Thursday, April 30, 2015


On the way home I crossed through the graveyard and met Pete.

Pete doesn't have a last name.  Pete doesn't have a family.  Pete doesn't have a birthday.

Pete has a damaged stone marker that simply reads "Pete"

I knelt at Pete's marker and took a closer look.  I couldn't quite make out years.  18 something to something.

I'd already seen a lot of people who lived through the century's turn, so I had in mind that he died in 19 something.  I couldn't make out the numbers, but there was a slight depression I could feel.  I traced the years with my fingers.  It didn't make sense.  But the only thing I hadn't been able to trace was the 9 in the 19 I assumed began the second year.  I came to realize that there was the barest hint of an eight in that spot.  Nothing left but the cross in the middle of the 8.  Now the date made sense.

Pete was my age when he died in 1891.

How much more weathering before no one knows when he was born or died?

We build monuments to our dead, but then we fail to take care of the monuments.

I talked to some of the ghosts.  I met one who had died in the Civil War.  Told him I wished I had good news, but the battle raged on, we just fought it in different ways now.

Saint Michael's sword had been lost.  A female saint stood with a with a snake at her feet.  I asked the significance, she didn't share it.

A male saint had snake iconography too.  Most of the snake's body was lost.  I only figured out where it had attached because I noticed the tongue remained.

The bridge isn't safe for cars.  It was once a solid structure, I'm sure.  Now only gravity keeps it in place because any connections have rusted out.  The railings will give you a nasty shock if you happen to brush them.  The give is simply disturbing.  One doesn't want to image what would happen to someone who tried to use one to actually support their weight.

We don't do necropolises, our dead don't get their own cities, but we do give them space.  We do give them a home.  We set aside perfectly good, fertile land for them.  We keep it mowed if we have the money and motivation.  We fence people out and zombies in.  But we seldom stop to think about the ones we don't know personally.  We forget them, the only memory engraving or embossing, and we let that weather away until we don't even know what the marker was for anymore.  We assume there's a body somewhere, but whose isn't something we can know.

We don't talk to them.  Seldom do you see someone come into a cemetery and strike up a conversation with a stranger, but given the length of a human life, we'll all be strangers before too long.

Of course some of the deaths were more recent.  A mother and father outlived their son.  He was born at the start of the first World War and died fighting in the second.  The father lived into my mother's lifetime.  The mother longer still.  One wonders if anyone visits these recent dead.  Was their son the only child, or is there another out there who occasionally stops by, says, "Hi," and drops off some flowers.

It's not uncommon for there to be no day indicated for birth or death, but I was struck when I noticed that one woman had died circa 1919.  Circa.  Thereabouts.  Did no one notice?  Did no one think to care?  Did Maria die on the midnight that separates one year from the next and have them flip a coin to see which year they'd say she died in.

Cemeteries are strange places.  We have this great fear of being forgotten so we literally carve our names in stone.  And then... we just drift away.  No one knows these dead.  Not the ones who have been there a long time.  I doubt anyone visits.  A name carved in stone, but what does it mean if it's never read (except for the occasional wanderer)?

It takes effort, time, and money to maintain a cemetery, money that's not always easy to acquire.  Falling into disrepair like the one I was at is nothing compared to ones that aren't mowed.  They become woodland.

The cemetery records are available online, searchable by last name only.  It would be impossible to find Pete.  You can't look up a location.  Even if you do find the person you're looking for, there's precious little information online.  If someone had an inscription, for example, there's no record of it.  Ditto for any art that was done from the most basic to the most elaborate.  How hard would it be to take pictures of the markers, before they fade into illegibility, and connect those pictures with the online information?  Transcribe whatever it says too.

If we cared about these people, who obviously wanted to be remembered if they've carved it in stone, we'd try to do something so that weathering wouldn't erase them from history.

But while some sort of effort to preserve what their markers looked like now might be nice, it still doesn't address the fact that we seldom talk to the dead unless we know them personally.  There's a finite span on how long such people can be around and, after that, it just becomes a useless stone and a place to walk your dog.  (Don't shit on someone's grave, it's considered in poor taste.)

It has been argued that cemeteries are less for the dead than they are for having green space that doesn't need to be justified as a park.

I don't know.

I just know that it seems a sort of a shame that we have all of these people, and all of their names, and they're just forgotten.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Possible Kim Possible Decon (Looking for your input)

As I've been taking a mostly random look around Kim Possible examining the things that I can use in my stories and thinking of what I can do differently, I've been thinking that I could post about it episode by episode.  It would be much faster than what I was doing with .hack (which I need to get back to), but still slow enough that I wouldn't just gloss over things because there are so many episodes (plus the two movies and maybe I could do some of the games.)

If it were popular there's even secondary media I could look at after finishing the series (the above mentioned games, a couple of short features in some magazines, choose your own adventure books ... Disney really knows how to squeeze every last drop out of a franchise.)

But before I get into what I might do after I finished (which is unlikely, .hack and Deus Ex have been stalled out for ages) there's an important question to be addressed: Should I even start?

There's no expense involved, the episodes are all available (getting ad revenue for streaming video is one of the ways to get profits out of a show almost a decade old) it's just a question of time and interest.

It would take more time, but it would also make the time I'm already using to look through episodes for fan fiction reasons more useful as it would go toward multiple projects.  I don't think that would be the problem.

The real problem is, would anyone be interested in it?  The thing is, Kim Possible has a lot going for it, sometimes it even unexpectedly does the sort of thing you'd do (Packbat mistook a joke from the show for my own because there's a similarity there) which can feel really cool, but it's honestly more likable for what it tries to be than what it actually is.

It's a show by adults about teenagers, that's always a risk.  It's a show by men about a strong girl character.  The choice of "men" and "girl" was deliberate.  Adult men trying to portray a teenage girl.  It's a show where, unless it's a lesson episode, we're expected to agree with the main character even though she's often wrong.

Taking a critical eye to Kim Possible would be harsh and I don't imagine many of the fans of the show would like that all that much.  At the same time why would people not interested in Kim Possible be interested in an episode by episode breakdown?

So, I ask again, offset in its own paragraph:

Would you be interested in me doing an episode by episode look at Kim Possible?

I know a lot of people don't comment, but I could seriously use input on this.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

HHII: Graduation Part 1.5 (Kim Possible)

--First, a bit about the continuity.

I have in the dark corners of my mind the idea of creating my own version of Kim Possible.  Not one story, the entire continuity.  Every episode (except for maybe one that has serious DO NOT WANT and implies that Valentine's Day takes place in September) all the way through.  A complete alternate version everything.  This is obviously a massive project that would take time, dedication, and lots of effort.  Or, in other words, I'll probably never do it.

It none the less has a name: "Here's how it is" and a theme: continuity.  What happens in one episode doesn't get forgotten about.  Which leads to a secondary theme of growth (since lessons learned stay learned and all that.)  I've only written one previous thing in this continuity, it can be found here.

--Second, a bit about the timing.

In Graduation Part 1 aliens abduct Kim (when she was making a speech during graduation) and launch and invasion.  This story only covers the first two minutes of Part 2 (not counting "Previously" and the credits sequence) because I feel like that was handled poorly, they should have been thinking more thoughts, and they should have been doing more things.

Actually, it takes up less than the first two minutes because I'm only doing the earth-bound portion

--Third, and final since I do actually want to get to the story here, Relationships.

This isn't a shipping story, but it does help to understand interpersonal stakes and whatnot so: Kim is dating Alex.  Ron is dating Tara.  Bonnie is dating Monique.  Felix is dating Zita.  I don't think that any of the other relationships matter here.  Ron transitioned (first name changed to Ronda officially but usually not called that.)  As for why so many F/F relationships, Kim Possible doesn't actually have that many male characters (in high school at least) to work with.

Josh Mankey and Ned may be good for various things, but they don't have a lot to bring to the table here.  Brick graduated the year before

Oh, one last thing Ann Possible = Mrs. Dr Possible.  James Possible = Mr. Dr Possible.  The reason that people use the Mrs. and the Mr. when normally you omit them if the person is a doctor is that it's just confusing if you say "Doctor Possible".

Ok, actual story time:

- - -

The high school had sustained heavy damage, but most of the structure was still sound.  Power had been lost and the primary source of light was moonlight through the windows.  Even the emergency floodlights had been knocked out.

Wade, Ron, Kim's father, Alex, and Tara huddled around the monitor of a system he'd set up on an independent power supply.

"Ok," Wade said, "I up-linked to Jim and Tim's satellite.  Definitely getting a clearer picture."

"Annnd?" Ron asked.

"It's bad," Mr. Dr. Possible said.

"Bad doesn't begin to describe it," Wade said.  He hit a few keys and pulled up video.  Ron was smarter than most people gave her credit for, but she worked better with visual aids than raw text-based data.  "First they took out the power, all over the planet.  They activated these machines," the video switched to giant walking alien robots.  Quadrapods. "Everywhere.  And they can't be stopped, at least by conventional means." The robots wrought destruction by smashing things with their legs and firing disintegration rays.  The video showed them defeating a tank battalion without getting a scratch before the camera itself fell victim to one of the rays.

