sovay: (Jonathan & Dr. Einstein)
[personal profile] sovay
Tonight I went to hear Nathan Ballingrud and Paul Tremblay read at Pandemonium Books & Games; they were great, I got signed copies of Nathan's Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell (2019) and Bracken MacLeod's 13 Views of the Suicide Woods (2017), and a man in the audience recognized me from my jacket photo (and then said nice things about my writing), which I was not expecting. I had hoped to come home and write about a movie, but in fact my brain appears to be toast, so I am sitting on the couch beside a dozing Autolycus, discussing horror movies with [personal profile] spatch. I am not confident that I am really equipped to fill out the meme about horror movies that's been going around my friendlist on Facebook, but I have decided to give it a shot anyway.

Horror Movie I Hate: Motivational Growth (2012). It took me forever to remember it, in part because I have been fortunate enough to see very few movies in any genre that I truly hate and I suspect in part because I had repressed the experience, but we were subjected to this 104-minute exercise in pseudo-existentialist audience exhaustion as a last-minute, four a.m. replacement for The Hands of Orlac (1924) during SF37 and even Jeffrey Combs voicing a sentient blob of black mold could not save it. It just kept not stopping. Rob refused to leave the theater because he was afraid that if he didn't see it end, it might never be over. I feel bitter about missing out on Conrad Veidt to this day.

Horror Movie I Think Is Overrated: I do not generally find it useful to think of a film as overrated when all that means is that other people like it more than I do, but I did not enjoy An American Werewolf in London (1981) at all. It had been talked up to me as a comedy; it upset me badly with its gross-out effects, its protagonist's terror, and its bloody ending; I was watching it with someone who loved it; it was awkward all round.

Horror Movie I Think Is Underrated: I don't think I can cite Jennifer's Body (2009) since that film currently seems to be undergoing a renaissance, so on the grounds that I still find myself recommending it to people who have never heard of it, let's say Demon (2015). It remains the best dybbuk film since Michał Waszyński and it's even on Kanopy.

Horror Movie I Love: Psycho (1960). Much to my surprise. I didn't think I would hate it when I finally managed to see it in an irony-free environment, but I didn't think I would watch it three times in the same forty-eight hours. I still haven't managed to write about it because I loved it so much; some movies I can't stop talking about, some I don't know where to start. It's like I'm afraid of getting them wrong. I suspect this of being some permutation of Tiny Wittgenstein, but it's kept me from writing about more than one film for years. Psycho is not at the top of the list, but it's frustratingly included.

Horror Movie I Could Watch on Repeat: I have watched The Legend of Hell House (1973) at every possible opportunity since being introduced to it and expect to continue to do so, partly for its parapsychological weirdness, partly for its radiophonic soundtrack by Delia Derbyshire, greatly for Roddy McDowall. I love that it is explicitly a Christmas movie. I love that its ending goes so far over the top that one of my other favorite character actors cameoing as a corpse registers with a shrug of sure, why not? while still being emotionally poignant to me. Besides, it got into my fiction while I was asleep.

Horror Movie That Made Me Fall in Love with Horror Movies: Arsenic and Old Lace (1946). I do not think that I ever actually saw a single movie that made me fall in love with horror movies, especially since there are so many different kinds of horror movie and I have an evident affinity for some and a much more tenuous relationship with others, but if I had ever been tempted to say categorically that I didn't like horror movies, early imprinting on Peter Lorre's Dr. Einstein would have demonstrated otherwise. When my husband just now told me he was about to microwave a pizza instead of putting it in the oven, I responded instinctively, "Oh, Johnny, not the Melbourne method." If you would prefer a less funny answer, Cat People (1942).

Horror Movie That Changed My Life: Shaun of the Dead (2004), although technically it was an on-set photo. I found one character's death scene so emotionally upsetting, it really helped to find a production photo afterward in which the actor looked at most mildly dubious about his violent and wrenchingly mistimed disemboweling. I don't want to say that I had never thought about practical effects before that, because I have written proof that I did, but I think I thought about them differently afterward. It's been useful.

