Greatest Common Factor

There's no good way to start this story. I'll start telling it from right now.

I'm eating Vitamin C tablets, sitting in a dark corner of an old public library. I have two pieces of paper in front of me. On one is an incorrect solution to the Monty Hall problem. On the other, I wrote out the correct solution.

The Monty Hall problem is as follows: you're on a game show and there are three closed doors. Behind one of them is a brand new car, behind the other two are goats. You choose a door. The game show host opens up one of the three doors (but not the one you opened) and reveals a goat. He asks if you would like to change your guess or if you would like to stay on the door you initially chose.

I am eating Vitamin C tablets because it is the only thing I have in my bag. If I had candy or something else that was sweet, I would eat that. But I don't. These are semi-sweet. They have one gram of sugar per tablet. They also have two grams of carbohydrates and five hundred milligrams of Vitamin C and fifty milligrams of sodium. There are sixty tablets in the bottle. The bottle suggests that I chew one tablet daily with a meal. Keep bottle tightly closed. Store in a cool, dry place, out of reach of children. I have eaten fourteen tablets in the last four minutes.

I was in the library working with Alice. I was working on a statistics. She was working on philosophy.

I don't know why she and I date. We have nothing in common. She stays awake at night wondering about the universe. She sometimes says things that annoy me. A few nights ago, we had this conversation:

"So you think there's life on other planets?"

"I do not know," I tell her.

"Well, think about it statistically." I hate it when she says things like that. I hate it when anyone incorrectly talks about statistics. It bothers me because they usually do not know what they are talking about. I have found that, statistically, people who talk about statistics (not in an academic setting) are more favored to not know statistics. "There are zillions of stars, and a lot of those stars are like our stars, right? I mean, there's gotta be planets around a lot of these stars. Just gotta be. And, on one of those planets, who knows, life may have happened. The statistics are just too high. I mean, galaxies full of billions of stars, probably meaning ten billions of planets. Gotta be some life, right?"

"There is no statistical number to qualify how many stars there are and how many planets, on average, orbit every star. There are no statistics. Only theory. Theory is not statistics, Ally."

"You're so boring. Do you dream about numbers?"

"No, I dream about the bottom of the ocean."

"What? Really?" I nod. "Why?"

"What do you know about the bottom of the ocean?"

"It's a mystery, like outer-space, but even closer, probably wrecks of ancient civilizations and secrets to our past."

"None of that is what you know about the bottom of the ocean," I tell her.

"Shut up and kiss me," she tells me as she rolls over, starts to unzip my pants and starts kissing my neck.

I met her when I was a freshmen and I was conducting a poll. I was standing on the sidewalk in front of the quad so I could talk to as many students as possible. I needed information from people about whether they would rather buy an iPod for more money or a knock-off MP3 player. It was for a business class about marketing and advertising. I found that people would rather pay more money for a product like an iPod, even though it has no extra functionality that an MP3 player like a Sansa has and even though the iPod costs three times as much (assuming the same size player). I thought this was a stupid conclusion, but it was one that I found to be true through the statistical data. People who want an MP3 player should buy the best MP3 player that has the most space and is the cheapest. The iPod is more money and usually has less space.

I was conducting my survey and Ally stopped to talk to me.

"Would you rather buy a more expensive four-gig iPod or a less-expensive four-gig generic MP3 player?"

"I wouldn't buy either," she said. "Why do you want to know?"

"I just need to know which you would buy."

"What is this, some sort of test?"

"I'm conducting a poll. For a marketing class."

"I think they're both stupid. People who walk around with their iPods in their ears never listen to people, never look at the world." The headphones are in their ears, not the iPod. I didn't correct her. "They're letting the world pass them by, letting the colors go unnoticed and the smells, yes, they even forget to smell when their head is bumping along to some trash on their white little head-glued-on iPod! Have you smelled today?"

"I never stop smelling."

"What do I smell like then?" I sniffed her.

"I don't know. Nothing." She sniffed me.

"You smell purple. Like lavender. Or Jules Verne."

I don't think I ever understood what she meant. I never asked, either, because it didn't make sense. She'd try to explain it with more of that language, and all it would do would be to compound vague metaphors on top of even more vague abstractions until I'd forget that she was trying to describe how I smelled by saying a color.

But, for some reason, I asked her to go out to dinner with me. I don't even know why. I think I was just spooked about needing to have a girl. An older person in the statistic building, a grad student, had told me "here, on this campus, you needa find a gal when you're a freshmen and then hold onto her, 'cause if you lose her, then you're gonna be single for the rest of your days here. Ain't no pickings when you're upper-class. All the girls got their boyfriends and these freshmen, they come in here with their daddies telling them not to trust any older boys, all we want is some ass, so they look to you other freshmen. Vicious cycle." So, I asked Ally out to dinner and she said yes. And I've been with her three years now.

Tonight, we were in the library studying late. I to my Statistics, she to her philosophy. At one point, she sighed heavily through her nose, then put her book down and stood up. She walked over to me, draped her hands on my shoulders, and then whispered into my ear: "I need a break. Want to be a little...Rated R?"

I had gotten used to her stupid remarks without telling her how stupid they were and just responded. "No. I am working."

