Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Insomnia, part 3

=====

The young girl, Angel, reminds Ladron of her. Ladron does not quite realize this—-the two girls do not look alike—-but the long hair and the youth, the gamine quality, arouse a familiar protective feeling in him. The others think her bizarre, a little frightening. The burgeoning power in her is considerable, and she has embraced it fully: it is threatening to consume her. The others recognize this without realizing it—-all except Nero.
Nero knows, but he isn’t telling. He is waiting, because he is jealous of what Ladron may become—-what the doctors think he will become. Nero wants to be the favored one, and so he isn’t telling anyone what he reads from the minds of Dr. Flenning, and the interns. The others are too old or too inflexible and the transition is breaking them down; all the doctors can see it. Only Angel, Nero, and Ladron are unknown quantities; it remains to be seen whether they will integrate their new abilities, or self-destruct from the strain. And Nero doesn’t intend to reveal himself until he knows about the other two.

=====

Monday, June 28, 2004

2 strange dreams

Last night I dreamed that my brother's wife thought she was pregnant, and kept running to the bathroom to check. She had a whole purseful of little tester strips that you have to urinate on.

I also dreamed that my apartment complex was planning to build an astronomy observatory on some of the buildings, so Crystal and I had to have our new move-ins sign an addendum to the lease stating that they knew we were building it, that they knew their rent would go for partial payment of the observatory, that they accepted the noise and mess that went with building it, that they wouldn't interfere with the building or attempt to use to observatory until they were given permission to do so, etc. This dream is rather amusing to me, given all the other nonsensical papers our lessees have to sign.

I woke up at 2:30 this morning with a sharp pain in my lower right abdomen. Either I'm ovulating or I have appendicitis. Let's hope it's the latter.

Insomnia and the Black Hole of the Mind, pt.2

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By the time Seth left the testing room he felt like his skull was cracked and his brains were oozing out through his eyesockets. One of the nurses offered to help him back to his room, but the buzzing in his head got worse when someone was touching him, so he shook off the well-meaning hands and staggered along the halls like an old man, crippling from doorway to doorway until he reached the commons area of the habitat and had to sit down in the nearest chair.

After many long moments—or perhaps a couple of seconds—the buzzing cleared and Seth opened his eyes. The commons was nearly empty. Churchill paced the narrow space between the sofa and the netscreen, muttering to himself, and Angel sat cross-legged on one of the tables, thin arms wrapped around herself, thin face rapt with attention on what only she knew.

They were all getting weirder by the day. Last week Seth had seen Socrates sit talking to a tree for almost three hours. He claimed the tree liked living inside the facility but it was less happy about the new insecticide they were using on the grounds. Goya spent hours obsessively bathing and grooming himself and was starting to develop a rash from too much soap. Angel had gone from a sweet, sunny, outgoing girl to a sweet, vacant, wispy shadow, staring into space like she was counting the air molecules.

Seth hadn’t developed any new neuroses, that he knew about, but he was having blackouts more and more frequently. Back there in the testing lab—he knew he’d been in there three hours, by the clock on the wall, but he didn’t remember getting the wires put on, and he couldn’t remember which of the interns had been there—whether there were two or three . . . usually there were only two, but today it seemed like someone else had been there—

Arms slid around his neck from behind and something warm and wet dipped into his ear.

"Damn it—" Seth recoiled and yanked at the wrist he could reach. Not surprisingly, Mian slithered from behind him and managed to drop into his lap. Seth gave her an irritated shove but she clung to his neck and twined her bony legs around his.

"Ah, ah," she said. "You left this morning without giving me a kiss. That’s going to cost you."

"I’m not in the mood, Mian," he said, attempting to disentangle himself.

"That’s what you said last night, too." She leaned close, licking and nibbling at his jaw and throat. "And the night before. And the night before . . . . I think I like it when you’re not in the mood."

Seth could have thrown her off, but as usual the static in his head cleared somewhat when he was touching her. It was that way with the other latents, too. None of them knew why. Being around the interns and the "normal" people in the lab drove the test subjects crazy—in some cases, literally—but being close to the other latents was soothing, as if the power found a way to run to ground and quit building up in their individual brains.

Mian’s hands slid down his body and to his groin. Seth grunted his disgust and gripped her arms, lifted her bodily off his lap and dropped her. She fell into an angular pile of limbs and lank hair, pouting but not discouraged. She walked her fingers up his thigh. "Who’s Gwen?"

