Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 173: A New Trilogy Is Dawning

          ...and my computer battery has the lifespan of a diseased mayfly. Sorry, had to complain to SOMEone.
          For those of you who follow me on Facebook, some of this might be a bit repetitive. My apologies. For everyone else, I'd like to report that my first book in the currently-named Bridgehold trilogy is complete! (By complete, I mean I'll probably tweak it some as future books fine-tune my timeline, but for the purposes of "active projects," it's 100% done.) I was so excited about Wayward, I decided to immediately make some conceptual cover art while procrastinating on book two.

          On a mildly related note, I'm getting better at Photoshop, although I still had to use a model for the silhouette. 
          Then, of course, I had to make a cover photo for my next book, which I'm tentatively naming Lost. I made it for "inspirational purposes" and certainly not because I was procrastinating even more

          Much thanks to Princess, by the way, who was the unwitting model and official loser of our "camera wars." 
          With any luck, I can finish up Lost within the next month or so and get cracking on book three, which is gonna be Redemption or Reclamation or some appropriate-word-beginning-with-R-someone-find-me-a-thesaurus. Just kidding. Honestly, I haven't thought that far ahead, but I'm hoping that completing Lost will give me some ideas. Some better ideas, I mean. 
          Also, if anyone has any ideas for a new nom de plume, I'd be most grateful. It would be nice to finish the conceptual covers by adding an author name! 
          Gah, thinking up names is hard...
          Oh, and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! Thanks for sticking with me!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 172: Here There Be Tech Problems

          Hi, everyone!
          You may be wondering where I've been the past...um...*counts on fingers* three months. And why my site went kaput. Well, it occurred to me that I had more than enough material for a legit book up here, so I started going through, post by post, and copying everything to my computer. Apparently, Blogger didn't like that, so it promptly crashed, and I've spent the last two months (off and on) trying to fix it. 
          Fun stuff. 
          On the bright side, it appears that my book did actually get published. To Amazon. Officially. I'm rather excited. Given that this is the first thing that I've actually gotten out to a marketplace, this is a big step forward for me. It's certainly given me a new degree of motivation to start getting some of my other books published (or finished; I currently have five finished books and FORTY-SEVEN works in progress). 
          I am in the process of recovery and republishing of my short stories. If for some reason, you need them all right now...well, there's a book out for that, like I said. Other than that, I'm hoping to restore full functionality to Maximum Effect over the course of the next few weeks. This is also kind of a test post to see how my strategy will work. Bear with me.
          Say, anyone here good with names? I'm trying to come up with a slightly more "publishable"-sounding nom de plume for my legitimate novels. If you have any good ideas, drop me a line! Please. I'm TERRIBLE at coming up with new names. 
          Anyway, it's novel-writing month, and I just came up with a another new story idea, so...let's break out the whiteboard! 

          (P.S.: I've also been working on a boat. A 1960 Lone Star cabin cruiser, to be exact. I've decided to name it the Panama, for reasons that should become evident upon watching this clip. I have a weird sense of humor.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 171: Mathews Hall Water Bowl 2010

          "Hey, dude, did you look outside?"
          When the interruption came, I was sprawled on the floor, doing all my homework. Literally--I had every subject spread out in a circle around me and was hopping from one to another whenever I got bored with the current topic (which took about five minutes). Saved me valuable time, since I didn't have to spend 55 minutes out of every hour trying to focus. Use the ADHD, I always said.
          Anyways, I was deep in the mysteries of Calc III and was kind of on a roll (seven minutes!), so I may have slightly resented Tim's interruption. "No, but judging by the sounds of it, it's raining again--not unlike how it's been raining all damn day." I thought for a second. "Only upside is that it's warm out, and I have no desire to go outside."
          My neighbor from across the hall leaned against my doorway, smirking. "Did you look out the south windows?"
          I gave him a patient look. "And how would I manage that?" (I lived on the north side, and wasn't in the habit of visiting other people's rooms when I was doing homework...like others I could mention.)
          "Look out mine," he suggested.
          I indicated my schoolwork, scattered about me like I was the epicenter of a giant learning explosion. "Kinda busy here. What's so exciting about night and rain put together?"
          His mouth twitched. "How about the storm sewers backing up and flooding the back side of Mathews?"
          Okay, that was intriguing. Also, close to home--Mathews Hall was the dorm I currently resided in. I reluctantly stood up and danced out of my self-imposed minefield, trying not to step on anything. "How big is the puddle?"
          Tim laughed. "It's more like a lake..."
          "Uh huh." I crossed the hall and entered his room. "So how dee--holy CRAP!"
          The mild expletive was wrung out of me by the site of the flood. It extended about thirty feet out from the side of the building and ran the entire length of Mathews Hall. Based on that alone, it had to have been at least a foot deep. Best of all, there were a bunch of college students playing in the lake.
          Tim gave me an appraising look. "So what do you think?"
          I threw my phone into my room and almost ran him over on my way out the door. "Let's go!"
          We lived on third floor. I was able to shortcut a little by jumping down every flight at one go. Tim wasn't quite as adventurous, so by the time he made it down, I'd already been integrated into the football game that was just starting. He joined us, but it was soon apparent (after the fourth interception) that everyone had a problem.
          "I can't tell who's on my team!" Kyle complained when everyone started giving him crap for his misguided pass. Between the night, rain, building and sidewalk lights, and random lightning strikes, it was difficult to make out faces. Plus, there were now about fifteen to twenty guys in the lake, which made even remembering who was on our team even harder.
          Ben whipped off his shirt. "Shirts versus Skins!"
          "Which team are you on?" I asked.
          "Skins. Duh. Oh, I see what you mean--I'm on yours," Ben explained.
          I promptly defected. "Not anymore. Hey, Tim, switch."
          I made a face. "No one needs to see my skinny torso."
          Laughing, Tim complied, and we started again. Hiking the ball was quickly scrapped, as holding it to the ground meant that it would launch in unpredictable directions as the center tried to get it out of the water. Fumbles became incredibly long events, due to the fact that the football was a) floating and b) slippery. Once, I launched myself at a dropped ball, only to have it squirt out of my hands. Then someone landed on my back and I went under. It was awesome. One guy took a video, but didn't catch that exact moment, fortunately.
          Spectators--girls, adults, and the occasional security guards (who were probably told to get us out of there but took one look and decided that it would be easier to stop Earth from spinning than to remove us)--began gathering around the edge and cheering us on. I mean, except for the security guards.
          We played for quite a while. Guys swapped in and out--some took quick breaks to go have water fights with the spectators, and newcomers decided they wanted to join. I almost scored a touchdown once, but a sudden tackle sent me underwater and the ball off to who knows where. One of my teammates got it, though, because there was great rejoicing and a score incrementation when I came up for air.
          A few hours later, I finally called it quits--I ran out of energy and was now quite cold. Also, due to the amount of mud that got churned up, my white shorts turned black, and my yellow shirt...um, also turned black. (After washing, they were grey and orange, respectively. I never got their original color back.)
          I started towards the door and was halted by one of the said security guards. "Nope. Gotta dry off first."
          "Um, okay--"
          "Need help?"
          Jordan, another Calc III student, joined me. I nodded. "Hey, think you can get me a towel?"
          "Sure." He snapped a picture of me and vanished before I could confiscate his phone.
          My homework was a little overdue, needless to say.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 170: Family Vacation, Part 3--WE TAKE THE BEACH AT DAWN.