Guilty Pleasure: I have no movies I feel bad about liking! If I have to pick one that sounds unlikely, Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) is a deliberately, splatterily over-the-top Goth-punk neo-Jacobean Grand Opera Guignol and I own both the DVD and the soundtrack. I think I was supposed to like it ironically, but unfortunately I tend to like things either unironically or not at all, so here we are.

[personal profile] strange_complex linked me a Twitter thread on the Great Selkie of Sule Skerry. That's one of the oldest songs I can remember knowing; my mother used to sing it to me as a lullaby. I wonder if there are any selkie horror films. Stolen skins would do it.

Picking up heavy things

Apr. 25th, 2019 10:28 pm
[personal profile] hwesta
I stopped doing Arnis about two years ago, and have been vaguely looking for another exercise to replace it with. I did a couple sessions of Valkyrie Martial Arts (which I highly recommend, as a women-run queer-friendly western martial arts space), but never seem to make time for it in my schedule. Maybe I need a regular friend to go with? Or maybe the fencing isn't the weapons work I enjoy.

I discovered contra dancing via a first date, since she enjoyed contra (sadly, I haven't heard from her since, but I guess that's the nature of online dating).  I really enjoy that style of dance, where you don't need to know anything to start, live music, switching partners and lively, but it's only fortnightly and is a long way from where I live. I'll probably get back to it, but I've been travelling or otherwise busy when it's been running.

My latest attempt is picking up heavy things and putting them back down again aka barbell weightlifting. It's pretty fun so far, where fun means tiring but also progress. I like making numbers go up (what can I say, I'm a gamer nerd) and I also like feeling stronger. I've gone three times, and the empty bar was too heavy for me the first time, and this time I felt like I had the wrong bar because it was too light. Newbie gains are great.

It's also pretty gratifying, since I apparently skipped a bunch of the common newbie mistakes. I guess doing Arnis for 8 years gave me a decent body sense, and my body isn't as bad at doing things as I always feel it is.  Feels good to start of doing ok, and have decent instincts for improving.

I can only imagine how unpleasant this would have been if I wasn't going with a friend I felt comfortable asking every stupid question that came into my head, though. It would be much less fun if I was worried about impressing someone, or didn't feel comfortable asking about safety or proper form or any number of other things.

Maybe I'll take before pics (so when I have after pics I have something to compare them to). Instead, my newbie lifts:
  • Squat: 85 lbs
  • Deadlift: 115 lbs
  • Standing overhead press: 30lbs
  • Lat pull-downs: 53 lbs

(no subject)

Apr. 25th, 2019 10:34 pm
alexseanchai: Ladybug, of Miraculous fame, with a rainbow Pride background (Default)
[personal profile] alexseanchai
Swords Dance (2146 words) by AlexSeanchai
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Miraculous Ladybug
Rating: Explicit
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Adrien Agreste | Chat Noir/Marinette Dupain-Cheng | Ladybug
Characters: Marinette Dupain-Cheng | Ladybug, Adrien Agreste | Chat Noir
Additional Tags: Nonbinary Marinette Dupain-Cheng | Ladybug, Trans Adrien Agreste | Chat Noir, Aged-Up Character(s), First Time, Blow Jobs, Hand Jobs, Outdoor Sex, Mutual Pining, Misgendering, Community: dick_or_treat
Series: Part 1 of Pound (It)

Adrien catches their hand. "What are you doing?" he whispers, and Ladybug looks up: darkened eyes, flushed face, wrinkled brow. Like he wants them. But he's not quite sure.

"I heard you playing Fuck Marry Kill," Ladybug says, pitched low and with a slow smile. (It's true; Marinette did.) "I heard you want to fuck me."

Adrien sputters a moment, and looks up and west, biting his lip, and down at them again. "Are you offering?"

"Well," says Ladybug, and moves to lift their hand away from his hipbone. "If you don't want to..."

