Monday, June 30, 2008

How I Came to be Standing Here, Half Naked, and More Than a Bit Tipsy, at a Bus Stop, at Two in the Morning

Inspired by "Whiskey plied voices cried fratricide" from the song "Fake Palindromes" by Andrew Bird.

All I’m saying, all I’m say… saying, is… you should really listen to what I’m saying. It’s… you would think that maybe you would think about con-conse-consek effects before you act like a real prick to your brother. I mean, it’s basic kindness, famil-famil-family-family-al bonds and whatnot. Bros before… not bros. Blood is thicker than wine? But all I’m saying is, is, well, you shouldn’t screw your brother over.

I know that I’m not always the nicest brother, and the cow was mean, but out here, alone, I could’ve died, I could still die, and when there would he be?

I don't know how I feel about this one. I tend to stay away from drunk people so I'm not sure how to write them (other than chatty, which I get, and more likely to talk about more things, which I get). At first I was using lots of spoonerisms (because that's how I talk when I'm really tired), but it just came off as stupid, so I cut that. Any suggestions, especially about tone and voice, would be excellent.

Ayn's story

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Molly was home with the babysitter. Her parents wouldn’t be home for hours. The sitter was chatting on the phone and ignoring her charge. Molly, momentarily, had free reign, and she had been planning for this moment for weeks. A sly grin grew across her face as she snuck into the kitchen.

Molly awoke the next morning to her father’s stern face. “Molly, what you did last night was very bad,” he said angrily.

She blinked up at him with large blue eyes.

“You could have hurt yourself!” He sighed, and then smiled. “We’ve signed you up for cooking lessons.”

In other news, Glenwood won its third (out of four!) dive meet this season! This one was incredibly close; we were missing a lot of divers and going up against a very good team; we only won by one point (could not have been closer!)! I have very few complaints about the diving in general; the kids were troopers (one nine year old dove as an 11-12 because we needed her to, the other nine year olds were jealous they weren't "chosen"), they were well-behaved (no pushing or peeing on the deck), for the most part they paid attention, and the older kids especially really pulled out some amazing dives (Bea and Nate in particular). At halftime, Austin was calculating scores and thought we were five points behind. As they announced the older kids' places, I was tallying in my head; seven points up with 13-14s (to a net two ahead) and one point down with 15-18s (to a net one ahead), but I didn't trust the math, and I was just sort of sitting there edgy until the meet result was announced, when we were jumping for joy (it was almost as exhilarating as a scav victory, and featured a group hug with my fellow coaches and Bea). I mean, one point. One point! And we were missing our best diver, too, although I don't think that would have changed the ending very much (the way I figure it, he would have taken second place -- which Nate took anyway, so he would only have gained third place for us, which is one point; it would have been a three point victory instead of a one point victory).

One more meet, next week. I want a win for my birthday! *fingers crossed* Then we'd be undefeated this season, which would be awesome.

I'm not competitive at all, of course.

In other news, my mother mistook me for a fifteen year old boy today. No, I am not joking. She actually walked right past me, thinking "Who is that talking to Glenwood divers? He sounds and looks really familiar. Which fifteen year old boy am I forgetting about? And where's Elizabeth?" She admitted it on the phone to my brother, when I was in the room. I am never letting her live it down.

And people wonder why I have this complex where I think I look like an adolescent boy.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Inspired by the line "If you're made of calcium, I'll have to take a taste" from MX Missiles by Andrew Bird. (I just realized that I had been negligent in linking that.)

Beatrice hated milk. Since the earliest age, she had simply hated the taste. She was weaned in record time. Later, her mother tried adding sugar, vanilla, strawberry, even chocolate, futilely. Beatrice hated it steamed and she hated it chilled. She hated it in yogurt, in cheese, even in ice cream.

So Beatrice had to find her calcium somewhere else.

Looking at the spread before her, of calcium-enriched and fortified foods, Beatrice winced. Her mother had given her a simple task: taste everything, and determine what she liked.

Sighing, she threw away the milk. One down. A hundred thousand to go.

