Sunday, January 28, 2007

Overcommitted? I don't know the meaning of the word.

I believe I have involved myself in the mother of all time wasters. I got myself a Second Life account.

Last night we saw a guest lecture (via webcam and fancy projection equipment) with Bruce Damer on the subject of Virtual Worlds. Among other things, there was a live projected demo of Second Life, which I'd heard about quite some time ago, and in fact had heard a whole NPR interview with the creator. However, I'd assumed that it was a typical "game" in that you'd have a starting cost and some kind of maintenance subscription cost.

Not so. You can get a basic account for free. You only have to pay if you want a premium account, which allows you to own "land" and build on it. Since I agreed to part with some personal info, I got $250 free "Linden dollars" (the currency of Second Life), and now I'm wondering if that's enough to buy, say, a sign board, for the purposes of shameless self-promotion. Even if not, I'm sure I'll have fun making an avatar. Currently, my avatar looks almost, but not quite entirely unlike me, sort of like the tea that came out of the dispenser in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Anyway, if any of you have a Second Life account already and want to try to find me, my avatar is named Aquafortis Swot. (I had a limited selection of last names. This was the most palatable, though I almost chose "Triskaidekaphobia.") However, I will probably not be in Second Life all that often. I need to keep my priorities straight...and I have a lot of work I'm behind on. (Too much going out of the house this weekend, though we did go see Pan's Labyrinth, which was excellent.) I'm guessing that once a week is probably the MOST frequently I'll be in there, if that.

So, yeah. I had a little wine. Now I have to finish attaching a sponsor's logo to the poster I designed for the latest Prospect Theater Project play. (You can see a tiny snippet of the poster design at the preceding link. I'll try to post a version here later, too, since I'm inordinately proud of my first efforts with my new Adobe software.)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Mirror Mirror

"Okay, now concentrate on the mirror. Empty your mind. Focus right in front of you and--"

"Why are we doing this again?" I interrupted Cody's monologue. Even though it was dark in my bedroom--I'd even stuffed towels to hide the crack of light from the hallway shining under the door--I could feel him turning his head and glaring at me.

"You're not taking this seriously," he said, accusingly. I tried not to smile. "I told you about it yesterday but evidently you weren't listening."

"Sorry," I said, though I really wasn't taking it seriously. Still, it was the sound of his voice I loved, the gravelly, deep roughness that I could listen to all day no matter what nonsense he was talking. "Tell me again."

"The mirror, Sunny," he said, sighing. I was sure he was rolling his eyes at my ignorance. "If you stare at the spot in the mirror where your reflection would be, and you sort of unfocus your eyes and clear your head, then you should see...a color, kind of glowing in the darkness in the shape of your reflection. "

"And that's my aura," I said, neutrally. I wasn't sure I believed any of this--in fact, I was pretty sure I didn't--but it was harmless fun.

"Don't scoff," he said. "The color of your aura can tell you a lot about--um--like, the kind of person you are. The kind of energy you're giving off that would provoke unconscious reactions in people. That kind of thing." I heard him shifting position, his chain wallet and various heavy silvery pendants clanking faintly.

"And this works...how?" I tried not to sound mulish, but it really sounded like a load of new-age crap to me. I'm not saying people don't have auras, or give off vibes or whatever, but the idea that Cody of all people could actually see them was, to me, completely unlikely. A Indian holy man with long white beard and years of meditation on a bed of nails, maybe. An eighteen-year-old emo theater geek with a patched-up trench coat and crystals around his neck...I didn't think so.

"It has to do with the electromagnetic energy given off by your physical body as well as your mental energies, the neural connections. You know, the synapses in your brain communicate using electrical signals," he said, pedantically. This time it was my turn to roll my eyes, unseen. "If you concentrate hard enough, if you relax and allow the rods and cones in your eyes to respond only to the energy given off by your body, then you'll be able to tune in to your own electromagnetic signature. You just have to make yourself a...conduit for that electrical energy."

"You mean like sticking a fork into a light socket?" I couldn't help it; it just slipped out. I dodged, but didn't miss the throw pillow Cody aimed at my head.