Seth flinched. Quinn, he thought automatically, and squashed the thought. He didn't want to even think her name around all these latent psionics who might be able to read more than anyone was letting on. Some things were private. "How should I know?"

"You were calling for her last night."

That was odd; Seth didn’t remember sleeping last night. He wondered again what was happening to him during those moments of blackout. "I don’t think so."

"I think so. You kept saying, ‘I’m sorry.’"

"I am. Damn sorry I ever signed up for this trip." Seth hauled himself out of the chair and went to his room.

=====

Friday, June 25, 2004

OH OH OH

Somebody foolishly abandoned a collection of Roald Dahl's short stories in the lending library at work. I grabbed it and ran.

Insomnia and the Black Hole of the Mind, pt 1

(A story experiment)

Ladron’s vision has gone gray around the edges, and the gray is laced with red cobwebs of pain. If he keeps his head very still, eyelids half-lowered, the red fades into the gray and is tolerable. But the interns will not allow him to sit still and hide from the migrane.

“Please focus on the card, Mr. Ladron. We’re almost finished here. What impressions are you getting?”

Ladron blinks eyelids that rasp like sandpaper over his swollen eyeballs and tries to concentrate on the white placard before him. He is supposed to be “receiving” a psychic image from the intern, who is staring at a line drawing of a house and thinking about how his girlfriend’s cat pissed in his gym bag. Ladron’s thoughts are a complicated mishmash of images of domesticity—food cooking, the blackened spoon his sister overdosed with, his closet full of clothes, the big leather chair in his suite back home, Quinn curled up in that chair with a book, twisting her hair around her finger. The concept of “house” is too flat and simplistic to contain all of these associations. Ladron never lived in a house, even as a child, so even though he knows what a house is, it holds no meaning for him. It won’t translate. Even if it could, Ladron wouldn’t let it. This is why he has migranes.

The wires attached to his temples, neck and forearms vibrate from the power sparking in his nervous system. It is impressive, the surge marked on the cerebral contact monitor, but as of yet the power has no focus, no channel. It simply builds, like static. The other intern, the one watching the monitors, lifts an eyebrow at the sudden increase in body temperature—he has seen this before, in the other latents. Their brains surge with electricity, their blood heats their skin, but their heart rates don’t budge—and some of them actually drop.

Dr. Flenning calls this upswing in neurological activity the psionic plateau—the intital measurable evidence of psionic activity—and he instructs the interns to watch for it. All of the latents will reach it eventually, according to his theorums.

So far, his theorems haven’t charted the distance between the psionic plateau, and sanity’s precipice.

=======

TBC...

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

possible projects

My husband and I will be moving in about three weeks. We're debating whether to leave the cat behind (just kidding--don't send me hate mail). We will be moving all of 12 feet straight up, into the vacant apartment above ours. We hope that this will cut the dampness problem we've been having, as well as our high heating bills in the winter. I'm telling you this so you realize that I have plenty to do right now, what with working two jobs and all. Nevertheless it makes me feel better to have a project or two in the works--composting, if you will. Here are the leading contestants:

1) The Angry Doll. This is a little rag doll concept that my husband came up with a couple years ago. She's also known as a PMS doll. I think she's supposed to act as a little warning sign whenever I get particularly crabby. She will be about 7-10 inches tall, with frizzy pigtails that stick straight up, and a little scowling face. I think I'll make her some denim overalls. She's kind of the anti-Raggedy Ann.

2) The silk tai chi suit. I've been wanting to make a tai chi outfit for years, which is not to say that this is a traditional-style tai chi uniform, with the baggy pants and long sleeves and frog closures. No: this suit is to appeal to my vanity. It is also for me to be photographed in, while doing tai chi. (Amber has been trying to catch me in action, on film, for about five years now.) I have a pattern for loose-fitting, slightly low-rise pants with a zipper and/or drawstring, and I plan to make a sleek, fitted, button-down vest to go with. The fabric I have is silk shantung (dupioni) in a lovely cinnamon shade.

3) I could work on one of my stories, in various stages of discompletion. Again, the leading contenders:

A) Seth in the lab (untitled)--an exploration of madness, depression, medical ethics, and what it might be like to develop both psychic abilities and multiple personalities at the same time.


B) Fungus--A spoof of Con-Dom. Two ad executives find themselves at a SF con in the same hotel as their advertising convention. The attendees of both cons start dying, mysteriously. Can our intrepid heroines solve the crime? Of course they can! The vindictive part of me wants to get this finished and on the web as quickly as possible.


