Sorcery

So as some of you may know, I had a birthday recently.

Last year was a bit bleak because of reasons.  This year was way better. In part it was way better because while last year I bought myself one present (an admittedly wicked cool Handbag of Holding computer bag from ThinkGeek.com – the deluxe black “vegan leather” version!), this year I…uhm…I went a little nuts.

This year I bought myself a ton of socks from Sock Dreams.  I am not a shoe girl, but I DO love me some socks.

I also DID buy a pair of shoes – boots, actually.  But understand that I have never in my life owned a pair of tall boots.  Never. Not once.  And now I do.  I cried when I bought them. I tried them on and I got all teary-eyed and the barely-more-than-a-teen helping me looked like I had just started hemorrhaging from all of my orifices and fluttered her hands around not sure what to do. I waved her off and said I was fine, and then asked if I should get those or another pair I’d tried on (partly because I kinda wasn’t sure and partly out of spite because I knew she’d try to help me but be befuddled – shadenfreude – it’s a thing), and sure enough she froze like a possum staring down a Volvo and then mumbled “…you seem to like those…….”

I also got myself a wireless gaming headset and new speakers – since I disconnected my computer from the TV and the surround sound system. AND I got myself not one, not two, but THREE 27″ monitors. It’s egregious. And I love it. My consoles – like Steam and Battle.net and Origin are on the left.  The internet is on the right. And my games and whatnot – right in the middle.  It is AMAZING.  I am really not sure how I survived before now.  I was basically a raccoon, rummaging through the garbage for tech before now.

I feel really powerful.

Also I got myself Civ VI.  And it is GORGEOUS.  Only………..WTF, Sid Meier?  Where is Alexander?  Really?

So anyway – know that as I type this, it is on the RIGHTMOST monitor. Unless I decide I need to move it to the middle for some reason.  Or the left. Because I feel like it. Because I can choose.

And if you only have one or two monitors, know that I feel like I am JUST a little better than you.

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Planet Comicon

So it’s been a bit since my last post – mostly because of Planet Comicon.  That’s the local Kansas City pop culture convention that’s sort of like the San Diego mega-show but on a much more modest scale.

I went dressed as Agent Carter with a friend who was dressed as a classic BSG Cylon.  carter-cylon-only

I was his handler because, well, he needed one. It’s probably pretty obvious that visibility is not a premium in that suit, and he also had the “whom whom” cylon eye sound effect playing such that hearing wasn’t great. The upshot was that he was basically a walking bowling pin and would have probably killed himself and maybe others if I (or my equivalent) hadn’t been there to help him out. As a bonus I got to boot children out of the way if they dove in front of him or tried to hug his legs – so WIN.

It was a BLAST.  There were a few goofy moments, though, if I am being honest.

