Monday, January 16, 2017

Coffee Meeting -or- "Page, I'm Straight." (super people)

Mishap realized something and pulled herself back, stat up straight, and did her best to put on a serious face.  Then she said, "Page, I'm straight."

"That's disappointing," Page said, "but it is neither an unforseen possibility nor is it a deal breaker for me.  I do not hold the fact that you are straight against you.  Some of my best friends are straight.  You can't help it if you were born that way."

Mishap was on the verge of cracking up.

"I do not find the prospect of being friends with you suddenly repulsive because of the revelation that you're straight," Page said.  "Truly I tell you that I'm not about to run off screaming because you are straight."

Mishap broke down and laughed.  When she was done she said, "I just thought, with how you were acting. . ."

The pause was, perhaps, a bit too long, but Page picked up once she knew that Mishap wasn't going to complete her thought.

"Yeah, I know, sorry about that," she said.  "I can't help it."  After a beat she continued, "Ok, that's not quite true.  I can help it if I'm watching myself for it but usually I don't think to do that.  Point is: I wasn't doing it on purpose.  When I feel like I have a chance with someone I'm interested in I just slip into flirty-mode without trying to or realizing I'm doing it."

"Ok. . ." Mishap said cautiously.

"Now that I know that I don't have a chance," Page said, "it won't be a problem.  If I haven't weirded you out too much, can we go back to talking about other things."

"Um . . ." Mishap found she couldn't remember what they were talking about.  She fell back on an old standby: when in doubt, ramble at random.  "I was walking down the street the other day and I heard this massive sound of wrongness at the intersection ahead of me; since I've been bumping into them so much I was half-convinced it was my old team.

"Fortunately it was just a giant ooze monster."

"Because that's so much better," Page said dryly.

"So I was going to ignore the situation and hope it went away, but then there were some kids, superlatively stupid kids, that attracted the monster's attention.  Had to save them."

"That sounds heroic."  Someone who didn't know Page wouldn't have picked up on it, but Mishap knew that she was being needled.

"Don't.  Start," Mishap said.  "Besides, who is having coffee with a villain right now?"

"Civilians are just weird," Page said.  "It's hard to find people who understand what the life is like."

Mishap nodded.  "Given," she said.

"Plus you did save my life," Page said.

It felt like she should deny that, so Mishap asked, "When?" as if she didn't know.

"The Park," Page said.  "When you shot-shoved Tinker in the back."

"Noticed that, did you?"

Page nodded.

"Well, not wanting people dead hardly makes me a saint," Mishap said.

Page held up her hands, "I'm not still on that.  It just seems like a peaceful coffee is . . . within an epsilon neighborhood of the least I could do in response to you saving me."

"What sized delta are we talking about?" Mishap asked.

Page chuckled.

Ah, math, Mishap thought.  Something so many people derided or took for granted, but Page got it.  A rare thing indeed.  Then she made a connection back to what she had been saying.

"Actually, back at the ooze monster," Mishap said, "I met a fire elemental who would understand that."

"How powerful?"

"Low raw power, but he could do the 'flames that don't consume the source' thing which allowed him to light un-lightable things like marbles.  Combine that with the fact that he's massively skilled with a sling and there's some real potential there."

"Leanings?"

"Said he was apolitical," Mishap said.  "Didn't even have a handle when I met him."

"Newbie with the right combination of talent and skill, then," Page said.

Mishap nodded.  "We had doughnuts after the ooze was dealt with."

"How did you deal with the ooze if he was low powered?"

"Water-main had an unfortunate failure; the city really needs to invest in infrastructure?"

"That was you?"

"Who else?" Mishap asked.

"Ordinary wear and tear?" Page asked.

Mishap simply held Page's gaze.

"Ok, fine, this town is caught up in the epic war between good and evil to the point that nothing has a mundane rational explanation and therefore everything must be a result of people with powers," Page said.  "I concede."

"If only I could get you to give up that fast in a fight," Mishap said.  She let herself smirk.

"Not the best topic for pleasant conversation," Page said, "besides, I find myself intrigued.  Straight girl met a guy and had doughnuts.  Is there anything there?"

