5

On Brains…

I hate my brain.

No, no. Don’t even try to defend that . . . that wrinkly, three-pound lump of fatty tissues! It and I are not talking at the moment.

On, you want to know why? Fine.

INT. GARY’S BATHROOM – NIGHT. BRIGHTLY LIT BY EIGHT (DOWN FROM TWELVE) CFT BULBS.

Gary brushes his teeth, then rinses his face and, especially, his eyes with warm, soothing water to relieve the slightly sandy, scratchy feeling. On Saturday, he tore his right cornea. On Sunday, his left. He has no patience for more cornea-tearing.

He applies copious amounts of the ointment he uses to prevent more-frequent cornea-ripping. He swirls his eyes around to spread the ointment, then makes his way across the bathroom, only able to make out bright and less-bright shapes. He makes it to the door of his bathroom, plots a path to his bed, then shuts off the bright bathroom light.

INT. GARY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

Gary climbs into bed and spends several minutes getting comfortable. Pillows in just the right places. Blankie pulled up just to the right level. Breathing slows . . . he’s starting to drift off . . .

BRAIN

Hey!

GARY

No.

Gary snuggles into the pillow emphatically.

BRAIN

What do you mean, ‘no’? You don’t even know what I —

GARY

No! Whatever it is, it can wait until tomorrow. When I’ve had sleep. Remember ‘sleep’? You need sleep. My eyes need sleep. Otherwise, I’ll have a hard time staring at a computer screen tomorrow.

BRAIN

(in a disgustingly sing-song tone)

But you’re going to really liiiiike thiiiis!

GARY

Go. Away. I’m trying to sleep.

Brain vomits out the entirety of the remaining plot points of the novel Gary and Brain have been agonizing over for several months. In detail. With red herrings, false leads, and answers to all the difficult parts they’ve been butting against. With — BONUS! — motivations for the secondary protagonist.

Gary rolls over, opens eyes, stares blankly in the direction of the ceiling.

GARY

I loathe you. Why did you wait until — ?

BRAIN

Yeah, yeah. I love you, too.

Pause.

Listen, you should probably write all that down.

Gary rolls over and closes his eyes, snuggling into the pillow once again.

GARY

I’ll remember it.

BRAIN

(whispers, smugly)

SkullCosm.

GARY

Ass. Whole.

Gary gets out of bed, stumbles through blurry darkness to blurry slightly less-dark adjoining office. The night-light in the office is green, which casts eerie shadows on the walls. He moves the mouse on his PC. Immediately, bright light floods the office — and his bleary, blurry, ointment-filled eyes — with searing whiteness. He leans into the screen, locates the blurry outlines of the Evernote icon, clicks it. Types for about fifteen minutes, eyes closed, hoping he’s making some sort of sense.

GARY

Happy?

BRAIN

You’ll thank me, later.

Gary makes his way back to bed. At least it’s still warm. He goes to sleep in less than five minutes.

So, yeah. My brain and I aren’t on speaking terms, today.

I know, I know. It sounds like I should be thanking my brain, doesn’t it? But, you see, what it did was, it waited until after I sent my first five thousand words off for critique at Paradise Lost 6 to supply me all this. Until after I wrote ten thousand or so words of the novel. Most of which now have to be rewritten. Or at least heavily edited.

Couldn’t it have done this . . . I don’t know, three months ago?

<sigh>

4

Memetic Dinner Parties

The Set Table by romanboed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  romanboed 

There’s this memetic question that people ask from time to time, and it’s a fun exercise. The question: “What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?” One assumes, here, that any dead people you invite would be alive, again, for said party. Because otherwise that would kind of be a party killer, whether they remain corpses or become zombies. So, I picture it as more of the kind of thing as in that Babylon 5 episode “Day of the Dead,” where the dead come back, but only briefly, and without all the rotting or brain-eating. But I digress.

I don’t know why it’s always six, and I don’t know why it has to be a dinner party. Let’s assume that bonding over food is a thing all humans share, and that seven (because I’m the seventh person) is the largest group of people who can have any sort of meaningful conversation without it splintering into sub-conversations. Yeah, let’s assume those facts (that I just made up).

My answer to these memes is usually something along the lines of “my current friends,” because it’s an easy answer that is also very flattering to the person asking, because they’re in that group. It’s also true. I mean, that’s why they’re my friends. But it’s also beside the point.

The most recent time I saw the meme was on Facebook. Thanks to a conjunction of that appearance of the meme along with some videos I’d watched over the last few days, I realized I actually had an actual answer! But I will not be artificially constrained to just one party. Because . . . well, because reasons, that’s why.

. . .

Oh, fine. I think it’s important with any dinner party that your guests get along with one another, have things in common, and get along with one another (it bears repeating). I mean, you wouldn’t invite your loudmouth, racist uncle Bob to dinner with your Jewish or African-American friends, right? That would be inviting disaster. And we’re dealing not with just friends and family, we’re dealing with people throughout history.

(This is what is called “setting up the premise of the post.” See how seamlessly I did it? You’re welcome!)

I’m always kind of amused by people’s answers to this question. “Jeanne d’Arc, Jesus, Cleopatra, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Madonna” would be a typical, ridiculous answer. It’s asking for trouble. It would be the worst dinner party ever. I mean, come on. Cleopatra and Madonna would get in a sexy-off contest (possibly involving underwear and snakes) while Einstein and Newton argued physics in at least three languages and Jesus tries to convince Jeanne not to slay everyone else for being heretics. Talk about a party buzz-kill. But it would make an awesome YouTube video. Guaranteed for millions of hits. But I digress once more.

So I decided that I’d have to have four parties. Because I immediately thought of four people in vastly different categories, and was fairly sure they would not get along, in the very unlikely event of a Day-of-the-Dead-style resurrection just to come to a dinner party thrown by a total stranger. So even though I had to have them, it would be kinder to them to have them in related groups. </premise set-up>

Also, these are for me to selfishly sit and bask in the inevitably wonderful conversation(s) that would grow organically. Or I’d toss a few leading statements out there to see how they’d react.

