Se7en


BY LIAM FLANAGAN

Brad Pitt how you make the ladies hearts flutter
You ended up in the gutter with a gun to your head
Dumped Jennifer Anniston and chose Angelia Jolie instead
Threads
Of evidence poured over by Morgan Freeman
Detective Somerset by name
A role bringing about critical approval and fame
Kevin Spacey playing the part of John Doe
Determined to turn his life into a horror show
Dante outlined the seven deadly sins
Each one found in Hell formed in separate
rings
So be good now and chose carefully the life you lead
The last place you want to end up is in Inferno Where all you will hear is cries and screams
pleading to be freed

BY LIAM FLANAGAN

Examining Imagination


A study on the properties of imagination

BY Y.K. Goon

Calling something a "failure of imagination" comes across harsh. It suggests a cognitive failure that couldn't foresee something that never was.

The lack of well-known profound classical texts on the quality of imagination suggest to me that it's not a quality that's prioritized or aspired to. But anything new and valuable started off as an imagination in someone's mind. So it's safe to say all progress rest of imagination.

Yet we're not taught how to imagine. Is it even teachable, I wonder?

Imagination seems to be a root quality that doesn't rely other qualities. You don't need strength to be imaginative; you don't need to be kind, maybe not even very curious. That makes cultivating imagination tricky.

I've been thinking about coming up with a framework that spurs imagination, like a kind of Hero's Journey for what never was. It didn't take long for me to doubt such an approach.

I'm rather convinced that deduction doesn't count as imagination. Suppose you were tasked to come with a fictional premise to an alien world and try to be imaginative about it. You do that by making the population single-gender and give everyone the ability of teleportation. The story proceed as logical progression of those premises. While the end result might come off as imaginative but what takes place in this fictional world is likely logical deduction on the premise.

A common advise towards better imagination is "read more". But all that does is exposing yourself to more existing ideas. By knowing more the chances of coming up with something to *you* would be higher. Does that necessarily mean you are capable of conjuring up something entirely new on your own? I'm not sure.

This relates to the burden of knowledge. Is knowledge an asset or a burden to imagination? In other words does knowing more refrains your imagination to the shackle of what's possible? If so then someone completely ignorant should make the most imaginative person. That doesn't fly.

At this point I'm reminded of how drugs make you creative. The factor lies in the *connections* between knowledge, not in the amount of knowledge possessed. The more rigid the connections between concepts, the less imaginative we get.

Imagination happens when we connect concepts that have never been connected together before.

Now I'm interested in the *process, not outcome*. I wonder how the first human (maybe HG Well?) who came up with the idea of time traveling machine landed on it. I wish it's not entirely accidental. If there's a process to it (even if he was entirely unaware of it) can it be repeated?

The phrase "limited by your imagination" positively connotate that possibility is vast. But imagination on an individual level isn't as vast as it sounds. Imagination is often the one thing that limits you.

Y.K. Goon

Y.K. is a software engineer; investor; a man blessed with curiosity
attempting to learn the art of being, in search of antifragility.

http://ykgoon.com/

An Ode To Arthur


BY LIAM FLANAGAN

The thirst the anticipation the pleasure
Howya
A pint of Guinness please
How are things? How is the reopening going?
Small talk as I watch the pour
A tilted glass a slow deliberate pulling of the tap
Careful now you don’t want to fill too quickly
Three quarters full now is the time to let it settle
Magically the brown cloud transforming into a dense black liquid with a creamy white top
A thing of beauty to behold
A couple of minutes pass
Feels like a lifetime as the pint takes shape
The top up the completion of an act of perfection
The careful walk back to the table
Make sure there is no spill now
Destination reached two more minutes of diligent
patience
The time has come
Clutch the hand around the glass
Lift with care and deliberation
Take a long slow satisfying taste of this black beauty
Thirst quenched destination reached time to settle
Slainte!

BY LIAM FLANAGAN

Camano Island


BY ERIN LAVERY

Photo by Steve Douglas on Unsplash

I wake before the sun.
The warmth of the covers leave my body and I walk into the cold and the dark.
My hands wrap around my mug and it fills with hot coffee.
If I had woken when I had planned, the steam would be rising from the cup,
But it’s not.
For a moment, it’s just me in the silence and the cold and the dark-
reminding myself that it’s almost morning.

Then, I hear my son’s feet touch the wooden floor three rooms down.
He loves the morning in a way I can’t understand.
For years, I have tried to wake early enough to get a head start on day
Before others are awake and need me.
He, in his innocence, has taken this as an invitation to spend quiet moments with me.
He lays in his bed, listening for my own feet to touch the ground so he can come and find me.