  1. 1. So yeah – I am wearing a big red hat.  For the record, I LOVE this hat.  I’ll probably wear it just because.  Also, I may well become a hat-wearer as a result of this hat. BUT, here’s the thing.  People are terrible and apparently don’t know the difference between pop culture figures who wear red hats.  The cylon, being funny, said the hat would be great and easy for him to follow, and called me Carmen Sandiego before we got started – knowing full well who I was. I gave him a look.  I am well known for my looks. One friend calls this particular look “The Eye of Sauron.” Cylon laughed at it, because my looks don’t do much once you’re used to them, and the Cylon gets my looks a LOT. But he understood that I was not best pleased. He just didn’t care. Which is fine. Unfortunately, when we got to the entrance of the convention center, the VERY FIRST person who wanted his photo (and we’ll come back to that HIS photo thing) said “Hey! It’s CARMEN SANDIEGO! Someone found her!” I looked at the Cylon – who I had taken to calling Cylon Gary (it’s a YouTube show from the 90s – check it out if you’ve not seen it) – and just said “Don’t. Just, don’t.” This was more than a look. It was also a tone. Sadly, my tones also have very little effect on Cylon Gary at this juncture. So, more laughter. His stupid armor was shaking he was laughing so hard. Idiot. Anyway, so I got called Carmen Sandiego two more times there, which was three times too many. Gary wouldn’t let me throat punch people. Stupid Cylon.
  2. It was sort of an “always a bridesmaid” experience. People would come up and ask “Hey! Can I get your picture?” I would say “Sure!” because Gary didn’t even know we’d been asked a question. And then they would say “Oh….I meant just the Cylon…” Of course they did. Now, that made it all the sweeter when someone said “OHMYGOSHAGENTCARTER!!!! Can I please get a picture with you!” And that DID occasionally happen. Just not with the same frequency as did “WOW! That Cylon is AMAZING!” But honestly it was super fun and awesome to walk around with such a great and popular costume.
  3. I discovered I am STUPID. Like, just, irredeemably DUMB.  I honestly believed that my problem as I decided to start dating and whatnot would be making a string of TERRIBLE CHOICES.  That my friends would need to follow me around like I was a toddler in some sort of nightmarish childproof testing facility shouting “NONONONO! Take that out of your mouth! That is NOT for you! Put that down! You do NOT want that!” Turns out it’s more likely they will have to place me bodily in front of eligible dating candidates and helpfully murmur “Go on, honey, tell him your name.” I was working at a booth where we were giving away books to promote sci-fi and fantasy literacy and interest, which was AMAZING. This guy came up to the booth with who I thought was his girlfriend. He was super cute and age appropriate and had a master’s degree and was adorable – but I honestly thought, again, that he had a girlfriend. So I wasn’t even thinking about romance. He asked if I would be there all day. I gave him the normal spiel about taking two books now and coming back later for more because we would not remember him. He nodded, looking confused, and asked again if I would be there later. I honestly thought “Wow. What an idiot. He’s not getting that he can have more books!” So I explained again, with more clarity. About the books. And laughed and joked because that is what I do. Then he shook his head and said “Will you be here tomorrow?” I said “Oh! We’ll be here all weekend.” He said “But will YOU be here tomorrow?” I said “Oh, yeah – but I won’t be HERE here because I’ll be dressed as Agent Carter and helping my friend dressed as a Cylon -Oh! You should look for us, because the Cylon costume is AMAZING!” He said “Oh. Okay. I will do that. But will you be back on Sunday?” “Oh, yeah – definitely. Not sure what time though.  And you can totally get more books!”  Eventually he wandered off, no doubt thinking I was the biggest idiot ever. One of the women at the booth walked up going “That was so CUTE! The way he was hitting on you!” What with the WHAT now?  And then I replayed the whole thing in my head, and realized the girl with him looked a LOT like him, and maybe he would not have teased his girlfriend about being stupid….  OH MY GAWD. So….yeah.  Idiot.

 

Furniture Porn

 

I have probably mentioned at some point previously that I am in a writing group. If not – well, I’m in a writing group.

The group has been together much longer than most writing groups last. Most such creative collectives implode due to “creative differences” after between 12 and 18 months. We’ve been together for nearly a decade. Technically, some of us have been together longer, but the group under its current name will celebrate its ten-year anniversary in September.

There were six of us who were members of another group first. That group was populated by us, plus Dr. Phil (no relation), Martha, and Becky – the leader. We were content with the other group until,  well, Becky went full goose gone-zo crazy one meeting and kicked out one of the six. For asking a question. So the six of us said “uhm…wut?”  And we got told that if we asked questions, we were out, too.  So we said “okeydoke” and left. We invited Dr. Phil and Martha, but they thought that Becky was the better option (no clue), and stuck with her. That group imploded about a year later.

A guy named Jeff ran our splinter group. We almost immediately added about six more people. Jeff continued to helm the group for about two years until his kids reached that age where they did ALL the things – soccer and robot camp and whatever, so then he decided to step down and hand the reins to someone else. The someone else he chose was me. He bequeathed the group to me.

I did not want it.

See, running a writing group is like being a cat herder, ringmaster, and glorified playground monitor. But not as glamorous.

People worry about weird shit.

And they tell you about it.

In emails. And texts. And occasionally in passive-agressive post-its left on your notebook or purse for you to find a week later when you go to pay the water bill.

But Jeff insisted that I was the perfect candidate for the job. Also he threatened to give it to this other guy – Joe – if I did not take it. That would have been BAD.  He did that on purpose. Because Jeff is a nice guy, but also a manipulative weasel.  And for the record, Joe is also awesome.  But terrifying. Not really warm fuzzy. And he plays the accordion. You see my dilemma.

So I took it.