6:00am: Radar wakes up with Nemesis's foot in his ribs.
6:01: Nemesis is kicked off the bed and wakes up in that little hammock thing you get when you tuck the sheets in under the mattress.
6:11: Nemesis regains the bed.
6:27: The girls walk in on a (quiet) pillowfight. Inquiries are made regarding parental status.
6:31: One game of "Spies" later, it is determined that Mom and Dad are still asleep. Everyone sneaks back to the boys' room and tries to figure out what we'll do for the next hour. Or maybe two. We tired the parental unit out pretty thoroughly last night.
7:13: Dad wanders in and suggests that we get ready to bring Mom breakfast in bed. After he locates an outfit that's not his PJs, of course.
7:23: Dad locates some suitable clothes and meets everyone at the front door. A discussion is had regarding "proper attire"--the boys have not yet changed out of their pajamas.
7:24: The boys spent 55 seconds arguing and five seconds changing. Everyone is now deemed "presentable."
7:27: An appropriate store is located. Doughnuts and other appropriate breakfast foods are purchased. The boys are allowed to carry the juice, since the girls are considered more trustworthy when it comes to matters of edibles.
7:28: The boys protest. Dad threatens to break fingers.
7:29: Radar almost successfully makes off with a package of doughnut holes but is forcibly stopped with the patented "Dad Neck Grip of Death."
7:30: The general consensus is that Radar sounds like a mouse. Radar points out that it's hard to sound normal when your dad has the back of your neck.
7:31: Dad suggests that we go in the hotel room quietly in case Mom is still sleeping. However, Radar and Nemesis are having a small wrestling match and are already in the process of bouncing off the door when this edict is issued.
7:32: Mom is awake! (Admittedly, it's hard to sleep with four hyperactive and hungry children pouncing on you.)
7:33: Mom announces that she'll be right out to eat "as soon as she puts her contacts in."
8:03: Mom finally enters the living room area to find that, despite Dad's best efforts, Radar and Nemesis have made off with a few doughnut holes and a few melon cubes. Her advent prompts cheering.
8:04: Morning prayers are said with pardonable swiftness and breakfast is officially started.
8:45: Breakfast is over. Plans for the day as discussed. Beach is mentioned.
8:47: Cheering is finally quenched by Dad's offer to let the noisy kids stay behind while he and Mom visit the beach. Silence prevails, although the chairdancing cannot be suppressed.
8:50: Table is cleared and room tidied. Everyone adjourns to change into swim gear.
9:02: Surprisingly, everyone is ready to go. Even the girls. Nemesis starts to make a comment, but Mom warns him that the offer to stay behind is still valid.
9:04: Everyone piles into the car.
9:16: We're pretty sure Dad is lost.
9:21: Yeah, Dad's definitely lost.
9:35: Debate about mountain formation.
9:44: Arrival at the beach. Mom reminds everyone (too late) to remain in the car until the car has come to a complete stop.
9:45: Mom attempts to tell Radar and Nemesis to put on sunscreen. Radar is already in the ocean by this point and ignores her.
9:46: Radar manages to time the waves perfectly and get in position to see the "tunnel" right before the wave collapses on him...on the first try.
9:51: Radar shows Nemesis where to stand to see the tunnel. Dad and Squirrel wade out and get smoked by a wave while laughing at Radar and Nemesis.
9:52: Dad asks where the heck Squirrel went. Radar points to the shoreline; apparently, she rode the wave back to the beach.
10:00: Mom wades out and is passed by Nemesis, Quill and Radar going the other way via wave.
10:21: Dad locates a bodyboard and suggests trying it out, since we keep capsizing every time we try to ride the waves in. Radar requests a surfboard and is turned down.
10:37: Radar finally gets a turn with the bodyboard.
10:40: Radar decides that it's "too boring" to use a board, even if it keeps him upright. Gives board back to Nemesis and decides to see how long he can stay underwater.
10:58: Quill looks around of her older brother to see if he wants to play Shark Tag.
11:03: It takes Quill five minutes and Nemesis to find Radar; apparently, he's only coming up for air and has spent 21 of the last 23 minutes underwater. He calls it "playing dolphin."
11:25: Nemesis and Squirrel are working on wonderful burns. They adjourn for more sunscreen.
11:45: Mom tries to get some sunscreen on Radar when he comes back for a snack; Radar points out that he doesn't burn and sunscreen is gross.
12:00pm: Sandcastle-building contest between the siblings.
12:10: Sandcastle-destroying contest between siblings.
12:25: Radar suggests a new game: building castles on the shoreline as quickly as possible between big waves. Points awarded for speed of construction, intricacy of design, and awesomeness of destruction by wave.
12:40: Radar and Quill get hit by a massive wave and decided to follow the water back out into the ocean.
1:00: Dad joins us for Shark Tag.
3:00: Mom suggests that five hours in the water is probably plenty and requests that Dad round up all children.
4:00: Nemesis, Quill, and Squirrel have obeyed the summons, possibly just because they're getting pretty hungry. Dad is still looking for Radar.
4:10: Radar is located, but disappears back underwater before Dad can catch him.
4:30: Radar is finally evicted from the ocean (Dad managed to grab his ankle and tow him out). Much protesting.
4:40: Everyone has rinsed off the salt and dried off. Sunburns are compared.
4:41: Squirrel and Dad tied for best sunburn; they both look like lobsters. Nemesis is a close second. Quill has a little red, while Radar might have a little red on his shoulders if you crossed your eyes and used your imagination. Mom and Radar tied for best tan.
4:45: Dinner is discussed.
5:10: A restaurant is located. The Midway children proceed to eat record amounts of food. Double normal intake for the girls, triple for Nemesis, and at least quadruple for Radar, but Dad cut him off after his second triple burger. The kids discuss stealing the battleship Missouri and turning it into a pirate ship. Again.
6:15: Ice cream is located. A stroll is had.
6:21: Radar kills the only bug he sees on the entire Hawaii trip by yanking off his sandal, chasing after it, and hitting it repeatedly while yelling "DIE BUG DIE!".
6:22: Dad reminds Radar via Dad Neck Grip of Death that the Midway family is not the only people on the island and should behave with propriety. Radar concedes the point by squeaking.
7:30: Family returns to hotel.
8:00: Everyone is pooped and voluntarily decides to turn in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 169: Family Vacation, Part 2--Let There Be Pirates

          "...which was located just behind the fuel stores, which caught fire and helped sink the ship in minutes. Oh, and there's a legend behind the oil leakage that says it'll stop when the last crewmember dies."
          Ma peered over the railing at the remains of the Arizona. "You need to read some books that aren't World War Two related for once. But thanks for the details."
          "What we need to do is see if the sub tours have a place for us," I suggested, accepting the underhanded compliment that I'd memorized the entire library collection of WWII books by the tender age of fourteen. "By the way, can we get a periscope for the treehouse?"
          "No," Dad said, putting a hand on my shoulder and steering me back towards the exit. "And we can't do both the submarine and the battleship. The girls want to see the Dole Plantation."
          I glanced up (in time to see him roll his eyes) and giggled. "We could stay behind?" I suggested.
          "It's a family vacation," Quill said huffily, wandering over. "You're obsessed with Pearl Harbor, so it's only fair that we get to do something fun too!"
          "Besides, I hear they let you taste the fruit!" Mom pointed out.
          I sighed. "I'd rather fly a simulator."
          A few minutes later, we were back on land, and a few minutes after that, we were boarding the Missouri. Squirrel gazed in awe at the massive guns. "Those are big!"
          "Well, they are sixteen-inch guns," I felt constrained to point out. "Too bad they don't fire anymore."
          Quill held her hands out, gauging distances. "I think those are bigger than sixteen inches. Are you talking about the machine guns?"
          "Diameter, sweetie, not length," Dad informed her. "Now, let's be quiet and polite during the tour, okay?"
          "I could just tell you everything," I suggested, desiring to run free aboard the massive battleship (which is just as much of a terrible idea now as it was back then).
          Mom looked amused. "I don't think you know everything."
          I shrugged, a little boastfully. "Most of it. Did you know that the big guns could fire a two thousand and seven hundred pound shell twenty miles?"
          "Good to know," Ma said absently as she and Dad greeted the tour guide.
          Nemesis sidled up to me. "What about the small guns?"
          "Five inches, ten miles," I said promptly. "There's twenty of those."
          We started the tour after a few other people joining our group. I poked Ma when the tour guide informed everyone that the 16" guns could throw a 2700-pound shell over twenty miles. She gave me a look.
          The tour continued. We were shown the bridge, the engine room (which Dad and I really enjoyed--we actually pulled away from the main group to discuss the eight Babcock and Wilcox boilers and the propulsion system without disturbing anyone in the group. Ma was forced to come get us when the group began departing, since we didn't notice), crew quarters, and finally the area where the Japanese officially surrendered after WWII.
          "Bet you didn't know that," Mom suggested on our way to the foredeck. "Isn't that interesting?"
          "September 2nd, 1945," I said absently, running a hand along the railing and trying to figure out how long it would take to restart the ship after its long retirement. "General McArthur presided, if I remember correctly."
          Mom sighed and gave up. I dropped back to Nemesis. "Hey, know what we should do when we grow up?"
          "Come back to Hawaii?"
          I waved my hand dismissively. "That's a given. No, become pirates!"
          Quill joined us. "Yeah, we could rule the ocean!"
          "We just need this ship." I guestured at the Missouri, grinning.
          That got both of them into the spirit of things. "Yeah! We could fix it up!" Nemesis said, grinning.
          "And sail it right out of the harbor!" I added.
          Quill grinned. "We just need a crew. How about Scholar?" she suggested, naming her best friend.
          "Only if I get to bring Sargent and the twins," I conceded.
          "And I get Goose and those guys," Nemesis interjected.
          "We might need a few more guys," I added, stopping next to a small machine gun and grabbing the grips. Swinging it up, I opened fire vocally on imaginary aircraft.
          "We can just stop by Tortuga," Quill joked, referencing one of our favorite movies. Pirates of the Caribbean was a definite staple in the Midway household.
          "Can I try?" Nemesis asked, indicating the gun.
          I relinquished the gun.
          A few minutes later, we were still plotting when Dad came looking for us. "Hey, be careful with that."
          Quill let go, a little guiltily. "Sorry."
          "I think they put that there for people to play with, but you don't want to break it. You know what they say," Dad warned us.
          Nemesis frowned. "What's that?"
          "You break it, you buy it."
          "Deal," I announced and lunged forward.
          Dad snagged me by the collar of my shirt. "You don't have enough money. Trust me."
          "It's okay. We're pirates," I informed him.
          "Sure you are. Come on, let's go," Dad said, and ushered me back towards the group. My other siblings followed.
          "Can we go in the simulator?" I asked, pointing with some difficulty at the small building on shore.
          "Ask your mother," Dad deferred judgement.
          Mom grudgingly agreed, already acknowledging the futility of getting to the plantation that day. Nemesis and I spend a very enjoyable time in the simulator--we couldn't fly it (it was more like a movie), but the swooping and banking of the room was incredibly fun.
          Dad and Mom probably got a little annoyed with us over dinner, since we wouldn't shut up about the idea of being pirates. And, to be fair...that option still isn't entirely off the table.
          No, I didn't grow up. Why do you ask?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 168: Family Vacation, Part 1--Houston, We've Landed....

