Okay, so. This song has a long and storied history, which I will skip most of because it’s boring. But the highlights, for interested parties:
• Oh god this song is so silly. It’s in the same folder with my Commitment-Phobic Time Traveler song (also unfinished).
• I wrote a very rough draft of these lyrics in 2007 in the margins of a notebook while debating the merits of Twitter in a college communication class.
• I never actually tried to set it to music until late 2008—and that composition was so horrible that I stuck the song in a drawer until further notice.
• While packing to move to San Francisco in 2010 (read: procrastinating), I came up with the new melody, which is largely how the song goes today. It was catchier, but I didn’t actually have time to record the rhythm part, so it returned to the depths of my hard drive.
• This is the first recording I made that I do not hate. It’s from this year and still rough (I think I made it while I was sick?), but in much better form than earlier attempts. One day, I will record it with a full horn section and drums and it will be epic.
• This song is not directly based on past relationships. That said, there is nothing that makes me loathe technology more than long-distance communication with loved ones.
Can’t use technology
no it won’t work for me
can’t use technology
no, it won’t work, oh—
So I may be a geek
I love technology
But I’m hitting a brick wall
when it comes to you and me
This long-distance bit
it’s got me all out of sorts
I’m yelling at my gadgets
and jamming all my ports
‘cos I can’t hear you love me through a phone
not when all I hear are those damn dial tones
and I can’t hear you love me through a screen
those emoticons and smileys, they don’t do it for me
can’t hear you love me through Twitter
‘cos that kind of thing, well, it’s just not a winner to my heart
So what’s a person to do
what’s a person to say
when the one they love is so far away
if only letter-writing and odes were still in style
I’d be your one and only, I’d walk 500 miles
But I can’t use technology
no it won’t work for me
can’t use technology
no way it won’t work
‘cos I can’t hear you love me
through a phone
or a screen
or a telegram
oh, I can’t hear you through Twitter
or Facebook, widgets, anything similar
can’t hear you love me
through this madness, methods of mechanical machinery
can’t hear you through beepers, pagers, computers—
babe, not a thing
can’t hear you through iPhones, iPods, Androids, nothing with a ring
so come home!
come home to me
we’ll turn off all the technology
come home to me
we’ll play offline and we’ll just be
come home to me
it’ll be alright just wait and see
but I can’t use technology
no baby, it won’t work
so come home.
So these last few days sucked for exercising. Well, physically. Mentally, my brain got its ass kicked five ways to Sunday thanks to the ridiculously hard puzzles of the 2013 MIT Mystery Hunt. Seriously. I looked at a spreadsheet for work today and had to convince myself it wasn’t a puzzle.
And then I got sick, which led to a few days of strict bedrest. Not so great for the muscles.
Friday (1/18, MIT DAY ONE):
- I ran a mile to the T from my house, then walked another mile after narrowly missing the bus.
- Puzzles solved: 2.
- Hands of blackjack played: Far too many.
Saturday (1/19, MIT DAY TWO):
- I walked to and from the puzzle rooms. Not the best physical exercise day.
- I did do a lengthy jubilant dance when I solved the Casino Lobdell puzzle, however.
- Puzzles solved: 3.
Sunday (1/20, MIT DAY THREE):
- Ugh, getting sick. I spent a lot of the day shivering and surfing Google for analogy pairs.
- Puzzles solved: 1. (Eat it, Analogy Farm! Though you were pretty fun to work on.)
- Sick. Bedrest.
- 40 toe rises
- Still sick. Slightly less bedrest.
- 80 toe rises
- 60 leg circles (30 each leg)
- ankle resistance band exercises
- arm and shoulder RB exercises
- Yep, still sick. But feeling well enough by the end of the day to graduate back to resistance training.
- 100 toe rises
- 10 push-ups
- ankle RB exercises
- arm and shoulder RB exercises
- RB workout
Now we pray that I wake up well enough to scrimmage tomorrow. Or at least lift some god damn kettlebells.
Yes, it’s come to this. I’m using tumblr to keep track of my off-skates crosstraining. (I blame Hayley and Mangle.)
Goals for January:
Consistency: I’m bad at daily workouts to begin with, but I’m traveling and have lots of weekend events in January. So, while I will probably not get to do the level of crosstraining I would like, the goal is to do a few basic things every day. They take 15 minutes, and I work at home. I have no excuse.
On derby/Mystery Hunt/SF + LA days: 15 minutes of core; band exercises.
On non-derby days: The above, plus 20 - 40 minutes of kettlebell exercises.
Core: My core muscles have become stupidly weak. (Not that they were abs of steel to begin with, but…) So lots of focus on those areas. By the end of January, I should not be shaking after holding a plank for ten seconds.
Footwork: Twice a week footwork drills. Fancy feet, swing dancing, suzuki walks, anything that gets my feet moving quickly and in weird positions
Balance: Integrating balancing into daily activities. Standing one-legged while at my desk. Walking on the curb. Perching on weird things.
Things I’m not worrying about this month:
Food: The Mystery Hunt is this weekend, and then I’m in SF/LA for two and a half weeks. I know I’m not going to be able to eat a happy healthy diet, so I’m not going to torture myself too much over chips and cookies.
The last few years, I’ve seen several “one-second-a-day” year in review videos. They’re all pretty great, and definitely encouraging on the “get out and do things you’d be proud to take video of” front.
The latest video I saw had a glimpse of something I can’t believe I’d never thought of before—nail-and-string art on a wall to use as a hat rack. So, uh, please excuse me while I steal that idea for my own hats.
While I dream up exactly where to put that, however, I’m going to try something along those lines, but a bit smaller (and on a piece of wood).
Making a lute tree jewelry rack? It’s so crazy it just might work.
(Still questioning color, though this isn’t a bad way to go, given the general teal-blue-ness of my room.)
I’ve been fumbling my way through web design since the mid-nineties (when I discovered that I could make my text on an old single-post message board especially fancy if I styled it with <font> tags).
I hand-coded anything and everything, and rolled my eyes at programs that offered to do it for you. (I remember getting in a screaming match with a teacher once over Dreamweaver, tables, and crusty code. I won.) Hand-coding meant that I knew what every piece did, where it was hiding, and what I needed to tinker with. And every step felt like unlocking pieces of a puzzle—getting a bunch of <div> tags to center in CSS, z-index floating, interlocking PHP includes—it may have been slower, but success was ever so sweet.
(Except for hand-building image maps. Once I found out there was a WYSIWYG tool for that, I never made another damn one of those again.)
The last site I built, back in 2010, was a comics website for a good friend. Until now! Somehow, Dan managed to twist my arm and get me to design his new blog. (It’s possible he promised me cookies.)
I’m pretty proud of it. As much as I love the standard, I was scared to death of doing a responsive design website—convinced that I’d have to finally resort to WYSIWYG programs and formulas to make things nice.
Thankfully, there are a few wonderful RWD frameworks out there (we used Skeleton), which gave me enough custom control that I could fiddle to my heart’s content, but also a place from which to start. (Because man. The 960 grid is intimidating when you’re a few years out of CSS design.)
My favorite part of this design, hands down, was fiddling with the little Dan toon that floats around the site, depending on your orientation.
The toon himself I sketched on paper and finished on my iPad mini, using Adobe Ideas and the Pogo Connect. (And far too many reference images of Han Solo.)
The very first pitch I had for Dan was a “Solo silhouette”. This got rejected in favor of a full toon. The initial sketch of the toon is a little terrible. I had a devil of the time getting the blaster right (as you’ll see), and about the only thing I liked about Dan’s likeness in the initial photo was his wacky eyebrows.
