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[a pony-tailed monk writing]

The Writings of Frank

On occasion, I'll feel the need to write something down. Sometimes its just to be creative, sometimes to amuse, and sometimes to tell a tale. Below are some samples, taken from stories I've written as well as mail messages telling a tale or two. Note, none of them are in HTML format.

Stuff here is all done by me (except for the collaborative stuff). For parodies, songs, jokes, and things like that that I didn't create, check out the Humor Archives.

This is the fun stuff; look here for my research/technical publications.

[Stories] [Songs and parodies] [Short Items] [Collaborations]



Hey, let's start with a simple, generic pitch/summary:
A group of data scientists race against the clock to find a way to save the world from a global crisis, but the answer continually eludes them. Are their assumptions wrong or is it their analysis? Or perhaps the fault is not in their stars, but in their data.

It's 2022 now and wrote this in March 2020 after talking to my friend Moof who made a comment about virtual machines and computer simulators that got me thinking. I told him "I think I'm going to steal your idea" and then came up wtih this story (and sent it to him). It was pretty easy to see what was about to happen with SARS-CoV-2. Not that I had great perception—others had set up web sites and things the previous November. But it influenced my mindset, and the setting and atmosphere in this story: I wanted it to have the claustrophic feel of a WWII submarine movie.

There are some obvious points in the story that I had in mind from the start, and other bits that fell together. I also got feedback from a few friends too, including trying to create a sense of tension. I didn't want to literally have an explicit deadline, ticking bomb, or countdown timer, so I did the next best thing. It didn't take long to write and revise. With a name like "Fixpoint" it needed to include some math or computational theory, but in a comprehendible way (I hope). Also, the characters are supposed to have some personality and hints of background, even if it's only lightly sketched. In my mind this story would be an episode of an anthology TV show or a minimally staged play. And yes, Argus was a fun character to write, especially the dialog.

While it's not a SARS-CoV-2 story, it's still relatable to our world. And because of that, I didn't feel like I wanted to put this out there when we were in the middle of a pandemic. But now…well, we're still in the middle of a pandemic. Plus, there's been so many other problems here and abroad…well, what the hell, I guess I might as well put this story out there. There is no answer yet, so I suppose now is as good as any time. The story is 13 pages. (August 2022)


Looking at the last one, I now realize it's been like 5 years since I last wrote a short story. At DFRWS-EU in Oslo, Norway in April 2019, I jotted down a note based on an off-hand comment from a speaker that became the initial idea of the story. A month later, while in Florida for a couple days, I used the downtime while traveling to write a first draft. There were some elements that went in different directions than I initially imagined, and it's another story more about the characters. And I must admit, I didn't see the ending going that way till I was almost there.

If I wanted to be more technically accurate, the story should be called "Steganography" since that's really what it's all about at various levels, but I like the word "Exfiltration" better, since it sounds both like a made-up word and a spy-word but it's not hard to guess its meaning, sort of like "underwhelmed" (I know that word has been around since the 1940s, I'm just slow to jump on the bandwagon).

While at the DFRWS-US conference in July, the topic was mentioned again, and the next day I asked someone about it who pointed me to a reference about the current state of the art. After reading the paper, I was concerned the "science fiction" element of my story was stuff we've been doing for the last 5-10 years. But after thinking about it, there are differences in what the characters in the story are trying to do. So I think this still qualifies as fictional, future science (that I'm making up), rather than stuff I got wrong. And thanks to Mowgli for providing some useful comments and feedback..

So the timeline is it was written in April 2019, the version here was last edited December 2019, and I'm putting it up now. The story is 19 pages. (April 2020)


I was talking with my friend Stephanie around July and somehow the idea came up of a time traveler who worked in a restaurant. I thought about it, decided there were some interesting bits, twisted the notion a lot and wrote up a story about it, presented from a different point of view. So the short description of this is "it's a story about time travel and pizza making." But really, it's more about characters than a science fiction. I think the less said going into it, the better.

Thanks to those who read it, and especially to Tania who provided me with very detailed feedback, comments, suggestions, and corrections. It's been done since August, but I was waiting to see if any further input would arrive. It's a long-ish short story, about 35 pages. (Oct 2014).

The Best Burger

A (I hope) humorous, science fiction short story set in a small mom and pop dinner, where the risks of advertising claims must be faced. It also has aliens. About 7 pages long.

I was in a silly mood when I saw some "world famous" sign. (Nov 2013).