Party the First: Teh Science

These guys are not only scientists, they are all excellent at communicating complex ideas in science to the lay public. That’s me! I’m so lay, I might as well rhyme! I have just enough understanding of physics that I could probably follow them if they remembered to speak down to on my level. All of them have books or podcasts or TV shows or some combination of the three. The reason I put Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan on the same line is that they were married until Sagan’s death in 1996. They’re kind of a package deal. :)

Also, one of the tracks that is on the Voyager space probe’s golden record is a representation of Ann’s EEG while she’s thinking about how much she loves Dr. Sagan. I literally tear up every time I hear or read the story. So even without Dr. Sagan, she’d be on my list.

Party the Second: Teh Funny

Do I even need to justify or explain this list? I didn’t think so. Also, I’ll add that if you’ve never experienced the comedy of Adam Hills, you owe it to yourself to look him up on YouTube and/or NetFlix and just . . . enjoy. He definitely fits (as far as I’m concerned) with the other luminaries on the list.

I could add so, so many more people to that list.

I would, of course, have a supply of oxygen on hand, and some medication to ease my aching jaw and abdominal muscles from all the laughter.

Party the Third: Teh Fanboy/Squeebait

I would challenge the last three to collaborate on a project and hire the first three to star in it. I might also suggest that it wouldn’t suck if the project also included Drew Barrymore and Neil Patrick Harris. Just saying. And I would sit and squee with (barely suppressed inner) glee while the six of them tossed around ideas and then probably die of happy with a smile on my face that no mortician could ever eradicate. Just the thought of it makes me hyperventilate a little. Maybe I’d need the oxygen from the previous party.

Party the Fourth: Teh World-Changers

Malala Yousafzai impresses the absolute hell out of me, and her cause (making education available for all girls/women) is arguably one of the most important causes in the world. The Gateses, Musk, and Carter are accomplishing amazing good in the world. You may or may not agree with any of their politics (or religious views), but it’s hard to argue against their collective net positive effect on the world.

And, frankly, any group of world-changers without Fred Rogers would be woefully incomplete. He may not have literally saved the lives of millions of people or negotiated with world leaders or used his billions of dollars helping humanity, but his simple message of “You are worthy just as you are” goes very quietly right along with what the others are doing. Teresa Heinz Kerry (wife of John Kerry) said of Mr. Rogers, “He never condescended, just invited us into his conversation. He spoke to us as the people we were, not as the people others wished we were.” And that was his magic.


So these are my “dream teams” as it were. I only included seven people, total, who are not living, and those all died relatively recently. The rest are contemporaries. No historical people like Shakespeare or Leonardo da Vinci or Billie Holiday. Don’t get me wrong: those people are great. I just want people who could relate to the current state of the world.

People who know me won’t be at all surprised by the first three, but might raise an eyebrow at the last one. Good. I like surprising people who think they know me. :)

I could easily add several more themed parties.

A lot of people who know me might be surprised that there is no ‘authors’ group in there. There’s a simple reason for that: I literally have a plethora of interesting, intelligent, talented authors around me so often, there is no way I could limit it to merely six.

Who’s on your dream team(s)? What six people, living or dead, would you invite to a dinner party/-ies?


  1. Disaster is one guest that’s never on my list.
  2. It’s a pun! On two very different meanings of the word ‘lay’! . . . Trust me, it’s extremely funny.
  3. The story is here. It’s worth reading. Search for “I had this idea” and read. Or, you can listen to NPR’s Radio Lab’s interview with Ann Druyan about the EEG here. About seven and a half minutes.
  4. He has so many oars in the water, I couldn’t find just one website for him, so I linked his Wiki page with links to all his endeavors.
6

Guide to Social Media

This is a bit of a departure for this blog, but I figured, “What the heck?” and here it is. :)

Full disclosure: This was originally something I wrote on Facebook as a note. It was inspired by a comment on my friend Nick Falkner’s wall. I started to respond to Nick’s comment, and it got long, so I decided to create it as a note, instead. Another of my friends (Carol Cassara) liked it enough that she asked if she could host it as a guest post on her blog. I was (and am) quite flattered, and it ran on the 8th of December. I waited a few days to put it on my own blog so as not to steal Carol’s blog’s thunder. There may also be a few minor differences between what’s here and what’s on Carol’s blog and on my Facebook page. This is the “definitive copy.”

The characterizations herein are based solely on my personal experience with the sites. Sites I didn’t mention, I have no personal experience with. (Or I do, but couldn’t think of anything pithy to say.) Your mileage may vary, and that’s awesome. Feel free to comment with your own characterizations.


Facebook

is my living room. I’m very careful about the people I invite in. I expect them to have a certain sense of decorum and to not leave garbage all over the place. I expect people I invite in to respect me and the other people in my home. Or if not respect, at least show tolerance. Or if not tolerance, just politely ignore me/them, or come back at a time when the others are not there. No one has to agree, but you don’t have to get in anyone’s face, either. I’m not always the most gracious host because I forget others are around, but I do at least try. If I overstep, I expect to be shown the error of my ways. I have certain rules, though, and if you break them, out you go. It is my living room, after all.

Twitter

is the busiest train station downtown (the one where all the lines meet). Everyone is standing on their own soapboxes, shouting into the wind. Some of them use megaphones. A few people are gathered ’round some of the louder voices, listening intently, but most people are busy and hurry by without paying attention, occasionally looking up from their phone to listen for a few seconds, then moving on. Some people toss heart-shaped coins at speakers’ feet; others yell things at them. A lot of people are just animatronics blaring the same things over and over. A lot of people are just animatronics blaring the same things over and over. Other people just say the same things others are saying without contributing anything original. It’s kind of a mess to figure out which are which.

