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January 28, 2009

Butterfly wings
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:30 PM *

A brief post, because life is busy and I am weary.

In the shower this evening, for no reason whatsoever, the memory of a speaker who came round my high school popped up. He was in his early twenties, and was doing a speaking tour on behalf of MADD*. As a high school student, he’d crashed his car while drinking and killed one of his closest friends, so he did rather know what he was talking about. He discussed not only the accident and the death, but also his struggles to cope in the aftermath of that night. He returned to school after his time in the hospital, and found himself entirely shunned. He quickly fell into despair.

“And then,” he said, “one of my friends came up to me in the hall and gave me a stick of gum. And you know, I think that gum saved my life.”

So. What otherwise insignificant events have changed your life the way the gift of a stick of gum changed his? You can tell the story or leave it a mystery. The exercise in imagination will do us good.

I get to start. The fact that I knew the lyrics to Subdivisions, by Rush when no one else in my social group did. Not telling why.

* I don’t know how effective he was at convincing my fellow students not to drink and drive; it was less than four months later that we lost one of the guys in the year above me to a drunk driving accident. The alcohol caused the crash, but the lack of a seatbelt contributed to the death.

Comments on Butterfly wings:
#1 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 07:03 PM:

Reading about the Random Hall laundry and bathroom servers on Slashdot when I was in high school, in Iowa.

#2 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 07:33 PM:

Buying the Rock Against Bush benefit CD in 2004, on the promise of unreleased tracks by Ministry and Jello Biafra.

#3 ::: Daphne B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 07:51 PM:

One short Usenet post, basically saying "Way to go! That minor decision was a good one". I was hesitant to make that post because who cares what I think anyway? Who am I to validate someone's decision?

Anyway, four years later we got married, I now live in a different state, and both of us have different career paths, as a result.

#4 ::: turtle ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 07:52 PM:

On Monday I convinced myself that people do NOT automatically want me to go away when they see me, and very bravely hung out with my dorm-mates for a few hours.

It's not very profound, but it's a huge step for me.

(And just now as I was typing this, my roommate knocked on my door and told me about a party later tonight! Again, doesn't sound like much, but it is, because somebody remembers I exist!)

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 07:53 PM:

Taking the 6 p.m. Use of English class at UWI Mona in 1975.

#6 ::: Tracey ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:15 PM:

Voluntarily reading The Prince when I was in high school. Also, being in Mrs. Roche's English classes.

#7 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:23 PM:

Reading The Boxcar Children in fourth grade. Up to that point I had been a reluctant reader--I think I was a whole word reader trying valiantly to decode using phonics, which made the whole process of reading painfully slow and unpleasurable. This one time, I just succumbed to the story and read. Tuned out to the class, the kids around me, the fact that the teacher was turning the light on and off to get my attention because it was time for the next class, and just tore through the story. It was as if I had been liberated from a cage I didn't know existed.

Within a year I was reading adult books, and far faster than I can now. Reading became the source of comfort and excitement and friendship, one of the major ways I define myself. The Boxcar Children. Who would have thought?

It also helped me realize that I wasn't necessarily stupid, which was nice too.

#8 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:23 PM:

Getting the opportunity to spend 90 minutes playing with an ARP 2600 in 9th grade.

#9 ::: Alberto ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:25 PM:

My sophomore year in college, on the Altoz/Bonz bus during LA RoadTrip with the Stanford Band: a random comment about how California's age of consent laws had been recently revised led to my future (and still) best friend and I having our first real conversation.

Fourteen years (and going!) of blessings have been the result of that laughter-filled discussion.

#10 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:34 PM:

In about 1969 or so, asking my dad "What's that book about?"

(Hint: the answer was "It's about a magic ring that lets you turn invisible, but if you keep it too long it turns you evil.")

#11 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:40 PM:

Oh, and turtle, good for you! Coming out of your...oh dear. Better not say that, methinks.

But congratulations. I was going to say welcome, but then I noticed you've posted here before, though very infrequently. Well, welcome anyway! Stick around; we're a friendly bunch.

#12 ::: comelovesleep ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:40 PM:

Hearing the phrase "At kendo, the other day..."

#13 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:46 PM:

Decision to attend massage therapy school (while keeping my job in soul-sucking Corporate America) led to...

attending what I thought was a business kickoff by a fellow student, but it turned out to be a singer/songwriter evening, which led to...

meeting two fine musicians...who introduced me to another, who opened up a whole world of indie musicians, which led to...

my first house concert, which one of the first musicians I met recorded since he is also a sound engineer, which led to...

having a recording studio set up in my living room for four months--the recording "booth" was my living room and the control room was in my office. Which was just about the most fun I've had, since I acted as unofficial photographer/videographer as well as pressing the Record button occasionally. :D

And beyond that, I've added substantially to my cadre of best friends, and heard much wonderful music!

#14 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:51 PM:

The jello mold dessert my grandmother served at Easter dinner in 1991 helped me decide to go to Occidental College in Los Angeles instead of Willamette College in Salem Oregon.

#15 ::: turtle ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Xopher @ 11:

Thanks! And you can make as many bad puns as you like, I've probably made them all myself already. I cannot resist the Imp of the Perverse when it comes to puns. The more groan-inducing, the better!

I wonder if anyone here has had their life changed by a really awful pun...

#16 ::: Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 08:54 PM:

When I was a kid, my mom took my brother and I to the public library every week in the summer. They had a reading club there one year, where we had to draw cards from a deck with a suggested reading assignment.

I drew "read a science fiction book." I'd never read one before, but I decided to give it a try. I suppose most of the people reading this weblog can fill in the details from their own experiences...

#17 ::: Beth Friedman ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 09:14 PM:

Having lunch with a total stranger because she was a writer and I was a (nonpracticing) nurse, and she was writing a story that involved someone with leukemia, and she wanted to pick my brain. A friend who knew both of us made the connection.

I mentioned over the course of that lunch that I did freelance copyediting, and she hired me to edit a monthly newsletter for a nonprofit organization.

Which led, several months later, to her asking if I knew anyone looking for work as a technical writer, because her husband was looking to hire someone to subcontract for him. I told her that I didn't have any official qualifications, but that I'd done quite a bit of documentation in my current position, and it was exactly the career that I'd been hoping to break into and didn't know how to. After a couple of interviews, he and the person who actually needed the technical writer agreed that I had sufficient skill to learn what else I needed on the job.

Which gave me the courage to resign from a secure but dead-end job that I hated, and leap into the unknown world of independent consulting. (Not so secure, it turned out, since I'd been working for Arthur Andersen, but that was several years later.)

I was hired for a 6-month assignment that turned into 18 months of work to document software that I suspect never got implemented, but which made me a real technical writer, and eventually led to my working for Bruce Schneier, which I'm still doing today.

All because Caroline Stevermer suggested I have lunch with a friend of hers.

#18 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 09:15 PM:

Deciding to participate in my first fanfic challenge led me to my first post in an LJ comm, a request for a beta and Britpicker.

The first person to respond has become one of my best friends despite living on different continents. When she visited America, I invited her to sleep on my sofa and then she returned the favor when I finally stopped talking about going to England and did it last year and then more recently we met up in Canada because she was going there and I had a weekend free. We're constantly emailing back and forth about everything and nothing.

But also because of that first post, I've made a lot of other great friends, first on that comm and then through people I've met on that comm and then through people I met through things I did because I heard about them through the people I knew on LJ.

Somehow, in real life, I'd fallen out of fannish circles except for the occasional con, but that's brought me back in and I'm now making plans for this year to do some new and unexpected things with people I met via LJ.

#19 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 09:20 PM:

This changed someone else's life. After I finished reading Woman at the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy, I left it lying around. My roommate picked it up and read it. It persuaded him not to get electroconvulsive treatment.

#20 ::: ADM ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 09:21 PM:

Having an old friend read my blog and offer me a chance to give my first academic paper.

#21 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 09:27 PM:

Deciding to go to house parties anyway, my senior year.

#22 ::: WereBear ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 09:51 PM:

My father had a job administering computer aptitude tests to high school graduates, back in the punch card days.

I was eight. I took it, and passed.

It led to a career, even if it's more like the higher numbers in the dictionary... moving madly along an erratic course.

#23 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 09:59 PM:

She handed me a CD by an artist I'd never heard of before and said "here ... this did nothing for me, but I know you'll like it."

#24 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 10:04 PM:

I can no longer remember how I ran across the Sith Academy (maybe via Watto's Junkyard?). I discovered slash (and wrote some), met some good friends whom I later met face-to-face, discovered the work of Henry Jenkins, and through an indirect route, ended up here on Making Light. (And from here I found the slacktivist....)

#25 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 10:06 PM:

Taking the Anthropology: Magic & Ritual class at Foothill College back in... 1999? 2000?

I can trace all my adult friendships and lifestyle several steps back to a contact I made with someone in that class. She was a LARPer, which led to my joining her group and putting "LARP" as an interest in my Yahoo profile, which led to being approached by another LARP group, through which I met several of my now-oldest friends, and it was one of them who got me onto Livejournal, through which I met my partners and many of my current close friends.

#26 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 10:21 PM:

I was twelve, and a dawdler, so the form got sent in later than it might otherwise have done, so my first two choices for the summer academic program - Computer Science, and Russian - were full. So I got my third choice, German.

So I picked that for a language, in High school, owing to previous exposure, and did well enough. So I picked that for a major, initially, in college, because I had no idea what to major in but didn't want to be Undeclared....

Which led me to Tuebingen, Germany, where I met the person who introduced me to a) Oregon (where I moved when I needed to not live in Louisiana anymore), b) paganism, and c) the Internet, including Usenet.

The threads of geography, religion, and imagination get kind of braided from there and involve a postcard to my mother "Hi mom, don't buy plane tickets, I've moved to Maine and am shacking up with a weirdo I met on the internet."

Sometimes you just have to DO these things, mkay?

#27 ::: Zebee ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 10:28 PM:

For me it was a Coke machine.

Long time ago I lived in a town miles from anywhere interesting and so used to ride my motorcycle into Sydney (760 km away) on a weekend just to see something approaching civilisation. Start 5am on Sat, leave to go home before lunch on Sun.

(Note because it is important... I'm a morning person. I get sleepy after 9pm!)

One time after a really late (and possibly drunken...) Saturday night I got sidetracked and didn't leave till around 4pm.

So I was heading home through the cane country and got to a town called Broadmeadow. It was fast asleep latish on a Sunday evening, nothing and no one moving. I was noticing with a sort of quiet interest that it was really pleasant to trundle the bike at a decorous 60km/h through the main street with my eyes closed. I did sort of note that this was maybe a *silly* way to travel, but only in passing....

Besides it was only about 150km from home and I could do 150km, that's easy.

As I was leaving Broadmeadow (with, for a change, my eyes mostly open) I saw the (closed) service station had a Coke machine all lit up, and unusually it was on the outside of the building.

Aha! A Coke would be good, wake me up a bit!

So I rolled the motorcycle up by the Coke machine, flicked my leg to put the sidestand down...

And woke up about 15 minutes later, sprawled on the ground.

I had fallen dead asleep as I was getting off the bike.

I got the Coke and sat on the kerbing looking at the machine and at my bike. Thinking about how if that servo hadn't had the Coke machine in the open air that I might have fallen asleep at 110km/h and either gone into a ditch or a tree or the front of a truck at a closing speed of "scrape small pieces off the windscreen".

That Coke machine saved my life. And whenever I passed it thereafter I stopped and patted it hello.


#28 ::: Zebee ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 10:32 PM:

Ack, forgot the change bit...

I had had a number of slow speed bike crashes before, but that incident was a confrontation with my own mortality that no crash or even sidecar racing had provided.

What it did was make me decide that it didn't matter that something took a bit longer or I stopped earlier than I could, or that someone else could go faster or longer. Or that someone might be waiting.

What mattered is that I was really OK to do what I was doing.

#29 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:01 PM:

Reading a science fiction story titled "A Way Of Life" by Robert Bloch (I think), and asking my uncle, who I knew read science fiction, if there really were such people as fans. He told me there were, and took me to my first meeting a few weeks later. My overprotective mother decided her brother was enough adult supervision, and let me go. I don't know what my life would have been like if I hadn't found fandom.

#30 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:01 PM:

My Uncle Jimmy Pete taught me to play chess when I was little. (I don't remember how little. I know I was playing by the time I was nine.) I remember vividly the first time I beat him. (He overlooked a bishop. I got the advantage, and kept it.)

Chess intertwined with a lot of things for me, then and later: chess with a friend I had a hopeless crush on, chess with a young man dating me which led to my father making a remark that resulted in my changing my direction, chess with lovers, and chess in my dreams.... I wonder what happened to the lucite set I built once?

I don't play, these days. Seriously rusty. And yet, I recently connected on Facebook with someone I very much loved, back in college, who played. I remember him fondly. We've caught up a little on our lives, (writing? grandchildren? mutual "oh, my!"s), and maybe some day I'll ask for a game, just for old times' sake, if he'll humor my rustiness.

Chess made me know for sure that I had a mind that could appreciate the order and the beauty that is singing through the mathematical universe. It was always a place of that beauty, even if I never got to the high places from which one can see the grand vistas.

#31 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:02 PM:

At the end of my first presentation as a resident, my boss had a stunned look on his face and he said, "I think you may have missed your true calling." Until then I'd had no idea I could teach.

In my field, I have many chances to offer momentary assistance that could resonate. I've had a student who, while admiring my coolness in treating a seizure, despaired of his future potential for similar coolness, until I explained that if he'd seen me the previous year with the same patient, he'd have no problems imagining himself. Our training is much like an apprenticeship in the early years, and each generation passes on their earned wisdom.

And then there was the time in vet school when John A. turned to me and asked me to join them for a beer at the local. It was just what I needed, for more than one reason. I don't think I've ever thanked him enough.

#32 ::: Kelley Wegeng ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:06 PM:

I was having trouble deciding to get out of a scary relationship, religion being a big part in my life and the kind of abuse in my marriage not being one spoken to directly in the Bible. While talking to some friends one evening I mentioned that I'd actually tried to be an atheist for a number of months because the secular part of me thought that given the circumstances, it was OK to get a divorce.

My friend Ben spoke up quietly and said something like "You know, Kel, it's OK for the Christian part of you to think that too."

Ben may very well have saved both my life and my faith with just one sentence.

#33 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:08 PM:

Being approached by a librarian during a class trip to the public library, and asked if I liked robots, and if I'd ever heard of a gentleman named Asimov.

#34 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:12 PM:

I was at a terribly low point in my early 20s, and one day was struggling to clean my apartment, and trying to figure out how to get things organized when I couldn't even afford a dresser. I went for a walk to get away from the mess and step out of my depression for a few moments, and as I walked down the alley behind my house I found a nice lightweight dresser that someone had thrown away.

That whole week was one in which I was struggling with crushing despair, and every day had a tiny miracle. The dresser was the 5th and most on-the-nose thing, and it convinced me that there was something bigger than me at work in my life.

#35 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:15 PM:

At a fete in the church hall when I was about, maybe, 9 or 10, I saw and bought a second-hand Kodak home photo developing kit. I was already interested, but think that did lead to most of my contact with friends at school and university, and a continuing worthwhile pastime for the last 4 decades.

In pre-digital days I provided the introductory & background images for my (large, national) company's original website (tho' they didn't credit me), which stood for nearly a decade. Just lately my online photos have been picked up and used in travel guides and medical brochures, and I'm experimenting with places like CafePress or ImageKind (suggestions for others are welcome) to let people use the images in different forms. One ambition now is to make available some photobooks culled from my 6-7 years of digital images and older scanned ones, though my Olympic-standard procrastination gets in the way.

#36 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:18 PM:

Thank you, abi.

One morning, I said, "Hi, um, that microwave's a little underpowered, so I do the beverage setting and add 30 seconds twice."

#37 ::: Maeg ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:21 PM:

Two sprang instantly to mind:

First, chronologically, someone said 'Hey, you haven't read Heinlein? You really need to read this book." Terribly cliched, yes, but I was seventeen at the time. And it was Stranger In A Strange Land. It was long, overbearing, incredibly preachy - and exactly what I needed: to have my mind blown open to other possibilities about living, loving, believing.

Second, taking a midday bath at the absolute right time to miss a Very Important Phonecall. Internet Friend calls to cry on my shoulder, but Partner picks up instead. Listens. Invites Friend to live with us. She's been here six years this summer, and if he hadn't offered, if she hadn't accepted, if her parents hadn't agreed, I'd probably be dead.

Heck, a bonus third:

Sitting in Intro to Soc, still having not decided whether I liked the professor or not.. but he notices I have a knack for the material. "Segreti," he says to me at the end of class, "you're going to be an anthropologist." I smile, nod, and will begin my third year of my Anthro degree come fall.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:32 PM:

Events with unintended consequences...

The first time I watched It's A Wonderful Life because, after a near-relationship that had ended badly a couple of years before, it finally gave me the courage to say "I love you" to the woman who eventually became my wife.

Coming to Making Light and sticking around because it led to wonderful friendships.

#39 ::: CaptainBooshi ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:40 PM:

The water being out in our house for a couple of weeks when I was eleven led to the complete crushing of my self-esteem and self-confidence, the loss of all my social skills for years, and recurring, sometimes almost-suicidal, depressions that I've had to deal with ever since (currently age 24).

Definitely not a happy change, like the theme generally has been on this thread, but it still fits the question, I think.

#40 ::: AndrDrew ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:44 PM:

Life changed by a really awful pun here.
Or, rather, a series of them.

Kept me involved with a social group and proved to some hardbitten folks that I wasn't a waste of space. Drinks were offered all round!

#41 ::: Tom ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:51 PM:

Scoring 99/100 on an all years spelling test in my second year of primary school.

(I misspelt "seismograph" as "sizemograph".)

It could rightly be said that all subsequent developments in my life have been mere footnotes to that one awesome causative principle.

#42 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:52 PM:

I write what I write because of The Dragons of North Chittendon and a second-grade class obsession with dragons. It's one of the things I can trace easily.

A friend left me two Dove squares and a Kit Kat in the shape of a smiley face, with some assistance from a pen. I ate the candy a couple days later and used the half-smiling cheeks left on the paper a bit after, but I'm holding on to it. People care, and that is the evidence.