(Three minutes.)
[syndicated profile] askamanager_feed

Posted by Ask a Manager

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Interviewer asked me how much I wanted the job on a scale of 1-10

I recently had an interview with an organization I had been excited about. At the end of the interview — after I asked my questions and before I left — the interviewer said, “one last question: on a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want this job?” I hedged a little but he wanted an answer, so I eventually said 8 — although I’m not sure I was convincing, because that question really turned me off. Am I off-base in thinking this is a weird and useless question? Is the “right” answer just to pick a number 8-10 and explain why?

Ugh, what a terrible question. Someone who asks a question like that is probably looking for you to answer 10, because someone who asks a question like that is someone who thinks a candidate should be super committed to the job, without a lot of room for nuance (and without taking time to go home and reflect and, you know, actually see the details on an offer). It’s also a power play because it’s asking you to answer something I suspect they wouldn’t have been happy about being asked themselves. And it’s also kind of old-school in a bad way, like people who think every candidate should “ask for the job” or they’re not really interested.

If this interviewer would be your boss, I’d be wary.

2. I was recognized for Administrative Professionals Day, but I’m not an admin

Wednesday of this week was Administrative Professionals Day, and to celebrate, I was surprised with a small token of appreciation, left in my office. It was a sweet gesture, but with one problem: I’m not an admin. Honestly, I don’t even do administrative work for my department.

Apparently a number of people were recognized, and only two of them would be considered admin professionals. Unfortunately, the rest happened to be young women who were fairly new to the organization, regardless of their job title or duties.

Is this something I should address, and if so, with who? It seems like one of those “good intentions, but wildly missed the mark” moments that might not be worth getting into.

Ugh, yes, please say something. It’s wildly sexist and offensive that your office (or someone in your office) has categorized all young women with doing admin work.

There’s nothing wrong with admin work! But this would be like categorizing all the men in your office as janitors or I.T. people.

Frankly, it’s time to get rid of this patronizing day entirely (if we truly want to recognize admins, let’s pay them better and show them year-round respect), but at a minimum, please ensure your office doesn’t lump all young women into it by default. If you don’t know who was responsible, I’d start with talking to whoever normally might handle recognition (HR? an office manager? your boss?) and go from there.

3. How can I end our birthday lunch tradition?

I lead a team that over the years has gone from six to two (besides myself) due to retirements and internal reorganization. My team has a tradition (pre-dating me) of going out to lunch for each team member’s birthday, and the supervisor (me) buys lunch for the person we’re celebrating. It used to be fun and a good way to build camaraderie. But now that there are only three of us, I’m wondering if there’s a graceful way to end this tradition. I would still be happy to bring in a birthday treat, but I don’t enjoy these lunches and they take a lot of time out of the day. However, one of my supervisees truly relishes getting a free meal and getting to take an extended lunch break, to the point where she starts planning at the beginning of the month a birthday that won’t happen until the 20th. Any advice?

This is tricky, because the tradition pre-dates you and also because it’s easier to argue for ending this kind of thing when a team gets bigger than when it gets smaller. That said, because you’re personally paying for it, you’re certainly justified in deciding to end it … but if your only issue with it is the time it takes up and that you don’t personally enjoy it, you might be better off sucking it up and doing it because your team likes it. We’re only talking about two times a year, after all (or three, if your birthday is included). If your team was larger, I’d be more supportive of ending it, but having lunch with your staff two to three times a year is just not that big of a burden if it’s meaningful to them.

That said, I’m curious about how the other employee feels. Is she enthusiastic about these lunches too, or might she prefer to get out of them? One option is to talk with her and say something like, “Now that the team is smaller, we don’t have to use a one-size-fits-all approach for birthdays. Do you like our current system or is there something else you’d prefer for your birthday?” If it turns out she’d be relieved to get out of these lunches too, you could just take your birthday-enthusiast employee out on her birthday (inviting the other and leaving it up to her whether to join or not) and do cupcakes or something else for the other (whatever she prefers).