Ayn's story can be found here.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Steve grimaced and slouched down in his chair. The graduate student in front of the projector screen was trembling, biting his lip and staring at Steve with a glimmer of desperate hope in his eyes. Steve sighed.

“It seems like an ideal two-photon microscope experiment. Why are you wasting your time with a confocal?”

As they filed out of the conference room, Steve allowed himself a smile. The look of shock on the student’s face had brightened his day; no one expected good advice about cutting edge technology from an eighty-five year old.

But Steve wasn’t quite a fossil yet.

This is in honor of the Nautilus, which is a particularly ancient-looking cephalopod described as a "living fossil". And the Andrew Bird line, "I had not become a cephalopod" from "Opposite Day".

A link to Ayn's story, inspired by the same line, here.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Word of the day

Because I need to force myself to write or I will go crazy. And I'll post the drabble first, therefore, because for all of you who don't want to hear my vaguely-emo rambles, well, you don't have to. Just stop after the drabble; to yesterday's word of the day on renascent.


It was hard to tell when it stopped being a horrible disaster and turned into a rebirth. No one stopped missing the lost possessions, the lost homes, the lost souls. But still, the city rose like a phoenix from its own ashes; stronger, more thoughtful, and more beautiful. They built sensibly. They laid out a grid. They added a lower level to keep garbage off the streets. And the buildings rose from the charred ground, reaching proudly toward the sky.

They used more metal this time, and less wood. They were wiser, but they still kept building wooden fire escapes.

Yesterday was hard; there were too many eleven year olds and not enough listening. I love coaching, and I love diving, I really do, but it is already pretty apparent to me that I could never make a career out of it the way I can make a career out of research. I need something where I have some facsimile of control, where I can at least reasonably delude myself into thinking that I know the variables. This week has been utterly and completely exhausting, and I feel like I've quite possibly done more harm than good. I miss Chicago, and my friends there, and my life there. I want to sit by the lake and watch the water after a hard day, look at the city from the Point.

There are a few things that I will remember and will summarize Chicago for me. One is coming back my second year, becoming completely (and very briefly) lost, running into Ryan and Alex and Duff, and finally stowing my bags in Ryan's car and getting lunch at Sammy's. Another is picnicking at Navy Pier with Chrissy and Asa. Another is driving back from Lao Szechuan in the blizzard that made planes slide off the runways in Midway. Another is catching a ride to the U-haul place at 75th street with Ayn, and moving in to my first apartment. And another three or four are swimming in the lake, barbecuing at the point, and being unimpressed by the far-away fireworks in Grant Park. The lake is so uniquely Chicago, and even if it leaves a scar on my toe from the last time I went in, I'll always miss it. It's nice to dive at Glenwood, and lately the water has been warm and refreshing rather than the bitter cold of Lake Michigan I'm sure, but it doesn't come close to the iconic crumbling rocks of the point.

Mia, in a card to me, mentioned that it might feel like the past four years were just a dream, and I've woken up in Maryland and none of it has ever happened, and to a certain extent it does feel like that -- I've woken up again, in my parents' house -- and at the same time that it's hard to imagine that college was real, it's equally hard to imagine that what I'm living now is real. I feel like I'm trying to cram myself into the life of someone who just graduated high school, and (unsurprisingly) it isn't working. If anything, the real me is still in Chicago, doing something or another. It's hard to describe, hard to explain.

I imagine that it will get better once I find some places that are truly my own, maybe make a few new friends, maybe remake a few old ones. The reunion today was good for that, perhaps not as good as it might be (Nick is moving to Chicago and I was suffused with a feeling of sheer, heart-wrenching jealousy for more than a moment at the idea of living in Chicago for the indefinite future), but I now know two more people who will be at Stanford with me next year (and have e-mail addresses for four more friends-of-friends), which brings my total up to nine people I know well and fourteen people I have some connection with next year in the bay area. Which is pretty amazing, and it's nice in part because I can get excited about going to Stanford with Becca and Noel (both of whom I was okay friends with in high school but always wanted to be better friends with, which is actually a pretty darn cool thing that I'll be going to school with them) this summer, which will be very nice. There were no fights, and particularly none that I was involved in (hooray for that!) although at times it did sort of feel like I was ignoring the pink elephant in the room, but in the situation I think that that was the best thing I could do. Who knows. And when it seemed like things promised to get awkward due to the ignoring of said pink elephant, well, they miraculously didn't, or everyone ignored them getting awkward, or something like that. But part of it still felt empty, and forced, and put-on. I wanted a reunion with other people, I guess.

