Just the Last

The small class on the highlight of all Rockland High School field trips take notes as the manatees bob roundly in the water. When Molly remembers how they have those fat little fins, she wishes she could give the big one a hug, and leans over the edge a little to catch a glimpse of the cow-sweet eyes.

“Heh, look how many scars they have,” her boyfriend says, nuzzling her hair like he always does. “Bet if I had a boat I’d go fly’n if I hit that fat one.”

“You are so immature, Howard,” she answers. And pulls away.

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Writing to Prompts

This particular prompt was:

Write a 100-word story using these words: envy, manatees, and Texas.

And I don’t know that my answer is particularly awesome or anything, but today’s prompt was to write a 100-word story about ninjas and pirates, which is such an internet meme I’m positively sick of hearing about them.

Not that I didn’t love the joke in college, when my friends and I played with the idea (I was on the ninja side, by the way). But it’s not something I want to try to write one hundred words on. What would those words be? Nothing that I’m particularly interested in writing.

Not What I Wanted to Post

That would be a review of Inception, since I’ve seen it twice now, and Witches’ Children (by Patricia Clapp), because it’s simply a beautifully written novel and just…just…well, awesome is all I can say here, because I’ll definitely have to finish the review for that one: it’s too good not to. I’m going to campaign for that book.

But I’m still distracted online, reading/watching reviews of Twilight, and Harry Potter fan fiction, and also just generally looking at other web-culture type things.

Mostly because I have a two stories and two poems that I almost, kinda, sorta want to submit to Watershed, but though I reworked them a bit a few days ago, I’m rather afraid of looking at them again. I only have a few days before I have to send them off, and I can only think of what they are not. For instance, good.

And the problem is really that I just can’t evaluate my own work in any objective way…which is fairly typical as far as I can tell. But not a helpful insight. So I’ve resorted to avoidance.

Maybe I can work on them tomorrow, to distract myself from the other Big Deal, the rehearsal for The Curious Savage.

Don’t Tell Me You Started That Today

….well, yeah.

“That” was actually one of those Star Trek books, can’t remember which, and my brother asked yesterday because he caught me about 3/4 through. And I did not answer “well, yeah” even though I wanted to.

Because that was actually the third such book I’d started that day. Over the past week or so, when my fandom mind switched back to Star Trek from, I think, Sherlock Holmes, I have reread about eight Star Trek: TOS novels. And my reply to my brother when he asked was not sarcastic because, though I read them quickly, I’ve read them all before. Yes I read fast, but I admit in this case I’ve been skimming some…especially in Demons, which has a monstrous Mary Sue character–McCoy’s in love with her and Spock mind-melds with her, AND she has wild red hair and is a super genius. Yeah, I think I only picked it up again because, well, because I’d forgotten how bad she was. There were a few acceptable peril situations however…

Where was I going with this again?

Ah yes. I used to read lots. And then I got trapped by fan fiction, and probably read much less–this was, believe it or not, me be geeky, and more being burned out with college classes and assigned readings. While not as much, such reading is much more exhausting, and I think I was simply burned out for a while, even following graduation.

After graduation comes no job, and me volunteering at the library. So there are lots of books for me to read–including a rather large pile from a buying ‘spree’ a few months back when I did have a little extra money: some, well, now as I try to count them there are almost twenty. Plus the eight books I have yet to finish from the library (I’ve started three).  I do pretty well in keeping up though, at least until my fandom brain takes over–hence the Star Trek. But fandom, at least, is fast reading. When you’re talking series books that don’t have to build characterizations or mostly even worlds, they can go much more quickly. Well. That doesn’t actually count if they don’t get the characterizations right, which is very much a subjective thing now that I think about it. Let’s just go with: they read faster.

In seventh grade, I had a teacher, Mr. Prim, who had some one-page project to measure our reading speeds. I tested at 1200 wpm. The text, I distinctly remember, was from Huckleberry Finn. And I’d read it before. Even then, I remembered that passage. The other passage was from The Prince and the Pauper. I’d read that too. So, I’m not sure how accurate a measure that was.

