An Unhappy Reunion

The spring thaw had finally begun to work its way north to Otreta. Rivulets of melting snow rained down from branches spotted with the first budding green leaves of the season. Marzena pulled her black cloak around her. The sun was not so pleasantly warm just yet.

The scent of freshly baked bread reached Marzena’s nose. She wandered over to the window of the opening bakery, and purchased a few small buns filled with meat. The flaky crust cracked open as she bit into it, and she savored the warm contents. When she had finished, she licked her fingers, pulled a cigar from her pouch, and conjured a small mote of flame in her palm to light it. The smoke and her breath mixed in the cold air and drifted away.

Up ahead she heard a commotion. She wasn’t the only one—several townsfolk began making their way toward the center of town. There was a gathering of some sort, and judging by the sound, it was growing. Continue reading

Groundhog Nuggets

I am done with the winter. Today we had a winter weather advisory for freezing rain and ice. The roads themselves were not terrible, but every parking lot and sidewalk was a death trap waiting to happen. I had an appointment at 5:30 this afternoon, so I went. I got home around 7:30. I get out of the car, walk behind it, and one of my legs begins to slide out from under me. So I grab on the rear of the car and lower myself to a kneeling position.

From that I attempt to crawl up my driveway, but continue to slip back down. My driveway, mind you, is not slanted at a particularly steep angle. Yet it was enough of one, apparently, that I may as well have been climbing Everest. Alas, I had forgotten my pitons and rope.

Our yard, however, was covered in a thick blanket of snow from the previous two weeks of bad weather. Snow has much better traction than ice, so I developed a plan. I flailed my way over across the driveway to the snowbank, and was able to stand. A layer of ice had frozen over the snow, but I was able to crack it easily enough and press in to the white powder beneath. In this fashion I made my way–feeling like a Jack London character–twenty feet across the yard and to my front steps. Those we had coated with sand earlier in the day, and proved easier to scale than the driveway.

I hate this season. It’s never so bad in December, but as February and March roll around the weather has been abysmal these last few years. I nearly died once in a driving accident during the “Snowpocalypse” we had four years ago, and it forever tainted my feeling of winter as a season of beautiful snowscapes and snuggling. I despise it, in many ways worse than the insufferable heat of summer.

So fuck it. Next year we’re all going to get together, drive to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and cook that fucking spineless hedgehog into nuggets. WHO IS WITH ME? Can’t have six more weeks of winter when we’re dipping that little bastard in barbecue sauce!

Other acceptable strategies include: filling his den with cement, sewing his eyes shut, and the ever-reliable orbital strike.

The last two weeks have really been dragging a lot of people down, and for good reason. The sky is oppressive, getting around is difficult to impossible, and a general sense of wintry malaise hangs in the air. I’m also quite open to the idea of a cuddle pile.

I hope to have some more fiction for you tomorrow. Not sure what I’ll be doing, but probably a brief character sketch or something similar. Still not sure what I want to do with all these imaginary people floating around in my head. Until then, hang in there, and don’t let the weather get you down. The sun’ll come out… someday.

See you tomorrow for another 500 words.

Reaching Out Past Myself

I thought about sharing a piece of my old writing here. It came up during a conversation with a friend. We were discussing the awkwardness of men trying to open up emotionally to other men, and I mentioned that I’d written a line about that in a short piece I wrote nearly a decade ago.

But I’m not going to share it here. It was a different time, and I’ve changed a lot since then. It was an angry bit of writing, filled with self-loathing, frustration, entitlement. I see that I had begun to touch on such things in that piece, but I was nowhere near where I am these days. I intended to preface the (coincidentally around 500-word) story with info like I am now. Then I began figuring out what tags I should give it for content, and that was when I realized, you know what, some things are better left in the past. So I’ll just share that particular line, summarize the important parts, and reflect. Continue reading

Hungry Like the Wolf (Hyena)

Hyena Warwick

The jungling champion Warwick is a werewolf, but one of his skins is a hyena. Guess what I play?