I guess, in conclusion, to all of my Chicago friends who are or are not reading this, who are or are not in Chicago at the moment, well, I miss you terribly. You all gave me a home, and a family, and all those things that people say they lose when they leave their parents' house. And I can't thank you enough for that. And in the interest of not letting it get too too sappy, I'm going to end there.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In the interest of posting almost daily

A weekly drabble challenge with Ayn, using Andrew Bird lyrics.

Our rules:
100 words
Inspired by the lyrics

As of yet, that's about it. Rules on including (or, interestingly, not including) the lyrics might be appended.

This week's lyrics: "The sky is full of zeros and ones"

My drabble, titled "The Butterfly Effect" because I am bad with titles:

He was the only person he knew who never saw animals in clouds. Others looked up and found dogs, or birds, or monkeys; but even when he knew what to look for he could never animate the fluffy balls of white.

Instead he saw fluid dynamics; cold fronts and warm fronts and relative humidity. He saw numbers racing through a computer; calculations; cause and effect. He saw the butterfly in China and eddies and currents bringing the hurricane to Florida. He saw chaos from order from chaos. So when he told people he was born a meteorologist, he wasn’t lying.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From pool to pool

Glenwood tigers are so cool?

It's an excerpt from one of the cheers that we used to do (the line followed "From city to city, Glenwood girls are oh so pretty" or perhaps "From spot to spot, Glenwood guys are oh so hot"). Of course, it's a swim team cheer, since swimmers have more time when everyone is huddling (and therefore more time to cheer) during their meets. I think it's pretty much a universal, though, and it makes sense: in a sport based on racing (i.e. swimming), when the louder that you are during the event, the better it is, well, you do lots of organized cheers, but in a sport where you really have to be quiet so that people can concentrate before competing (i.e. diving), organized cheers are less common. I'm imagining cheers during golf now, and it's funny. The one diving cheer that we have is Oo sa sa sa:

Oo sa sa sa Oo sa sa sa
Hit 'em in the head with a big keelbasa
Put 'em in a barrel
Roll 'em down the street
Tiger Divers can't be beat!

(repeat many many times, getting louder and faster). Since it was a diving cheer, it was of course my favorite. And the wackiness helps too.

I need to get pictures of the kids or the team or me coaching and put them up here. Or at least the pool. I hesitate to post pictures of other people's small children on the internet, though, just because I'm not an idiot. But here are some funny stories anyway. Most involve small boys, well, because we have a team of 45 or so kids of which 35 or so are small boys. It's pretty absurd. I'm actually not exaggerating there.

Ethan is one of the kids who I worked with years ago before I stayed in Chicago over summers. He and I had a bond way back when; I taught him his back dive and in my last season, neither of us went to all-stars even though both of us would have liked to. When I came to the first meet and started coaching (straight from the airport, I might add), he looked up at me and said "I remember you!" and then paused for a moment before adding "But I don't know your name." It made me smile really really wide. He's now taken to shouting "Hi Liz!" whenever he sees me.

(Yes, people call me Liz here. They always have in Maryland. No, this is not reason for Chicago types to start calling me Liz.)

Gabe (another kid from way back) is trying to learn a front flip with a full twist. Which is some combination of awesome and hilarious. He's a little bit sloppier on the board than a couple other boys in his age group, so he has to do harder dives to keep up with their scores. Of course, he could work on the fundamentals but those are boring. So in an age group where most people do flips or inwards, and the really good kids do one and a halfs or backflips, Gabe is trying a twister. Which gives him a 1.9 DD instead of a 1.6 DD (for the one and a half) or a 1.4 DD (for the flip or the inward). DD is degree of difficulty, a multiplier, which means that Gabe can get scored down by about 20% and still have the same end result. Since the scores hover around five, that's a good point per judge. Of course, he's going up against kids who get sixes and sevens, so he still has to shoot for a five or a five and a half. Of course, in many ways it's easier to get the one and a half up to a six than it is to learn the twister to a five. And he failed it at the meet on Sunday, but he's been doing it pretty well this week, so we'll see what happens. And in the end, if Gabe wants to learn a twister, I'm more than happy to teach him.

