Falling in Love With People You Never Met
In some ways, this is an addendum to my previous post. I hadn't quite finished thinking.

M once said that Facebook is where you learn to hate the people who are supposed to be your friends, but Twitter is the place where you can fall in love with people you've never met. I think that's what used to be so charming about Livejournal, back in the day. I fell in love with people I'd never met all the time. It still happens on social media--every once in a while someone's online presence is so charming that I cannot look away.

I've met A in person. We were at the same conference together in Spain last Spring. She's blonde and Dutch and she makes art about state surveillance. I have been eyeing the work of her feminist art collective for some time. We were plotting to swan about Berlin in ballgowns, because 2016 should include more ballgown-wearing and one of her friends (I assume it is a friend, possibly just a Twitter follower...I guess this all about how these distinctions are blurry, isn't it?) chimed in with a story about how one of her friends at MIT went to every final wearing a ballgown. I have great love for anyone whose ballgown game rolls that deep. Before I knew it, I'd spent most of the afternoon talking to an aerialist engineering professor in Minnesota with funny-colored hair and strong opinions about glamourous eveningwear.

Thank you, Internet. You have BenrieBros and trolls and men who send me unsolicited photos of their dicks, but you also have so many wonderful strangers. I could kiss you with tongue.

Your Catfish Friend
If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It’s beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,"
I’d love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”

--Richard Brautigan

Never start with poetry. Who even reads poetry anymore?

I have been thinking about friendship, partly because I read this fantastic piece in The Awl about the friendship between two female surrealist painters. It is a post that contains everything I hold dear: they have adventures, one of them "assembles cats," they have elaborate in-jokes, they insert each other (ancient, with a beard!) into stories. There is an escape via submarine. One of them goes through an extraordinary number of husbands. One day I would like for someone to write about my tiny and intense friendships like this.

Stop me if you are about to fall over from the shock of it, but I am not one of those people with a lot of friends. I have a wide range of acquaintances, the people that I am polite to at parties, and a tiny group of people that I white-knuckle clutch to my bosom because they are mine. And maybe I never stopped being a brain in a jar because my friendships are made of words--chat logs and what are you reading and did you see this and I wrote this thing the other day. Sometimes we make art and sometimes and I stand still and S paints me and sometimes we publish security research and sometimes we put each other in stories. Sometimes we make worlds so small that there is no room for anyone else in them. J and I have so much shared experience that we don't even need to talk anymore. We can sit companionably next to each other and grunt. But I also have strange and complicated friendships with long silences. There are friends I almost cannot see in person because our expectations are so high that we simply end up fighting. I have friends I don't even need to see because their simulacrum exists inside my head and I can't stop seeing things that would bring them joy, or hearing their voices in my head.

I've been thinking about friendship because I read this piece my painter wrote "in praise of prickly thistles" about loving difficult people. I am probably not the easiest friend to have. I'm not an alcoholic or an addict or a thief, but I have a little in common with the person that S used to be. I am not nice. I am no one's source of comforting praise. I am chilly and hard to read. I have a temper. I don't believe that I will ever stop thinking mean things, but I hope that one day I will catch them before they come out of my mouth. I don't think that we have to be perfect. I don't need my friends to be perfect--I love my strange and flawed imperfect people--but I do think that we should try, both of us, to be better than we are. 

I Forgot to Tell You About Several Things...
I suppose there is some advantage to having a space where I've been keep my writing for so long. I went back and looked at my entry for the first day of 2015 I saw that I started this year with a profound sense of ambivalence. I gained and lost so much in 2014. And maybe I had hoped that I was done losing things. Certainly, I couldn't have guessed that at the end of 2015, I'd still feel like I was finding all the little bits of myself, shakily gluing them back together, and hoping that they would hold.

I traveled for work: to Berlin (three times) and Brisbane and Stockholm and Austin, DC, Valencia, Trinidad, and Sao Paolo and Kansas City. I traveled with J for fun: to Hawaii and Iceland and Palm Springs and Chicago. There are certainly trips that I am missing--this is just off the top of my head--but I know that I traveled more than 110,000 miles this year. I saw kangaroos and koalas and once I sat on a beach and I could almost see Venezuela. Traveling for work takes some of the joy out of jet-setting, but I traveled smarter than I did in 2014 and it didn't wear my out quite so much. I learned not to stack my trips, one right after the other. I learned to say no to things. It is no longer remarkable for me if I'm in a documentary or I give a talk in front of a thousand people or I'm on the news. I've learned not to take a trip because I think it will raise my profile or all my work friends are going and I'm worried that they might have fun without me. There is always more work. There is always another party. I don't need to be more famous.