Google+

is the monorail station at Google HQ. Everyone is still standing on their own organic kale-boxes, but the only people listening are other geeks and nerds with the same cross-section of interests. Most everyone is wearing Google Glass, and some of them are tuning you out, even though they look like they’re in a circle around you. For some reason, a lot of people are intensely angry that they had to go through this station just to get to YouTube. It is an unnecessary stop . . .

Ello

is a bare-bones, designed community that has fallen into disrepair, and no one really goes there anymore, except on a dare. All the buildings look pretty, but if you examine them more closely, they’re all merely façades. They all say, “IN DEVELOPMENT” on the door. There are two people there, right now, wandering around on opposite ends of the subdivision saying, “Hello? Anyone there? Is anyone listening?” The guy who sold you the property led you to believe it was going to rival all the other communities, but now he’s nowhere to be found. Good luck getting a refund.

Instagram

is looking at everyone’s boring vacation slideshow at the same time. Some of them are interesting, but most of the time it’s nothing anyone would ever want to see except your closest friends and family. The occasional celebrity shows up and everyone runs over to see their boring vacation slideshow. At least there are a lot of cats.

Pinterest

is looking at all of your great-aunts’ friends’ scrapbooks at the same time. All of them. They’ve all gone a little “off” and think they’re Martha Stewart, but deep down, they’re closer to Rod Stewart. You know they’re never going to try to do any of those things they put in their scrapbooks, and if they did, they’d never show the results.

Etsy

is kiosks at Burning Man.

Snapchat

is the lunch room at the largest high school, ever. Everyone is so self-obsessed, it’s just a bunch of people standing around taking duck-face selfies and obsessing over finding just the right filter, while talking endlessly about themselves. There’s the occasional streaker, but they mostly seem to be looking at themselves, as well. No one stays for more than a few minutes, and then everyone forgets them, because me!

YouTube

is the largest cineplex ever, and people just go from theater to theater, watching videos. Sometimes, you find yourself in a theater and wonder how you got there, but it’s OK, because the “safe” ones are just across the hall. Every time you turn a corner, you find another huge -plex of related content. The cat video -plex seems to be the most popular, but no matter what your interest is, if you keep looking, there’s a whole wing devoted to just that. Every once in a while, the RIAA or MPAA will send goons in and rip films out while they’re playing, but if you wander next door, someone already posted the same video. It’s probably in Portuguese with English subtitles, but it’s there. The films vary wildly in quality because it’s free to show them. In every theater is a group of 9-year-olds who shout ‘fat’ and ‘gay’ and ‘ugly’ and ‘go kill yourself’ and ‘first!’ because they’re at the age where they think that kind of thing is funny. Sit in the front with your bluetooth headset on and ignore everyone behind you and you’ll do fine.

Vine

is an infinity of iPads set up in an infinite theater lobby, each playing a six-second video that loops continuously. People wander from iPad to iPad. And then wonder where Tuesday went. Every six seconds, there’s an enormous laugh from the people clustered around the funniest clips.

Vimeo

is pretty big, like YouTube, but the theaters are all IMAX. You have to pay to get your videos on screen, so the quality is amazing, but other than that, it’s basically just like YouTube, only not as full of 9-year-olds.

Tumblr

is a diary that just happens to be public. You pour your heart out onto its pages, and other people copy it and share it without attribution, or draw a big pink heart on it to let you know they liked it.

LinkedIn

is a break room full of water coolers where everyone you’ve ever worked with eventually shows up. Recruiters dash from cooler to cooler, desperately trying to get everyone’s attention. Every time someone gets a promotion or changes jobs, a PA announces it to the whole room. Everyone golf-claps. Occasionally, someone you barely remember shouts, “This guy/gal? S/he’s great at” some skill you don’t actually possess. You look around, embarrassed, and wonder who let them in. People you’re glad you no longer work with solicit you for recommendations and you have to pretend you didn’t hear them.

MySpace

is a 70s disco. The people who are in there have no idea it’s not 1979. Don’t tell them. It’s . . . kinder, this way. ♩♪You should be daaaaanciiiiin’, YEAH!♬

LiveJournal

is that apartment where you used to live in college, where all your friends were in and out at all times of the day and night, having lively discussions about anything. But then the Russian mafia took over the management right after you moved out. Now the security gate at the complex entrance is locked on more days than not. It’s too bad, because it used to be a really nice place.

Goodreads

is an infinite book store where readers and authors tear each other to shreds in public, while onlookers cheer with bloodlust, often turning on each other in the excitement. Meanwhile, in nooks scattered about, peaceful groups of readers and writers meet, ignoring the spectacle going on around them.

Reddit

is a bulletin board in the rec room at a college dorm. People post all kinds of crazy stuff on it, and other people can move it around so it’s more (or less) visible. People hang smaller bulletin boards off the big one, but around corners so you have to go looking. Often, if you do, you find yourself scrambling back to the main board, wishing for eye-bleach.


Hope you enjoyed. I wrote it in about 20 minutes of inspiration, not giving a lot of thought to it, and it turns out to be one of the most popular posts I have made on Facebook. Go figure. Such is the fickle nature of humor. :)

9

WorldCon 2015 Post #2

Perhaps you read my adventure going to WorldCon 73 in Spokane, WA. If not, go do that. I’ll wait.

<Elevator music: an all-pan-flute rendition of “Bingo Jed Had a Light On.”>

Back? Good. Now, allow me to relate my adventures coming home from said convention, also in the form of a story I shall call “The Boy What Were An Moran, Part Too [sic].”

But first! I suppose I should get a thing or two out of the way. I had fun in Spokane, in spite of the fact that there is pretty much literally a ring of fire surrounding the city. There were two days when the air quality sucked so egregiously that the con organizers told everyone to limit their outdoor activities. People were walking around wearing surgical masks. The area of the con (the Convention Center and Riverfront Park) could not have been more lovely and convenient, at least for me. I stayed in a Best Western right across the street, and all the activities I had planned were a short walk. The weather — ignoring the whole ‘ring of fire’ thing — was spectacular. I had a nice walk around the park on the last day of the con.