The referee for that meet was super super harsh (I could usually understand her calls, but I would have been easier on kids, probably, by virtue of the "they're five years old" factor. I don't have a problem with eight-and-under kids getting cute points). I think she also scored a little bit too much based on splash; there are, of course, some kids (like me, okay) who can't make a big splash no matter what they do. I can go in the water with an almost picture perfect cannon ball and still have not much more than a handful of splash (something I hated as a child). But there are also kids who cannot go in the water without a splash, no matter what they do. Since one of the hallmarks of a good diver is going in perfectly straight; which means without a splash, you can judge a dive to a certain extent based on how much splash it has. Of course, you shouldn't. Because if you do that, then a small person who goes straight in gets a higher score than a big person who goes straight in. And that's not right; no matter how much it may or may not have helped me while I was diving.

Uh. In any case; this harsh referee was obviously tired and cranky for the entire meet (which isn't necessarily her fault) but at the beginning of the meet was chastising our parent rep for some reason. And the parent rep (who does, actually, know me, and has for years), looks over and sees me coaching the kids and doesn't recognize me, and thinks "What on earth is the other team's coach doing with our kids?" Eventually, her daughter (who, by the way, is one of the cutest five year old girls I have ever met) jumps off the board, and I give her some advice, and the mother gets livid. She doesn't realize it's me until someone tells her "That's not the other team's coach; that's Elizabeth," at which point she (apparently) felt rather bad about it. At the end of the meet she commented on my haircut, and she and her daughter said goodbye to me. Which was the only part of the story that I personally experienced, and also made me smile.

I've had some comments from parents who knew me when I was diving telling me that it just feels natural to have me back, and those are probably the best. Sandra, the head coach, has repeatedly said how good it is to have me back (in no small part, I believe, due to the fact that I'm the only member of the assistant coaching staff that does things like show up on time or stay until the end of practice). Which is really, really wonderful.

The hardest part, so far, has been learning all the names. I've never been good with names, and forty-five kids is a lot of names to remember and a lot of people who don't really understand "I have been paying attention, I just don't remember your name." Every day I get a little bit better, and to be honest I've only been coaching for four days, so it's understandable I think. But with 11 eleven-twelve boys, of whom I knew three or four when I was coaching before, it's a lot easier to remember Gabe and Ethan and Tommy and Max from before and a lot harder to learn John and Joey and Billy and Mike and Bobby and... (or whatever their names are). The older kids are easier because I remember more of them and there are fewer of them (although I have a tendency to confuse kids with their older siblings at times). I'll fill out sheets for a couple weeks; that should help. (Who am I kidding; I'll be filling out sheets for the rest of the season in all likelihood).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Today was a good day

I've always loved gargoyles, they were one of the reasons I came to Chicago. So I couldn't take pictures without taking pictures of gargoyles. There's something creepy about these guys, I think. Like the ivy growing over them reflects how the real world, and time, imprisons us all and drives us mad. Or something like that.
I like how this one is staring straight at me.

This is sort of my image of the dorm and the university; I remember when I visited Hyde Park with my parents when I was a small child, and falling in love with the University because of a tricycle race and these archways. And here you can see the dorm through one of them!

From there I headed out to bigger and better things, of course, downtown for Silks. From that excursion I got more pictures of Chicago at large rather than just the University.

The desired photograph of "Grand" -- This is Grand. Doors open on the left at Grand. It's too bad that this is the randomly blurry picture that I took. So I don't know if I'll use it for anything; it was a nice idea perhaps though.