Today I reached Summoner Level 11 in League of Legends. I feel I am nearly ready to face actual human opponents without (overly) embarrassing myself. I’ve also managed to earn enough IP through my games to buy a small stable of champions in the various roles that I’ve been able to practice with. Fear is honestly the only thing keeping me back now.

I have a lot of those moments, where I let fear of failure dictate my actions. I suppose I should say my inaction. I’m having a similar issue in school since I got behind. Just like it’s easy to continue fighting bots and not improving in League, it is easy enough to let class slip by and say, see, I screwed up.

But it is time to take the plunge and pass into the dark depths of the jungle. Both in League and elsewhere.

Anyway, in League the role of the jungler has proven to be a bit easier to grasp than I anticipated. I watched ScrapComputer’s guide on jungling, which is great, even if it is a little outdated for season 5. Mostly the monster camps underwent a change in the current season of the game. So I just looked up a guide specifically for that and things have been peachy.


N.B. If you have no idea about the term, League of Legends happens in three “lanes”, and between those lanes is a mass of twisty paths and neutral monsters called “the jungle”. A jungler is a character who basically wanders around this area and kills the stuff there. Since it encompasses so much, the jungler also weaves in and out of lanes to ambush (“gank”) enemy players, putting his or her team at an advantage.


Vi is a jungling champion who uses her giant mechanical fists (and justice) to crush her foes.

Vi is a jungling champion who uses her giant mechanical fists (and justice) to crush her foes.

Having a jungler in the AI levels has made a noticeable impact. I’d say the games end about 3-5 minutes earlier. I’m able to help out other lanes that aren’t doing so good, filled with players who are new and/or not so great. Typically, when playing the AI, everyone typically sticks to their lane until the AI Bots move around and dictate where the team fights happen. I don’t want to fight bots forever, I’m practicing to get prepared for human opponents, so I am trying to get a familiarity with those tactics even if the AI matches aren’t exactly mirrors of typical PvP situations.

The mid lane is still my strongest game, though. I still need to go into a custom game and work on upping my CS (“creep score”; how many enemy minions you struck the final blow to and thus reaped XP and gold). You see, in League you can’t just auto-attack everything and expect to get by. For maximum efficiency you need to time your hits so that you land the last blow on enemy minions. That’s how you increase your gold and buy better items, which give you better stats. I watched a video where someone said you should be able to easily get 70 creep kills by the 10:00 minute mark before you attempt playing ranked matches. I’m only going to be playing “normals” at the moment (non-ranked 5v5 PvP games), but improving never hurts.

Now I need to apply the same principles to my academic work. Heh.

See you tomorrow for another 500 words.

BURN THE WITCH(hazel)!

Alright, so I may have gone a little overkill. Today you could practically peel my face off like a mask. So I need to cut back on the witch hazel. A friend suggested I use it 2-3 times a week, and more importantly I need to pick up some moisturizer.

On the plus side: blackheads are disappearing! My (enormous) nose is looking better every day.

I’m also going to take a break on Thursdays from here on out. I’m happy I’ve managed eight days in a row, and I may occasionally post something on a Thursday night anyway, but like with the witch hazel I realize that not every routine may be good to mindlessly repeat! This is a good day for it, anyway. Thursday is a busy work day for me, and I have Fridays off so I can get some rest and sleep in. Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope the new schedule works out!

See you tomorrow for 500 words.

Cisgender People and Our Mistreatment of Transgender Individuals

This particular ramble includes examples of transphobia, violence against transgender individuals, and talk of suicide.


Recently I’ve seen a few videos made by a woman I know while she was still presenting as male. It’s interesting: there is an awkwardness to her mannerisms, an affectation that is so painfully obvious. Here is a woman–I think to myself as I watch her talk to others–pretending to be a man. Clearly.

Except it’s not so clear, is it? Hindsight is 20/20. I met her after she decided to be public about her real identity as a woman. So, viewing these past videos, I have a reasonable amount of background knowledge and expectations, and I see the exceptions to what I already know.

We–and by “we” I mean myself and other cisgender indivdiuals–are afflicted by blindness. And it is easy, and seems right, to go back and say “I would have known” or even “I did know” about a transgender friend or acquaintance’s identity. It sounds good, it makes us feel like better allies. We’re more aware than those other people.