And now, without much further ado . . .

The Boy What Were An Moran, Part Too [sic]

You read Part Won [sic] of the story, so you know that the hapless protagonist, Gary (a.k.a. “The Boy Who Were an Moran”) foolishly left his photo ID at home — in the valet on the shelf in his closet back in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where he would desperately need it — when traveling by air. Not on purpose, but because he was so intent on making sure that he didn’t carry any extraneous cards along, he managed to leave that very important one. But that’s all in the past. As we learned in Part Won [sic], getting out of Atlanta wasn’t (much of) a problem. (This is called ‘foreshadowing.’)

Getting out of Spokane? An airport approximately 28 times smaller (in passengers per year) than Atlanta? Way easier, right? Wrong! Gary did the same thing, there, that he did in Atlanta. He approached the KTN queue and explained his situation. The patient, friendly TSA agent furrowed his brow and called his supervisor. When Mr. Supervisor-man finally responded some twenty minutes later, however, he was not impressed by Gary’s moranity [sic]. He kept asking Gary over and over if he had some form of photo ID, and obviously did not truly believe our hero’s response of, “No, sir, I’m sorry.” Mr. Supervisor-man gave Gary several suspicious side-eye glances. These failed to entice the Universe to cause his photo ID to miraculously appear in his wallet. He checked. Stupid Universe.

Mr. Supervisor-man then directed Gary to leave the TSA Pre™ line and get into the regular line with the rest of the unwashed public. Then he had to go through the whole explanation again with the patient, friendly TSA-woman in that line. It was like déjà vu all over again! It was like déjà vu all over again!

Gary ended up getting the full-body x-ray. And the post-x-ray pat down. And his bags searched. And he had to take off his shoes and belt. The many TSA agents who performed all these tasks were all very polite and professional, and Gary was good-natured about the whole thing. He tried joking a little with the nice, hard-working TSA agents.

“Do you have any sensitive areas where it’s painful to be touched?” asked the kind, young TSA agent wearing blue gloves.

“I guess we’ll find out,” answered Gary in a weak attempt at something vaguely resembling a thing that once had a heartfelt desire to someday be humor, but started drinking young and never really achieved its goals.

TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.

“Just a tip,” Gary said to one of them, because learning is apparently not his thing, “don’t ever leave home without your photo ID.” Big, sheepish grin.

TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.

“I’m going to change gloves,” said one agent. Gary said, “I would appreciate that.”

TSA: Not. Even. A. Smile.

Three strikes! You’re out!

Lesson: TSA doesn’t have a sense of humor. It’s in the handbook. It’s not even clear that they realize those are allowed aboard an airplane.

So Gary went back to just using ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ and smiling. A lot. And instantly doing anything they told him to do. A lot. And thanking them for doing it. A lot.

As an aside, the pat-down is nowhere near as intrusive as people make it out to be. Granted, Gary did have to re-tuck his shirt into his pants because the TSA agent ran his gloved hands along the inside of Gary’s pants’ waistband. The nice, patient TSA agents swabbed their gloves afterwards and put the swab into a machine that sniffed for explosives residue (one assumes).

As an aside within the aside, Gary was glad that the smoke particles wafting around in the air around Spokane didn’t count as explosives residue. That would have been . . . unpleasant.

They swabbed Gary’s backpack and carry-on luggage. They examined — and swabbed — every item in both of those. They opened literally everything and examined it, including his glasses cases (yes, plural), his Kindles (yes, plural), his laptop, his phone, and his digital voice recorder.

As another aside within the aside, Gary was glad he didn’t have anything embarrassing in his possessions, because all of this was all out in the open. The friendly, kind TSA agents asked him if he wanted the search done privately, but he said, “Nah, it’s fine.”

They did all of this very efficiently and quickly, and put things back . . . roughly where they had been.

After that, our intrepid, photo-ID-less traveler was allowed to continue on his way! Since he didn’t have a hotel or convention registration to look forward to for the rest of the trip, everything would be smooth sailing, right? (This is called ‘foreshadowing.’)

That morning, he had given himself an extra half-hour to get through the Spokane airport. The hotel clerk the night before when he had scheduled his taxi said, “It’s a really small airport. I’ve gotten there thirty minutes before my flight and made it with plenty of time to spare.” He still gave himself nearly an hour and twenty minutes. He was glad he did! Because by the time all of the above festivities were done, Gary made it to the gate literally just as they called A-zone boarding, and he walked directly from the TSA not-quite-a-strip-search onto the plane. Alas, he had intended to use the extra time to buy a Coke Zero (nectar of the gods) and some snacks for the flights. Oh, well.

We should take another moment, here, and exposit a bit of Gary’s family background, giving away some of what is to come. His mother and he share something that they call ‘the heebie-jeebies.’ It’s when one gets so tired that no position is comfortable. Sitting? Uncomfortable! Reclining? Uncomfortable! Standing? Uncomfortable! Lying down? Uncomfortable! You simply must move. You simply cannot remain still another second. The compulsion to just get the hell up and move the hell around is very nearly unignorable. We now return you to your regular storytime, already in progress.

The flight from Spokane to Las Vegas is only like two hours. Maybe two and a half, being generous. And even though Southwest Airlines has a policy of no assigned seats so one can sit wherever one wants, Gary blithely ignored this (because he’s used to flying Delta, who does assign seats) and went all the way to the back of the plane and took a window seat even though he prefers the aisle seat. Why? Because he didn’t want to have to get up to let people past him. (Did you notice the foreshadowing that time? Because, frankly, it was pretty darned blatant, and we’re getting tired of pointing it out. In fact, you’re on your own from here on out.)

About an hour into the two(ish)-hour flight, Gary had a truly epic attack of the heebie-jeebies.

A comedian once remarked that airline seats are designed for twelve-year-old, anorexic, Japanese school girls.

