Monthly Archives: August 2012

Switchblade Pisces: Pt 16

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Chapter 16


Sleep comes like a ninja from behind, and I fall, vanquished like a random lackey from a rival clan, into the bed.

In my dreams I’m running through stacks of old computer towers, their fans whirring searing hot air onto my calves and shins. I am naked and I can’t figure out where I’m supposed to go. And then I find a surge protector with many cords plugged in. I start to follow the cord for that and I start running following it because somehow I know that getting to the source is important. I run and I run, servers and computer towers spitting hot air at me as they rise higher and higher around me. Finally I come to a circular clearing and I see Janis on the ground at its center. The cord runs into her chest, between her breasts into her heart.

For some reason, in the dream, I pull the cord.

Janis screams.

I wake up.


I can sense the urgency as soon as I open my eyes. Outside my room, I can hear quick footsteps going back and forth. I slept in my clothes so after checking myself for any embarrassments, I open the door to see what’s going on. No one is paying me much attention, just rushing toward some area of the building. I decide to follow the general flow and find myself in the back of a small crowd of people both in and out of lab coats gathered around the doorway of a large office. A man with an impeccable hair cut and a laid back charisma is talking in the lazy drawl of a southern gentleman to Dr. Ecklund through a large flat screen display.

“…Oh I’m well aware of the work you’re doing, Dr. Eklund. I know all about your little mad science projects, and while I’ve wanted to take you down for years, the government—” The man says the word “government” with the same palpable contempt with which he said Dr. Eklund’s name “—felt a wait-and-see approach was more ‘prudent.’”

“My research could be of great benefit to the American people and the military I assure you, Mr. Delacroix.” Eklund speaks in a somewhat flabbergasted tone, as if someone suggested borrowing his underwear without warning.

“We can take your research, Dr. Eklund, and we will. You see you have kidnapped a federal agent, and that is a big no no.”

“We’re saving his life!” Eklund protests.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re doing to him, doctor, it ain’t done with his permission, and it ain’t done with the the permission of the American government. Now I’ve got this friend, Sal. He’s in charge of the local SWAT division? Way I see it you got two choices. You can either come peacefully and let us ransack your little establishment and take what we find useful. Or you can get your switchblade pisces, I’ll get my guns from Sal, and we can have ourselves an altercation.”

“I have rights! My patients have rights!”

Delacroix gives Eklund a condescending look. “Dr. Eklund, that was before you committed a federal crime! You came into this yard looking for a cock fight. Don’t you stop struttin’ now.”

The display goes dark. Everyone is silent for a moment. One of men next to asks, “What are we going to do?”

Strangely enough, I think I have an answer.

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How Much Does Clutter Cost?

How much does clutter cost?

I’ve been asking myself this lately because over the last year or so I’ve been going to yard sales, and as a result, I have begun to accumulate stuff. There are some odds and ends, but most of this stuff consists of books. Turns out you can get books very cheaply at yard sales. Furthermore I frequent a used bookstore  that has a free bin. As in FREE.

For the most part, this is awesome, but while I’ve been able to pick up books on all sorts of topics ranging from Native American folk remedies to a book on cop slang, I’ve also lost a lot of space in my room as a result.

But how can I pass up a free book? I have a fairly good idea of the benefit of a book, but how can I determine the cost? What am I really paying for a free book?

I’m going to concentrate on books, because that’s my main problem, but I think I could generalize to other things pretty easy.  I figure, based on the various apartments I’ve had, that, discounting some initial costs, a square foot of living space is worth roughly 1 dollar per month. Bearing in mind that most rooms are around 10 feet tall, this means that 1 cubic foot of living space is worth about 10 cents per month. Most books are about a fifth of a foot thick, a half foot wide, and a foot tall, so 0.1 cubic feet. This means that by bringing in a free book, I’m paying about a penny each month that book is in my room.  That’s 12 cents a year, $1.20 a decade.

So worst case scenario, the book sits in my house for a couple decades and it costs me a few bucks, big deal. At the same time, surely I can’t just keep that up. Eventually I’ll run out of space and I’ll either have to buy more space or purge my book collection. All these books that I’m getting might not cost me much individually, but in aggregate, well there’s going to be an effect on my personal well-being after awhile. How can I factor this in as a cost?

Does this coffee table define me as a person?

This is tricky. I have to find a way to quantify my well-being as it relates to furniture.

Looking at extremes can sometimes be helpful. The worst case scenario would be for there to be literally no space. In this case I would have to find somewhere else to live, which would most likely double my current living expenses (I would still have to pay for where the books live). The other extreme would be for there to be no books. This wouldn’t be so bad really, because this would just mean reading books outside of my living space instead of storing them where I live. However, by not storing physical books, I would have to purchase more e-books, or purchase space to store my books . So in that extreme too, I would probably end up increasing my expenses. These extremes seem to indicate there is an ideal amount of books and that straying too far in either direction would end up costing money.

Well, at my current rate of about 1 physical book read every two months, the most amount of physical books I will be able to read in a 100 years would be 600. It’s also nice to have options when I’m ready to read a book. And really that’s the reason I keep getting books. I’d like to read them someday when I feel like it, and I want to be able to pick up the book when I feel the urge. The time it takes me to browse through a shelf of books is roughly a minute per shelf if I’m being thorough, and the most amount of time I’m going to want to spend deciding what book to read is maybe thirty minutes. So that equates to 600 books again at twenty books a shelf.  600 books is the ideal amount it seems.

600 books might work as an ideal number, but that doesn’t tell me what the maximum number is. If I have a more or less square room that is 625 square feet, then the perimeter of the room would be 100 feet or 500 book thicknesses. If the room is 10 feet tall, this would allow an absolute maximum of 5000 books.

I spent way too much time on this.

So let’s say that the cost of storing books is R*|x-600|/4400 where R is the amount of money per month spent to live in the space. For a typical low-rent apartment then…the expression would be 625*|x-600|/4400 or (.14)*|x-600| This translates to about 14 cents per book per month. That’s $1.70 for a year. If I expect to live for a hundred more years, then each book I get now and never read will cost me 170 dollars. Of course this still isn’t that much, really, and this graph probably has little to do with reality, but maybe it will help to know I’m not just picking up a free book, I’m committing to a data plan.