Addendum (March 2014): Moof sent me this photo. I think Sergeant Karsook has his work cut out for him on this planet.
newspaper ad

White Hole

Back in October, I played a game with three friends called Fiasco. It involved creating characters based on a template, and then having them interact, mostly improvised, as things kind of spin apart. The template was a science fiction setting/disaster scenario. While there were some rough bits, afterwards I realized that we had, in essence, created an outline for a fairly reasonable-sized story that seemed like it could be kind of interesting. So I decided to write it up.

I tried to stay true to the original ideas that were in the game. So the four main characters were the ones we created and played (care to guess which one was me?). And the general flow of things, including final outcomes, were also driven by the original way things played out. I filled in a lot of detail, added some other characters and situations, tried to tie some things together, explain a few other things, and basically have fun with it. Because of the size, I wanted someone else to proofread it, and a friend volunteered (most were smart enough to kindly beg off). About 8 or 9 months later, I realized, I would never get any comments back, and decided to have another pass at it myself. Plus, it had been long enough that I could read things and actually see some of the many typoes that had been invisible to me earlier.

While I'm sure it's still clunky, I decided I should release it. This is pretty long and is divded up into about 20 chapters. Enjoy. (Jul 2013).

The Guardian

I liked the frame story of "Domino's Theory" enough that I decided to write another chapter of it, set in the same world, at some point later on in the journey. This was inspired several months back by a walk in the woods and seeing one of Andy Goldworthy's cairns. Since it's a middle chapter in an as-yet-undefined story, it tends to raise questions and only hint at answers,(most of which I haven't really sorted out at this point). This one clocks in at 20 pages, longer than I had thought. (Jul 2013).

Domino's Theory

Another short story that sets an environment and has two characters meet and talk. The frame is mostly a throw-away. But I found the characters to be interesting. (Jul 2012).

Memory Mask

I went to Ireland. The first day there, after a red-eye flight, I was sitting in a restaurant, a bit disoriented and jet-lagged, and to top it off, I had been sick about 24-hours earlier, but all that seemed to be just a distant memory. Or was it? It put me in a mood to ponder memory and identity. Later, when I felt creative but discovered my laptop computer didn't fit the UK-adapter plug, I decided to use paper and pen and generate a short story. It's a 15-page PDF and includes Razia who previously appeared in The Great Debate. (Nov 2011).

Bolt From the Blue

On occasion, I'll encounter some small item that amuses me. Often a picture, or in this case, a story comes from it, which is by far larger than the original joke. The inspiration occured during a phone conversation with Tania about doors and locks. On the other hand, I think I might have Felton come back in some other stories. (Sep 2001).

525,600 Hits
525,600 Hits (Version 2, minor changes)

New Year's Eve 1999, I was in Columbus, talking with friends about random ideas and thoughts and the core of this story was born. But it sat around for almost a year. Late in 2000, I was talking with Rob Stauffer about story ideas, and we discussed this and the different twists and ways to tell it. It would have been easy to cast the story with an Arnold-like character saying some clever quip while saving the world just before the clock struck midnight, but that wasn't the idea. Neither was the technology behind it. The thing I found most interesting was going inside the main charcter's head. It's not quite complete, and I left a few notes at the end, but what the hell... (Feb 2001)

Ever Have One of Those Days?

Elsewhere, I've mentioned that I'm a high-tech luddite. So yes, I have an answering machine, and yes, I check it remotely. I had a thought that amused me one day as I was calling home. (Aug 2000)

(The Man With) All The Time In The World

This is one I think turned out pretty well. I've always been fond of time travel. On the other hand, this story was the reason 525,600 hits become a character study. (Dec 1999)

Frank Songs and Parodies

On occasion, I've come up with parodies of songs (probably comes from reading Mad Magazine, back in "the day"). Sometimes I'll even make an original song. Here are some samples.
Under the Bridge (to the tune of "Under the Bridge")

I don't like repeating myself. I don't like repeating myself. But I will if it makes sense. In this case, almost 30 years ago I wrote a parody of the song Under the Bridge by The Red Hot Chili Peppers to commemorate the experience of taking my PhD General Exam (what I've since come to learn that Cornell calls the A Exam). Technically it should have been called "Under the Whiteboard".

Now, year and many Franks later, I met up with a number of friends at a Maize Maze. It was fun. We got lost as expected, but did manage to blunder our way through. There were two maze paths, and it was dark by the time we were in the second one. One couple brought their almost-1-year-old baby (George) with them. He was actually pretty well behaved. At point point, in the second maze, there was an open area in the middle with many paths leading to and from it. Since it was at the heart of the maze, we called it the heart at first. But after discovering most of those paths loop back, we decided in our frustration that it was the ass of the maze. The posted rules said we shouldn't use bad language since there were kids around (and yes, they were using their phones as flashlights and often shinging them into our eyes cluelessly as they apporachend and then apologizing aftewrwards), we referred to it as "the butt."