"Come on. Here, in the library, it'll be exhilarating. The thrill of getting caught, the kinkiness of doing it on these books here, I'll have to keep quiet, I'm gonna try real hard, wouldn't you want to?" She started reaching down my shirt front down to my pants. I pushed her back. Then she got angry.

"Look, okay, I'm sick of this. What. The. Fuck. I throw myself at you and you don't care? What kind of man are you? What is wrong with you?" I looked back at her.

"Because I won't have sex with you in a library when I am working and you are bored with your work, I am not a man?"

"There you go, trying to be logical and deduce shit like it's A to B to C. Stop doing that."

"Think about what you say then."

"Fuck you." We both stared at each other. "Goddamnit, I never should've dated you back then. I coulda been dating Adam, you know that? He asked me out, but I said no, I was dating you, and now, look at him, I always see him getting out of his truck with his friends and they're all smiling, always out front throwing a frisbee or having a beer. He's so handsome sometimes...he has muscles, unlike you. And you're doing--what? Sitting here or reading a book? What kind of college kids are you?"

"I'm a student. They often forget that they are students."

"Being a student is not just about books!" Another pause. "Aren't you pissed about me talking about Adam like that in front of you?"

"You like his muscles. I get it."

"So be pissed! Be angry that your girl likes some other fucker! Be angry your girl wants to go suck his dick!"

"Do you think you would have been happier if you dated some other guy three years ago?"

"Who knows! Maybe! Maybe I would have!"

"You're right. You probably would have."


"On our first date, milkshakes at the diner, I told you I liked doing this. I studied hard and had an ambition to be doing statistics and math for the rest of my life. You liked that ambition. I told you what I was going to be and what I was. You should have chosen someone else if you would not have been happy with what I said."

"How can you expect me to think--of all the things--one day, back then, you knew who you were gonna be now? That's--" she stammered and balled her fists and continued to break sentences in the middle.

"It's called the Monty Hall conundrum."

"I don't want to hear about some stupid conundrum! I want to talk about us! Every night, I get naked and have to like fucking rape you for us to have sex! You look at everyone in the world the same as me! You have no like, glitter in your eye, no deep thoughts! You have no beauty in your soul when you think about me, in the way that, y'know, I feel about you. What the fuck, just tell me, tell me why you're even with me, you don't even like me, what is it?"

"Imagine there are three locked doors."

"Shut up! You and me, not doors!"

"Behind one of them is an answer. The answer you want. Why I'm with you."

"Shut up!"

"Behind the other two are lies."

"What's this for? Why?"

"I'll tell you why I am with you and why I continue to want to be with you."

"Are you serious?"

"You choose a door. One, two, or three."

She hesitated. "Two."

"Behind door one is a lie. Would you like to change the door you have selected? You should choose either two or three, but you may choose one. I don't suggest it."

"What does this have to do with anything?"

"What do you think the odds are, right now, of getting the truth?"

"Um, fifty-fifty, right? I have two doors, one lie, one truth, door two, door three."

"I'll tell you afterwards."

"Wait. You'll tell me the truth, the real truth, if I choose the right one?" I nodded. "I want to know you won't change your mind, on whatever this is. Write it down." So I pulled out two pieces of paper. On one of them I wrote a lie and on the reverse, a big two. On the other page I wrote the truth about her and me, and then a big three. Then I folded both of them up and put them both in my pocket.

"I won't write a lie for door one. You should not choose door one."

"Then--I choose, um...door three."

"So you are changing your answer from door two to three?"

"No, door two. I'm staying." I pulled out the papers from my pockets and opened door two and read aloud.

"I am with you because I just want sex and you were easy." Her eyes welled up. She bit her lip, closed her eyes, and then punched me. I fell on top of my books and I felt my lip was bleeding. She started to cry and then she started to buckle. Her shoulders bobbed like bubbles boiling in a pot.

"I knew it!" She grabbed her books, threw them in her bag, and stormed off as I tried wiping my blood off of the statistics work in front of me. Then, I pulled out the other piece of paper.

The way the Monty Hall conundrum works is that most people think that you are left with a fifty-fifty solution to choose the true answer. That is not true. Once you rule out one door as a lie--and you always tell the participant that one of the false doors is a false door--the contest should always change their door. It's statistically foolish to stay on the door one original chose, and the reason is because there are not any less options. By ruling out one door as a lie has not removed it from the probability of the entire series, which is still three doors with two lies. Think of it like this:

When you choose, I will tell you that one of the other two doors is a lie. This is not misleading. I am truthfully saying that the door that I say is a lie is actually a lie. Moving forward, let's plot out a diagram.

You are asked to choose a door.

You choose a door has a lie behind it.
A) You stick with the door.
You get a lie.
B) You change your door.
You get a car.

You choose a door has a lie behind it.
A) You stick with the door.
You get a lie.
B) You change your door.
You get a car.

You choose a door has the truth behind it.
A) You stick with the door.
You get a car.
B) You change your door.
You get a lie.

You have a two-thirds chance of getting the truth if you change. Ally did not see this. I played the odds of her not understanding this, and when she stayed on door two, I wrote door two as a lie.

I reached into my bag and got out my Vitamin C so that I would not get sick from my wound. I doubt that I would, but it is still a precaution.