Some mornings, when I am bold enough to stay asleep longer than usual,
I wake to the sound of gentle knocking.
Then, a small voice breaks through the sound of his tiny fist against the door.
“Mom, you slept in on accident.”
It’s never an accident.

But in spite of my longing for a quiet
That belongs to only me,
perhaps these days are the best I’ll ever know.
These days are without any moments to wonder whether
I am making good use of this very short
Window of time I have on this planet.
Instead, it is just me and the cold and the dark

And the little man who loves me more
Than the warmth of his bed.

He sits at the table beside me now, pulling out the marshmallow bits from the cereal box.
I pretend not to notice, gazing to my right
Through the wall of windows overlooking Livingston Bay.
The sun is rising in the distance-
Running toward our sky to join us.

By Erin Lavery

Shine A Light Into The Darkness


BY LIAM FLANAGAN

Photo by Yun Xu on Unsplash

There is no need for you to be engulfed in the dark
You have a voice to express how you are feeling
Healing
Is in your hands an attainable objective
Be subjective
Take the time to find your way out of the quagmire
Tired
As you may be summon the energy to get some help
You owe it to yourself to look after your health
Brighter days lie ahead
You can go back to enjoying life
Once you find a resolution to the problem inside your head
If you are struggling and feeling like you can no longer cope
There is always someone there who can provide you with support
and hope

By Liam Flanagan

Love Cats


BY LIAM FLANAGAN

Photo by Dorothea OLDANI on Unsplash

Meow you say to let me know you are on your way
Movement sleek and elegant
Claws retracted reserved for going in for the kill
A silent assassin with teeth as sharp as blades
Kept in good order
For the hunt and the tearing of flesh
On the look out for a bird preparing to soar
He must come from a good family
A turned up nose to a chicken and ham slice
Preference is for the taste of mice
Purr to express contentment and satisfaction
A feline who bides his time before jumping in to action!

By Liam Flanagan

Your Health Is Your Wealth


BY LIAM FLANAGAN

Photo by Yayan Sopian on Unsplash

Now more than ever have we come
to appreciate the importance of our
physical and mental well being
While we all have been caught up
in the proverbial rat race striving for
a bigger house a newer car more expensive
clothes and a larger bank balance
We have come to a shuddering halt
No matter how rich or poor the situation
remains the same
Nobody is immune
Maybe once this is all over the value we put
on finances will decrease
We will remind ourselves money is a man
made invention
Now is the time to spend as much as we
need to help solve this global health and
resulting economic crisis
Once we come out the other side we can
print more
Society is coming together to contribute
to defeating this virus
This is an opportunity for the world to decide
in the future are we to consider ourselves as
consumers or as human beings

By Liam Flanagan

Eggs


BY LIAM FLANAGAN

Photo by Alin Luna on Unsplash

Begs an eggistential question
Which came first
The chicken or the egg?
Egghilarated to have received the first vaccine
Those pints of Guinness no longer simply just a pipe dream
Eggcited to imagine myself lying next to a pool
An umbrella overhanging in order to keep oneself cool
Sipping Long Island Ice Teas
No eggageration to say I can feel the sea breeze
An eggceptional year for everyone
There will be an eggtraordinary party when this is all done!!!

Divorce: Taking The Long View


BY ERIN LAVERY

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

A year into my second marriage, I waited in bed for my wife to return from her daily bender. I was 39
years old and miserable. My children were safely tucked in bed in their bedroom and, as I waited to see
whether she would be yelling at me again that night, I wondered whether I could handle another forty
years of this and, if so, what I would be like after that kind of a stretch. It wasn’t pretty.

For those of you who never married into anger, let me give you a window into what the life is like.
Imagine a world where you do all the stuff you are already doing now, but are constantly having to
process your tasks through a set of questions, such as “what is her preferred way of this happening?” Or,
“If I do this, will the kids be woken up with yelling later?” Or my personal least favorite, “Will this ruin
Christmas?” Since the day we had said “I do”, my wife has shifted from a person who sent me love
poems to a person who sent me hate mail. Everyone and everything was suspect. She was convinced my
friends were lovers. Offers to navigate while she drove were considered an affront on her navigational
skills. On and on it went, and every perceived slight led to another round of accusations and yelling. It
was a nightmare and I wanted out.