"No," Mishap said.  "There isn't.  I don't rule out the possibility, but no spark, no signs of anything other than companionship, no reason to expect anything else.  I am capable of meeting a member of the opposite sex without being infatuated.  I'm a bit suspicious of you for even implying that."

"Suspicious?"

"Do Erratic and Squire have to worry about romance complicating the workplace?"

"No one needs to worry about me," Page said a bit defensively, "and it's hardly a secret that that wouldn't be able to come up even if I were worrisome."

"Tinker did the opposition research," Mishap said; "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Squire is so straight laser beams envy her," Page said; "Erratic is the quintessential flirt, and she's really good at it, when it comes to anything else . . . well it's she's asexual aromantic.  I want romance and physical contact.  Preferably at the same time."

"How did we end up talking about the sexuality of more than half your team, with yours in detail to boot?" Mishap asked.

"Your fault."

"Usually is."

"How's solo life?" Page asked.

"Had to go apartment shopping," Mishap said, "that's a Hell I don't recommend.  Still, no boss means no schedule.  I'm not hurting for funds so I can take it easy for a bit.  I'll be a while before we meet professionally again."

"I've got no problem with that," Page said.  "Easier for when I'm not up a magic cancelling adept."

"Ditto on both parts," Mishap said.  "Any chance I could convince you to lay off when next--" the look on Page's face stopped her.  "I suppose it wouldn't be fun that way anyway."

Both took sips of their coffees.  Mishap planned to let the conversation loose and allow it to go where it would.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Arisia 2017 - First Impressions

I've been convention-adjacent before, but never to one.

I saw the armored dog.  I saw Rey waiting to get her picture taken.  I saw Kylo Ren from a distance but he's boring and I didn't care.

I learned about using tarot cards to help you overcome artistic blocks in your writing.  I got a Rogue One: A Star Wars Story poster which I carried around all day with only "Rebellions are built on Hope" visible making me think of various other, better, foundations on which to build rebellions.  Only at the end of the day did "Some walls are made of fear; some are made of wall material" pop into my head and I haven't quite figured out how it goes.  Maybe, "Some rebellions are built on hope; some are built on rebellious acts," but that doesn't quite capture it.

My biggest take away came from a panel where an author said something to the effect of "A story that goes, 'The character wants soup.  The character goes to the corner store.  The character buys soup.  The end,' is not a good story."

Now I was good and respectful and quiet when presenters were speaking all of the time before and after that, but at that point I broke my silence, turned to the person beside me (whom I did not know) and said that it could be a good story if it were in a war zone with aliens.  Her friend on the other side said that she was thinking a killer clown on the loose could make it a good story, and then the question of what other factions might want that soup came up, and the note I ended up writing in my notebook was (word for word, punctuation mark for punctuation mark):
Random observation: everyone in this room
has come up with a kick ass awesome story
that follows the plot:

Character wants soup
Character goes to corner store
Character buys soup.
Is the hard part getting the money?  Getting to the corner store?  Buying the soup?  Is there rationing?  Danger?  High stakes negotiation?  Space monkeys?  A horrible natural disaster?  (Add "during a Tornado" and I think you've just come up with the next SeeFee original movie: Soup Run: Skies of Terror.)

Is the corner store being robbed when Agent Coulson arrives intent on buying soup?

Who knows?  But what everyone does know is that you can make an interesting story out of the journey to the corner store to buy soup.

I heard that one time Conan went to the store to buy soup as part of a coming of age ritual and he returned not only with the egg in his mouth unbroken, but with the decapitated heads of an entire band of marauders.  Plus Cambell's chicken noodle, of course.

-

I didn't have much time at Arisia, didn't see what wares were being peddled, but it seemed a nice enough place.

And we're all waiting for the next breakout novel about getting soup at the corner store.