But a halfway point of both mazes featured steps leading to a metalic platform that let us see over the corn, though we weren't high enough to see any paths beyond 10 feet—all we could see was how far away we were from the buildings at the end of the maze. But later, on another path, the platform became an underpass and we all walked under the bridge.. I don't know who first came up with the idea (it wasn't me), but I echoed it and came up with a lyric or two. The only one I remember was about George. That night I was thinking about it more and came up with more lyrics. Then I went to sleep and forgot almost all of them. So I rewrite it and send it out. I figured since the content and context were so different I could reuse the song for this adventure. And it amused me. (Oct 2021)

Safety Distance (to the tune of "Safety Dance")

In an email, someone sent a bunch of tips about how to prevent safety goggles in a lab from fogging up while wearing a mask. I had already tried most of them to prevent my (regular) glasses from fogging up with little success. As I was replying, every time I saw the phrase "safety glasses," the Men Without Hats song Safety Dance kept going through my mind. So I knew my work was cut out for me.

Surprisingly, as I went through it, I realize the "social distance" seemed to be emerging as the more relevant element in the song, compared to masks or safety glasses. And there's a similarity between "dance" and "distance" (especially when the 'a' is pronounced with a stronger 'a' sound rather than a short 'e' sound). Thus I changed the title and ran with it. But carefully, since I didn't have safety goggles. (Jul 2020)

Endzone Girls (to the tune of "West End Girls")

We were playing indoor pickup ultimate and someone was standing alone against a wall, beyond the fields. It reminded me of the video to the '80s song West End Girls by The Pet Shop Boys. I thought about it and came up with the phrase "Frisbee Boys". Then a (female) friend suggested there was no need to gender-swap it and it could remain "girls". The title then changd to "Endzone Girls" and later that night the rest of it quickly followed.

It has a lot of ultimate frisbee slang, and a subtext commentary on sexist players kind of emerged. Mostly, it's meant to be funny, and like most of these these paradies, I was amused. (Mar 2018)

I'm Only Happy Eating Brains (to the tune of "I'm Only Happy When It Rains")

The other night I wound up watching some '90s music videos including I'm Only Happy When It Rains by Garbage, a song I liked though hadn't heard it in years. Maybe I've had zombies on my mind lately, but today while I was walking to my car from the grocery store, the song started to go through my mind but I starting thinking about zombies slowly saying "braaaaaaaains". I chuckled, thought about it a bit and came up with the song title. Then figured I should think about it later. And now tonight, I came home, looked up the real lyrics and banged this one out pretty quickly. It amuses me. (Jan 2018)

Hot Sauce Sizzler (to the tune of "Psycho Killer")

Last night, after our final fall league ultimate frisbee game of the season, a group of us were at the Westy. A few people were eating take-out Vietnamese food, and Katie came up with the refrain of "pho-pho-pho-pho-pho" (pronounced "fuh") to the Talking Heads song Psycho Killer. I could only produce a line or two to follow. But this morning, after taking a bit more time and cheating and looking and the original lyrics and some menus, I was able to finish it. (Oct 2017)

Ultimate Nadsat

I'm playing in an ultimate frisbee fall league. The teams have Halloween themes—ours is Horror Flicks (a forehand through is sometimes called a flick...get it?). We played a game on Friday night against a team called Zone Zombies (zone is a type of defense, as opposed to, say, man-to-man defense). We won, even though there were no substitutes, so everyone had to play every point, with no break (called playing "savage"). OK, that's the end of the free translations. You're now on your own.

I wanted to send email to our team congratulating everyone. I also recently read Anthony Burgess' book A Clockwork Orange. Given our teamname, I wanted to use the word horrorshow in the email, which essentially means "good" in the book. Then I thought, "why do something half-assed" so I wrote the whole email using a combination of ultimate jargon and the teen slang "nadsat" language used in the book, guaranteeing that pretty much no one will understand anything about it. I forwarded a copy of the message to my friend Bez, who has the superpower of being about to understand all references. I'm including this in the parodies section, because it really is a copy of the style of the book more than anything else (without the sex or violence, which is, well, like most of the book). (Sep 2016)

Hey Tom (sung to the tune of "Hey Joe")