"Wha-" Ron said before she and Alex simultaneously asked, "What about Kim?"

No one said, "Jinx." No one owed anyone a soda.  Things were too dire for that.

Wade turned slightly away from Ron, Alex, and Mr. Dr. Possible.  "Nothing yet," he admitted.

Mr. Dr. Possible frowned.

Ron walked to a window and looked up at the stars. Tara followed silently and gave her a hug from behind.

Ron said, "If Kim's lost in the stars, I'm finding her."

Alex allowed a glimmer of hope to enter her.

"We're gonna need a rocket," Ron said.

Doctor James Possible was a rocket scientist.  No one had any doubt where the rocket would come from.

"It's dangerous out there," Alex said, "I hope you filled the tanks on the rocket boosters attached to your scooter."

Ron nodded.  "I have."

"Then bring her back," Alex ordered.

The lights in the room flickered on.  Soon power to the whole school was powered up.

* * *

Tim and Jim Possible stood in the cafeteria, looking at the giant disgusting mass of what passed for food and the various things they'd cobbled together and attached to it.  It was a rush job: no insulated wires, no safety features of any kind.  The electricity arced and sparked.

"Hoo-sha!" they declared.

From behind them, their uncle Slim said, "Pretty Slick fellas: electrochemical energy."

"Take the operating principles of a potato battery," Jim said.

"Substitute the mystery meat," Tim said.

"You can power the whole school," they said in unison.

Rufust watched the diagnostic equipment they had set up, and, when everything was stable and in the green, turned to the humans, gestured a thumbs up, and declared, "Booyah!"

* * *

Bonnie and Monique entered the room where the Wade and the others were.

Bonnie announced, "The twins and uncle accent got us power, the other Doctor Possible," Kim's mother was a brain surgeon, "and the parents Stoppable are making sure that we know where everyone is and that no one is injured.  What have you found out?"

"No sign of Kim," Alex said.

"Power is out globally," Tara said.

"And these things," Wade told her pointing to the monitor, "are all over the world and can't be stopped by conventional weapons."

"Please tell me no one is thinking of nuclear strikes," Monique said.

"They can think all they want," Wade told her; "Without power they can't launch."

"Well, that's a relief," Monique said.

"This is bad," Bonnie said.

Mr. Dr. Possible, Ron, Alex and Tara all repeated what Wade had said to them, "Bad doesn't begin to describe it."

Bonnie was taken aback for a moment by the uniform response, but then explained, "No, this," she pointed to the lights, now on, in the classroom, "is bad.  If the power is out globally, and we just turned the power on here..."

"We're lit up like a beacon," Alex realized.

"We need to get the twins to turn it back off!" Ron shouted as she ran for the door.

"No," Monique said, clearly a command rather than a suggestion.

"No?" Mr. Dr. Possible asked.

"They've probably noticed that the power is on," Monique said.  "If we turn it off then they'll know for sure that someone is controlling it, I don't think we want that."

Mr. Dr. Possible nodded, then added "Making them think we don't want to be noticed would probably bring them here faster."

A voice from outside the room said, "Can I have a moment, Ron?"

* * *

"Penny," Ron said.

"Ronda," she returned the greeting.  "I got in touch with Mr North.  The mansion is kaput, but the Ferret Hole is holding.  I might be able to help if I can get there."  She paused, "But that's a pretty big 'if'."

Ron's eyes lit up, then she slumped her shoulders.  "The war machine things are immune to conventional weapons.  I don't think Ferret power is going to help here.

"The twins installed a new weapons system, dual plasma shooters."

Ron tilted her her head in appraisal.

"The weird thing is, they said it was based on one of your designs," Penny said.  "A plasma catapult or some such.  I didn't know you were an inventor, Ronda"

Ron looked away, "Yeah, well ... I had sort of turned evil at the time.  It's not something I like to think about very often."  There was a long, and Ron thought quite awkward, silence.  Then Ron said, "We should go see what the others are doing."

* * *

When Ron and Penny walked back into the room, it seemed like a debate had just ended.  The only part of it they caught was Tara's concluding remark:

"Tricking them into thinking we don't have a plan sounds nice and all, but given that we don't have a plan, what good will it do?  Even if they don't think the school is an immediate threat, they're going to come to the only lit up building in the state pretty soon regardless."

Ron sighed, "The rescue mission is on hold," she said, looking at Alex and Mr. Dr. Possible with silent apologies.  "We can't leave until we have a defense set up."

"I can work with the twins on that," Wade said.

"I know someone who can help," Monique said.  Everyone in the room just stared.  Monique was smart, strong, capable of keeping track of complex patterns of information flow in dynamic word of mouth systems, and not at all into science.  Monique looked at Ron and said, "Kim's lab partner from my first year here."

Ron and Bonnie said, "Ohhh,,,"

Wade, Alex, Tara, and Mr. Dr. Possible all still had confused expressions on their face.

Bonnie said, "She made an inter-dimensional portal in one week."

Ron said, "She used it to get rid of a giant rampaging dinosaur-thing."

Bonnie said, "Which Barkin then unleashed on the science wing by fiddling with the machine when he had no idea what he was doing."

There was a bit of silence, then Ron said, "Monique has a good idea, we should gather the people we think can help and then meet back here."  Various people nodded.

"I think I could help most by assisting the Stoppables and Mrs. Dr. P," Tara said, starting to leave.

"Same here," Alex said, following her.

Tara stopped at the door and said, "Ronnie, come by before you leave to get Kim."

"I will," Ron said.  Then she thought for a moment.

"Monique, your idea is great, get Justine.  Mr. Dr, P, you know most of the scientists, in the area, so you should know any who were here for their kids' graduation.  Gather up anyone you think can help Wade and the others," Ron said.  "Wade, you get the twins.  Someone needs to get Zita and Felix"

"On it," Bonnie said.

"Penny, I need you to find Kim's cousin Joss.  She wears mission clothes as her street clothes, her hair is darker than Kim's, she's about the same age as the twins and Wade."

"I'll get Larry," Ron said after everyone had left the room on their various assignments.

* * *

Most of the people were gathered in the gym.  When Ron got there to start to look for Larry she thought of  something, "Oh, snap!"

"Isn't that a Drakken line?" Ron spun at the voice and saw Alex.  She was carrying a clipboard, helping with the checking the names of everyone known to be in attendance at the ceremony against those they could verify were safe.

Ron shrugged, "We all sort of rub off on one another."

"What's wrong?" Alex asked.

"I need to record a message," Ron said. "Two messages actually."

"Is audio only ok?"


Alex handed Ron her mp3 player.

"Thanks," Ron said.  "Do you know where Larry Possible is?"  Alex pointed and Ron said, "Thanks again."

* * *

"Hey," Ron said to Larry.

"Hey," Larry responded flatly.  There were a lot of things he could deal with without trouble.  An actual alien invasion was not one of them.  He had taken to pretending it was one of his games to take the edge off, but if it were a game there would be something he could do.  He was helpless.  Eventually all of the emotions, even the bad ones, had drained away.

"Is the robot rumble still active?" Ron asked.


"The competitors would probably be there right now, right?"


"Do any of the tunnels connect to the high school?"


"Then I have a mission for you Imperial Senator Bernilus."

Larry did perk up at the use of his code name, but just a bit.  He asked, "What?"

"There are giant robots out there tearing apart our homes; go to the rumble and see if you can get some robots to fight on our side."

Larry nodded.  Then he finally graced Ron with a response of more than a single syllable, "Without power, it'll take forever to get there."

"It's a save the world thing, Larry," Ron said.  "Scenario 21.  If you can get the help, it'll be worth the time."

* * *

"How is it going Ronda?" Ann Possible asked.

"Considering the situation, pretty well," Ron said.  "We're trying to make sure this place is protected before we go after Kim."

"James told me," Ann Possible said.  "Kim would have wanted you to."

"I was thinking you might be able to help with that."

"Someone need brain surgery?"

"I remember you being pretty good at welding.  There's no way we would have stopped the Little Diablo scheme without you."

"It's a nice thought, but someone has to watch all of these people," Ann. Possible gestured to the students, parents, and family that had gathered for the graduation.  "Most people aren't as used to this kind of thing as we are."

"I understand," Ron said, then she left the gym. 

* * *

When Ron returned to the classroom that had become their defacto headquarters, Jim, Tim, Wade, Justine, Bonnie, Monique, Felix, and Zita were already there.  Mr. Dr. Possible was still rounding up the adult scientists.  Penny had yet to return with Joss.

Jim, Tim, Wade, and Justine were off by themselves, discussing things Ron couldn't make out.

"Are they working on defenses?" Ron asked.

"Yup," Bonnie said.

"Zita," Ron said, "you're great at magic in Everlot, have you ever wanted to try the real thing?"

"The real thing?" Zita asked, clearly confused.