-

Reviewing the pictures one, fact is beyond any doubt: my camera is fucked up severely.  I mean I knew I had to smack the fucking thing to stop it from randomly cycling modes long enough to take the pictures, and I knew the built in lens cap didn't open all the way bar jostling, but this is someone graciously standing quite still so I can photo, and the blurring is severe enough that the color from her irises bleeds into the color of her hair (it's worse at full resolution)

So, that kind of sucks.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Incomplete things

In draft form I have starts on five different things in the shared super person universe, one primer on exotic materials to be found in the outer realms and liminal spaces of my Four Reams setting, a partial start on chapter two of With great power comes . ? ., a partial start to an installment of my guide to game design that you all know nothing about because I've never posted an installment.

I have no idea when, if ever, any of these things will be done.

It is also the case that writing a new installment of Forgotten Seeds has been at the top of my writing to do list for ages and I have absolutely no progress to show for it.

So that's where things stand creatively right now.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I have great interest in the "almost" part of "almost always"

So I was looking up something on feral horses and a bumped into a word I didn't recognize, which caused me to take a look.

It turned out to be a word that means "donkey" in Spanish and Portuguese but means "feral donkey" in parts of the US.

So having stumbled upon donkeys (which I like) I read the article and something jumped out at me.

Donkey-horse hybrids (mules and hinnies) are almost always sterile.  Why the fuck has no one ever told me this before?  That "almost" matters.  That almost is intriguing and worthy of great investigation.

As it turns out, a non-sterile male mule or hinny has never been confirmed.  Females are different.  In the past 500 years there have only been sixty confirmed cases of female mules reproducing (and just the one female hinny), so it's rare, but this really happens.  Horse-donkey hybrids can produce offspring.

The only known case of one producing generations was one where the donkey side of the equation seems to have been bred out and the various fertile descendants seem to be, outwardly at least, all horse.

So rare, doesn't seem to take on the second generation baring de-hybridization, but that might be just because we basically never try since we assume they're all sterile.

Having an odd number of chromosomes tends to fuck with a reproductive system like whoa.  Horses and donkeys have a different number of chromosomes, thus the the hybrids have an odd number and things don't usually pair up right.

But sometimes.  And what then?  Other than that one stallion born to a mule mother, what would happen if the "almost" hit a second generation?

A third?

Is there a point at which a stable species would emerge that was neither horse nor donkey but some combination of the two.  If we bred for that "almost" with the same obsessiveness we breed purebred dogs that look nice but have familial relationship weirder than Oedipus and massive life-living problems galore, is it possible that something new could walk upon this earth one day?  A stable horse-donkey hybrid that was its own species?

Maybe it's not.  I don't know.  But the almost leads me to wonder.  If the first generation can breed, why not the second?  And if the second, why not the third?

Admittedly we're talking about something that would be a massive endeavor because you've got to get enough "almost"s in the first generation to also get "almost"s in the second, and so forth.

But for longer than history we've been breeding horses with donkeys to produce evolutionary dead ends, and we show no signs of stopping, so if we've been fucking with them for thousands of years, and will likely continue to fuck with them for thousands more, why not latch onto the ones that aren't dead ends and try very hard to see where that road leads.

Maybe it inevitably leads to a situation where one side is bred out of the equation and all of this work chasing near impossibility just brings us back to where we started.  Or maybe something new arises.  But we'll never know if we don't try and we don't try.

This is only one of many almosts that interests me.  Almosts call out and ask us to wonder what makes them different, and where they could take us.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lots of people have code names, it's not that weird (super person universe)

[Ok, so, superhero names are hard.  Ditto for coming up for a way to make your fire-power haver distinct from other fire-power havers.  Thus this came into my head.  I have a headache, so the execution could suck.  You've been warned.]
[Mishap was described here, and previously appeared in this story.]

If this turns out to be my old team again, Mishap thought, it definitely means they're following me.

It was almost a relief when Mishap saw that the cause of the commotion was just an ooze monster the size of a three bus pileup.  Cracked patches of asphalt that had once formed the street amounted to armor plating over its oily looking form.  She doubted it was real oil,  She didn't know of any decent crude reservoirs in the area, and for some reason a lot of things went for the oily look without being oil.

Besides, setting it on fire would be too easy.  Things like this were never easy.

Mishap was about to leave the area, and thus leave the problem to someone else, when she saw the ooze monster form a mouth in the general direction of children.  They couldn't have been old enough to have reached middle school, and they definitely should have had parents in the vicinity.  Besides, wasn't this a school day?

