Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sniff, then Shampoo the Stairs

Internetainers Rhett & Link are having a week of holiday giveaway contests called Christmasicality. This five day celebration of merriment began yesterday, but I did not take part... mostly because I couldn't figure out how I would go about attaching a toilet cleaner to a candy cane. But today, as I knew they would, they posted a writing prompt: a five sentence story that includes the words "sniff," "stairs," and "shampoo."
I don't care whether I win or not, I had fun writing my story! Only five sentences and I have to include three specific words? It's like they designed the contest just for me!
So, without any further ado, here is my submission to the Tuesday Christmasicality:

Every family has their own weird holiday traditions. Some families decorate their tree together, others bake cookies, and one family I know actually roasts chestnuts over an open fire. But in my family, the holiday festivities don't start until Grandma shows up. She opens the door, takes a huge sniff, and all the children come running. They know that no one will be opening presents until after we shampoo the stairs.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Great Brussels CatDown

I'm pretty much always reading something on the internet. And I do it no matter the topic: it could be a headline about social media, entertainment news, or something that happened to the British Royal family that everyone else thinks is wildly interesting but I think is a shame because a family should be able to live their lives without everyone thinking that everything they do is wildly interesting.
But what I love to read on the internet the most is the good things. The nice things. The WONDERFUL things.
Today I shot a glance at the top 3 headlines in my facebook news feed and did a double take. "#BrusselsLockdown: Cat Photos Take Over Hashtag After Belgian Police Request Social Media Blackout." Cats on the internet? Not news. Police moving to capture terrorists? Sadly, something we're hearing about often. The two of them together? ...Interesting.
I never really thought of terrorists using twitter to check up on those they are terrorizing. But it's not like twitter is a secret good-guys-only radio channel where we whisper among ourselves. It's social media. That means that anything that anyone posts publicly (and I'm pretty sure that twitter doesn't have "private tweets") can be seen by anyone else in the world. That's pretty much the point of twitter: broadcasting your thoughts to the world and getting everyone to pay attention to you. So if you tweet that you saw a strike force sneaking down the alleyway near your apartment, anyone can see that, including the members of the terrorist cell who are holed up in the basement of the building at the end of the alley.
Belgian police are hunting for those responsible (or for those aiding those responsible) for the attacks on Paris ten days ago. It's pretty difficult to keep your movements covert when every single person has a device that connects them to everyone else. So the police asked people not to report their movements on social media. It's unnecessary to say "you never know who's watching," because they do know: the people they were hunting were watching.
So instead of quieting down on social media, instead of tweeting about something else entirely, instead of shutting down their twitter app and watching a movie, Belgians exploded the hashtag. #BrusselsLockdown went viral. With cats.
Too much information is sometimes even worse than none at all. If there's too much, it's hard to sift through it to find something that might be useful. Instead of finding snippets of intel about where the police were or what they were doing, the only thing terrorists could see when searching the hashtag were Belgian cats. Cats lounging. Cats purring. Cats dressed up in little costumes. Cats on lockdown, locking down the internet, and keeping the movements of the police safe from the bad guys.
I love reading wonderful things on the internet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Crocheting Friendship