C) Galatea--At least this one has a name. Quinn Taylor in the early days. Justin takes her out on a job, possibly the first they do together. Justin makes snide remarks, Quinn beats up some people. I have no idea what happens after that, nor what redeeming social commentary may be gleaned from all this. It may simply be vanity masquerading as ennui and I should probably give it up for something more worthwhile.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

plot

I have come to the conclusion that while I may be a good writer--which is to say I have an enjoyable, mature style--I am not necessarily a good plotter.

I could blame it on MW, or the fact that I have watched/read too much stuff with no plot in the last few years.

But I think it's just laziness on my part, because I claim to like to write organically, but my best pieces have been thought-out beforehand. Leviatech had forethought. Mobius had forethought. Both of those were outlined, loosely overall, and the outline was revised as I went.

I'm thinking I'll go back to work on some of my short fiction, see if I can salvage it--"Donor," in particular. It'll be a good exercise. I must stop being so lazy. If a dress doesn't fit, I rip it apart and fix it. There's no excuse for not doing the same with a story.

Monday, June 14, 2004

weekend review

We had a massive thunderstorm here in KC on Saturday night. The northland was the hardest hit. We were watching TV about 9:00 or so, when we heard it move in like a train roaring up toward us. I said, "It's heeeere." We have a basement apartment, so we weren't particularly concerned. It did get loud, though. We could hear the trees beating against the building. Some time between nine-thirty and ten, the power went out; flickered once, and died.

We dug out flashlights and, like any midwesterner, went out to watch our doom approach. The temperature had dropped severely; it had been 85-88 degrees all day, but it was around 65 at 10 pm, and the little fussy spits of rain were cold. We stood under the overhang of our building's breezeway and watched the sky roll.

It was awesome. The trees were being whipped and twisted, bent almost in half under the gale. It wasn't raining much, just in sporatic whips, as if some little kid was flinging water out of a pool with his arm. But the cloud ceiling was so low it seemed you could stand on the roof and touch it; it was flat and rippling, like wave shallows along a beach. The entire neighborhood was dark, so I'm not sure where the light was coming from, but the sky had that weird glowing gray quality. Maybe there was lighting above the clouds we could see. At any rate, the cloud cover was simply racing past overhead. If we were tiny humans standing in a fishbowl, and some cosmic power had dragged a piece of cotton gauze across the top of the fishbowl, it might have looked rather like that.

It was too cold for me, in my shorts and tank. Plus it was ten o'clock, and I had to work in the morning, so we just went to bed. The electricity didn't come back until six a.m., but the place stayed cool and a little damp, and I had a great night's sleep. Go figure.

We also saw the new Harry Potter this weekend. It wasn't nearly as exciting. I have come to think of those movies as visual aids for the books. I was slow to convert to Harry fandom, but as I have been reading I've been increasingly impressed by Rowling's careful plotting--both in the overall arc and book-by-book--and her knack for visualization. I think the characterization of the three principle characters is a little thin, but they get the job done, and it's not really a character-driven story, is it?

Never mind. This third movie, yes, is darker than the first two. It also has a sense of whimsy, where I found the first two movies stiff and overly literal. This film makes use of Rowling's rich visualization--I found myself thinking of The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Dark Crystal. The director has added some visual gags of his own, but they fit. The problem with this movie--and it's jointly the fault of the writer and the director--is that it leaves out too much exposition. The third book introduces a large faction of Harry's family and supporters, and expands widely on the legacy that Voldemort left behind. Most of this crucial exposition takes place in two scenes near the end: the climactic bit when Harry et al confront Sirius Black and Prof. Lupin in the Shrieking Shack; and the denoument when Dumbledore tells Harry what's what after the dust has settled.

The climax is abbreviated so harshly, and directed at such a frenetic pace, that even I could barely tell what the characters were saying. My husband, who hadn't read the book, couldn't tell what was going on and was vastly irritated. He had no idea who the little rat man was or why they wanted to kill him.

The denoument has been completely excised, which is a grave error, in my opinion. The moviemakers are going to have some serious catching-up to do with Dumbledore's character when they get to movies four and five and Dumbledore starts going Yoda on some people.

This movie could have safely removed some eye candy--such as the bus ride, with the utterly gratuitous shrunken head--and added ten minutes of explanation. They would have been better for it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

lasagne for Mom

My mother's been waiting for me to send her this recipe for ages. Figured if I was going to type it up, I might as well share.