Our intrepid hero has exactly not that physique. He is rather round. He is sufficiently beyond twelve. He is not Japanese. Although that particular quality is not necessary to the argument at hand, it does parallel the remark of the comedian, thereby creating a satisfying feeling of completion to the comparison. (Yet another literary trick.)

It should be noted here that the couple who seated themselves in the aisle and middle seats to Gary’s right had promptly both fallen fast asleep as soon as the plane began to move. There may have been snoring and/or drool. When the heebie-jeebies hit, there was literally nowhere to go. He could not stand in place, nor could he find a comfortable position. He fidgeted and bounced his knees and squirmed like a two-year-old on cocaine. He tried distracting mental games. Nothing worked.

In addition to the diminutive dimensions of an airline seat, the materials used to construct same are not made for comfort. Gary began to sweat because of the constant fidgeting and the heat-retaining material from which the chair is constructed. The more he fidgeted, the worse he sweated. The more he sweated, the more uncomfortable he became. But then, at last! The couple awoke when a flight attendant came around with snacks, and Gary took the opportunity to ask to get up to visit the restroom.

If airline seats are designed for twelve-year-old, anorexic, Japanese school girls, the restrooms are designed for their four-year-old, equally anorexic sisters. Or, quite possibly, for members of some alien species that do not in any way resemble humans. Perhaps the blue water in the toilet is some form of alien nutrient. Gary moistened a paper towel (in the sink, not in the aforementioned blue nutrient solution) and used it to cool down his face and neck, which helped slightly to ease the heebie-jeebies. He returned to his seat.

The rest of the flight passed in moderate discomfort because Gary had sweated through all of his clothing, including his socks. He had also sweated through the seatbelt. He felt a certain sense of chagrin at this, and mentally apologized to the next hapless individual who had to sit in seat 21A.

Yes, Gary had become That Guy No One Wants To Have To Sit Next To™. But it wasn’t like it was a choice. Well, technically, it was a choice, because of the whole ‘no assigned seating’ thing. But we’ve covered that.

Finally, the plane landed in Las Vegas. Temperature outside: 105° Fahrenheit. (105 – 32 / 1.8)° Celsius. Do your own math.

The plane landed and attached to a gate at the far end of the C concourse (C-12). The connecting flight to Atlanta was at the far end of the B concourse (B-16). Because of course it was. Gary had approximately two hours, but he didn’t know that, because he was exhausted from the unrelenting heebie-jeebies, wet with sweat, and tired from lack of sleep and therefore unable to do time math in his head and he wasn’t sure whether Las Vegas was even in the same time zone as Spokane, and he had turned his phone on Airplane mode and then forgotten to take it off, so it kept saying it was one time when actually it was an hour later, but he was adding two hours . . . and math is hard.

In short, by the time Gary made it off the plane, he firmly believed he had only thirty-five minutes to make it all the way across the airport instead of the hour and thirty-five minutes it actually was.

In another completely unsurprising aside, we will now explain that the Las Vegas airport, thanks to it being Freaking Hot° W outside, was about 80° to 82° F inside. Add to this that the entire square footage of the airport is designed to bleed the very last cent from trapped travelers by enticing them to GAMBLE GAMBLE GAMBLE, thereby reducing the usable walkways to about 1/3 the size of every other airport Gary has ever seen, and you get a very slow, impeded, annoying, uncomfortable trek across the entire expanse of airport. Behind slow people who likely had approximately twenty-six hours (judging by their walking speed) to get to their gate. And Gary had only had breakfast, and that was some seven hours ago. And he had had nothing to drink since then except the approximately three drops of liquid in the ice-filled plastic half-cup of beverage the flight attendants served during the heebie-jeebie-inducing flight.

In short, Gary “ran” “pell-mell” through the “airport” trying to make it to the gate before the connecting flight began boarding.

He made it! With three minutes to spare! Only . . . no plane was at the gate. And people were blithely sitting around reading instead of boarding the non-existent plane. Had it already left? Oh, crap! Had he, in fact, missed the flight?

No. Time math. Is hard. He finally remembered to turn off airplane mode on his phone and discovered he had an entire hour! Whew! He remembered passing a Wendy’s and went to get a burger, fries, and a Coke Zero (nectar of the gods). He sat at the gate to inhale his food. Normally, this would be a cool-down period. But the airportcasino was > 80 degrees. He soaked through his clothes again. Ugh!

When, at last, the plane for Atlanta boarded, Gary was (finally) smart! He sat on an aisle! In row four! He took his shoes off! He had the remnants of his Coke Zeronectar! The flight (more than four whopping hours) went with only minor heebie-jeebies, but since Gary was sitting on the aisle, this time, he was able to stand with impunity and move around! Sure, he sweated through his clothes (and seatbelt) again, but at this point, damp clothing was de rigeur! We hear it’s all the rage in Paris next year!

Finally! The plane descended slightly from the sky! Gary’s ears began to pop! He knew he was almost home! He could get off the miserable aircraft and wallow in the sweet, sweet bliss of a car blasting air conditioning, and then sleep in his own bed with his own damned pillow!

The plane landed. It taxied along the runway! It was within sight of the gate! And then . . .

Gary was annoyed when the plane taxied to a complete stop. Outside, many flashing lights split the night sky. Ambulances. EMTs. Firetrucks. Police. Probably other things. It was very festive.

The pilot came on and told the passengers that the plane directly in front of them — a Delta™ plane — was being towed by a hydraulic tow-tractor when a catastrophic malfunction occurred. In short, the tow-tractor spewed highly toxic hydraulic fluid in giant arcs all over the place, contaminating the entire area! It was very festive.

Gary and the other passengers had to sit on the plane and wait. With little to no air conditioning, no water, and no bathroom (they were not allowed to get out of their seats) until things were cleared up.

About twenty minutes in, the airport messaged the pilots to allow the passengers water and bathroom. Meanwhile, ten more planes had landed and were waiting behind Gary’s plane. No more planes would be allowed to land until the toxic spill had been cleaned. When the airport finally got their ducks in a row, they decided to re-route the waiting planes on the ground around the contaminated area and put them at alternate gates. All connecting flights were being held so Gary’s fellow passengers would not be stuck in Atlanta overnight. But since Gary’s plane was first in line behind the Delta flight, it meant they would be last getting re-routed. How festive!