"It's just like in the game --in fact it's just like a game-- lots of rules, archaic tomes, esoteric requirements, high risk if you mess up, and magic words."

It seemed like Zita wanted to make a sarcastic reply, but didn't end up saying anything.  She just gave a look.

"Miss Hatchet opened an inter-dimensional portal with no idea that the thing she was saying was even a spell in the first place," Ron said. "Someone who could understand the rules of Everlot, even just the basic ones that involved not dying, should be fine."  After a pause she added, "Just don't, you know, say anything out loud until you know what you're doing."

Penny came in the room with Joss at her side.  Ron waved to them.

"What would I have to do?" Zita asked.

"The book you'll want is in the secret vault under the school library, Wade can talk you though cracking the three layers of security, now--"

"Why is there a secret vault under the school library?" Zita asked.

For a moment all were silent.  Then everyone but Joss, including Zita herself, said, "It's Middleton," in unison.  Some said it with pride.  For others it was more of a groan.

"There's no inventory in the vault and really no sorting system, and the book you want has no identifying marks on the outside, so before you go in the vault you're going to want to get this book." Ron took out a small notebook --since she got a job on the school paper, she always kept one with her-- quickly wrote out a call number, ripped out the page, and gave it to Zita.  "The book isn't important, it's just 'A Brief History of Cheese', but it has the misfortune of looking exactly the same as the book you'll want to pull from the vault."

"Ok," Zita said, "get the cheese book, break into the vault, find the book that looks like the cheese book, study that book until I know what I'm doing, and then what?"

"Command the phantom monkeys to protect us from the alien war machines," Ron said in a way that seemed more like a request not to be yelled at than an answer.

"And Wade will tell me how to get into the vault." Zita said.

"Yup," Ron confirmed.  Then Ron turned to Penny and asked, "Think you can provide air support?"

"If I can get there," Penny said.  Ron detected a touch of impatience in her voice and maybe some annoyance at the question being asked.

"How long do you think you can hold out?" Ron asked. "These things may prefer to smash things, but they've got those disintegration rays too so you will be under fire."

"I should be good for a while, the twins installed a shield based off the one in Kim's supersuit."

That caused heated discussion between the twins and Wade.  Wade didn't appreciate people looking at his top secret designs.

A few attempts were made to get them to calm down, but it was Bonnie who got through, "GUYS!  This is not the time."

Ron wrote an address in her notebook, tore out the page, and gave it to Felix, "Can you get her," she said, pointing at Penny, "To this--"

"Hey," Penny said.  "At least introduce us first."

Ron stood back, "Felix, Penny.  Penny, Felix.  Felix, can you safely get Penny to that address?"

"Easier than I can beat you in Zombie Mayhem," Felix said.

"You're sure?" Ron asked.  "You've seen the things that are out there right?"

"I'm sure," Felix said, and turned around so the back of his wheelchair was facing Penny.  "Hop on."

Penny studied it for a moment before figuring out how one was supposed to 'hop on.'  She eventually realized that a bar near the bottom could be used as a footrest, while one where near the top of the seat-back could be used as a hand hold.  By the time Penny got on, Zita had surprised Felix with a hug.  As soon as the hug ended Felix sped away with Penny.

Zita went over to get advice from Wade on cracking the vault.

Ron turned to Joss.  "Think you're up for saving the world?"

"You got it," Joss said.

Ron started scribbling something else in her notebook.  "There's a very special car... SUV actually.  Her name is SADI.  She's artificially intelligent, self driving, and she has disintegrator ray the size of a cannon."

"You think the disintegrator ray will help?" Joss asked.

"It couldn't hurt," Ron said.  "Just ... be careful.  I don't exactly feel good about sending a twelve year old out under these conditions," in fact Ron considered the possibility she might be going to Hell for it, "but I've seen your moves, and you are a Possible."

"I can do it," Joss said.

"I know you can."

As soon as Joss was out of earshot, Monique asked, "Easiest mission?"

Ron nodded but then said, "It still would be safer to have kept her here."

"What have you got for us, Ronnie?" Bonnie asked.

"You've been going on about how you're just as good as Kim since middle school, and you've been on a mission with her so you've got a pretty good idea of what it's like when she's in mission mode.  Is it true Bon-Bon, are you on her level?"

"Stoppable," she said, with a hard edge in her voice and an unstated threat behind it.

"Because if you're not there is no way I'm sending you out to do this."

"Whatever the mission, Ronnie, I can handle it," Bonnie said.

"I need you to deliver a message," Ron said.

"That's it?" Monique asked before Bonnie could respond herself.

"Not on a rocket powered scooter, not with the help of Felix's flying combat-ready chair, and definitely not a short distance like Joss," Ron said.  "I need someone to get to the other side of Middleton... the outskirts of the other side of Middleton, probably on foot."

"Where and who?" Bonnie asked.

"You'll love it," Ron said with obvious sarcasm.  "It's degrading, disgusting, dirty, and involving things that even Kim can't cope with."

"Sounds wonderful Ronnie," Bonnie said.  "Where do I go, who do I deliver the message to, and what is the message."

"You're going to the dump,"

"Great," Bonnie said, the sarcasm slathered on thick.

Ron pulled out Alex's mp3 player.  "I wanted things to be simple you'll need to play two files so I named the first one R-1 and the second one R-2."

"Ronda One, Ronda Two?" Bonnie asked.

"Sure, why not?" Ron said.  "Play the first one until he comes.  You'll know it's him because he's a lot smaller than the others, about this big," Ron indicated a size in the range of large house cat/small dog.  "Once he's there, play R-2 and he should recruit the big ones to our side.  It'll be nice to have some giants working for us."

"Giant what?" Bonnie asked. "Who am I giving this message to?"

"I think it's better if you don't know," Ron said, "and remember, if you don't freak out, you'll have done something even Kim couldn't do."

"Ronnie, you're starting to piss me off," Bonnie said.

"Just remember, save the world and prove you're better than Kim," Ron said.

Bonnie growled, but got ready to leave.

"I'm going with you," Monique said.

Ron objected, "Mo, you've been on, like, one mission."

"Same as Bonnie," Monique said.

"She's an athlete," Ron said.

"And what were you when you and Kim started?" Monique asked.

"Someone those things out there would tear apart," Ron said.

"I am not letting my girlfriend do this alone," Monique said, "You said it was the most dangerous mission you've given out, she's going to need help."

Ron looked at the determination in Monique's eyes and realized that she couldn't be talked out of it, so she simply grabbed Monique in a hug and, "Stay safe."

They disengaged and Bonnie and Monique were about to leave when Ron said, "Wait.  I meant to ask this when everyone was still here, but I never got around to it.  Can either of you think of any way that a magic sword or about a dozen monkey ninjas could possibly be useful in this situation?"

Monique and Bonnie just looked at each other.

Ron sighed, "That's what I figured.  Good luck."

* * *

The adult scientists had joined Tim, Jim, Wade, and Justine in planning unconventional defenses against the alien war machines.  Several other people had skills that were being put to use in constructing the school's defenses.

Ron and Mr. Doctor Possible were ready to head to the Middleton Space Center.

Ron had promised to stop by to see Tara before they left, and James Possible wanted to see Ann Possible.  So the two of them headed back to the gym.

* * *

Mrs Stoppable finished double checking the various lists: Graduation Students, Staff, Family, photographers.  Then she reported, "Okey Doke, everyone is accounted for."

"And handling the crisis well," Ann responded.

It was at this moment that Mr. Barkin reached one of the loud stages of his breakdown.  Crying out and just plain crying.

Ann Possible watched as her mother-in-law approached the teacher.

"Now, just listen to Nana.  These kids need to see adults who are brave and strong."

"You want me to pull myself together?" Barkin asked.

"No, I want you hide in the nurse's office until this whole business blows over."

Even though she thought it was a bit harsh, Ann couldn't help but smile at her mother-in-law's method of dealing with the situation.

She was pulled away from thinking about that by Alex and Tara.

"Mrs. Doctor Possible," Alex said.

"Now that we've finished the headcount," Tara said.

"And patched up any scrapes and whatnot," Alex said.  Ann reflected on that.

It had been a relief to find that there hadn't been any major wounds.  The injuries were all minor and had been caused by the panic, not the attack.  If anything it seemed like the invasion was going out of its way to spare people and instead attacking infrastructure and buildings.

Then she noticed the teens staring at her expectantly.

"Sorry, I spaced out for a moment," Ann Possible said.

"What do we do now?" Tara asked, Ann assumed Tara was repeating something she had asked before.

"I'm not sure," Ann admitted.  "It's not good for everyone to be cooped up in here with nothing to do but think about what's going on outside.  Do you girls have any ideas on how to keep people's minds occupied?"

"I think I know where the Chess Club keeps supplies," Tara ventured.

"I could scrounge around for CDs and play them over the school's PA system," Alex said.

"Those are great ideas," Ann told the girls.  "Do it."

* * *

The garage had been smashed half open, so Joss went right in.

"Um, hello.  I've been sent here to find a car named Sadi."