Note: This is a BIG recipe and very filling. I make it on Friday nights sometimes and me and my husband have it for lunch until Wednesday. It will probably serve eight, at least.

Prep time, about 30 minutes. Bake time, 1h 30 min.

Start with: 1-1/2 to 2 pounds Italian sausage. I like Mendolia's, which I believe is local to Kansas City. If you buy links, remove the casings and chop up the insides. Cook the meat in a medium-hot skillet with a little water and olive oil. Don't let it get brown. Break it up into smallish bits. Throw in some minced sweet onion.

Add a 12 oz jar of tomato sauce, any brand or flavor that you like. Also add an 8-oz can of diced tomatoes, with or without seasoning. Add more Italian Seasoning if needed. Simmer this for a few minutes.

Combine a 16-oz carton of full-fat ricotta cheese with:
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan,
2 cups shredded mozzarella,
and some parsley. A little extra basil is nice, too.

In a 9x12 baking dish or sheet cake pan, put down a layer of reduced-carb lasagne noodles. (Dry noodles, you may notice, do not fit well into a pan. I lay three long ones side-by-side and then break off a forth to lay across one end.)

On top of the noodles, ladle in half of the meat-tomato mixture. Drop spoonfulls of the ricotta mixture on top; smooth out a little. Repeat layering with noodles, sausage, and the second half of the ricotta. Top with extra mozzerella. Sprinkle with parsley.

Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. (Place a drip pan underneath because it tends to overflow.) Remove foil and bake for 15 min. more. Remove from oven and let sit while you make salad.

Enjoy! Better the next day.


awesome potato salad

This is for those who like it salty:

Take 5-6 medium red potatoes: peel, dice large, and boil just until they will break with the edge of a spoon. You don't want them too soft.

Drain and rinse in cold water. Dump into a bowl. Add:

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
generous dash of ground mustard
generous dash of celery salt
lots of black pepper
about 2 tps. dried onion flakes (or finely diced real onion)
a little parsley

Mix gently to coat potatoes. Cut a 3 oz brick of cream cheese into small pieces, then mix pieces with potatoes and let sit for a while until the temperatures even out. When the potatoes are at room temperature, mix in about 1/3-1/2 cup mayonnaise (real mayo is best), a few tablespoons of Dijon mustard, and a little minced dill pickle.

Let chill until good. If desired, garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs, and sprinkle with paprika or Lowry's seasoned salt.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Monday

I am curiously empty of things to say.

Ronald Reagan is dead. On Sunday, someone called the rental office and yelled at poor Crystal because our flag wasn't at half-mast. She didn't even know why it should be. One of our flags *was* at half-mast, but not the one facing the road; it's hung permanently, not on a cord that can be raised and lowered.

I don't know what, if anything, I will write next. ConQuesT can't help me; KCSFFS can't help me; I wouldn't have attended at all this year if I hadn't already been committed to the Darla/Dru thing. But I digress. I could always go to other Cons, more literature-oriented ventures, and try to network. I never went to those things to make friends in the first place.

Connections or not, I fear that what I write is not in style. I am a product of the 80's, and the Reagan era, and the hippies are running the world right now. My nihilistic, dystopic world view is not exactly well-received. (Nor is my humor, I guess.)

I have a vague urge to explore the Victorian magic/science/religion thing, although I'm fairly sure that Mercedes Lackey has already thoroughly trodden that ground. That's my problem, you see. If I can't be the best, or the first, or the most original, I don't want to do it. I've never managed to shake the conviction that I'm special. Call it first-grandchild syndrome.

I don't want to write. I don't want to sew. I can't seem to find anything worth reading, although that is an illusion I could probably overcome--there are plenty of books out there I've been intending to read. I have a whole stack of them.

It's easy to convince oneself of one's superiority when one is sheltered or ignorent. I am neither; I know too well what the odds and the competition are. But perhaps I am too cynical. Maybe I'm spoiled and I give up too easily--but given my school history and subsequent job history I don't think that's the case. Maybe I'm just depressed again and I've just been too busy to notice.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

con pictures

Here are some pictures of the Con, taken by people other than me or Shara.

My buddy Ratman's page (he's got a lot of interesting stuff on there; have a look around.)

The MidAmerica Fan Photo Archive. The "official" con photos. Most of them boring. The good ones are on the "masquerade" pages.