4. Listening to ASMR videos at work

Do you have any thoughts on listening to ASMR videos at work? It makes common sense to me to avoid videos with lip smacking, licking headphones, massages, role play, etc. However, there are other videos with rain sounds or tapping. I find those to very stress-reducing and a type of white noise that helps me focus. Is okay to listen to those at work on a work laptop with headphones? Or is ASMR fairly taboo at work?

Are you literally just listening, or is the video visible to people who walk by? If you’re just listening and no one can see the video, go ahead and listen to whatever you want; no one will know. There are some exceptions to this, of course — you shouldn’t listen to something that would be truly problematic if a colleague happened to realize what it was, like erotica because it’s designed to sexually arouse, which is inappropriate at work, or racist screeds, which are inappropriate in life. But the types of videos you’re talking about aren’t in that category. (I agree, though, that you should avoid the stranger elements of ASMR while you’re at work, like the role plays, etc.)

If your screen is visible, though, I’d be more cautious. Rain sounds over footage of a forest? Fine. A kindly woman in a low-cut top slowly tapping her fingers against different objects? Likely not.

5. Employers that want references early on in a hiring process

I was recently approached by a recruiter with a job opening (supervisory role) at a local company. I am currently in a similar role with another organization, and have the required skill set listed in the job description. The recruiter passed along my information to the company, and a phone interview was scheduled with another supervisor (if I were to get hired, this person would be my peer in the organization). The phone interview lasted 20-30 minutes, and went relatively well.

As the next step, the company asked me to complete an application. Problem is, the application requires me to list my references’ contact info, and I am just not comfortable providing that information at this stage. I haven’t even spoken to the hiring manager, and I don’t want to give out my references’ private information until I get at least some sense of whether or not this role is a good mutual fit. I asked the recruiter if I can leave my reference information blank until the in-person interview, but I got the sense that my response did not go over well. Does my approach seem reasonable, or is it off-base and likely to turn off potential employers?

It’s not uncommon for some employers to ask for references up-front, but without any intent to actually use that info until they’re in the end stages of their process. But they collect it up-front so that they have it and there’s no delay when they’re at the point where they’re ready to use it.

That’s great for them, but it’s not so great for candidates, who can’t know for sure when those references will be contacted and who might like to have more control over that (at least until the point where they’ve determined they’re actually interested in the job). There’s no point in using up your references’ time before you even know how interested you are. Plus, there are some employers who contact references bizarrely early on, and you might not realize you’re dealing with one of those until it happens.

So no, your request wasn’t at all unreasonable. But if you’re dealing with an overly rigid employer (or recruiter, in your case), you might encounter some push-back.

interviewer asked how much I wanted the job on a scale of 1-10, ASMR videos at work, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thought to Speech

Apr. 25th, 2019 11:45 pm
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Scientists have succeeded in producing intelligible speech from brain signals routed through a simulated vocal tract.  This may lead to technology for restoring speech to people who have lost theirs.

I wonder if this could help certain types of nonverbal condition where the thoughts occur but do not make it all the way to audible speech.  It wouldn't help the kinds where someone doesn't naturally think in words or is too overwhelmed to formulate thoughts.  It might also release jammed thoughts, but that's ... not always safe.

Keeping occupied

Apr. 25th, 2019 11:04 pm
luscious_purple: Lithuanian map and flag -- "Proud to Be Lithuanian" (lithuanian map and flag)
[personal profile] luscious_purple
Last weekend the boy toy and I did some reorganizing of the small storage unit behind my condo (basically, it's an extra, non-climate-controlled closet). That involved opening a bunch of boxes of fragile items that had been sealed since I packed them after Mom's death in 1997. I did a good job back then -- absolutely nothing had broken over the years! And there were some things that I'd totally forgotten I had, like a couple of salt and pepper shakers made of blue and white china. They look like nesting chickens. I think my mother acquired them during her "blue and yellow kitchen" period in the 1970s. Boy toy and I added some of the items to the corner cabinet in the dining room and repacked others with less padding so that they would fit into fewer boxes.