I really and truly had the last of my eye surgeries. My vision is as good as it will ever be.

I took my sabbatical and did not work for three months, sort of. I did a million little things around the house that I hadn't had the mental capacity to think about since we moved into Bunker 3. I framed things and repainted that wall in the living room which had somehow, unfortunately, ended up peach. I went on little vacations with J. I stayed home and cooked meals with J and we enjoyed one another's company in comfortable domestic bliss. We hosted parties and they did not cause me tremendous anxiety, except for that time that someone pulled the towel bar out of the bathroom wall, leaving a hole the size of my fist. 2015 was a good year to be married.

I spent my sabbatical at the Very Serious Circus School. I got my circus self back. I had hoped that I would perform again in 2015, but instead I took it slow and decided to focus on improving my form. I am nearly as strong as I've ever been and a little more flexible. My shoulders are enormous. A, fitting me for a new corset the other day, bemoaned her own aerialist shoulders, saying "I will never look delicate again." I'm all shoulders and biceps and alarmingly-defined forearms. In 2016, I will record my rehearsals and watch them. Even if I will never look delicate again, I will have straight legs and pointed toes.

I spoke at Odd Salon about something entirely unrelated to my work: the Affair of the Necklace, a talk which I wrote while sitting in the lobby of my hotel in Iceland during a music festival. I would like to give more Odd Salon talks in 2016.

Oh 2015, you were better than 2014, but I am tired of working so hard. Every year I have to run a little bit faster in order to stay in place. And I have so far to go. Just let me get there, 2016. Let everything stay okay for long enough for me to get ahead.

And on the Seventh Day, She Rested
After seven years at the Mysterious Workplace, you are allowed to take a sabbatical, which is three months of paid time off. Not many people achieve this milestone and some of us are such workaholics that we put off our sabbaticals for years, or we don't manage to take them at all. One of the lawyers made no less than three separate attempts at taking his sabbatical, but was always brought back by an obsessive need to have input on our government spying lawsuits. He announced that he was quitting smoking almost as often as he announced he was going on sabbatical. I put my sabbatical off for a year, but I want you to understand that I could have done worse.

On my first week off of work, a hacker dumped half a terabyte of data he got by infiltrating one of the companies I'd been criticizing for selling surveillance malware to authoritarian regimes. The Torrent went up on a Sunday afternoon and within about an hour, I was looking through the company's financial statements and customer lists. J and I downloaded the entire archive and spent the night drinking wine, reconstructing their wiki, and dumping all of the data into a proper database. J built me a quick little search engine and I spent a few day posting the juicier tidbits before Wikileaks made the emails easily searchable online. I did a few interviews. I followed up on some malware. What can I say? Changes in velocity are hard.

It was three weeks before I started to really let go on work and slow down. I could feel the other parts of my brain coming back online, the parts that could kintsugi the broken creamer in the shape of a pig, that could frame art and sort through my clothes and arrange to have that one living room wall repainted so it's not peach.

The rest of the time I am at the Very Serious Circus School. You may remember the Very Serious Circus School from that time that I quit it in a rage because it had literally been run into the ground by clowns. I would come to class only to discover that the doors were locked and no one was allowed to come in and the teachers weren't getting paid. Since then, it has been taken over by some Google people who now make up the Board of Directors. Princes have gone up (and up and up) but the school has a real website where I can reserve my classes and I know it will be open when I get there and everyone is getting paid.

All of my conversations about my sabbatical go like this:

"So, what are you doing with three months off?"

"I've locked myself in the circus school."

"What else are you doing? Are you traveling anywhere?"

Through clenched teeth: "No, I am not going anywhere. I am training. If I take a week to go somewhere in the middle of my sabbatical, I will fall behind on training."

"But you have so much free time!"

"I don't think you understand what training means."