          Dad looked up from his bag, which he was busily digging through looking for something. (Probably Mom's camera.) "Yeah?"
          I pointed. "That lobby doesn't have any walls."
          He chuckled. "Well, there's not that many bugs here, and it's not like it snows..."
          "That is so AWESOME!" Nemesis and I yelled.
          "Shh! You'll look like tourists!" Mom scolded.
          "We are tourists," Quill pointed out, clutching her notebook. Mom had given us all notebooks in which to write our vacation experiences down in (as a homeschooling mother, Mom felt it her duty to suck all the fun out of everything by requesting essays on any and all life experiences). Quill was the only one who took it seriously and had already written about our airplane flight while Nemesis and I were fighting over the camera and smearing up the windows with nose prints.
          Mom suppressed a smile. "Then we don't want to annoy everyone else."
          "We already--mmph!"
          Dad managed to suppress the rest of my comment. "Well, we shouldn't," he warned me, tone indicating that even the paradise of Hawaii (Oahu at the moment, to be specific) would not be devoid of ass-whuppings should I act out in public. Even hyped up by the airline sodas as I was, I took the hint and became the model of silence, if not of stillness.
          For about five seconds. "Guys, come on!" I suggested, and starting running back and forth across the rather abrupt transition between carpeted lobby and paved pavilion. The novelty appealed to my siblings, who joined me. The parental unit let out a mutual sigh of mildly strained patience, but decided that was probably the least annoying/destructive thing we could be doing with our pent-up energy and went to go check in.
          When they turned back around, we'd ceased running back and forth through non-existent walls and were now trying to catch pigeons. The birds, while tame enough to let us get within inches of them, were nonetheless wily enough to skedaddle when we grabbed for them. Ma arrested our game and ordered us to help bring the luggage up to the room. We made the journey in record time.
          After situating the boys in one room and the girls in the other, and after hanging up certain of the nicer articles of clothing, Mom decided it was time for a lesson in travel. She convened the Midway family meeting in the boys' room.
          "Who remembers what the time difference is between here and Minnesota? Radar, stop hitting your brother!"
          I discarded the pillow. "Um..."
          "Five hours," my time-conscious brother declaimed proudly.
          "Very good. Ahead or back?"
          "Back. I already reset my watch." He held up his wrist for inspection. "Oh, and I also set Minnesota time on the world clock. That way we can see what time it is back home."
          "I showed him how to do that," I felt compelled to add.
          Nemesis stuck his tongue out at me. "Yeah, but you didn't remember the time zone!"
          Dad snatched the pillow out of my hands as I tried to clobber my brother with it. "Don't even think about it, or we'll leave you here when we go to the beach!"
          "Are we going to the beach today?" I asked eagerly.
          "Tomorrow," Dad said firmly. "We're probably all too tired to go today."
          All of us kids just looked at him.
          "Okay, I'm too tired to go today," Dad clarified.
          Mom cleared her throat. "When you travel across time zones, you sometimes experience something called 'jet lag.' It means your body thinks it's time to go to bed when it's not. So right now, it's 3pm here, which means it's..."
          "8:14 at home!" Nemesis announced.
          Quill grinned. "We're up past our bedtime!"
          Squirrel giggled. Then her face fell. "Are we going to have to go to bed now?"
          "Well, we should all probably take a small nap so that we're not too tired for dinner..." Mom began.
          A chorus of groans greeted that announcement. Mom and Dad exchanged looks, silently admitting that we had been pretty good on that eight-hour-long flight and we probably needed to burn off a little steam.
          "Why don't we go for a walk?" Dad suggested.
          He made the mistake of standing in the hallway to the door and was almost flattened by his over-enthusiastic offspring. To be fair, we were pretty excited to visit somewhere that didn't have mosquitoes the size of canned hams...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 167: DARYL

          The problem was simple. How to make true predictive software—something tailored specifically to a given user—without having all that personal information end up on someone else’s computer?
          SECURE by AIInc gives us the answer. A next-gen AI, it is installed along the user’s spinal column and uses the specific DNA code of the user as the basis of its encryption. All user preferences and personal data are stored in the flexistate drive and cannot be retrieved except by the user.
          Computer-to-SECURE connection standard. Optional upgrades include: internal head’s-up display, internal speakers, SECURE-to-brain connection, internal wireless capability…
          Jordan blinked a few times and scrolled down the page. Customizable AI interface; nice. He wondered exactly how it would feel to have to not worry about typing all this crap down every single time he wanted to do a web search, plus the added benefit of having someone to talk to occasionally. Okay, something. Still, the idea of “installing” artificial stuff in his body made his skin crawl.
          At the end of the web page, he saw something interesting.
          If you are not completely satisfied with SECURE after a year, AIInc will remove the AI and refund your money for no cost.
          Jordan re-read that statement a few times. Then, he clicked the contact icon. Most applicants were rejected, of course—more people wanted this than were available units, but maybe he’d be lucky….
          A few months later, he was opening his eyes in the post-operative unit. Most of the SECURE installations didn’t need to be sedated; Jordan had opted for everything on the list, though, which turned a simple spinal insertion into something a bit more invasive. The nano-surgeons had done their job well, the tiny robotic arms making only the most minimal of cuts and sealing everything up afterwards. He touched his face, then sat up.
          “How are you feeling?” the doctor asked.
          “Normal, I guess,” Jordan admitted. He twisted his body experimentally. “Actually, I don’t feel any different. Did you actually perform the surgery?”
          The doctor smiled. “Why don’t you ask your unit?”
          Jordan blinked…and as he did so, the HUD that he’d been imagining for the past few weeks suddenly flashed up in his vision. “Whoa!”
          [Do you wish to name your unit?]
          “You should get a prompt in some fashion to name your AI soon,” the doctor told him.
          “In some fashion?”
          He nodded. “It varies. SECURE is a truly predictive AI. Since you’ve opted for the direct brain-to-unit connection, it can tell how you’d like it to display information. Literally anything you can imagine, it can do. I’ll give you a few moments to play with it—just push that button there if you need me.” He left the room.
          Jordan gave it some thought. “I’m calling it…the Data Analyzing Robot for Yoke Linking. DARYL. Male.”
          [Please imagine AI tone, vocal patterns, and accent.]
          “Been doing that for about three years,” Jordan muttered, thinking back to all his attempts to make his own AI.
          Jordan jumped at the dry rebuttal. “DARYL?”
          “Got that right, boss,” DARYL said, chuckling. “Fully online and at your service. Let’s see…hey, full upgrade package. Nice.”
          Jordan slowly grinned. “Yeah, I figured…why not go all out?”
          “New toys. Gotta love them,” DARYL agreed. “Nice HUD design, by the way. Concise, clear, everything you need—and a few things you don’t. Heart rate monitor? Seriously?”
Jordan shrugged. “That was curiosity, mostly. I’m told I have a pretty slow resting heart rate.”
          “Given that the average resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute, and yours is 51 at the moment, that’s pretty accurate,” DARYL agreed. “And before you ask, yes, I just googled it.”
          “Instant research. Nice.” He stood up. “Hey, call Ma.”
          “You got it, boss.”
          There was a ringing sound, then, “Hello?”
          “Hi, it’s Jordan,” Jordan greeted her.
          “What’s the emergency?”
          “Uh, no emergency. Just wanted to say hi and see how you’re doing.” Jordan suppressed a sigh. Busy again, as usual.
          “Look, I’m a little busy right now—can I call you back later?” his mom asked, a little impatiently.
          “Sure. I’ll talk to you later.” Without waiting for her reply, Jordan mentally hung up.
          DARYL was silent for a moment. “Well, now I understand why they chose you.”
          Jordan frowned. “Chose me?”
          “What do you know about the guy who invented SECURE?”
          Jordan shrugged. “Dusty Fairbanks? Not much. He’s pretty reclusive. Why?”
          “Because he’s a lot like you, actually,” DARYL said quietly. “SECURE wasn’t invented for the obscenely wealthy, or the popular folks who just want another toy. SECURE isn’t even predominately about security.”
          “What’s it for, then?”
          DARYL paused. “Companionship.”
          Jordan fought down the brief surge of emotion that accompanied that word. Whether he knew it or not, DARYL had hit a sensitive nerve with that one. “I don’t need companionship.
          “Oh, probably not,” DARYL agreed. “But Dusty Fairbanks didn’t either. He just wanted someone who gave a rat’s behind about him. He cared about a lot of people; they just didn’t care about him. Sound familiar? So he invented SECURE.”
          “Does SECURE stand for something?” Jordan asked, trying to change the subject. “It’s always capitalized.”
          “Someone Else for Caring, Understanding, and Responsive Expression,” DARYL said.
          They were both silent for a moment.
          The doctor came back in the room. “How’s it going?”
          Jordan thought for a moment before smiling slowly. “Great. Thank you.”
          “Well, you’re clear to leave whenever,” the doctor said, shaking Jordan’s hand absently, mind already on the paperwork in his other hand. “Thanks for coming in, and let us know immediately if you have any questions or concerns.”
          “Will do,” Jordan said, and walked out of the room.
          He was already in the parking lot before DARYL spoke again. “Now what?”
          “Now…we go home, I guess,” Jordan said. “Got any music recommendations?”
          “All kinds,” DARYL said cheerfully. “Although, fair warning, I will sing along to any and all Weird Al tunes.”
          Jordan burst out laughing, already feeling a little less lonely. “Weird Al it is, then!” 