Turtle, great job on poking out of the shell a bit. One of my best friends became my best friend because we were both quiet brainy girls in the same homeroom in seventh grade, and then knew we were safe afterward. When I was looking for people in high school, I knew her, knew she was safe, and now we've held on to each other through a lot of silliness and in-jokes, and even though I'm better at people now than I was when I met her, I'm glad to keep her.

#43 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:00 AM:

I'd agree that it fits, CaptainBooshi; and I hope you think of another that's happier!

Spending twenty minutes talking about the Black Plague and things medieval to a friend of a friend of my parents when I was 12. She later introduced me to fandom (and became a professional writer herself, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro).

I could give dozens of stories about where my curiosity has taken me -- but that's another set of stories.

Hang around, turtle -- this is a place for inveterate punsters, and some of us have the spine to keep it that way.

#44 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:17 AM:

Friend: "It's a bunch of people who dress up in weird clothes and hit each other with sticks. Wanna come along?"

Me (dubiously): "Well... okay."

I was a college freshman, and that was my introduction to the SCA. For the first time in my life, a whole group of people who were interested in some of the same things I liked, and who didn't think I was an unattractive, socially-inept weirdo.

SCA led into fandom, and fandom led into... well, everything else. I sometimes say that I'm a living illustration of FIAWOL; my social life has revolved around fandom for decades, and now my financial life does as well, since we make our living as con dealers. All because one friend invited me to an SCA event being thrown by the (relatively new) local group.

#45 ::: Tracey C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:20 AM:

In 2000, someone with whom I'd had an online flirtation going said to me something along the lines of "there's someone in my life, her name is X, and she is non-negotiable", which opened up into a discussion on poly, which I had never heard of before.

And many, many small kindnesses by relative strangers over the years. A word here, a book there... all adding up to enough to make it worth it, when I was at my darkest.

#46 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:25 AM:

I'm having a hard time with this.


The miserable summer I washed dishes and mopped up at Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips, which included having to clean up two cases of deliberate shit smearing in the mens' room.

After that, I made spending money during my college years by writing role playing game material. It was the most productive period of my writing career.

And I've never had a menial job since.

#47 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:35 AM:

Stefan Jones at 46, my life is not so much made of butterfly moments. I mentioned the ones I did because they're traceable and relatively recent. Everything else is made of multiple butterflies, or perhaps I'm just not far away enough to see the hurricane.

#48 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:11 AM:

On the first of January, in the middle of a really nasty snowstorm in Boston, the postman knocked on our door because ours was the first apartment in the building. He had found a 7 week-old puppy outside in the snow and wanted to know if we would take it in, and we did.

Tom Whitmore @ 43
this is a place for inveterate punsters, and some of us have the spine to keep it that way.
And those who don't have the spine are invertebrate punsters.

#49 ::: cpolk ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:18 AM:

Deciding that No, I wasn't going to spend the long weekend alone in the collective rent house I'd just moved into while everyone else went away for thanksgiving while I didn't tell them that I was (ho hum, darlings, really) lonely and sad to the point of tears.

I had money, and one of my roommates had told me about this thing called a "con." He said that I would probably like it, as I loved SF and Fantasy books.

It was going on that weekend, and I'd have to go by myself, social anxiety and all. I called a cab and went.

#50 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:27 AM:

My perception of my life is that it's butterflies all the way down. Too many surprises, odd opportunities, odd *missed* opportunities. Too much causality.

#51 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:31 AM:

I keep thinking of small turning points, but I don't know that they necessarily improved my life. Changed it, yes.

Eleven years ago. One evening as I was going out to usher for a show I decided to tape a TV show that I'd bounced off several times in the past. That decision changed what I searched for when I went online for the first time a year and a half later, and presumably my entire subsequent online trajectory.

Finding a copy of The Hobbit in a tiny donations fed library in a tiny town when I was 9 was probably pretty significant too.

#52 ::: Lylassandra ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:43 AM:

Deciding to take Irish Gaelic for fun. Five years later I'm married to the teacher and have a degree in linguistics. We're planning to have children soon, and we hope to raise them speaking the language.

#53 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:55 AM:

One thing I did: Checked the box on my college freshman housing application that said "I don't care whether I'm in an ethnic theme dorm or not". This led to meeting my husband. [Same university as Alberto, apparently, though a few years earlier.]

One thing someone else did: Asked if I would pick up a copy of the handout at the end of class for her since she had to leave early. Led to a strong friendship that has been good for both of us.

#54 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 02:24 AM:

Some of you have probably heard this before. I went to school for a week or so every time we transferred and then I taught myself at home. When we were stationed at the Pentagon, my father gave in and took the bus to work so I could go to a school with a handful of students like me. We started going to a nearby church that summer.

On the first day, there was band first and I brought my clarinet. As I was coming down the aisle (didn't know enough to go in the stage door), the band director called out "Don't you know you don't bring your instrument to class on the first day?" No, I hadn't.

I took the time to put it in my locker before the next class, science, and when I got there, each double table-desk already had someone at it. I asked a few people but they were saving their other space. Finally a girl looked up and said "Don't I know you from church? You can sit with me." And not only do Chris and I still email these days, but going to school was okay.

#55 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 02:28 AM:

Deciding (in 1989) to fundraise for a fanzine with a publisher who somehow didn't make it to the conference.

I took one step into his office and the entire world fell away, changing my life - and his - forever.

#56 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 02:40 AM:

One thing that strongly changed my life for the worse: Refusing to let my mother enroll me in dance class or in the little girls' version of Scouts (Daisy? Brownies?) because my sisters had done all that and I feared and hated them both. These were about the only small-group settings in which an adult could have noticed my utter lack of ability to receive social cues and so forth--I believe they call this "on the spectrum" now--and so I went through about half my life afflicted with excruciating shyness punctuated by bouts of acute shame and grinding loneliness.

Good thing: Adam Powers, the kid with half a thumb, brought this red box to school one day in sixth grade and started playing this game at lunchtime. This . . . this game. It grabbed me. It was like jumping right into an Andre Norton novel and writing the plot myself. Or being Bilbo Baggins. I hung around and kibitzed (only boys played, of course!) and then I played, and then I DMed, and then my first boyfriend invited me to his AD&D group, and there I met the guy who now DMs for our four-year-old daughter on rainy Sunday afternoons. All because if I wanted to keep playing this wonderful game, I had to keep bashing away at the getting-along-with-people thing until I figured it out.

#57 ::: siriosa ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:06 AM:

High school hallway, overhearing my name. "Definitely not ugly. Striking."

It straightened my spine and gave me an entirely more useful self image. I knew I wasn't pretty. But striking: I could absolutely be that.

#58 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:15 AM:

Oddly enough, as I try to remember the details of some of these, I'm finding that they aren't entirely consistent with other memories. Ah, well; that comes of them not being momentous until rather later, and being years ago, and me having a memory like a thing one drains rice in [1], I suspect.

And it feels kind of cliched, because, well, doesn't everyone here have the "and then I discovered online communities" moment?

So I was looking over the Stanford local newsgroups on their Usenet feed, poking about for something interesting, and this newsgroup with 30,000 messages in it (!) caught my eye and piqued my curiousity, and I looked and discovered that all of those messages were in a single thread with a rather cryptic title about an air.unix survival movement (whatever that was), so I subscribed out of curiousity and slowly started figuring out what was going on there....

(Actually, I think there may have been an intervening step, as I remember someone from the Stanford computer-support newsgroup suggesting this one to me, and years later I still held her responsible for it. But somewhere along the process there was definitely this moment of stepping into something Entirely Different.)

[1] Among other things, I can trace the direct causality chains from that moment of curiousity to why that's the phrasing I use for that, with one of the most meaningful relationships of my life stuck in the middle.

#59 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:19 AM:

Stefan, #46: You partially share a common experience with Spider Robinson, who has said that the biggest motivation to finish and sell his first novel was "to get out of the sewer"; he was working as a security guard at the time, and that's what he was guarding.

Another butterfly moment for me, much more recent but almost as life-changing: a whimsical sign-off on a Usenet post, which led to the first serious e-mail exchange between me and the person who is now my partner.

#60 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:09 AM:

Being an at-home mum with two toddlers, reading an eminently forgettable formula-fantasy from the library - because I'd already read everything half-way decent on their shelves.

Deciding I wasn't actually going to finish it - and heck, if the Library Police caught up with me, I'd argue my case.

Saying to my husband as I set it down, 'huh, I could write something better than this.'

Him saying, 'go on then.' And really meaning it.

After a couple of years, after a lot of concentrated hard work and learning stuff, my first book was published. '09 sees my tenth hitting the bookstores!

#61 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:30 AM:

Eating a sandwich too fast.

It's 1986 and I'm working as a counter clerk in the local post office in a small village. The office closed for an hour for lunch - all the other workers went home, but I lived too far away so I ate in the rest room. One day I finished early and decided to stretch my legs. Meanwhile a women I knew vaguely was driving through town looking for someone to go to the pub with - she had just split up with her boyfriend and wanted company. I walked out onto the street just as she was about to give up.

So we went and had a drink, which led to hanging out, which led to meeting the mother of my children, a career change and ultimately to my sitting here typing this.

A few seconds later and she would have driven past, and my entire life would have been different

#62 ::: Anonymous -- for legal reasons ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:40 AM:

It's 12:30 and I just awoke from a wonderfully liberating two hour musical/operatic tragicomedy of a dream in which there were combined my hatred of A Major Educational Publisher/its continuing significance in my life and the pain of living at my current address into a happy/seriously profound ending of liberation and friendship, quotations of entire chapters of scripture, improvised sonnet form sung to melodies of my own devising -- if I could ever write it down and explain its elements in any way to any audience that has not lived my life could understand, it would be the first Oscar award for a musical since...?? see my cat gazing lovingly at me and wanting the third and final can of divine cat food, which he has devoured as I wrote the above sentence (yes, it is, in some circles, grammatically correct and violates every single one of my reasons for hating No Child Left Behind -- which is the source of much of my hatred of A Major Educational Publisher, but that is another subject).

My little female cat bounded out of her hidey hole (my big boy and little sweetheart with a sharp right hook had starring guest roles in the dream too! And their characterization was superb!) to gobble up what I held back from big boy, and he is licking his chops and thinking loving thoughts about Grandma, who made the divine cat food magically appear. Little sweetie is silently purring in her hidey hole. All is well with the Universe.

The experience has given me reason to know that my brain is not at all impaired in my dream life -- or in my soul, which has borne sorrow.

I sure hope I get that new apartment early in the morning tomorrow so I don't have to trek all the way across town to hand over the security deposit on the lesser good that would otherwise make more divine cat food magically appear!

But that may be optimism occasioned by a wonderful dream (or silly laughter when you're so tired that laughter is the only rational response to the world's woes).

#63 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 05:00 AM:

Okay, stepdad, I WILL take any crappy job going to get me out of the house.

Two months on an Irish Sea Ferry? Dressed as a cartoon cat? No days off? NO DRINKING?!?!! £90 a week, room and meals thrown in.

Well, it'll pass the time I guess. And that girl at the interview looked cute, maybe we'll be on the same ship...

Even after raising two kids with me, she still looks cute.

#64 ::: Naamah ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:06 AM:

Randomly-encountered gay porn saved my life, brought me a sister, and got me a job at a magazine I've always loved. (Not a porn magazine.)

1) Looking into self-publishing illustrated erotica novels, I discovered a strikingly perverse erotic illustration to an original story. I looked up the artist, who updated via Livejournal. I eventually got my own LJ to keep up with her.

I lost my cool one day and wrote a rant about feminine hygiene products. The rant shot 'round LJ, baffling me totally. Seven hundred people friended me, baffling me further.

The Bloody Hell rant came up at a local writers' group meeting. I gave the link to the new partner of an acquaintance when she expressed interest and mentioned that she had an LJ.

She became my best friend and a sister to me, and when I hit my lowest a year and a half ago, having her in my life saved my life.

2) I began writing about that nasty downturn on my LJ. I was diagnosed as bipolar, and used lycanthropy as my metaphor for living with it. Intrigued, an editor at my favorite pulp magazine asked me to write a longer piece about it for publication.

That went well, and he offered to let me handle a regular feature. I stood out in a rainstorm that evening, hollering and howling like a maniac.

So that's how being snake-shagging crazy got me writing for Weird Tales.

Those are the big ones, and I am still astounded by the unlikeliness of it all.

If I hadn't clicked that link, my life might be very different.

#65 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:25 AM:

The biggest butterfly wings in my life were before I was born, no question: first that I was conceived at all (my birth parents were teenagers just out of high school), second that my birth mother's half-sister had happened to choose Berkeley for her graduate studies.

Only slightly lesser: that my parents had decided to adopt a child -- they went on to have three natural-born children, and if my sister had been conceived as little as three or four months earlier, who knows where I would be or what would be my name?

(Funny: I only just now thought of that second one while composing this.)

To speak of things I can remember, when I was a freshman at UC Berkeley, I had for a while as a roommate a CS grad student who also read comics, and he told me about the discussions of Watchmen taking place on Usenet. Eventually I had access to Usenet myself, and through that community I met Jo Walton, our esteemed hosts, and most importantly my Katie. I might have discovered Usenet by other means...then again I might not. If I hadn't, I wouldn't be typing this now.

#66 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:28 AM:

Getting called a foul-mouthed slut on Usenet. After a lifetime of trying to be a lady, suddenly I understood that it wasn't such a big deal.

I never looked back.

#67 ::: ingvar ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:50 AM:

I think one of the biggest "small things" was the head librarian at my local public library having a wee chat with my mum and tehy collectively deciding that, yes, I would be allowed to check out any book I felt like, without parental supervision. I think I was 8 or 9 at the time and that opened the full collection of SF and Fantasy for lending (other books that formed me were in the reference library and not allowed to be brought home, including one book on metallurgy shaping a deep interest in shaping hot metal).

#68 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:57 AM:

It was my sixteenth birthday and I decided I was sick of sitting alone during lunch and not having anyone to hang out with after school. A friend from middle school who was a freshman that year had told me in the fall that her and her friends sat at the lunch cart at the other end of the school.

It terrified me to leave the saftey of the commons, but I got up and went looking, and there she was with her friends and a warm welcome for me... and there also was a girl ignoring her food and drawing, just like I often did. Drawing dragons. And happy to talk about it.

We've been sister-close for fourteen years, with no end in sight for all we live on opposite sides of the world, now.

#69 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 07:42 AM:

Hearing a Leonard Cohen song for the first time, while watching Atom Egoyan's Exotica. This was in 1996, IIRC. It led to me moving halfway across the world, where I now have a job I love.

The song was "Everybody Knows", from "The Future" album - still one of my favorites. LC in concert is a wonderful experience, watched him twice last year.

#70 ::: Sus ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 07:59 AM:

I will never forget that the guy who gave me my first job in England 5 years ago only picked up my application because the recruiter whom I'd sent it to was on holiday that very day.

My gratefulness lasted for 2 whole years, upon which I decided that I'd paid off his kindness (for helping me get a foot on the ground) and left the horrors of that agency far behind me.

5 years. Where'd they go?

#71 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 08:01 AM:

About five years ago, wearing a Blue Öyster Cult t-shirt on "Casual Friday" at work, and popping into the off-licence to buy some beer on the way home.

Ultimately lead to an awful lot of great music from bands that probably only Hedgeprog here has heard of, and a huge increase in my circle of friends.

#72 ::: Betsy-the-muffin ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 08:03 AM:

I was marking a piece of wood to cut, and needed a third hand, so I stuck a piece of scrap in my mouth.

The people who ran my college theater program had been Unsure about me, and vice versa, until that moment.

#73 ::: SylvieG ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 08:14 AM:

Two for me:

1) Somebody (who might even be reading this - she's a frequent commenter) told me (offhand) that I was attractive. It was the first time I'd ever believed it.

2) Almost a year ago I desperately asked a departing colleague whether there was still an opening for an editor where he was going. I got the job.

#74 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 08:33 AM:

My mom died in a car crash when I was 16; I blamed myself for her death for years afterward (I'd changed the oil in her car before she left; if I'd been a minute faster or slower, she would have been somewhere else when the drunk driver lost control of his car that day), and not until I met my best friend's younger sister did I start coming out of that self-loathing stage. She genuinely liked me for being ME, and I treated her like the younger sister I never had.

That was over 30 years ago. Even now we communicate via email to keep up on what's going on in each other's lives.

The other one was the first week I was at my university. My roommate dragged me to a college organization meeting "just to get out of the room". We were talking and two young women in front of us turned and began listening to our conversation about AD&D and my desire to start a gaming group.

I ended up marrying one of those young women, and we're still playing AD&D...

#75 ::: stlpunster ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 08:57 AM:

Three interconnected events separated by decades.

The first was when I was 9. I was sick with pneumonia and my mom brought me a book to read, Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke. I was hooked and never looked back in my reading.

The second was shortly after I had moved to St. Louis. I was in a record store looking for spoken word SF material. I struck up a conversation with a clerk and discovered there was an SF group in town and something called a Con in the area. FIAWOL, indeed!

The third was making the trip from St. Louis to attend Boskone three years ago. I met the lady I had been corresponding with online for dinner. Now, after moving to New England, we are buying a house and getting married.

Thanks, Sir Arthur!

#76 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 09:28 AM:

Butterfly wings... whoa. Yeah.

Back in the 1980's, when cash currency from different countries was difficult to obtain in small (and affordable!) amounts, a young Dutch fan paid for an order of some science fiction fan reprints with the only US currency he could get from his bank, a $10 note. That was far too much for what he was ordering, so he appended a short letter, explaining the problem, and saying they could send him "whatever" as a form of change.

"Whatever" was the club 'zine - with my address as a Junior Year Abroad student in it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Crazy(and still together with that sweet enthusiastic fan)Soph

#77 ::: Anon ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 09:35 AM:

A friend asked me if I'd ever heard of Guru Jeff.

"Who the heck is Guru Jeff?"

"No, no; Gurdjieff."

#78 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 09:36 AM:

Being befriended by the children's librarian at my local public library when I was in elementary school. It made a big difference to know that people outside my family could a) like me for who I was and b) not find my bookishness off-putting.

Googling "unhappiness in academia" at a moment when I was trying desperately to articulate why I was feeling so wretched about the career path I'd chosen. It led to my discovery of the blogosphere at just the moment when I most wanted to talk about my academic angst, but had nobody in Real Life with whom I could talk about it. Which in turn led to a bunch of online friendships and a direction in life that's made me a great deal happier. (Not to mention endless happy hours of procrastination!)