From there, it was a lot of back-and-forth-and-fiddling-with-the-darn-gun-and-repositioning-facial-expressions-and-finally:
A Dan toon!
He jumps around the site a lot. (Looking for good vantage points, I imagine.) At its widest and 27-inch iMac friendliest, the toon hangs out on the right side of the site, peeking out to say hello.
Try to trash-compact squish him into the column, however, and he jumps to the left. (He hides altogether if you for whatever horrible reason decide to close the dimensions of the window to just the nav bar.)
For large phones and small tablets, the toon pops to the top, hanging out with his friend the DSF logo. (For awhile, I actually had him popping out of the logo, but it didn’t quite work. Shame.)
There are some other little goodies hidden around the site, too. It was pretty enjoyable to make, and it’s gotten me nice and prepped for a giant RWD job I’m taking on over the next few months.
In short: Responsive web design — less scary than you think. (And go visit Dan’s site, which has a great story up right now about his experience on Ask Me Another.)
I participate in a lot of activities people fear. I fly regularly. I ride a bike in the city. I routinely risk my body—and my pride—on a roller derby track. If only my fears were as clear-cut as “being afraid of heights,” or “scared of large dogs.” If only I were scared of ghouls and zombies and terrible movies. But my biggest fear is ill-defined, murky, opaque. I can’t pack it into a pithy sentence. I can’t even clearly explain it.
When I joke about it to friends—laughing to numb my nerves—I describe it as “being afraid people will think I’m Sarah Palin.” Which is a good way to skim the surface of the problem: I’m afraid of people thinking I’m not smart enough. Not well-read enough, lacking the encyclopaedic knowledge expected in certain situations. Unable to form brilliant sentences or trade metaphoric entendres.
On the surface, the problem seems absurd. I love learning. I go out of my way to put myself in situations where I’m not the smartest person in the room. I want people to argue with—conversations that enlighten all sides. If I don’t know about a topic or an event, I immerse myself in information. Because I hate not knowing—I hate being in a situation where someone is vehemently attached to a single argument and I can’t weigh the facts myself and rebut. Even on subjects I’m well-versed in, I try to seek out those who know more. I’m the annoying person who won’t make a reference in a conversation without double-checking I’m quoting the right thing or spouting the correct fact.
With an attitude like that, it seems silly for me to be scared of being called stupid, or of faking it. And yet.
The first Incomparable episode I ever did—on the BBC’s new series Sherlock—I misspoke about halfway through the episode, citing the detective Lestrade as “Lestrange”. It being the first podcast episode I’d ever done, I was mortified. I love Doyle’s short stories, and I’d inhaled Sherlock like a madman, but all the knowledge in the world can’t rescue you when you’re nervous and your brain thinks faster than your tongue.
And no one knew these credentials. Not Jason, Dan, Glenn or our four listeners would know that as a girl, I’d stayed up far too late reading Conan Doyle’s stories. Instead, all they heard was a jittery 22-year-old swapping a Harry Potter character for one from Holmes.
I emailed Jason, ever-so-casually asking him to cut it, utterly terrified that on my very first episode of a geeky podcast, someone would accuse me of faking my love and knowledge. He didn’t. Since that point, I’ve been on 50-something episodes, I’ve almost certainly made more goofs, and no one has accused me of faking my interest in a subject. Yet.
But the fear is always there. It’s lurking, leering at me whenever I go on air or get up on a stage without a prepared speech. I’m sure I make more slip-ups and lose my train of thought thanks to this unwieldy demon on my shoulder—which, of course, only feeds the beast. There are more blog posts and conference talks and speeches than I can point to about this feeling—that you’re not worthy, you’re not an expert, you shouldn’t be talking, you shouldn’t be doing this job. For most people, that fear stays inside. You may feel like a charlatan, but you work harder and you learn more and sooner or later you’re seen as an expert, even if you don’t feel like one.
When the fraud police come knocking down your door, however, it’s a different matter. Your fears, perfectly manageable when limited to your own self-critique and determination, become altogether something else when someone calls you on them. I can say honestly that if a member of the Incomparable’s audience ever insinuated that I was some sort of “fake geek girl,” I’d raise hell on Twitter—but inside? I don’t know if I’d ever be able to do another episode of the podcast again. That’s the kind of insult that turns what was an enjoyable hobby into a miserable experience.
Luckily, we have wonderful listeners on the Incomparable, and I haven’t had to deal with that. Yet. But I fear it because I’ve seen it happen elsewhere. Not just black-and-white instances of assholes calling a cosplayer a “fake geek”—but good-natured critiques. Helpful nitpicks. “We don’t want to see you make that same mistake somewhere where people might judge you for it, after all.”
Yes. There are absolutely boisterous braggarts who come into a situation ignorant to the facts and who want to be the center of the discussion—even if they have no idea what the discussion is. Believe me when I say they drive me as crazy as they drive you. And there’s a certain sort of smug satisfaction that comes with taking them down—it’s clear they don’t respect your subject, so why should you respect them?
But there’s a clear difference between that person and the one standing on the sidelines, piping in when they feel they have something to contribute. The one who’s trying their hardest to step into a new world, even if that place is occasionally confusing and overwhelming. If they goof—and they will; it’s how you learn, after all—trust me, they know it. But take that, and slap that person’s curiosity away one too many times, and they won’t come back.
The first (and only—thanks, swamped schedule!) drabble I wrote during the month of November.
Please don’t fall.
Miranda laid in her bed, covers up to her nose, eyes wide open. It was past the time of sleep, and a storm was raging.
CLACK. She whimpered. Was it a branch? A bucket? A wayward shingle flying off the side of a neighbor’s house? The tumult outside gave no clarifications, only noises that were beyond the comprehension of a nine year old up past her bedtime.
She was worried for the tree. Her tree. Wiggins the mighty had stood in their front yard for as long as she could remember. He had big, reading-sized nooks in his roots for little girls to climb into and disappear into the latest fantastical world of choice; long, wavy branches that held a tire swing and the remnants of her cousins’ tree house; and one hollow knot for storing treasures of untold value.
And he was also very old. So old, in fact, that when rumors of the storm came forth, her father threatened to cut poor Wiggins down, chop him to pieces, send him to the dump. Miranda remembered shrieking, and scrambling up the tree, and threatening to stay there through the storm if it would only convince the man to stay his axe. Her aunt, thankfully, had intervened. She climbed on up to the treehouse, where Miranda was clinging to a book with one arm, Wiggins’s trunk with the other, patted the girl on the head, and gave her a sticker. For bravery, Aunt Sarah had said.
Miranda, hearing another whipping sound against the windowpanes, no longer felt very brave at all. PLEASE don’t fall.
For her aunt had made a deal with the grumpy man and his axe: The tree would stay, Miranda would come inside, and if it fell on the house then aunt and daughter would rebuild their dwelling shingle by shingle. It seemed like an awful lot of work, but Miranda had faith her tree wouldn’t fall. He was her best friend, beyond the characters in her books. He wouldn’t let her down.
WHAP. She winced, and looked up at the ceiling. A bevy of painted stars had been scattered across the blue expanse, constellations mirroring the ones high up there in the sky—assuming the storm had not knocked them from their perches, sending them flailing wildly about the galaxy.
She closed her eyes, imagining the life of a star knocked from its place by thundering clouds and electrifying bolts. One day, part of this massive, beautiful constellation, and the next… blown away from your family, your friends. Anyone who matters. Falling from your place, bumped by shocks and sounds. Sent into who knows what—a colorful nebula, a wormhole—and popped out the other end, banished to a completely unfamiliar expanse of stars.