I'm amazed at the amount of stuff my parents had. And the boy toy's grandmother too (who was about my mother's age, and who was close to the boy toy, so he inherited her china). I think it was their generation's culture -- they were the ones who didn't have much money in the Depression, and thus not many material possessions, so once they became young adults with their own homes, they wanted to "catch up." Plus, a lot of the modern kitchen gadgets we take for granted hadn't been invented yet, and add to that the social conventions that everybody wanted to entertain and that brides and grooms needed to receive gifts. No wonder, then, everybody had collections of china and covered candy dishes and aluminum-and-glass fruit "baskets" and pretty vases and hors-d'oeuvres trays and punch bowls and ... well, you get the picture.

I suppose I could try to sell this stuff, but I have no idea if it's worth anything. There's probably already too much of it on the market and not enough buyers. Ah, well. I will keep on enjoying these pieces, and maybe someday people will use them to pay for my funeral.

Tomorrow I'm driving out to the Eastern Shore for another "Revenge of the Stitch" SCA event -- a "garb wars" kind of competition in which six-person teams have 24 hours to sew up a whole medieval outfit from scratch. Should be fun, and I will continue to learn hand-sewing techniques.

I should end on a light note: you've got to see these briefs. Warning: you can't *unsee* them! :-D


Apr. 25th, 2019 08:12 pm
azurelunatic: The Space Needle by night. Slightly dubious photography. (Default)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
Turns out my alternator was fucked.

The other weekend, Belovedest had made paired appointments for us at their mechanic. The car had become inoperative after the last battery replacement and attempt at emissions testing (which failed due to a sudden check engine light).

The symptoms were similar, and indicated that this new battery was not serving up enough electrons to turn on the "door open" light, let alone turn over the engine.

Adventur, ending in mechanic. )

The car was ready the next morning. I paid for the fix and started it with some trepidation.

It started. It ran.

It shifted into gear without a flicker.

I drove home on surface streets, carefully but with increasing confidence.

Next, we're looking for a day when my brain, health, and sleep cycle will allow me to venture forth to start on the paperwork to allow me to move it in order to get the next emissions test.


Let's Keep It PG

Apr. 25th, 2019 10:40 pm
[syndicated profile] questionable_content_feed

this might be the first ever instance of Netflix closed captioning as a humor device in a comic

A hint of good news

Apr. 25th, 2019 10:10 pm
cornerofmadness: (Default)
[personal profile] cornerofmadness
Today was the health fair. I always go because my insurance gives me 75$ for showing up. The good news is all the dancing about I've been doing (my own version of dance exercise) has worked. Yeah no weight loss BUT the good cholesterol is up to where it's supposed to be. It's been low for years so I am happy.

What I'm not happy about is how hot I already am. I've dragged out the big fan and put it by the bed but it's been 72 in the house two nights running, two nights of sweating and no sleep in spite of two fans. I expect to die this summer.

I have SO MUCH grading yet to do. It's going to be hard to enjoy Rathacon this weekend with all that hanging over me.

Today Kanda is ignoring me. That might be for the best after last night.

(no subject)

Apr. 25th, 2019 10:19 pm
the_rck: (Default)
[personal profile] the_rck
Today was much better pain-wise than yesterday or, really, any other day recently. I think that having my hair shorter and not having to try to brush it or put it up repeatedly is helping. I mean, I did brush it, but at this length, it barely registers as needing movement.

I do, however, keep trying to move my hair so that it won't get in the way when I'm doing routine things-- picking up my purse, rinsing my mouth after brushing my teeth-- and it's not in the right place. It's long enough that my hand still touches it, but I only brush the ends. It's weird.