We need to stop that. Because typically we don’t know. We see what we want to see, and thanks to the wonders of privilege what we want to see is often what society expects.

I have another friend whom I did know in person. He came out to me as transgender a while ago, and as I look back on my interactions with him throughout the years I think, well, it makes sense. But really, there was no point at which I actually stopped and thought, “Well, he’s a guy.”

The problem when cisgender individuals say we knew about a transgender person’s identity, we discount their efforts. Transgender folks put up a facade for their own personal benefit and safety. They might not even know they’re doing it. There’s a reason some come to it as more of a sudden revelation than a certainty they’ve known all their lives.

But that facade takes a toll. It kills. Transgender people have an alarmingly high suicide rate. They are dying by inches because the personal cost of them coming out to the public is phenomenally high. And while you might think that saying “Oh, I kind of knew” sounds comforting and affirming, consider it may actually sound like you realized the staggering amount of suffering they had and decided the status quo of your relationship was just fine.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe we, my cisgender readers and I, make just such a judgment on occasion. That’s a hard truth to consider. Consider it anyway.

Then there’s the issue of “pronouns”, or what it really is: basic human decency. I’ve seen plenty of well-meaning cisgender people–and in the past I myself have been guilty of–misgendering a transgender person. And there are a lot of mental and conversational gymnastics we will try to use to excuse it. “It’s difficult” or “I get confused” are two of the worst. Imagine, if you will, that I’m speaking to you and at random intervals in the conversation I reach up and backhand you across the face. And when you look shocked or get angry I just say, “I’m sorry, it’s hard for me too. I get confused sometimes. Sometimes I forget hitting you hurts.”

Our transgender friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers have already paid enough in mental well-being and personal effort to make us comfortable. If it takes us more personal effort to use the right pronouns and to pay attention to what they say, then we put in the effortFull stop. If we do screw up, stop, apologize, do not attempt to make excuses, move on, and never do it again.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

Rikki Tikki Tavi

A friend of mine is currently working on some illustrations for a Rikki Tikki Tavi book. I mentioned that, as a child, the 1975 Chuck Jones animated short film was one of my favorite things to watch. She is also a fan, and pointed me to an earlier version created in 1965 by the Soviet animation studio Soyuzmultfilm. I am a big fan of Soviet animation such as Hedgehog in the Fog, Nu Pogodi!, and Mystery of the Third Planet, so it was a perfect match.

rikkitikki1

Rikki Tikki faces off against Nag while Nagaina sneaks up from behind.
(Soyuzmultfilm, 1965)

Being much more of an artist than I, she did tell me that both films used a lot of yellow ochre, especially for the sky. This was the only bit she found particularly frustrating, and mentioned it was amusing that terrible sky colors managed to cross ideological lines during the cold war.

The two films are both about 30 minutes each, and follow the same general story: the mongoose Rikki Tikki gets taken in by a family after nearly drowning, and has to confront the cobra pair Nag and Nagaina, who seek to drive the family from their home and be rid of the mongoose.

rikkitikkijones

Rikki Tikki stares down Nag.
(Chuck Jones Productions, 1975)

The approach is rather different. The Jones film is much closer to the Kipling story. The family is white and British, settled in India, and many parts of the film largely focus on the relationship between Rikki Tikki and the family.

Soyuzmultfilm’s version, however, makes the family Indian, and spends a lot more time dealing with the animals in the garden. As my friend and I discussed, the choice to have a native Indian family appears to be a direct blow against British imperialism, which naturally the USSR had a vested interest in not promoting. I think it was a great choice, personally.

Jones’s version is narrated by Orson Welles, while the SMF film has no narration. Welles delivers several lines from the short story itself, including one about how “every good mongoose wishes to be a house mongoose”. There is apparently a reasonable amount of scholarship on the subject of the story being a piece of imperialist propaganda, which makes a lot of sense coming from Kipling. To Chuck Jones’s credit I don’t feel that is a focus of the film, but it certainly comes across more clearly than the subversive Soviet adaptation.