Although I suppose I can use it to argue that even then I could be called fairly well read (though I couldn’t say that now). Even in fourth grade I’d tested with an ability to parse sentences and paragraphs at above a 12th grade reading level. See, our school had a program called “AR” reading (Accelerated Reader), and after you read a book, you would take a test, and that test would tell you how well you comprehended the test. I scored badly on Les Miserable only because I though, ooh, it’s a hard book, I should make sure I internalize it, and forgot the specific eye colors involved. Also, 1984 changes entirely from middle school to college. That’s a simple example, but you have to realize a program is flawed when it classifies Hemingway at a 4th grade reading level. Whatever “interest level” you give it.

Sans second digression, though I don’t know my “true” reading speed, although one interest test called it 700 wpm, I do read faster than the general population. Which is something like 200 wpm and really, really slow. To me. Poor general population, no wonder you can only read seven books a year. I can’t keep up.

Reading quickly of course has much more to do with general reading habits. And in my case especially, interest in the material. Because novels I can power through in, oh, four hours on average. Or three maybe? Time flies, anyway, so I start reading and them I’m done and depressed because it was over all-too-quickly. When I was rereading the first two Rogue Agent books before reading the third when it came out, I finished all three in one day, two? because I kept putting them down. Stopping takes up plenty of time, no matter how engaging the story.

Non-fiction books take longer.

Which is really hard for me to accept because I love them. I love checking them out. I love buying them. But they just take so long to read. And unlike fiction books, for me, harder to give up. There’s always the chance I will grow out of my fiction books, especially since I love those in series: like Rogue Agent, or Robert Asprin’s Myth books. Actually, those are still going strong, and you’ll pry my Terry Pratchett paperbacks from my cold dead hands (I’m taking the hardcovers with me), but I just managed to give up my Dorothy Cannells and Aunt Dimitys from middle school. But though nonfiction books may become outdated, they never lose information. Even if it’s just historical value.

Like my weird attraction to science books. The Fly in the Cathedral, books like that. I rarely, rarely read them, but I love to have them for when I want to read them. And I will eventually. I really will.

So between reading too quickly, and having an active fandom attraction, I both gather too many books, and don’t read enough. Fortunately, books last. Maybe not hundreds of years, but long enough for me to get around to them. Or maybe my theoretical kids, that I’m not sure I want, but at least I have an excuse for those Hardy Boys and John Bellairs (<–he’s awesome, look him up!).

New LanguAge

I was reading the school paper, and perused a commentary on how students on campus use language in this age of information. As an English major, I approve.

The author, as I recall, blamed the breakdown of intelligent communication on the text messaging language as it creeps into the spoken.  Many people do. I’m not sure I don’t. In fact, I was surprised at myself when I first read the article, because at first I found myself rolling my eyes. I don’t appreciate the careless use of language. Using text speak in actual speech is always ridiculous–unless used satirically. Or maybe even just used humorously. But I must admit, sometimes I have at least thought “WTF” when watching/hearing something so utterly stupid that I can’t spare the mental time to think the whole phrase–and, hey, it’s not really cursing. And there are plenty of words invented by the internet* that I genuinely  appreciate. Sheeple. Kerfluffle. Angsting.

Perhaps it’s careless to use new words, when a careful enough revision of my own writing or thoughts might be able get the same feeling across using ‘traditional’ English. But then again, as the Facebook “Flair” button says “English: A language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages, and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary,”** which I’m quite sure is stolen from someone who does not get nearly enough credit…but when you say something that awesome on the internet you tend to lose your fame for it very quickly.  Anyway, when English doesn’t have the perfect one, it tends to fill the vacuum with something new or borrowed (and sometimes blue, I’m sure). Thus I justify my internet speak.

So when I first read the article, I thought: well, really, why not use text speak in casual conversation? I’d greatly appreciate if you do so out of my hearing, but if your group understands the language, you may as well. So long as your formal communications–to someone outside of your social circle, or in written communications other than texts or possibly tweets. And if you have any acquaintances (or especially coworkers/bosses) as Facebook friends, don’t use text speak in status updates.  Nonetheless, I do feel  it has a place.

Then again, pretty much as soon as I found myself making the argument above, I realized–the problem is people don’t seem to be able to distinguish when it might be appropriate and when it definitely isn’t.