In a typical week, I take two stretching classes, two aerial classes, and two conditioning classes. Twice a week, I either run 5k and lift some weights or I do high intensity interval training. Once a week, I take a Core 40 class, which is an exercise regime invented by sadists who felt that pilates was not painful enough. One day I hope to be as badass as the girl in my advanced conditioning class who finishes 90 minutes of conditioning and follows it up with 90 minute lyra class. I am back at what I think of as "normal" strength for aerial circus arts (sets of 6-ish pull-ups, a solid skin-the-cat, easy straight-armed straddle-ups, and the ability to lift my toes to the bar an endless number of times). I am probably more flexible now than I have ever been as an adult (square oversplits on my left and right sides, toes nearly touching my head in cobra, a proper bridge with my chest against the wall, and more progress on my center split than I've ever been able to make). I took a class with a new teacher the other day and she exclaimed, "Oh good, you're bendy!"

My sabbatical worries include laundering my gym clothes, consuming enough protein, and not being that girl who cries during the five minutes of center splits. My thighs are bruised and my hands are ripped up and whenever I describe my training regimen (mean Chinese acrobatics teachers! Disapproving Tiny Russian Woman!) it probably sounds like misery, but I am happy at the Very Serious Circus School. There is nothing more awful than losing the ability to tell my body to do something and have it obey. And for days at a time, I don't think about state-sponsored malware.

This is how I rest.

First We Take Manhattan...
Berlin gentrifies faster than any other place I've been. Since Berlin in the center of much Internet Freedom activity, I come through there about twice a year. The first time I went, Prenzlaurberg was the hip place to be and Potsdammer Platz was the world's largest construction site (soon to be overtaken by...well...everything in China)--which made a big impression on a Cold War girl raised on angels walking through Berlin in Wings of Desire. East Berlin felt edgy and a little dirty and there were bars wedged into every available corner. People lived in giant warehouses. Alexanderplatz seemed like an enormous communist relic. Everything was an art collective. J and I walked down the street holding hands and said it felt like SOMA.

These days, only American ex-pats and upper middle-class couple with children in strollers live in Prenzlaurberg. N jokingly calls it "Pram-berg." The forces of cool have moved South to Freidrichshain, then further South into Kreuzberg (scene of last week's conference), and finally into Neukölln. I still have (American) friends who live in Prenzlaurberg, near Mitte, and German friends who live in Kreuzberg to be close to the clubs (which you don't go to until at least one in the morning), but people who need cheap rents move to Neukölln or else they tell me they've given up and moved to Hamburg.

Berlin is a little bit like Burning Man. It's always an amazing place the first time you see it, even if everyone you meet is always telling you it's totally over.

My talk did not go quite the way I wanted it to, since it was supposed to be a workshop, but the space I had did not lend itself to anything other than a lecture, so I lectured for approximately half of the allotted time and then I let everyone go. Perhaps this is why I didn't feel as if I really found my groove, even though I was at a conference where I knew a lot of people and we were all well-positioned to conspire and I had purchased a giant latex unicorn head for us to all try on in a series of increasingly-bizarre photographs.

I was properly social, but my favorite moments were the ones in which I ditched my conference and spent time with friends in Berlin who did not care about Internet Freedom much. My pilot friend had just flown into Berlin to attend some fetish ball and we had coffee at Bikini Berlin, which offers an excellent view of the baboon island inside of the Berlin Zoo. S, my painter, wandered around the city with me while I looked for a pair of replacement sunglasses and I bought her art supplies.

S had moved to Berlin with her husband only six weeks ago and was finding the whole process somewhat more difficult and expensive than either of them had anticipated. We soothed ourselves by browsing housewares and imagined the fantastic studio she would soon set up. S nests harder than anyone I have ever met. She is the only other person I have met to whom the thought of living in an apartment with white walls is anathema. You can see us both twitch in sympathy. S is anxious and sensitive and prone to depression. She has translucent skin and always looks as if she is glowing from the inside. She is also talented and pragmatic and utterly fearless. The first half of her third wedding was spent telling stories of the swath she cut through San Francisco's pretty young men after divorcing her second husband.

S stood up in front of all her friends on the night of her third wedding and said, "I have never had thin thighs or good credit, but I have always had a lot of courage." I do not love a lot of people. I love S, and when I feel as if I will never have thin thighs and I am only getting older and more invisible to the world, she is the creature that I try to pretend to be.

"Your hair is beeeeautiful!" she tells me. My hair is pale violet, very on-trend with my dark green dress. We talk about peacock feathers. She is very into the peacock feather color palette right now. "I will get my studio set up and I will paint you." S has painted a dozen and a half portraits of me, two of which are hanging in Bunker 3. I do not photograph well. I am not even remotely photogenic. No one asks to photograph me. I am not a pretty girl. I am "poised." I am "striking." I am "charismatic" and "interesting." But S is the one person to whom I am always beautiful, and the person in her paintings is recognizable as me even when photos are not. And I do her every kindness that I can, including organizing her bachelorette party (can you imagine me doing such I thing? I did!) because I am so profoundly grateful she exists.