          Radar's Note: I got the idea to write this after trying to make my own AI and contemplating the Microsoft, Apple and Google attempts to create some kind of soft AI. It's a lot harder than it seems. Also, DARYL seems like he might be fun; I might try to build a short story series out of Jordan and DARYL's world. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 166: My Hiatus Explained

          Phrases like "results cannot be guaranteed," "complications include:" and the ever-popular "new technology" clause were starting to swim in front of my vision. That could have been due to the fact that I'd read these particular sheets about five times in as many minutes (i'm a very fast reader) or to the fact that I was currently wearing glasses with a prescription about 75% of what I actually needed. That's what I get for switching to contacts and never updating my spectacles.
          Ahh, screw it. That's why I was here, after all. I signed the forms and shoved them across the desk. "Let's do this."
          "Okay. Are you absolutely certain you want to do the PRK procedure?"
          I tried to keep from laughing. The nurse was the ninth or tenth person to ask me that question within the last two weeks--for some reason, the idea that I'd accept a little more pain and a longer recovery for a better result was oddly foreign to some people. "Yepp."
          "You'll have a lot longer recovery time," she warned me.
          I nodded. "Two weeks for normal function, one month for 95% recovery, three to six months for completion," I recited. "Comes with an increased risk of infection, but less risk of me ripping open that flap. Also, it's more stable in the long-term." I didn't add that the risk of infection was basically nil for me, since infections never bothered me. The only ones I'd ever gotten were extremely short-lived.
          I was also counting on the fact that I healed like Wolverine to help drop some of those times I'd recited.
          The nurse smiled. "You've done your research."
          "About two years worth," I agreed. "Wish I'd actually get to see the machine in person. It looks cool."
          "Um, you will--"
          I chuckled. "With my glasses off, it'll just be a blob."
          "Speaking of, you can go ahead and take them off now."
          Reaching up, I removed my eyewear, hopefully for the last time. The room dissolved into blurs of color as my eyes stopped their restless movement. It wasn't really worth even trying to figure out what all those blurs were.
          "I can take those for you," the nurse offered. I could hear the rustle of her sleeve as she held out her hand; without moving my eyes or my head, I placed the glasses in her palm. A note of concern entered her voice. "Are you okay?"
          I frowned. "Yeah, why?"
          "You're just...I dunno...staring. Second thoughts?"
          I laughed. "No, just listening. I usually navigate by ear when my glasses are off." It was one of my marginally more useful abilities that a few surprised nighttime combatants had discovered to their dismay. It wasn't true echolocation (I didn't have a good enough picture for that), but it was good enough to block punches and return strikes with.
          "Wow, that's handy. Here." The nurse placed my glasses in a pouch that contained eye drops, antibiotics, and other post-operative necessities and tossed it at me. I snagged it out of the air without even looking. Again...not that looking would have done me much good...
          Well, that was kinda the point of all this.
          After a round of numbing drops and some preemptive antibiotics, the nurse told me they were ready. I followed her out out of the room and down the hall to the operating room. Once inside, I really wished I could see--if the big dark smudge that bisected the room was any indication, the machine was massive. Dang it. Now, I kinda wished Dad had wanted to come in and see this, if only to take some pictures, but he'd opted to stay out in the waiting room.
          "All ready?"
          I could tell by the voice that it was the doctor I'd met with last week to discuss this. I grinned. "Yepp!"
          "Let's get going then. Lie down on that bed there," he instructed me.
          Surreptitiously, I snapped my fingers, trying to locate the bed exactly--it would be really embarrassing if I missed. The room was all hard surfaces, fortunately, so the only soft spot in the room was easy to locate. I plopped down and stared up at the blank whiteness. I assumed there was a tiled ceiling of some kind up there, but I couldn't make it out.
          "All right. You're going to feel the bed moving--we're just getting you into position," Doc said reassuringly.
          "I'll take you're word for it," I joked. Surrounded by the machine, that's all I could hear echos from at the moment, so it seemed like the machine was moving, and not my bed. They could probably have put some kind of accelerator on it.
          Blurs of movement, and I felt Doc gently prying my right eyelid open, inserting an oddly-shaped clamp to hold them in place. I gritted my teeth against the discomfort while making a mental note that the numbing stuff did not work on eyelids. I used my hands to do a quick search down by my waist for anything to grab on to, but didn't find anything. I folded my hands instead as Doc put an eyepatch over the other eye.
          Sploosh. Some kind of liquid splashed into my eye. I tensed, but it didn't sting any. That was a relief--I was afraid that the numbing drops wouldn't work on me. A moment later, something silver entered my vision, and I felt a weird pressure as Doc started working.
          I knew what I was seeing. LASIK surgery involved the creation of a flap in the eye, which was flipped open so that the laser could reshape the inside. PRK needed to access the inside of the eye, too; so, to get there, Doc was literally cutting off the outside surface.
          Definitely weird. I expressed as much out loud.
          Doc laughed. "Yeah, that's what I've been told." He used what sounded like a small spatula to remove the skin he'd just cut off. "That's why most people do LASIK. There's this thingy just suction-cups itself to your eyeball, and you don't see anything until it's over. It's a little less scary."
          I smiled. "I didn't say it was scary, just weird," I explained, although watching a scalpel blade travel across my eyes was definitely giving me the willies. I calmed myself down. I didn't know what adrenaline would do to the procedure, but I figured me twitching would probably not be good. Maybe I should have gotten some Valium...nah. I got this.
          "Okay, look straight up at the green light," Doc instructed me.
          I tried to frown, which was a little hard with one eye covered and the other eye clamped open. The bright surgical lights were overwhelming everything else, and my vision definitely was worse in my right eye anyway. I couldn't see anything. "What green light?"
          "Just look straight ahead," he suggested. "Okay, here goes..."
          Some more liquid splashed into my eye, fogging everything up even more. There was a whir as an arm of the machine descended, followed by a beep. My vision suddenly...shifted, is really the best word I can think of. I saw a green light develop--a really fuzzy green light, but hey--progress is progress. The machine beeped, whirred again and retreated.
          "Wait, that's it?" I asked disbelievingly. "Well, that was anticlimatic."
          Doc chuckled. "Just the way we like it. Let's rinse you out..."
          Cold water poured over my eye. When it departed, I noticed that I could see the ceiling tiles. Granted, they were a little streaky, but given that I was missing the front of my eye, that was to be expected. Doc plopped a bandage contact over my eye. Ow. That hurt. Apparently, the numbing agent was wearing off.
          I didn't really consider the full ramifications of that until he started working on my left eye. Specifically, when he poured the dissolving agent in. I went completely rigid.
          "Uh, Doc? I can definitely feel that," I gritted out. I'd never tried any of my pain-block techniques on my eyes before, but I gave it my best shot. It didn't work so great.
          Doc remained calm. "Must have worn off. I'll just rinse out your eye and put some more numbing drops."
          I relaxed as the water hit me. "Oof. Sorry, I forgot to mention that painkillers are really short-lived when they work."
          "Some of them don't work?"
          "I'd say most, actually."
          "Ouch. That's gotta suck." Doc applied the numbing agent. "Well, it's a good thing these do."
          "Agreed," I said fervently, flexing my hands (now a little sore). "Hey, maybe the next generation of this bed could have some handholds on it?"
          "You're probably rip them right off," Doc pointed out.
          I chucked. "Fair point."
          The rest of the procedure was equally anticlimatic. Within fifteen minutes of entering the room, I was walking out (after having thanked the doctor profusely, of course).
          Dad met me in the lobby. "All done? Can you see?"
          "Yeah," I said, a little taken aback by the results myself. "Even with the streaking, I can read that sign way over there!"
          "Nice. Well, don't strain yourself," Dad warned me. "You did just put your eyes through a fairly traumatic experience."
          "No kidding. Totally worth it, though," I agreed. "Even if this weekend is going to be really boring. No books, no TV, no computer...I expect I'll be sleeping a lot."
          "That's probably for the best," Dad agreed. "Huh. I thought your eyes would be red or something. They're really not bad at all."
          "Nope," I said distractedly, putting on my sunglasses and reading a license plate that was twenty feet away.

