My dreams have given me many, many stories and monologues I have routinely failed to write down, but this is the first time I’ve ever been offered a sonnet. I awoke with the first four lines and the close in my head; the rest, I wrote upon waking. (With many apologies to W. Shakespeare.)
My dreams but do betray my waking mind
And seek to offer hope where there is none
So often I have prayed to turn back time
But dash my hopeful dreams, the deed is done.
There is a chance, though very small it be,
That tempest tides reverse their stormy course
And bring your wond’rous mind back home to me
Woe, tides are fickle things with no remorse
For if they turn, and crash your craft ashore
Who knows if truth, so uncovered, can stay
For all my world, you may still find it bores
But as I wake, it’s this I have to say
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.