I remember, in high school, I read two ‘paragraphs,’ each written by a one person attending detention. Okay, so I couldn’t have been expecting much, but still, these would have been written in an academic context, not to mention that it was displayed on the whiteboard. Each, though, were equally terrible. You’d think they’d never learned how to write…which I suspect they did, as they had that ‘valley-girl’ handwriting, one even adorned with hearts.

And, despite the fact that I am now in my third senior semester at college, each of my professors, after the first essay assignment, still have to go over the most basic tenets of writing. For instance: spelling. When I first started college and heard this lecture, I was horrified. It was like, really people? this is college. The fact that it was a community college makes now difference. Now at least I’ve gotten used to it, though I am still saddened. While I’d like to think that people ought to be able to adjust their language based on the situation….apparently, no.

I don’t know how to solve this. I refuse to submit to writing text speak in my essays or talk to my mom that way–she doesn’t even use the computer, much less would have any idea what I’m talking about (although she is rather proficient at reading my mind when I’m particularly incoherent.)  You know what I think? I think that we should just disallow those people who can’t tell the difference to participate in any meaningful communication, because they aren’t capable of doing so anyway. First amendment be damned.

*Okay, so the internet itself didn’t actually develop the language, but it’s such a facilitator, it seems to make the spread rather faster and more creative. I likes it.

**Possibly James Nicholl, actually: “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”  Apparently he’s mostly an Internet personality, as opposed to being famous offline, which I find rather appropriate.

Internationally Known

I have a great roommate. She’s from Brazil–or at least her family is. She grew up primarily in Mozambique. Her parents are missionaries, and so she moved often growing up. So far we have found that we both once liked Nsync, and that she and her friends liked the Spice Girls.  Early on, she made a rice and (black?) bean dish that I don’t remember the name of, but it was really good. It apparently is what the poor college students live off of in Brazil. However, I don’t know if I’m culturally insensitive, but when I think of my roommate, I don’t immediately think of her as Brazilian or a missionary’s daughter. In fact, I just tend to be jealous that she can cook things like rice. From scratch.*

California State University, Chico offers a course called International Forum. Recently they hosted a panel of international students, and American students who had studied abroad. There were quite a range of countries represented: from France, the UK, and Italy to Costa Rica, New Zealand and Japan. As well as the Czech Republic, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. There were quite a few students on the panel; they had to keep adding chairs.

The discussion was organized around the stereotyped American around the world. Most of it wasn’t a surprise. The government isn’t popular (it isn’t here either), there tends to be an ignorance of geography and other cultures (not all that inaccurate) and we eat junk food (so unfortunately true). There were plenty of surprises though. For instance, places like McDonalds (sort of) and KFC apparently serve real food in other countries. Several students expressed surprise at what kinds of food we are willing to eat. Well, often they technically serve real food here, but it’s actually pretty good food abroad. Hmmm…

(I should mention the student who’d come from Czech was sympathetic to the cost of real food–as sodas tend to be cheaper than bottled water, etc. Although it usually isn’t necessary here to buy water, the parallel with food is true.)

Also, flip flops are frowned upon, except as something to wear around the house. The student who’d travelled to Italy mentioned that wearing flip flops outside tended to draw attention and whispers and children pointing. I completely agree. I don’t wear flip flops–although I will confess to owning a pair to wear at a pool or in a shower, should it prove necessary. So far, it hasn’t. I’m something, apparently, of a shoe elitist.

Finally, what took me mostly by surprise, although it shouldn’t have, is that the US has a reputation for having guns on every person. This is most likely because the NRA tends to get lots of media attention, but still, it’s far easier in the US than many other countries to get ahold of a gun-type weapon. Unless you’re me.


Most of the international students pointed out that in their countries guns are either not allowed at all, except in cases of hunting, or even then have very strict standards for keeping a weapon. Now this really didn’t occur to me because I don’t have any contact with guns. I have only once seen a gun in person (that I can actually recall) and that was my uncle’s rifle (?–I don’t know what it was, actually, just that it was long). My dad technically has a gun apparently…I’ve never actually seen it, and keep forgetting to ask. But hunting was a major pastime where I grew up, even if not so much in my family. People tended not to use them on each other, but they were there. So guns just aren’t a part of my consciousness, so I never even thought about how other countries might allow/disallow them.