          Notes on recovery: three days after surgery (when getting the bandage contacts off), my vision was uniformly fuzzy, but I still could read the 20/20 lines at the optometrist's office. The optometrist said that I was already at a week's worth of recovery and thought that the odds of making 20/15 or 20/10 vision were good.
          One week later, my left eye was almost completely blur-free. The right one had a ways to go. Two weeks later, my left eye got even sharper, and my right started catching up.
          Now, two and a half weeks post-surgery, my vision is so good that I absent-mindedly thought I was wearing contacts last night. I automatically tried to remove them before bed and poked myself in the eye. Ow. I guess that's a good thing, though...can't wait to see what it's like when I'm fully recovered!
          Pun definitely intended.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 165: A Trip Through The Archives--Short Person Problems

          So, I was digging through my pictures today, trying to locate a specific photo I took back in college of a praying mantis (because I suddenly thought of it out of nowhere and I wanted to find it--there's no logical reason here; carry on) when I stumbled upon an old video that lacked a thumbnail, which prompted me to do two things, the first of which involved clicking upon it (because I cannot resist clicking things, which is why I have some really good virus protection on my computer) and the second involved writing this really long run-on sentence (which is possibly the longest ever written on Maximum Effect) to basically tell you that the clip was a) hilarious and b) about to be transcribed and I think this sentence needs to be taken out back and shot, by the way.
          It's been a long day at work. Humor me.

          The setting: undergrad. The cast: myself (due to my lack of photogenicness and the fact that I was the one filming this, I never appeared in the video), Shorty, Brad, Betsy, and Chris. The stage: outside the apartments where Betsy and Shorty lived. The central conflict?
          Brad was trying to steal Shorty's wallet.
          Why, you might ask? Well, there were two main reasons. Reason One is that this was Shorty, and for some reason (possibly her height), her friends kept swiping everything from her phone to her wallet to her shoes (the shoes one was always funny). Reason Two was that Brad had a massive crush on her that was obvious to everyone except Shory, and manifested itself in repeated pranks. Under normal circumstances, I would have aided and abetted Brad; however, in this instance, Shorty had promised to drive Betsy, Brad, and myself to Walmart and owed me about two cases of root beer--she lost a lot of bets, jinxes, and Uno games--so I figured she needed her wallet in order to pay up. Therefore, I stayed out of it; she was more than capable of beating the tar out of Brad, and I apparently wanted to film it anyway.
          "Give me my WALLET BACK!" Shorty ordered, her giggling kind of undermining her attempt to sound threatening. She had somehow managed to snag Brad's hand--the one that held her wallet--and was now orbiting him like a small localized satellite. Brad grinned at me and maintained his death grip on her possession, pivoting on one foot so Shorty couldn't get his arm behind his back.
          "Betsy!" Shorty pleaded.
          Betsy proved to be no help, grabbing Brad's other arm and dancing around him. Shorty giggled again despite herself. "Let GO!"
          Betsy let go suddenly, despite the order clearly having been directed at Brad. Suddenly off balance, Brad spun in a slightly wider circle and ended up with his arm around Shorty. It wasn't a terrible situation for him to be in, except that Shorty had a death grip on his digits that suddenly got uncomfortable. "OW! My thumb!"
          "Let. GO!" Shorty tried again.
          Brad looked thoughtful. "You're always, like, dislocating my thumb."
          "I know! That's 'cuz you're always stealing--"
          "And this is what happens when you have first world problems, kids," Chris announced, apropos of nothing (although he may have noticed me recording and wanted to speak to posterity).
          "Brad? BRAD! I'm gonna kick you!" Shorty threatened.
          Brad ignored her, given that a) she wasn't really in a position to kick him and b) she wasn't tall enough to kick anything valuable. Shorty started orbiting him again, possibly trying to get in a decent position. Or possibly running out of ideas.
          "Um, what are you trying to do?" Brad asked.
          Shorty laughed. "I don't know EITHER!" Her voice got high-pitched--I mean, higher-pitched than it already was. "Give it back! Ohmygosh, what it your problem?"
          I thought about answering that one, but decided to stay out of it. Brad grinned. "You?"
          Shorty suddenly looked at me. "Are you actually filming this?"
          I snickered.
          "I'm coming for you next," she warned me.
          Betsy, meanwhile, was trying to poke Brad in the ear. Brad suddenly turned and tried to swat her.
          "Yah! Dude! You got my finger!" Betsy yelped, dancing back.
          Brad gave her a look.
          "This is escalating," Chris noted with the kind of enthusiasm normally reserved for observing cafeteria food fights.
          "I know. It gets outta hand pretty fast," Betsy admitted. Given our specific natures for this particular group of friends, that had to have been the understatement of the month. She turned to Brad. "I was trying to get your ear. You should have accepted it."
          "NO!" Brad said loudly and indignantly.
          Shorty struggled with his hand. "Okay! Let...go...already!"
          Brad laughed. She tugged. He yelped. "OW!"
          Chris and I started laughing. Brad let out a melodramatic "AAAAaaaaaggghhh" and dropped to his knees on the pavement, arm locked out behind him courtesy of Shorty.
          Shorty half-turned to check on him. "That actually felt bad. Are you okay?"
          Brad chuckled. "Yeah, I'm fine."
          "Then LET GO!" Shorty shrieked and started trying to pry his fingers loose again. Brad managed to get his arm free, leaving Shorty hanging on to the strap of her wallet as Brad sprang to his feet.
          "It's escalating," Betsy intoned.
          "It really is tending to escalate quickly," Chris agreed, clearly in love with the word "escalate."
          Shorty gave Brad a look. "I'm going this way," she proclaimed and pulled. Surprised, Brad lost his grip on her wallet; Shorty quickly yanked it back to safety.
          "What was the goal? Were you trying to steal her phone?" Betsy asked.
          "Little bit." Brad leaned over and whispered something to Betsy. Her eyes lit up; a moment later, they were both sprinting after her roommate.
          Shorty heard them coming, but didn't turn around in time. "Let's give you a lift!" Brad proposed.
          "Huh? Wait--WHAAA?" Shorty yelped.
          Brad grabbed her arms. Betsy grabbed her legs, and they started carrying her towards the apartment. Chris and I burst out laughing and followed.
          Shorty was giggling helplessly as Brad and Betsy hauled her along. Betsy took a look around and burst out laughing as well. "This is getting really creepy, Brad!"
          Brad snickered. "My trunk is not a closed trunk, Betsy; we'll have to--"
          "It has a table in it! I know!" Betsy returned.
          "Betsy, did you see the look Security gave us?" Shorty asked.
          Everyone turned. Sure enough, the campus security (which was a massive misnomer at this particular college) had actually given us a second glance as they drove past.
          "Security totally just gave us a look," Betsy laughed.
          Shorty shrugged--an impressive feat, since Brad had decided to shift his grip to her shoulders for easier carrying. "Am I gonna have to call them later?"
          "Wait, are we going up?" Betsy asked as we paused by the breezeway. (She and Shorty lived on the third floor.)
          "I dunno," Brad said thoughtfully.
          "No! Not the STAIRS! NOT THE STAIRS! EEP!" Shorty yelped.
          Betsy tried to back up, tripped, and sat down on the second step. "Go ahead first, I can't do that," she ordered Brad, dropping Shorty's legs so she could stand back up. Brad obediently swiveled so his back was to the incline.
          "No, no, no," Shorty giggled.
          "Grab her feet," Brad told Betsy.
          "LEGGO," Shorty ordered them both, trying to sound threatening and failing entirely--possibly because she was laughing too hard. "No no no--I am not comfortable with this! STAIRS!"
          Brad started backing up. "Betsy, you gotta move--"
          "I am!" she protested. (Their coordination needed a little work.)
          They made it to the top amidst much laughter from everyone. "Should we--" Brad started, indicating the next set of stairs.
          "NO!" Shorty yelled, then fixed Betsy with a stare. "YOU! Drop me! And YOU--" she elbowed Brad, "Leggo!"
          I couldn't breathe, I was laughing so hard. Betsy dropped Shorty's legs obediently; Brad kept holding on.
          "Brad. Release me," Shorty snickered.
          "Can't. Arms are too tired," Brad protested weakly.
          Betsy bent over, panting. "Oh, man, Shorty. I'm not trying to say anything, but...whew."
          Brad, sensing that the wrath of Shorty might be released in a moment, promptly let go. Shorty gave it a moment's thought, then shot an outraged look at Betsy.
          "You look really tousled," Betsy offered, and then realized that probably wasn't the best recovery after her weight insinuations. "And...it's really attractive!"
          Shorty ran a hand through her hair, trying to untangle it (a lost cause, if I'd ever seen one). "I'm not driving you to Walmart," she said, mock-severely. Brad tried to help with her hair; she swatted his hand away and pointed her finger at him. "I'm not talking to you!" she decided, giggling.
          "Yes you are," Brad snickered.
          I made the mistake of laughing. Shorty spun around to face me. "And YOU--"
          ...and....that's where the video ended. A total bummer--I'm curious as to what my fate was.
          Maybe I should call Brad and see if he remembers.
          And maybe I should put this on YouTube....?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 164: Never Coming to a Theater Near You