It didn't matter, targeting the weakest first suggested either the rudimentary thinking of a simplistic predator, or sadism.  Neither would be good for the children.

Mishap charged the thing, used the shattered remains of a really nice looking car as a springboard, landed with as much force as she could on a vaguely Mishap-sized patch of asphalt.  One thing she knew about ooze monsters: you don't even touch the ooze directly.

Hopping from asphalt to asphalt she crossed the monster and landed between the mouth and the children.

"They're under my protection ear-less monstrosity," she said to the mouth, noting that its "teeth" were formed of shards of broken glass and bits of broken metal.  Apparently it didn't have any hard bits of its own with which to chew

"I would run now," Mishap said to the children over a shoulder, then scanned the situation.  She found what she was looking for in a transformer that was barely holding onto its pole.  It took just the slightest nudge to make it fall, and when those things went wrong they had a tendency to pop, at least in Mishap's experience.  She made sure it did just that as soon as it hit the ooze.

Hardly the unflinching hero, she reflexively ducked, made her body as small as she could, and covered her ears, even though she knew the explosion was already over.

The ooze monster gurgle-screamed in pain, then gurgle-growled in anger.

"Got your attention ear-less?" Mishap asked.  She didn't expect an answer.  It was, after all, ear-less.

It did, however, respond to the changed events.  The mouth she had been facing dissolved and when she looked to see where the attention had been redirected she saw the kids.  Again.  Didn't the young fucks know that when you ran away from something you ran away, not along its side?

Beyond the obviously financial benefits to being a thief, this was a large part of why she never considered being a hero.  Not the largest part, but it still ranked in the top ten.  Quite simply: saving stupid people was the kind of job that couldn't be done in one fell swoop because their stupidity almost guaranteed they'd need to be saved again.

Still, they were kids.  One did not stand by when children were in life threatening danger.  It simply wasn't done.  Lesser dangers could be ignored, but Mishap wasn't going to let these kids be killed by a combination of her inaction and their stupidity.

The question was how to save them this time.

While part of her wanted to just run toward them, she knew that she wouldn't reach them in time.  She needed--

A small ball of fire hit the new-formed kid-focused mouth, and someone called out, "Over here Tim Curry."

She had a distraction, she had more time, and she had a seeming non-sequitur.  What more could she ask for?

She again used the remains of the road as stepping stones to run across the monster, and landed at the side of the newcomer.  Random guy with a sling made from, apparently, shoelace, and a marble in his hand.

The marble burst into flames as he put it into the sling.  He didn't spin up the way some people did, he released after half an arc and the flaming marble flew off to hit the ooze monster in the new mouth.  As Mishap guessed earlier, the monster did not appear to be prone to being set on fire.

"Hi," she said to the marble guy.

"Hi," he said back.  "You wouldn't happen to have a plan, would you?"

"You in the market?"

"More window shopping," he said ans he lit another of his marbles and launched it at the monster.

"So," Mishap said, "no plan of your own, and nothing to pay with."

She looked at the next marble closely.  Though she found it a nice color, there was nothing special about it.  The fire must have been coming from him.  She commented on the color.

"It's mermaid green, I'm told," He said as he lit it.  "And my plan ran out after 'get its attention away from the kids.'"

"That's barely even a premise," Mishap said.

"Seemed to be your premise as well," he said.

"I'm no hero," Mishap said.  She noticed that the creature's attention did seem to be turning in their direction.

"Hey, I'm apolitical too," he said.  "It's just that--"

"There were kids."

"Yup."

At least they understood one another.  That didn't make up for the lack of plan though.

"How much fire can you make?"

"Never tested it," he said.  "Not much more than my own surface area, I imagine."

Mishap dodged a tentacle of ooze that came their way.  The marble guy simply lit himself on fire on the tentacle side.  The tentacle recoiled, then retracted, in pain.

"I get the impression you're safer than I am," Mishap said.  Marble guy shrugged.  "Anyway, two surefire ways to deal with ooze monsters: dry them out, which you can't make enough fire for, or dilute them."

