Filling in the spare forty-five minutes.

I occupy my lunch hours with lying. On Thursday I went into Shakespeare & Co.—it's quiet at lunch—and said “I need a book about otters for my son. He's gotten into otters.”

“I will look and see what we have,” says the bookstore employee. “Does he like any other playful aquatic mammals in case we lack otter books?”

“He is off of seals,” I said. “Would you say the walrus is playful?”

“The walrus has playful aspects,” said the man.

“I do not find walruses playful,” I said. “Don't they attack each other viciously in order to maintain their massive harems?”

“You're thinking of sea lions,” said the gray-haired man, pecking at his computer terminal.

I said, “I think people look at those sea lions with the big harems and think, good for you. They empathize with the strong sea lion. Not me. I think the other sea lions might have said, screw it, what's the point of littering the ice floe with a bunch of sea lion pups if I have to have some huge fight? I mean, look at Enron. They were successful sea lions and where are they now? That's what derivatives trading can do to you if you're not careful. One minute you're worth millions on paper and the next thing you know they bank has reposessed your floe.”

“We do not have any books on otters for children,” said the man. “We do have a book of seven thousand photographs of naked wrestling otters published by Taschen. It has a sequence of photos within it in which a female otter is tied to a bed and an otter in a leather mask breaks open oysters on her bare stomach. But that's not for children.”

“Oh,” I say. “I'm sorry. My son would love that book. He's thirty.”

Even though my hair is graying and I am in terrible shape I don't look older than thirty-five. The bookstore employee notes this. “Your son is thirty?” he asks.

“I grew up in Belgium,” I say. “You know. He's not really my son.”

“Oh,” says the man. “Well, do you want the book?”

“Not really,” I said. “But thank you.”

Somehow it makes the days go faster.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford. (1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and the historical fallacy. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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