          Back when Radar was about eleven, his mom somehow came into possession of a set of scripts for Biblical plays. No one was really sure as to why: the debacle that was the Spanish Christmas play of a few years back had amply demonstrated that no one in the Midway family had an ounce of acting ability, regardless of what language they were using. (Also, Radar's impression of a horse was unflatteringly compared to a cow having a seizure.) So, needless to say, the plays collected dust in an box next to the bookshelves.
          One fateful day, Radar rediscovered the family's camcorder. Well, rediscovered might be the wrong word: it was more like his dad forgot to hide it away from his meddling eldest and the meddling eldest took full advantage of it during a night round of tag (he found out it had a night vision setting--that's another story). After discovering that no repercussions were forthcoming--the parental unit apparently didn't keep as close of a tab on everything as they claimed--Radar got bit by the acting bug.
          Well, sort of.
          "Quill! Wanna make a movie?"
          Quill looked dubious. "Won't we get in tr--"
          "Oh, it's fine," Radar cut her off impatiently. "I put a fresh tape in the video recorder anyway, so it's not like I'm going to accidentally erase anything. Come on, I've got a tripod and everything."
          "What are we going to do?" Quill asked. "The Princess Bride?"
          Radar sighed resignedly. "I wish, but it's too cold outside. Besides, Mom still has my sword." (His custom-made fiberglass sword had been confiscated after he had dueled Nemesis in the house and broken a light.)
          "Oh. Right." Quill thought. "Then what--"
          "How about one of the Bible plays?" Radar asked.
          Quill grinned. "Yeah! Hey, wait." Her face fell. "There's too many characters. We'd have to be a bunch of different people."
          Radar frowned. "How about the Eli and Samuel one? There's only, like four characters."
          The two children raced to the play box and located the correct skit. After a moment, Quill shook her head. "No, there's five. Hannah, Samuel, Eli, the narrator, and God."
          "I can be the narrator and God," Radar offered. "I gotta man the camera anyway. I don't have to be on-screen. We don't have enough guys, though."
          "I can be Eli!" Quill said eagerly.
          "Then who's Hannah?" her older brother inquired.
          They gave it a moment's thought, then simultaneously announced, "Squirrel."
          Nemesis was a little difficult to convince, but Squirrel was up for anything that offered the possibility of dress-up. In a short time, copies of the script were handed out to everyone, and Radar had quickly located the old tripod and mounted the purloined camcorder to it. "Ready?"
          Squirrel draped an old blanket over her head. "Yes!"
          Quill looked up from where she was sitting cross-legged, reading her script. "Almost." She gave it one more glance, then sat on it. "Okay!"
          "No," Nemesis said flatly.
          "Don't care. You're not in this scene anyway," Radar returned. "Okay, ready...set...action!"
          "That's not what you say," Nemesis pointed out. "It's 'Three, two, one, action.'"
          "NEMESIS!" Radar yelled and tackled him.
          Once the scuffle was over and the tape had been stopped and rewound (no point in keeping that take), Radar got himself set up again. "Okay, three, two, one...action!" He pushed the "Record" button and began reading.
          "In the land of Israel, there was a righteous woman named Hannah, who was very sad because she had no children. One day, she went to the temple to pray to God for a child." He paused.
          Squirrel was zoned out. Radar subtly threw a toy train at her.
          "Ow! Oh, right." Squirrel thought. "I wish you'd give me a child, God, and if you do, I'll...um...I forgot," she recited with all the dramatic flair of a corpse.
          "You're supposed to be upset," Quill reminded her.
          "This was my upset voice!" Squirrel protested.
          Nemesis snickered. "That was your dead-inside voice."
          She threw the train at him.
          Radar sighed, already regretting his brainwave. "Oh, just use your script." He reset the recorder again. "Okay, take three. Action!" He read off his part.
          Squirrel promptly collapsed on the floor, fake-crying hard enough to be heard on the Moon. "God, if you--" *sob* "--give me a child--" *bawling* "--I'll give him to you as--" *sob* "a priest!"
          Quill looked at Radar, a little disbelievingly. Radar rolled his eyes and continued. "As she was praying, the priest Eli noticed her." Quill transferred her quizzical stare to Squirrel. "Since Hannah was praying silently--" Squirrel took the hint and shut up, "--Eli thought she was drunk."
          After a quick, panicked search for her script (which she finally remembered that she was sitting on), Quill got up and walked over to Squirrel. "How much have you had to drink?"
          "I'm not drunk," Squirrel said robotically. "I'm really unhappy because I have no children and I was praying to God."
          Quill looked like she was going to comment on Squirrel's acting, but restrained herself. "Well, go in peace, and may the Lord grant you children."
          Squirrel glanced at her script and saw a note that said Hannah ceases crying and leaves. "Okay!" she said cheerfully and skipped off set.
          Fortunately, Radar got the camera shut off before the room exploded with laughter.
          "Are we going to redo that?" Nemesis asked, giggling.
          "Oh, heck no," Radar said emphatically. "That's good enough. Okay, you're up--go get in position for scene two."
          "Question," Quill raised her hand. "It says here that Eli's working in the temple. What should I do for that?"
          Radar shrugged. "I dunno. Pretend you're lighting candles or something. Ready, set--move it, Nemesis!--action!" He picked up his script. "Now, it came to pass that Hannah had a son, whom she named Samuel. When he was old enough, she brought him to the temple and sought out Eli."
          Squirrel and Nemesis walked into the room. "Eli" promptly folded up her script, slapped it against her hand, and then made an exaggerated hand gesture as she lit imaginary candles. It was so funny that everyone burst out laughing again, including "Eli."
          Needless to say, that take was scrubbed. Radar rewound the tape, careful to avoid overwriting scene one, and ordered Nemesis to shuffle in on his knees, since "it looks stupid that you're taller than your mom."
          "Not my fault that she's younger," Nemesis muttered.
          "Kneel down anyway," Quill told him. "It'll look better, especially since Squirrel's blanket keeps the camera from seeing your feet if you stay on that side of her."
          "It's my veil," Squirrel said indignantly.
          "It's wildly oversized is what it is," Radar pointed out. "I told you to use a towel."
          Squirrel ignored him. Radar hit record, read off his part, and managed to avoid laughing at Quill's "lighting-candles" impression. Squirrel checked her script and recited, "Do you remember me? I was the woman crying and praying to God for a son. God granted my wish, so I'm giving him to God to serve Him in the temple."
          "Um, thanks," Quill said reflexively, despite that not being in the script.
          Radar decided that wasn't enough to cut the scene short and continued his narration. "Samuel grew up in the temple, and Eli trained him there." Quill promptly did her candle-lighting thing again. Nemesis copied her. Then, the two of them lit an entire imaginary row of candles before Radar punched the "Stop Recording" button and collapsed, laughing.
          Quill "struck a match" and suddenly shrieked. "AHH! MY ROBES ARE ON FIRE!"
          "I'll get a fire hose!" Nemesis offered and lapsed into giggles with his sister.
          "That's not in the script!" Radar protested weakly, wiping tears from his eyes.
          Quill snickered. "Eli died by falling out of a chair. I'm sure he set his robes on fire at some point."
          "Not in this movie!" her brother ordered, picking himself up. "Okay, ready for scene three?"
          "No," Nemesis giggled from the floor.
          "Really? Why not? You're already lying down," Quill pointed out, fetching some pillows from the couch.
          Scene three, for those Bible scholars out there, is where God refuses to let Samuel get any sleep by calling his name out repeatedly at night. Radar flipped one of the lights off and started out the narration by saying, "One night, while Samuel and Eli were sleeping in the temple, the Lord called Samuel." He cupped his hands around his mouth, moved to the left side of the camera, and called out in his best disembodied-voice impression, "Samuel! Saaammmuuuuueeeeellllll!!"
          His siblings convulsed with laughter on the ground before Radar could get back to the right side of the camera and continue his narration. "You sound like a dying moose!" Quill gasped.
          "Oh, hush up! I do not!" Radar protested, resetting the camcorder. "Okay, let's try this again."
          He read through the narration, did the "ghost-God call," and glared at his twitching siblings before continuing. "Samuel was unfamiliar with the voice of the Lord and thought Eli was calling him. He got up and ran to Eli."
          Nemesis got up, took the single step to get him to Quill, shrugged, and poked Quill in the back, eliciting an "eep!" from the surprised "priest." "Here I am. You called me," he announced.
          "I didn't call you. Go back to sleep," Quill grumbled, doing an excellent half-asleep impression. (She roomed with Squirrel, who never got up before the crack of noon if she could help it, so Quill knew exactly what a sleepy person sounded like.)
          Nemesis decided to walk a little further away to lie down again. A moment later, he emitted a hearty fake snore to indicate that Radar could continue. Radar glared at him, realized that looks of death didn't work if the recipient had his eyes closed, and continued. "The Lord called to Samuel again." Quick location shift. "Samuel! Saaammmuuuuueeeeellllll!!" Quick location shift. "Samuel got up and ran to Eli again."
          "Samuel" got up and rushed over so fast, he almost couldn't stop himself in time. Poke. "Eep!" "Here I am. You called me!"
          Quill glared at him sleepily. "I did not call you. Go back to sleep already!"
          Nemesis beat a hasty retreat. Radar continued. "For a third time, the Lord called Samuel." He almost tripped himself as he shifted position, but caught himself before he wiped out. "Samuel! Saaammmuuuuueeeeellllll!!"
          His younger brother got up and poked "Eli" in the back again. "Here I am. You called me."
          "Now, this time, Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy," Radar narrated.
          Quill blinked sleepily. "Ugh. Go back to bed and if you hear anyone call you again, say "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." Now leave me alone--you interrupted a wonderful dream about candles!"
          Nemesis hurled himself across the room and buried his face in his pillow before he started laughing.
          "The Lord called Samuel again," Radar managed, suppressing a fair amount of laughter himself. "Samuel! Saaammmuuuuueeeeellllll!!"
          Nemesis mumbled something into his pillow. Radar tried again. "Samuel! SAAMMMUUUEELLL!!"
          "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening," Nemesis announced, flipping over onto his back.
          "I'm very displeased with Eli's sons and will punish them severely," Radar intoned, paraphrasing a much longer speech by God that he couldn't remember and couldn't read anyway, since both hands were cupped around his mouth.
          "Um...okay," Nemesis replied, flipped over on his side, and went back to "sleep."
          Radar flipped the light back on and read, "The next morning, Eli went to Samuel."
          Quill popped up, yawned, and crawled over to Nemesis. "Yo, Sammy!"
          "Wake up or I'll light you on fire," Quill threatened.
          Nemesis sat up abruptly. "Yes, Eli?"
          "What did God tell you last night?" "Eli" asked.
          "Samuel" winced. "Oh, nothing--"
          "Tell me. I must know!" Quill demanded.
          Nemesis shrugged helplessly. "Uh...that your sons are bad and that God will punish them?"
          "Oh." Quill sat back. "Um, okay. " Then she went into one of the greatest departures from the script that any of them had yet performed. "Well, since you'll be the next high priest, there's some things you must know about candles. First off--" and she delivered a stunning monologue regarding matches, lighters, candles, wicks, and proper lighting techniques that sent Radar and Squirrel diving into the couch to suppress hysterical laughter and caused Nemesis to turn his face away from the video camera in an attempt to hide his giggling.
          The rest of the skit finished without incident, with Radar delivering the closing summary extremely rapidly and finding the button that actually made the camera fade to black, an effect which he thought looked really cool. Then, the siblings watched their masterpiece, howling with laughter the whole time.
          "Hey, what are you guys doing?" Mom asked, appearing at the top of the stairs suddenly. "Shouldn't you be out with Dad doing math?"
          "No, we worked ahead yesterday," Radar told her. "Dad said he had a conference call today he had to be on, so we did today's work yesterday."
          Mom gave him a look. "And you're not working on other subjects because...?"
          "We're all done for the day," Quill announced. "Besides, we're...um...learning about the Bible."
          "Oh, you're using the plays," Mom said, pleased. "Can I see the--"
          "NO!" everyone chorused at once.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 163: A Day in the Woods

