Sum 41, “Little Know It All,” Skull Ring