On the sheet with the big three, I wrote on it: "Because the numbers are so cold and you're warm." I thought she would have liked that. But, perhaps now she'll go find Adam.

They have more things in common, anyways. I thought about it, and I only had four things in common with her. They have eleven.

Billy and Dotty Go To Court

William Wordsworth’s famous poem Daffodils was written after taking a walk through Gowbarrow Park with his sister, Dorothy. Dorothy wrote of the event in her journal later that day on April 15th, 1802; William’s poem was written in 1804 and originally published in 1807. To be painstakingly clear: William wrote the poem and Dorothy wrote the journal article. However, it is known that William read Dorothy’s journals often and it can be reasonably assumed by the space between the walk and the poem that upon reading her journal entry of that April day years later, he was then driven to write the poem Daffodils. So, who is the author of the poem Daffodils: Dorothy or William?

To settle this dispute, imagine that Dorothy went to a modern court and sued William (under modern laws and standards) for copyright infringement. Who would win? Does Daffodils constitute a copyright infringement? I will be quoting William Wordsworth’s writings—outside of Daffodils—in a way unrelated to his stance in this imaginary courtroom, and, to avoid confusion, I thusly will refer to the defendant William as “Billy”, plaintiff Dorothy as “Dotty”. I want to separate the writings of William from Billy so that I may quote William in opposition to Billy’s defense without confusion, so from here forward, do not think of Billy as William or Dotty as Dorothy; the court has only Billy and Dotty.

On the first day of trial, Dotty’s lawyer would start his opening speech by talking with a misty-eyed reverence on the noble conception of authorship. “Authorship,” he would say loudly, letting the echo ring with some type of conviction. “It is innate. Inborn. True authorship lives inside of the author. It is spontaneous, bursting forth without the aid of outside forces. William Wordsworth said, ‘How exquisitely the individual Mind to the external World is fitted—and how exquisitely too—the external World is fitted to the Mind; and [how amazing] the Creation (by no lower name can it be called) which with blended might accomplish.’ An author’s creation is near divinity, according to Wordsworth. As he says, ‘Creation’, referring to the biblical genesis, is the same for God as it is for an author: it is the birth of a world. Creation is an act of the mind consuming the outside world and producing a new being; an impregnation that morphs and breaks free from the author as a piece of their soul. This is what Dotty is: an author. She wrote her journal entry after seeing that plot of daffodils, and when she did, the world flowed into her. That night, out flowed her words into her journal. As an author, her words came from inside of her, and she created the beauty of that scene in a way that was wholly new to this world, unseen and unread before. She birthed that idea the moment her pen left the page. Edward Young, an English poet, believed that creativity ‘may be said to be of a vegetable nature; it rises spontaneously from the vital root of genius; it grows, it is not made. Imitations are often a sort of manufacture wrought up by those mechanics, art and labor, out of pre-existent materials not their own’ . Edward Young is a kindred spirit to my client, as he believes that an imitation is made out of pre-existent materials, like Billy’s poem being made from the materials in Dotty’s journal entry. He is not a true author in the way Dotty is. The poem Daffodils by Billy is an infringement to my client’s work. Billy is not an author, he is merely an imitator, and he is infringing upon Dotty’s copyright.”

Dotty’s lawyer would sit down confidently, cross his legs in arrogance, and then Billy’s lawyer would stand, straighten his tie, and begin his opening statement with a humble tone. “An author?” he would muse. “An author is a person who commits pen to paper. An author is somebody who writes. In a more broad sense, the Oxford English Dictionary says that an author is someone who ‘originates or gives existence to anything'. My client wrote something…he even gave existence to something: a poem. His poem is clearly his own and is not Dotty’s. To plainly say that an author may only use things that spring up inside of them or be influenced by nature completely denies all academia and human history. Authorship grows and uses what has come before. Inspiration for creation is not an infringement if said inspiration comes from another’s work. If anything, it is admiration.” There would be a silence in this imaginary court. His joke would not go over well; the judge would be a rather hard man.

“For Billy’s work to be an infringmenet,” Billy’s lawyer would continue, “there cannot be substantial similarity between the two works—“ at which point Billy’s lawyer would pause, then explain to the court, “’substantial similarity’ and other legal terms I will be getting to later in my case, your honor. But, Billy’s work is not substantially like Dotty’s. Stepping back a little, an author can be inspired by other author’s works. That is the human collective working together to inspire each other in an organic, evolving way. For example, Samuel Johnson created the first printed dictionary in the English language. Print was seen as a method of fixity—it still is—so in an abstract way, Johnson ‘defined’ the language as a caste of words. However, he created this concrete definition of what the English language is by using many prominent authors of his time. By using examples from as many respected, well-written people as he could, he compiled a list of words which were considered to be part of the language’s lexicon by its best minds. So, you see, the language we use is a communal device, created by a myriad of authors. The English language has many authors. Who is to say the word daffodil was not once invented? Does that make Dotty guilty of not creating her own word for that flower? I’ll forego the obvious Shakespeare reference, and instead give you the philosopher John Locke: ‘The best way to come to truth being to examine things as really they are, and not to conclude they are, as we fancy of ourselves, or have been taught by others to imagine.’ Billy wrote a poem about what the scene was to him, and he is allowed to because he was obviously there as well with Dotty. The fact Dotty’s writing jogged his mind is of no consequence. Further, I submit—“

“Hurry up your notion on authorship, please,” the judge would say with boredom.