And me, upside down! At the moment this was taken, I was worried that my top foot was going to come untwisted, which would have been awkward. But I finally have photographic proof of Silks! It was definitely bittersweet, and the woman who taught the lesson was full of well-wishes and congratulations, told me to stop by when I visit Chicago (which I very well might do). Other exciting things that happened at silks today were 1) I climbed to the top of their 30 foot ceilings on my first go (usually I get scared that I'm going to fall so I start heading back to the safety of the ground) and 2) I successfully did straddle climbs for the like second time! There was another picture that was sort of from the side, and you could see the silver-dollar sized blister I have on the bottom of my foot (ow!) from walking yesterday. Ouchies!

I like this picture of the El. I like that the sign saying it's a green line train to Harlem and Lake is blurred out, and I love that you can see the city crystal-clear in the background (which only means that the city was not moving).

I also got a couple of the city from the bridge at the Ashland green line stop. I now have pictures of the city from South, North, and West. East would be harder without a sailboat.

I have other pictures that I am not posting out of kindness to your internet connection; sort of. I think these are the best.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I can has souvenirs?

I wandered around downtown today taking pictures that screamed "CHICAGO". I felt like such a tourist. The idea is to get a few that I wouldn't mind printing out and putting on a wall somewhere. I'll get a few that say "GRAND" tomorrow when I go to silks, and some of Hyde Park as well, because those should be less generic touristy and more personal. I might even get pictures of me hanging from fabric from the ceiling too. It would be a picture-full day. Hopefully. That's the idea, at least.

Taken from the point with Emblies, this is one of the few that I am happy about how it turned out. The city looks almost like a backdrop rather than a real city. Which is kinda nifty. It was raining down there and sunny at the point when I took the picture.

The Wrigley Building and Trib Tower and Michigan with the river. I want a picture with the river so I can point it out and say "See, it really is bright green all the time!"

Wrigley + Trib tower without the river. I really didn't want a picture of Trump Tower.

They were raising the bridges to let a boat through when I was downtown. This is State Street, I think.

The Hancock building from behind a tree? I couldn't get a shot sans tree without standing in the middle of the street, which I was loath to do. I don't know how I feel about this one.
The El, because why not?
From Fullerton Avenue, the north tip of the Lincoln Park Zoo. This needs cropping to remove the fingers. Which goes to show I am not a photographer.
From North Avenue, on the way to the North Avenue Beach.
A panorama at the north end of the North Avenue Beach (so around Fullerton).

And, because this picture needs to exist somewhere other than my camera, three Rosses!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Start?

This isn't the whole story (that should be obvious). It isn't even a whole chapter. But I want some advice on whether or not to continue this, or if it would be better to drop it altogether. So; would you want to read the rest of a story that started this way? Does this work, at all, as a beginning? For highlights of what I'm planning: the rest of this chapter would include a visit to a meeting of the Society, and in the story as a whole there would eventually be (sabotaged) peace talks between (very conceited) earthquake-causing fairies and belligerent humans; I haven't worked out much more than that (read: How James & co avoid war).

The Society for the Unification of Humanoid Races

The poster had first appeared on the wall just beside James’ door two weeks ago, and he had torn it down in disgust. Now it was back, and James was seeking official help. He stood, staring at it as the elderly dean of students slowly walked towards him. “End Slavery – Humanize the Fairies” proclaimed the poster in big, bright red letters. Just beneath the words was a poorly executed caricature of someone James could only assume to be a Fairy – fashionable top hat and frock coat flaring out, dragonfly wings sticking out of his back, and spindly fingers reaching out to grab at an adorable human baby. James could tell it was a human because it had no wings. Beneath this were details: “The Society for Unification of Humanoid Races meets Wednesdays at six-thirty in Whitehall Library”

Had the artist ever even seen a fairy? Of course not; if he had, he would have known that they didn’t have wings. How could the shadowy villain even pull on a frock coat with those things sticking out of his back? “Professor,” James heard the aging professor’s labored breathing and turned to him. “See? This is offensive, racist propaganda. It has no place being posted in the University.”

The professor squinted at the poster through inch-thick glasses. James wondered if he could even see it. “You’re not a fairy, are you young man?” he asked in a creaky sort of voice.

James looked down at his threadbare clothes, his six-year-old shoes, and the slight bulge of fat at his belly. “Do I look like a fairy?” he asked, and then shook his head in anger. “And besides, that’s not the point!” He insisted. “I’m human, and I’m still insulted by this drivel!”