And the group has been under my…..uhm….direction? Ever since. I don’t do anything except keep the whole thing from going up in flames, though.  Truly.  All I do is smooth over disputes and make sure we have somewhere to meet and make sure we have people’s work to be read and get us tables at conventions and answer PR questions from newspapers who hear about us and pay any dues to websites and write copy for our pages and….yeah.  Okay.  So maybe I do stuff.

But I do it because I love these guys.  Most of them are family at this point.  Even the newest ones who have become regulars.  Some are literal family – my cousin (who is more like a brother) is a member. The rest are family because we’ve become so close that I can’t imagine not seeing them as often as I do.

But I think it’s easy to forget how much people mean to you or how much they care by virtue of just seeing them all the time.

But these idiots reminded me the other night.

I had to miss a meeting.

I don’t do that.

I have not missed ONE meeting since 2012 when I stopped teaching adjunct courses. Not one. But I am working on a conference presentation for an event in August, and I needed to do some prep work with a colleague, so I did.

Now, I am a BIT persnickety about where I sit at meetings. I have a chair. I like that chair. It’s MY chair. Well, it’s less the chair than it is the SPOT where the chair sits. Once, more than four years ago, the last time I was gone, Byron sat in my chair. He SHOULD NOT have done that. It’s been forgiven. Mostly. No, truly. I think.

But anyway, that’s in the past. The POINT is, that this time, Maddie asked “Who gets to sit in your chair. I responded, and I quote, “NO ONE SITS IN MY CHAIR.”

I fully anticipated this would generate some silliness.

What I did NOT expect was to be greeted the next morning by a parade of photos depicting a Murder on the Orient Express-esque crime of defilement against that innocent piece of furniture. They even got our regular waitress to pose with the chair. I had no idea some of our members were that limber.

As I laughed (and cringed) my way through the pictures, though, I realized how very much these weirdos meant to me. How lost I would be without them. And how much I needed them to care about me enough to screw with me this diabolically. Thank god for sick, twisted, horrible people who love you enough to fuck with you like my writing peeps do me. But seriously – someone needs to clean that chair….

A Fanciful Yarn

Some of the posts in here are just, you know, stuff that happens to me. My friend Michelle posited all the way back in high school that she and I and another friend – Tracy – were what she called “chaos magnets. I am not sure this is exactly the case. Sure, I can own that a LOT of bizarre things have happened to me. To us. How many people have ended up stranded in an elevator with an FBI’s most wanted fugitive?

Mostly, though, I think that I tend to NOTICE things and appreciate the ridiculous. In gaming it would be called perception, or a spot check. I see stuff. I remember I was sitting in a Sonic once and caught something out of the corner of my eye that my brain registered initially as a “really weird dog” in the car next to me. I think that a lot of people would have just gone with that, because there’s not a strong enough alarm that sounds that makes you go “wait……….”

Me? I had to verify. It was NOT a weird dog. It was a goat. The family in the station wagon next to me had a (presumably) pet got riding in their car. In a little dog seat carrier thing. It turned it’s head and looked at me and did the little goat “mblaaaaaaaa” thing. The little girl fed it a tater tot.

It was not obtrusive. It was not loud. It was not an in-your-face goat. But, I mean, goat. In a car. Car-goat. Weird, right?

So that is what I think generally happens. I just notice things. And I have a well-enough developed sense of the ridiculous that I ENJOY them and watch long enough for something interesting to happen.

Such was how things went down at the yarn store a few months ago.

I have a full width, partial thickness tear in my rotator cuff tendon. It’s probably a residual injury from when I played tennis. I thought I was going to have to have surgery on it, which would have meant seriously limited mobility during recovery.  That would have made me crazy – having nothing I could do.  So I taught myself to knit.

In the course of my knitting, I started frequenting a local yarn store. It’s a really nice little place with a super helpful staff and a wide selection of yarn and needles and other supplies. I’ve been in there a few times when a customer asked for something a bit outside the ordinary – like the people who wanted bison mane yarn. Because that’s apparently a thing. The clerks are always very friendly and seem to usually send them off to a yarn store in a nearby college town when that happens. I kind of want to go see this crazy college town yarn store at some point just to find out if they really carry this nonsense or if that’s just the standard ZOMGWTFBBQgettheseweirdosoutofhere response.