“Sorry,” Billy’s attorney says, and continues. “I submit another quote from Cyril Knoblauch: ‘Books engender other books, as sentences engender other sentences, each responding to inadequacies in what has come before, each condemned to some inadequacy of its own.’ Knoblauch’s ‘inadequacy’ argument refers to the fallacies within some ‘factual’ texts and the continuing evolution of the sciences and other academic pursuits. The more that humanity learns, the more there is a need to publish newer editions of previously-published and possibly wrong information. In respect to creative works instead of academic works, new creative endeavors can be created by inspiration from older pieces, and so long as the new piece is not identical to its inspiration, then they both should ably co-exist. In fact, I say they can. The nature of a human author is that they absorb what has come before them and strive to be an author themselves, and it is impossible to be an author without having absorbed something written by someone else at some point.”

“Thank you for your opening statements,” the judge would say. Next, the judge would ask all present to return the next day to start into the litigation of the case. As they all exited, Dotty and Billy would exchange boiling looks of contempt, a brother and a sister battling each other with the scales of justice, but both would be hustled along by their respective lawyers.

On the next day, we would find Dotty’s lawyer pacing the court, hands behind his back, happily listing the legal reasons why Billy is infringing on Dotty’s work. “Dotty’s work was copyrighted from the instantaneous moment she wrote it. This is known as fixity—which means she had automatic copyright protection from the moment had been fixed to a tangible medium of expression, e.g. a pen to a paper.”

“Objection!” Billy’s lawyer would yell as he would stand and point directly at Dotty’s lawyer. “The plaintiff wishes to persuade the court that there is plagiarism. There is no plagiarism between Daffodils and Dotty’s journal entry. There is not one instance where a phrase or words are used in a way that indicates any direct piracy of the work. Therefore, there should be no issue about whether Daffodils is a copy.”

Instantly, Dotty’s lawyer would be shooting verbal artillery back. “They both speak of the daffodils seeming ‘gay’. Both have the flowers ‘dancing’. They both speak of the ‘heads’ of the flowers. They have similar personifying remarks about the flowers.” Boom, boom, boom Dotty’s lawyer’s cannon mouth would go. The judge would reluctantly instruct Dotty’s lawyer to simply continue. Although aggravated, he would. “Fine, then we shall look at Daffodils as an intellectual copyright that has been infringed. I will reference Judge Learned Hand’s case Sheldon et. al. v. Metro-Goldwyn Pictures Corporation et. al. In this case, Judge Hand found that there was substantial similarity between a movie by Metro-Goldwyn and a play by Sheldon. To come to this verdict, Judge Hand found ‘parallelism of character and incident sufficient to constitute substantial similarity, even though the dialogue of the works was different, and even though both works were based loosely upon an actual murder case in which Madeleine Smith in 1857 poisoned her former lover’. ”

“In relation to Dotty and Billy, they both did walk to that meadow, just like the play and the movie were based on the factual murder case. And, as seen above, even though there is a true fact behind the work, you can still copyright the expression of that factual event. Also, let us not forget that Billy’s poem was created only after viewing Dotty’s journal entry on the walk. He would not have otherwise written the poem. He wrote his in bad taste and he did not, does not possess that innate authorial sense to write Daffodils. The beauty of Billy’s poem is spiritually lifted from the beauty that Dorothy created in her journal entry, not in the initial moment that they shared. He is lifting her expression of the moment.”

Dotty’s lawyer would sit down and confidently cross his legs, much the same way he would have done the previous day. Billy would be scared, thinking that he may be actually at fault and have to pay Dotty for copyright infringement, but that’s when his lawyer would smile devilishly, pat him on the knee, and then stand. He would adjust his suit and then begin.

“First of all, Judge Learned Hand presided over a similar case to the Sheldon case. Hand’s decision in Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corporation was that a story with generic similarities is not susceptible of copyright. In the case, a play about lovers from opposing, feuding Irish and Jewish families was no more copyrightable than Romeo and Juliet. I propose that walking in a meadow and seeing flowers is not a copyrightable storyline…for a journal entry or a poem. It seems, actually, to be one of the more generic ideas I can possibly think of. But, we’re not here for an opinion, we’re here for fact. So, here’s another fact: Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes believed that almost any creative effort, however modest, would suffice for copyright. ‘The [work] is the personal reaction of an individual upon nature. Personality always contains something unique. It expresses its singularity even in handwriting, and a very modest grade of art has in it something irreducible, which is one man’s alone. That something [the produced art] he may copyright.’ ”

Dotty’s lawyer would, at this point, nervously grab for the pitcher and pour a glass of water. Billy’s lawyer would now don a gaze of a hunter, stalking his prey’s bleeding trail through the snowy woods. His trophy buck was not about to get away. “Furthermore, in Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 102, part b, states ‘in no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea.’ The idea of stumbling onto a flower patch is not copyrightable. But, what about the ideas in Billy’s poem that are not anywhere in Dotty’s? Dotty describes the scene, and she does so very well, but the extent of her poetic flourishes ends at personifying the flowers as ‘gay’, ‘dancing’ and ‘resting their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness’. Otherwise, it is all straight prose description. In the case Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. National Enterprises, they found that ‘at least 300 to 400 words of which consisted of verbatim quotes of copyrighted expression taken from the manuscript’, and that was enough to constitute an infringement. That is extremely more than is available on display here.”