"Who are you?" a voice asked.

"I'm Joss Posssible, Kim's cousin.  Ron Stoppable sent me," Joss said.

A car pulled forward out of the darkness, "I'm Sadie," the car said.

Joss explained how Kim had been abducted, survivors were taking shelter in the high school, and the alien war machines were immune to conventional weapons.

Sadi told Joss to get in --Joss took the driver's seat-- and said that her disintegrater ray was unconventional.

* * *

Felix landed his chair in the ruins of Timothy North's mansion.  After a bit of rubble searching Penny found the entrance to the Ferret Hole.

The two found Mr. North waiting for them in cavernous lair.

"I know the rules about letting people in here," Penny said, "but I wouldn't have made it here with out him, he's a hero in his own right, and Stoppable vouched for him."

Before Mr. North had a chance to respond, something clicked in Felix.  "You're the Fearless Ferret!" he shouted.  Ron's love for the show had rubbed on on Felix as well.

"Correction, I was the Fearless Ferret," Mr. North said.  "Now, she is," he said pointing at Penny.

Felix looked around the Ferret Hole. "So you really did spend your savings bring the stuff from the show to life?" he asked.

Mr. North nodded.  "I spent a long time in my own world.  After I reconnected with reality, it seemed like it was a waste not to put the things I had built to good use."

"The gadgets and vehicles worked like they did in the show when he built them," Penny said.  "For more than three years Kim's brothers have been upgrading everything."

Felix's eyes widened.  "No wonder Ron thought it was so important to get you here."

Penny turned to Mr. North, "I'm taking out the Ferret Flier, can you stay here and direct me to where I'm most needed."

Mr. North nodded.

"Felix," Penny asked, "can you help?"

"Sure," Felix said, rolling up to the main computer terminal.

* * *

I forgot to show Larry arriving at his destination, so I wrote that up here.

* * *

"So," Bonnie said, "we're at the dump."

She and Monique were worn out.  They'd been scraped and slashed at.  They'd narrowly dodged disintegration rays and come close to being crushed by the mammoth legs of the war machines so many times they lost count.

"Yeah," Monique said as she caught her breath.  "We're at the dump."

"Stoppable better be right about this being worth it."

"I'm more worried about what it is that we're going to find here," Monique said with a shudder.

"Apparently giants, but giant what?"

"Remember the thing with the zombie snowmen?"

Bonnie put the first message, which seemed like nonsense, on repeat and started to chant, "Please don't let it be toxic monsters made out of living trash, please don't let it be trash monsters, please don't let it be trash monsters, please don't let it..."

At first, nothing seemed to happen, then "Ahh!" Monique screamed.  "Look at the size of that thing!"

While she didn't find the giant cockroach particularly endearing, Bonnie did not panic.  Instead she evaluated the size of it and judged it to be about the same size as Stoppable had said "he" would be.  She played the second message.

The giant cockroach looked up at her, gave her a salute with one of its forelimbs, and turned to the dump.  It made some sort of animated speech in cockroach, and suddenly massive piles of garbage began to stir.  The "giant" cockroach the size of a small dog was nothing compared to the beasts that responded to its call.

The smaller ones were the size of cars.  The larger ones were as buildings.

"Ok," Bonnie said, "she was right about them being giant."

"This is so wrong," Monique said. "And sick.  Wrongsick.  Sick and wrong."

One of the behemoths, about as long as a bus, approached the two young women and the dog sized cockroach, then settled into the garbage in front of them.  The dog sized roach climbed on its back and motioned for the humans to do the same.

Monique was petrified, but Bonnie walked forward with a crooked smile on her face.  She helped Monique along and told her, "Just remind yourself that we're saving the world here."

Three minutes and thirty five seconds later the roach army made its first contact with the alien war machines.

* * *

Zita looked over her notes a final time.  She'd employed a strategy that helped with word problems in math: translate into a language you know.  For her it was game stats.  She'd also used the same for cooking; it had been Ron's idea to not think of a recipe as a way to make, for example, cake in reality, but instead as a potion to be brewed in Everlot.

She then did a final check of critical points in the book to make sure that she hadn't had any transcription errors when creating her notes.

She took a deep breath, held it for a second, and then let it out.

She reminded herself that the entire world was in jeopardy, and then spoke the incantation summon the phantom monkey army.

A purple vortex shot upward, obliterating the library roof then stretching beyond sight, and from it came giant red figures with glowing yellow eyes.  Their upper-bodies like those of monkeys, save for their mouths that were nothing but sharp ethereal teeth surrounding gaping maws.  Their lower bodies lacked form, like flame they flickered and transformed and never ceased to change.

To these, Zita gave two commands: protect earth life; destroy the alien war machines.

* * *
The battle of Middleton had begun.


Monday, April 27, 2015


Took the long way home so I could stop by the pharmacy.  I was able to fill all but one of my medications, which is a good thing because it means that things have finally aligned so I don't have to come again and again because things are restricted on refilling before too soon.

(Also, annoying revelation, the four days of medication I had to buy when I was out of my insurance area cost as much as nine months of the same meds would have had my insurance extended to that area.)

That's not what the post is about.

There was no snow, obviously.

The grass was green.  There was a softball game.  The mallards have returned to the pond.  Canada Geese too.

It rained on me, when I didn't bring a coat, and I did not freeze.  Wasn't even chilly.

The giant grass that looks like bamboo but isn't bamboo (it's significantly smaller, though still giant for grass) is starting to push up through the paved path again as part of nature's endless war with human made boundaries.

The vacant lot is verdant but not yet overgrown.

The day is long, I'd have been in deep darkness otherwise.

Taking the long way home really showed me the signs that the seasons truly are changing.  It's not just another trick the fractured climate is playing on us all.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Being more than a Simulacrum (A Kim Possible fan fiction) (part 8)

[Link to part 1]

Wade couldn't shake the feeling he was being followed. It was true that he'd made a lot of progress on dealing with his agoraphobia, but sometimes he had relapses. Moments when the fear and the insecurity came crashing back in.

Paranoia did not help him deal with such moments. It made things many times worse because the best way to deal with a relapse was to find a place to himself where he could calmly work through it before having to face people, but if he were being tracked by someone with ill intent, being alone would be what they wanted. His fear of being out amoung people was an irrational fear. His fear of being abducted was a rational one.

His therapist had recommended some meta-cognition exercises. If you can't stop thinking about what makes you afraid, she had said, think about thinking. Look at the way you were thinking in a manner entirely divorced from what you were actually thinking about and then, with that level of abstraction, try to work on the problem.

Unfortunately Wade found himself thinking about how fast his fear was increasing. Linear? Exponential? Definitely not linear. In fact it was getting worse so fast... Factorial!

He had to find a place to be alone before he had a panic attack.

He took a side street and ducked into an alley. Alone at last he started to do breathing exercises.

“Hey, Wade.” He didn't even process the words at first, the mere unexpected noise sent a jolt through him. “Are you ok?”

He looked up to see someone rush over to him, a look of concern on her very familiar face.

“Kim?” He asked.

“Not exactly, but... I thought you got over your fears.”

“And Ron thought he got over his fear of monkeys, and of camps, and of bugs.”

Not-exactly-Kim nodded. “How is the giant mutant cockroach population doing?”

“Happy at the dump, last I heard,” Wade said. Thinking about giant mutant cockroaches was taking his mind off his previous fear. “If you're not exactly Kim, then...”

“I'm a clone of Kim that has most of her memories, sorry about scaring you.”

“That tends to happen when you follow people without warning,” Wade said, he tried to be angry, but his heart wasn't in it. The clone seemed genuinely apologetic and she had Kim's features to back it up.

“I couldn't exactly call out, 'Hey, Wade, over here!' and maintain a low profile.”

“Why are you maintaining a low profile?”

“Because Kim doesn't know I exist yet and there are things I want to sort out before I let her know.”

“Then why come to me?” Wade asked. “I work with Kim almost constantly.”

“Because I need someone to check that there's no mind control stuff in my head,” the clone said as if it were obvious.

“And you think I can do that because...”

“It took you all of two seconds to scan Shego's brain during the reverse polarizer incident, you did it by remote, and without her knowledge or consent. I'm sure that if we head back to your lab you can get much better, far more detailed, results for me.”

“And how do I know this isn't a plot to locate my lab, uh...” Wade realized he had no idea what to call the clone.

“Leela. Leela Place Possible,” she said. “And you don't. How could you know when I don't know?”

“Ok, that's a good point,” Wade conceded.

“So, brainscan?” Leela asked. “Then we'll both know if there are any evil plots afoot. At least ones involving me.”

“Ok,” Wade said. “Follow me,” he said, emphasizing it with a gesture.

It turned out to be a mistake, he wasn't ready to face the masses of humanity yet. But when panic started to set in as they reached a main street, he felt a reassuring hand on his shoulder. It was, he knew, a conclusion reached entirely without rational grounds –manipulation and honest support were impossible to tell apart with such little evidence– but he felt like Leela was a good person after all.