If you are a woman in this world, no matter what you look like, every day that you look in the mirror and you don't hate what you see, you've stabbed the patriarchy in the face. I try to remember that even when no one is painting me, even when I am not in Berlin. Let's see if I remember it tomorrow.

you broke the ocean in
half to be here.
only to meet nothing that wants you.

by Nayyirah Waheed

We Stood Beneath an Amber Moon
Rio is a party town. It's beaches and tourists and don't-look-at-the-favelas. Rio is not a place where anyone works, presumably because all of the work in Brazil is done in the considerably less picturesque city of Sao Paolo. There are 18 million people in Sao Paolo, living in a sort of endless maze of high-rise buildings--downtown without end. Sao Paolo is warm and cheap and smoggy and grey. The traffic is a thing of legend. I was warned to set aside an hour and a half to get to the airport. Sao Paolo is Brazil's Los Angeles.

I am there to talk about threat modeling to a group of mostly young, most Portuguese-speaking proto-geeks, and the occasional privacy policy nerd from Germany in a cultural center with a rooftop garden that reminds me of the High Line in New York. My jokes about the profound inconvenience of privacy veganism go over well in Sao Paolo. It is almost impossible to get a meal here that does not include steak. We spend a lot of time talking about how to disarm the "If I've done nothing wrong, I have nothing to hide" argument. I talk a lot about the history of my Mysterious Workplace. We have animated conversations about how to do impact litigation in Brazil, which is alive and well in the land-protection and environmental movements, but hasn't quite caught on in tech law.

Brazil has a lot of government support for open source projects. They have historically opposed US efforts to shove the worst aspects of American copyright law down other countries' throats. The Dilma administration has also been vocal in its opposition to the NSA's mass surveillance programs, forming a sort of axis with Germany, where Angela Merkel is equally unamused. We are not in complete agreement on all issues. Brazil's constitution has some alarming limits on anonymous speech. Many of the activists speaking at the event are more concerned with getting people to stop using Facebook and Google products than they are with fighting unchecked government surveillance. I politely refrain from having these arguments with my hosts, though I do introduce them to the theory of harm reduction, which I have blatantly stolen from sex and drug education. You can tell people to stop using Facebook. You can even try to build non-centralized, open source alternatives to Facebook. But what the hell are you going to do when people just keep on using Facebook anyway--give up on them?

This being Carmen San Diego.

At night, we go to house parties. We go clubbing. The Paulistas take us to a samba club that doesn't even open until midnight. The DJ plays songs from the North and everyone sings along with their hands in the air. I suspect this is the local equivalent of everyone singing along to Journey. At 4 am the dance floor is still completely packed. I am covered in sweat. In Brazil, people make eye contact with strangers on the dance floor. They will reach out and touch you and smile and dance with you even if you don't speak the same language. The Germans dance like they're about to invade Poland.

On my day off, one of the conference organizers takes me around the city, mostly around Libertad, which is the Asian immigrant neighborhood--originally Japanese but now increasingly Chinese. We walk through Japanese tea gardens and a Sunday market and an indoor market linked by endless escalators, where the stalls sell bootleg anime, tee-shirts with the names of metal bands, and custom-made cosplay costumes. My host informs me that on the weekends, you can find cosplayers all up and down the escalators. We walk through the Italian immigrant neighborhood and see some of the very last old houses that hadn't been torn down and replaced with high rises. We walk down Paulista Ave., Sao Paulo's grandest boulevard, past stalls selling antiques and vendors selling fresh corn and protestors who want better pay for teachers (they've been protesting for a month, at least) and an "art intervention" that consists of women in multi-colored masks, carrying signs and marching in slow motion, like butoh dancers. He tells me about traveling around Brazil, hitching rides on army helicopters and about wanting to see Scotland and about being jailed and having his arm broken in a dozen places for protesting. You see these fingers? I cannot feel anything.

No one has ever thrown me in jail for protesting. Police have never mangled my body for standing up to the government. I'm glad he likes Information Society and sushi and has opinions about Game of Thrones and can sing all of the words to Bohemian Rhapsody, but my life suddenly feels very small. The trouble with Sao Paolo is that it feels like Los Angeles. It feels familiar and comfortable, if a bit vast. But it's only a trick, a pleasant trick for rich tourists. This isn't Los Angeles at all.