“Unlike Dotty’s prosaic journal entry, Billy’s poem has him wandering metaphorically as a lonely cloud who sees those daffodils, and, might I add, those daffodils are ‘beside the lake’, not any specific lake, just a lake. Then, he compares them to the endless Milky Way; Dotty does not. And, then, Billy talks of how he remembers them while he lies on a couch; Dotty does not. Dotty’s is a journal entry, not a reflective poem. The similarity here is that someone would yell at me for saying an ocean is blue and it looks like it stretches on forever; I believe that most everyone has that notion when they first see the ocean. There is nothing copyrightable about that idea, and nor is there about dancing flowers in a breeze. The theme or idea of a work may be copied but the elements of the works are what sets them apart. For all the elements listed above, as well as the obvious element of one being a prosaic, constructionally-thoughtless journal entry and one being a rhythmic, rhyming, deliberately-constructed poem, it is easy to see that there is no infringement here. And, let us not forget: you cannot copyright an idea of seeing flowers on a walk.”

The Judge would thank both of the lawyers for their efforts and asks them to return once more in the morning for closing comments and a verdict. Both Billy and Dotty, at this point, would shoot antagonizing looks at each other once more. They probably won’t be sharing any more walks to the lake after this case.

In the morning, the judge would ask for closing statements, and then he would add the plea that both lawyers be brief. Dotty’s lawyer would begin. “Dotty is the original author of the daffodils piece. She created the scene once nature flowed into her and Billy only was inspired after reading her work. He imposes upon the creation she has made, and he infringes based on a series of obvious and numerous parallelisms between the two works. Despite the true event having happened and both parties having been represented, the parallel of incident and expression is too great to ignore. The expression of a factual event can be copyrighted, and Dotty’s is, and Billy only created his work once he read her copyrighted expression.”

The judge would nod now to Billy’s lawyer. “Billy did not infringe because his expression is wholly unique from Dotty’s. First, all authors are part of the human history and they build upon what has come before them. This is how we progress in the sciences and mathematics, by surging forward with more and more knowledge—knowledge that our ancestors worked to create. This same sense of momentum through the generations is true with literature. Literature can be an inspiration to further writing; a student should not need to figure out mathematics on their own…if they did, every generation would die before they got far enough to intrinsically deduce something like physic and, even then, they could never pass on their knowledge to be picked up by the next generation. Literature, too, should inspire and continue from generation to generation and not be reset without the ability to build off of existing works.”

“Further, the idea of seeing a field of daffodils is not a copyrightable idea. Ideas may not be copyrighted. Next, there is not enough similarity in the language and the construction of the pieces to call for a plagiarism defense. And, as if all of that was not enough, there comes Judge Holmes edict that nearly any expression a man creates is copyrightable.”

The judge, in this imaginary what-if courtroom, would thank both men and then retire to his quarters. At this point, there would be much glaring and face-making between Dotty and Billy and some passive-aggressive conversation about lunch at up-scale restaurants between the lawyers. They would all be silenced by the return of the judge. He would sit and then deliver his verdict: “As I have heard the evidence, this court sides in favor of…”

There would be tension in the imaginary courtroom. A lot of tension.

“…The defendant.” Billy. “The idea of walking to a pad of daffodils is not copyrightable. Although many of the same words are used between the two poems, they do not substantially create a similarity. Flowers are often thought to dance, be gay, and to rest their heads. Or, I believe that many writers could independently create those personifying remarks about flowers. These are not copyrightable phrases. Further, authorship inevitably comes from society and history, considering we have language, which is a construction of past authors, from cavemen to gentlemen, modifying and re-tailoring and authoring the language anew for every generation. Billy’s poem reflects a depth of expression and creation in poetic terms that is not present in Dotty’s, and thus, creates a new piece of work altogether. It nearly flirts with the lines of fair use by having created a wholly individual product from the inspiration of an old product. Understand that it is clear that Billy was inspired by Dotty, but that is not a crime. Inspiration from one person’s work to another is the continuing human soul in action, and is encouraged by this court.”

Billy would jump in his victory, Dotty would fume angrily, the lawyers would shake hands amicably, and then none of it would matter, because this court case will never happen. They’re both long dead.

As it stands, William Wordsworth saw no legal action for the poem he wrote. Dorothy, in fact, liked her brother’s writing very much.

Dorothy Wordsworth's Journal:

William Wordsworth's poem Daffodils:


"Book II of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding." Home Page for Oregon State University. Oregon State University. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.

Kernan, Alvin B. Samuel Johnson & the Impact of Print. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1989. Print.

Samuels, Edward. "Chapter 6" and “Chapter 7.” Edward Samuels. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.,

"US CODE: Title 17,102. Subject Matter of Copyright: In General." LII | Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. Web. 22 Mar. 2010.