#79 ::: jillie ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 09:48 AM:

In middle school, discussing watching X-Men on the bus one afternoon. It was the first time I realized I wasn't the only person into things like that.

#80 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 10:07 AM:

A picture on a postcard that my mother's friend sent to her when I was fifteen.

It truly was the butterfly's wings in my life.

#81 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 10:12 AM:

One name: "bandykin".

That said, most of my life seems dreadfully overdetermined, sometimes to my detriment.

#82 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 10:20 AM:

A favorite professor was fond of the phrase, "It'll change your life." The last class he taught before being kicked out of the school was "The Bible as Literature," so I took it.

It did.

#83 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 10:38 AM:

Most of the things that I remember making changes I would consider significant, but there is one that seemed insignificant enough at the time.

A friend enticed me to try a certain MMORPG, and I was hooked. Through it, I eventually met some people, one of whom I consider a good friend whe I still talk to regularly. I discovered more about myself and being comfortable with who I am. Even though I haven't played it for a few years now, it also spurred me to finally start taking ballet classes a few months ago.

#84 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 10:56 AM:

-pretending to know who Luciano Berrio was for ten minutes.

-I thought the brown-haired boy who worked at Forbidden Planet was cute, so I let him talk me into reading this odd looking book called "Neuromancer."

-being assigned to Branford.

-My grandpa not throwing out a box he found in the garage in 1988. It contained the entire "Trixie Belden" series.

-buying a moleskine notebook because it was next the register.

-"Well, we don't have an extra bedroom, exactly, but there is a kind of closet--it was the old maid's quarters. I suppose you could live there for a few months."

Blum @ 33
"Being approached by a librarian ..." What a delightful way to begin your answer.

Jenny @ 56
Thanks for including something negative. Took me to some tough places, mentally, but thanks.

As a reader and infrequent poster ("lurker?") I'll say that the comments on this post showed me how liberated the Making Light salon is. A kind of bohemia of shared sensibility. Touching, and inspiring. Thanks for always being fascinating.

What does the first moment of enlightenment look like? Just like every other moment.

#85 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:04 AM:

Reading these things is amazing. It's making me think more and more about all the butterfly wings I've got, too.

One in high school: A guy named Jerry Eilers, who had graduated the year before and was one of the smartest and most popular (and gorgeous) guys who ever went to our school, kissed me and told me that someday somebody would appreciate me. I was completely stunned, but somewhere in me, I was lucky enough to believe a tiny corner of it. Thank you for saying that, Jerry. It might indeed have saved my life -- I know that it saved me from some pretty awful despair, and helped me have the guts to stay out of some awful situations.

One in college: Somebody complained about the ribald and occasionally sacreligious humor in the cable-access comedy show some friends and I were involved with around 1979 or 80. The religious program immediately preceding our show demanded that we put a disclaimer saying that we were potentially offensive and for mature audiences. We did the disclaimer as written -- with me wearing the outfit from the poster for Fassbinder's The Marriage of Maria Braun. The guy in the control room said he never had so many people in there willing to help him adjust the fleshtone. We got married the next year, and while the marriage didn't last, it indirectly got me into performing at the Renaissance Festival, and into hanging out with people that changed my life, like Dr. John Brantner.

(And then, a few years back, I walked into a hotel at a convention and spotted a familiar face on someone wearing a hotel employee badge. I walked up, said, "Hey, didn't we used to be married to each other?" He said, "Why, yes, I believe we did." I said, "How long ago was that?" He said "About 24 years." I said, "I thought so," and we hugged a lot. He's remarried, and looks to be pretty happy, and I was so glad to see him so.)

Oh. Probably the biggest butterfly wings of all: I got laid off from a job I had had for seven years. I got twenty minutes notice, because they wanted me to help tell the other sixty-some people that they were laid off. There was at that time a retraining program for laid-off workers in Minnesota, and in the interview they asked me what I had been paid for doing other than the job I just got laid off from. The most recent thing I had been paid for doing was writing a poem, which Jane Yolen had bought for Xanadu 3. So the retraining people paid the tuition part for me to go up to the Split Rock Arts Program and study poetry for a week or so with my already-friend Jane Hirshfield. That led to me taking a second class with Jane a year or two later.

Every night after doing my writing homework I would make jewelry. There was a bead shop near the Duluth campus where we were studying, and I would scrape my purse for enough pennies to buy a few beads. Each morning I would take the pieces I had made, along with a little card bearing their name, and lay them in a line down the center of the table before my fellow poets came in. They would look at the pieces and their names, and someone would say, "Oh! I know what that poem should be!" and take a piece, and that would go on until all the pieces were gone. They started showing me the poems they wrote, and then they started saying, "Can I give you some money for the jewelry?"

I didn't have enough money for the next $2.30 pack of headpins, but I didn't want to get weird about the money thing, since that wasn't why I was doing it, so I just said, "OK, but put it in a sealed envelope so I don't have to think about it, and I'll just take it to the bead store and blow it on more beads."

That's how the Artists' Challenge program started. Because my health was so lousy, making jewelry was one of the few things that gave me comfort. I trained myself to do the pain management exercises every time I picked up my pliers, so work improved my life. I had more shinies, and had to find their people for them, and I did. Often they were artists of some sort; many were writers. The pieces gave them ideas. That led to all sorts of stories and poems and other art sparked (in part) by the shinies I made. It led to Sarah Monette's first published story, "Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland," which won the Spectrum Award. Most recently, it led to an anthology called Glass Bead Games (thanks to TNH for the title!) with a bunch of shiny-related stories and poems and essays in it. And it led to my day job for the last eleven years. And one of the things that pleases me most is that it led to Sarah Monette's essay "Rhino Carries the Moon," which is my favorite job description for writers and artists ever. ("...we love the Moon. And the Moon needs to get home.")

And it has given me the inestimable joy of watching people's faces and whole bodies reflect that moment when the idea hits them, when they say, "I know what that story should be!" My shinies? Just the excuse, the thing to lure them over close enough to the idea that it can take them. They take it from there, but oh, I love so much seeing that moment of birth-and-belief.

All because I got laid off. I should write them a thank-you letter.

#86 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:05 AM:

Similar to Serge: finding Singularity Sky in a google search and then in Powell's Books and being curious enough about it to buy. Reading it instantly turned me into a fan of Charlie Stross'. From his website I followed several of his blog links to Making Light, where I lurked for awhile and then was compelled to post in the "Three Arab Leaders Walk into a Bar" thread. Being accepted into the community and taking part in the fun and games and more serious discussions, and being dared to write a sonnet helped pull me out of a spiral into another depression, and has helped keep me out of it.

#87 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:09 AM:

Drat. I screwed up those links. Here:

The Marriage of Maria Braun"

"Rhino Carries the Moon"

#88 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:13 AM:

Deciding somewhere in early middle school (6th/7th grade to Americans) that it was time I started reading the English books in the house too, and discovering Asimov's non-fiction popular science essay collections. Determined my career direction, if not my job; changed my appreciation of science forever; ultimately affected my overall world view.

#89 ::: Pat Kight ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:23 AM:

Waking up one Friday morning in 1985 to the realization that even though it was payday (checks were handed out in person then) I profoundly didn't want to go to work. Going in anyway, but walking directly into my newspaper editor's office and tendering my resignation, effective immediately, with no idea what I'd do instead.

Thus it was that I spent my mid-30s-mid-40s doing just enough freelance writing to scrape by, taking whatever temporary jobs I felt even marginally qualified for and spending lots of time doing exactly what I wanted. And learned all kinds of important things about myself, including the fact that I am not a novelist (and that's OK), that I have a peculiar knack for figuring out how things work, and that I am not defined by how I pay my bills.

#90 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:28 AM:

When I was young and mostly broke and living in a very cheap apartment, the landlord decided to turn over management to his son, a very cheap young man indeed. He decided to do the roach spraying himself, and got rather over-enthusiastic, to the point of spraying vast, oily, suffocating quanitites of the stuff all over the dishes and into such unlikely places as everyone's dresser drawers. I got home that fine spring day to discover an entire indignation meeting camped out on the balcony. I joined them, and met the chap who'd just moved into the aprtment directly over mine. Thirty-three years later, we've been married for almost twenty-eight years.

#91 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:34 AM:

Reluctantly telling a newly made freind in college that I sometimes made up stories in my head. She got excited and told me to write them down and read every single one of them. It was the first time any one ever expressed an interest.

I made my first professional sale to the Grantville Gazette last year.

#92 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:50 AM:

Answering that "Help Wanted" ad in Locus (a now-ancient issue with Saturn on the cover, I think it was), back when I couldn't find a teaching job with my nearly-new Ph.D.

#93 ::: Thel ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:06 PM:

July 2001. I was chatting online with some friends and a guy with an unfamiliar nickname commented, "Pretty name."

I ignored him.

A few moments later, he tried again. Cursed with perpetual politeness, I relented and said, "Thanks."

Several other butterfly moments later, we'll be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary in July.

#94 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:09 PM:

Impulsively hugging a friend goodbye, which did not go over well, which led to (some months later) a(n ex-)friend trying to break up my marriage (he failed) which led to way-too-complicated-to-describe-here which led to the best Thanksgiving I've ever had and I life I would not have believed possible two years ago.

Yes, I know it's a run on sentence. So is life.

#95 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:14 PM:

Reading this thread makes me wonder just how many people found their copies of their gateway SFF book.

(Mine: The Hobbit, on the floor of my father's pickup, when I was seven.)

#96 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:31 PM:

Hee. Clicking through a link in Neil Gaiman's Journal some year's back to Teresa's Slushkiller, and discovering Making Light, and this community, which led me to Live Journal. I was just fascinated by the Slushkiller thread, but that link led me to so much more, and I have a NUMBER of very good friends today that I met through here or Live Journal that I wouldn't otherwise have met. I have a blogroll full of smart folks I greatly admire that I never would have discovered.

Sounds hilarious that a person could go 34 years without having known there was such a thing as online fandom, or cons, or writers interacting with fans, or any of this, despite being SUCH a GEEK PRINCESS, but you know, it totally passed me by.

My life is very, very different now.

#97 ::: Ryan Viergutz ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:55 PM:

Lurker, been watching for a while. There's something I can comment on.

I can think of at least two butterflies:

One being our aunt saw a cat in her yard in 1991-1992 and asked us if we wanted to keep her. We did. She was absolutely the toughest cat I've ever known.

Being able to watch Farscape at 11PMs on the Scifi Channel.

#98 ::: Ryan Viergutz ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:55 PM:

Lurker, been watching for a while. There's something I can comment on.

I can think of at least two butterflies:

One being our aunt saw a cat in her yard in 1991-1992 and asked us if we wanted to keep her. We did. She was absolutely the toughest cat I've ever known.

Being able to watch Farscape at 11PMs on the Scifi Channel.

#99 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:57 PM:

I've been feeling very... grey lately. "Like butter scraped over too much bread", as the phrase goes. I'm not coming up with anything good -- if I hadn't made a snide comment about someone who richly deserved it, I wouldn't have been stalked and harassed for years; if I hadn't replied to a response to my personals ad (out of politeness, since the writer was obviously not compatible with me), I wouldn't have had a romantic stalker for a couple of years. I can think of a number of thoughtless things I've said which have hurt other people.

But especially considering the number of folks who've mentioned how a casual kindness has led to a much larger good, I thought I'd toss in a mention of Christine Lavin's song "The Moment Slipped Away". I need to do better about keeping that message in mind.

#100 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 12:59 PM:

Watching a game show on TV on March 18th 1982.

(Which made me read LotR, which made me a fantasy [and later SF] fan, which made me unafraid of nerddom, which made me meet all kinds of interesting people, which made me fluent in English, which helped me get a job I wanted twice.)

Knowing the way to a tiny village but being unable to describe it, so offering to guide a friend's father there to pick up my friend.

(Which introduced me to a scout-like youth club, which I joined two weeks later, which more than anything else I did or learned in my teenage years created the foundation of my value system, as well as give me the worst heartbreak ever.)

Failing French in 8th grade.

(Which meant I had to give up sports to make time for remedial French lessons. Half a year later I was fat, clumsy, and short of breath, and stayed that way.)

#101 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:13 PM:

Hmm. Perhaps I'd better explain that my dad turning me on to TLOTR when I was ten or twelve led to more than just reading fantasy.

I reread the book a couple of years later, and that time (or maybe the time after) I looked at the Appendices. I didn't understand a tenth of what I saw there, and quickly got bored, but I discovered that I'm fascinated by words. (I had started writing fiction already, in second or third grade, with a story called "Sparky in Space," about a puppy (yeah, I know) who finds a flying saucer in the woods and accidentally begins its launch sequence, not that I used that phrase. I think it was "He ran across a pedal." Hey, what do you want from a 7-year-old?)

That and highschool German led me to choosing Linguistics as a major in college, and that led me to meeting the MSU Tolkien Fellowship, some of whom have been my friends these 30 years. Remember when I said my "nephew" got into West Point? He's the son of some of those friends.

That led to fandom, which led to my finding Wicca, which led to some friends of mine (one from the Wicca side and one from the Tolkien side) getting married; their daughter is now six. Somewhere in there I also introduced another couple, one of whom was from the MSU days and another I met at work, but we might not have connected had he not already known Lise Eisenberg, whom he knew from Yale and I knew from fandom.

Fandom also led me to Fanoclasts (remember them?) and to meeting Our Hosts, which led me here.

All because my dad told me about a book about a magic ring.

#102 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:17 PM:


1978, I was out jogging, stopped by the planetarium to chat with Meg. She mentions that she and Kelly have decided to go to this thing called the World Science Convention. Never heard of such a thing (though I had been to Star Trek conventions), but thought, "Hey, that sounds like fun." By the time I got home, I'd decided to go. Over the summer, everyone else dropped out of the trip. So I went by myself. All alone in a crowd of 5,000. First time I ever felt like I belonged. I had finally found My People.

1986, was walking through the living room. Entertainment Tonight was on, and was showing a clip from an upcoming movie. Woman's out on the dock, talking to herself, "What am I doing out here alone at 3am? I might as well just tape a hundred dollar bill to my ass and yell, 'Victim here!' Shut up, Terry, shut up!" I watched the rest of the clip, transfixed.

Come October 7, I was at the first showing of the first day of Jumpin' Jack Flash. Blew the top of my head off. (And left me with a small burst blood vessel on my retina from laughing so hard.)

Two things happened: first, I found my internal experience. "Where did that thought come from? Oh, that's what prompted it."

And for the first time in my life (and the last time for a long while), I saw a woman up on the screen with whom I was not only able to identify with completely, but actually wanted to.

#103 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:22 PM:

My biggest butterfly moment of all:
Uncle: I am not teaching her to read from a children's book!
Aunt, Mother, assorted other relatives: But she's only three.
Uncle: I don't care.
A, M, AOR: so what are you going to use?
Uncle: Let's see. I have the Oddysey and the Martian Chronicles right here. They will do for a start.

#104 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:35 PM:

Gateway SFF book for me: my dad'd original issue Conan the Barbarian paperback books, with the Frank Frazetta covers. I'd stare at the artwork, and then lose myself in the words within. I was probably 4 (somewhere between 4 and 4.5), and voraciously consuming books at an ever-increasing speed.

#105 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:37 PM:

A month or so after my youngest child self-weaned, the winter after my father died, we went down to Oregon to stay with The Guy with Too Many Guitars. There is the larger, social, current that exists because we know him, but that dates further back, to a time when Geoffrey the Gasoline Addict was trying to find Mr. Space (the R in my name belongs to him) and we ended up at a cabin in the woods outside Tenino, where TGwTMG was trying to get a bunch of tiny kittens out of his old Martin without hurting either the guitar or the kittens. That trip down, though, disturbed a small sleeping moth when he showed me Prodigy to keep me from dying of boredom while The Boys were going through something- a pile of old reel to reel tapes, probably. We'd just gotten a Mac Classic; when we got home I went online with a Prodigy account and then an AOL account and found people who had the same interests and/or problems that I did.

From there came many things- finally getting my ADHD diagnosed and treated, finding a community that kept me from thinking it was All My Fault and Just What I Deserved when my husband made employment choices that left me alone all day, six days a week, for the next six months, with two preschoolers and no transportation. Finding a bunch of people to talk roses with- going to England, eventually, with a group of them, and having tea and dinner with Peter Beales. The Intergalactic Borg Conspiracy. Finding that it hurts no less to lose a close friend who'd never shared breathing space with me. Learning it more than once. The S'cubie board and Live Journal and here, now, as a result of being given a small distraction on a rainy February afternoon eighteen years ago.

#106 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:41 PM:

One other Butterfly moment... Not long after I started going to school, one day I found myself understanding the words in the Friday Funnies that I'd been staring at for years. The strip? Buck Rogers, and he was being attacked by a house filled with robotic toys.

#107 ::: Ahayweh ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:52 PM:

Halloween night, freshman year of college, I decided that if I was going to be lonely and friendless and depressed I might as well do it at the school-sponsored dorm party, where I could at least be lonely and friendless and depressed with free popcorn. While standing in line for the free popcorn, I had a mutual "I *know* I recognize your costume. What are you?" moment with the boy in front of me. I was the Black Canary, he was something to do with the Umbrella Corporation, I was absorbed Borg-style into the group he was there with and happily talked geek talk for the rest of the night; bravery and fishnet stockings got me my first friends in a new city, at a time when I'd been about to give myself up as unsocializable. (Also a boyfriend, which was temporary but enjoyable, and a roommate, which lasted a lot longer.)

#108 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 01:52 PM:

Two people:

The principal of my grammar school, who taught me 9th grade math in 8th grade.

The woman at church on the Fourth of July weekend 6 years ago, who talked to me when I was been crying, and told me she had the same illness, and to go get pills - I'm diagnosed, medicated, and stable now.

#109 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 02:15 PM:

Ashley mailed me three pages of newspaper, and here I am twenty years later with four kids.

#110 ::: LizT ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 02:18 PM:

Lots of books here, of course.

I was 29, and reading "Goodbye to All That" in "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" by Didion. I was miserable at my job and knew for years I needed to get back in school and finish my degree - but it was that essay that finally moved me to enroll.

