Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Anneal

Not happy with this one. But I didn't have any better ideas. I just automatically go for jargon when I see that word, and I had to fight against it - awkwardly, at best.

They met in late August, at the height of a scorching heat wave tearing through the Midwest; bumped into each other between pool parties and barbecues. Each regarded the other with a mixture of respect and distance. A rival.

By September their similarities could not go unnoticed, and they happened upon an awkward friendship. The leaves turned, and pool parties were exchanged for movie nights, and they seemed to merge. Maybe the changed happened on Halloween, and maybe Thanksgiving, but before the first snow, they were best friends. But they always insisted it was temporary: “Just wait until the summer.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Marginalia

The[O1] derivation of[O3] the formula[O4] being simple, it is left as an exercise[O9] for the student[O11] .


[O1]The derivation of your mom is simple[O2].[O10]

[O2]And left as an exercise for the student.[O10]

[O3]Calculus sucks!

[O4]Mary Jacobson <3 Trent Adams [O5]

[O5]Garrison Hopkins[O6]

[O6]James McDaniel [O7]

[O7]Noah Czernowitz [O8]

[O8]Every boy in school

[O9]I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.[O10]

[O10]Thinks he’s cleverer than the rest of us, but probably can’t figure out the three line proof. Joke’s on him.

[O11]Actually, it’s in appendix three.

[O12]Who checks appendix three? [O12]

[O13]Who writes in a library book?[O13]

Friday, April 22, 2011

Homunculus

Technically, a voodoo doll isn't a homunculus, I don't think. Especially one that doesn't work. Oh well.

Phoebe huddled over the little clay doll, clenching it in her hands and hoping that he felt the constricting tightness of her grip. She wanted to crush him. To boil his blood and grind his bones to dust and dance on his ashes, naked from head to toe, feet blackened with soot and dirt. Nothing short of that would be suitable punishment. Nothing short of that would assuage her anger.

She squeezed the doll until it cracked and crumbled in her hand, turning to dust. She threw the dust on the fire, and watched it flame out. But nothing happened.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mumbo-jumbo

The ship ran on a state-of-the-art technobabble drive. So long as there was a semi-plausible but ultimately meaningless explanation, accepted by the crew on faith, everything was fine. The life support used ultra-dense biomimetic arrays to replenish oxygen. They were propelled either by solar sails or nuclear fusion. Maybe both. No one cared to question it. Everyone knew what happened when someone doubted; they had seen the Perseus fall out of the sky. All it took was one word to punch a hole through the hull faster than you could say “I do believe in fairies.” One traitorous word: “Why?”

Initially, this was going to be a string of technobabble trying to explain something. I like this better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Abaft

It means "Behind" but it reminds me of "Abashed" because I'm a terrible person and that's how someone with a lisp would pronounce "Abashed".

She wanted to interrupt, to shout something impetuous but ultimately futile. Or even just the truth. But he had warned her about it, had expressly prohibited it, and he had always looked out for her best interests. “This isn’t about what’s true,” he’d said. “This is about damage control. I’ll take care of it, you just stand behind me and look abashed. It’s what they want; they’ll lap it right up. And then we can go back to not giving a crap about them. Okay?”

So she stood, and stared at her shoes. It would all be over soon enough.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Akimbo

The poster on the wall showed Superman, chin up, arms akimbo, sun making a halo behind his head in posterized art deco glory. Whenever Jeremy felt overwhelmed, he adopted that pose. Or tried to, at least. His narrow shoulders could never quite match the man of steel’s comically proportioned frame. It was a pose, nonetheless, of determination and power. He brushed his hands together. He couldn’t see the floor, covered in a six-inch deep layer of dirty laundry and schoolwork. And his mom had said: no laser tag until the room was clean.

This was going to take a while.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Corybantic

This is an awesome word that I didn't know until today. It means frantic or without restraint. It might be one of my new favorites.

“No, no, no!” the director shouted. “It’s flat, sagging, like a corpse on the far side of rigor mortis. It’s even letting off a putrescent stench.” The dancers scowled. None of them appreciated his metaphors, which seemed more likely to turn stomachs than clarify concepts. “You need to breathe life into the choreography. You need to commit, at least. Better to do something decisively wrong than pussyfoot around.” Another conspiratorial glance – there had been too many derisive lectures about footwork to forget.