"I haven't noticed any massive water powers on your part," he said.

"Not a jot, but the infrastructure around here is corroded all to Hell," Mishap said.  "If you can distract it for a while, I can get the water."

"I didn't come prepared for a fight," marble guy said, "You've got twenty shots left to do whatever you're doing."

He lit another marble, and Mishap tried to figure out where the water main was hiding.  It was more difficult than it should have been because all of the underground pipes were in deplorable states of disrepair, and tended to feel rather similar.

* * *

The ooze monster defeated, Mishap went to regroup with marble guy.  She found him reaching into the muck where the ooze had been and retrieving his marbles.

"You've got to be kidding," Mishap said.  "They were pretty, but they cost, what, a buck fifty?"

"Three dollars and fifty cents, in fact," marble guy said.

"Doesn't seem worth the effort," Mishap said.

"Is anything?"

Mishap shrugged.

"You got a name?" she asked.

"Jake," marble guy said.

Mishap rolled her eyes, "I meant a handle.  Most people with powers have another name."

"Like Desdemona?" Jake asked.

"Beings that aren't from Earth usually don't have fragile human families that could be exploited, and thus forgo the usual practices," Mishap said.

"Who says I have a family?" Jake asked.  "I'm used to being alone."

"I know the feeling," Mishap said, "and my recent stab at being part of something larger than myself didn't exactly go well.  Still, unless you want people to think you're a demon, which isn't always a bad thing, you should have a name."

"I was unaware that 'Jake' was an insufficient name," Jake said.  Apparently done retrieving his marbles, he stood up and wiped his hands off on his jeans.

"I'm just telling you how these things tend to be done.  I'm Mishap, for what it's worth."

"Fine," Jake said.  "I'm 3.14-Plastic."

Mishap's first response, "Wha--" didn't even last for a full word.  Three point one four was an obvious reference to pi, and while 'Plastic' was harder to place once she thought about it in terms of mathematical constants named after greek letters everything snapped into place.

"Oh," she said, "Pi-Rho," which sounded like 'pyro', "For the person with the fire.  Cute."

"You're the one who wanted me to have a code-name, Mishap," the newly christened 3.14-Plastic said.

"Just telling you how it's done," Mishap said.

"Thought you weren't a hero."

"I'm not," Mishap said.  "But someone who stands aside and lets children die isn't a thief anymore, they're a monster."  After a pause she added, "The scary kind, not the ooze kind."

"I'm not a thief," 3.14-Plastic said, "but more or less the same reasoning."

"I'm not looking for a partner, and I definitely don't want to form a team," Mishap said, "but do you want to hang , 3.14?"

"I'm hungry," he said.  "If you're buying, I don't turn down free food."

"I'm not exactly flush, but crime certainly pays," Mishap said.  "I can buy."

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Warmth

So I got the oil the day after I got back because delivery was mercifully speedy.  There was some trouble at the beginning of the day because after much searching and frustration I realized that I had left the Christmas money out of state and so would fall short of what I needed.

Having found a five dollar bill I didn't know I had, and change to pay for the after the decimal point part of the bill, I found myself exactly 42 dollars short.  No amount of searching my house helped because I've kind of already used up all money that can be found that way.

I did, however, eventually realize that it's the beginning of the damned month and I've been too distracted to do any real bill paying.  Meaning there was money in my bank.  (The money I left out of state can be conscripted to pay for the other bills the money in the bank would have.)

My bank is helpfully located across a street from me.  Not across the street, but rather across the street that one will come to if one walks to the end of the street (by which I mean my street.)  Directly across said street because staggering side-streets (such as the one I live on) is a way to stop stupid people from speeding across Main Street without checking to see if they'll end up in a T-bone-ing accident.

So I got the 42 dollars (which took two tries because the ATM ate my ATM card in spite of belonging to the same bank as the ATM) and had the money for oil without needing to impose on my stressed-the-Hell-out family. Which was good since I'd already ordered it and was really worried that the oil would come but I wouldn't be able to pay.