My dad had given me the book in a stack of books he thought I should read, which included Camus. My dad's not real good at communication, but that stack of books changed my life, and somehow he knew I needed it.

#111 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 02:39 PM:

Andy, #61: The office closed for an hour for lunch - all the other workers went home, but I lived too far away so I ate in the rest room.

Boy, does that sentence ring oddly to American ears! (We'd say "break room" or "employee lounge" -- "restroom" is one of the things we call the loo.)

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 02:51 PM:

One time when I was the cause of someone else's butterfly... I had transfered back to my old team, which created an opening in the other team that was quickly filled up by a contractor who noticed and approached someone in my old team who was sure she'd never find the right person. They're now married, and adopted a little girl from China whom my co-worker calls the Borg Princess.

#113 ::: Nicholas Waller ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 02:59 PM:

@95 - my gateway SF book was Arthur C Clarke's "Islands in the Sky", spotted when I was about 7 or 8 in the shelves at the house of one of my father's colleagues when my parents were round there for a drink sometime in 1965 or so. I can remember kneeling on the floor reading the first few pages.

My father (and his colleague) were airline pilots. How my father got into flying was a bit of a butterfly moment.

In early 1940 he joined the British army in the Somerset Light Infantry and became a corporal. In time he applied for an officer training course; he also applied for a transfer to the RAF, aiming to go on whatever came up first. One evening he went to get his platoon's post. The warrant officer (or whoever) said, ah, while you're here, here's your weekend pass, which was valid only from 7am the next day.

As my father was going to spend the w/e with his aunts, who lived nearby, he delivered the mail and then naughtily left the camp. That night there was a flap on - either some kind of invasion scare or just a drill, I forget. The whole base turned out to man roadblocks - but of course my father was AWOL.

When he showed up again he was put on some kind of charge. His army OTC application was then accepted, and he would have gone on it but because of the charge he couldn't. Then the RAF acceptance came in too. So when his period of disgrace was up, he had a choice, and he plumped for the RAF.

He went to Canada in 1941 and learned to fly, then stayed till 1944 as an instructor - so he had a relatively safe war, finally seeing action (in Coastal Command) only in the last 6 months. Who knows what would have happened to him in the army for 5 years, and whatever, I'd never have been born. (As a coincidence, Arthur C Clarke was born in Somerset too, and in the same week as my father. And joined the RAF.)

#114 ::: Cindy L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:01 PM:

These are a great read....

I can think of two...

My sophomore year in high school I was on my way to ask J to some inconsequential social event, when I ran into the friend that was hosting the event. She said that M really liked me and that I should ask him instead. M was a senior, from a big family, and Mormon. Everything that I was not. The relationship with M was turbulent and intense and wonderful and destructive in the way of teenage relationships, but I learned how to have an opinion and stick by it, and that I could survive both having my heart broken, and breaking another's heart in order to escape.

The other is more recent...

A year ago I decided that a decade of panic attacks and avoiding eye contact was enough. I got therapy and later meds. Life on the other side of depression is an amazing thing.

#115 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:08 PM:

Mine's less like Butterflies, and more like that old tv series, Connections...

I quit the piano for the third time at 8.

Fortuitously, the same week South Kearns Elementary School had a recruitment presentation for their school orchestra. I chose the cello, as it was an instrument you could play sitting down and I figured that would stave off the parental disappointment for a few months.

This gave me a goodly amount of self-esteem during subsequent years when such a thing was very wobbly.

At 16, I watched the Illinois Young Musicians competition. The winner was a cellist my age who played the Shosty. I was blown away. And incredibly demoralized.

I began half-assing the cello, all but quitting.

A friend played Phantom of the Opera for me. I realized I could sing. Pretty damn good. That kept me up for a couple years when the cello was dead to me.

In college I pursued a music degree. The choir was taking a trip to Europe which I couldn't afford, but the director needed me in the alto section so he saw to it that my way was paid. It was my first trip abroad.

I gave up on the traditional University degree (partly because at 20 I still couldn't pass Piano Proficiency) and moved to NYC to get a certificate from a musical theatre conservatory. Needing to pay the rent, I worked in bookstores and was able to read even more than I did before.

Eventually, I took the cello back in. I found a great teacher who has thrown me a couple of gigs and is encouraging me to teach. I thought I might want a little more.

Wanting to ging pretty Xmas carols, I stopped in at a local church. I am now an occasional soloist in their choir and have joined the catechumenate and will be confirmed this Easter. The music director is looking for anthems that include a cello obligato or figured bass line.

Quitting piano led to an epiphany about the importance of music in my life, and for that I am terribly grateful for my parents making me take lessons!

#116 ::: Mashell ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Sitting on the subway one weekend thinking of all the things I hated about my job - and looking up at the ads and spotting one for a computer training school. 12 years later still in a tech job I love and going skating Friday with the best friend I met at that night school.

#117 ::: Ecnerefer Gnilleps ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:24 PM:

After a certain month in the early fall of 2001, I no longer cared if I surfed the web at work.

I discovered Slashdot, which led to Megatokyo (and webcomics), which led to Anime, which has now led to a book on Kanji next to my bed, and the fervent hope that once I crack that language, I can drink deep of four hundred and five years of pop culture!*

{I wish I could credit that same month with finding Making Light, but the first post I recall reading here was Slushkiller (Feb of 2004), which I found courtesy of Neil Gaiman's journal, (probably in 2005). Which is odd, because I could have sworn I read ML back in 2002 or 2003. In any case my life would be poorer without having read the wisdom of our hosts and the conversation of fellow guests.}

*Er, counting from 1603 as the nominal start of the Edo period.

#118 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:38 PM:

Jenny Islander @ 56: It could be worse. I was enrolled in a similar activity to Scouts, and when my inability to follow social cues came up, the troop leader merely wrote a horrible and insulting letter to my mother and kicked me out.

Okay, here's one where I'm still trying to decide how I feel about it: Being born exactly on-time to reach the age of majority during the dot-com crash (hence when no jobs were available), forever tarnishing my ability to find jobs because my resume is full of holes. I'm tired of being bitter about it and am considering going back to school towards some kind of medical profession, but haven't decided which one.

#119 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 03:46 PM:

So there I was on this online chat group and this person with a handle that looks sort of familiar logs on. I ask her if she's a person who used to be on the chat group. No she isn't. She just happened to pick a similar-looking handle. A year and a half later we were married. Still are, more than six years later.

#120 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:07 PM:

Lee @111 Ahh the perils of a common language.
Just as well I didn't say I was popping out for a fag!

#121 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:13 PM:

Ooh, thought of one more!

Upon watching the short-lived TV series "Max Headroom", I wrote my first ever fanfic. In it my Mary Sue (at 13, they are all Mary Sues) was a vegetarian and I had a part where she had to defend her choices to someone (I don't remember, and all incriminating copies of this Magnum Opus were destroyed by high school). This led to my becoming a vegetarian, and getting into an argument with a fellow Mormon teen about how being veggie was not against the Word of Wisdom. In fact, I pointed out, the Word of Wisdom says to eat meat sparingly! Upon overhearing my bold scriptural proclamations, an adult leader approached and said I hadn't ought to interpret scripture myself, that a member of the priesthood or general authority could do that.

That was the final Eureka! moment where I realized that the Mormon church and I would never be compatible. Now I am a happy, fulfilled spinster, who doesn't believe that heaven without a man is impossible.

#122 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:21 PM:

Befriending our veterinarian, and asking endless questions, as a 10-12 year old.

Which led to him giving me a box of old Animal Health and Nutrition magazines when he retired from large animal practice when I was in my early teens.

Which taught me that there were two points of view on most questions, and data could give you any answer you wanted to get. Thank you Dick Beeler!

Which led to me questioning a lot of the authorities in my life.

Which left me named renegade, which is a price that never ends, but much saner than I'd otherwise be.

*ANH is a livestock industry publication; it is very anti-regulation. My parents were back-to-the-landers; I grew up reading Rodale Press publications.

#123 ::: MsCongeniality ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:24 PM:

There's probably a couple, but the biggest ripple effect I can think of came in 1996. In the wake of a bad breakup, I went stalker-ish and began MUSHing because it was the only way I could find to spend time with him. Most of what is good in my life has indirectly sprung from that first login.

#124 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:37 PM:

I offhandedly said "I guess I'm just an optimist" to my best friend one day in conversation when we were fifteen.

The rest of the story is that she had a friend who always self-identified as an optimist; she introduced us, and we proceeded to have a three-year relationship that started off wonderful and ended really, really badly. No, I mean really badly. I wouldn't be who I am today if I hadn't gone through it, though. You learn a lot about yourself going through something like that.

I also probably wouldn't have gone to the college I did (I went there to follow him, giving up on the small private college I was really in love with). That would have meant I would have never met the man I will marry next year.

Life is an interesting thing, isn't it?

#125 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 04:50 PM:

Saying "yes" when someone I'd never met wanted to go see a play I hadn't heard of, starring an actor from a TV series I hadn't really seen.

I know some of my very best friends now because of that and we now meet up regularly.

#126 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 05:25 PM:

Oh and another one..

Joining a in game group for non-teenagers on Discworld MUD

(finding Discworld MUD is another butterfly moment all by itself really, I've mostly grown away from it now but for a while it was an important part of my life that helped keep me (mostly) sane)

#127 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:26 PM:

When I was in grade 1, I was placed in a grade 3 English class. When I used the word "meddled" in a written assignment, the teacher red-penned it, claiming that there was no such word. This taught me early on that teachers didn't necessarily know what they were talking about.

In my grade 13 year, I took the opportunity for a special week of chemistry classes at Carleton Unviersity. Between a couple of bright questions I asked in one of those classes, and doing well in a chemistry contest which was run through the university, I came to the attention of the department chair. This led to a summer job in his research lab, and then to working in that lab every summer through my undergrad degree -- the most enjoyable research work I've ever done. That first couple of contacts also helped to convince me to do my degree at Carleton rather than elsewhere.

In that first summer, before I was a student at the university, I saw a Ph.D. student using a calculator to multiple 2-digit integers by 10 ("21 times 10 is... [punch][punch][punch]..."). This taught me early in my Higher Academic Career that even people fairly high up in academia didn't necessarily know what they were doing.

#128 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:31 PM:

Oh, I thought of another one!

"If you want to quit smoking," said a friend, "why don't you take up knitting? It gives you something to do with your hands."

I didn't successfully quit smoking until a few years later. But the knitting thing took. Eight years and vast amounts of yarn later, I have a surefire way to get to know new people in a new place, and I have an appreciation for color and texture and making things with my hands that I might never have developed otherwise.

#129 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:34 PM:

Andy, #120: One reason I note things like that -- and provide the American equivalent -- is so that perhaps someday when it would matter more, you won't be embarrassed by not knowing. Familiarity with other cultures is rarely wasted.

#130 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:40 PM:

Where I once worked, the front office contained the latest Smithsonian mag. There was an article about trebuchets...

#131 ::: Stephen Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:41 PM:

Standing up for a co-worker on a badly overdue project - saying "don't blame him, blame us".

It was a small act of goodness, but one I am glad to be able to hold on to - a little anchor.

#132 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:49 PM:

"I picked up some books at the base library for you to read until you get over the flu. I think that one is about robots."

"What do you mean you have never heard of the Lord of the Rings?"

"Claude, this is my friend from college -- she's staying with us over Christmas."

"Why don't you talk to my son over there. He manages computer operations at *company name deleted*."

"No, don't worry about your retreat -- you will love the hermitage."

"I just heard that you just resigned as detention ministry coordinator. I still have some pending projects that need your approval. Do you have any idea who will be taking over the job?"

#133 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 06:55 PM:

I'm not sure about butterflies. I know they exist (I love alternate history, and real history, and I just did a display for our library featuring people who have saved at least one billion lives[1]), but I don't know that I track branching ramifications through my own life.

For me, it was more like things clicking into place. A little fact, an off-hand comment someone throws, and it settles in my brain as if I had always known that _of course_ the world worked that way, _of course_ I was shaping to be a librarian from the early days. More obvious in retrospect, and there were side routes along the way, but things just fell into place and Were. It's interesting what settles and what doesn't, and it's fun to have the discovery continue, more building blocks falling into place, and someday I may even get to see the structure as a whole. I hope I'll like it.

I think I always would have picked up Tolkien; there were just too many books in my parents' house, and surely, surely I would have opened up those pages and read "Aragorn sped on up the hill." [2]

But change points exist too: points where you know that the world will be different if you do, or if you don't; and you will always know that, in that moment, choice existed. You did, or did not (and which was wiser is another question), but you cannot say that things were fated. Like the time my parents asked me whether I wanted to go to this new school, or not.

Another change point I can remember is finding out that Eric Raymond occasionally posted essays on the Web (I hadn't yet heard of this "blog" term), and seeing this little list of links down the side. And he heard the song, and went after it, and vanished into mist and enchantment and the sound of voices singing around the edges of the sea...

[1] Yes, there are such people. Plural. Butterflies exist. As the smallpox vaccination scar on my right arm reminds me.

[2] For some reason, that was the first one I picked up. Seems to happen a lot with me -- the first Darkover novel I picked up was _Forbidden Tower_, right in the middle of the sequence.

#134 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 07:01 PM:

mjfgates @ #109, that's one of the best stories I've ever read.

SamChevre @ #122: My parents were back-to-the-landers; I grew up reading Rodale Press publications. Not so much with the back to the land, more like the "never without a garden", but my father was a HUGE Rodale fan, and so was I until Mike McGrath left Organic Gardening and it turned all boutique-n-spa. I even had a couple of short pieces published in OG. I also wrote a letter of inquiry to the Square Foot Gardening Foundation after reading about it in OG, which led to Mel Bartholomew calling me on the phone (OMG gardening fangirl squee!!). He ended up asking me to write a school gardening guide (which I actually co-wrote; I shanghaied a friend of mine into helping). That led to an enjoyable volunteer gig teaching gardening in a local public school, which led to a paid magazine assignment about the local Master Gardener program.

#135 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 07:04 PM:

A few gateway moments:

Picking up Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky from the school library in 3rd grade, because my father had a paperback of 6xH on the shelf I wasn't supposed to know about.

Idly picking out A Baroque Sampler from my parents' LP collection one rainy winter day when I was fifteen; not all the music was any good, and the best one, Gabrieli's Canzona per sonare a quattro for brass, was really more Renaissance than baroque, but it caused me to buy my first LP, of a Gabrieli performance in San Marco. First I'd heard of Venice. Not the last. Nor the last of my record collection, by any means.

My parents, a couple months later, giving me a Musical Heritage Society subscription. (This fell directly out of the previous event.)

Moving to Dallas, having to take world history as a summer course in order to graduate from high school, and falling into the clutches of a coach who loved to show movies in class. One he picked was the National Geographic This England, which was my first exposure to raging Englishness (modulo James Bond and clones).

Coming across a Dorothy Dunnett novel in the Coop bookstore.

#136 ::: Stephen Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 07:09 PM:

Actually, I've got a nice one for a friend of mine:

He was reasonably certain (as so many of us are) that he would never have any sort of romantic relationship. One day he found out that in the womens toilets at our university there was the following dialog in the form of graffiti:

(first person): "I've been at this shitty university for a year now and I haven't met a single decent guy. Where is there *one* nice guy?"

(second person): "[my friend's name], room __, Chemistry Building"

This did not lead directly to a relationship, but it did his soul some good.


Oh - and me again: discovering the Smalltalk computer language and being paid to write in it for a year.

The language is now commercially dead and I (and almost all other Smalltalk programmers) languish in the outer darkness, gnashing our teeth and remembering the paradise from which we were expelled.

Bruce Cohen - you dwell in the outer darkness don't you?

#137 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 07:16 PM:

SFF gateway books, two of them. 5th grade. There were 4 books I've long since forgotten that we were supposed to read in independent reading time during class. I finished them all way before the rest of the class, and the teacher handed me The Hobbit. Same year, I discovered Andre Norton's The Time Traders on the shelf in the school library. I've been reading SFF for 40+ years now.

I read an article about the Heimlich manuever in a magazine in a waiting room some time in the mid 70s when I was in college. Several months later my mom began choking on a piece of steak at a restaurant and I quite possibly saved her life.

The year my brother turned 12, I had no idea what to get for his birthday. I had an acquaintance from high school who worked at Radio Shack, so I stopped in and asked if a 12-year-old could build any of those kits. He sold me an electronic kit and a soldering iron. My brother went on to major in electrical & computer engineering and has been doing software engineering for 20-some years.

My husband was job hunting due to a layoff, and I was playing hunter-gatherer in the online job listings. As a joke, I sent him an ad for a job in Key West that I didn't even think was quite in his technical line, saying it would be a nice place to live. He sent in an application. He didn't get a job in Key West, but he got a related one with the same organization (and we got a few vacation trips to Key West out of it).

#138 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 07:24 PM:



Of course.

I-Con. 1990 I think. We invited Bruce Sterling. We put him on a panel about the future of cities. The other authors . . . well, anyway, it was like watching a velociraptor in a pen full of Barney the Purple Dinosaurs.

Sterling tore the head off of a beloved 80s SF trope, space colonies, and shat down its neck. And then talked about cities on Earth.

There was something wonderfully and persistently liberating about that.

And similarly: Finding a copy of the Whole Earth Review in a bookstore while on a business trip.

#139 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 08:10 PM:

My life doesn't seem to have many butterfly moments -- the forces that shape my experience are much more in the line of deep ocean currents, continental drift, and the occasional avalanche. Living in Prague the year I was 10 was very influential, but hardly a butterfly. All my immediate family members have been stones in the course of my creekbed, but not butterflies. When I think of butterfly moments, they're ones where I remember seeing a butterfly leaving the other side of the meadow just as I arrived.

#140 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 09:22 PM:

Tony Zbaraschuk @#133, and Heather Rose Jones @#139: yeah, those sorts of things are a big part of what I meant by saying that "much of my life is overdetermined".

Like, being on the autistic spectrum has certainly shaped my life a lot... but that runs consistently down my Dad's side of the family, and maybe some on Mom's too. Reading definitely runs in my family, not to mention that I'm the son of three schoolteachers (stepmother) and the grandson of three more. Between those, SF wasn't exactly unexpected, though Dad's basement collection certainly helped.