"I knew you weren't taking this seriously." He sounded offended. I could feel my face getting warm.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." I put one hand on his shoulder, tentatively--he was uncomfortable being touched. "I want to do this, I swear."

I withdrew my hand and pulled my hair back into an elastic, sighing, waiting for Cody to center himself again or whatever it was he needed to do. Maybe he just needed to quit taking himself so seriously. Either way, I was getting tired of this tentativeness, tired of waiting. I hoped that today was going to change things between us, make him trust me a little more.

So we sat, and I waited patiently in the darkness, listening to him breathing deeply and evenly. Obediently, I kept my focus on the mirror in front of me. As I'd expected, though, even after several minutes I didn't see anything except the vague dark reflections of the two of us sitting there, our backs resting up against the side of my bed. I could just make out the unruly spikes of Cody's hair to the right of my reflection, and the slightly lighter area that was my pale blue t-shirt. I could feel the tension of his body, rigid beside me, and I had an almost uncontrollable urge to reach out to him, to pull his arm into my lap and stroke his fingers until they unclenched.

"That's funny," he said, breaking the silence, sounding puzzled.

"What's funny?" I was just glad it was over and we could talk normally again.

"Well, did you see what your aura's color was?"

"No," I said, hiding a sigh. Of course not. "I looked, and did what you told me, but no luck. Maybe I'm just not good at this."

"The funny thing is, I was looking for yours, too, but I just...couldn't tell. I didn't see anything. This time," he said, the hope creeping back into his voice. "We'll have to try again some other time. Maybe it wasn't dark enough."

"Maybe," I said agreeably, but strangely, I was disappointed, too.

***

This week's piece was inspired by twelve by Flickr user receivingend. It's very vaguely inspired by a real-life incident. Check the usual suspects for more Flickr Fiction: The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, TadMack, Neil, and Valsha.

ARGH!!

OK, so this is unrelated to anything, and it's certainly not the happy fun blog post I was hoping to write today (Flickr Fiction will come later, I swear), but can I just say how much I REALLY HATE IT when somebody asks to subscribe to the Cymdeithas Madog e-mail list and they give me an E-MAIL ADDRESS THAT DOESN'T WORK. (Yes, I'm currently the list manager, kinda sorta. I subscribe and unsubscribe people, anyway.) So what ends up happening is that I go to all the trouble (not really that much trouble) of subscribing them to the e-mail list, and waiting for the majordomo "command succeeded" message, and e-mailing the person a rather lengthy customized form response to their query, and then of course when I'm DONE with all that I get the bounce-back to my form response saying there's no such address.

The really annoying thing is, there's no good way to contact these people to tell them their e-mail address isn't working, when their e-mail address isn't working. I'm sure not going to CALL them.

It is just so wrong that I'm ending up this sort of techie person, when I'm really not cut out for it. Unless my dad was right and I was somehow meant to be an engineer. In which case, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Kill me now.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Left

I. Continental Drift

It didn't start out as "How many times have I told you not to...". It didn't start with "I wish you would" or "I wish you wouldn't," or with "Why don't you ever" or "Do you really have to."

It was little things, unspoken things. A dirty coffee cup left on the bedside table with a still-smoking cigarette butt propped up in the moldy dregs. Milk left to sour on the countertop. The car left unlocked. It was the things that were left.

It was also the things that were not left. Things weren't left well enough alone, for instance. They also weren't left in peace. These were big things, as imperceptibly slow-moving as continents, until one day they collided and the world shook.

II. Plate Tectonics

Until one day he took his unlocked car and threw away his sour milk and...

Until one day she took her cigarettes and coffee and...

***

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user Joffa H. It's short and not-so-sweet...I planned to write more, but it seemed to come to a fitting end rather quickly. I guess you could call it flash fiction, eh? Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hey, Where'd I Go?