* * *

Place still wasn't used to 'Leela' as a name. She figured if she told enough people to call her that she'd get used to it, maybe before she returned to the lair. Of course, back at the lair, everyone already knew her as 'Place'.

She followed the thirteen year old super genius to his house and realized that she had no memories of ever being there.

“Has Kim ever been to your house?” Place asked.

“No, Leela, she hasn't,” Wade said.

Above ground the house was fairly normal. Three levels of security later and they were in Wade's room, underneath the house. Place looked around with eyes wide for it was, hands down, the single most impressive lair she had ever seen.

She looked at a workbench that included regular tools and instruments that Drakken only dreamed of. She pointed to a partially finished work inside a light saber prop and asked, “Still turning toys into tech?”

“As fun as it is, not so much. I abandoned that one over a year ago.”

Place took a closer look: mirco air compressor, carbon fiber cable, three setting fire mode, adjustable speed retraction and release. It was a new grappler, and it looked nearly complete.

Place, “Why'd you abandon it? The tech looks solid.”

“It is,” Wade said. “I started it because the hairdryer grappling hook launcher looked a little bit too much like a gun for some people's comfort.”

“It was a gun,” Place said. “The only reason it was a safe gun was that Kim knew better than to point it at people.”

“Anyway, after I built the new Kimmunicator with a grappling hook inside of it, there wasn't much call for it.”

Place thought back to that point in her memories. “And it was when Team Possible was trying to grow up. Ron decided to stop being a goofy mascot and be a football player. They both got jobs, Ron was suddenly an older brother. Kim updated her look for the first time in forever. Things started to seem more serious. Shiny new tech like the wrist communicator and grapple was in. Reused toy casings were out.”

“How many of Kim's memories do you have?” Wade asked.

“I think all of them from before the genetic sample that created me was taken. I run out shortly after the Possible house was declared fully reconstructed.”

“How do you have Kim's memories?” Wade asked.

“The going theory is magic,” Place told him.

“Magic?” Place detected a hint of skepticism in Wade's voice. She didn't think it was appropriate.

“Four statues give mystical monkey power, prophecy correctly predicts when a monarchy becomes a democracy, magic amulet turns someone into an giant anthropomorphic Jackal, magic amulet turns someone into a monkey, magic sword carves a school in--”

“I get the point!”

She hadn't meant to make Wade angry, but at the same time, she was feeling a bit annoyed herself, “I didn't even get to the part where Drakken was possessed by a ghost pirate.”

“Just because magic exists, doesn't mean that something strange is a result of magic.”

“Very true, but no one has yet been able to figure out how science could possibly support the idea that a tissue sample, which was not even a brain tissue sample, could reproduce memories,” Place said as she looked around the cavernous room. “Is this the part where you did the holo-vacations?” she asked.

“Yes, I thought you wanted a brain scan.”

“I do; this place is just so amazing,” Place said, taking another look around. Part of it was clearly a giant internet routing station, there were machines she'd need to study years to understand, there was a gaming set up with immersion caps, presumably with the whole “trapped in virtual reality” bug overcome. There were some recovered evil devices including ... “Is that Ron's plasma catapult?”

“Brain scan?” Wade asked. He was clearly becoming increasingly agitated, probably from having a stranger in his inner sanctum.

“Just one more question,” Place said.

“What is it?”

“Am I imagining things, or is this room larger than the house above it?”

“I won't be able to tell if you're imagining things until I run the scan, but the room occupies the entire plot while the house, obviously, doesn't.”

“Neat,” Place said, “So, how will the scanning work?”

Wade pulled out a familiar blue device. Place was confused.

“The old Kimmunicator?” She asked. “You'd already replaced it by the time you did the scan on Shego. Why use inferior tech?”

“I never stopped upgrading it.”

“Even though Kim was never going to use it?”

“Call it a hobby,” Wade said with a shrug.

Wade had her sit in a chair and scanned her head from multiple angles.

“It'll take about 18 hours for my software to analyze the data,” Wade told her, “but I can already tell you that there are no control chips or other foreign objects in your head.”

“So... I've got nothing to do until tomorrow,” Place said. “What are you doing for the next few hours?”

“Why?” Wade asked, there was completely unnecessary suspicion in his tone.

“I noticed the immersion caps,” Place said. “Everlot?”

“You want to play Everlot?” Wade asked.

Place shrugged. “I'm trying to try new things-- well, everything is new to me. New to Kim things. Things that she never really gave a chance, but might enjoy if she did.” Wade simply looked at her. “Otherwise, I figure I'll just end up walking in her footsteps. I don't want to do that; I want my own personality. So, while I make no promises, I'm open to trying Everlot.”

“Ok...” Wade said.

* * *

“Hey, Zita, Felix,” Place said without thinking.

“Kim?” They said in near unison, both with a fair amount of surprise.

“Actually, I'm Leela.”

“She's Kim's clone,” Wade said.

Place facepalmed. The immersion cap, of course, meant that she did it in the game. “I told you I wasn't telling people that yet.”

“They'd want to know why you knew their names,” Wade said, “and I'm not planning on lying for a clone I just met.”

Place sighed.

“Leela Place Possible,” she told Felix and Zita, “I'm Kim's clone who has most of her memories, but I haven't told Kim I exist yet because I'm trying to work out some personal stuff first.”

“Personal stuff?” Zita asked.

“Well, right now I'm awaiting the results of a brain-scan to tell me if there's any sort of mind control type stuff going on in my head.”

“So...” Felix said.  “Your life is about as normal as Kim's.”

“So far,” Place said.

“Does Ron know about you?” Felix asked.

Place was actually uneasy about that point. Kim was a special case, and that was how she justified holding off on telling Kim. Ron wasn't a special case. He was basically family. Concerns about Kim dating Ron aside, he'd spent so much of his life in the Possible household that he might as well be related.

But, there was the obvious thing that stopped her from telling Ron, “I want to, but... but telling Ron is tantamount to telling Kim and I am definitely not ready for dealing with Kim.”

“So, if you're keepin' a low profile,” Zita said, “why'd you come to the most popular MMO on earth?”

“Two reasons,” Place said, “first there are plenty of people who look like Kim when run through Everlot's your-face-on-your-character algorithm so I wasn't expecting it to come up –I didn't think before saying, “Hi,” to you– and second I'm sort of on a mission to try new things.

“I don't want to be a copy of Kim, and I figure if I'm open to new things I'll find some I like that she's never gotten into, and that'll give me a basis for forming my own identity.”

“So how do you like Everlot?” Felix asked.

“I could really use a group of powerful people to tag along with until I level up,” Place said. She considered, and rejected, the idea of employing the electronic version of a puppy-dog-pout.

“Join the party,” Zita said.

“You in, Wade?” Felix asked.

“Definitely,” Wade said.

“So, Felix,” Place said, “I didn't think this was your kind of game.”

“He plays this with me; I play Zombie Mayhem with him,” Zita explained.

“It's really growing on me,” Felix said.

“And I'm liking Zombie Mayhem a lot more than I once did,” Zita said.

“That's sweet,” Place said. “And neat. Good for both of you.”

Place found herself feeling good about three things. First, the ease with which people were accepting her. Second, that her friends, for she thought of them that way even though she knew they were Kim's friends, were in a happy relationship. Third, that she was going to have some heavy hitters help her move passed being a knave in a hurry. Wade would have been a great help on his own, but Zita was the undisputed queen of Everlot.

Except for when it was fun to dispute it. Events were held, of course, but it was hard to imagine anyone ever surpassing Zita's legend.

Without warning, Zita and Felix spoke as one, “Wade, do you think that you could...” and then they stopped when each realized they were talking over the other.

Place smiled and said, “Somebody owes somebody a soda.”

“If you're wondering about a Zombie Mayhem Everlot crossover...” Wade said.

“How did you...” Felix and Zita said in stereo again.

Place just smiled and followed the group as they walked toward whatever quest Zita and Felix had been headed to before they bumped into each other.

* * *

Wade exited the game, soon followed by Leela.

“I can't believe she gave me the sword of Elsinore,” Leela said. “Isn't that like a Hamlet reference or something?”

There was something infectious about the girl's enthusiasm.

“It's a pretty impressive item,” Wade said. “I think you've made a friend.”

Leela perked up at that statement, but then suddenly looked down again, “I just hope that they don't tell Kim about me before I'm ready for that.”

Wade didn't understand.

“Why do you need to be ready?” Wade asked. “What's the big deal?”

“You've hacked into her diary and read stuff that she hasn't shared with anyone,” Leela said in a way that made Wade feel like he was going to have to deflect some kind of attack any moment. None came. “I have her memories, most of them anyway. I know about things so personal she never put them in the diary. I have access to everything.” Leela paused. “Well, everything up to a point. We already got into that.

“The point is, it's a different situation. I know her better than anyone else ever could, and I have some strong feelings as a result of that,” Leela said with a dark tone. “Everything that feels like mine --my memories, my personality, friends I remember having, things I remember owning, experiences I remember … uh, experiencing-- that's all hers.