Hmmm... actually, there's a "dark butterfly" in there! In high school, one of my teachers was wondering if I might be autistic -- she had probably been reading about Asperger's, whose definition would have been seeping through "the system" about then.

Unfortunately, I'd previously read the seriously misleading book Son-Rise (by Barry Kaufman), and was all "I'm not like that!". So, I didn't self diagnose with Non-verbal Learning Disorder (roughly, "half an Aspie") until I was almost 40.... And I've since noted that the younger folks "on the spectrum", who were mostly diagnosed in high school or earlier, seem to have had a much easier time of things.

#141 ::: dogga red ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 09:35 PM:

That time my gun jammed in the jungle and Charlie had us surrounded and my buddy Snake was able to drop a mortar into our perimeter, without killing me and Gunny, but at the same time wiping out a whole bunk of commie NVA - yeah, that was a little thing, but it totally changed my life

#142 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 09:47 PM:

Oh, Joel @99 reminded me. Cadigan had this on her LJ and I keep reminding myself of it.

#143 ::: broundy ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 10:57 PM:

My second day at college, I spotted a cute boy in the cafeteria and decided to introduce myself. Nothing happened with him, but the guy he was sitting next to became my best friend for the next 5 years.

For Christmas, my new best friend gives me a copy of "Understanding Comics." That leads me to Scott McCloud's website, which introduces me to the 24-hour-comic, which leads to me drawing a 24-hour-comic, which makes me realize that I want to make comics professionally.

Which leads to me being very poor.

(But happy, mostly, and a whole new set of friends)

#144 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:07 PM:

I created my own butterfly moment when I was in grad school. I'd dated one of the math profs a couple of times, but I felt uncomfortable about it. I was a grad student in the math department, and I felt like he had some power over me or something, so I broke it off. He took it so well, I was really impressed. I'd broken up with guys before and no one had ever been such a gentleman about it. There was a weekly seminar in the math department--a guest speaker would come and give a talk--and a couple of months after I broke up with the prof, I went into the seminar and the seat next to him was vacant, and I thought, "If I sit next to him, I'll probably end up marrying him." I sat next to him, and I ended up marrying him.

#145 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:30 PM:

elise at #87 writes:

> "Rhino Carries the Moon"

I don't know if I'm seeing the same thing there as you are, but I get a strong resonance with Julie Philip's James Tiptree biography. Reading that I got a stronger sense than ever before of how art is created out of common mud, by common people - Rhino carrying the moon...

#146 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:43 PM:

dogga red, I am skeptical that you are telling this experience exactly as it happened, but I must say if something like that happened to me, I might well end up sleeping under bridges.

Beware of billy goats. Especially gruff ones.

#147 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2009, 11:45 PM:

One evening in Dec. '90 or so I went up to the door of a comedy club (now no longer there) and asked if they had a show that night. They said that I was too late for their regular comedy show but there was a show of open mike poets afterwards. This led to me finding the whole circuit of open mike shows in town, which led to me meeting lots of new friends including the guy who was moving out of this apartment just when I was desperate to find a place to move in to, and including a friend who nagged me into answering a want ad that resulted in a job I ended up working 15 years at. (I just got laid off from that job, so somebody send the butterflies again, please.)

(Speaking of Gurdjieff, it is a little-known fact that among all the amazing people he was acquainted with, was the guy who invented that purple ink that surgeons use to make marks on the skin so they know where to make their incisions. He wrote a book about that guy, entitled "Markings on Re-Mendable Meat.")

#148 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 12:00 AM:

Jenny @56: I'm still in Girl Guides as a leader and no one ever has spotted that I'm presumably spectrum. I don't think anyone was looking for it in girls back then.

#149 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 12:53 AM:

When I was seventeen, I was offered an opportunity to lose my virginity. I said "No." It was a good decision; a really, really, REALLY good decision. Even though it was [mumble, mumble] years later before I finally did lose my virginity.

- - - - -

When Hilde and I had been married about five months, we had an argument. A really BAD argument; it was the only time I walked out of the house and drove away, with the intent of not coming back. I was going to drive to my brother's, about ten miles away, and crash on his sofa until I figured out what to do next.

Except that the needle on the car's fuel gauge was knocking, hard, against the "Empty" side of the dial. So to get as far as my brother's, I had to get gas.

I had nine cents in my pocket. So I ended up parking at Arizona State University, only a couple of miles away, and spent hours walking around the nighttime campus instead of going to my brother's place. And finally... went back home. Where things got better. (Obviously, since we'll have been together 33 years later this year.)

- - - - -

There may have been another butterfly effect from that same argument. Hilde and I had a housemate living with us, and following that argument, she decided to move back in with her own family.

(I hope it was because she didn't want to watch her friends' marriage break up, but I've never been sure she didn't think she was at least part of the reason for that argument. Not true.)

After she moved back in with her family, one of her boyfriends who'd been proposing to her for some time redoubled his efforts... and this time she said "Yes." She ended up moving back East with him while he finished the school year.

That relationship, and engagement, broke up a few months later, and she planned to move back to Arizona again. But before that, she took the opportunity of being back East to visit people in Canada she knew from fanzines.

One of whom happened to be a guy she'd known, as just a friend, back in Arizona. Who seized the opportunity to make his move and pretty much sweep her off her feet. They'll have been married thirty years this year.

So Hilde and I almost breaking up may have been the butterfly that lead to two other people getting together.

#150 ::: Emily Viergutz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 12:57 AM:

My favorite (not at the time, of course, because she made me cry) butterfly moment:
In eighth grade (age 13), my art teacher told me, "You'll never do anything with your art if you don't set your mind to it." She gave me a C for the semester, and in high school (age 14-18), I took every (literally, EVERY) art class available (minus one, but it was Design and I had already taken 3D Design).
Now, I'm a full-time student majoring in Literature with a more-than-just-a-hobby hobby of hand-stitching designs onto jeans, painting 2-wall murals (two in high school with friends, and one at home for my mother), hanging several canvases on the wall and painting murals--then taking the canvases off the wall when I'm done so, when I move to different places, I can take my mural with me. I also sketch with a pencil and paper (no color) when I feel inspired or I'm just plain bored...
Art is the best medicine for boredom--at least to me.

Another moment: I was surfing YouTube in early 2007 and came across a clip of the song "Tango: Maureen" from the movie Rent.

Oh, and another (I keep reminding myself of them): My uncle Denny died in May 2008 after two and a half years of battling lung cancer (in April, it spread to nearly his entire body). He spent his last few weeks in a local hospice, surrounded my loved ones. Five of them were his grandchildren I had never met. I'll never forget the first time I played Bullshit with nine-year-old Amy, my brother RJ, and my "Cheater" cousin, Morgan (18). Amy and I totally beat the guys :)

#151 ::: Emily Viergutz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 01:13 AM:

Oh, I'm sorry but I've got another (much more recent) moment:
The day I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

#152 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 01:41 AM:

I suppose I'm the result of a butterfly moment. My mother was near the end of a year in the US and trying to decide whether to move back to the Netherlands or spend a year in Australia. But then one day her car broke down.

My father is a mechanic.

#153 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 01:51 AM:

In my case, it was probably when I was 16 (Reagan was the new President), and just moved to a new high school (the one portrayed in The O.C., I do not lie), when I had somehow managed to find a cardboard paper organizer (the typical kind for use in school) printed with a labyrinth design in the shape of two dragons locked in mortal combat. It's also possible that the additional fact that I was observed solving the maze with a ballpoint pen may have had something to do with it.

In any case, that stupid organizer earned me an introduction to the circle of friends I credit with saving my life when it most needed saving. More than once, I should confess. (Quote: "You look like one of us." "Why do you say that?" [points to organizer, then points to own geek gear] "You should come have lunch in our section today.") I think we all kept saving one another again and again when it was possible. (One of them even reached out to me last week in a crucial moment. Saved again!)

I really really miss the ones we lost because no one could save them.

#154 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 01:52 AM:

Another one, this time from my own life. After moving back to Oregon and enduring a nasty long-distance breakup on the way, I was pretty depressed. One night a couple of friends I used to game with back in high school showed up and invited me to a session with this new group that was starting up.

"Nah, I'm too depressed to socialize," I thought. But what came out was "Eh, sure, why not."

I ended up sitting across from this woman who had the most incredible blue eyes. I later found out they were tinted contacts, but by then it hardly mattered, and anyway her eyes are beautiful without them. Even ten years later.

#155 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 02:09 AM:

Stephen Taylor @ 136

Bruce Cohen - you dwell in the outer darkness don't you?

It might be better for me if I did; I dwell in the inner darkness, just near enough to the border to see some of the light seeping through. I worked for 8 and a fraction years for GemStone*, about three of them working just on Smalltalk. I still live in the same town, and see many of the people I worked with there socially; a couple of them still work there, and we have a monthly users group meeting at their office.

And that itself is the end result of a butterfly moment: while working at Intel I met an engineer who was very interested in Smalltalk; I had heard of it, but didn't really get the idea of objects (this was about 1980 or so). We bought copies of the book about Smalltalk 80 that had just come out and talked about it. So when I got a job offer from Tektronix, which had a large Smalltalk team in their corporate lab, I went over to see the lab, and ended up taking a couple of courses they were just starting in object-oriented programming and design. Then, almost 10 years and several jobs later, a friend of mine told me that GemStone had an opening I might fit, I had both an interest and some knowledge in the areas they needed to me to cover, and got the best job I've ever had, and became a part of the professional Smalltalk community. I still have lunch or beers every once in awhile with a couple of the people from Tek labs, 25 years later.

* For those who don't know and do care, they made (and still make) distributed Smalltalk object engines with connections to other flavors of Smalltalk and (at least when I worked there) with a compatible Java object engine and a connector for C++.

#156 ::: Becky ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 03:01 AM:

Maybe I can't objectively evaluate my own life, but I can't think of a single butterfly moment.

My dad, however, has a clear butterfly moment. In 1971 (or '70?), he was all set to go to graduate school, when his birthday came up number 1 in the draft. Instead of graduate school, it was the National Guard and the workforce for him. He met my mother three years later at work.

#157 ::: Nenya ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 04:17 AM:

Renting the first Back to the Future movie in about 1998, and then using the pre-Google Internet to look it up online. Fandom resulted, and my life has never been the same.

(Fandom resulted, and led to "There's this fantasy book they're making a movie out of in a few years; you should really read it," which led to LOTR and its fandom, which led to a political revolution in my mind, and a link to another fandom where I found my best friend.)

#158 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 04:37 AM:

The Butterfly Book(s): before I even learned to read, I looked at the covers of the paperback books on the shelves in the basement. One of them was an Ace Double of Andre Norten's "Sioux Spaceman" and "And Then the Town Took Off " or something like that, and another "No Place on Earth" by Louis Charbonneau. The covers captivated me; I eventually read the second, though at that age I understood only a little of it.

Butterfly Meeting: running across a guy in the high school library who was drawing weird diagrams on a piece of paper, which led to my current profession (he recently wrote a book called iWoz)

Moths & other coincidences: finding out that fandom existed by reading about an entire library of it run by the MIT Science Fiction society, which together with a recommendation by a fan (though I didn't know he was at the time) that if I was interested in computers, then I should go to school somewhere where they had lots of computers.
Which lead to walking by someone's office at school who had a poster for Boskone (a science fiction convention! what a great idea!)
which lead to other science fiction conventions and groups
which lead me to meeting my wife of 27.5 LHM years
which led me to India, where I'm currently writing from (returning in a couple of days)

#159 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 05:30 AM:

The butterfly at college--

By my second year in college I was constantly tired and stressed from studying, in a major with almost no flexibility in what classes I had to take. One night I decided--at the last minute-- to give myself a break and go to a creation/evolution debate on campus.

When it was done I didn't head straight home but instead joined an ongoing conversation with students on both sides discussing evolution.

One student liked my comments and introduced me to a professor. Soon the two were telling me how I'd be much better suited for their department vs. my current major. They were right.

#160 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 08:49 AM:

Ah! I thought of another moment that is very much more of a butterfly.

In 1997 I was just discovering the Internet and seeing what I could find by plugging interesting words into seearch engines. One night, bored out of my skull, I plugged in 'elf pictures'.

This led me to a drawing on a fantasy art gallery that was then called Lothlorien. Fantasy! Art! And named after a place in LotR! I got a housemate to tell me how to work his scanner, and joined up.

This led to making conversation through comment boards and email with my kind of people. About a year later, I finally stuck my toe into the gallery's irc channel. A couple of months later, at a job with lots of time at the computer and little to do, I met the daytime crowd of the chatroom, which included a young Finnish man with a wonderful sense of humour.

Two years later, he was the only person I could trust to tell about the horrible things happening in my relationship.

Half a year after that, he offered to send broke, starving college student me enough money to 'meet him halfway' in Toronto and give me a break from the smoldering ruins of my previous relationship.

We were married in June 2004.

That's just one of the things that came about from a bout of teenaged bordedom and an unfamiliar thing called the Internet to explore... and I had that because I'd gotten into an unfortunate relationship. But that's a different butterfly moment.

#161 ::: Sus ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 08:50 AM:

I love reading all these comments. They've helped me remember my gateway SFF moment:

I was 13 and in hospital, recovering from having my appendix removed. I'd never been in hospital before and my parents, bless them, worried that I might hate it. So they went to the Intershop (shops in the GDR where you could buy *gasp* Western stuffs) and bought me pineapple juice (you had to have been there to understand the awesome), and my dad scoured his bookshelves in case I got bored.

He showed up with a whole suitcase full of books, including Jules Verne's Two years' vacation and, more importantly, From the earth to the moon. There was another book whose name and author I've forgotten, but it took place on a distant planet (TM) with talking trees - I never looked back.

Thanks, dad!

#162 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 09:21 AM:

Made a spur of the moment decision to take the part-time freelance job some guys I was waiting on at a convention hotel in North Carolina offered me back up in New York. There was a high-powered walk-up computer station next to my desk (the Mac Plus had an external hard drive) , and it had the first versions of Quark and Illustrator on it.

Bonus: after about ten years of being paid to learn graphic design on the job, I bought a system to freelance on so I could stay home with the baby (!?!). There was this newfangled World Wide Web thing your computer could call on the phone where people provided endless stuff to read for free, and everyone you meet is, necessarily, an author, and just by joining in, so are you.

So that was kind of neat.

#163 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 10:05 AM:

1975... Going to the alternative bookstore near the office, checking what was displayed at eye level, looking down and going "What is this?" as I discovered the first fanzine of Quebec's then newborn francophone SF fandom. One thing led to another and, less than 10 years later, after thinking I was destined to a life of bachelorhood, I was marrying a California Girl.

#164 ::: martyn ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 10:10 AM:

I don't know about butterfly moment, but when I was 9 a particularly loathesome teacher handed back an essay on which he had scrawled that I shouldn't try so hard with style.

Another piece of advice from him I didn't take. My style (of writing) may not be what it was, but I'm still trying hard.

Deciding that the compatible but intense lover did really mean it when she said she thought I wanted to end it in favour of the frivolous blonde. She's not blonde now but 26 years of interesting times later we still laugh (and the thought of her makes me smile)

#165 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 10:32 AM:

When I was in eighth grade I took an elective on science fiction. (Another butterfly moment: I went to a different school from my twin sister that year because of persistent bullying, a school with a science fiction elective...)

I was already dipping my toes into science fiction: huge Star Trek fan, reading the Hitchhiker's Guide books and Pern. But that class showed me Kafka and Clarke and Something Wicked This Way Comes...

And my teacher scrawled on one of my stories, at the end of the school year: "Have you ever thought of becoming a writer?"

#166 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 10:56 AM:

Happening to look up and see Mars one night.

This was my freshman year of college, early in the year, and I hadn't really made any friends yet and was feeling very homesick. I glanced up and saw Mars, looking brighter and redder than I'd ever seen it before. I went into the dorm and noticed a girl I'd seen before, and said, "Hey, want to see something cool?"

And then we spent the rest of the night hanging out and singing the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge. Six years later we're still best friends.

And because she was in chorus, I joined chorus; and because I was in chorus, I went to Iceland, Estonia, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Greece. Joining chorus also meant that I now have close friends in New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Japan.

#167 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 11:07 AM:

martyn @164: when I was 9 a particularly loathesome teacher handed back an essay on which he had scrawled that I shouldn't try so hard with style.

I had the mirror image of this happen when I was 16 and had handed in an empty paper for a geography test.

The teacher, next day, called me in front of the class and let me do the entire test as a verbal exam (that was an essay test, so I did most of the talking for the full class hour). The teacher said to the class, "Just so you know what 100% on the test yesterday look like", and after everyone left asked me why the heck I had handed in an empty paper. I said, "All my argument developed from the point that parts of the Baltic Sea are frozen every winter while none of the the Mediterranean are. But I found no way to say that without sounding silly or patronising." She said, "See, you are writing a very good style. It's always a pleasure to read your essays. But you must never let style get in the way of substance, if you can have only one."

Not a butterfly moment, but both the validation and the advice were very useful over the years.

#168 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 11:13 AM:

Emily H @ 165... an elective on science fiction

Was it done under general anesthaesia?

#169 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 12:18 PM:

And of course, just thought of another Butterfly:

Right out of college I was a technical apprentice at the American Dance Festival. It probably convinced me, although I had a great time, that I didn't have the right stuff to make it in the world of theatre, even as a techie. So, with all my plans down around my ankles like wrinkled socks, I decided to visit my mother, who was visiting her mother in L.A., but had been ill. Drove cross-country, planning to stay two weeks. Stayed six months for what I usually refer to as my "Long Day's Journey Into the Glass Menagerie" winter. Living in my mother's one-bedroom apartment, dealing with her crazies, and not able to leave her alone long enough to hold down a job, I started to write. As my mother had wanted to be a writer ("but I had you kids instead") this was an activity she respected, and she left me alone when I was writing. So I wrote more.

I finished a book and sent it off to a family friend who was an editor at Ballantine. She bought it. I was a writer.

And probably as poor as I would have been if I'd stayed working in the theatre. Oh, well.

#170 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 01:27 PM:

at the draft board in jerusalem, the soldier administrating my oral test asked, "have you ever been depressed?"

not knowing better, i said yes.

that word radically changed the next two years of my life. but i can't really say how saying "no" would have made my life different today. i could be where i am, just writing a slightly different comic series. or i could be still in israel (or somewhere else entirely), not married to mike, & not a cartoonist.