I always wanted to do some kind of foreign exchange program, but could never afford it and was always too shy. My best friend in high school did go to Germany for a year, and I still have all her letters to me, though unfortunately the message she left me where she sang “Happy Birthday” in German was lost.  I have been to Canada though. Technically. It was Sunday and nearly everything was closed and it was rainy so we stopped at an A&W and a gas station for souvenirs. Well, it does make for an amusing anecdote.

*I can make big dumplings though. And mash potatoes with a fork.

What was I Thinking?

Really, do I ever?  I’m not convinced, mostly because I just had a great idea for a post, and in the time it took me to walk across the room–the very very small room, I forgot it.  This is mostly because I let myself be seduced by the trail of an idea, and didn’t bother to solidify it in my head before coming over…it was just so great, and of course I couldn’t forget it.  Well, I did.  And I don’t know what this one will be about, it’s just to fill space until I think of what the great idea was.  Sometimes it’ll come back to me.  I can only hope.

Interesting how that’s worded isn’t it. So far the shortest post I have here was written when I was on the far side of consciousness, and it’s still five hundred words.  I hardly lack for ideas, even if I did lose some really great ones over the course of pacing a room’s width.

I really wanted to write loose instead of lose in that last paragraph. Every single time I’ve been trying to write lose for about a month, in fact, I’ve been trying to write loose instead.  Unfortunately, in the writing I do…or have been doing…loose is simply not a word that shows up on a regular basis. Or even an irregular basis, and so I have no call to use it.  I should make one up.  But I have nothing to write about with loose in it, so far as I can tell. Maybe it has something to do with not writing fiction.

Say, if I was writing a story, than I could use loose as a way to get through writers’ block.  When I was in school, the only reason I really liked the vocabulary lists was to make sentences in which to use those words. I love using new words. And particularly using context, interesting context. Like impecunious. Actually, I just like impecunious because it’s a far cooler way of saying penniless than saying penniless, although I will admit penniless is better than the basic, cliched broke. Although, now that I write it, I don’t really mind broke either. Each has it’s own shades of meaning.

You can imagine what my vocab sentences looked like after I went on my tangents.

Actually, If you imagined they’d be long and creative and interesting, you’d be wrong. The one problem I’ve always had in school is not wanting to bother with it. I do the bare minimum to try for an A. I didn’t used to try, but I’ve been procrastinating so badly this semester, I’ve had to worker harder at it.  Also, this school uses pluses and minuses as part of the GPA, it’s the equivalent of .39 or something I think. What can I say, math is not my strong suit.

This is not because I’m particularly smart. I just tend to be good at taking tests, understanding what the teacher wants, and I enjoy reading. My learning style happens to be particularly good for the academic camp. Unfortunately, I don’t really wish to spend all my time in the ivory tower. I simply don’t have the focus to enjoy it properly. Not that there’s anything wrong with staying so far out of the real world. It has it’s upsides. And downsides too, of course, but then again, what doesn’t. The only bad thing about having a learnings style so perfectly suited to academics is the fact that I’m useless for any other kind of situation.  I need feedback, lots and lots of feedback and direction. Academia my thrive on that sort of thing, but the rest of the world tends to prefer the quick-on-your-feet independant-type personalty.  I suppose I can do that too, but passive is easier.

Which is why it’s called passive of course…

As long as these posts get…I’m starting to think the only reason I write anything is for the titles. I have, or at least I think I have, awesome titles.  Unfortunately, but the time I end up at the end of these posts, they hardly bear any relation to the title.  With the title here, for example, this post really ought to have been a semi-hysterial rant. Which might have been amusing, or possibly disturbing for readers, but isn’t really about what it was starting as anyway.  Kind of like sarcasm.

Wait, I think I’m losing track (there’s losing again). There is the “What was I thinking?” (or What was I thinking?”) of someone’s who has seriously (or moderately) screwed up, but in this case, it’s meant literally, “What was I thinking?” Which is kind of like sarcasm because the phrase is hardly used in the literal sense–by me anyway.

This is at eight hundred words again. How do I do it? I would say that words never come as easily anywhere else, although they do.  But really does anyone actually end up reading this far?

Since only those who have, have actually gotten this far…why?  I should post disclaimers at the beginning of every post: If you don’t finish reading, I don’t blame you. I hardly even manage to finish myself, I just write until my hands get tired.

Or change the title of my blog to: tl;dr.