“And she never chose to share it.”

“Ok,” Wade said, more in response to the tone the conversation had taken than the words that were actually spoken. “Well the results of the brain-scan should be in by tomorrow morning.”

“Ok,” Leela said, as she started to walk toward the stairs that would lead her to the ground floor and out of the house. Her shoulders were slumped as she walked. Looking at her go Wade felt sorry for her.

“Hey,” he said.

Leela turned back. Well, she half turned, looked at Wade, and said, “Yeah?” in a way that wasn't quite a question despite the intonation.

“Today,” Wade said, “making friends with Felix and Zita, fighting that dragon, taking on the killer plants. That was all yours. Not Kim's. Yours. It all belongs to you, and you alone.”

Leela cracked a smile. Wade wasn't sure if she was faking it or not.

When she said, “Thanks, Wade,” he knew that it had been a real smile.

She started to walk out again, but stopped. Then she turned all the way around and said, “I haven't figured out where I'm staying tonight yet. Could I crash here?”

Visions of puppy-dog-pout played in Wade's mind. “You can stay here on one condition.”

“What's the condition?” Leela asked.

“Never, ever, use the puppy-dog-pout on me,” Wade said while trying not to shudder.

“Deal.” Leela said.


[Kim Possible Index]


Exactly what kind of a slip is it when you write:

“So, brainscan?” Leela asked. “Then we'll both know if there are any evil thoughts afoot.”

instead of:

“So, brainscan?” Leela asked. “Then we'll both know if there are any evil plots afoot.”


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

There are birth stories and there are birth stories. (Image Post)

[Added in 2015] My nephew was born two years ago today.  I started this post, got distracted, never finished, tried to get back to it a year ago, but apparently failed as I'm told it was last edited on 4/26/13.  Have to get it done today or he'll be speaking English before I finish. [/Added in 2015]


My mother has never been one of those "beautiful miracle of birth" people, and so no one was taking video while she was giving birth.

Her only regret on this front is that people are forced to take her at her word regarding my sister's birth and generally they don't.  My sister, you see, was airborne.

This was back in a time when they had you in stirrups and it was in a place where a) there were a lot of medical students and b) most of the patients had something going wrong.

The first part of the story is a dream, prophetic in nature.  She dreamt that my sister was born, took a look around, and said, "I don't like it."  Like I said, prophetic.

In the dream my mother was amazed, the doctor was unimpressed saying something like, "Most of them can speak when they first come out, they just forget how afterward."

Part two of the story was when my mother was clearly on the way to giving birth and a call went out over the intercom, "Natural birth in room [whatever room she was in.]"  And so, she had an audience of every medical student in a position to come.  (Remember, most people there were having problems, so there weren't a lot of opportunities for the med students to see a natural birth.)

Part the next is when the birth didn't go according to plan, taking longer than expected the doctor decided to do a procedure to make the whole thing more quick and smooth.  My mother asked if she should still push, the doctor said whatever (that's not a lack of knowledge, he told her to do whatever she wanted), and then comes the part people don't believe.

My mother pushed and my sister popped out in one go, and was airborne long enough to miss the doctor's hands, waiting to catch her, and instead hit him in the shoulder.  From there she fell to his leg, and at that point the doctor's quick reflexes kicked in to catch her before she could fall to the ground.

He turned to the audience of medical students and said, "Normally I don't like to deliver them that fast."

They laughed the laugh that means, "I don't find that funny but I know I'm supposed to laugh and this is awkward enough as it is without the dead silence that would come if I didn't laugh."


She was born with a circular mark between her eyes, where the nose meets the forehead.  (This we do have photographic proof of.)  Originally the medical people said it would be gone in days, then weeks, then months.  If you know where to look and you look hard enough in good lighting, you can see that it remains to this day.  (It's much faded now, but still there.  Also, it didn't grow with her so it has gotten smaller relative to her face as her face got objectively larger with age.)

It was her reset button.  It served a useful purpose when it came to her because when something went wrong and she was upset and crying she'd be told to push her reset button and then everything would be all right.  What's more impressive to me than using psychological trickery to improve how she felt is that other people would go along with it.  If something went wrong (even not with her) and she pushed the red spot and said, "Reset," the adults involved would go along with the fantasy and act like whatever went wrong hadn't gone wrong.  They would return to (at least the outward appearance of) how they were feeling and acting before the problem.

Anyway, moving on.


When my mother was pregnant with me she kept on telling her doctor, "This feels like it's a month early," and the doctor would respond by explaining that she'd been through one birth, he'd overseen many, he knew what he was talking about.

This is how I almost ended up Canadian: my mother was told there was a month to go, and so traveled, and a few days before I was born she was in Canada.

Anyway, then I was born. (In Albany, New York.  God knows what generation of Mainer I am, I possibly even have tribal roots in the state, and I was born in the capital of New York.  Something fucked up there.)

My dad begged the doctor not to go home that night; doctor didn't listen.  But my dad was able to get some nurses in the room.  Or at least one.  I'm hazy on numbers here.

Part of my dad's reasoning was my sister's birth, the dilation wasn't linear.  Instead of, "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, here comes the baby," it was, if I remember his description right, "One, two, four, baby."  So once dilation started it was quick.

This might be a good time to point out that my mother is one of those for whom pregnancy was not excruciating.  It was effort, not pain.  My sister, unfortunately, did not take after that.  We'll get to that.

Ok, so, doctor could not be convinced to stay, nurse could.  Nurse knew enough to know when to call in a doctor.  Not my mother's doctor; whoever was in the hospital.  The pattern repeated in terms of dilation but unlike my sister's, my birth was not almost unbelievably energetic.  I slept through it.

Because I was asleep I was limp.  My father thought I was dead when he saw the nurses carrying me.  It was only when they jabbed me in the foot (not sure if it was an injection or to take blood) that I made a response.  According to my dad it was a relatively laid back, "'ey," accompanied by a turn of my head toward the offending stabbiness.  And then I returned to the important business of sleeping.

(I wish I could get to sleep or back to sleep that easily today.)

The doctor instructed a nurse, "Call her doctor.  Tell him that he missed it," short pause, "and that he can't count."

For you see I was born a month ahead of my due date, but full term, perhaps even a bit late.  My mother had been right about everything being a month earlier than the doctor's due date implied because the doctor's due date was a month later than it should have been.

Another thing about my birth that gets told a lot is the amount of fluid that came out with me.  The description of people moving around the room post-birth is always, "Sloshing."


We have photographic evidence to back up neither of those stories.  And, in fairness, we have photographic evidence of Jensen's birth neither.  But what we do have is evidence of what happened surrounding Jensen's birth and, frankly, there's no way anyone would believe it without it.

My sister had a bad cold, on the way out, when she came to the maternity ward.  They ran some checks and said, basically, "You're staying."

So my mom and I showed up when we could, and then were held hostage until her friends brought her laptop and equipment to hook it up to the TV.  It later turned out that hooking up to the TV was impossible, somehow the ability to change input sources was disabled, probably because most people hitting that button would have done it accidentally and then been stuck without TV.

One of the things that was on TV in this time was a show about what's picked up on cops dashcams.  One of the things was someone delivering a baby in what looked like the back of an SUV.

Anyway, I didn't learn until later but this was actually her due date.

She didn't tell us till, I think, the day after she gave birth that she had been due the day before.  By then they'd refined things and guestimated 5 PM Tuesday Monday.

So Monday Sunday was just coming in, keeping her company, that sort of thing.  And later being held hostage until she her friends brought her laptop.  See she had a bunch of DVDs.

At this point they were all in a backpack my father had brought for my sister which also included poker chips, cribbage, and dominoes.  Presumably playing cards too.

Later they would form a stack, so here you can see the movies brought for my sister:

For those who don't want to read an image:
Young Frankenstein
Blazing Saddles
Star Wars (The original Trilogy but in Chinese packaging for reasons I know not, I'd just go here.)
Big Trouble in Little China
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Firefly the complete series.
Pirates of the Caribbean (the only one that matters)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (movie, not TV Series)
The American President

[2015 writing] So here's one of the first pictures at this point:

What you can see there is my sister, uncomfortable, with her sidekick.  He sidekick is a purple unicorn named "Sidekick".

We gave support and comfort as possible, but mostly we were being held hostage while the laptop was enroute.

At one point my sister disappeared and only sidekick remained.

If you're having difficulty making out the head on the body in that bed, here's a close up from a slightly different angle.

Cute, right?

That's the end of Sunday.

On to Monday:

When we got there, were with her for a little while, but she wasn't well.  The new age optimist in the room was wrong.  So were the doctors.  She shouldn't have listened to her body.  Remember way back when I said that non-painful childbirth is apparently not hereditary?

I was there to hold her hand, hug her, or do whatever I could to help, but only when I was actually in the room.  A lot of the day was spent waiting.

Lots of waiting.

I took up a new art form, the self portrait in a curved mirror:

That one's next to an exit sign, if you were wondering what the red thing is.