On this day I was back looking at the sock yarn display, which is a large-ish shelf. A woman came in with several obviously well-used, good-sized shopping bags from other stores, and if you’ve ever worked retail (I have), you know this is a Very Bad Thing.

She approached the clerk at the counter.

Customer: “I was wondering how much it would cost to get some yarn made from custom fibers.”

Clerk: “Sorry, what?”

I want to point out here that the clerk in question is among THE NICEST PEOPLE in the world. Truly. She is sweet, and kind, and soft-spoken, and really just loves needlecraft.

Customer: “I have some materials – fibers – and I want to have them spun into yarn. What do you charge?” *pulls 1 gallon ziplock baggy labeled WINKIE in black sharpie out of sack and waves it at clerk – bag is filled with greyish-white fluff*

Clerk: “Oh…..well….we don’t do that. I’m sorry. We don’t even sell the equipment to spin–”

Customer: “You’re a yarn store.”

Clerk: “Yes. But we SELL yarn, we don’t MAKE yarn…”

Customer: “You should have the materials.”

Clerk: “Well, I know that might seem confusing…”

Customer: “It’s my cat’s fur. She’s getting old and I want to spin it into yarn so I can make a sweater.”

Clerk: “…..Okay. Well, I don’t know if cat fur is – ”

Customer: “She’s a LONG HAIRED CAT. I’m SURE it will be fine.”

Clerk: “Uhm…well, yes, but we SELL yarn, we don’t MAKE yarn.”

Customer: “Well what I am supposed to DO with this then?”

Now, while the store is a retail establishment, it’s also a little social club of sorts, and there are always a few women in there sitting around a large table knitting.  The Grande Dame of the circle is this elderly lady who always wears a big fuck off hat with flowers on it – she has one that matches every outfit she owns – and large glasses on a beaded cord and she SEEMS like just the sweetest little thing you set eyes on.  She does SEEM like that.

Sassy Broad in Hat: “I’ll tell you what you can do with that crap…”

Clerk: *chokes* “Uhm…Maybe  you can try the Redacted Store in College Town. I think they might do spinning.”

The Interview

I’ve spent most of my life working in the tech industry.  That didn’t happen on purpose. I mean, I set out to major in Global Studies and pursue a career in international law. Then there was my theater / communications phase. And music. And then I ended up with so many credit hours in so many things that I could have finished my degree in either history or English.  I literally flipped a coin.  It came up history.  I said “screw that” and finished in English. Because fate can suck it.

The college I attended didn’t have minors, but they DID have “emphases,” so my degree in English literature and composition is augmented by emphases in history, poli-sci, linguistics, theater, and communications. Truly, that simply demonstrates indecisiveness, not studiousness.

I took my newly minted English degree, moved to the SF Bay Area (I followed a boy – but that’s another story) and marched my hard-working Midwestern ass into several magazine offices in San Francisco and proudly showed them my credentials expecting to be hired forthwith. I mean, I knew the word “forthwith.”

When they’d stopped laughing they pointed at the exit.

So, I talked to temp agencies. It turns out that my dysfunctional parenting was of FAR greater value than any amount of book learning. See, dad was a super logical management consultant and technophile. We’d had gadgetry and computers as soon as they were available. Mom was a total art flake. They had NEVER understood how to talk to one-another. It remains a complete mystery to me that  there are just two of us – my sister and me. I mean, either they should have constantly been having sex as their only means of communication, or should have NEVER had sex or gotten together at all.  The fact that there are two of us?  Weird.

But I had forever been the bridge between them.  “Nonononono – Mom. MOM. What dad is SAYING is….”  And “Okay. Okayokayokay. But dad. DAD. DAAAAD. What Mom MEANS is…”  That was my life. And it turned out that in Silicon Valley, that ability to speak both Geek and normal human was INVALUABLE.  I became what they called a Technical Liaison. I went in and solved communication problems and helped train people to talk to one-another. It was amazing. Every stupid trick I learned just to survive in my home was worth MONEY in the real world. And all I had to do was exactly what I had done every day for my entire life.

It felt like cheating.

I worked for companies like Apple and Oracle and HP and Raychem and got really good at what I do. And I worked almost exclusively with supergeeks of various kinds.  I already knew and loved them – my cousin and uncle and dad were those people. My friends were those people.  All I did was expand my geeky horizons.  All of my time was spent with gamers and geeks and engineers and scientists and programmers. That became my whole world.