However, this would not be my first failed marriage and I wasn’t even forty years old. This would mean
my 4-year-old son would become a child of not one divorce, but two. I’m sure you’re following along
here. That figure does not look good. Reflecting on that failure kept me stuck in a miserable pattern. I
attended personal and couples counseling trying to save my marriage. Meanwhile, things kept getting
much worse. I didn’t want to acknowledge my mistakes and fail my children, but in that moment,
reflecting on who I would become if I didn’t leave, I was greeted with a new question. It wasn’t just about
what I would become, it was about what my children would become, too.

Looking into the future allowed me to look past my fears in the moment (of failing my marriage, of the
inevitable social judgment, of the public embarrassment, of the expense). Taking the long view reminded
me what really mattered and that trying to make an insane situation work would be an even greater
mistake. I didn’t have the courage to end it that night, but it wasn’t long after that I did.

When people are in crisis, it’s normal to go into a survival state. After the past year, a lot of us are stuck
in that right now. Unfortunately, this mind frame often gets in the way of us being able to think
reasonably and make sound judgments regarding how to respond. People become focused on the
immediate future and immediate needs. As a result, it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of figuring out how
to get through the day rather than sorting out how to build a better life. You are not likely to make your
best choices and often, this is when your choices matter most.

If you find yourself in an untenable position and can’t imagine how to get out, take a deep breath. Shift
your attention for a moment away from your fear and to what you want. Now ask yourself, what do you
need to get there? Write it down and make it happen. Take the long view and you could very well save
your life.

Now, almost three years after that difficult night, I can say most certainly admitting my mistakes didn’t
hurt as much as staying. My poor son is hard to feel bad for most days. He’s too busy making fart jokes
and showing off his new Tae Kwon Do moves.

Sure, when I filed for divorce, the social judgment came. I think we can all agree that was inevitable.
Some people wrote me off, but I’m still here and I’m happier than ever. So the jokes on them. Or maybe, the joke is on the woman that I almost was. Doesn’t really matter either way. The important thing is I can
laugh again and mean it.

Conversations With My 12-Year-Old Self


BY ALLISON CECILE

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

Dear 12 Year Old Me,

You don’t know it yet, but everything will turn out fine.

It’s an awkward phase for you right now but you’ll grow out of it. Those popular girls that you kind of hang around but aren’t truly in with … well, future you still won’t be friends with them but that’s ok because you’ll find friends that will accept you for who you are. No hard feelings.

I know you thought braces were cool because you could change the colors to match the holidays, but you’re going to grimace a bit when you see pictures of yourself. Especially when they’re red and green … that’s kind of a clashing color combination. It’s not going to match anything other than Christmas sweaters but those aren’t a thing yet.

You have a reputation for being smart, especially when it comes to math and science. Or rather, you’ve been told you have to be good at math and science, no matter what. But it’s English that you’re naturally blossoming in.

This is the year you decide you don’t want to become a doctor. When you tell your dad, he’s going to be disappointed. You won’t forget his reaction, even after he’s forgotten his own reaction. But you’ll settle on becoming something he’s ok with.

You’re going to get the award for the highest academic average in your class. Enjoy it while it lasts because this is the last year that school is going to be easy for you. You’ll continue to do fine academically because that’s what you do, but you’ll find out next year that you were just a big fish in a small pond.

You’re struggling with being Asian right now, but that too will change. It’s hard to be the only Chinese at school when you’re growing up and no one is valued for being different at this stage of life. You’ll learn to balance your “white side” and your “Asian side”, and you’ll also learn it’s ok for that balance to fluctuate at times.

You’re painstaking combing your English to remove all traces of an Asian accent that might have trickled through to you. You’ll change your pronunciation from AD-ult to a-DULT and from fi-NANCE to FI-nance to better fit in. When really, it’s not even a Chinese accent thing — it’s a British vs American pronunciation thing. Your parents grew up under the British and undoubtedly, the British accent is cooler than the American accent.

You hate sandwiches and you’re going to continue to hate sandwiches. But you’ll continue to bring sandwiches to school every day for lunch because that’s what the white kids are doing. The last time you brought a thermos of fried rice, you got curious looks that made you uncomfortable. And that time you brought sushi, you had to explain that it’s seaweed and survive all the “ew” comments. They’ll change and Asian food will become no different than Taco Tuesdays. Once you start working, you’ll never pack a sandwich for lunch ever again.

It’s ok that your parents hold you to stricter rules than the “white parents”. It’s not actually all for your own good, but you won’t be able to change it anyways till you move out and you won’t do that for another decade so hang in there. You’ll find time to catch up.