Memory, Inherent Vice, and Other Old Dress Problems
Vintage clothing does not travel well, which is why my wardrobe has slowly morphed into an easily-squishable pile of stretch cotton jersey dresses and 20-hole boots that can survive the treacherous cobblestones of Europe. When I am in ess eff, I take out my much-loved early sixties cotton shirtwaists and t-strap heels and wear the ones that don't clash too terribly with my violet hair. I wear what I have, but I don't buy new ones, so I don't spend a lot of time trawling ebay and etsy, vintage shops and second-hand stores--well, not like I used to.

I do not buy old dresses anymore, but stories about old dresses and costumes rediscovered still make me happy. For example, the wig worn by Alla Nazimova in the 1920's film version of Salome, inspired by the Aubrey Beardsley illustrations, was recently found in a trunk in Georgia. And the New Yorker has just written an article about 21 Callot Soeurs recently found in a Florentine villa. The Callot sisters made haute couture dresses in Paris from 1895 until the 1950's, but I mostly know them from offhand mentions in Proust, and photos of their beautiful late Edwardian, early 1920's gowns.

The Callot sisters beaded the holy hell out of everything. It turns out that beading is hard to preserve. "The sequins on two dresses are plagued by 'inherent vice'—a degradation of cellulose nitrate," according to the New Yorker. "These gowns appear to be melting." Dresses also suffer from "memory," the technical term for "wrinkles left in garments by repeated wear." Gowns never really get over the imprint of the body that wore them--their sweat, their shape, the places where the fabric stretched. Our brains never really get over the imprint of our habits--our terrible childhoods and misshapen relationships and too much time spent on planes and in empty hotel rooms. We too suffer from memory. And from inherent vice. And perhaps we look like we're melting.

That was a bit of a sudden turn, wasn't it? I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to break old habits, how to do things differently--maybe how to do this all without melting. This is not something I would tell a stranger at a cocktail party. Dear stranger, I have about a million acquaintances, but only a tiny circle of very close friends, and the person that I talk to when I need to tell someone the things I would never tell a stranger at a cocktail party is someone who does not live in ess eff, someone I do not see or talk to for months at a time. When we are in the same place at the same time, our expectations are so high that failing to meet them sends both us into a spiral of passive-aggressive distancing and silence. Oh, you haven't talked to me in six months? I didn't even notice, I was so busy poppin' bottles at the club because my life is so full and fabulous without you. I am possibly still angry about that time you moved out of the country without telling me, but I am not very good at finding or identifying my feelings while I'm having them, so I will never bring it up.

Someone once told me that every fight that E and I have is really about who loves each other more. Maybe it's true, at least in the sense that I am sensitive to the sighs and tiny silences of my tiny circle of close friends, but it's not an observation that does much to show us a way out of this. Every fight that E and I have is really about our mutual inability to say "You've hurt my feelings" and "I'm sorry." And so, like professional engineers, like goddamn adults, like people who are trying to be better than we are, we have agreed to the following:

If the other person has done something that upset you, let them know at soon as you realize this. Do not make accusations. Don't yell. Don't make assumptions about how they must feel about you in order to do such a cruel and terrible thing. Don't stop talking to them for months at a time because if they really loved you they would reach out and ask what they've done to upset you. Just tell them when you can.

When you've been told that you upset your friend, apologize. Say that you are sorry. Don't get into a Jesuitical argument over the interpretation of your words or actions or whether or not they have a right to be upset. You are sorry and you will do your best not to do it again. Full stop.

At this point, you might hug. Hugging is optional.

We suffer from memory and inherent vice, but I think that maybe it is possible that we don't have to melt and rot and fall apart. At the very least, I'm going to find out.

Spain is Beautiful
Being Carmen San Diego is complicated. It means that I can and I cannot talk about my job. Sometimes it means that I have to be so vague it's not worth talking about at all--I don't think that I ended up writing much about Moscow, for example. There's just this big blank space in my calendar and a lot of worrying about my opsec. I didn't travel much at the end of last year and the beginning of this one, while I tried to get a solid grip on my shaky mental state. I let work send me to Valencia for a week-long conference that was really three conferences stapled together because I have a fondness for Spain and I thought it would be relaxing. I'd eat paella (paella was invented in Valencia) and drink sangria and spend time with Iranians from Toronto. I would see my best friend and cry on her shoulder for a while. I'd sneak off to the City of Arts and Sciences, which is one of those Spanish modernist architectural boondoggles that makes you wonder if aliens have landed in the middle of the city. I'd sit on a beach. Valencia has a beach. And isn't the ocean soothing?