Sometimes I dream about the shows I've been watching or the books I've been reading before I go to sleep. I've even been known to dream that I'm still working after coming home from a late shift, the beep of the drive thru permeating my soul. But I've never dreamed a crochet pattern before.
Last night I was trying to figure out a shell stitch for a mermaid tail I'm planning to make for a Christmas present for my daughter. I kept consulting the pattern, one of the first chart-style patterns I've ever used. Instead of writing out the words, the author of the pattern draws a picture. This is especially useful if you're planning on using a pattern from the other side of the Atlantic; a double crochet in the US is called a treble crochet in the UK, and a US single crochet is a UK double crochet. (Who knows what they call a single crochet over there... and where slip stitches come into it.) This particular pattern was from across the pond, so instead of trying to figure out as I read, I used the picture, with its ovals, plus signs, and Orthodox crosses.
As I worked, I feverishly tried to make sense of what I was seeing; to make the picture into a tangible thing with yarn. I had to understand the symbols on the page, translate them from "someone else"-ish into "me"-ish. I had to make the pattern my own. I worked hard at this until my eyes were drooping. I set the yarn and the three rows or so onto my bedside table.
And the pattern entered my dreams.
I was still seeing a crochet pattern, only I knew that it wasn't a pattern for a mermaid tail. It was a person. It was a person in crochet pattern form, and I was struggling to understand it. Why had it been written that particular way, and was there anything I could do to change it, to help it, to make it better? I tried to understand it while trying to remember that because it wasn't me that I shouldn't place the same expectations on it that I had for myself. It was a different person, with different experiences in life, and it didn't see the world the way I did. I wondered if we would understand each other better if there was a way for me to show it how I saw the world, so it could understand my point of view, and if I could see the reasons why it saw the world the way it did, if that would help me understand why it did the things it did.
It was a weird dream.
Maybe what I should take from it is that getting to know someone new is like trying to read a crochet pattern. First you have to figure out the style of writing used by the person who wrote it, and only then will the information it's trying to convey make sense. Like we don't realize that we're all speaking different languages. It sounds like the same words we speak, but we don't have the same experiences as the person speaking the words, so we can't know what those words really mean to them.
The statement "the dog died today" could mean many different things depending on who said it, who heard it, and the dog in question. Maybe both people hated the dog because it stole their dessert every day and then pooped on their beds. Maybe the dog was their best friend from childhood and had suffered a long illness. Maybe the dog had just turned up on their doorstep a day earlier smelling like it had been rolling in week-dead goose.
Every situation, every word, every interaction is different for every person participating in it. We have to translate if we want to understand. And sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it takes a lot of time. Sometimes we want to give up.
But if we don't try to understand, we'll never know. If we put in the effort, the time, if we're willing to learn and see the world through someone else's eyes, then we may end up with something beautiful.
A mermaid tail.
Or a friend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

First Impression: 750 Words

Yesterday I found this fun website called 750 words. It's a free writing tool to help writers set and keep writing goals, and sharpen their skills by practicing them every day. It's got a function that keeps track of how many words you're typing as you type them, and saves your work every couple of seconds. After you're done you never have to look at your writing again, so lots of people use it to journal and get bad feelings out by writing them down.
I have a lot of trouble free writing. I never saw the point. To me, if you're going to write something, you should take a little time and think about what you want to say before getting it down. I like to edit as little as possible. I was the one always getting in trouble during English class because I'd glare at the clock during free writing instead of putting a pencil to the page. "I don't know what I want to write!" I'd protest to my frowning teacher. "Then write THAT!" she'd reply. My glare would grow deeper, because I knew in my heart that writing "I don't know what to write" is a HUGE WASTE OF TIME, and of my writing talent. If you're going to write, write something interesting.
What makes 750 Words even more fun is that when you're finished, it shows you all kinds of stats about your words: how long it took you to get them down, how many breaks you took during that time, and how many words you typed per minute. Then, it shoves eight or nine pie charts in your face, showing you the main feelings of your writing. Yesterday I wrote about a game I'm playing called Neko Atsume (Kitty Collector), and mostly whined about the money mechanics, so my stats for that day say that I was mostly "self-involved." Well, yeah, but it wasn't a bad thing. There was also a chart that informed me that I spent most of my words on the subject of money. I didn't need a colorful pie chart to tell me that, but it's pretty, and I like the font. There are a few bar charts near the bottom of the page that I'm not sure about yet, but since today I'm writing about something completely different, I'm hoping that I'll be able to puzzle them out when I look at my stats from THIS piece.
I had so much fun with the site yesterday that I told my very-busy-doing-National-Novel-Writing-Month writing partner about it so that she could check it out if she wanted to. I don't like to recommend things to people unless I know they're not going to come back to me and say "hey, this thing you told me to check out is crap; why did you tell me about it?"
So that's why I was so disappointed this morning, when I was poking around on the site and saw a teeeeeny tiny bar at the top that said something along the lines of "you're enjoying your 30 day free trial of 750 words!" And I was like... "Um, I'm WHAT?"
Usually when a site makes you pay to use it, they won't let you sign up for any kind of free trial without giving them the goods so that they can start charging you the second your month ticks over. But there was NOTHING about paying after a certain time, or paying at all, when I signed up. Just name, email address, password, make sure your password is right. No check box for a terms of service, making sure I knew what I was getting into, nothing.
I was really looking forward to using the website to get back into the habit of writing every day, since it was super easy for me to fall out of it. And based on some of the things that other users are saying, it's a really fun way to do it... and it gets addicting. "We hook you with the free Flamingo Badge, and you'll be paying us five bucks a month for the Super Squirrel Badge!"
I guess I'll stay... I mean, I do have 30 days. I really enjoyed taking days off of writing, though, and just relaxing on the weekends, back when I was posting every weekday on my blog. If I'm going to pay to write, I'd feel bad taking a day off to relax, even if I needed one.
Also, there's no italics. I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT ITALICS. (Apparently caps lock will have to do.)