"Hello?," Miranda the star whispered. "Can anybody help me? I’m lost."
The stars were silent. She did not know what this portended—had they not heard her? Were they unfamiliar with her language? Were they the kind of celestial beings that simply did not talk to strange stars?
"Please," said Miranda. "I’m trying to get home."
One of the stars twinkled at her. A sign? Did they communicate in a flash pattern, perhaps—some sort of morse code? She knew about morse code from an auntie star in her old constellation. They used it in times of great distress, when normal speech would not do.
S… O… S Miranda flashed at the star. It blinked hurriedly back at her, a stream of long and short beams of light sent across the cosmos. Miranda brightened—it was morse code!—but immediately shrunk again. SOS was the only Morse code she knew. Oh, if only she had paid attention to her auntie star…
This habit came about because once upon a time, I acted in shows.
It’s a silly tradition, really. During a table read, I’d sketch out characters in the margins of the script. Some people use their own experiences to get into character. Some people rely on similar roles they’ve played in the past. I sketch.
Words give you much. They provide tone, character development, plot movement. And your imagination can do wonders with words. I just like to put my imagination down on paper. Capturing that fleeting moment when you tap into the character for the first time.
I don’t act anymore. But I skate, and I play a fair number of roleplaying games with my friends—improvisation in miniature. And that tic’s still there.
Cooking experiments: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
My uncle is a bit of a cooking genius—doubly so when it comes to desserts. I’m not sure whether he made up his recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies or just inherited them from family, but I was overly excited to steal it from him a few weeks ago; my initial attempt (sans recipe) was more cake than cookie.
May 2010 - August 2010: Picked up my first pair of roller skates and messed around a roller rink for a few hours twice a week. Moved to SF in September, took a skating hiatus.
May 2011: Joined the recreational skating team for the Bay Area Derby Girls. September 2011: First black & white scrimmage. January 2012: Transferred to the Bay Area Derby Girls proper. May 2012: Moved and transferred to the Boston Derby Dames. August 2012: Teamed to the Boston space brain extraordinaire, the Cosmonaughties.
And on August 11, I’ll play my first bout. (In front of people and everything.)
I do not, generally, wear the cooking hat. But now that I have my very own kitchen—and my pocketbook is less than thrilled at the idea of eating out a lot—I figured I should start being more adventurous.
Yesterday’s escapade in cooking was a Rhubarb crumble with some blueberries I had left over from the farmer’s market added in for fun.
It was so delicious that my partner-in-crime and I ate both 8x4 pans before I could even snap a photo of the finished product. Mmmmm, rhubarb.
But I snapped a few pictures of the crumble in-progress, which I will share.
All the ingredients a girl needs for a scrumptious rhubarb crumble. (Save the oven, but it was so hot yesterday that I don’t think I could have captured it on film.)
Rhubarb crumble, pre-blueberries and crumble topping. (In other words, rhubarb, sugar, vanilla extract, and flour.) I snuck a few pieces of rhubarb out of this pan before baking and am almost tempted to do something like this as a cool summer snack, no oven necessary.
When I was younger, I forced myself not to read every one of Ray Bradbury’s stories. I didn’t want to hit the end, I didn’t want to find the tale I hated, didn’t want to ruin the magic of my tattered long-overdue library copy of S is for Space or our cabin’s first edition of Fahrenheit 451.
But the true magic of Bradbury is that while there may be no more new stories of his to read, his books have encouraged thousands of writers to explore the wilds of Mars, the fields of their hometowns, the people found there.
Ray Bradbury, Diana Wynne Jones, Maurice Sendak. They were an odd trio of mentors to have, and now they’ve all gone forth. But their books are still here, and every day more people are reading, and writing…
Don’t Fall Asleep
“Are the stars always like that, Mama?” The little girl asked.
"No, baby. Not always."
They were on top of a hill, two people surrounded by silver beams breaking the darkest of night, their eyes to the sky. The wind blew ever so gently, the kind of breeze just cold enough to send the chill of winter in through the tips of your toes, up your sides, in the hair on your arms or the fuzz on your face.
"Don’t fall asleep," Mother whispered, tickling her daughter’s sides the way the wind could not.
A giggle. “I won’t!” Her baby snuggled closer to her, eyes wide to the stars.
The sky shimmered, starry streaks racing each other against the backdrop of the deep blue heavens, blurring into droplets of bright, white, light as they reached the horizon. The two humans watched, clung together, curled up in the place where there had once been a tree.
"The stars are weeping," the girl said.
"The stars are weeping," her mother agreed.
The girl did not turn, but posed the question: “Are they sad?”
"Sometimes." Mother kissed her baby’s head. "They weep for those of us who cannot shed tears."
"Like Grandpa," she said.
"Like Grandpa," Mother echoed.
The sky became quiet; the tails of light slowed their descent; the winking stars vanished into the black. Having nipped mother and daughter, even the breeze took a brief moment of stillness to hug them close. They watched, waited. Saw the stray comets making their last, brilliant strides across the stormy sea.
The ridges along the horizon began to glow. Hints of sunbeams crept along their edges, illuminating crevices, sneaking into the world. Heretofore silent birds chirped their morning songs. The navy world began to lighten.
The girl reached out with fingers delicately, dangerously small, tracing the fading trail of a solitary shooting star as it arced across the sky. Spoke. “They cry even in the sunshine.”
Mother held back a smile. “Did your teacher tell you that?”
"Grandpa." A silence. It was late, too late. But there they sat, morning dew dampening their clothes, watching the stars and the sky and the comets fade in the presence of the sun.
"I’m sorry he missed this," Mother said, thinking of years when she was young and full of questions, and of a gruff voice gently nagging at her sleepy eyes.
"But you’re here, Mama."
"I’m here," she said. "And I wouldn’t miss it for the world."
The sun broke through, dissolving the last star from the sky.
I generally hate boasting—which is to say, I feel deeply embarrassed when bragging about something because oh god there’s gotta be someone better than me at it and crushing doubt ensues.
I would like to take this moment to announce that I am awesome. Why? Because I turned this:
Now all it needs is some art on the walls, and my parents have themselves a guest room/office for my mother/place where I can actually sleep when I come home to visit with closet space and everything.
Not too shabby for a week’s worth of spare time.
(Of course, this is only one room cleaned out of a fifteen room house + basement + garage. But it’s a start.)
In order to make this room liveable, I had to throw out an enormous amount of stuff. But I also got to discover a whole bunch of really fantastic gems hiding away from my grandmother’s era (my grandparents owned this house before we did). An entire box of rejection letters from publishers, for instance. (Woohoo, creative frustration runs in my blood! Though to be fair, there’s also a box of royalty invoices. So—with luck—it goes somewhere eventually.) Plenty of writing, too; letters, poems, manuscripts…
My favorite thing I found, though, might be this picture of my grandmother, Mary; my dad; and my uncle Peter.
Just something about it that catches my eye. It’s such a beautiful candid.
I’m shackled to shows past their expiration date, even though I know they’ve gone sour and everything in my brain is screaming to stop the madness. Heck, even when I spend most of that 42 minutes of air time fiddling with my iOS device, playing Tetris or some other bit of mind-numbing visual entertainment, anything to keep myself from actually staring at that thing up on the screen.
Today, after work, I spent nearly an hour attempting to make an episode of Glee stream properly on my computer. My internet wasn’t cooperating, as it often doesn’t when I attempt to watch Flash-based media, and it was doing that early 2007 “stream three seconds, stall, stream three more seconds, stall” bit everyone hates but for some awful reason puts up with.