So here I was in an interview at a science company, and the people interviewing me? Two women. Two fabulous, geeky, nerdy WOMEN. It was as if the heavens had opened and light shone down on me.

Near the end of the interview, the manager who headed a group of programmers said “Oh. One more question.  Are you okay talking to developers?”

For a moment I honestly did not understand the question.  “You  mean….socially? In a game setting? Professionally?”

She laughed.  “Oh good. We’ll be fine then.  It’s just sometimes we have to shield the programmers from the…you know. Regular people. And vice versa.”

I was horrified. “Please. Please  DON’T. Those are my PEOPLE.”

And I meant that.

My first day there, I was getting tea at the tea and coffee kiosk. A guy saw my phone. “Is that….is that Agent Carter on y0ur phone background?!”

I looked at him. Smiled. “Yes. Yes it is.”

“Ohmygoshhowmuchdoyouloveher?”

“I love her ALL the much.”

He smiled, hopefully. “And…Jessica Jones?”

“JJ is my favorite. Daredevil?”

“YES!”

I made a new friend. Because of my Agent Carter phone background. My first day on the job. It was SO GOOD to be working with proper nerds again.

Day two? I met a gamergirl. Tabletop, PC, AND console.

Life was looking up. And again, I felt like I was cheating.

 

 

Deck the Halls with Droids and Jawas

I saw Star Wars in the theater when I was five years old. Say what you will about very little kids understanding movies, it blew my mind. I loved it. I wanted to BE some amazing combo of Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Also I wanted to marry Han Solo. It was confusing and complicated. But it was beautiful.

I had loooooong hair perfect for cinnamon buns and a mom inclined to spend the time patiently winding and pinning my auburn tresses into the iconic Leia hairdo, so I got to be the perfect little space princess All. The. Time.

Depending on whether you know me, or on what impressions you’ve formed of me from reading my scribblings, it may surprise you to learn that I was pretty much a perfect kid (behavior-wise) in school. Yes, okay, I was also a model student. By which I mean total nerd. I can own that. I just never got in trouble.

Except this once.

I have ONE black mark on my permanent scholastic record.

I was in a playground fight in fourth grade.

And it was over Star Wars. Well, Empire, technically.

How freaking nerdtastic is THAT?!

I mostly look back at my young self and feel a tish sorry for that quiet little mousy girl who thought she might die if she said a curse word or made a teacher frown. But that one glorious moment in fourth grade? I LOVE HER FOR THAT.

We were living overseas at the time – in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Movies didn’t reach overseas markets as quickly then as they do now, and there was always a lag between a big release and when we got to see them – UNLESS you were lucky enough to be traveling to the US when one came out. I was not so lucky. Jennifer Zwick, however, was. She’d just come back from a visit stateside and had seen *angelic chorus* The Empire Strikes Back. The phrase “spoiler alert” had not yet been invented, and also we were nine – so it never occurred to us to worry about such things. She was telling me about the movie and she said – she actually SAID – that Darth Vader was the wonderful and pure Luke Skywalker’s father.
The world stopped spinning on its axis.

Now, as I said – I was (and am) a Han girl. Because broken rogues are irresistible.
BUT STILL. One does not say such things about the hero. One does not. Scandalous. SLANDEROUS.

So I called her a dirty liar.

And she pulled my hair.

And it was ON like Donkey Kong (or it would be in another year – Donkey Kong was not a thing yet either).

The reason I tell you this is ONE because – it’s kind of awesome, right?

But two, because Star Wars is important to me. It really is.

So when the new movie was coming out in December, I naturally wanted to go, and ideally I wanted to go with friends. Some good friends of had rented out a small theater at The Alamo downtown and had offered tickets. Because of reasons, I had not gotten one. It’s not worth going into why, but I had not. And I was angry about it. Super angry. White hot fury of a thousand suns angry. But also bitter and sad.

This angry bitter combo led me to do the only thing I reasonably could do: I reacted like a child and decided I would just wait for it to come out on Blu-Ray because screw everyone and everything – no one could make me go see it alone.

Of course that turned out to be completely not true.

Someone could.