I know you can’t go to the mall like the other girls can because of said Asian parents and, consequentially, you don’t get to buy the matching bracelets or shirts or whatever was cool back then to fit in. To be honest, you wouldn’t fit in anyways even if you did match them. Also, malls are boring if you don’t have money and you do not have any money right now.

You live under a rock right now and you can blame your parents for that. They won’t let you watch “Friends” because there are too many sexual references and they won’t let you listen to popular music because the Spice Girls are too scandalous. Backstreet Boys … well, they were afraid you’d become a fangirl and they think crazy fans have no dignity. Honestly, it was probably just easier for them to issue a blanket ban than to sort through it all.

To be honest, you’re going to spend a fair bit of time trying to hide this gap in your pop knowledge, but you’re never going to catch up. And then you’re going to reach an age where you still live under a rock but you can’t blame your parents for it anymore. But it’s ok — who needs pop culture anyways?

Don’t pick the clarinet as your instrument in band class. Clarinets are not cool. Pick the tenor saxophone. I know your band teacher says you can switch to the tenor next year but you won’t have the next year with this band teacher, and you won’t actually learn to play the tenor sax for another 17 years.

You’re tinkering with jazz piano right now as a junior, wanna-be jazz band member, and you’re struggling. You aren’t going to get the jazz rhythm now and I don’t know if or when you ever will. Stick with classical. There’s no shame to being a classically trained pianist, although I know it gets lonely being a solo pianist all the time. But you’ll stumble across something for that in two years time.

Every week you go to your piano lessons. You’re currently working on the Pathetique Sonata. The boy who has lessons right before you is playing the Moonlight Sonata. You fall in love with the haunting melodies of this composition, but you don’t really remember the boy.

8 years from now, you’re going to bump into him at university, but neither of you are going to remember each other. It’ll take multiple chance encounters, a couple of musical sessions sizing up each other’s piano abilities, and a strong dose of luck before there’s a casual mention about growing up in a certain neighborhood down south. He’s the guy who played the Moonlight Sonata and you’re the girl who played the Pathetique Sonata. And it turns out he was just as interested in the Pathetique as you were in the Moonlight.

11 years from now you two are going to end up living in the same downtown high-rise building. You’re going to sneak into the building together before construction is finished for sneak-peeks into your units. He’ll send you updates about the building as construction is wrapping up. You’re going to text him anytime you’re out of ice for a party or need a neighbor to lend some sugar. But no, no romantic relationships here although it sounds like I’m writing a rom-com.

Back to 12-year-old you.

You’re going to compete in the Kiwanis Music Festival with Liebestraum by Liszt. You’re going to win first place and this composition will always have a special place in your heart because it’s going to be your last competition-level polished performance with Mrs. Malo. She was the perfect piano teacher for you and, for all that she lacked in technical ability, she made up with heart.

She’ll tell you that she’s never put as much heart and time and care into a student as she has with you. She’ll tell you that you’ve surpassed her technical abilities and that if you want to become a better pianist, you have to move on to another piano teacher. You won’t want to and your parents won’t force you, but this will be your last year with her.

Cherish your moments with her because, in the years to come, you won’t be able to find her again. Hang on to that Pathetique Sonata because you’re not done with it yet. Be sad for the farewell, but know that you’ll find yourself with another wonderful piano teacher who will take you much further without losing the heart that goes into your piano. You’re going to have fantastic piano opportunities in the upcoming years.

You love reading and you love libraries and you were so excited that your bus route included a transfer right next to the library. But then you got self-conscious about what the other kids would think. So you didn’t go into the library even though you stood waiting at the bus stop right outside the library five days a week.

You’ll still love reading and you’ll outgrow feeling any embarrassment about it. Those fantasy/sci-fi books you love are suddenly going to become really popular and you’ll roll your eyes at the bandwagoners. You’ll join far too many book clubs (some successful, some not successful), but you’ll continue to love reading.

If I have my timelines right, the Harry Potter trend is very seriously picking up right now and the movies are being released each November right around your birthday. Harry Potter is still cool. Neopets will be thought back on fondly, although you might want to remember that fake birthday you put down because you’re going to need it if you ever want to reset your password later … like a decade later. Animorphs … questionable on the cool-ness scale even back then, but you’ll bring up odd animal facts randomly and will continue to have a fondness for peregrine falcons.

I don’t know if you know this yet, but your parents are going to tell you that the family is moving to Texas at the end of the school year. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be very difficult. But it’s going to be for the better and you will cherish everything that Texas brings to your life.

With love, care, and empathy,

Your 29-year-old self

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