And after forty-five minutes of doing this, I sat back and wondered: Why am I trying so hard? I haven’t been interested in this show for at least a year. The songs have devolved from interesting musical adaptations to whatever happens to be popular at the time. And it frequently makes me want to set things on fire. But I kept on bashing my head against the desk trying to watch this stalled stream.
Welcome to Ren’s semi-coherent-yet-not-really-cohesive reflection on the year 2011.
Trips taken: 10.
Jan: BOS -> SFO
Feb: SFO -> ORD
April: SFO -> LAX
July: SFO -> LAX -> SAN
August: SFO -> BOS -> YHZ -> BOS
September: SFO -> LAX
October: SFO -> BOS -> YUL -> BOS
November: SFO -> LAX
December: SFO -> LAX -> BOS
New places: Montrèal. (Technically, I was there before when I was six or seven, but I don’t remember a damn thing; therefore, it counts.)
Best TV show I discovered: Veronica Mars. (Supernatural gets an honorary mention.)
Best 2011 TV show: Game of Thrones. (Honorary mentions to Parks and Recreation, Community, Parenthood.)
Best older film I discovered: Short Circuit. (Really, this goes under the “Why the heck hadn’t I seen this before?” category. Honorary mentions to How to Succeed in Business, Charade, Hudson Hawk.)
Best 2011 film: It’s a three-way Hugo / Midnight in Paris / Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy tossup.
Best book I read: Name of the Wind. (Plenty of good contenders, but this one hit all the right notes.)
Best game I played: Portal 2. (7 Wonders wins the non-existent board game category.)
Best gadget in 2011: The trusty MacBook Air. My favorite gizmo two years running.
Best new gadget: The iPhone 4S. Combined with the right apps, this thing let me routinely leave the MacBook Air at home while keeping me in business—no easy feat.
Tech trend I hate: All these damn patent lawsuits. You can tell me they’re necessary, and important for defending portfolios, but gosh if it doesn’t take all the wind out of my sails.
Best new activity: Roller skating. (Unsurprisingly.)
Thing I did a lot of: Figuring out who I wanted to be, where I wanted to be, what I wanted to be doing, and how I wanted to get there. All that exciting soul-searching stuff. Also, I read so very many more books than I had in recent years, which made me unendingly happy to do.
Thing I wish I’d done more of: Fiction writing. When you’re writing news and how-tos for 8 hours a day, it unsurprisingly becomes more difficult to sit back down at the keyboard after dinner and pound out a chapter. Also, I wish I’d kept up with my daily post-it lunch sketches—those were fun.
Thing I didn’t get around to doing at all: Finishing my EP. I’ve had a six-song record sitting around ready to go for about six months, but I’ve yet to mix some songs or get the takes I want for others. It’s not that I particularly want a career in music, but I think these songs are halfway decent and would love to share them with people. Also, theatre.
The year in pictures, 2011
January: Bring it on, 2011!
February: Oh god so many styluses
March: Yeah, that kind of month.
April: Knitting and friends and Star Wars and a kitten. Sounds about right.
May: Thumbs up!
June: Rekindling my love affair with It’s-Its.
July: Too much propulsion gel can make a girl tired.
August: The Ren is Traveling edition, with guest stars cousin Eva and the Nova Scotia Contingent.
September: I took a lot of gadget photos this year.
October: Attempting my best red-haired Amy Pond.
November: No, seriously, I really did take a lot of gadget photos this year.
December: Also, pictures of toestops. (But they were giant, and worth documenting.)
People who have spent even a fraction of an hour with me at a conference know—if there’s anything I despise more than crappy products, it’s talking about “women in technology.”
I don’t like standing out because of my gender. I don’t like standing out because I’m a minority. I like standing out because I’ve done something spectacular and people should pay attention to it.
But, because we are the minority, shit happens. And as a result of this shit, there are posts and talks and support groups. There are folks in the majority who roll their eyes and call it over-reacting. There are those who wish we’d all just shut up about it already.
Last week at MacTech, Andy Lee gave a presentation on Cocoa commands. Not having seen the presentation, I can’t vouch for its educational value, but from the slides (which are available online), it looks like an amusing talk.
Unfortunately, the presentation’s “hook” relies on sexual innuendo and dirty humor. Which, as sexual innuendo in a work environment is oft to do, offended someone, who blogged about the experience. This person also happened to be female. As a result, the discussion about her letter has revolved around alienating women with this kind of behavior. Around “professionality” vs “a relaxed atmosphere.” People are condemning Andy, or the conference, for having the talk.
Folks, we’re missing the point.
Andy’s talk sounds hilarious. I’m sure I’d enjoy watching it, because I’m a fan of showmanship and topics twisted in amusing ways. But, were I running a conference, there’s no way I’d put it on the schedule—nor, when I write for Macworld, would I compare an idiot tech analyst to a piece of male genitalia. (Much as I’d sometimes like to.)
Sure, the software industry is mostly full of white males right now. But, like most other aspects of my life, I’m too busy to focus on the present. I’m looking to the future. I’m looking toward the industry I want to be a part of.
And that’s already starting to take shape. We have more women, more elderly folk, more young kids tinkering around with XCode. We have singles, couples, fathers, mothers. We want the best and the brightest developing for us, making software that we love to use. And the last thing I or anyone else should want right now is to alienate those people because of a dick joke or two.
I’m not saying we strip out all humor. The talks at the Çingleton Symposium, which I had the pleasure of being at last month, were all hilarious, and they didn’t need to dip into the realm of the profane to do so. Or WWDC, for that matter—some of the subject matter may be over my head, but the jokes were never below the belt.
Play to the audience you want to attract, book the people you hope will inspire, attend the conferences that strive for more. And if someone’s offended, hear them out. Rational conversation and debate are what push the industry forward.
If someone decides they want a “no-holds-barred” developer conference, great! I’m sure there are plenty of people who’ll want to go. (For the opposite side of the coin, see GeekGirlCon.) There’s nothing wrong with targeting a certain sub-section of the community. It’s just not a section I’m interested in being a part of.
In short: It’s about tact, and what’s right for what situation. I’m more than happy to kick back with friends at the Chieftan after a day of sessions and trade dirty jokes. But when it comes to how our industry’s represented, I’d rather we keep it friendly and open to all.
Double the trouble, double the fun, since I’m A) going out to dinner tomorrow night and won’t have time to write, and B) this felt better as one chunk. No real place to split it into two, I’m afraid.
95 percent of this was written on an iPhone keyboard. Thus is the peril of getting into a groove on the bus, and refusing to move to a sensible option like a keyboard when you arrive home.
Like all these drabbles, this has neither been re-read nor edited, so read at your peril.
I curled up in the back of the taxi, clutching my backpack, as if I could wish myself back by holding it tightly enough. I missed my bear. I missed Annie. I missed Hal. I missed snow. I missed home.
Couldn’t think about that. Caught my breath. Swallowed. Allowed my head enough movement to tilt upwards, listening to my dad give directions to the taxi driver, a Hispanic guy with a lisp and heavily graying hair. And, before I could stop myself, I was back East, hearing my fourth grade teacher lecturing us about the proper placement for apostrophes. He had always spoken with the same lilting accent trails this driver was using now.
You’d think it would have comforted me. You’d think I would’ve been happy to hear something so familiar.
Instead, I turned and shoved my nose against the window, opening my eyes as widely as possible, willing them to stay dry.
We pulled away from the curb as the terminal light above flickered, then extinguished. I heard the woosh of air as my mother cranked the window down, felt the sticky muggy air wrap around us. The driver’s temperature gauge, a mercury-filled thermometer held by a cheery two-dimensional girl in a grass skirt, looked to be somewhere in the high seventies.