The film from my childhood holds up well in terms of animation. Obviously I am more aware and critical of the subtext, but as I said I feel the film doesn’t linger on it as much as the actual short story. I was delighted with my friend for sharing the Soviet film with me; it has been added to my bookmarks and watched several times already. I was able to introduce my sister to the Chuck Jones short, which made me happy, and even managed to involve her in a brief discussion about the politics behind it.

Anyway, check out some of the films above. I highly recommend them. Until next time, I’ll see you in 500 words.

Meeting in the Orchard

The breeze carried the scent of apples from the roadside inn’s orchard, and Hyun-jung decided to take a walk.

She had never taken this road through Durthen before. The area was pleasant rolling green hills and cultivated stands of trees. This inn, the one she stayed at last night, had been warm and welcoming. Perhaps she would stay tonight as well.

Hyun-jung strolled through the orchard and found a nice patch of shade. She sat down, brushing long strands of black hair from her eyes, which the wind saw fit to blow right back. Sighing, she crawled around until the apple tree’s trunk shielded her from the brunt of the wind, then removed her flute from her pack.

Taking a deep breath, she placed the flute to her lips and began to play a melody from home, though she let the notes and the tempo drift with the wind. Her eyes drooped shut.

Home was a long way from Durthen. Just over two years ago Hyun-Jung had crossed the sea, hoping to see more of the world. She’d have some tales to tell when she returned, but she wasn’t ready for that yet. There was too much to do.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a crunching noise. She opened her eyes, and only a few feet from where she sat stood a very tall woman with red hair and pale, milky skin. The woman wore light brown trousers and an intricately embroidered purple shirt. A black cape with shoulder guards completed the ensemble, denoting her as a wizard of one of the Academies. Hyun-jung wasn’t familiar enough with them to know which.

The woman smiled, chewing, and held out an apple. “Habbul?” she mumbled through a full mouth.

“I’m sorry?” She tugged nervously at the collar of her blue tunic.

A blush came to the other woman’s cheeks. She chewed quickly and swallowed. “No, I’m sorry. Apple?” She gestured again, offering it.

“I mean, can I help you?”

“Ah, no,” she said. “I came out for a walk and heard you playing. Sorry to interrupt.” She took a bite of the apple in her other hand. “That was a lovely song.”

“Thank you,” Hyun-jung offered. She still wasn’t sure about this woman, but she didn’t appear actively dangerous. “Would you like to sit?” She motioned to the grass near where the woman stood. She dwarfed many of the men Hyun-jung had met on the road. Her standing there was more than a little imposing.

Her unexpected visitor laughed. It sounded a little self conscious. Unceremoniously, she plopped to the ground. “Sorry again. Sometimes I forget about the whole… well, you know. I’m Marzena, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Marzena. I’m Hyun-jung. I think I’ll take that apple now, if you don’t mind.”

[That’s it for now! I’m trying to suss out Hyun-jung’s character, and get a better feel for writing Marzena who is already a bit more developed in my mind. Plus, trying to write fiction again. I will likely rewrite this entire thing down the road as I get more certain of what I want to do, but for now I’m just trying to get a sense of characters and a setting for a fantasy story. See you in 500 words!]

Snowblindsided

Damn it. I’ve focused on making sure these posts go up every night, and that I stay on top of my personal health and hygiene, but I let schoolwork slip me by. I have to turn in some late assignments tomorrow. I got complacent because of the weather; we had a snow day and I foolishly didn’t think to check my university e-mail to see what we needed to do. I feel like such an idiot right now.

I’ll likely hear that excuse from students myself. I’m currently working on prerequisites for a graduate program in elementary education. I’ve been more lax than I should this semester, and need to pull it together. I’m not immediately in any danger of failing or even doing poorly, but this isn’t something I can just coast through. You might see some more posts on this in the future. Posts far more productive than this one, I hope. Continue reading

Nightmares

I’m up much later than I should be. I’ve always been abusive to my sleep cycle, but lately I feel like I’d begun to get a handle on it. That might not have been true.

I feel like going to bed, but 500 words, as promised. I’ll do this quickly so I apologize if I ramble a bit. I’m going to talk about nightmares. Continue reading