Valencia oranges taste like lemons. The streets are lined with picturesque orange trees with fruit that's been bred to taste vile in order to discourage anyone from picking them. You think this is going to be my overarching metaphor, don't you? You think I'm going to tell you that I thought I'd have a pleasant work vacation and instead I locked myself in my hotel room and hyperventilated for a week, right? It's not like that, my purely hypothetical remaining reader. Valencia was not a terrible time wrapped in a pretty package.

Conferences are treacherous. I suspect this is true in every field of work. I'm just sensitive to the currents of Internet Freedom Land. There is money floating around: mostly Google and American government money, with a sprinkling of Swedish and dwindling Dutch funds. The thing I've been doing for the last couple of years is suddenly popular and sexy, which I take to be a sign that I should stop doing it immediately and find another problem to solve. You are in a maze of twisty grudges all alike. You may be eaten by a funder. If anyone asks you to engage in espionage, tell them to go fuck themselves. If the Spanish government plants a tracking device on a conference-attendee's car, do not touch it.

I spent my time with my co-worker's MENA friends--Palestinians and Lebanese, mostly, who drink beer and smoke endless hand-rolled cigarettes. At night we'd find a metal bar in Barrio Carmen or a place by the beach with the Palestinian security trainer whose family put me and my friends up in their lovely house in Biet Sahour and the Lebanese girl wearing a wrist brace because she'd hurt herself during an MMA sparring match and the bubbly Tunisian girl finishing up her law degree in the US. I fought with my best friend. I wandered around the glittering City of Arts and Sciences at one in the morning. I danced to Joan Jett in a nightclub. I rolled out of bed to run and lift weights in the hotel's tiny gym. I walked down the street holding hands with a Romanian refugee while we traded stories about China. I made up with my best friend instead of falling into a frozen pattern where we'd simply not talk to each other for six months at a time. I was that person who talked about export controls at a party instead of smoking hash. I left the Iranians' party at 4 am to get on a plane back to San Francisco that took off at 6:30.

I came home exhausted and jet lagged and immediately came down with my first Death Cough in over a year. Valencia is beautiful. The oranges are not for eating. Given the opportunity, I would do it again.

Terry Pratchett is Dead
Terry Pratchett is dead. This doesn't come as a surprise, since he's been very public about his declining health, but I feel it is worth noting. I am a Serious Person who reads Serious Literature and does Serious Things. I am a brain in a jar. But if you look at my (fancy Restoration Hardware) bookshelf, you will see a great big row of Terry Pratchett novels--first the mauled paperbacks I read as a teenager and then the first-edition hardcovers I would buy as they came out.

There is an arc of Terry Pratchett novels and goes something like this: early books in which there are many lengthy footnotes and incomprehensible endings (seriously, something weird just happens and then the book is finished, like Equal Rites and Hogfather), middle books in which he starts to really grasp some themes and learns how a book hangs together (Good Omens, for instance), then a great golden age of books that I loved (Small Gods, Lords and Ladies, Night Watch, Maskerade, all of the Tiffany Aching books), and then a steady decline full of themes that simply didn't resonate for me (Monstrous Regiment, Unseen Academicals, and such). When I was recovering from the Great Eyeball Explosion of 2012, and I had to lie face-down without moving my head for a week, my mother brought me A Hat Full of Sky on a little mp3 player, and I listened to chapter after chapter while drifting in and out of consciousness. I wished that I was a brain in a jar, because brains in jars don't have eyes that spontaneously explode, requiring many surgeries.

I will not make capitalized jokes about what DEATH might say when he comes for Terry Pratchett. I won't drag out any quotes to demonstrate that he could be insightful about politics or human nature or the arc of history when he wasn't making elaborate puns. But I will say that he was funny without being sentimental or cloying. He didn't shy away from making worlds that were unpleasant or unfair. And I always had a soft spot for the Grimeses and Granny Weatherwaxes, all the characters that remind us (to steal from Sondheim) that nice is different than good.

I am sad to see a little piece of my childhood go. And I am sad that the stories have run out.
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