I've managed to get my Wayback Exchange assignment moving again, but I have no idea how I'm going to get from where I am to what I intend. Optional details are optional, but I'd like to manage something in the general vicinity of what my recipient is hoping for. I'm sitting on the H/C Exchange story for a few days while I figure out the bits that need to go into the already written part to make it work. I think I know what they are, but I need to set them in place just so or it won't work.

I've decided to return one library book without even cracking it open. It's due Sunday and has holds, and while I'm kind of interested in reading Elfquest some day, I don't think I actually care enough to deal with the book. It's too big and heavy (and I never cared enough to look at the comics online, so...). Mostly, I'm interested in it as something that people I played AD&D with in college were really into. The DM built his elves on the comics.


Apr. 26th, 2019 12:15 pm
eleanorjane: Life. Don't talk to me about life. (life)
[personal profile] eleanorjane
The perils of not keeping up with laundry: pile of laundry + dark bedroom + socked feet + slippery wooden floors = Eleanor goes "whoops" and falls over and smashes her face into the bedside table. Thankfully the bruise shouldn't be too eye-catching.

Ancient Monument Envy

Apr. 26th, 2019 11:07 am
steepholm: (Default)
[personal profile] steepholm
I can now acknowledge that fact that, as a child growing up in Hampshire in the 1970s, I suffered Ancient Monument Envy. Charming and historical as Hampshire was, and much as I enjoyed visiting Danebury Ring, just up the Test Valley, it didn’t seem to have as many or as famous monuments as the surrounding counties. Wiltshire, the border of which was just four miles away, won hands down of course by being home to both Stonehenge and Avebury; Dorset to the west did pretty well too with Maiden Castle and the Cerne Abbas Giant. Up in the north, Berkshire could boast (at least in the pre-1974 Local Government Reorganisation world where my imagination will always dwell) the Uffington White Horse and Wayland’s Smithy. Even Sussex, out to the east, had the Wilmington Man.

Only Surrey, far away on the north-east border, seemed no better endowed, from a prehistoric point of view. But it was hard to preen. Yes, we had Winchester, and thus Camelot, but only according to Malory - and Arthur wasn’t even pre-Roman.

Did anyone else think about things in this kind of way? Only you can tell me.
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
[personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Uncanny Interventions
By Dialecticdreamer/Sarah Williams
Part 6 of 7, complete
Word count (story only): 1086

:: Part of the Strange Family series, in the Polychrome Heroics universe, this story takes place at some point after Genna, Saul, and the others arrive at the Can. It will be clear to readers why Hatter could not be more specific when discussing matters. ::

:: Pay Special Attention: Black hat missions against WORSE people. Mentions of human trafficking, dog fighting (only in the past tense), other criminal actions. Injuries to an adult, kidnapped children (who are physically unharmed), and a laundry list of reasons to dislike the head of the trafficking ring. Please skip this story if the negativity of these issues outweighs the rescue of kidnapped individuals and the dismantling of a human trafficking ring. I have tried to handle these problems gently, but this is NOT gentle fiction. There will be other, gentler stories in the set, but the aftermath of these events will include some heavy topics. ::

Back to part five
On to part seven

Oliver’s stomach fluttered once, then eased. They could fit a car seat into every seat belt save the driver’s, but only needed three. Relief made him sigh, but Kan eyed him shrewdly, and cleared her throat. “You stay with the kids, sir. We’ll get the caches, and then you can get the samples.”

“We need something to put the samples in,” Oliver argued, doubt and hope warring in the words. “If we can’t find anything, we have to just leave the site. Blow the tunnel entrance, but leave the side tunnel and the main room intact. Come back with a teleporter.”

Kan rummaged in one of the boxes and handed him a permanent marker, along with a wad of snack bags. “Weren’t they in a box?” he complained.

Nope,” Kan answered. “Good luck, Chaac.”

Oliver shifted into his vapor form, checking every inch of the primary tunnel before darting to the side tunnel, through it, and into the area Dominic had turned into a surprisingly functional nursery. Then he got to work, first taking a photo of an individual house, as closely and in as high a resolution as his phone allowed, then taking a sample and, for lack of a better idea, labeling it with a number that matched the system which spawned their code names.