#171 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 01:37 PM:

Someone this current thread leads me to believe was probably David Harmon saying something here a year or two ago about Nonverbal Learning Disorder, which prompted me to do some research, which lead to much of my life suddenly making sense. (Not to mention becoming a lot less stressful, now that when I'm getting really frustrated about just plain not being able to do something that seems to be simple for everyone else, at least sometimes I am able to take a mental step back and identify that, no, I'm not going to be able to do it easily, and there's no point in worrying about it.)

I believe it was abi who started a discussion about QA testing, which led me to realize that the occasional software-breaking I'd been doing for our very small IT department was an actual job, and what it was called, so that when the Organization for Transformative Works was looking for QA volunteers for their archive, I applied. Now it's giving me a direction for my "can't stay in this place any longer than I have to" job search.

In a more general, chain-of-events kind of way, someone I knew online emailing me in summer of 1995 saying, "I was just sent a copy of the cast album of some show in German I've never heard of. I haven't listened to it yet, but it looks like the Dutch Fantine is in the lead. Want a copy?"

#172 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 01:52 PM:

Many butterfly moments are not recognizable as such, even in retrospect. Several people have mentioned that a few minutes either way would have made a big difference in their lives. If you miss the fateful meeting/accident/whatever, you never know what you've missed, but it's still a butterfly moment.
If I'd gone for that test when it was first recommended, instead of putting it off for a year...

There's no way to know how things would be different. If at all. I can think of plausible scenarios that would have lead to better, worse, or exactly the same outcomes.

#173 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 02:41 PM:

Before I catch up: Being snarky to a recruiter, which led to delays in the conversations about my joining (all things being contingent on other butterflies, I am leaving a lot of moments of flapping needed to get to that point in the story).

Had I not been snippish I'd have ended up in a legal assistant (i.e. paralegal) slot, not an interrogation slot; because, absent that delay, the unit I ened up in wouldn't have been available when I signed the paperwork (because it was stood up that weekend), and my life would have been radically different.

From here, I think it went the way I prefer, but who knows?

#174 ::: Mike Cooley (Z) ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 02:54 PM:

Having someone on Mixposure (the original mixposure, not the new one)--who later became one of my best friends--comment that he liked ALL of my music (my band was Divergent Future at the time).

My reply: "you need immediate medical help!"

But it convinced me to keep writing songs.
And we ended up doing 3 albums together (as Damnation Allies), and we played live together
in Georgia last year.

Changed my life.

#175 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 02:59 PM:

Volunteering to wait a quarter for the second half of freshman English, to allow for the crowd coming in from the remedial-English class.

(Still haven't taken it, forty years later. I don't know what I'd be doing or where I'd be if I hadn't done that.)

#176 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 03:13 PM:

Lila, SamChevre: Rodale Press! Also Whole Earth Catalog. Oh, my. Such a rush of memories: building a cold frame with my father, using panels from a demolished industrial garage door he had salvaged; growing lots of vegetables (French intensive planting!) and flowers; making drinking glasses by cutting down old bottles and finishing the edges; having a coffee table and end table in our house that were made out of an old door and two old TV cabinets respectively, covered with sheets of cork and given legs or casters respectively. From my dad, I learned that usually a person can make something, if they look at the available scroungeable materials with a new eye.

Which, come to think of it, has a lot to do with the work I do now, but that wasn't so much a butterfly event as it was a piece of heritage, I guess.

I still get weird nostalgia when I see a copy of Organic Gardening or Mother Earth News. (And growing up in a household with Mother Earth News, the Whole Earth Catalog, and listening to Paul Harvey on the radio every day at noon was... interesting, I must say. Even before you get to the fundie part of the equation.)

#177 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 03:33 PM:

Not quite a butterfly moment but sequence-of-events: if I'd never hand-reared a wallaby joey, then when a zoo veterinarian stood up at a conference and said he wanted someone to do a PhD on toxoplasmosis in wallabies, I wouldn't have thought "well, I'm not interested in toxoplasma, but I do like wallabies" and gone on to do that PhD (unfunded, but that's another story) - in which case I would probably never have met my husband, nor ended up in the job I've been enjoying (if overworking on) for the past 12 years.

#178 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 03:38 PM:

Jennifer Barber @#171: Oh, cool! Glad it helped....

...which lead to much of my life suddenly making sense. (Not to mention becoming a lot less stressful...

Yeah, that was just about my reaction as well. Which is why I wish I'd been diagnosed 25 years earlier, as above.

It occurs to me that I've surely been the butterfly for a goodly number of other people. But I usually don't find out about those, much less intend them as such. Of course, the significance of a butterfly is to the "receiver", generally not to the butterfly itself....

One set of exceptions came when I started an online support group for depression: "Walkers in Darkness", AFAIK one of the first two mailing lists with that goal. (IIRC, that was in 1991.) "Walkers" certainly made a difference in other people's lives -- but it didn't feel like a random thing to me. It was more like "it was time for that", as several threads in my life converged with the developing 'Net -- consider that "Pendulum", for bipolars, was independently founded at just about the same time! (There was a poem too, which had just emerged after years of my being haunted by the first two lines.)

But then, the thing just took on its own life. My original idea for the list had been way too specific -- but it turned into general "support for depression", because that was what people needed. (I hadn't realized then, how new the idea was! ;-) ) Likewise, the list's flowering, while startling at the time, grew from the purpose and character of the participants.

Then, when I had to pass the list on to someone else, that was part of my general crisis of the time, triggered by other trends and events in my life. And my successor built it into more than I'd ever dreamed, notably bringing it to the Web! (Mongo's still running it, too, and has been for several times as long as I did.)

#179 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 03:56 PM:

elise, I got interested in Mother Earth News on Kwajalein where I was surrounded by concrete structures, which in turn were surrounded by a beautiful atoll.

I got back to the States and promptly bought ALL the back issues up through 1978. Still have them, too.

#180 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 04:49 PM:

inge @ #167, and the others with "good teacher" stories: I can't claim that this was a butterfly moment for her, but when my youngest daughter was in kindergarten her teacher asked, "Who can name a part of a plant?" When it came my daughter's turn to answer, she proudly announced, "Chloroplasts!"

The teacher paused for a moment, then said, "I don't actually know what that is, but I'll look it up"--AND SHE DID!

Thank you, Ms. Green. It would have been so easy for you to say, "Don't be silly" or "Stop showing off".

(Incidentally, my daughter learned about chloroplasts from the Magic School Bus--not all that exotic a source.)

elise @ #176, I grew up surrounded by fundies, though my mother was a cradle Episcopalian and my father, raised Southern Baptist, was confirmed shortly after they married (as a surprise for her) and ended up as Senior Warden of our church. But Paul Harvey, oh my yes. "The ressss....t..of the stooooooory." 1976, at age 15, at the beginning of a summer honor's program, I turned to the guy next to me and said, "I wish they offered fencing. I'm starting a petition, will you sign it?"

He did.

No fencing, but we got married 4 1/2 years later after a voluminous correspondence (no internet, and we couldn't afford long distance phone calls). The child referenced above was one of three fine daughters who resulted...and this year she's been nominated for the same honors program.

#181 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 06:01 PM:

It does occur to me, on further consideration, that there was one major butterfly incident that shaped my life.

My parents were still very much newlyweds when my older brother was born, and moreover were busy with my dad's first teaching job and my mother working on her masters degree. They certainly planned on having more children eventually, but not quite yet. When my older brother was about half a year old and their wedding anniversary rolled around my grandparents said, "You haven't had a break since the baby was born. We're taking the kid for the weekend -- go off somewhere just the two of you."

They did. They neglected to pack one key item. Nine months later ....

#182 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 06:39 PM:

Telling my new violin teacher that I would rather be in a violin lesson than in the maths lesson I was missing at the time. I was eight.

The thing was, I liked maths. I was paying her a compliment, goddammit. She did not understand this, and so began my life as an ex-violinist. Which led me to a certain bookshop on a certain day six years later, to buy a book on the clarinet ...

#183 ::: Nona ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 07:10 PM:

The summer I was twelve, I caught the "Invisible Girl" episode of Buffy in reruns. After a year of wishing I *was* invisible, because that would maybe cut down the bullying, it was exactly what I needed to see. I don't know if I'd be in fandom, without that moment.

(Of course, I suspect that moment relied on a lot of other butteflies: I wouldn't have been home to see it if I'd gone to sleepaway camp that summer, and I didn't go to sleepaway camp because I'd gotten a D in math, and I got a D in math because I in too advanced a class, and too miserable and freaked-out to tell an adult until I already had the D. And so on, and so on.)

#184 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 08:56 PM:

My parents gave me a couple of Tom Swift Jr.s for my 8th birthday, instead of the Hardy Boys (much more acceptable in those days.) (Yes, 8th. I was never a slow student, but I wasn't a precocious reader like many here -- probably just as well, as otherwise I'd be a complete closet case instead of just not-good-with-people.) I was enough of a geek and reader that I would probably have drifted into SF anyway, but after finding out that it existed I went through the local library like a horde of locusts.

Like several others here, fandom led to my switching professions. My degree in chemistry was good for only four years, but a fellow fan heard I was at liberty and needed someone who could translate Chemish for programmers; 29 years and a bout of night school later, I'm working at a much higher level but still spending as much time as possible cracking a whip over recalcitrant computers.

Somebody put an audition poster for Chorus pro Musica in a place at MIT I rarely visited. (Not sure why, as the conductor despised what he considered the insufficiently rich sound of college choruses.) That was the first audition poster I'd seen; I barely scraped by a murderous audition, and have been singing with them ever since (32 years now) -- ego strokes like Carnegie Hall, a TV show, and opera with Sarah Caldwell; weird paid gigs (we once sang with local militia recreators firing), and a lot of remarkable music. (I didn't know they had a reputation for modern....) The conductor's opinion also led (through a massively implausible chain of coincidences) to several years singing behind the Boston Symphony Orchestra, even though I didn't have the chops to get into their regular chorus. Singing the sun out from clouds one morning at Tanglewood (as told in one of abi's other inspirations): priceless.

#185 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 09:29 PM:

I sent PNH a link to an essay I wrote.

#186 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 09:46 PM:

Deciding to help four old (from highschool, ten years before) friends staff the Sherlock Holmes booth at the Hobby Show in the Shrine Auditorium, in the summer of 1958. Two isles down and one across was the booth of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society -- with a dozen or more people who talked a lot, using an enormous range of literary references (most of which I caught), and with a stack of home-duplicated publications called "Fanzines", including more than a few I found interesting &/or that caused me to think "Gee, _I_ could do something at least as good as this", and to realize that Communication With Like Minds does not depend upon geographical propinquity.

#187 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 09:58 PM:

#176: elise

Oh, yes! The first Whole Earth Catalog -- and a partly-new way of looking at the World.

#188 ::: kabdib ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2009, 10:46 PM:

At age 9 or 10, going into a bookstore with my first allowance (75 cents). Then dithering over whether to buy a Western (I liked reading about American Indians) or some SF, and deciding on a copy of _Starman Jones_.

#189 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 12:41 AM:

Butterfly book:

Somewhere between age 8-10, on a Sunday, and I'm with my mom at the moderately right-wing church my family attended. She stops in the corridor to speak with someone, and points me to the nearby library room. I hadn't been in it for a couple of years, but I remembered it had a small children's section behind the shelves filled with adult-focused apologetics, exegesis, hermeneutics and the like.

Within or right by that section I see a book with a colorful intriguing cover, a collection of 4 novellas covering SF and religion. I'd read fantasy--it's how I became a Reader--but I didn't know written SF as such (closest had been L'Engle). I did love science, though, and I thought "If it's here it must be for kids."

I checked it out and started reading it at home. Those stories were real-true SF, numinous and rich*, and before the last page I knew sensawunda.

* haven't been able to find the book since, but one story may have been Bradbury's 'The Man.'

#190 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 01:11 AM:

My sister coming into the room.

My tenth-grade teacher, not only not punishing me for an outburst in class, but taking the time to ask me if I was ok afterwards. It was the only time anyone asked me that, and really wanted to hear the answer, all that year.

#191 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 01:17 AM:

A friend of the family giving me a YA non-fiction book about the history of science for Christmas when I was fifteen. A lot of my opinions about the world- and a lot of the way I get opinions about things- were at least indirectly shaped by that.

#192 ::: R. Emrys ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 02:30 AM:

Butterfly 1: My son exists, and has the genetic make-up that he does, because an unrelated friend couldn't find a job in my hometown my first summer home from college.

Butterfly 2: If there had been more than two women in the class, or if any of the men had had anything interesting to say*, then I wouldn't have gotten into all those intense conversations with the other woman. But she says she noticed me from the start, so maybe I would have... We've been together for 11 years now, and married for 4.

Tony Zbaraschuk @ 133: Your comment caused me to do some googling and discover Norman Borlaug and Edward Jenner, for which I thank you. But who are the others?

*It's worth noting that both possibilities would have been much more usual for the school in question.

#193 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 02:42 AM:

I don't have a butterfly book for SF&F, because I have always known it. (A lot of the books my parents read to us were genre, though they don't identify as fannish. The first "adult" book my mother started us on was the Hobbit + LOTR, when I was four.)

But one day when I was about 12, my mother casually commented that Oedipus Rex was "the most perfect tragedy ever written."

I read it, and the rest of my parents' three-volume hardcover collection of Greek drama, that summer. It awoke a fierce desire in me to study the Classics.

So when I had the chance to take a college class at UC Berkeley during my senior year of high school, I didn't take any half-credit Music Appreciation placeholder classes. I took freshman Latin.

#194 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 03:07 AM:

A butterfly F/SF book? AE van Vogt's Rogue Ship.

#195 ::: Kirsty Thunem ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 03:41 AM:

Stephen Taylor @136, Bruce Cohen @155

It's not common but I would argue it's not quite dead yet - I've been using Smalltalk since 1999 and have a reasonably secure job doing so for the foreseeable future.

Butterfly: being lucky enough in my first job straight out of university to find both a language I loved and colleagues who were passionate about what they did.

#196 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 05:18 AM:

I'd tried a few SF books in my youth, but never saw the appeal. I was far more interested in reading fantasy, although I loved the SF movies I had grown up on.

In the early 1970s, a friend called Jim offered to lend me a couple of books he really liked. As I had a bit of a crush on him (unreciprocated), I said okay. I borrowed Stranger in a Strange Land and Zelazny's Lord of Light, which not only changed my reading habits for the rest of my life, but eventually led me (via subsequent butterfly moments) to cons, Usenet, gaming, friends, lovers, an interstate move, and a change of career in middle age from clerical work to IT.

Thanks, Jim, wherever you are.

#197 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 06:36 AM:

Kirsty Thunem at #195

> I've been using Smalltalk since 1999 and have a reasonably secure job doing so for the foreseeable future.

You have my envy - I keep up as a hobbyist and have done a bit of university tutoring, but for the most part it's the dull grey world of Java for me :(

I see you have a Norwegian address - Norwegian company?

#198 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 10:38 AM:

Butterfly SF book: I read a lot of fantasy as a kid, but I thought I didn't like SF (sheer prejudice, never having read any) until I was 13, when I got stuck waiting in the car for a while with nothing to read but my older brother's newly-bought collection of Asimov short stories.

I probably would have picked up SF at some point anyway, because both older brothers read it (I had been raiding their bookshelves for several years by then), as did most of my friends. Star Wars came out the next year, and sealed my fate.

#199 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 12:14 PM:

Emrys 192: Those are, indeed, the two in the display, along with Nikola Tesla (whose electric motors have probably kept a whole lot of us from keeling over from hard work at age 50 or thereabouts).

#200 ::: Sajia Kabir ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 01:11 PM:

I was watching U2's Zoo TV performance of "Mysterious Ways" on Youtube, the one with Morleigh Steinburgh bellydancing, and one of the commenters mentioned how Rachel Brice would have been so superior. So I looked her up, and got into bellydancing. It's one of those things where you really had to be in the right place at the right time, because the bellydancing I'd seen before had been of the Cabaret style, "Las Vegas" aesthetic, which had no appeal for me. But now I've discovered artistic and fantasy bellydance, which uses elements of storytelling.

#201 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 01:32 PM:

My series of butterfly moments starts with breaking up with a boyfriend who was intensely interested in Irish history and getting a postcard about a study abroad program in England at around the same time. Since I was desperate to get out of town, and England seemed familiar enough to not scare me, and would also spite him a little bit, I signed up for the program.

The week I arrived, I went to the dinner the residence hall was having for first year students. When I went to grab my coat to leave, I had to reach past some guys that were sitting on a bench in the cloakroom. One of them asked me to go to the student union with him, and being bored with my housemates, I agreed.

A week or so later, a group of his friends had invited me to go with them to a club, but I arrived at the residence hall only to discover that they had all gotten completely rat-arsed the night before, and weren't in the mood to go out. They told me that another guy hadn't gotten drunk, and I should go check and see if he was interested. Well, I got to his room and he was busy reading a Terry Pratchett book. He wasn't interested in going out, but we did have a long talk about books, and music, and any number of other things. Eventually I convinced him to marry me and move to the US.

It's been 10 years, but I've still never been to a club.

#202 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 03:35 PM:

I met a friend who introduced me to the hitherto unheard-of concept of "Science-fiction Convention" and made me part of a whole new world.

#203 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 03:44 PM:

My biggest "little thing": I had discovered online bulletin boards (BBSs), but since I was broke and living with my parents, I only called the free local ones. Then I found one named after a series I'd been reading- long distance. My dad said "As long as you'll pay the phone bill, go for it."

I got into chat with the Sysop, and at one point he had to leave, and put me into chat with the Trivia Administrator.

Well, we chatted for 4 hours, and it took a while to pay off that phone bill, but it was worth it. We'll celebrate our 15th anniversary this summer.