Eventually the oil did come and the house got heat.  The house slowly heated, my toes did not.  Past cold, mostly skiing but walking two hours to and from university multiple days a week for years on end likely didn't help, has fucked up my toes.  Possibly my chest as well, but that has the advantage of being located core-adjacent and so doesn't suffer from the heating and circulation problems that toes do.

And thus I took a shower.  Warm to hot water can do wonders.

Trouble is, in all of this I managed to fuck up my scheduling.  As mentioned, if I'm not sick, and not so sleep deprived to be on the verge of passing out, I wake with dawn and stay up through the light.

That means that if I get to sleep late I don't compensate by sleeping late, I just end up with not enough sleep.  So I've been a bit fucked up on account of that, which is why I didn't have a post two days ago saying, "Yup, I've got heat now."

Of course my post three days ago saying I didn't have heat did mention that I had already secured money to pay for oil, so hopefully no one was unduly worried.
It is by oil that I set my heat in motion.
It is by burning carbon that the water turns to steam.
The water turns to steam, the radiators commence their warming.
It is by oil that I set my heat in motion.
I know warmth.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Coldness

The problem with waking up at dawn is that you need to get to bed at a time many would consider absurdly early to get a full night's sleep.  It's not that I really want to wake up at dawn, it's more that barring illness or piles of sleep deprivation I can't sleep when there's light.

So, anyway, as I type this I really should have been in bed an hour and a half ago, but, you see, I kind of fucked up.

I sort of live in two places these days.  The places I want to live are in Maine, the people I want to live with are in Massachusetts.  I go back and forth a fair amount.  I was there for about a week.  I meant to turn down the heat because it only needs to be warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing as that happens to be warm enough for the cat (cats are hardy things) and the gecko has a heating pad on 24/7 and a lizzard light on 12 hours a day every day (through the magic of a timer.)

That would have stretched my oil until sometime next week, probably early next week, which (to be honest) probably wouldn't have helped me that much.  It would, however, have been better than the current situation in which the oil ran out sometime while I was away and the temperature of the house has already dropped a fair bit.  Hopefully the oil company can deliver before the weekend.

To avoid wasting gas and person-hours the oil company has a minimum order for their normal price, anything below that will have added fees.  The minimum is a hundred gallons and though the price of heating oil isn't bad ($2.01 per gallon) combining cash I got for Christmas with everything in savings only got me around half of the way to one hundred gallons.  So I reached out to family because it's cheaper if purchased by cash or check than it is if done on credit.

That's never fun, but we're four and a half months into hellfire raining down on my sister and hitting the rest of us as collateral.  I'm getting hit least of all, everyone else is sort of frustrated to the edge of sanity (not that we were ever the most stable bunch to begin with) which made the whole reaching out to family thing physically painful.

And then I talked about it.

And then someone helped out by donating money.  And now if I combine what they donated with the rest of my savings and the money I was given for Christmas . . . I can actually afford to pay for oil.  If they can deliver it soon.  If I have to buy a stopgap that might change, and it will require dealing with the person whose mind is most frayed because my sister is the one who knows about stopgap oil.

But anyway, I can pay.  Yay.  Depending on exact details I can either make it so family doesn't need to go through the extra stress of getting involved with the oil entirely or I can make it so they'll be paid back for the check they write almost immediately thus keeping it from being a financial burden.

So, what does this have to do with being up too late?

Well, you see . . . I've sort of been living in two places these days taking greyhound buses (and the Boston T) between them.  Which means I don't always catch my mail right when it arrives.  Which means that when I got sent a new debit/ATM card I didn't get it.  Which means that when the year changed (I'll have a post or two on that, by the way; I got a squid hat) my old card expired without a new one being in my possession.

Which meant an hour and a half tearing my house apart trying to figure where that one bit of mail containing the new card was.  (Wouldn't be a problem if the people who helpfully bring in my mail when they check on the cat would pick one fucking spot in which to put it.  Sometimes help is less helpful than no help.)

Which means instead of being huddled under a blanket my toes are going numb.

Which in turn meant I felt a need to vent.  Thus this post.

But, on the good side, money with which to pay for oil.  Yay!  Assuming it can be delivered in a timely manner.