"It is unusually hot," he remarked to my father. "Even for us! You pick good week for vacation."
I suppose, were I a taxi driver ferrying people around the week before Christmas, and I picked up a family clearly dressed for winter, I’d think the same. Nice folk, visiting relatives, going to Disneyland, seeing the sights, skipping down the avenue of the stars, then hopping back in a plane and going home. Home.
"Home," I heard my mother say. "We’re moving, actually."
I dropped out of the conversation, digging headphones out of my bag. Plugging in. I let the opening notes of the Imperial March drown out the accented taxi driver and my mother and the noise of the city streets.
It was only early evening, but no people walked the streets outside the airport. Their absence was supplanted by neon signs, billboards, and more cars than I’d ever seen—even more than the one time we’d driven into New York City for Thanksgiving.
Unlike the New York drivers, though, these ones didn’t honk, didn’t make themselves visible, just slid and merged along the four-lane road until it morphed into a highway.
The next track came on. Cars whizzed by, arcs of light and smoke. The sun set, leaving a eggplant-purple sky in its wake. I couldn’t see a single star. I squinted out the window, hoping to catch something—Venus, the Big Dipper, anything that would tell me I hadn’t been transported into what already felt like a whole other universe. Nothing came. And yet, I continued to stare out the window, like a chump.
A white sportscar, which had been lurking behind the taxi, took this moment to bend around us on my side. The woman driving it blew us a kiss—the kind of mocking kiss you’d see a racecar driver sending his opponent—and sped on. No one saw but me.
We switched lanes, and then freeways, moving away from the city. The purple sky began to tinge ever-so-slightly more cerulean. And then, before I had really had time to take in the change: The ocean.
The pier that Annie and Hal had spoken of with such glee was sprawled out in front of me, a ferris wheel lathered in the red-and- green lights of Christmastime. At the edge of the pier, in the parking lots adjacent, cars were packed like sardines, slid so close together I was surprised no one had thought to start stacking them on top with a giant claw machine. It was utterly beautiful—and abhorrent—all at once.
The light turned green, and we left the monstrosity of the pier behind us, weaving through the surrounding beach town. Hazy as it was, the sky held the limping remains of the day near the water’s edge, creating a weird sort of glow: like looking toward a fiery pit, burning on embers in the distance.
I watched as the beach towns morphed into what seemed like endless stretches of beach—broken up only by the occasional parking lot. One of the lots was full of RVs, a bonfire starting on the beach below. Men with surfboards cluttered the circle, dressed in sandy wetsuits, holding what I could only assume were beers of some kind. And then we left them, too, turning from the beach toward the eastern hills, winding our way up through the canyon road.
My mother patted my arm, breaking my concentration, and the refrain of the current track. I pulled out my earbuds and glanced over. “We’re almost there,” she said, straining excitement in her voice. More for my benefit than hers, I thought.
"Yeah," I mumbled, turning back toward the window. In response, she ruffled my hair—a gesture she knew I despised.
"C’mon. We’ve got the evening. What do you want to do first? Unpack? Explore?"
I traded her a weary look. We’d been stuck in an airport for thirty hours. On a plane for four. On another plane for three. And now in a taxi, in a foreign city, three hours jetlagged. “I kinda just want to sleep, I think.”
"Oh, honey." She put out a hand and squeezed my forearm, then looked down at her phone, pulling up a calendar with a free hand. "I’ll see what we can do. The movers should have gotten here this morning, so with any luck they’ll have your bed set up already… If not, I’ll get you set up on one of the couches, okay?"
I nodded, suddenly feeling as exhausted as I had intimated. I moved away from the window and laid my head in her lap. “I miss home,” I whispered.
"I know, sweetie," she said, in the way only mothers can, and brushed my hair back from my face. We rode in silence like this for a moment. If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine myself back in my bed at home, dozing off to the sounds of whispered fairy tales in my ears.
"We’ll call the airline tomorrow," she murmured. "See if they haven’t found your bear." And though it wasn’t a tale of castles or princesses, I felt almost at peace. I shut my eyes.
Annie and Hal and I are sitting around their dining room table, playing Monsters. Hal flips a card down onto the board: The Queen of Death.
"You little cheat!" Annie shrieks. "I knew you were going to bring her out, I just knew it.”
"Should’a specced to fight her, then, shouldn’t you?" Hal says with a smirk. "Andy, it’s all you. Do you engage the Queen?"
I skim through my hand and pull out a bonus card, laying it down. “It’s on my honor to defend the lady Anne from the evil Queen,” I say. “I pull out my silver lightsaber—”
"Sword of light," Hal corrects.
"Same difference, and lightsabers are cooler" is my reply. I point to the card. "I step forward to attack the Queen, swigging a Quickening Potion from my flask."
Hal has me roll. He does the same. Annie grins at the result. “You’re too fast for her to see!” she announces.
Her brother gives her a foul look. “You’ve become too fast for the Queen to keep track of, and you set her mind into a great state of Confusion. She attempts to swing out at you, but sends magical bolts of doom toward the lady Anne. They will most certainly kill her.”
"No!" screams Annie.
"I’ll parry!" I shout, and roll. The dice land. We all lean forward…
The taxi bumped, sending me out of the dream. I tried to clutch the wisps as they flew away from my waking mind, but they were gone, left behind as the car began to slow, taxiing to its final destination. I refused to open my eyes, willing my mother to think me still asleep, willing the dream to come back.
It didn’t. But my mother didn’t attempt to get me to rise when the car stopped; and in fact left me on the seat, slipping what felt like my backpack under my head. The taxi’s motor hummed. A latch popped open, luggage was jostled, the trunk slammed. Voices, leaking in through the open rear window. A soundscape I tried my hardest to ignore, but couldn’t. Everything was magnified.
I opened an eye, then the other, frustrated. Sat up. We had pulled into a dark, circular driveway, a house on each side of the taxi I could see. The ones to my front and left were brightly lit, Christmas decorations hanging from their eaves. And then, to my right, the dark house. The one we were supposed to live in.
The one that was supposed to be full of movers.
The realization came to me as I stepped out of the taxi. Backpack in hand, I walked up to my parents, who were conversing with each other in hushed tones. “Why’s it so dark? Where are the movers?” I asked.
My mother looked up in surprise at my voice, then alarm. “Oh, no, Wyst, I needed you to stay with the taxi—”
But the driver, whose signal had apparently been my leaving, had blinked his lights in farewell and began to drive off. She looked at my father in horror. “But we didn’t pay—”
"Taken care of at the airport," he said, sounding like a stone had caught in his throat. "Damn, Andrew, we thought you were going to keep him here—"
"I was asleep," I murmured, still drowsy and confused to suddenly be the target of anyone’s speech. "No one told me to stay, and why would I need to? What’s wrong?"
"The movers never came," my dad replied, and his voice cracked into full-out frustration. "And now we’re stuck in an empty house with no furniture, no food, no electricity, and now, no damn transportation!"
"Thanks to me, you mean," I shot back. "Because it’s all my fault the stupid taxi left. I was SLEEPING! I didn’t know!"
"Well, maybe you should have stayed asleep!" he thundered.
"Richard!" my mother growled, but it was too much. On the edge of tears all day, I let them come, and barreled past my parents, running toward the empty house. I just needed somewhere to sit, somewhere to calm down, somewhere to breathe…
But the door was locked, so I dropped my backpack and kept running, under the orange trees, through the backyard bushes, down a slope full of brambles and weeds. They stung as they swatted against my jeans, but I kept running, oblivious, focused on just one thought: Away.