I've been busy. Here is a list of some crap I've been doing (instead of blogging):

  • Draining large amounts of fluid out of my nasal passages. (I had a cold.)
  • Catching up on my freelance research job. They still want to keep paying me despite my slacker-ness. I'm not going to object.
  • Reloading every bit of software onto our laptop, which had to get its hard drive replaced (yay for warranties).
  • Loading copious amounts of Adobe software (Creative Suite 2) onto our desktop computer. Goodbye and good riddance to Publisher. Now I gotta learn how to use it all. This is mainly for desktop publishing purposes and some of the other minor art/design work I do. I already know how to use Photoshop, mostly. Kinda. Enough for what I need to do. But Illustrator escapes me, and I'm sure InDesign has a learning curve, so I plan to watch the training video they kindly included with the software. (Yay for discount Educational versions!)
  • Watching lots of television and taking lots of cold medicine. Did I mention I had a cold?
  • Moving this blog to the new Blogger and trying to get my template to vaguely resemble the one I had before. I still haven't gotten around to fixing the header quote or the list of blogs. Or the style sheet. ARGH!

I also realized that if I want to get a manuscript critique at this conference I plan to go to, it needs to be postmarked by the 20th. My main reason for going and for getting the critique is that the conference will be attended by A) an editor from a major publishing house who contacted me a few months ago to send me a review copy of a book for our reviews blog, and B) an agent from an agency that I was planning to send a query to. If my manuscript (read: first ten pages plus summary) gets picked to be part of the special 10 or whatever, it will get looked at by the editors and agents present. So it's basically this monetary gamble (paying for the conference and the extra fee for the manuscript critique) in the hopes that my proposal arrives under the nose of one or both of these individuals. You have to admit that would be quite fortuitous. And even if it doesn't, I suppose there will be a schmoozing opportunity. Though I hate schmoozing. I really do.

Wish me luck. Now I have to edit my first 10 pages (which are still in a very rough post-NaNoWriMo state) and write a synopsis (which is still in a nonexistent state) so I can send them tomorrow. Here I go.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Wood and Metal

It was Monday, 3:51 p.m. The man called the Builder--he once had a name but he'd long forgotten, and everyone he used to know was dead or gone or didn't recognize him anymore--the man called the Builder always knew what time it was. An old-fashioned watch that he wound religiously every evening at eight p.m. was his most precious and also his most mysterious of his few possessions. For the most part, he owned only what he needed for survival: a small generator, a camping stove, a tattered sleeping bag patched with bits of discarded blankets, an old, dirty Igloo cooler that kept his food fresh for a few days.

Nobody knew where the watch came from. It was clearly an antique, with brass fixtures; a wide, shiny, hair-pinching wrist band; and ornately painted numbers underneath the glass face. After the Builder wound his watch, he would shine it with a scrap of rag, lovingly polishing its metal surfaces with a spot of oil from his kerosene lamp. Lin could see all this from the side window of his house, had seen this every day of his ten years, that he could remember. The main room of the rooftop shanty, which his father had built above Lin's aunt and uncle's house with his own two hands, looked out onto other run-down houses, other shanties. And the Builder's...dwelling.

There was really no other word for it. It wasn't exactly a house. Part of it was a house, but the rest....It was 3:59, David knew, because the Builder had emerged from his front doorway, which was quite stable but leaned to one side at a disturbing angle. Every Monday at 3:59 the Builder came out, carrying a creation made from metal rods, discarded wood, thrown-away utensils, and anything else long and slender, attached at intricate angles, like a communications tower or a giant comb or a rake. And then, at precisely 4:00, the Builder would gingerly scale a precarious ladder built into the side of his house, carrying his creation over his shoulder.

He would scuttle along the roof, a maze of railings and uneven roof, and add the wood-and-metal object to all the rest, and Lin would gape upwards in awe. It was like the rigging of some small but insanely complicated ship, like a contraption built to contact UFOs, but Lin did not know what it was for. He didn't know if it was "for" anything. He was too afraid to ask the Builder, and his parents warned him to stay away. But one day, when Lin was eleven, everything changed...
***

This week's piece was inspired by WIRE(LESS) by Flickr user min'. I love this picture--really fascinating. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, Linus, and new members Neil, Valsha, and Dermot, who's still getting set up.