I'm reading the 4th book of the third series of Stephen R. Donaldson's series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, technically the 10th book in the series. And it got me thinking to the end of the previous book, Against All Things Ending. And then the Jimi Hendrix song "Hey Joe" started going through my head. And then this resulted. Note that it does not necessarily follow the events in that book accurately, nor does it follow the lyrics to the song that accurately either. But it amused me and it appears that it's been a decade since I posted a parody of something, so I think it's high time I added one. (Feb 2014)

The Librarian (from Poe's "The Raven")

A friend, who is a librarian, described an Edgar Allen Poe experience of being attacked by a raven in the parking lot one the way to work. It was just too cool. Her boss is "The Imposter" and in Norse Mythology, Odin would send two ravens out every day to fly over the world, gather news of the day and report it back to him. I have a lot more respect for the original poem now. I wanted to draw illustrations, but my quick sketches showed I'd need at least 14. So instead, I just used my very rough pencil sketches, and then used In-Design to make the rest of it look nice. Note that it is a PDF file. (Jul 2004)

Chiller (sung to the tune of "Thriller")

Summer was upon us in Columbus and the air conditioners couldn't keep up. Someone posted a message about how the "chillers" requied maintenance and would be down for a day or two. At that point, the beat from "Thriller" kept running through my mind. The words quickly followed. (May 1995)

Screens Are Buring (sung to the tune of "Beds Are Burning")

There was some problem with the screen savers and concern about "burning" the screens. The lab also might have been somewhat warm. (Apr 1995)

Ode to an Advisor Absent (sung to the tune of "Who Can It Be Now?")

I had an appointment with my advisor. We had a mis-communication. I was knocking at his door, but no one was there. ... Or was there? Images of the Men At Work video ran through my head. (Apr 1993)

I Want My FTP (sung to the tune of "Money For Nothing")

I believe this was a rejected entry for rec.humor.funny. Note the pun of "ls -straits" (ls => dir => Dire). I don't recall who gave me the first three lines. (Mar 1993)

Under the Board (sung to the tune of "Under the Bridge")

I took my General Exams for my PhD, one of the major stepping stones. It requires a lot of studying and preperation. Part is written and part is oral. I was standing in the conference room, in front of the white board early in the morning, about an hour before "the ordeal" started, feeling a bit out of place, a bit by myself. No one was in the building, as I walked through the halls. Although no drugs were involved, I felt some resonance with the tone of the song "Under the Bridge." I did wind up passing the test though there were points when it was a bit grueling. (Dec 1992)

The Prep Center Blues (original song, generic blues style)

I had a vocal chord nodule, back in the summer of 1992 which had to be surgically removed. A week or so before, I had to go to "the prep center" so they could take some x-rays, do blood work, EKG, and stuff like that. While none of it was particularly bad, I'm not terribly fond of it. I needed a creative avenue to express myself. The blues seemed appropriate. And I have had full use of my voice since then. (Jun 1992)

Radar Range (sung to the tune of "Radar Love")

I was helping my friend Golden move. As I was carrying his microwave oven, it occurred to me how they first used to be called "radar ranges." Almost immediately, the song rhythm started going through my head. I was in a Weird Al mood, so I ran with it (the song, not the microwave). (Feb 1992)

Notes, Messages, Amusements, and other Brief Writings

Nipple Confusion!!

Relatively short, mail message. Friends Timothy and Katherine had a baby. They mentioned about how their daughter Clara had a bought of nipple confusion. The concept amused me greatly. So I ran with it. (Feb 2004)

Star Trek Parody

Relatively short, mail message. A group of my friends decided to see the new Star Trek film ("Nemesis") on opening night. I bought tickets for the eight of us a day early. I was going to send a quick note off reporting on the success, but then my mind starting thinking of how this might play out as a typical Next Generation scenario. Once loosed, it's kind of hard to reign in my imagination. (Dec 2002)

Math Problem

Short, mail-message. A friend from undergrad was getting married and a lot of mail was going back and forth between the UM group about hotels, where, when, how to split it up, etc. I finally had to weigh-in with a comment. I figured a "simple" explanation of how to solve it would end the discussion. It did...I think there was a stunned silence. Perhaps I've been in academia too long. (May 2002)

Lucid Dream

Non-fiction. My dreams tend to be really boring. It's all rather sad and pathetic, I know. Surreal things happen when I'm awake. I'll dream about parking a car, or playing a CD, or tying my shoes. Once, I was able to wrest control of my dream away from, well, me. All I can say is: man that sucked... (Dec 2001)

Whoopie Cushion

Non-fiction. Some friends had a birthday party for their son. This is just a description of the events. But it still amuses me. (Apr 2000)

He's on First

I was talking to Rob Stauffer about flying. Suddenly he became Lou Costello and I was Bud Abbott. Sometimes you just have to run with these things. This is pretty much the actual conversation, as opposed to the Cheese Shop one. (May 2000)

Bog Frog

Short. My parents live in Florida. So do amphibians. Remember to keep the lid down. (Feb 2000)

Snow Balls

Non-fiction. This was a mail message describing an unfortunate incident when "horseplay" broke out during ultimate frisbee out in the snow. At least I can laugh about it. (Feb 2000? 1999?)