We made strange revelations:

We naturally felt somewhat perturbed at learning that we could have been wearing improper attire (we never passed that point, we never wanted to) if anyone had bothered to let us know that was ok.

This is apparently the universal wordless symbol indicating that a baby has been delivered in the room:

I think the mothers would probably argue that it's somewhat more difficult than that.

Two and a half hours later we were allowed back in the room.  I'm not going to show a picture of my sister at this point because she was the most photogenic, and she had good cause to not be.

So look at some lights:

Now is when we start to talk about my sister's friends.

Though first you have to understand my sister a bit.  My sister wanted a natural childbirth, she didn't get it, and to be wearing a cape or other superhero adornment while giving birth.  All her friends were to be heroes too.

So, enter friends:

Yes, he is flying.  No, I do not know how I managed to capture this exact moment.

The four heroes

These are the heroes who aren't wearing an (actual) gas mask AND a colander with antlers attached

Some people are too big to be gotten in a single shot.
Click either for larger image.

Now you might, at this point, be asking yourself why flying man in deer skins with a colander hat that has antlers on it happens to have a banjo that's got cardboard on it to make it look like an electric guitar.  Perfectly reasonable question.

When my sister the hero gave birth she wanted her hero friends, in costume of course, to break into song.  Two songs, actually.  (Consecutive, not concurrent.)

One was "I would walk 500 miles"

They flubbed the words.  Nobody's perfect.  Next song:

That's the problem with being overly decked out is that it can mess things up when your antlers fall off.  They didn't even get to singing it.  It's been so long that I don't remember if they managed to pull together and sing it later or not.  I suspect not because I would have tried to videotape it even if I missed the start.

Now, you're probably also wondering why I haven't shown our four heroes standing together in a single shot.  Here you go:

Originally I was going to use a different shot (I have three nearly identical versions of this one) but I wanted to emphasise the fake sword that Antler Man has.  Why?

Real sword:

I remember it being hard as hell to get a picture of her sword.  It is a real sword.  It is not a sharp sword.  It's also not quite as long as the scabbard would lead you to believe.  You see, she happens to be a sword swallower.

That's not all she does.

I didn't remember us talking about her doing stuff with fire.  That's ... strangely appropriate in retrospect.  I guess all that you need to know right now is that being a fire juggler doesn't mean that you are adept in all areas of fire safety.

Trouble would come to the maternity ward in the form of people doing very stupid things with devices that were not meant for them.

Enter this guy who I can't for the life of me remember who he is:

It's entirely possible that he had legitimate cause to use that wheelchair.  I don't remember.  What I do remember is this, which is initially out of focus because my camera wanted to be dramatic:

Into focus:

The wheelchairs have been deployed by people who definitely don't need them.  Still, not a big problem.  At the moment no one is using them, and it's not like they would--

JESUS FUCK! They're doing wheelchair races in the halls.  What kinds of superheroes are these people?

My sister, in her wisdom, offers a solution (which I only caught on tape because I thought we were going for a musical interlude):

When you get caught using wheelchairs for disreputable purposes, borrow someone's artificial leg to pretend that you have a sort of reason to be in it even though that still wouldn't justify racing in the halls.

That is definitely my family.

We had to leave again.

Talking about the goings on sort of leaves out something important, my sister had really suffered.  In the morning her body wanted to push, but it wasn't ready to push.  There were times when she desperately needed a hand to hold on to.  Most of the time it was my mother's hand, but sometimes it was mine.

I was ... morally unsure of whether or not I should go to a class I had that day.

Also, there was no telling when the birth might happen.  The pushing before ready had caused things to slow down, but that was ending and the expected hour was drawing near.

This was the view of my school from the ward.  It's the white thing sticking up on the left side at the back (that's actually the law building and administrative offices):

I took a couple pictures before going:

I don't even remember what class it was.

Two hours later I was back.  If you want to understand the kinds of friends my sister has, realize that this is how I responded to the question of what route I took:

I went through the hole in the chain link fence by the railroad tracks, took them to the intersection where  where the people are looking to buy pot --no; buy not sell-- then followed the disused road that goes by the prison until it meets up with the other railroad tracks, then took those over the abandoned bridge, behind the ball field, and into the school.

And their response was complete and utter understanding of exactly what I was talking about.

The chain-link fence has since been replaced with a new one.  That's like begging people with wire cutters to show up.

Anyway, when I got back they still hadn't been let in the room.  Everyone was waiting anxiously for any news.  Well, almost everyone.  The father had wandered off for a smoke.

So, more waiting.

How much waiting?  I hope you don't have a slow connection.

The annoying thing is that I feel sure that at some point I used this useless time to snag a picture or two of the sword swallower's sword.  Can't find anything.

[/ added in 2015]

At some point in all of this reality itself got sick of the waiting and began to warp.  You may think I'm joking but this is an undoctored picture through an unwarped window taken with no special features.  And no, I didn't twist the camera or anything when taking it.  So, again, reality warp:

I seriously have no idea whatsoever what was responsible for that effect.

[Added in 2015] I was going to talk more about waiting here.  About the disinterest of the father, about how when he was the only one allowed in (so he could be present for the birth) someone had to go off to find him because he couldn't be bothered to stick around.  You might notice I have a low opinion of him.  That opinion has lowered since I wrote the following sentence, days after Jensen's birth [/added in 2015]

The father may have been generally useless, but the friends were not.  He was swaddled in deerskin's by one, for example:

[Added in 2015]

Here's several of us, I think my mother took this picture:

Oh, I don't think I mentioned the name thing.  Jen (my sister) wouldn't tell any of us his name until he was born.  That name: Jensen.  Jensen the son of Jen.

I sang him Beatles songs.  The planned music might not have been preformed, but there was a fair share of music.  My sister coped with the pain of the birth by demanding that my mother sing "Circle Game" in an endless loop.

Eventually we went home.

[/added in 2015]

When we arrived on Tuesday she wasn't quite ready for us yet so there was waiting involved.  I took a series of self portraits with the camera.  This is the first:

This is probably the best:
(Cropped to remove extraneous detail and hide the fact that it's not at all centered)

Pretty blotchy I know.

On this day I remembered to bring the gift I got for Jensen on Buy Lots of Cadbury Eggs Monday.  I'd been rather pissed off at myself given that I'd taken the time to make sure that I knew where it was and could grab it and go and then forgot to bring it the day before.

I thought the next picture was the first appearance it made in the photographic record, but then it occurred to me that the self portraits above all include it, just not very clearly.  Anyway, my gift to Jensen with Jensen's mother:

My sister's sidekick, the purple unicorn known as Side Kick, can be seen in the background.

It was around this time that I remembered to take a picture of my sister's pendant.  See it was a three thing (there's a name for them, I don't know it) like a yin-yang but with three parts, made out of three types of metal, in three different styles.  Three three three.  All about the three is the point.  But then, sometime before Jensen was born, it broke.  And the interesting thing is that if you take a three thing and break off a part of it that separates two of the parts, what you're left with is a two thing, one much bigger than the other.  Like mother and child.

Thus my sister took it as a sign.  A sign of what I do not know, but a sign.

But you probably want me to get to the part where we set the maternity ward on fire.

Well, too bad, here's me and Jensen:

[Added 2015] My therapist has suggested that, in order to be free of the fear of ending up looking like the bearded lady if I'm too long without a razor, I could beg for money for laser hair removal (which I would definitely like) from my loyal blogging audience.  This picture kind of shows why that fear exists.  Unfortunately I need money for other things first.  Like the taxes due next month. [/added in 2015]

Jensen with his bunny and my mother (his grandmother):

You know what only just occurred to me?  It's his bunny.  He gets to name it.  It's not like he was born with the power of speech.  It's gonna be a while before we know what that bunny is called.

My mother made him a hat, there's some debate over whether he's meant to grow into it, whether he was expected to be huge, or whether my mother just didn't pull tight enough when making it.  I'm sure this can be cleared up with a question, but I have not asked at this point.  Here is the hat as it appears on him today:

It may be apparent at this point that I shy away from using flash.  Sometimes that's situational (can't take a self portrait in a mirror if you use flash, can't take a picture out a window, don't want to assault a baby's eyes with a bright light) other times it's just because I take so many pictures that having a flash going off all the time would be annoying.

The point is, a lot of the pictures I took would have come out better with flash, but it would have made me "THAT GUY WHO KEEPS BLINDING US!"

Anyway, in spite of the poor quality of the above you should be able to tell that the hat is nearly as big as Jensen is.

This is his mother in the hat with his matching socks on her hands because... I don't know:

[added in 2015]
This Jensen and bunny, shot is just for scale:

[/ added in 2015]

Jensen and I holding hands:

Then we come to the ukulele concert but since that involved children not of my family, the video and pictures will not be stuck on the internet by me.

I will say that the player was very good, and the song she composed herself was very good as well.  The era of singer songwriter ukulele player can be expected to begin the moment she grows up.