#204 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 04:07 PM:

When I was in eighth grade, I was attending a small private Christian school. Fundamentalist. The "libraries" in the school were donated books. Each classroom had a shelving unit with books on it. I was already a science fiction reader, and had read one of the Heinlein juvies, Starman Jones, possibly. Feeling perfectly safe, I took off the shelf a book by Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land. It was a perfectly shattering book. The sex stuff didn't impress me. I was eight when I figured out that the only reason that one didn't have more than one sexual partner was because of the Law of God. If you were going to hell anyway, it made sense to enjoy the ride. Obviously, you had to tell the partners about each other, because otherwise you would be lying and hurting someone. What phased me was Jubal and Mike's discussion about the existence of God. I was so not prepared for it. My father was a minister, and I grew up in tightly restricted circumstances. The whole idea that you could argue about the existence of God in a logical fashion threw me. From then on, I was a doubter. It wasn't possible in my house to not be a Christian. I was convinced that my parents would throw me out of the house. So it sat there, festering, until I went to college. Within weeks, I wrote my parents a letter explaining that I was no longer a Christian. My boyfriend at the time, (who I later married, and then even later divorced) was instrumental in getting me to write the letter. SIASL wasn't the only thing that helped me free myself from my scary Fundamentalist religion, but it was the catalyst.

#205 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 04:50 PM:

Butterfly book moment: finding "The Beast Master" in a wire basket of remaindered books at an ice cream place.

I was already reading my way through my step-mother's Asimov and Clarke collection and my brother's Heinlein collection (and I'd read LOTR of course), but this was the first SF I bought for myself (because it had a horse on the cover - I was a horse-mad 11-year-old) and I've not stopped buying/reading SF of all varieties since.

#206 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 06:12 PM:

My dad likes to tell the story about how he and a friend went to the girls' dorm looking for someone to sew on a button. The friend was dating one of the girls. 2 others flipped a coin to double-date with my dad, and as he puts it, "Your mother either won or lost, depending on how you look at it."

#207 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 06:46 PM:

Buttefly SF book(s) - I'm sure I read other science fiction before, but the middle school library had a good mumber of the Tom Swift Jr. books. I read those and then went through the collection looking for other things like them.

Although come to think of it, I could probably make a case for "You Will Go to The Moon".

I suspect both of these and the other books I found fostered my interest in retro-futurism as well. This would have been in the mid-seventies and at least in my school libraries, there was plenty of SF that had been written before we got to the moon.

#208 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 07:14 PM:

Saying to the mother of an acquaintance, at our first meeting, "Gee, if she's going to look like you in twenty years, I should marry her."

This led eventually to my marrying someone else.

#209 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 10:06 PM:

When I was 8, D. put a gun to his head and ended his life. I inherited his complete set of Burroughs paperbacks and several Star Trek books.

Baba teaching me how to make beef broccoli, which included his turning to my partner, saying "you can't treat her like that" matter-of-factly, and then showing me how much cornstarch to use.

Wanting something to do on my bus commute and getting out my grandmother's crochet hooks.

#210 ::: Amanda ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 11:23 PM:

Answered a just-for-fun quiz email on a Yahoogroups list. Made a friendship. Made a new group of friends. Made a new life in a new city, got married, had kid.

#211 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2009, 11:35 PM:

The first SF book I read was also the one that made me read only SF: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet.

#212 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2009, 12:14 AM:

I'm not sure it was a butterfly moment, but one of the first books I read that wasn't a picture book or a "learn to read" book was Space Cat on Mars. I suppose that was what got me started on SF; I quickly hunted up the other books in the series, and soon started to pick through the kids' section at school at at the local library for SF. (And stuff about space and science.)

Made me real popular with the other kids, yessir.

#213 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2009, 01:06 AM:

If a moment can last for several months, that's how long my UCBerkeley senior year feeling of being fed up with Academic Bullshit caused me to delay applying for Graduate Library School, until it was too late. So I took a temporary lowest-level job at a near-home greenhouse. That lasted twelve years, then I moved on to the County Arboretum. Long time later, I discovered that Army Service Time and part-time work as a teen-ager at the Glendale Public Library could count towards County Retirement, so I retired at age fifty-five (with a less-than-maximum pension, but I've never regretted a moment of it).

That's at least three more Butterflies, and I'm beginning to think it's Butterflies all the way down.

#214 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2009, 11:45 AM:

I think any life you could lead would have butterfly moments--in the sense of moments which at the time seem unimportant, but in retrospect led to some big changes in your life, maybe changing the direction of your life.

That said....

When I was young, I was not very healthy--I spent a fair bit of time sick and unable to go outside and play because of asthma and related lung problems. (I think my health improved dramatically when we moved out of a basement apartment, and staying inside there was probably making things worse, but I guess my parents didn't know that.) My grandmother knew I liked Star Trek and similar shows, and so she went out and bought me, at age 5 or so, these "Made Simple" books on Physics and Chemistry, and I think maybe one other one. These were basically outline/study guides for a high school level class in either subject.

I don't think I can explain adequately how big an impact they had on my model of the universe, how I thought about everything. But they did--I think (even though I was raised in a flavor-of-the-month Christian house, and am Catholic now) most kids grow up with religion or cartoons or some such thing building up their underlying model of the world; I grew up with this idea that everything was basically understandable, that you could probably write equations and solve for stuff if you knew how. It's like a belief in magic, except instead of thinking there's a magical or spiritual structure underneath reality waiting to be seen, somewhere deep in my basic wiring, I expect there to be a basically understandable hidden structure of laws and relationships holding it all together. I still am thrilled when I can see some part of reality "behind the mask"--look at the solid finished wall and see paint, primer, drywall, plywood studs, wiring, pipes, insulation, exterior plywood, and siding, say. Or look at the computer and see all the different levels of stuff going on to make it work, from the gross power supply and cooling stuff down to how page table cache misses are handled down to how those bits are represented in terms of voltages or currents, and how that affects stuff like power consumption.

I have no idea if I would have ended up any different without those books--maybe this was just my nature. But I think they had a massive effect on who I am.

#215 ::: Francesca ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2009, 07:18 PM:

Nice weather on 8 September 2006.

Putting too much mustard in the Thai prawns with rice on 23 April 2008.

#216 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2009, 09:53 PM:

I got stood up for a date this one time, and I keep meaning to send a card to thank her.
It was this woman I'd known peripherally in college. We ran into each other at a party, and I decided, you know what? You've got no money, a fresh religion degree, and a reasonably nice apartment that smells like curry, and that's kinda it. Do something that makes you feel good. Do something new. You think this girl is attractive. You don't have to be in love. Just ask her out.

We went out for a drink, hit it off, and decided to meet the next night at the local favorite dyke dive. I showed. She didn't. But this other girl appeared at my elbow, sort of piped up, and she said, with admirable bravado, "Hi. You're Anna's friend, right? I think I saw you in The Vagina Monologues a few months ago. as it turns out I've been stood up, and you're the only person in this room I even remotely recognize. you want to go somewhere and have a smoke and talk?"

An hour later, we were absorbed in conversation, thick as thieves, when our respective dates finally showed up and we parted ways with each other's contact information.

A month later, she was in a horrible car accident and shortly after, a horrible break-up while she was struggling to make it out of the ICU. She had just recovered enough to get out on her own in a wheelchair, and I was leaving a pretty good dinner party because an old flame had called me up drunk and crying and in need of consoling, and we ran into each other on the street by complete and total coincidence.

Three hours later, we were so engrossed in conversation we'd forgotten about any other evening plans, and that became the new plan for the next couple of weeks before we admitted we were in love with each other. Three years later it's much easier to run into her because we share a home and we're planning our wedding.

If we hadn't both been stood up in the same bar full of strangers at the same time. If we hadn't exchanged contact info right before her accident. If I hadn't gotten dragged out of that party and she'd taken a different route to the store that night. We probably wouldn't even have met, you know? And now we're talking about making each other happy for the rest of our respective lives.

And I just want to say to that woman who I asked out on a total whim because she happened to be down from Seattle visiting friends on that exact night just when I was feeling the desperate need to do something interesting, who proceeded to stand me up like a jackass and ignore me when she eventually arrived: thank you. thank you thank you thank you. I hope you get this kind of misfortune someday, too.

#217 ::: Ariel ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2009, 10:18 PM:

Deciding at about 2 am over coffee that writing a ten-day Deryni-style RPG with a bunch of friends sounded cool. Which led to a crazy three-week production crunch in a badly-laid-out computer cluster, which was the straw that broke the camel's back on my developing RSI, which led to not being able to hold a pen for most of a term, which led to retroactive medical leave for a nice testable acceptable-to-talk-to-deans-about reason instead of the depression that probably would otherwise have caused me to flunk out, which led to taking a year off from school to work, which led to my graduating with my CS degree in 2004 with work experience under my belt instead of in 2002 during the height of the dot-com bust, and to having stock options from that brief stint in one of the few non-busted internet startups, which is why I now have a house.

Huh. Guess I should write more LARPs.

#218 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2009, 09:52 AM:

Tony Zbaraschuk,

I'd think surely Fritz Haber goes on the list, and Pasteur also.

#219 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2009, 10:43 AM:

Having the cute bank teller flirt with me that morning.

And one with more recent ramifications: A lecturer's chance remark, which led me to the Smithsonian and a friendship with one of my fellow interns, which last year led me to starting a postgrad degree in something I love and am good at.

#220 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2009, 10:47 AM:

SamChevre @218: although Haber's work on nitrogen fixation probably qualifies him, he's also known as the father of chemical warfare.

#221 ::: Sally Brackett ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2009, 11:09 PM:

When choosing my class out of the offerings of an academic summer class I picked creative writing. I found a good friend, many new books to read, the concept of conventions, SF fandom, They Might Be Giants and countless other things.

#222 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2009, 12:22 AM:

Fleming, with penicillin, for the saver's list.

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @189: No such book with "The Man", or "A Case of Conscience", or "A Canticle for Leibowitz", or Moorcock's "Behold the Man", in a reasonable period for you to have read it (I'm assuming pre-1998), at least findable through the Locus indexes. There is a Scholastic Book Services book with 8 stories that's called The Other Dimension, not all religious stories but with "Canticle" and Bradbury's "Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed."

A picture of the cover is over at , if that helps you identify it.

#223 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2009, 02:25 AM:

I took a job offer from the Department of Social Security over a job offer from the Australian Department of Defence, at the age of twenty-six.

It was the worst job I've had in my life, but the people I met through it were the life-changing factor. I sometimes wonder which way things would have gone had I chosen the job with the army.

#224 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2009, 12:16 PM:

Fritz Haber, definitely. (Actually, he's on the "two billion" list, given how much of world agricultural production presently depends on the Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis process to produce fertilizer.) He's going in a different display, though, maybe a year or so down the line: "Good or Evil?", in which we discuss how to balance two billion new lives vs. running Germany's chemical weapons program in WW I...

Pasteur I really should have thought of, but I think he probably qualifies. It's harder to put one specific invention at his door, though; rabies vaccine didn't save nearly that many people, and some of the other stuff is fairly general (pasteurization? allowed more stuff, but antisepsis and sterilization are more general 19th century techniques, and you could argue that all of them are just standing on the shoulders of Jenner anyway...)

#225 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2009, 12:48 PM:

Well, if you count Pasteur as being the (co-)inventor of Germ Theory, then he's fairly high on the list.

Another candidate might be Paul Ehrlich, who came up with the idea of 'magic bullet' drugs that would treat particular conditions.

#226 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2009, 01:43 PM:

I was thinking Pasteur for pasteurization and canning of food. The difference in general health that having other things than starch and meat to eat in the winter made is quite large.

#227 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2009, 02:36 PM:

Rabies vaccine may not have saved people directly, but it certainly saved them indirectly by reducing the population of rabid animals. Rabies affects all warm-blooded animals, so cows and horses can also be affected by it.

Pasteurization (along with the wine industry and silk industry) owes a great deal to Louis Pasteur.

#228 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2009, 05:07 PM:

Tom @222,

It isn't unlikely that I'm mixing anthologies, because no list of Bradbury's works matches my other memories* of that anthology. I've gone looking for it in lists of 'SF/religion' books, but haven't found it**.

* 4 stories (5, tops), Xianity-focused religion in SF theme.

** As I think about it, perhaps it was a small-press /non-SF-press book with ordinary writers. Mediocre sensawunda would've still been enough to make me want more.

#229 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2009, 05:53 PM:

What period, Kathryn, did you read this? Within, say, 5 years....

#230 ::: Joshua Farber ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 12:06 AM:

I THOUGHT it was the time all my fellow Americorps volunteers ditched on me, and I ended up doing a week's worth of Earth Week public demonstrations all by myself at the Museum of Science, Boston. I went off script; I had fun; I signed autographs -- you cannot imagine what it was like.

At the end of the week, the Physicist who runs the programs department came up to me and said "you know, we have a fellowship opportunity here, and we could really use someone who can present effectively, and engage with the visitors. We'll teach you all the science."

That was 20 years ago. Now I teach public high school, trying to teach media and information literacies under the guide of more typical "subjects" -- computers, mostly. And in the new world of state standards and once-a-week formal reviews, where you get graded based on how well you teach someone else's minute-by-minute curriculum, it just isn't...what it was when high school teaching beckoned, I guess.

I've been feeling it for a few years, now.

But tonight, suddenly, I'm starting to think it was following that random link which led me to this thread.

I kind of feel like I have a better sense of what I'm looking for, now. And some of it is that none of you people seem likely to be about to tell me that I'm speaking "too formal" for the Internet, or that I'm supposed to be following the standards as written, and stop trying to turn then into something that makes sense.

THIS is my language. God damn it, there's intelligent life on the planet after all.

#231 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 11:03 AM:

Welcome, Joshua Farber! Stick around, explore some other threads. Do you write poetry, by any chance?

#232 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 11:10 AM:

Welcome aboard, Joshua.

#233 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 11:53 AM:

Welcome aboard!

#234 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 12:01 PM:

Joshua, a lot of us feel that way about this place. Welcome, and make yourself at home!

(Incidentally, both my parents were teachers, I've done some substitute and volunteer teaching, and I have several relatives and friends who are currently teachers. I feel your pain.)

#235 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 12:27 PM:

Damn, we win! Welcome doesn't begin to cover it, Joshua!

#236 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 12:36 PM:

Welcome, Joshua. I'm still new here too. Everyone's made me feel warm and welcome, and I hope you feel that way too.

#237 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 02:00 PM:

Infrequent poster surfacing to point out that Joshua Farber @230 must win some kind of a prize for using the phrase "you people" in a completely non-trollish way.

And to suggest that if he enjoyed this thread, he might also enjoy several of the ones labeled "apolitical" in the run-up to the November election.

#238 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 02:34 PM:

Being inveterately curious, I clicked on new arrival Joshua's name @ #230 and discovered that he blogs about folk music, specifically covers of folk music.

That's an interesting niche of the internet I'd never thought of looking for, so I'm glad Joshua showed up here. Welcome!

#239 ::: Joshua Farber ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 04:42 PM:

Well, I feel validated and welcomed. Thanks, folks.

Yes, covering the folkcovers is a pretty minor niche, but I'm proud of it. I do covers of folk songs, and folk covers of popular song, too. Mostly, I find the pursuit a productive lens to explore the ways in which culture recycles itself, and honor that folkways process as organic and authentic, instead of merely railing against the cargo popcult.

Mary Aileen: I haven't written a poem in years, but I still treasure language. Maybe I should start again.

#240 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 04:50 PM:

Now I'll have to go look up the folkcovers stuff!

A bit late to the welcoming, but looking forward to seeing more from you, Joshua. People who speak well are people I like to talk with!

#241 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 08:10 PM:

Joshua @230

Hi There! Pull up a chair. Plums are in the fridge, if you're hungry.

Tom @229

1982 is the absolute latest date I read it. 75-80'd be the most likely range. Based on faint memories of memories about the cover and quality of the book, I'd assume 1970's for publication. In size I'm thinking perhaps an inch thin, no more.


#242 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2009, 10:05 PM:

Joshua @ 239...

If you don't rhyme, puns are welcome.
("No, they are not.")
I heard that.

#243 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 12:03 AM:

Can't find you a picture of it, Kathryn, but if it was a trade pb it might well have been Roger Elwood's 1974 book Chronicles of a Comer and other religious science fiction: six stories, including a Bradbury ("In This Sign"). Several of them are quite forgettable, but Poul Anderson's "The Problem of Pain" is well worth the time. Look up the contents on the Locus site if you want to check. Copies are cheap over on ABE.

#244 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 01:06 AM:

Joshua @ 239

Welcome to the monkey house. If you're tentative about writing poetry, take a look at the "Zombies on My Shoulder" thread. You might want to try lightly customizing an existing lyric, such as you'll find there.

#245 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 02:10 AM:

Sorry Kathryn,
This is just to say --

I have tossed
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for Joshua

Forgive me
they were soft,
so fuzzy
and so gross.

and umm. inspired by what I cleaned out of the fridge this afternoon.

#246 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 08:35 AM:

#245, eric


#247 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 09:56 AM:

242: I think you meant to say "if you don't rhyme, puns are unavoidable."

Anyway, it's nice to receive Ser Farber's stamp of approval. Philately will get you everywhere.

#248 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 11:22 AM:

ajay #247: Puns may be unavoidable even if you do rhyme, as both abi and myself will be happy to testify.

#249 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 11:47 AM:

ajay... Speaking of stamps of approval, did you know that the French word for 'stamp' is 'timbre', and that if someone calls you 'timbré' (or 'stamped'), they're not being nice, unless one considers it nice to be called brain-damaged.

#250 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 12:09 PM:

Not SF, but books.

When I was five my grandmother sent me a check for five dollars. My mother, for all that she is a parent like any other, and has her faults, never thought for a moment of using it to get me something. It was my present, and if I wanted Ice Cream I could have ice cream. I might not get five dollars worth all at once, but that was my money.

I told her I wanted books. So we went to the store and I looked at all the books (at least that's they way it sits in my mind's eye).

I was able to buy two, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and Green Eggs and Ham.

That night I wanted to read them. So we sat down and began Green Eggs and Ham. It must have been a Friday, because she was making clam chowder for supper, and she went to the kitchen to work on it. I called out, "I can't do this, it's too hard. I need you to come help me."

She came out, looked at the book and said, "You can do this, look you're on page seven."

I looked at the page. I looked at her. I said something clever like, "oh," and went back to reading, never looking back, and never again thinking a book was too hard.

Which wasn't true, per se (at eight I really didn't get a lot of the details of "A Study in Scarlet, or "The Sign of the Four" but I read them), but it was liberating to know there was something "hard" which I could do, all by myself.

#251 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 12:18 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale: That (plums are in the fridge) was beautiful, on so many levels.