It took, all total, about an hour to get everything rerouted.

To make a long story very slightly less annoying, he finally made it to baggage claim, his ride home, and his own bed and his own damned pillow.

And so he lived happily ever afterslept the sleep of a dead, exhausted, sweat-damp, heebie-jeebied-out thing.

THE END!

We hope you enjoyed the second story as much as the first. If you enjoyed either one, of course.

The Moral of the Story: Flying sucks.

As a final coda, I was not kidding — I mean, I was joking and making light, but I was not actually making anything up — about how nice, professional, and helpful the TSA agents were. All joking aside, I actually went to their website and filled out a form complimenting the agents in both airports for doing their jobs efficiently, competently, and with a minimum of attitude, and not making me feel any more like an idiot than I already did. I imagine they get very few such comments, what with people being people, and refusing to accept responsibility for their own actions (such as leaving their photo ID in a valet on the shelf in their closet in Atlanta when they’re desperately going to need it).


  1. “Jet Airliner” by Steve Miller Band. See, it’s kind of like a theme for the post . . .
  2. I apologize profusely for putting Johnny Cash’s song “Ring of Fire” in your head. Really. No, really.
    OK, I don’t. Because it’s a great song, and you should have it in your head more often. Like now.
  3. Gary decided that he did not need his AAA card, Zoo Atlanta membership card, insurance cards, Costco membership card, Sam’s Club membership card, Barnes and Noble card, or the credit card he uses exclusively online. Or so he thought! In the press of time to get packed, he took all the cards out and only put back in the ones that were on his aforementioned two-page checklist. Photo ID wasn’t on that.
    It is now. :)
  4. Two by two, hands of blue! Aieeeeeee!
  5. He is, in fact, sufficiently beyond four times twelve.
  6. Whatever scale you like. F, C, K, A . . . knock yourself out.
  7. Have we mentioned that Gary is, at this point, unable to do time-math in his head?
  8. Casino.
  9. This is one way Gary and his mother can occasionally stave off the heebie-jeebies. If their feet are comfortable, the rest of the body follows suit. Usually.
  10. In both the ATL and GEG airports, TSA specifically asked if Gary had his CostCo card on his person (after him saying, specifically, that he only had two credit cards). Apparently, a CostCo card can serve as sufficient photo ID. Remember this useful piece of information!
  11. It’s a Firefly reference.
6

WorldCon 2015 Post #1

Get a Brain, Morans by Eexlebots, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Eexlebots 

Here’s a little story I wrote called, “The Boy Who Were an Moran.” [sic]

The Boy Who Were an Moran [sic]

Gary woke up on the day he was supposed to fly out of Atlanta to Spokane for WorldCon 73 and instantly tore both his corneas. Oh, no! He then had to sleep an extra hour so he could use his eyes at all. What a day for this to happen!

Then, Atlanta traffic was spectacularly horrendous, so the 45-minute drive (his housemate drove him) to the airport — the busiest in the world! — turned into an hour and a half. As each second ticked on the clock, Gary could feel the missed flight! But there was nothing he could do because teleportation is inconveniently still impossible.

He made it to the airport — the busiest in the world! — just barely in time to make it through check-in. He had noticed on the drive to the airport — the busiest in the world! — that his Known Traveler Number had not made it onto the tickets he had printed out the night before when he did early check-in while he was packing.

While we’re at it, let’s take a moment to mention that Gary made a two-page checklist for packing that he meticulously followed. To. The. Letter. [This is called ‘foreboding.’]

He made it to the SouthWest Airlines desk in the airport — the busiest in the world! — and informed the polite ticketing agent that he needed a printed ticket with his TKN on it.

The polite agent asked for his photo ID.

I should interject, here, that, on Gary’s aforementioned (and foreboding) two-page checklist which he followed to the letter were ‘wallet’ and ‘cash.’ [This is called ‘establishing a pattern.’]

Gary reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He thumbed past his Coin card, his Discover card, his Visa ATM card . . . and that was all the cards that were in his wallet! Oh, no!

He pulled them out and looked at them again. Tragically, none of them had magically changed into a driver’s license. How, he wondered furiously, was that fair? Didn’t the Universe know he needed his photo ID?

He informed the polite agent that he did not have his photo ID. She, surprisingly, did not have a problem with this. She gave him his tickets and sent him on his way.

Chastising himself bitterly with every step, he made his way to the TSA area of the airport — Have I mentioned that it’s the busiest in the world? The line was very, very, very long. So long, in fact, that he felt his stomach and other internal organs sink into his lower abdomen. His flight would leave in only 40 minutes! He didn’t have time for this!

Wielding his tickets, he swallowed hard and got in the TSA Pre™ line anyway. It wouldn’t hurt to at least try, right?

The polite TSA agent asked him for his photo ID. Gary explained what had happened and added that his license was sitting in his closet in the valet where he had apparently put it after making very sure that his wallet contained credit cards and money. Which were on his two-page checklist, right before where ‘driver’s license’ wasn’t.

She said, “Do you have any other form of Id with a picture on it? Passport?” He shook his head “no.” He similarly shook his head “no” for all her follow-up questions. For he had also left home without his insurance cards (they were (presumably) with his driver’s license), library card, ZooAtlanta membership card, Barnes & Noble card, CostCo card, two other credit cards, and a Sam’s Club card — which is the only other card he owns that has his photo on it. A 15-year-old photo, but a photo nevertheless.

“I’ll get my supervisor,” she explained, and did just that by calling for one on the PA. Gary waited patiently (really!) while ten, fifteen, twenty people were processed through the short line.

Finally, a supervisor came over! He asked the same questions the polite TSA Pre™ agent had asked, and Gary answered as before. He added, “I have a credit card and a debit card, my phone, and business cards.”