“In fact, just forget it. Make something up. Improvise. Just don’t run into each other. From the top.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Absence

My computer died on Thursday, which is why I haven't been posting (for both of you who noticed).

And since it's been a while, I have a longer story. It's (obviously) the beginning to something longer, which I might or might not write. It feels a bit too much like too many of my other ideas, and I have no idea where the plot would go. At this point, it's just playing around with characters and trying to make them believable.

Wendy loved the rain; the soft percussion of water against her roof, the tense static charge released from the air, and the smell. Especially the smell. She loved sitting out on the balcony and watching the damp streets below, people scurrying by with umbrellas, collars upturned against the damp. There was something exceptionally romantic about rain. Something that Alice, standing just inside the sliding glass door, failed to see entirely. “You’ll catch your death,” she remarked dully. At least Wendy had made it obvious over the years that while she respected her friend and took her counsel on many things, Alice was not going to change Wendy’s love of a good rainstorm. Alice barely even tried anymore. “I was thinking,” she continued, gesturing with her martini so loudly that Wendy could hear it without turning. “I know you’re resolved to live in this hovel, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t at least look like a home. My friend Diane can fix you right up.”

“My apartment is just fine,” Wendy insisted. “And I don’t have the money for an interior decorator, anyway.” Wendy paused for half a moment – any longer and Alice would certainly cut in – before she continued. “And even if I had the money, I would use it for something else. Or even just save it. The last thing I need is an apartment’s worth of decorations and no apartment to put them in.”

Alice’s tone was frustrated and not a little condescending. “Wendy, darling, don’t think of the price. Let me pay. I want to – in fact, I insist. And Diane will be on strict orders to avoid extra expense. This isn’t about buying art for the walls; although you certainly could use something to bring interest to the place. This is about using what you already have to brighten your little corner of the world.”

“What I already have is a bed, two chairs, and a table.”

“Yes, well, in your case it might involve a trip to the flea market.”

Wendy rolled her eyes. “Why are you doing this, Alice?”

“I just hate to –“

“Really.”

“Diane’s down on her luck, and my loft is already gorgeous.”

“You’ll pay?”

“Of course.”

“And she’ll stay out of my hair?”

“You have my word.”

“Fine, have at it.”

“Marvelous. When can we all sit down together to consult?”

“Consult?”

“To plan. You understand.”

“You said she would stay out of my hair. Diane can do whatever she wants, so long as I don’t have to see her. You have a spare key.”

Alice sighed one of her trademarked sighs. This one said ‘You are being unbelievably difficult and I do not know why I put up with you.’ Alice had perfected the art of the sigh at a very young age. “I will never understand you, Wendy, dear,” she said.

Wendy shrugged. “You’re the baffling one,” she insisted.

They fell into a comfortable silence, the sound of the rain overtaking their conversation. Comfortable, at least, for Wendy, who was content to sit and listen to the rattling in the copper gutters. Alice fidgeted inside, playing with the venetian blinds and rearranging the bedspread.

“Are you going to sit there all night?” Alice asked.

“Of course not,” Wendy lied. She would stay out as long as it was raining, she thought. “I have work tomorrow.”

Alice chuckled, another one of her perfect expressions. This one somehow expressed her mixture of equal parts respect and disdain for Wendy’s job. “How are the little monsters?”

Alice never referred to Wendy’s students as children. It was as if, in Alice’s mind, children were mythical creatures, like unicorns or mermaids. The small, unruly people Wendy spent most of her day with were just runted adults, and rather disgusting examples of messiness and need. Little monsters, designed specifically to ruin a good designer pant suit.

“You don’t want to know,” Wendy answered.

“It’s still polite to ask,” Alice insisted.

“If you say so.”

“You’re wasting your talents. You could be so much more than a third grade teacher.”

“I’m good with kids. I like them more than adults, usually, anyway.”

“But you could change the world.”

“Who says I won’t?”

“I just hate to see you squandering your life.”

“And I don’t see it that way.” There was another pause; this one tense enough that Wendy couldn’t drown it in the sound of the rain. This was another sticking point. Wendy didn’t know what Alice expected her to do. Alice herself was a hedge-fund manager at a local branch of a banking conglomerate. Wendy didn’t know exactly what she did all day, unless it was shuttling money between accounts and collecting a disgustingly large paycheck.