Joshua, I cannot offer any better welcome than that. It took me years to take any of those plums, but they keep (despite the ones which went rotten, just to let eric play with them).

#252 ::: dogga red ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 01:54 PM:

xopher, until you've been in the same foxhole as me, you might want to reserve judgment

#253 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 01:58 PM:

Fragano @248:

Puns may be unavoidable even if you do rhyme, as both abi and myself will be happy to testify.

Wordplay sonnets are so much fun.

I was trying to get one working about dactylic meters for an appropriate Scalzi thread, but my brain has the winter stupids.

Shame; I wanted to explain how I was all thumbs at getting my feet to be fingers, because iamb what iamb.

#254 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 02:13 PM:

Abi @ 253...

What did the naughty French poet say to the lady he wanted to get intimate with?

"Let's have a session of iambes-en-l'air."

#255 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 02:59 PM:

Serge #254: Was this before or after ivresse?

#256 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 03:05 PM:

dogga red: When you stop confusing "charlie" and the NVA, then I might stop being so skeptical.

But hey, tell me about your time in the Green Machine, and why you call your weapon a "gun", how you called fire to your pal, and just how lucky he was to drop that 60 mike-mike right in the gomer's hip pockets.

I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, but with just two posts, and more than a bit attitude defending something which comes across as snark than fact, well...

Because combat zones, are wall to wall butterflies, all the way down.

#257 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 03:09 PM:

sorry, I meant to say as more hacknied cliché, forced to serve as snark, than fact.

My mistake.

#258 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Abi @ 253: Just make sure that you don't get your feet and meters confused.

Serge @ 254: That's brilliant.

#259 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 03:22 PM:

Fragano @ 255... Did you know that what makes up a syllable in a poem's line is called a 'pied' in French, and translates as 'foot' in English? That ties in well with Abi's wish to make her feet into fingers.

Toe be or not toe be...

#260 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 03:29 PM:

Terry Karney writes: .."charlie" and the NVA...

Dammit, now I've got that damned Kingston Trio song I filked for the SCA stuck in my head again.

#261 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 03:38 PM:

j h woodyatt: Don't blame me for the flashback, doggo red is the one who started with the war stories.

#262 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 03:39 PM:

KeithS @258:
Just make sure that you don't get your feet and meters confused.

Yes, because that causes things to go very, very wrong.

#263 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 05:04 PM:

KeithS @ 258... Why, thank you.

#264 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 05:44 PM:

Serge @ 259:

I wasn't aware that pied shared its meaning relating to verse with foot as well. It also seems to be used the same way as in English when speaking of the foot of the stairs as well. Interesting.

If writing in metered verse takes over your life, is that a coup de pied?

#265 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 05:58 PM:

dogga red, #252: That may be a reason, but it's no excuse. I will judge you on how you present yourself, for I have no other way to do so.

#266 ::: Becca ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 06:51 PM:

at age 15, going to a fencing lesson with a friend, which led me to meeting Bob Asprin, which led to the SCA which led to Fandom which led to my having a bad case of the what-the-hells and flirting with a fascinating stranger in an elevator (whom I married 12 years later). branching, Fandom and the SCA led to my meeting a woman who later became a midwife and was the matchmaker for us and the woman who became the birthmother of my two children. I owe my entire life to that one fateful meeting.

knowing Bob led to my owning the Myth books, which were the first books my son ever read willingly and which has finally got him to catch fire on reading... now there's no stopping him.

Long time lurker here, never had the courage to post before, am in awe of the puns and literary endeavors of the regulars here.

#267 ::: Kirsty Thunem ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 07:29 PM:

Steve Taylor #197

My sympathies, I've been lucky so far. I didn't like Java much at University - it was such a relief to start using a language that didn't get in the way of what I wanted to do all the time.

I started with an Norwegian company but I'm currently working for an investment bank in London. I've kept the Norwegian address as I get a lot less spam that way and because I'm lazy, I've had it for close to 15 years now.

#268 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 08:13 PM:

Terry @ 256: Because combat zones are wall to wall butterflies, all the way down.

Taken out of context, this is one of the most lovely and surreal images ever.

#269 ::: Becca Stareyes ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 09:20 PM:

I just thought of one, that happened to my mother.

My mother worked in the benefits office of the local university, helping professors fill out their insurance policies. Our neighbor, Mike, my mother's best friend's husband, got a job in the Physics Department's business office, and found out about an opening in his office. Mike asked my mother to submit her resume for it, since it paid better than benefits work -- she wasn't sure about it, as it required a college degree, but he said she could probably waive that on experience.

Anyway, she didn't bother applying, but the first choice declined the job, so it was opened again. And again Mike asked Mom to apply. This time she did, and got the job. Which means now we can gossip about professors I used to know. But that's not the point of the story.

Some time later, Mom and Mike and their boss were working one morning, and Mom noticed Mike was under the weather. He looked sick and was breathing hard. Mom thought Mike might be having a panic attack, so she asked if he was all right. He told her his chest was hurting, and Mom, being a nurse's aide, immediately figured to get him to the hospital, given his age. She had him swallow some aspirin and, when he wouldn't let her call for an ambulance, had their boss drive them to the hospital.

It was a good thing Mom was paying attention, as Mike worsened in the car, and was nearly going into cardiac arrest by the time they got to the hospital, to hear her tell it. Mike was rushed into the emergency room, and Mom comforted her friend/Mike's wife, who she had called in the car.

To this day, Mike's wife credits my mother with saving Mike's life. And all because she took a second chance at a job she didn't think she could do.

#270 ::: dogga red ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 10:40 PM:

terry, ever been in a combat zone? butterfly experiences don't have to be all sugar and spice and everything nice - some of them are harsh reality - and have just as much effect - it's not all star trek conventions and heinlein books

#271 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 10:48 PM:

re: dogga red's butterfly - my first assumption based on the tone of the comment (sort of self-consciously hard-boiled) was that he was talking about a video game rather than actual combat.

#272 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 10:57 PM:

Serge, #249, now that would be a great journal name for me: music and brain damage!

#273 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2009, 11:28 PM:

Marilee: That sounds like a book you'd see written by Oliver Sacks.

#274 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 12:20 AM:

dogga red: Have I? Yes. Both the semi-easy one's of the slummy parts of town, and Iraq, in soft-sided humvees in starting in april of 2003, until my medevac in July.

I've just wrapped up 16 years in the Army. Duty Stations in Korea, Ukraine, Germany, Iraq, and the usual run of bases in the US.

So... back to your allegations of being in the Green Machine in Nam. Care to explain the details I asked about; or is posturing and "you weren't there man, you don't understand" tripe the best you can do?

Because the stuff I've seen so far is pretty much the stuff of cheap novels and John Wayne films. It's possible you don't have any other way to describe it, but the details of how you phrase things ring like a plug nickel on a hardwood counter.

This is a coin-check. Put up, or shut up.

#275 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 05:41 AM:

I finally got around to reading this very enjoyable thread. Thanks, everyone!

A butterfly moment for me a dozen years ago started with blue tits, which had been mentioned in a post on my home newsgroup.

When I spotted a field guide to British birds in my neighborhood secondhand bookstore I picked it up and opened it to the page about tits to satisfy my curiousity about blue tits.

I bought the book--even though I'd never been to the UK and had no plans to go and was not a birder because I really like field guides--and wrote a usenet post about the acquisition.

#276 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 07:25 AM:

Terry Karney at #274 writes:

> So... back to your allegations of being in the Green Machine in Nam.

I may have a different set of detectors to the rest of the people responding to the thread, but it seems clear to me that dogga red is just taking the piss. That doesn't mean you need to be his best friend, but it does mean that a serious response is irrelevant.

What if I started telling you about my experiences chasing Baron Von Richtofen in my steam powered ornithopter (and I might, I might...) - you wouldn't bother picking holes in my story, would you?

#277 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 08:42 AM:

Because combat zones are wall to wall butterflies, all the way down.

They are if you're Vernor Vinge...

The cuddly butterfly made a squeaking noise that might have passed for joyous laughter in a human child. The sense behind its singing was different: "Times are changing, Rihndell creature! Your people must learn: We will not be stymied. You know my fleet's sacred mission. We count every passing hour against you. Think on the fleet you will face if your lack of cooperation is ever known -- is ever even suspected." There was a sweep of blue and yellow wings, and the butterfly turned. Its dark, bashful eyes rested on the Riders. "And these potted plants, they are customers? Dismiss them. Till we are gone, you have no other customers."

(from "A Fire Upon The Deep")
"Well, what do you know," Pham said. "Butterflies in jackboots."

#278 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 08:47 AM:

Oooh, don't know what happened there. The whole thing, up to "jackboots", is a quote from the novel - the reference should have come afterwards. I blame hexapodia.

#279 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 11:55 AM:

The original example from Chaos theory was that the way a butterfly's wings flapped in one country might eventually cause a cyclone in another, so by no means are only pleasant outcomes expected from the stories — 'For the want of a nail' — is that little proverb/ aphorism/ anecdote/ (non)rhyme known in the USA?

Terry's battlefield butterflies reminded me of Chris Clarke's post on Creek Running North from 2005 about Vanessa cardui migrating. The original link sometimes seems to have succumbed to the effluxion of time, so this link is to my Anzac Day post extract from it.

#280 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 01:48 PM:

Mez (279): It certainly is. "And all for the want of a horseshoe nail."

#281 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 02:40 PM:

dogga red: feel free to ignore a stranger's advice on this or any other topic, but I feel compelled to say this (and to hope you will stick around long enough to test its accuracy):

To wager that ANY topic is outside the experience of every single regular on Making Light, is to place a sucker's bet.

#282 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 05:50 PM:

Mez: I did a post about the same time, in which I made reference to the migration.

The relevant passage: And while I've been doing this the Painted Ladies have been flying north up the street. A few at a time, or a couple of dozen but it never stops. It's like being a rock in a stream, and seeing the flotsam and jetsam wash around me, past the cars and over the houses. Sometimes they stop on the flowers.

#283 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 06:35 PM:

Lila @ 281 To wager that ANY topic is outside the experience of every single regular on Making Light, is to place a sucker's bet.

Reminds me of the Worldcon panel where Elizabeth Moon decided to take advantage of the collective knowledge of fandom: "Okay," she said, "I've got this situation where a bunch of kindergarten kids have accidentally been taken hostage and they need to be rescued. Neither side wants to hurt the kids, but there's been one death already. They're in a cargo hold of a space station..." It was fun listening to the discussion (I managed to contribute that they would NOT have enough gaseous anaesthetic on the station to put everyone in the hold asleep) and I learned a bit about explosives and how amateurs will always use too much. It was additional fun spotting the scene in a book, later.

#284 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 07:28 PM:

Terry@261, I don't blame you. Granted, I didn't notice the "Charlie and the NVA" thing when dogga red first dropped it into play, but now that he's started dancing around being called out for it, that damned E-A7-Bb7 chord progression is lodged where it chafes, man. If he keeps posting, and he still won't address the flub, then I'm going to be highly annoyed with him, too.

#285 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2009, 07:41 PM:

j h woodyatt: I was cutting him slack, at his first entrance. Not as much as I might were there not some real weaknesses in the presentation, but it was a long time ago, and tropes will worm their way in, but I am not so willing as all that to see subjects like that appropriated for self aggrandisement.

The follow on, as you say, is rubbing me a little raw.

#286 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2009, 05:31 AM:

Terry, jh,

I've pretty much been watching this from the sidelines, gents; I think you two have it handled.

#287 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2009, 07:28 AM:

Terry @ 256: Because combat zones are wall to wall butterflies, all the way down.

They look like butterflies, but they're farther away than you think, so they look smaller. They're actually vultures.

#288 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2009, 10:51 AM:

Steve Taylor: No, because I wouldn't think you were doing it for offensive reason.

To elaborate on my reactions/thinking.

1: dogga red appears, with a cliche about, "the Nam". The jamming gun, the enemy (Charlie/NVA) about to overrun him, and the use of mortars; right on his position, saving him, and, "Gunny" which, "was a little thing, but changed my life."

Things like that did (and do) happen. I figured he was playing the fool (little things, the use of, "gunny" means the Marine Corps, which is more adamant about the not calling rifles guns... this is my weapon, this is my gun; one is for figthing, one is for fun. Since the Corps was, absent a brief; and not successful, period, didn't take draftees, they tend to have more traits which, even in one tour, are soaked in, that's one of them). If one isn't a "lifer" the odds are one is going to say, "the Gunny", because it's a godlike position in the Corps.

It also bothered me that the details were amazingly like the ending of James Webb's, Fields of Fire, save that the narrator in that piece of the story (the one who is changed by surviving an artillery strike on the position he's in) doesn't think it was a little thing, and it changes him, a lot. Snake, and the LT, well they die. The Senator comes home to find he's not who he was, nor who he wanted to be, and nothing is as it was.

But I let it slide, until he got snotty with Xopher; yes, Xopher was short with him, but he didn't say, outright, he was false; merely that it rang false with him.

His response is what irked me. He moved on to use his tale to assume a moral superiority to Xopher, without anything more than his first post.

At that point it began to offend. There are a lot of people who were in spots like that. People who don't deserve to have things like that trivialised. Somewhere in there it seemed to me he was also trying to take a piss, on us. To mock our personal stories, by comparing something dramatic, which ought to have been apparent as a big thing at the time, to the odd contingencies of life, and making light of it as, "a little thing".

But what really pissed me off, was treating me as an ignorant fool. I know not all buterfly moments are swell. Heck, the one I shared is a mixed blessing. I am less than whole because of that small difference in my military career. Had I been the legal clerk I went in to be, odds are I'm not deployed, much less medevacced out.

The kids from LRC who died when the truck flipped... a little slower on that curve, and they probably come home. If Stewart hadn't come to talk to me about leaving the Army, instead of reclassing, then maybe he doesn't stay in, or maybe he doesn't go to Sam Houston; which means the drunk doesn't total his car and Stewart isn't dead (no, I don't feel guilty about that, ruminative, but not guilty; though for a moment I tried to take the blame... that way lies madness).

For a grim butterfly moment... I got to Germany, when I did, which means I got Stateside when I did, which means Maia and my father were able to visit me in DC, instead of having to wait for two months to see her; and I know not how long to see him again, because a kid... 19 years old, dropped dead from heatstroke on the flightline of Q-West, and they were flying him out, so his family could be there when the called it.

That meant there was a C-130 to Kuwait, with three seats on it, and I got one. We shared the ride with the kid, and I got to drink real coffee, and read a paper less than two weeks old, and eat ice cream, and, for the first time in four months, take a shower, and use flush toilet, instead of a hole in the ground.

Because that kid was dying on that plane.

So I know all about his "unpleasant" butterflies, and really, I don't need him playing the grizzled tough guy to "set me straight," about, "harsh reality."

Yes, it might have been better; for me, to have let it slide, but that kid, and Stewart, and all the rest of them deserve better. So, if dogga red is real, I might owe him an apology.

If he's not, he got off easy.

#289 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2009, 02:34 PM:

Heavens, I missed a bunch of action in here. Never even saw dogga red's reply to me until today.

dogga red...I do not believe that you are who you say you are. If you were, you would have described those events in less clichéd terms. (I mean, a guy named "Snake" and another named "Gunny"? You've watched too many movies, methinks.)

I think you came here to be derisive of this thread and its intent, which is to discuss how very minor decisions or events can cast long shadows through a life. What you described, even if true, was not a very minor event at all; I concluded that you were here to sneer at us, and indeed you've done nothing else since.

As for being in a foxhole with you, I certainly hope that will never come to pass, as I'm reasonably certain the stench would drive me out into the line of fire! And that, again, would not be a butterfly moment.

Now for the reason I came back to this I-thought-long-dead thread: I forgot my most important butterfly moment of all: deciding to sleep a little longer on my 42nd birthday. That tiny breeze expanded into an enormous, pounding storm within a couple of hours; without it, nothing I've done since would have been possible at all.

#290 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Xopher @ 289... I do not believe that you are who you say you are

Might he be PRV?
I wonder.

#291 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2009, 03:37 PM:

Wrong style. PRV was (and is, where "Sub-Odeon" is still tolerated) lengthy and thoughtful, albeit misguidedly so. He also punctuated and capitalized and stuff.

If it IS PRV, he's doing a good job of pretending to be someone else, but I think he's just a random troll who decided to pick on this thread.

#292 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2009, 03:44 PM:

Xopher @ 291... He was thoughtful? That depends on one's definition of 'thoughtful'.

#293 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2009, 03:55 PM:

Compared to dogga red? Einstein.

#294 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2009, 02:47 PM:

I know I've told this story on bellatrys' LJ, but I don't think I've ever gone into this much detail:

During the 1992-3 school year, reading The Way Things Ought to Be in snippets on a college bookstore shelf, while getting the Second Renaissance Books catalog (published by, or at least on behalf of, the Ayn Rand Institute) in my university mailbox, and realizing three important things:
(a) Rush Limbaugh was an asshole to whom lying about the Left came as naturally as breathing;
(b) the only difference between his rhetoric and the Objectivist blather in the 2ndRen catalog, particularly when it came to their characterization of their common ideological opponent, was that he invoked God and Saint Ronnie to justify his rhetoric, while they justified theirs by the Grace of Reality and the Nature of Life.

(Also, I noticed them selling a book about Michael Milken which basically argued that, because there were no laws against the kind of fraud he committed, it not only wasn't immoral but wasn't actually fraud. At least, that was how they sold it. They also sold a biography of Sam Walton as if his success story were prima facie proof that Wal-Mart couldn't be maintaining its position the way its detractors said. To put it in terms they'd have related to, it was like Jim Taggart putting on a wig and a dress made them mistake him for Dagny.)

I can't really say whether I'd have stayed in my comfy center-right Sensible Serious glibertarian cocoon if I hadn't read those writings and come to that realization about their authors. But I know that the reading made it impossible for me to stay on the same side as these people, like a reverse of the thing with David Horowitz and the Black Panthers.

#295 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2009, 09:31 PM:

On consideration, even the synergy between them would probably not have penetrated if it weren't for that year at New College (in sunny Sarasota), where I acquired a copy of The Book of the SubGenius at the university bookstore. This led to me acquiring Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob", which contains William S. Burroughs' essay "Sects and Death" as a BehindForEverAfterWord, empowering me to scent the cultic vibe coming off the Limbaugh-Peikoff axis.

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