March 3rd: The Anniversary of My Grandfather’s Death

It’s a bit past midnight on the 4th at this point now, but you’ll understand what I mean when I say that today, the 3rd, was the first anniversary of my grandfather’s death. I worked all day, so I didn’t exactly have time to set aside for remembrance.

On the morning of March 3rd, 2014, my grandfather was outside his home in West Virginia during a winter much like the one we have now, shoveling snow from his driveway so that if his wife’s mother needed an ambulance it would be able to get to them. The effort proved too much, and he had a heart attack. He wasn’t found for a while, until his wife came out to check on him. By the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late. My grandfather always had too strong of a work ethic. Barring his age of 80 years, he had been in relatively good health. Then he was gone. 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.

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.

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.


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.


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!]


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

Witch Hazel

This week I’ve made a project of taking better care of my facial hygiene. I mean, I wash my face in the shower, but I never actually take the time in the morning or evening to pay special attention to what’s going on. As a result I tend to have more blackheads and dry skin than I’d like, and I’m doing my best to correct that.

witchhazelbottleSo every evening I’ve begun washing, exfoliating, and using witch hazel! I love this stuff. It has a bizarre smell which I hesitate to describe as pleasant yet I suppose that is the right word for something I enjoy. It’s an astringent, which is a new word I learned meaning a substance that contracts the skin. Witch hazel causes your pores to tighten, making it more difficult for crud to build up inside of them. Some days I feel like the pores on my nose are the size of lunar craters, so it’s just the thing I’ve needed. Continue reading

Getting into League: DeLUX Edition

For nearly five months now I have been a regular in the chat of DistractedElf’s Twitch stream. I recommend checking her out. I never thought I’d watch someone else play video games on a regular basis, but the chat is lively, Elf is fun and welcoming, and there are just a lot of good things to say about the experience.

One of the games she played most frequently was Dawngate, a MOBA that, sadly, announced its closing shortly after I joined. (Sorry, Elf and friends…) So I didn’t have much time to check it out. She began playing League of Legends–well, she got back into playing League, I should say–and I never paid much attention to it as a potential game I might play.

Then, a few weeks ago, the bug bit. I’m now endeavoring to be a not-terrible player. One of the characters I found interesting and approachable in the beginning was a mage named Lux. Sadly she passed out of rotation after I reached Summoner Level 6 and earned my way into the actual free rotation. I’ve been slowly saving IPs from my games in order to make her a permanent staple of mine. Tonight I finally reached that goal!

I’ve played quite a few games against AI bots; I’m not quite ready for primetime when it comes to facing other players. I’d previously heard from a lot of sources that League has a pretty awful player-base. Riot has allegedly been addressing this for some time now.

Despite that, most of the games I’ve played thus far have been pleasant. People have been friendly and understanding. Perhaps the work of Riot’s social scientists has paid off! (Not quite.) Nevertheless, there is a certain knowledge required to play League passably well, and I want to have those basics down to a comfortable degree before I start dragging the team down with me. If I am preemptive about being a better player myself, others may reciprocate.

A guy can dream, right?

I currently have three permanently unlocked Champions: Lux, a light-based mage; Sivir, a boomerang-throwing warrior woman; and Graves, who I haven’t played yet but I understand is a pretty decent selection in the current meta and he was on sale for a not-terrible price.

There’s a lot more going on under the hood than I originally anticipated. It’s not enough to simply kill enemy minions and Champions; there is a method to the madness. The last few days I’ve been watching tutorial videos on last-hitting and bot-laning and how to teamfight. ScrapComputer’s tutorial videos have been a blessing in this regard. Naturally, learning is one thing and implementing is another. Therein, as a Danish prince once said, lies the rub.

I don’t exactly have aspirations of professional play; I am mostly content to enjoy the game in my off time and eventually be able to hold my own with Elf and some of her friends in casual games. Should I mysteriously get good, well, I won’t complain.

This is also the start of my 500 words “series”. In order to stay up with the blog, and occasionally work on the actual craft of writing as opposed to vomiting words onto the screen, I’m going to post around 500 words a day. If something more substantial arises, I’ll be happy to use that as a daily post, but 500 words, minimum, about anything at all.

See you tomorrow.