As it turns out, the debit card and credit card were enough! He was allowed through! He didn’t have to remove his shoes or take his laptop out of his bag, but did have to go through the “Naked X-Ray” device because he wears shoes with giant metal springs in the heels.

He made it to the gate with only minutes to spare, and boarded without incident! Whew!

Thanks to the adrenaline rush of thinking he was going to miss his flight, Gary had no time to eat more than the breakfast his housemate had made, and that had been a full two hours before. He started to feel a little shaky. The snacks the airline provided were barely enough.

Looking at his flight itinerary, Gary noticed that he would have only a few minutes at Denver to make it from whatever gate he arrived at to whatever gate his connecting flight would depart from. His internal organs sank again! In the Atlanta airport — the busiest in the world! — this almost always means running pell-mell through the airport from gate A1 to Z99 only to arrive, winded, at the departing gate with no time to spare. When would he get lunch?

Just before landing, the flight attendant announced that the gate for Spokane was only a few gates away! Hurray! He’d have time — barely! — to get lunch before boarding. If, that is, nothing went wrong.

He found a McDonald’s in the airport and ordered, and made it back to his gate literally two minutes into the boarding process. Only . . . the plane wasn’t boarding.

In fact, the plane wasn’t even at the gate. In fact, the gate had moved.

All the way across the airport!

With all the other passengers waiting patiently (really!) for the flight to arrive, Gary high-tailed it across the airport to the new gate, only to find out the flight had been delayed by one hour! Plenty of time to eat his lunch!

Practically everyone on the flight was headed to WorldCon. He spoke briefly with some other passengers about that, and got some advice on how to get from the airport to the vicinity of the con hotel.

He made it to his hotel (address: on the two-page checklist) without any problems, after having a nice conversation with the cab driver about all the fires around Spokane.

He gave the polite clerk at the hotel desk his information (on the two-page checklist), and they asked . . . for his photo ID.

He explained what had happened and they looked up his name. And didn’t find it. They looked up his reservation number (on the two-page checklist). And didn’t find it. They looked up other information that he gave. And didn’t find it.

The polite clerk’s manager asked if it was possible the reservation was under a different name. [This is also called ‘foreboding.’] Gary said, “No, I’m sure it’s not.” He then spelled his name meticulously, since he often gets called Greg Anderson, Perry Hendrickson, and about a hundred other incorrect names on a routine basis.

Finally, he used his phone to email the reservation information he had received from the hotel chain to the polite manager. Meanwhile, the polite clerk took his information again and issued another reservation.

As Gary was leaving the check-in desk for the elevator, the polite manager returned and said, “I found your reservation number under the name ‘William Hubbard.’ Do you know a ‘William Hubbard’?”

No. No, he did not.

The polite manager said she would fix it and not to worry.

After stowing his luggage in his room, Gary walked to the convention center to register for WorldCon and get his badge.

You know what’s coming. I think it’s obvious at this point.

Turns out that although the TSA and Best Western were OK with not having a photo ID because you stupidly left it in the valet on the shelf in your closet in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where you would desperately need it, WorldCon is not. He was directed to leave the very short registration line and stand in the much, much longer ‘Problems’ line. Another polite waiter-in-line suggested that if they Googled his name and it came up with his picture — which it most certainly would — that should be proof enough. Gary clung to this possibility.

But it also turns out that when you explain the situation — how you left your photo ID in the valet on the shelf in your closet back in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where you would desperately need it — and they call up your information and ask you to give them your address and it matches, that’s enough to get your registration card! Sweet!

THE END?

The Moral of the Story: Put ‘photo ID’ on your stupid two-page checklist.

Stay tuned for the next, exciting episode of ‘The Boy Who Were an Moran [sic]’ in which Gary tries to maneuver his way through a week without needing his photo ID because he stupidly left it in the valet on the shelf in his closet in Atlanta before flying to Spokane where he would desperately need it.

6

Et Tu, Crustulum?

Fortune

Fortune

A few days ago, I went to a Chinese buffet near my office for lunch. It’s not what I’d call great, but it is fairly good and filling. They have good peanut butter chicken, hot and sour soup, broccoli chicken, garlic and zhà cài (榨菜) green beans, chicken on a stick, and mashed potatoes.

Hey, don’t judge me. Good mashed potatoes are a thing of beauty and one should not look a gift potato in the eyes.

OK, that really took an odd turn.

. . . Where was I?

Oh, right. After I was done, the server brought a fortune cookie. I opened it and got what you see to the right.

Seems like even the cookie is judging me. :)

0

SkullCosm

SkullCosm

SkullCosm

I frequently have vivid dreams that involve quite elaborate plots that, on occasion, stick with me after awakening. Unfortunately, almost as soon as I start thinking about the day ahead — the minute my eyes open — the wistful vapors of the dream vanish and the ideas are gone.

I also tend to get writing ideas at times when my brain is otherwise disengaged, but my body is doing something habitual. The two main times this happens are when I’m driving and when I’m showering. If it weren’t for driving and showering — in addition to me being a social pariah and being unable to work — I’d have virtually no ideas for writing.

The third time my disengaged brain offers ideas up to me is in those few minutes between when the sleep monster begins to immobilize my body and when I drift off into unconsciousness. The sheets are so nice and soft, the blanket so snug, the pillow supports my head just right . . . and then blam, an idea pops into my head. A really good idea.

For that scene that I can’t seem to finish, or to end the story I’m having trouble with. And my brain whispers to me, “Don’t worry. It’s a great idea. I’ve got this.”

Because my brain is a lying bastard. It never remembers. Never. Oh, it remembers that I had an idea, and that it solved that sticky problem I was having, and that it was a beautiful, shining idea that would set animated animals to singing and dancing around me if I could only . . . remember . . . the actual content of the idea, and not that there was an idea. Of some sort. That was good.

Oh, well.

So I decided that I would keep a notepad next to my bed. One of those big, yellow legal pads, and a pen.