My friend Micah.

Micah and I had known each other for almost nine years when we worked together at the seminar company. We had only worked semi-closely together for last five or so years, but we communicated a lot, and due to various circumstances, we’d become friends.

Micah texted to ask me if I’d seen the movie yet. Mostly it was self-serving. He wanted to talk about the film. I said no, and told him my grand plan endorsed by five year olds everywhere (sorry, five year olds). I don’t t have the text transcript any more, but this is pretty close to what happened.

Me: “No. I’m not going. It’ll be out in, what, six months?”

Him: “What? No. Go see it.”

Me: “Nah. I’ll just wait. I don’t like seeing movies alone. Besides. I want to wallow in my bitterness.”

Him. “What the….Fuck bitterness. Go see it.”

Me: “Sigh. Look. I’ve actually been looking at theaters and they appear to be all sold out anyway. At least online.”

Him: “Don’t you work downtown? Right across from The Alamo?”

Me: “So what. It says they’re sold out.”

Him: (you can almost hear the deep breath and pursed lips) “Walk across the street and buy a ticket. I’ll wait.”

This went on for just a bit – because I am difficult. Or can be. But he persisted. Because he is awesome. And has the patience of a saint.

Ultimately I walked across the street and bought a ticket. Turns out the online services for most of the theaters were completely overwhelmed, but you could just walk in and get a seat without much trouble. To be fair I marched in and demanded that the ticket seller guy tell me they were sold out so that I could tell me jerk friend *waved phone at him* they were sold out and get him off my fucking back. The dude said “Well, I can TELL you that, but…..” And I had to apologize and buy a ticket.  It was even a decent seat.

I can admit that I got teary-eyed when the fanfare started behind the giant STAR WARS logo. I wanted to text him “thank you” right then and there – but if you know anything about The Alamo, you know they frown on that sort of thing.

 

 

Bad Medicine

The local vet is a only a few minutes from the house. I got the dog into the lobby, where he bled profusely. So much that the girls behind the counter whispered about how much blood it was. I looked down and suddenly realized that, yeah, it was.  Especially given how much was already on the floor and furniture at home.

I went catatonic.  Which apparently upset other customers. So they put me in an exam room.

My ex husband texted me to ask how Starbuck was. I thought about ignoring him, but was a grownup and told him. I hate being a grownup.

Eventually the vet came in. I’ve seen two vets there.  One is Dr. Hippy – he’s young and has hair down to his waist, but he’s a really good vet. The other one – the one I saw that day – is Doc Oct. For Octegenarian.  He’s clearly going for the record of Oldest Practicing Vet in the World.  He has GOT to be the frontrunner. I have no idea if he’s a good vet.  I don’t understand a word he says. I am pretty sure he uses poultices and treats ague. He’d decided to use pressure bandages to stop the bleeding – because the dog had somehow torn out TWO toenails.  No, I don’t mean broken them off, as dogs are wont to do – I mean TORN THEM OUT COMPLETELY.  How?  No clue. Also, why did he not use silver nitrate? The vet, not the dog, obviously.  No idea.  I texted my cousin, who happens to be a veterinarian (but he’s a long drive from my house for emergencies, which is why I didn’t go see him for this) to ask about it, and while it was OKAY, pressure bandages are not perfect when there’s a risk of infection, which there is here, on, you know, feet.

So I went out to the lobby, dog in tow – who had, by the way, completely forgotten he was injured and was prancing around just fine.  They’d given him pain meds and he was in that sweet spot where the foot had stopped hurting but the grogginess hadn’t set in yet.

I pulled the card out  of my shirt pocket and handed it to the cashier.  I wrapped up the transaction and put the card back in my pocket and got back to the middle of the lobby and, for the first time in his entire life, my dog grabbed my skirt – a simple, long knit skirt – in his teeth and pulled it down around my ankles.

I just stood there and said, “Yep.  That’s about right.”

I pulled up my skirt and trudged out  to my car wondering where my life and dignity had gone.

And realized they were not going to be found today.

Do you know what the only thing worse than having your skirt pulled down in a veterinary lobby and then making it safely out to your car is?

Having to go back INTO that veterinary office to get your purse, which you left in the exam room.

I asked my cousin, and those girls behind the counter are NOT trained to deal with that situation.  They are not.