And before I knew it, I was tumbling down into the bushes. As I fell, I felt my foot break free of the bramble that had most certainly caused me to trip; my legs snapped up into a ball and I rolled down the rest of the slope, dirt and branches mangling my clothes until I could roll no more.
I let out a strangled cry that was half-laughter, half-sob. Not ten hours out of Connecticut, and here I was: beaten up, scratched, and dirty on the edge of a canyon somewhere in southern California. It was kind of hilarious, when you looked at from the outside.
Of course, I wasn’t exactly an outside observer. I preemptively cringed as I opened my eyes to squint downward at my clothing which, while torn and dirty, did not seem to be covered in blood. So far, so good. I wiggled one foot, then the other, then my legs and arms. Nothing broken or severely bruised that I could tell. Nothing that hurt so bad that I’d have to lie here until my parents got so worried they sent out a rescue party.
I’d run off before, at home. The first time, my mother had freaked out so much that when I trudged back an hour later, sore from yelling at the woods, I found my entire house surrounded with police cars. I made a deal with my parents after that: I got an hour to go cool down; if I hadn’t reappeared by then, they could call in the national guard.
Granted, home was home, and this was a brand new state with all sorts of horrible god-knows what lurking in the bushes, but I shrugged off the thought. My dad needed the cooling off time as much as me, I hadn’t gone far, and you know what? It was their fault for breaking all the rules and dragging me out here in the first place. I let out a huff of air, bringing one of my scratched palms to my eyes for closer inspection. What a mess.
As I frowned at the torn skin, I noticed something twinkling out of the corner of my eye. I dropped my hand to focus on the light, and found myself involuntarily gasping out loud.
In the half-hour or so that I had spent sleeping and generally making a mess of myself, the sky had darkened. In place of hazy purple eggplant, thousands of stars littered the sky, swirling about in faint, nebula-inspired strokes. The constellations were all there, and everything else, the planets and clusters and everything I loved. Home.
"Wow," I murmured, forgetting for a moment the sheer insanity of the day. "Wow."
I shot up like a rocket despite the aches, any thought of stars forgotten. “Who’s there?” I demanded. My eyes went blurry trying to adjust to the surrounding brush. A glowing light flickered on about ten feet away, then pointed directly into my eyes. “OW!” I squinted, tried to shield my eyes from the luminance. It was a flashlight, my brain helpfully tried to supply. That, or a ray gun.
"You look awfully bad." A girl voice. High-pitched. Not an adult, for sure.
"I fell," I retorted, still trying to squint beyond the light. "And some idiot girl decided it would be funny to blind me with a torch."
These were the magic words, apparently: The light disappeared from my eyes with an audible click. “I am not some idiot girl, thank-you-very-much.”
I blinked, trying to clear the echoes from my vision. A blurry shape, sitting on something grey, in what looked like the middle of the canyon. “What on earth…? What are you doing?” I tried. “Who are you?”
"That’s an awful lot of questions for a boy who decided to roll out of the sky, don’cha think?" Singsong. She was teasing me. After everything, I was getting spanked by a punk girl.
"You’re the one creeping around the bushes in the night like a creeper," I shot back lamely, cursing the jetlag and the tumble for my sudden inability to craft retorts.
"Maybe I like creeping around! ‘Sides, they’re mine. I can do whatever I well please.” My vision cleared somewhat, and I began to get a picture of the girl sitting across the way. She was perched on what looked like a giant steel object, six or seven feet wide, that ran the width of the canyon. It almost looked like a dam, which sounded foolish as it popped into my head—the canyon was dry as a bone. And the girl… she was my age, I thought. Maybe a little younger, though that could have been her outfit. She had her hair in long, reddish braids, with blue-jean overalls and a striped sweater underneath. In one hand, I could barely make out the flashlight; in the other, some sort of metallic tube.
"Hey, you just going to stare at me, trespasser?" She jolted me out of my inspection with a wave of her flashlight. "What’s your name?"
"Uhm." I stammered. "Wyst. I mean, Andrew. Callahan. Wait!" I got to my feet unsteadily and clambered toward the steel bridge. "I asked you that first."
"Trespassers gotta identify themselves," she said boldly. "I have to make sure you’re not anything nasty, after all."
"What," I said, "Like a demon?" The girl laughed.
"Sure. Or a werewolf." She howled at the sky, and I felt my cheeks tugging into a smile, despite myself. "Or a child molester, but you look a bit young for that."
"I hear that doesn’t kick in until your first prison sentence, " I joked. She laughed again.
"You’re a little funny, Wyst Andrew Callahan." She stuck the flashlight into her pocket, proffered a hand. "I’m Laynie. Laynie Brewster."
I took the steps I needed to take onto the steel object, meeting her hand in mine. “It’s just Andrew. Andy. Wyst’s a, uh… it’s a middle name.”
"No way!" She shook her head as she shook my hand, then grinned. "That’s much too cool to be stuck in the middle, especially with a boring old name like Andy.”
"Hey, I like Andy," I protested. But Laynie had already moved on.
"Nope! You’re totally Wyst to me forever now." She used her grip on my hand to pull me down to the base, where she remained sitting. I collapsed with a grunt. And maybe a small ‘Owch.’
"What is this thing?" I mumbled, attempting to soothe my backside not-so-self-consciously. She pointed down over the ledge. I looked, was instantly sorry to have done so. The canyon plummeted downward at least fifteen feet, maybe more.
"Once upon a time, this was a dam for the folks who lived down the hill," Laynie lectured. "To keep the rainwater from flooding their homes. But now we’ve got drains and stuff, and the city thought it was too much of a hassle to tear down, so now it’s just a cool place to sit and watch stars." She pointed out toward the horizon. From here, I found myself realizing, you could see all the way out to the ocean, where it met the sky. And, reflected in the water—all those thousands of stars.
"Wow," I found myself mumbling again. Laynie giggled like before, but this time I didn’t let her distract me.
"This is all my property," she said, gesturing with her free hand. "Well, this half of the dam up the hill." She pointed up the opposite side of the canyon, where I could faintly see the outline of a lit house.
"You live up there?" I asked.
"More or less. Me and my dad and Ernie and Marco and Shelley. But this," she motioned once more to the dam, "This is all mine."
"It’s awfully nice," I admitted. She looked pointedly at me, then broke out into a smile.
"Well, if you’re going to be so cool about it… I s’pose you can trespass on occasion." She glanced upward toward where I had come. "Where’re you trespassing from, anyway?"
"Hartford," I said automatically, then paused. Doubled back. "I mean." I frowned. "We moved. From Connecticut."
"No way!" Laynie said, her eyes lighting up. "Shelley’s from New England! She’ll flip. You guys moved into the Lawson house?"
"I guess?" At my confusion, she sighed impatiently.
"C’mon. Like this? With the arches and the—" She tried to poorly mock up the shape of our house with her fingers. "The little garden? And the orange trees?" I nodded. "Oh, aces. I love that house! I was so sad when Mary moved out. She was my dad’s hairdresser, you know.” She flipped her hair. “She’d do mine sometimes, too, but. Mostly his.”
I marveled at the idea of a hairdresser living in a house like the one my parents had acquired, but didn’t press the subject. “What’ve you got over there?” I asked, gesturing at the tube now lying by her side.
"Oh!" Laynie grabbed it, seemingly eager to show it off. "You’ll like this." She made a snapping movement with her wrist, and the tube extended outward. It was a bronze telescope—the kind I’d only seen in pirate serials and on Monster cards.
"Wicked," I murmured, eyes caught in the spectacle of it. She held it out.