I need to back up for a moment to explain that I have this . . . medical condition called Recurrent Corneal Erosion. You can Google it if you wish, but suffice to say, it means that I have to put ointment in both eyes every night before sleeping or I have a very good chance of tearing the cornea of one or both eyes when I wake up in the morning. I’m not telling you this to squick you out or to elicit medical advice — believe me, if you can think it, it has already been thought by me or suggested by others. The ointment works great, usually about 99% of the time. About once per month or so, I’ll end up tearing a cornea and have to miss a day of work. It’s just . . . a thing that happens, and has been happening for the better part of twenty years. But my telling it serves to explain some of what is about to be related.

The ointment is thick and has the texture of petroleum jelly, and is opaque, so it impairs my vision almost completely. I can distinguish light from dark, and vague shapes. That’s about it.

I kept the notepad by the bed for quite a while. I’d wake up with a dream or an idea, and I’d write as much of it down as I could, but since I can’t actually focus my eyes on anything because of the ointment, my handwriting is . . . sub-optimal.

So I guess you could say it sort of worked. And as I got used to having the notepad next to the bed, I’d retain more dreams and ideas just long enough to jot something down before burrowing back under the covers and getting more sleep.

And then it happened.

I woke up out of a sound sleep. I had had an Idea. Not just an idea, mind you: An Idea. The best, shiniest, most magnificent Idea in the history of Ideas. It would make a fantastic story.

And it was so singular an Idea (to borrow vocabulary from H. P. Lovecraft) that a single word — as from the Oracle at Delphi — would suffice to remind me of the entirety of this beautiful, blossom-like Idea.

Squinting in the general direction of the notepad, brain clamoring for more sleep, I grabbed the pen and scribbled down this singular word that was absolutely sure to bring back the entirety of the Idea to me upon waking.

Smiling the smile of the satisfied, I put down the pen and the pad on my night table, put my head back on the pillow, and slept for several more hours, content in the knowledge that all was saved.

The alarm went off later that morning and I awoke, as usual, remembering that I had had An Idea. That it was a very, very excellent Idea, and that the story that would spring, Athena-like, wholly and beautifully formed from my mind upon seeing the word that appeared on the notepad would practically write itself because it was Just That Good.

I quickly stumbled into the bathroom and using a clean towel and warm water, cleaned the ointment out of my eyes, then hurried back into the bedroom.

I approached the table, giddy with anticipation. I could see that there was a single word on the pad, in crude, blue letters, blocky and spiky, diagonally scrawled across the yellow paper.

I picked it up.

I looked at it.

And thought, “What?”

The word that I wrote that night was this: SkullCosm

Just that. SkullCosm. Three syllables, capitalized exactly like that.

I sat heavily on the bed, wracking my brain. What could it mean? It was clearly some kind of cyberpunk thing, right? A cosm, or ‘world,’ inside a skull, or the mind.

But . . . I don’t read cyberpunk, or even much enjoy it. Much less write it.

Nothing. Not a single thing remained from that fantastic Idea I had but the single word I found scribbled in blue ink, as though written by someone not looking at the paper.

To this day, I have no clue. None. Zero. Zilch. The place in my brain which should be occupied by whatever marvelous Idea that, in a perfect world, would have been recalled in toto by the word SkullCosm has so far remained a void, filled only with the sound of a soul-crushing wind blowing through a desert of pain.

Well, that’s a little melodramatic, but you get my point.

I’ve carried the word around with me for years, now, playing around with it in my head, seeing if the shape of it fit any of the incomplete puzzles in my head. It’s never a good fit. The puzzle from which SkullCosm was left over was obviously constructed using non-Euclidean geometry.

I’ve tried on two occasions to force a story using SkullCosm as the seed word. To no avail. The non-Euclidean edges of the word are too hard to focus on clearly, and they keep causing the rest of the puzzle to warp and collapse.

In a last-ditch attempt to get some use of the word, I sent it to Len Peralta when he was doing his Monster By Mail campaign to raise money after the birth of one of their children. Just to see what an artist accustomed to drawing monsters would do with it.

I think he mistook ‘cosm’ for ‘plasm’ based on the picture I received back, shown above. But I like it, and it captures perfectly my frustration upon knowing that SkullCosm should but ultimately fails to trigger the memory of that perfect, shining story Idea that my brain cruelly forgot.

So if you ever see me mention the word SkullCosm, you’ll now know to what it refers.

0

NaNoWriMo 2013, Day 7

NaNoWriMo 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013

I’m charting my daily progress on NaNoWriMo. Since you may or may not care, I’ll kindly hide it. Thanks for taking the time. :)

8

The Writing Brain

brain by TZA, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  TZA 

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a book by Holly Lisle on my Kindle. She was talking about how she would occasionally have to delete many, many words from her novels because she went down a wrong path while writing. As much as 60,000 words, I believe she said.

Wow. That’s a lot of words to scrap.

Manuscript. Scrap.

Manuscrap.

Welcome to my psyche, ladies and gentlemen! Don’t mind the occasional flashes or thunderous explosions. It’s not a thunderstorm — those are ideas going off. And those cobwebs over in that corner . . . well, I wouldn’t get too close to that. Just in case.

0

“D Is for Dragon” Is Live

Dragon by Zoe52, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Zoe52 

Back in March, I did a live reading of my story “D Is for Dragon” on Second Life. It was recorded for later release on our writing group’s podcast, The Quillian Chronicles.

Well, there were a few problems and episode 12 with my story was delayed a while, but it’s up, today. I would really appreciate it if you’d follow this link right HERE and download and listen to my story. :)

It’s just under 43 minutes long, including the intro and outro. John Lambert did a great job making my raw audio file sound good, and I couldn’t be more delighted with the music he chose (Skye Cuillin by Kevin MacLeod) for the episode.

I misread a pronoun at one point and referred to my dragon as “she,” but hopefully you can overlook that. :)

Squee! Go download! And listen! And share! :)

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