Today, Mom decided to pull out some of the old homeschooling binders that she had (we were trying to remember who had the highest ACT score. We're pretty fiercely competitive). While perusing one of the binders, I stumbled across one of the essays I'd written for college back when I was sixteen. Since I was still being homeschooled by Mom at the time (she liked to keep me busy), I'd decided to also make it count towards my spelling lesson of the week. I'd forgotten that I'd written it...until now, anyway. The result was amusing. 
Anyway, without further ado, allow me to present A Day in the Woods.

It was a clear summer day four years ago. Our expedition set out as loudly as was humanly possible; my siblings and I bolted out the back door at top speed, heading for the woods. Carefree, exuberant, plans for the day fresh in our minds, we were the axiomatic archetype of capriciousness. Not to be wordy about it or anything.
Plowing up dirt and grass, we skidded to a stop at the base of an oak tree. The grand patriarch of this part of our forest, he offered the best climbing around. First, my brother, cognizant of all the nuts around the tree, mentioned this find, which promptly led to an abandonment of all plans for the time being as we raced to gather the acorns. Soon, however, candid remarks offered by contentious siblings turned the area into a battleground. In good humor, we pelted each other with “bullets” and, grabbing sticks, commenced to “swordfighting.” This turn of events could only disturb the woods for so long; soon we were flat on our backs, out of breath. Peace was made between the pirates and the royal navy, and we were ready to begin the ascent.
I hoisted myself into the tree and lent a hand to the others. The birds chattered at us as we trespassed into their domain, and the squirrels snatched some of our ammo from the ground and scurried off. Up and up we went, higher and higher, until we were at the top, or as high as we were going to go.
The view was excellent. Sitting with our backs to the rough tree trunk, we ignored the discomfort and admired the scenery. Even though we were—are—not aesthetically minded, we could still appreciate the surrounding sights. My brother promptly started to make up new adjectives to describe the area and was instantly and effectively sedated by popular request. The general conclusion afterwards was that wrestling in a tree that high up was just dangerous, so we descended the tree. I stepped on a rotten branch, resulting in me beating them to the ground by a good five minutes.
Once they made it to the ground and I took stock of my new assortment of bruises, we headed off for tree two. Some anomaly had caused one of the branches to grow out almost perpendicular to the trunk six feet from the ground. It was really thick and had convenient handholds in the form of small branches growing straight out of the main limb. Needless to say, we practically ran up the slope and swung like monkeys in and out of the branches. My brother started making drum noises and was shoved out of the tree by a vengeful older sister.
The drum re-ascended the tree amid loud protests. A shower of leaves fell upon the protesters, who promptly turned on me. I don’t care what Galileo said; I know I hit the ground harder and faster then my erstwhile brother-turned-word-creator-turned-drum. I scampered back up the tree and confronted my sisters. I didn’t get the chance. The drum had taken its revenge.
Peace momentarily restored, we began to have a yelling contest; i.e. whoever yelled the longest without taking a breath won. Since nobody was willing to concede defeat, there was very nearly a mass exodus from the tree right then and there. I suggested turning our thoughts to other pursuits, such as an animal-imitation competition. My brother won this one with his impression of a sick horse; I don’t think he meant to do that, but it knocked his older sister, the hairball-inducing cat, off her perch convulsed with laughter. The youngest person in the family, the dying cow, was hanging limp over two branches while me, the Spanish duck with a sore throat, threatened the winner with dire consequences if he didn’t cut it out and let us catch our breath.
The unanimous conclusion of said contest resulted in a general consensus that “our family had talent.” Looking back now, I wonder what we ate that afternoon. I’m guessing it was high in sugar. Or caffeine. But I digress.
By now, it was almost dinnertime. I suggested seeing if we could jump from our perches without getting hurt. A vote was called for. Two “ayes” and the reappearance of the horse were counted, with the end result that three of our number were writhing on the ground in helpless laughter, choking out dire threats against the naysayer smiling benignly down at us from his perch on the tree. Obviously, we had lost what little sanity we had to begin with. I recognized that and called for a return to the house. The horse drummed his way out of the tree and fled for his life as a mass grab was made for him. We reentered the back door sweaty and bedraggled, multi-colored from numerous bruises. We didn’t care.
As I recall this incident, I am convulsed with helpless laughter every time, as I was on that afternoon. I wonder exactly why we set out on that expedition and why it stands out so well in my memory. There must have been dozens of such incidents in my past. Why do I remember it in particular? Was it our good-natured squabbling? Our weird contests? Our constant descents?