"You can try it, if you like." I wasn’t going to pass that opportunity up. I grabbed it—gently, of course—and put it to my eye. The magnification was surprisingly good, crisp, and as I tilted upwards, I caught the moon. “It’s sure something, isn’t it?”
"Yeah," I replied, grinning as I gazed through the scope. "Yeah, it really is."
I’ve been bad at the NaNoWriMo thing. I think it’s the daunting task of writing chapters in order. So, instead, I’m going to try writing scenes (from that book I’ve been trying to finish for the last few years). Oh, and draw something too, because I’m horribly, woefully out of practice.
Starting with conflict. Because who doesn’t like conflict?
After school let out, Laynie came over one last time. In theory, she was going to help me pack—and help my family eat one far-too-large pizza. Mostly, though, she sat on the floor of my room, picking at my blue cloth-spun rug as I bounced from one end of to the other, packing items in a frenzy.
“How long are you going to be gone?” she asked, watching me grab a ball from behind the dresser. “My dad’s premiere is next month, and he said I could take a guest, if you want.”
“Can’t.” I grinned, and held a Coney Island shirt to my chest. “July’s when we’re going down to the parks.”
“Oh. Okay.” She caught my eye as I folded the shirt. “I suppose I could ask Jim.”
“Ask whomever you want,” I grumbled, stuffing it into a side pocket. Couldn’t think about Jim. “Hey, did you know they opened up a new ride up at Six Flags?”
Laynie perked up. “Magic Mountain? We could go after you get back.”
“No, New England. It’s supposed to be super-cool. Goes upside-down and everything!” I put on my best demonic smile. “I bet Hal’ll be too scared to go. But that’s okay, my mom will be up for it. She loves scary rides.” I clambered into the closet and dug around. Laynie said something, but I couldn’t catch it from inside. “What?” I said, sticking my head out.
“I said, too bad you’ll miss the parade,” she replied, focusing her attention on my blue-and-green rug. “Fourth of July is killer. They have great floats, and the fireworks! No better place than the dam to watch them.” She made exploding gestures with her hands. I shrugged.
“Eh, they’re probably not as good as the ones in the city.” And ducked back into the closet. ‘Well, I like them.’ was her muffled reply. She said a few other things, but I couldn’t make heads or tails while digging around my game box, so I just made a couple of non-commital “uh-huh”s and “yeah, sounds cool”s.
“Aha!” I exclaimed, and pulled my travel Scrabble set—and myself—out of the closet to hear her say ‘tournament’s at the end of August.’ “Hm?”
“My soccer tourney?” she replied, skeptical of my listening skills. “You’ve gotta be back by then. It’s epic. We’re playing the northern California kids, and they’re vicious.”
“I don’t know if you can really be vicious if you never score,” I said. Laynie scowled, said nothing, picked at the rug again. I shrugged. “I mean, I don’t know all that much about soccer. It’s kind of boring.” I picked up that bottlecap I’d been saving for Hal off my dresser, and held it up.
“Oh man, did I tell you Hal and Annie are going to come get us?” I said, and slipped the bottlecap into the knapsack’s front pocket. “Annie’s promised a right celebration. A surprise party and everything!”
“Is it really a surprise if you already know about it?” Laynie asked, still idly picking at the rug.
I stopped packing for a moment, and walked up to her, kicking the tassels of the rug. They flicked her fingers, and she looked up, surprised. “What?”
I crossed my arms across my chest. “You could at least pretend to be happy for me. If you’re going to do nothing but wisecrack and tear apart my rug… You don’t have to be here, you know?”
It was, of course, precisely the moment after I said those words when I realized I’d perhaps made a mistake. Laynie stood in one swift movement, her normally tame bronze hair flung back in defiance. She was angrier than I’d ever seen her.
“I could say the same thing for you, Callahan,” she said cooly. “What are you still doing here? Your head’s been in the East Coast for at least a week already. Why even deign to spend time with us West Coast rejects, huh? Wasting time until you can go hang out with people who actually mean something to you?”
“That’s not fair,” I said, hearing my voice go higher against its will. “Why can’t I be excited about going back home for the first time in months?”
“It’s not home. This is your home.” She took a step forward, forcing me to unintentionally step back to steady myself.
“Just because we’re being forced to stay here for a couple of lousy years—” I raised my chest, standing on my toes to level with her, and glared. “You don’t even know what it’s like to leave everything you care about. And for nothing! Do you even know what I go through, being here?”
I picked up one of the books on my dresser and shook it in her face. “I don’t fit in, Lain. I get teased because your stupid friends would rather play pogs and dodgeball than read a book at recess. It’s like being in some sort of horrible alternate reality.”
“No one says you have to read every day,” she said, eyes narrowing. “Would it really kill you to come hang out with us once in awhile?”
“Yes. Because it’s. Not. Me!” I exclaimed. “I don’t like getting hit with a ball. I don’t like making fun of the lunch staff. I. Like. My. Books. I am who I am, and here, no one gets that. When I’m back home, everyone does. Why do you keep on trying to change me?”
Laynie threw up her hands and grabbed my book, throwing it on the bed. “You live here now. You go to school here. You might as well try and fit in.”
“Who says I want to be anything like you people?” I hissed, and grabbed the book. Tears were welling up against my will. “You’re mean, and selfish, and you don’t want to learn new things or expand your world or do anything but sit on the damn beach and sing Christmas carols—who DOES that?!”
Her eyes narrowed to slits. “You’re such a hypocrite. I don’t know how your real friends can stand it.”
“My real friends?” I replied, slamming my book on the floor. “Well, they sure wouldn’t treat me like you do.”
“Why you….” Laynie opened her mouth to say something, then started again. “All I’ve done is try and help you. This entire time. Life raft after life raft! It’s not my fault you’re absolutely insistent on letting yourself drown.”
“That’s because all you can do here is drown. Drown in stupidity and ignorance and suntan lotion—” I had gone too far again, and I knew it, but I barreled on. “—so maybe I’d rather sail back home than follow the rules of some vapid movie star’s daughter!”
Laynie raised her hand upward. For sure, she was going to hit me. I winced, and shut my eyes.
But nothing came.
“You’re not worth it.” The ice in her voice broke, replaced by something much sadder. I opened my eyes, but she had already turned for the door, and was down the stairs before I could even blink.
“I’ve gotta be going, Mrs. Callahan,” I heard her say, muffled through the floor. I tried to speak, to move, to say anything, but it my body was stuck. Broken. All it could do was listen. Listen to my mother ask her why she wasn’t staying for dinner. Listen to Laynie make an excuse about a movie. Listen to my mother ask her if everything was quite alright, and the all-too-quiet click of the front door.
And then she was gone.
“Lain.” My voice had caught up with my thoughts. I ran to my bedroom window, watched her cross-cut through our hedge, under the loose board in the fence, slipping back to her house. It was too late.
I stumbled backwards to the rug, numbly collapsing down to the floor, staring at the threads she’d pulled out.
“Andrew?” My mother was at the door. I snapped up and began throwing things into my knapsack with abandon.
She opened the door to find me digging under the bed for a wayward sock. “Laynie sure left in a hurry. Everything okay?”
“Yup!” In the space of two seconds, I had become a cheery packing robot. “Fine! She had plans with her dad. Got worried she was going to miss them! You know how much she likes spending time with her dad!” I went to grab a book, and found my mother’s hand firmly but gently over mine.
“Wyst,” she said, “Come now.”
But the cheery packing robot could not be dissuaded. I shrugged her hand off mine with a smile, and grabbed the book. “Really, mom. She was just concerned.”