DNS Drinking Game

This was a mail message describing the rules for the DNS (Domain Name Server) Drinking Game, after I noticed just how hard it is to find a domain name on the Internet that's not already taken. (April 2000)

The Great Debate

I went to a conference in Lafayette, LA and was getting a bit bored, so I decided to give myself a little challenge: to write a complete short story in one sitting (about 40 minutes). Certainly it's pretty easy to figure out where I came up with some of the background setting. I think it turned out OK and I like the Razia character (I made up the name, and then checked if it exists afterwards...there have been some cool Razia's out there) and may try to use her at some other point in time. (October 1998)

East Hill Cheese Flying Shop Club

All I wanted to do was fly a plane. He had 6, no one was flying at the time. Yet somehow, it turned into a Monty Python Skit. Sure, there's writer's embellishments to make it funnier, but the essentials are there. If you want an actual amusing flying club conversation, look at this one. (Jan 1998)

Vegetable Slaughter

Perhaps I shouldn't admit this, living in Ithaca and all, but I'm an omnivore. I consume all things on, along, or hanging out near, the food chain. Sometimes I'll go stretches on a mostly vegetarian diet, sometimes carnivore (hey, sometimes saprophyte, just to be different...). Anyway, a friend had just recently become vegetarian and was going through that initial, evangelical "are you going to eat that?!?" stage which prompted me to write an exposé on the truth behind salads. (Feb 1992)

Seuss Car

My car had problems. I took it in. Turns out a mouse had decided to use it as a warm, winter home, and have a quick snack on my spark plug cables before he would head off to work every morning. This seemed more like something out of Dr. Seuss, and thus, rather than bitch about it, I decided to write it up in the appropriate style. Note: Fear not, the mouse was never injured, being long gone before I ever started up the car. And apparently, he didn't care for the taste of new wires, as the problem didn't recur. (Jan 1991)

Collaborative Work

In addition, I've done some tag-team writing with Pierce.

He's kept them in his archives of original humor.

The Tale of the Mysterious Intrigue

Pierce and I stike again! This time, it's a classic English parlor mystery. A number of unlikely guests at the late Lord Farnsworth's mansion trying to sort out who did the unsavory deed and why. It's finally complete. See if you can figure it out.

In addition, I wrote a PHP script to make it easier for me to add new web pages as we add parts to the story. The text is broken into 30 parts. (January 2005)

A Wild Hare

Our next effort (and it's been a while). Sure, it involves a backwoods hick, but there is no sex in this. Purely violence. We wanted to give it a science-fiction/mystery theme, so the comedy is also turned way down. As usual, we don't really know where the story goes or how each other will react to the next installment. There are some fun parts to it and besides, it's the only story of ours that has a picture to go along with it. I WANT to make a web-based adventure game out of it (and I put together a few initial pieces here). It's a long tale (140K, 2600 lines). (Jun 2000)

The Squeeze or The Return of Mr. Gumps

This was one in which Pierce and I discussed the basic idea and then we each wrote our own take on it. What can I say, I like my version better. Look on his web site for his version. It's comedy, no sex or violence, just some bathroom humor (literally). (May 1997)

Slush Brown

A twisted version of Snow White. I believe the full working title was "Slush Brown and the Seven Perverts." Sick and twisted sex, no violence. I believe we were trying to out-do (out gross, out we're-both-twisted-and-sick-fucks) each other. A drawing existed at some point in time, but I haven't unearthed it and scanned it in. Be warned. (870 lines, just under 47K.) (??? 199?)

Mayberry BFD

This is our magnum opus, or more appropriately, our magnum Opie. Little violence, mostly sex, as Pierce and I tried to out-do each other. The idea of combining the The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies allowed us to have quite a number of rich, well developed characters that we could completely corrupt. The initial idea occurred probably 6 years earlier, back at OSU, when Pierce and I spontaneously created the first scene that had Granny in it. As we wrote it, we actually both gave the other the chance to write that scene, since the initial part of it had been in our heads for so long. It is quite long though (114K, 2200 lines). Be warned. (Feb 1997)

This page last modified Aug 06, 2022.
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