Woodmansee, Martha. Eighteenth Century Studies. Ed. Raymond Birn. 4th ed. Vol. 17. Print. Summer, 1984. 425-448.

Wordsworth, William. Prospectus to The Recluse.


I have a Street Fighter II Championship Edition arcade cabinet in good condition, ready to go to anyone who comes and picks it up, Tuesday at 9 AM. E-mail me for address. No scam, this is for real, anyone who wants it. I’m giving it away because it’s haunted.

The haunting does not in any way impact the game. It plays just fine. Response is great. Buttons are all responsive and intact. Inlays and art on the panels are all mostly in shape, too, except some gum I couldn’t get off one side (pics at bottom). It’s been modified for free play, but I can show you how to make it take quarters again. This is SFIICE, the golden god of early-90’s tournament arcade games. It doesn’t get better than this!

I came into possession of the arcade machine when a local movie theatre went bankrupt. They were selling off everything. He also had Cruisin’ U.S.A., but he kept it (it was not haunted). The owner of the theatre, Bill, told me he’d sell it to me for fifty bucks on account of the ghost. I didn’t believe in superstitions, so I bought it on the spot. Next day, the theatre was boarded up and never saw Bill again. I heard he moved to Georgia.

If you buy it, you should know about the haunting: it’ll be fine for the first two weeks. You’ll happily be pounding Balrog and M. Bison with Ryu and Ken. The first two weeks were GREAT, well worth the fifty, even if it is haunted. And I’m giving it away for free!

First two weeks, I had my buddies come over and we did big brackets and tournaments. Drank a lot, played by the quarter rule, just like old times in military school when we were fourteen. I was even starting to teach my daughter how to play. She’s four and liked to use Chun-Li.

Details of the haunting: during week two, it started to turns itself on in the middle of the night (always at 3:04 A.M.). I was fine with it, I can sleep through anything, and I was also having a lot of fun with my daughter, so I told my wife we we’re keeping it. Every time I’d get home, we’d go downstairs and play a few rounds. She was getting better and better. She would stand on this little stool to be tall enough to get to the buttons. Really cute pictures. So, my wife and I made a deal: I put it in the garage. Same problem. 3:04 A.M., we’d hear the sound of the main menu.

I paid three specialists to come look at it (very pricey house calls!), but none of them could find anything wrong with it. Week four, I unplugged it, and everything was fine for a few days, then I heard it turn on (and so did my wife), I went downstairs, and as soon as I opened the door to the garage, nothing. It was off, nothing at all. So, next night, when it went on at 3:04 A.M., I stood by the door, and I heard the sound—I heard it!—and I opened the door…nothing. It’s a tricky haunting.

Week four, I decided to unplug it and let it sit. And, wouldn’t you know it? Noise free. My wife was so thankful and thought it was just the wiring (even though the specialists found no problems with the wiring). I was happy to keep it, and everyone was dandy.

But, that’s not why I really need to get rid of it.

Week five, I get home from work, grab my daughter, and we go out to play some rounds of Street Fighter. She picks Guile, which she never has before. Then, when we fight, she beats the hell out of me. She knew how to charge her attacks and to counter aerial movies all in one day. I was so surprised. So, I then got it into gear and picked my REALLY good character, Ryu. She picked Blanka and beat me. AGAIN. I was in shock, so I asked her nicely, “sweetie, how did you get so good?”

She told me that a nice man taught her how to play last week. He would come to her room, wake her up nicely, walk her hand-in-hand out to the garage and they would play during the night and explain how to do all the moves, and then he would walk her back and tuck her in bed. She said after they were done playing, he would go to sleep back in the arcade machine and she could see him smiling and cheering when she was winning.

Which is where I draw the line.

If you can deal with the ghost and love SFII, this is for you. Come pick it Tuesday, 9 A.M. If you’re not here to grab it, then the trash men hopefully will.


Someone, please, come take it. The trash men said that they tried putting it into their truck, but the hydraulic broke before they could hoist it in there. I still have it. I swear, it’s resisting leaving. I tried leaving it outside, but the Homeowner’s Association won’t let me, so I had to put it back in the garage. I haven’t slept in two days, I just sit out in of the machine in the garage. So, come on, any time you want, free, call me, take it. Please.

Static Free (unfinished)

Snow, like a barrage of tiny, icy mortar shells, rained down onto the steaming night street. The mixture of the steam and snow glowed like dancing pixies underneath arcing street lamps. There was nothing unusual in this night's storm. It was a standard East Coast January.

Henry Wardson walked on the sidewalk alone. His meticulously-waxed boots crunched on the de-icing salt, which was always liberally applied on city streets. Henry was very conscientious about his boots: every morning, he would fire his wax and then slowly apply it to his twenty-three year old boots while sitting in his suspenders and waiting for his morning coffee to brew. For some reason, the ice on the sidewalks always left a ghost-white residue on his shoes and it never totally came off, no matter how hard he scrubbed. This bothered Henry. But, no matter.