I turned away to slide the book in my knapsack, and heard her sigh. I tried not to bite my lip; failed, looked down. “Okay,” she said. “Well, your flight’s bright and early tomorrow. Your dad should be home with dinner soon, then you’d best get to bed.”
“Okey-doke!” I replied, using whatever elements of cheeriness I had left to sustain the conversation. It worked, more or less. She left the room, closing the door behind her. As it clicked, I fell backward onto the bed next to my bag.
Since we’re nearing October, and I just finished digging through 100GB worth of memories, it’s time for you all at Many Hats to be visited by… the FX daemon.
Long ago, when I was just a wee lass of fourteen, I attended a magical school, sorted into four houses, where people could go to become wizards learn the tricks of their trade.
My trade at the time happened to be theatre. I lived, breathed, ate, sang, insert-your-cliché-of-choice-here for it. And, during the first show I worked on, I had the opportunity to learn old-age fatigues from our then-head of FX makeup.
It was all downhill from there. Within a month, I’d completed a full-scale raid of Cinema Secrets and their entire Ben Nye line. Most teenage girls, you open their makeup kits, you’ll see mascara, lipstick—for me, it was latex, fake blood, color wheels, and burn kits.
Halloween, 2006. My friends were running a “Horror Asylum”, full of strange and whimsical creatures. And bloodied victims, apparently.
Petroleum jelly and a Ben Nye burn wheel. Oh yeah.
Here’s one from a 2007 “Zombie FX Night”. Come one, come all, and I’ll teach you how to emulate bone coming through skin.
I have a bad habit of somehow ending up applying FX makeup for shows I’m also working on in other capacities.
I preface this post like that because it’s true: I’m just not sports material. To be good at a sport, you need dedication. You need practice. (You need to not hate running with all of your heart.)
I played a bunch of them in school—softball, volleyball, basketball, even badminton—and, y’know. I wasn’t terrible. But it was always something. I had a speedy curveball, but being left-handed and trying to throw ambidextrously screwed up my aim. I couldn’t serve. I could shoot, but I couldn’t dribble. I hit the wrong end of the birdie. I just didn’t have the spark. Which, really, was fine by me. I had plenty of other hobbies to fall back on.
Figure skating—which my mother encouraged both my sister and me to do from a very young age—was much the same. Truth be told, seven-year-old Serenity had very little interest in practicing three-turns and figures: She wanted to do the fun moves before the work. Jumping. Going backwards. Hockey stops. (The half-Canadian in her secretly wanted to play hockey itself, but overprotective parenting ensured that wasn’t ever going to happen.)
So, when we went to the rink, my sister would go and dutifully practice her choctaws and waltz jumps, and I would go fool around. Choreographing “I’m Walking on Sunshine” by speeding and dodging around the throngs of public session crowds. Practicing hockey stops until I could cover half a board in ice shavings. Hopping off to beat my sister’s coach’s son in Neo Geo or Time Crisis or Marvel vs Capcom. Silly stuff. And I had fun. No one ever looked to me as any sort of prize-winner; I was goofing around, doing what pleased me, and that was just swell in my book.
Time passed, I went on my merry little life, stopped skating as much as I used to (while my little sister went on to win competitions until an injury took her out of the game). Didn’t think much of it until a few years ago, after a miserable summer had left me with 15 pounds I didn’t want and a general lack of interest in my usual hobbies.
"Come watch my derby bout," a friend told me over lunch. "It’ll be fun." I’d seen Whip It a few months prior, which up until that point had been my only experience with the game. I’d enjoyed the film, in much the same way you watch superhero movies and other feel-good sports montages and say “That could totally be me. Just you watch. I could have this awesome, innate talent, and you’d never know it by looking,” but at the end of it, well: It’s a film. (Nice to watch, but 10,000 hours’ worth of blood, sweat, and tears to actually execute.) But, hell, it looked fun. So I headed on over. I figured I’d be confused, it would be a thrill, and maybe a good recurring thing to go to every so often.
Instead, as I watched, I found myself with a thought other than “Boy, this game can get befuddling when you only half-understand the rules.” I wanted in. “I could do this,” I mused, like a chump. “I can skate. I can weave. I can’t hit for shit, but I sure like going fast.” I left the event starry-eyed and excited, feeling stirrings of passion over something for the first time in months.
Eventually, I came back. There was the spring, seducing me with the premise of outdoor skating along the bike path. There was the (now 25 pounds of) weight I wasn’t particularly fond of. The lack of theatre in my day-to-day activities.2 So, on a whim, I went down to the local roller rink, housed on the second floor of the old Hadley Mall, strapped on a pair of quads (rentals, which I’d never before skated on in my life), and promptly fell on my face.
Clearly, I was a glutton for punishment, because I kept on showing up—and falling, and twisting, and failing to skate backwards or go around a turn without slamming into a carpeted wall—twice a week, every week, for a month and a half. And, slowly—very slowly—I got better. I could stop on my own. I could skate backwards and not kill myself. I found myself dodging eleven year olds around the capital-I-shaped rink with ease. That sneaking feeling was coming back. “I can actually do this.” (Cue the training montage.)
Seven to ten years of juking around crowds of clumsy people on ice skates may not have seemed like anything but a whole lot of fun (and a whole lot of trouble) at the time. And, sure. It was. But you know what it also turned out to be surprisingly good for? Roller derby. The moral of the story, kids: Sometimes, you can accidentally get good at something just by repeatedly goofing off. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be aces at everything.3 But, hey. Just because the work is hard doesn’t mean it’s something you have to dislike.
The reason behind story time: My first time bouting in a scrimmage ever was today. I skated four or five jams in the period: Pack work, then jammed twice, pulled out a double Grand Slam for one of those jams. Feels kind of like hitting a home run your first time out the gate. It’s addictive. (Of course, I also fell, tripped, got smacked around, and generally got my ass whooped when not jamming, so, y’know. Still plenty of stuff to work on. But boy, the validation—yeah, I’m not completely rubbish at this—that feels good.)
Also, I finally picked a scrimmage name4 and made t-shirts, so I couldn’t resist sticking those up here.
In my defense, I was busy! I’d just quit my decently-well-paying job to write blog posts about technology on the floor of my bathroom (the cheapest place in the apartment to heat). There were priorities to sort out, ramen to pay for, t-shirts to fold, lives to rearrange. ↩
True story: When I’m not involved in theatre, I start going stir-crazy. ↩
I still suck at all other sports. Hell, I spent two hours the other day with a friend failing miserably to throw a frisbee in a straight line. ↩
I skate recreationally, not competitively. Partially due to time, partially due to finances. In any case, I can’t register this name, because I’m not officially associated with a league, so I’m out of luck if a league-affiliated skater decides she wants the handle. If I decide to skate competitively in the future, I’ll probably pick a different name. Just to be safe. ↩
Today’s news, after adjustment by an Apple NDA censor:
[Redacted], Apple’s answer to the “online music locker” service, has just entered beta according to [Redacted]. [Redacted] will store users’ [Redacted] in iCloud, allowing anywhere/anytime access to [Redacted] from [Redacted].
[Redacted] is now available to [Redacted], and [Redacted] will receive [Redacted] both [Redacted] and [Redacted] for free.
Concurrent with the [Redacted] beta is a new beta version of [Redacted]. [Redacted] must download this newest beta of [Redacted] in order to enable [Redacted]. Apple encourages [Redacted] to continue maintaining backups of their iTunes libraries, as [Redacted] may be reset periodically during the beta.
[Redacted] will cost [Redacted] per year when it launches. Its public release is expected to concur with that of iOS 5, iTunes 10.5, iCloud, and possibly OS X Lion 10.7.2, all of which may debut in either September or October.