I mean, how fun is that?! (Answer: SUPER FUN!!!)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Theme Translation

The original theme song for the 1966 Batman television program is Batman. The hero and his tune are inseparable. I’m not sure what people did without it for the first twenty seven years of his existence. I can’t see an image or symbol of Batman’s without getting that musical hook stuck in my head. “Na na na na na na na na…”

When Batgirl arrived on the scene, the writers decided to add a bit with her returning to her own “Batcave” on a tricked out purple motor scooter. Here’s how the planning for this plays out in my head:

Writers: “So, as she rides down the street, she’ll push a button. A section of brick wall will lower, then seal back up after she drives inside.”
Yes-men: “Genius!”
-3 months later-
Post-Production: “Um, guys? What are we supposed to do for audio over this sequence? As it is, she’s just zooming down the street. Do we want ambient traffic noises? Is there a voice-over or something?”
Writers: “Oh, crap! Uh… well, bounce it over to the music guys. Get them to write whatever to put over it.”
Post-Production: “Are you sure?”
Writers: “Yeah, why not? The theme song is gold. Hey, have them give her a theme song! Something swingin’!”
-Twenty minutes later-
Music Department: “They want us to do what?!”
Post-Production: “Hey, man, don’t, uh, Batarang the messenger. They want a Batgirl theme song, probably about 45 seconds long, for a vehicle sequence.”
Music Department: “But what about lyrics? They’re the word people.”
Post-Production: “We have faith in you; the show’s theme song was a pretty big success, after all.”
Music Department: “The theme song is just the word ‘Batman’ over and over again.”
Post-Production: “Is it? Huh. Well, people like it! You’ll figure this one out, too. Just make sure it’s outta sight.”
-Two weeks later-
Writers: “What the hell is this?!”
Yes-men: “It’s, uh… modern.”
Writers: "We're never using this again." Yes-men: "That's probably for the best."

The reason I think that the song was last minute is because the whole thing is pick up like after pick up line. Though the lyrics are very 60s, so they're a bit difficult for a 21st century audience to understand. That's good, because over half of the audience in my home is under the age of six, and the content of the song isn't appropriate for that age group. It's also too bad, because I wouldn't mind if my three year old was singing anything other than the Batman theme at the top of her voice, every single moment of the day. Because this is The Internet (and also for my own amusement), I decided to translate Batgirl's disastrous theme song out of swingin' 60s slang and into the more comprehensible language of today. I can only assume that my version is a true-to-life representation of the way "hip" "young" people speak to one another in today's world. Batgirl, Batgirl!
Batgirl, Batgirl!
I would like to get to know you better.
Why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Batgirl, Batgirl!
Batgirl, Batgirl!
Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?
Those are some nice shoes. Do you want to make out?
Are you currently in a committed, exclusive relationship?
Batgirl, Batgirl!
Seriously, are you in a committed, exclusive relationship?