After he waxed his shoes and drank his coffee, he would walk to work. He always walked, no matter the weather (unless, of course, it was ridiculous--which Boston could sometimes be). He had a car, but he never found a reason to use it. On average, he spent ten minutes a week in his car. He would sit inside and let the engine run so that it didn't lose its charge. For those weekly ten minute sits, he would read. He kept a small stash of books in a cardboard box. Whenever he was forced to use his car, he usually sat waiting in it more than driving it (such was the curse of being a nice man who offered to pick people up from the airport), so Henry thought of his car more like his reading den than his vehicle. In plus, the dull sound of the engine idling was comforting to Mr. Wardson. Some people preferred listening to rain or ocean sounds, but Henry preferred the sound of an engine, which was odd, considering he hated driving, mechanics, engineering, and everything related to engines. Something, though, was nice about it.

If Henry was a punctual man, he might hate sitting in a car and reading. However, he was a man who didn't really keep to a schedule, so he never spent too long worrying about whether he was wasting time reading while sitting a car. He was organized to the point where wasting time was a sin, but enjoying the moment was not. He had a certain elasticity in his morals and beliefs, and that helped him when he had to deal with Problems.

Do the right thing, he would say, but only so long as you can do it.

And he knew about Problems. He knew about Problems because he knew about sins. And, he knew about sins because he, Henry Wardson, worked--in his free hours--as a priest. Not the normal type of priest, oh no. He had no church, he didn't preside over weddings, and he didn't lead any congregations. He had a different role, and he wasn't always sure it was the right one, but he wasn't about to quit. His job made him feel okay. Sometimes, he felt closer to God when he did this little farcical priest gig. He wasn't a real priest, he had never even believed in God, in fact--oh, wait, a car just drove by and splashed a wave onto Henry. Henry wiped off his brown coat, sighing hard after he smelled his lapel. Yep, salty dirt, he thought. Gotta love the city.

Henry was carrying a brown paper bag, folded over and hunched in the crook of his elbow. He switched hands to get the bag away from the wet side of his jacket and then put his hands back in his pockets. He shuffled the contents of his pocket around and took a mental inventory. Pack of smokes, Zippo, phone, wallet, and watch. He took the small, brass-covered wind-it-up pocket watch out and checked the time. It was stuck on 12:47 A.M. He hadn't wound it up enough, but, it was probably only about 1:30 anyways, so it didn't matter. Another block, and he turned onto a small walkway. The path went up between two large buildings with ornamental architectural and a Gothic feel. He was technically on university grounds now, but half of the urban areas (outside of the business blocks) was university land. It's hard to escape it sometimes.

At least the university areas were well-lit.

Henry pulled out his cigarette pack and eyed the inside. Just one cigarette. He smiled and put it back. Just one cigarette, good.

Winding through the trim paths, he finally came to a stop in front of an imposing building. It had a large, academic-looking staircase leading up to a pair of grand wooden doors, locked tight for the night. Instead of going up the giant wooden doors, Henry walked to the side of the staircase and went down a small utility door into the basement. It was propped open with a stick of wood in between the door and its frame. He picked the piece of wood out and walked inside, letting the utility door shut behind him.

It was warm inside, so he quickly took off the wet, salty coat and unwrapped his scarf. There was a desk waiting near the door, obviously placed out in the open in anticipation for Henry. He put the soggy piece of wood on the desk without thinking too much about it. Next, he set his brown paper bag down and looked inside. Yep, he thought, they're still good. It'd be a waste if they were spoiled.

He was in a long white hall of a campus academic building. The ceiling was curved and the walls were flat and long. The walls were riddled with fliers and numbered brass plates that matched the tarnished brass door knobs (which jiggled just a bit too much when turned, but they fit the style of the rest of the building). The style of the building, to be overly symbolic, could be summed up by the glass on the doors leading into classrooms and offices: rippled glass. You know...the type of rippled glass that's on a private eye's door or on a doctor's personal office. Very 1940's.

In the night, these university buildings felt cold and dead. They were eerily quiet. Lights outside shone in on the dark corridors and the embossed names on doors caught like like tombstones. Rooms that were used to being filled with the sounds of philosophical discussion were dead and silent. Washed chalk boards that usually showed off fantastic algorithms or matrices were empty and clean, waiting to be vandalized with mathematics anew. Henry didn't want to stay long in this part of the building; it was just too creepy for him, like a picnic on an old battlefield, eating a sandwich where some man bled out from the gut.

While the white-stone staircase and wrought-iron railing led up to three more stories of long white halls and confetti-colored cork boards, Henry instead turned and went down a set of exit stairs. He moved down the narrow exit staircase where each step boomed in the empty building. He was heading down to the sub-basement.

Down in the sub-basement was where the sewage valves, fuse boxes, water heaters, and stuff-like-that resided. The ceiling was open with mazes of plumbing and wires running up into the walls. The floor was a blank concrete stained with all manners of black, oily freckles. The sound of some far off machine rattled rhythmically and everything was either metal or stone.

Henry neared the bottom and he saw the red light bulb hanging over the sub-basement door. It was shining bright. He came to the door, pressed the buzzer, and then waited for the lock to disengage. A rattling bzzzzt confirmed the door was open. As soon as the door cracked open, the sound of a strong, passionate voice resonated through the stairwell.