He started adding photos of small clusters of houses, hoping that someone could tell in which order they had been drawn, within each tier. He collected the last sample just a few seconds before his watch chimed midnight. The sound had startled him, but he phased deeper into the wall rather than risk damaging the picture. It was on the way back into the room that he found them. Three tiny, gray markers were hidden behind a three-story townhouse in the bottom corner, difficult to find even with the light from his cell phone to help. Oliver crouched closer, finding the curved tops each as different as the houses, and centered on each slab, a plain Arabic numeral. Two of them read “5,” but the third was labeled “2.”

Oliver had no clue what it meant, but it was hidden in an area that no one could see, unless they moved the full boxes of formula which had once been stacked in that corner, though no higher than a dining table. Dominic had put stacks of neatly folded baby blankets and a handful of diapers on the surface, and everyone had presumed that it was an improvised changing table.

The man had been tracking more than the children who came through here.

His heart hammering in his chest, Oliver strode back toward the exit, making his footsteps louder in the deserted, defiled space.

Before he reached the door, he paused, and walked methodically through the other cells, phasing locks away and leaving them where they fell. Some solidified partially embedded in the concrete floor, and some slipped past his attention, becoming solid again inside the thick layer of concrete that formed the foundation of the complex.

There had been nothing of this on the building plans. Of course. But a concrete pad nearly ten inches thick wasn’t just someone’s cautious granny, not unless they intended to hide a bomb shelter. Oliver searched again, moving like a distance swimmer through the subflooring and popping up to reorient himself since he had no need to breathe in vapor form.

He found the servers in a single room bomb shelter, tucked below the larger room with a compass mark debossed into the concrete floor. There were lanterns, and a camp toilet, and a bunk bolted to the wall at the same height as a chair, but the boxes of pouch meals were all more than ten years old, shoved in milk crates in a line under the bunk.

There was no door.

The entire wall opposite the bunk, however, held wire server racks full of equipment no more than two years old. A thick power cable disappeared into the wall, sleeved in a snug, white PVC pipe. It seemed incongruously cheap, and unplanned.

Oliver checked again, but found not one drop of water inside the shelter. The air was still, but not stale, and there was only a trace of dust in it.

But there was absolutely no water for drinking, or washing. Not one drop.

He could not leave his phone here, but he could take a moment to remove the chip from his vidwatch before dropping the device on the cheap canvas and pipe bunk. There were plenty of teleporters who could find the object by homing in on the circuitry, and they could get within a few dozen feet of it before the teleporter would have to take over.

By the time he reached the motor home, Kun was behind the wheel. In the dark, it was nearly impossible to hear the electric engine. Even his bark of laughter as he hurried inside the side door was louder. “I think we’ve got them!” Oliver crowed.

“What did you find? We’ve got everything from the caches.” Kun waved toward the piles of cloth carryalls stuffed beneath the bench seats at the dining area. The children’s car seats had been set in securely, and they slept angelically in them. “That was mostly money. A few interesting property deeds, bearer bonds, and silver certificates. We’ve been piddling through it while we waited for you, Boss.” She snickered. “The most recent date we found is a decade old, most of it closer to fifteen years. Somebody thinks that they’re clever, but they’re acting like kids playing at being black hat.”

“A whole rack of fairly new servers. They’re no more than two years old.” Oliver glared from Ka'ato the children. “Did you put the kids to sleep?” he demanded.

“Yes,” Ka'a snapped. “We’ve each had to change a diaper, tried to feed the kids, and frankly, if I could wake the guy up an hour ago, I would’ve done it and let you assign whatever financial penalties you wanted!”

She leaned forward, curling across her own lap in the swivel seat behind the cab. “Most of us don’t have any child-wrangling skills at all, Chaac, but I’ve got a boxcar full of triggers on the subject. Cut me some slack!”