Now all that's left is to put it to the original music. ...There might be just a few timing issues.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Raelyn Shield

Very little is known of King Raelyn before he took the throne. What stories are told are mainly of the Prince getting into just enough trouble to easily get out himself, or sometimes, getting into something larger than himself and escaping only with the aid of his Royal Father. However, one thing is certain: when he was twenty seven, the Prince was disowned.
It seems that shortly after his sister’s ninth birthday, the Prince became involved in a situation that proved more than he could handle. Whatever the circumstances, his father became aware of his position and deemed it the final straw. Apparently, he felt that the Prince’s handling (or mishandling) of his plight was proof that he was not fit to rule. In order to prevent his kingdom from falling into the hands of the irresponsible Prince, His Majesty King Gyrard VII stripped his eldest son of his title and exiled him from the kingdom.
The story goes that Raelyn was given one week to say his goodbyes to the court before he was to be escorted to the nearest border. Before his departure he was given many gifts by his family, especially by his aunt, Avilina, who raised him after the death of his mother. His last visit was to the nine year old Princess Emayn, later renowned as a patron of the arts and an artist in her own right, whose favorite activities at the time were riding her pony and the newly-learned skill of tapestry weaving. (It is said that one of her earliest weavings was a copy of the famous “Battle of Thannsteig,” and that Gyrard VII proudly displayed it on the palace walls. Although the original remains in the National Museum, the Grand Duchess’ copy has been lost to time).
Emayn gifted her brother with a small shield, which, it is rumored, he had used as a child and had given to his sister when he had outgrown it. She also gave him a lecture, which some chroniclers have chosen to romanticize, claiming that the Princess professed her love for the Prince and declared that she would miss him very much. It is more likely, however, that the young Emayn chastised her older brother in an “I told you so” fashion. No matter the contents of her speech, Raelyn fell silent afterward, and sat quietly in the back of his sister’s room, watching her weave.
It was at this point that Gyrard VII’s artist in residence, Lady Sefare, entered the room. Sefare was considered the greatest master weaver of the period, and had been instructing Princess Emayn in the art. It is not known why Sefare attempted to kill the Princess. It is possible that she was hired by an enemy of the royal family, but some have speculated that the desire arose from jealousy at the talent of the young Princess, or perhaps it was simply the result of a tutor’s frustration with a notoriously difficult student.
Upon seeing the knife in the hands of his father’s trusted retainer, Prince Raelyn leaped into action. Using the gift given to him by Emayn, Raelyn blocked the weapon, saving his sister’s life. Lady Sefare was quickly defeated with the knife she had planned to use to murder the Princess. Though many retellings place the vengeful blade in the hands of the Prince, there are versions of the tale that report that Emayn was the one to end things.
However it ended, the Prince’s defense of his sister earned the forgiveness of his father and his reinstatement as the crown prince. It is unknown how much of this story is true, but its effects can be seen throughout history: aside from the way King Raelyn handled trouble during his reign and his lasting attachment to the Grand Duchess Emayn, any student of history can find, in each one of his royal portraits, a small dented shield sitting at his feet.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Internet Famous

I tweeted about my #momlife this morning, and when I checked twitter again this afternoon in an effort to distract myself from working, I noticed that Famous Footwear had made a little poster of my tweet.
He's done this every morning for the last week or so.

This could mean one of two things:
#1: They’re trying to get people to use their hashtag #momlikeaboss
#2: I’m totally famous now.
I’m just going to go ahead and assume the latter. If you need me, I’ll be basking in the sun on the deck (that’s what famous people do, right?)… where I’m sure my son will soon join me, if only to knock over my glass of water.