My dad came by:

He noted that Side Kick the purple unicorn had been significantly downgraded during the birthing process.  (I think the story is somewhat more complex than he makes it out to be.  His photographs and mine are obviously both accurate as neither of us doctored them, but each, taken alone, tell a different story.  Mine show Side Kick being downgraded to a more advisory position with the arrival of a baby, his show Side Kick being discarded.  The truth is probably somewhere in between.  Or rather, the truth probably includes both: Side Kick was discarded and then ... um ... recarded.)

Regardless, the comment caused my sister to elevate Side Kick to the position of flying unicorn:

My sister's friends came, bearing a gift of their own:

With flash off (which, again, is my preferred style) you can see how the lighting has changed:

Now the day before my father had said she had a sword and shells, I had no idea what he was talking about.  I did before the end of that night but I never got a good picture after that and looking back through the pictures I realized why I hadn't noticed before: Whenever I was taking pictures of people she was facing the other way.  So I asked her if she'd let me get a shot today, to get a good picture took flash:

What you should notice is that the sword swallower here has casings of various caliber in her belt and also (at least) one on her necklace.

She's going to be important to the story when it eventually progresses.

[Added in 2015] Looking back through the pictures I spotted some pictures where my computer monitor was visible.  What was I looking at?  Pictures from the day before.  Specifically the two of antler man, he'll be back soon, swaddling Jensen in deerskin.  I remember showing those pictures, via my laptop (now, sadly, painfully difficult to use and not travel worthy), to everyone who wasn't there at the time. [/Added in 2015]

Now before antler man showed up, but after my father left, we got set up to project a movie.  Not one from the stack.  The night before my sister had said she wanted *batteries not included and Despicable Me.  I know I recorded both of them, but I could only find *batteries not included so that was it:

Movie all set up the only question was whether or not to wait for antler guy (superhero name: Danger Deer) a call to him said not to wait.  Someone, possibly sword swallower noticed something none of the rest of us did at this point.  The movie was being played on the laptop, which was then routed through the projector which put it on the blinds.  None of this says anything about the volume.  What my sister is doing in the picture while Side Kick flies and the rest of us, Jensen included, are out of the picture is plugging the volume into an ipod speaker thinamajig.

The name on the thingamajig: Jensen.  Seriously, take a look:

And this, dear readers, is where our story can begin.  You see a movie calls for popcorn and there was a microwave in a sort of kitchen area in the hall (where I went for water and everyone else went for coffee) so it was only natural for someone to go out to make some popcorn.

Now, there were several factors at play here:

The sword swallower is very good at what she does which, I believe, includes juggling fire in addition to swallowing swords, what she is not good at is traditional homemaking things, especially those related to preparing food.  She wants to be, she tries to be, she is epicly bad.

It's unfortunate, I think, that she wants to be.  If she were satisfied with what she was good at then she could simply say, "You cook.  I have a sword."  But she wants to be good in areas where, at this time, it produces embarrassing stories which lead people to wonder how it is possible for things to go that wrong.

Second, no one who knew this at the time thought to say, "No, it's ok, I'll make the popcorn."  Seriously, at least half the people in the room knew it (I think precisely half of the not-her people did) and no one spoke up.  If I'd known at the time I would have offered to do the popcorn.

Thing the third: It was an industrial strength microwave.  Things take less time in them.

Things four and five: Apparently it wasn't a brand of microwave popcorn she was used to and it was further a different size than she was used to.

So, with all this in mind, our tragic hero the sword swallower heads out to make popcorn with a pretty solid knowledge of how long a different type and size of popcorn takes in a different microwave.  Specifically she knows that she should be able to put it in the microwave, pop off to the bathroom, and be back in time for the popcorn to be ready.

This does not happen.

In the room we were wondering how it could take that long to make popcorn.  In fact it took that long to:
  1. Put the popcorn in the microwave
  2. Go to the bathroom
  3. Return
  4. Open the microwave to find charcoal and smoke
  5. Sprint to the nurses' station to tell them that the building is not on fire, she just burnt the popcorn
  6. Be told that it's ok, people do that sort of thing all the time
  7. Return to the room
What none of us thought to ask upon hearing this story was what happened to the popcorn.

A knock on the door came from a man who was wondering where the popcorn went.  Sword swallower proceeds to tell him she threw it in the trash.  Cue group facepalm as now there's a possibility we may have lit the building on fire.

Smoke, or at least burnt popcorn, can be smelt from the room.  (I was going to say, "Yes, I know that it should be "smelled" as I am discussing neither fish nor metal.  Sometimes I transliterate my accent.  Deal with it," but the dictionary says "smelt" is ok in this usage.  So apparently I have authority on my side where I thought I had none.)

Then this:

Which I think we can all agree would look better as video:

[Added 2015] I think my sister was right when she said there were eight trucks and wrong when she downgraded the estimate to five. [/Added 2015]

Now after that there were competing ideas about what to do one field of thought, which I was originally a proponent of was that we should hide.  But curiosity got the better of me and my mother and I went to look to see if there was an actual fire.  When we were within sight of where the incident occurred I said to my mother, "If there were a trashcan fire it would have been that trashcan, so I think we're safe," or something like that.

Two things happened.  Thing one: this was the exact moment that someone told the sword swallower to poke her head out the door and ask us to get cups for ice cream.  Thing two: Someone overheard me saying that and asked us to come closer.  I did, my mother did, sword swallower did.

The advice given to sword swallower wasn't, "If something like this happens again," but instead, "The next time this happens."

And then the firemen came, for they had to verify that it was indeed just a popcorn alarm and everything was under control.  Firemen always come in pairs, thus two arrived.  First question, "Who was the cook?"

I wouldn't have ratted her out, I don't think my mother would have either, but she admitted it.  Fireman's words, "I am so glad I'm not you right now."  Then, with a walkie-talkie so large you'd think that it came off the set of Escape from New York, one of them radioed down, "Yup, it's just popcorn."

There was levity, the firemen made a few jokes, but sword swallower had her superhero name changed to, "The Accidental Arsonist," which, on the one hand, describes every superhero ever, on the other hand it's not the name you want.

After that we had ice cream:

And started watching the movie:

When who should appear but this guy:

And in better lighting:

He explained that he kept the antlers on because he didn't want Jensen thinking that people with antlers could just have them appear and disappear at will.

Now he wanted to get popcorn, and we tried to talk him out of it, or get him to go in disguise, or somehow not be traceable back to us because we were pretty sure that the last thing anyone wanted was someone from our party making popcorn.  But he was able to make the popcorn without incident, and we watched the movie which prominently features a building burning down, and that was more or less that.

I returned to my home across the river, estuary, thing:

We are really lacking when it comes to impressive lights on the water.  As my mother pointed out, Portland, being on a hill, gets to have layers where we, on flatter land, just have a strip.  Still, not very impressive.


Wednesday I went to school as usual and called up when I got out to see if my sister was still there, she was.  I thought, given the time of day, that that meant she was being kept over night.  Not so much.

Anyway, group day 3:

My mother you should know by now, Jensen is hard to mistake for someone else, the third person is a colleague of mine and my sister's from our days on the Student Senate.  She, like we... I can't maintain the rhyme and have the grammar not fall apart.  She is a former senator, as are we.

The doctor had scheduled the appointment for late in the day because he figured that they wouldn't be letting my sister leave until the day after anyway.  Indeed that seems to have originally been the plan, but after nearly setting the place on fire the plan seems to have changed to, "Go.  Go as soon as you can.  Just git."

In random other news, the design of the room does not seem to have been set up with photographers in mind.  Which makes sense because it should be set up with medical care in mind.  The reason that I bring this up is that if someone other than my sister is holding the baby or doing something worthy of being photographed, my sister would tend to end


[Added in 2015:]

It's been a year since I wrote that.  I have no idea how that sentence was meant to end.  "my sister would tend to end up in the way," perhaps?

I noticed that a couple purple flowers had fallen off their plant, and a yellow petal off another:

Jensen got ready to go out:

My mother and Jensen in the hall:

Flower combination two point oh.


Being kicked out of the maternity ward... actually the maternity building which is more than one ward, means a return home.  A homecoming.  A nostos.

For that we need a bard.  Homer was unavailible on account of being dead some 2700 years.  Why not a guy with antlers and a banjo:


The phase of the moon is clearly an important component to all of this because ... why not?


Jensen had to meet the animals, here he is out by the barn for the bull and the two pigs:

And friking Hell Nancy Reagan was small back then:

The eventual fate of the flowers:


It's interesting that when I wrote much of this, a few days after the fact, I got the days of the week wrong.

Told in person the fire story is what matters.  The ability to emote makes it worth it to tell about the mistakes and the melted plastic and the fear and the shame and, above all, the humor that got us all through the fear and the shame.  With just words and pictures it's not as fun.

When I started writing this some two years ago, there was going to be a tighter focus, I think.  It would have been good, thematically, to end with the "Wagon Wheel" / "I would walk 500 miles" video, but, seriously, what else am I going to do with those pictures?

Also, Nancy Reagan was really fricking small back then.