"That--that---that's, that can't--thatthathat's wrong, man. Just wrong. A zillion times wrong. Wrong as wrong gets and wrong can be. Just wrong, man. Wrong." Henry walked in and shut the door behind him. In front of him was a glass-paned sound room, only accessible from another corridor unseen. Behind the glass, a bearded, heavy-set man sat with his face buried into the foam of a craned, multi-arm microphone, hunched over a Lite-Brite-looking soundboard littered with dials, knobs, levels, and Post-It notes. To Henry's left was the CD stacks room and his right, the vinyl stacks room. They weren't just "rooms", no, they were more like libraries with dozens of metal bookshelves chocked so full that the shelves bent scarily inward and the aisles were hardly two feet apart. You could be suffocated and die under an avalanche of music if you accidentally knocked one of the towers over.

"You're willing to get here, on the air, in front of the entire nation and say sh--stuff like that? Say some government-brainwash stuff, feeding the monster, perpetuating the system, breeding the cycle? No, no, no, nonononono, you're wrong, man, I'm seeing the light, I know how it is out there, I spent seven years of my life on a nuclear sub in the middle of the Cold War doing things that never happened, okay? And I know what I saw out there and I know what it's like and you don't."

Henry walked to the glass and tapped it. The man looked up from his waffle mic. Henry held up the bag. The man's smile broke from beneath his explosive beard and he fiendishly smiled and nodded his head in a motion that could mean nothing other than "get your ass in here, you beautiful bastard". Then, instantly, he shot right back into his furious argument into the microphone.

"Good bye, good bye, sir, have a pleasant weekend, bye bye. You're wrong man, good bye. This is Conrad Blue, on the air for Air Freedom of America, or, as the wolves in the night like to say..." Conrad Blue hit his sound board and a raucous wolf call shot out, "ARF ARF ARF AROOOO!" and he howled along with the soundbite. "Keeping you awake and burning with talk and gossip about the state of our union when no one else but the true patriots are listening. We're gonna take a quick break to give you a word from our sponsors who are, lemme see, today our sponsors are," a quick pause as he shuffled through papers, "mayonnaise. Okay, yes, we are being funded by ...Treemount Farms Mayonnaise tonight. Yum yum." He paused and sighed. "Yes, that's right, we're brought to you tonight by Treemount Farm Mayonnaise. Yes, mayo. Aaaaand, here are some commercials."

Conrad Blue thumbed the commercial button and threw his over-sized headphones onto the sound board and popped out of his swivel chair to open the door to the sound room just as Henry was raising his hand to turn the knob.

"Henry," he said with a mock seriousness.

"Walt," Henry said back with a stern brow and a curt nod. They both grunted at each other like cave men, then Walt reached up and bashed his closed hand on Henry's shoulder. Henry wolloped his hand on Walt's shoulder right back. They both nodded and grunted again. Then Walt hit on Henry's shoulder. And Henry on Walt's. They did this back and forth like two monkeys bashing each other until they both broke into smiles and fell into the sound room calling each other a litany of mother-fuckers and sons-of-bitches.

Walt, or Conrad Blue as the listeners knew him, assumed his chair again and Henry sat on a chair in the corner on the opposite side of the soundboard. Walt swung a mic around to him and Henry plopped the bag on the soundboard.

"Not glazed, please, not glazed," Walt pleaded.

"Boston creme."

"Any jelly?"

"There was one, but I threw it out, I know how you hated those."

"Asshole," Walt said with a smile, grabbing out a donut and leaning back in his chair.

Gosh Darn

I got an ice pick just itching to say hi to your eyeball.

You see, I really was afraid that I wouldn't be able to do it, if I saw you. Who am I kidding? When I see you. You never go too long without needing something from my house, do you? Or, without needing me, whenever everyone else in your life realizes how much they hate you and I'm the only one left you have to run to.

But, now, I know I could. I could do it, I really could. I really could. I know you never believed me, but this time, I'm serious. When I said I would be there at 7:30 and it was really 7:35, I know, I messed up. But, this time, I'm promising. I could dip this pick deep into your pretty blue eye so you'll be seeing the inside of your head and looking at me at the same time.

Funny...wouldn't it be nice if I were in your head? Thinking about me? Then when I picked ya, your eye would be seeing me and then me again, in your head, but we both know that's not true. It's okay, though, because I was always thinking of other things, too.

Like when to pick up your mother because she threw her back out again and you were too busy with...something. I forget what it was. There I go forgetting again! You were right, I am a real klutz.

But, this time, I've got it all planned for you, baby. You're gonna walk in and I'm gonna whack ya. I hope to hit your eyeball square. I think that would be the perfect place. I always know how you cared more for appearances than actuality. We never held hands while walking in crowded places so you never felt like my girl, even though I changed my shifts to be free when you wanted me to be free. So, if I got ya square in the eye, well, it'd be a perfect way to go.

The shock on your face would be preserved, none of that nasty skull-cracking (on the pretty parts of the face), and it would be instant. Well, instant...I've heard that. From, y'know, people. The same people who probably told you that you needed thirty thousand magazines to tell you how to please your man, and then, you never did a single thing in the pages of those magazines. Except lie there and ask me "are you done yet?"

Gosh darn, baby, I do love ya.

And my ice pick is gonna, too.

I just don't know what I'm gonna do with the new set of golf clubs I just bought you. They're too short for me and I took the tags off.

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