“I should be going.”

“Okay.”

“You know how Clarence gets if I leave him to his own devices for too long.”

“He might start rearranging the furniture.”

“Oh! Don’t even joke about that! It isn’t funny.”

“See you next week?”

“Of course, darling. You know I love our talks. I’ll see myself out.”

Wendy heard the sound of Alice latching the door behind her, and nestled further into her chair. She was alone now; just her and the rain. She breathed in the smell of mist and mud, and breathed out. She finished her beer, and closed her eyes, and might have fallen asleep in her chair. She dreamed that a raven, feathers in disarray and with a clipped wing, flew up to her balcony. She felt like she should have been afraid, but she wasn’t. The bird just looked pitiful, like it had just been in a fight with a cat and had come out the worse for wear. It blinked its jet black eyes at her, and cawed. She thought she heard a plea in the caw, and she reached out to the bird, but it hopped away and flew, wobbling and dipping but never quite falling, into the night and the rain and the city.

She woke up in the middle of the night. The rain had stopped. She stood up, stretching her shoulders and yawning as she picked up her empty bottle. She took one last glance at the rain-drenched street, and saw him: collapsed under a streetlamp, drenched and in a pool of what she hoped was rain. She hurried inside to call an ambulance, and when she knew they were on their way she stepped into her galoshes and made her way down the stairs.

Up close, the pool wasn’t water. He had been badly beaten. She stayed two steps back, in case he was some kind of crazy person, and said, tentatively, “Mister?”

She thought he groaned.

“I called an ambulance. They’ll be here soon. What happened?”

He mumbled something that she couldn’t understand. Crazy, then, most likely. “Whoever it was beat you up real good,” she said. “I’ll stay with you until the EMTs get here.” In the distance, she heard sirens, and the cawing of crows.

And since I have a computer again, I'll resume posting drabbles tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Praxis

Very quick, for better or worse. But it seemed appropriate.

“You want to build what kind of building on our campus?”

“Engineering.”

Dean Jordan sighed and ran his hands through the two strands of hair he had left. “Have you toured the University?”

“Yes, and there is no engineering building.” Jordan’s bespectacled interlocutor seemed undaunted, perhaps even oblivious.

“You’ve talked to the students?”

“Why would I do something like that? I can get the numbers from U.S. News and World Report. You’re ranked top ten in the country, even without an engineering building. The students are certainly smart enough.”

“Are they interested?”

“Why wouldn’t smart kids be interested in engineering?”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Oppugn

“The esteemed senator from Colorado is mistaken,” intoned the speaker with a smug smile to the colleague to his right. As if to imply that their opponent from Colorado was a small child worthy only of condescension.

Something inside her snapped, and although she knew she would probably be kicked out of the proceedings for disorderly conduct, she interrupted. “Stop it,” she demanded. “Your fa├žade of respect is as sickening as it is false. We don’t esteem each other, and I’m not mistaken. You’re lying, about everything. You haven’t said a true word since you’ve been elected, if not longer.”

Another late night in lab, made better by the fact that this afternoon I had some time midair. Everyday is better with a little bit of circus. And possibly with a lot of science.

It's also possible that the disconnect between the "normal" Baker lab schedule and my own makes nights that wouldn't be late for any other graduate student seem later. Although I think 10 PM is late for most anyone, and it's looking like two of those in a row.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Balderdash

Spent the better part of the weekend reading the latest Thursday Next book. It occurred to me that my love for Jasper Fforde pairs nicely with my love for Tom Stoppard, in that half the joy of either of them is in allusion, wit, and postmodernism.

Three of my favorite things!

Anyway, that certainly led to this, although I'm not sure how much I like this one. Feels too much like ripping other people off.

How to Tell You’re an Artificial Construct from Someone Else’s Mind: Ten Easy Rules

1) Your life is full of foreshadowing, not coincidence.

2) Your actions and words all have significance.

3) You forget large swaths of your past until they become useful.

4) You have one, and only one, striking physical characteristic.

5) You know your purpose, or

6) you feel reasonably certain you have one.

7) You forego mundane actions – like eating or bathing –

8) without consequences – like starvation or body odor.

9) You’re easy to ignore, especially when you're right.

10) When you're cut, you bleed ideas.