Hun sat at the end of the long sofa, her body canted away from the others and a mulish set to her jaw. She said nothing as the argument began.

Easter Parade

Apr. 26th, 2019 09:01 am
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[personal profile] steepholm
So, last Saturday - was it really almost a week ago? - I got on the shinkansen and headed west, to spend a couple of days seeing friends in Kobe and Osaka. It was quite a complex schedule, and it didn't help that towards the end one of my suitcase wheels broke. That was not only inconvenient in itself, but gave me a "Three Wheels on my Wagon" earworm, which was almost worse.

Before that, however, I met up with Eriko to tour the sake breweries of Kobe's Uozaki district. We walked to four, altogether: the weather was warm and it was thirsty work, but luckily there were plenty of free samples to keep us going. Here's the business end of a sake factory, in case you're interested:


And here's its public face:


In one of the factories we were given about 9 different samples (by the end I'd lost the ability to count higher than 5, so the figure is approximate) by an octogenarian sake master, whose stand was surrounded by newspaper cuttings with pictures of him in various sake-related stories - clearly quite a character. He had a twinkle in one eye and a squint in the other, and according to Eriko probably gave us more samples than usual because I was a foreigner (and also, I like to think, lovely). Anyway, by the end I wanted a nice sit-down in a cafe somewhere, but the Uozaki district deals exclusively in sake, so it took some finding. I was very grateful in the end to find this place, where some of the chairs are made to look like second-hand pews, complete with space for prayer book. In the UK I've only seen such things where they've been salvaged from disused churches, but apparently in Japan people make them specially, presumably for kitsch value:


This would not be the last time I'd discover Christian kitsch in Japan, and the next occasion would be far more egregious, but you'll have to wait till a later entry for that.

Meanwhile, after a brief rest at my hotel I had dinner with a Skype friend, Mitsuko, whom I've known as a language partner for a few years but was meeting only now. I took the opportunity to eat what is known here as a "Thompson's Tart," which from the picture on the menu I thought (with a rush of excitement) might feature gooseberries. In fact they were only grapes, but it was still pretty good.


The following day was Easter Sunday, and my friend Yuka had invited me to an Easter event-cum-strawberry festival, complete with bonnets. She was with two of her children, whom I was meeting for the first time, and who were a lot of fun - as well as being very helpful in getting my Easter bonnet ready at a local takoyaki place (we had three types: spring onion, mentaiko and plain old octopus).


I'd brought the ingredients for the bonnet, including a few daffodils and leeks as a kind of patriotic gesture, but have never been terribly crafty. These denizens of the land of origami, however, soon put things to rights. Here is Yuka modelling the final result:


The strawberry festival was a small affair in a local house used for community events. The atmosphere was lovely, with various food and craft stalls in the garden and outer rooms, and of course a delicious strawberry filling at its centre. In fact, I was the only one there with a bonnet, so definitely won the parade, although there were a few bunny masks, ears and so on.


I could easily have stayed longer, but had to leave for Minoh City, where I was to stay with Eriko that night - a slightly complex journey. Before going to her house, however, we took a short hike up into the monkey-strewn mountains (not that I saw any). The landscape was quite dramatic, with the remains of the damage from a typhoon 18 months ago still very visible, and trees tossed about like discarded toothpicks from an izakaya of the gods. To sustain us, we ate some of the local snack, maple leaf tempura - one of those things that really ought not to work but does...


... and were rewarded by a very nice waterfall, one of those phenomena for which I am a sucker. Here is Eriko standing in front it:


It was on the walk back from dinner that night (kushiage/kushikatsu, or fried things on skewers, one of Osaka's many delicious specialities) that we discovered the fate of my suitcase wheel. It was too late to do anything about it, and the next day I was off to the northern tip of Honshu, Aomori Prefecture. In fact it was to be a problem for days to come, until things eventually came to head when...

But that, dear reader, must be for another post.


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Joshua Kronengold

October 2018

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