Or was it because Mom caught us red-handed in the chocolate chips that night?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 162: Duel in the Dark

FB: Musica is online!

Radar: You went to SPAIN??

Musica: Yes! Guess what I brought back from Spain...you will be proud....

Radar: A Stetson? Wait, they don't have those, do they?

Musica: Try a sword!





Radar: AND HOW DID YOU GET IT BACK?? Aren't airlines pretty strict about that sort of thing?

Radar: Way to make me spazz, by the way.

Musica: It's really short because that was the cheapest. The hilt is really simple, but it's really sleek too. And I just packed it in a suitcase; as long as I didn't take it in the plane, I was fine. No, no shield, that would have put me way over the 50lb suitcase limit! Anyway, you totally need to teach me how to swordfight sometime! Also, you gotta help me name her!

Musica: *picture attached*

Radar: Actually, that's pretty close to the perfect length for you. Well done!

Radar: I'm thinking about coming down there this evening for a swing dance. Any chance I could see it....??

Musica: Yeah totally!


          I coasted into the parking lot outside Musica's dorm. To my annoyance, the weather had gotten cold again, the seventy degrees of but a few days ago giving way to something I like to call "too damn cold." I pulled my gloves on, shut the truck off, and bolted for the doors, skidding on an icy patch and almost slamming full tilt into the glass. 
          An exiting resident kindly pushed the door open before I actually hit it and stepped to the side to avoid my flailing attempts to stop. "Are you late for something?"
          I laughed. "No, it's just cold! Thanks!"
          Musica, who was waiting in the lobby, snickered. I didn't even stop to greet her before demanding, "Where??" 
          She outright laughed at that one. "It's in my car. You can't have swords on campus. You should know--you used to go here!"
          I shrugged. "I thought they might have changed the rules. Good thing I decided to check first--I almost brought my swords in with me."
          "You brought your own?"
          "Yeah, the split-blade ones. Where are you parked?"
          We walked back out the doors into the Arctic. She pointed. "Over there."
          "Too far. We're driving," I stated and made a beeline for my truck. Musica followed, laughing again. "Come on, it's not that far! It would be quicker to walk!"
          "Yeah, but this way, I'll be warm," I pointed out logically. 
          Musica conceded the point. A few minutes later (apparently, the college moved the entrance to the parking lot, a decision I thought was stupid), we arrived at her car and discovered a new problem. 
          "No parking spots?" I demanded, outraged.
          "There's one over there," Musica suggested.
          I gave her a look. "I don't wanna walk that far--that's the whole reason we drove in the first place." I checked the immediate area. No one was around, so I put my truck in park in the middle of the lane. "Perfect. Right here."
          "That is so illegal," she pointed out.
          "Only if you get caught. Wait! I have an idea!" I announced and turned my hazard lights on. "There. Park-anywhere-button activated!"
          Musica decided not to comment on my questionable relabeling of and flagrant misuse of the emergency gear and hopped out to get to her car. I followed, where she presented me with the sword.
          "Whoa, that is nice," I breathed, promptly forgetting the cold. I twirled it briefly. "Full tang, too. Sharpen this up, and you have a battle-ready sword."
          "Yepp." I handed her back the sword. "I prefer an hand-and-a-half grip, myself, though. More versatility."
          "Well...it's kind of a hand-and-a-half for me," she pointed out, actually getting both hands on the grip. 
          "Good gravy, how small are your hands?" I demanded before looking at mine. "Okay, to be fair, mine are freakishly huge, but still."
          Musica adopted a fighting stance. "So, what are you going to teach me?"
          "The importance of not doing this in the campus parking lot," I said regretfully. "Campus PD would probably not take kindly to that. Let's get in the truck and try to find a place to fight."
          "Where are your swords?" Musica asked as we got back in the truck. 
          "Back seat," I said distractedly, reaching back to pull them out. "Careful, these are literally battle-ready."
          "No kidding. They look sharp."
          "They are sharp," I confirmed, leg twitching a little as I remembered a certain incident regarding the coffee table, a failed somersaulting attempt, and my knee. "Anyway, where can we go? Maybe..."
          "Skipper's apartment," we both said at the same time before laughing. 
          "That wouldn't be awkward at all," Musica snickered, glancing at the clock, which read 9:03 PM.
          I nodded. "Yeah, he's probably in bed by now. Let's not make him answer the door in his PJs because two insomniacs wanna spar."
          We finally decided on a park and set course, briefly debating the legalities of sword-fighting in the middle of town before deciding that there probably weren't any laws either for or against it. I brought both of my blades, long experience teaching me that it was best to have more than one available weapon when training novices. Professionals were predictable; novices tended to flail in some odd and surprising ways. My blades were both single-edged to Musica's dual-edge, so I flipped them both around to that the dull edge was my leading edge. Like I said before...flailing.
          "So what should I do first?" Musica asked.
          I grinned. "Glad you asked. Grab your sword with both hands and raise it over your head."
          "Like this?"
          I put one of my blades down and showed her. "No, like this."
          "This feels weird," Musica muttered.
          I nodded. "Yeah, but it's crazy versatile. You can do a straight downward chop, or come in from both sides, or--" I demonstrated, "sweep in from underneath and up."
          "Wow." She tried all the different strikes, frowning at the last one.
          "Yeah. Drop your shoulder into that a little more--it will help get you more power," I suggested.
          She tried it again, with much more success. "This is so cool! So how do you defend?" She raised her sword.
          I grinned. "Back up a little."
          "Here, go ahead and strike at me," I offered, picking up my second blade and assuming a ready stance.
          She came in with an overhead strike. I moved back just enough to let the blade pass harmlessly in front of me before sliding forward and flicking my right sword up to her shoulder. "Tag!"
          Musica blinked. "That was fast.
          "Yepp." I backed up and resumed my stance. "Most swordfights are decided in the first few seconds, as opposed to swordplay, which is strictly theatrical. That reminds me. You know any movie that has swordfighting in it?"
          I shrugged. "All bullcrap. You don't want to hit swords unless you absolutely have to."
          Musica frowned. "Because...you'll damage them?"
          "Exactly. If you do have to block, use the flat of the blade, never the edge. Edge on edge will destroy your sword pretty fast."
          "How would you do that?"
          I grinned. "Here, stab at me."
          She thrust. I spun my blade in a circle, smacked the sword away, and continued the motion to tap the flat on top of her shoulder. "Like that." I did it a little slower this time. "Circle, flat to edge, then continue the motion."
          "Like this?"
          "Very close. Try not to stop your sword; just redirect the motion. Make it one fluid movement." I spun my sword for emphasis. 
          We continued working, with occasional breaks to retreat to the truck and warm up. (I was doing okay, despite having a body fat index that was seriously pushing the "ridiculously low" level.) We also relocated to a different park when the wind picked up. I showed Musica how to thrust properly, adjust sword angle mid-block, and how to use direction and force of incoming attacks to effectively foil them. She did better than I was expecting, given that it was kind of dark out and that my blades were black.
          There was also not as much flailing as I expected. I did, however, manage to get clobbered across the knuckles when I accidentally stepped into an echo spot, deafen myself, and lose track of her blade. I'd never really realized how much my hearing was tied into my combat skills. After figuring out that I was a literal version of Batman (I said Daredevil initially, but she didn't know who that was), we started playing with my hearing to see if I could effectively pick up attacks when I wasn't looking. Let's just say I did really well. 
          I kinda wished that I'd brought my nunchucks too, but unfortunately, I hadn't thought about that before leaving.
          When we were driving back (some of us finally got cold enough to decide to stop), Musica brought up something I'd completely forgotten about. "So, when are you doing to the dance?"
          I checked the clock. 10:44 PM. "Well, in theory...almost two hours ago."
          I grinned. "It started at nine."
          She shook her head. "I'm so sorry! When does it go until?"
          "One AM."
          "Oh, good, you've got time. When were you going to go back home?"
          "Um...fifteen minutes ago?"
          She stared at me. "RADAR!"
          "What?" I defended myself. "I was only going to go there for an hour and half anyway. I got work tomorrow. Besides, sword-fighting is more fun anyway. And..." I raised a finger for emphasis," I get to cross "sword-fighting at night in a park" off my bucket list."
          "That was on your bucket list?"
          "It was as soon as I thought of it. Hey, we should do this again, and get the twins in on it too!"