The professor frowned. “Don’t support slavery and kidnapping, do you?” he asked.

“Are you insane?” James replied, outraged. “This isn’t about me. It’s about the offensive poster I have to walk past every day on my way to classes.”

The professor sniffed, unimpressed. “I don’t see anything particularly offensive about it,” he croaked. “Everyone knows now, the Fairies steal human children to be slaves – it was all over the papers with that Douglass fellow last year.”

James almost screamed with rage. This was the enlightened faculty at the premier institute in the country? This was the person responsible for the public image and marketing not only of the university but also of the adjoining school of magic, which was populated almost exclusively by half-Fairies? “You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about, bringing that up,” James said, and he knew he should probably have more respect for his elders but enough was enough. “Douglass went to jail for threatening, kidnapping, and attempting to enslave another fairy, not a human. He was caught by a fairy, and he would have been tried under fairy law and executed, as he probably deserved, except we demanded due process and tried him in a human court, and some jury decided that life in prison was a better punishment. Carey Douglass was a pariah of fairy society just as he would be in human society, and is no more representative of them than he was well-liked.” James was shaking with anger, but his diatribe was taking the edge off of it and he slowly realized that he should potentially not be shouting at the dean of student life in the middle of a dormitory hallway.

The professor’s eyes were flint. “Mind who you’re talking to, boy,” he said sternly. “I’m not some two-bit bigoted student, or an assistant professor who wants to josh around with the kids. I have half a mind to report you for insubordination and insolence. Who made you the expert on last year’s court cases, anyway?”

“I was there,” James responded quickly.

The professor scoffed. “You won’t get out of this by telling tall tales, young man.” James almost opened his mouth to insist that he wasn’t lying, and if there was any doubt he would go and get Sergeant Tate to vouch for his involvement, but then he decided against it. It wasn’t universally known that Sergeant Hammond Tate of the Tinia Police used a crack squad of University Students (self-labeled the “magops”, with a soft g, for Mysterious, Abnormal, and Generally Odd Protection Services or Magical Operatives, depending on who you asked) to help with his stranger cases. In any case, the professor only paused for a moment before continuing. “Now, unless you can find me five students other than yourself who are honestly offended by this poster, I’m not going to do anything about it. The Society for Unification of Humanoid Races is a legitimate group and deserves their freedom of speech just like anyone else.”

The professor then turned and hobbled away. James stood, stunned, watching him leave. He knew that calling out and bringing the bigoted old professor back to talk to him further would do no good whatsoever, and might even get him in a fair amount of hot water, so he eventually just sighed, sent one last glare at the poster, and walked away.

So much for that idea.

At dinner that night, sitting in the kitchen of Brenda Christiansen’s new apartment, drinking a beer, he told the rest of the magops – Brenda, Kip Duncan, and Malcolm Jackson – the story.

“Jamesie, you’ve gone fey,” Kip said with a laugh.

“I have not!” James insisted. “This is about an objectively offensive piece of disgusting political propaganda, not my own friendship with certain Fairies! And would you please stop calling me Jamesie?”

Malcolm cast a glance towards Brenda at the word ‘friendship’, and Kip chortled with laughter. “Femininity goes with fey, you know that,” he said, taking another gulp of beer and leaning back to balance on the back two legs of his chair.

“It’s not that offensive, James,” Brenda said. “You’re taking this too personally. You should be glad that people paid enough attention to the whole Douglass-Nerissa-Whatever we’re calling it affair that they’re doing something to prevent it happening again.”

James set his beer down with a bit more force than was necessary. “But the things that they’re doing wouldn’t have stopped him. They wouldn’t have had any effect whatsoever on Douglass – they’re just perpetuating a vicious stereotype!”

“Just let it drop,” Malcolm warned.

James sighed. “It’s not as if there’s anything I can do anyway,” he said bitterly, and took another gulp of beer.

Kip shook his head. “James,” he said with a warning voice. “You are not letting this get you down.” James shrugged.

“Look, if it really is that big of a deal,” Brenda said with a pacifying tone, “Write a petition. Find five students. They must exist.”