Archive for December 2014

2014 in review   Leave a comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 53 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted December 30, 2014 by agentksilver in Digital IT

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Ghost Hunters: Shake things up, have them meet new characters   Leave a comment

Claire stared at the theatre, her face tense with focus. “But the question is, how are we going to get in?”

“There’s a back entrance,” Eva said.

“There is?”

“Usually.”

Eva led the trio around the yellow-brick building. The alley was dark and the concrete was damp, but the alley itself was remarkably clutter-free; everything was stuck in two dumpsters sitting at either end of the alleyway. Except for one heavy-looking double door. Giant piles of stuff sat on either side of it. Eva walked right to it.

“There’s no door handle,” Andy said.

Eva gripped her thin fingers around the center weather striping and pulled. It took some tugging, but it actually opened. She yanked it open, then held the door open with her foot. With a triumphant hiss, Claire entered the dark hallway beyond. Andy hesitated. She stared at Eva in wonder. Eva wore no expression on her face. She simply looked through her bangs right back at Andy.

Andy realized that they were probably calling attention to themselves, standing out here in the alley. She ducked inside the dark hallway. Eva followed, closing the door quietly behind them.

“Do you do this often?” Andy whispered, trying to make her voice friendly rather than accusing and probably failing.

“No,” said Eva. “That door has been broken since forever.”

“How do you know that?”

Eva was silent.

It was remarkable, really, Andy thought to herself. Claire had been so quick to accept Eva into her life. Just because Eva could sense ghosts. Claire had welcomed Eva into her home and business without any sort of background check. It had taken months to get Claire to be anything beyond work friends but Eva? No questions asked. There was so little that they really knew about Eva. They had only known her for a few months. Normally a few months was enough to get to know a person’s background and character, but Eva hardly spoke, and never offered up anything about her past. Andy couldn’t help but be annoyed. And suspicious. Mostly suspicious, now.

They found Claire at the end of the hallway, looking around nervously. “I don’t know what to do,” she whispered. “Should we talk to someone about the ghost? Just find the ghost ourselves?”

“All self-respecting theatres have ghosts,” Eva whispered. “We should just let it alone.”

“Hah! We’re in now, we’re finding this thing,” Claire said. “Maybe there’s someone we can talk to. Or maybe we should just do this ourselves. What do you think? You seem to know more about theatres than we do.”

Eva didn’t reply. Her face was in the shadows.

They heard a sound; a door slamming? Voices carried. Andy couldn’t make out what they were saying. Claire threw herself against the wall of the corridor. Eva and Andy followed suit. Andy thought how absurd they all looked; Claire, the skinniest of all of them, was dressed in her usual pastel dress, and Andy’s body could never flatten herself enough to hide against a wall. Slender Eva went still and blended in with the shadows.

The voices got louder; they seemed to be getting closer. There seemed to be three of them. At Claire’s lead, the three ghost hunters scooted farther down the hallway, closer to the door, where more shadows would hide them. Another door slammed open, and now the three voices revealed themselves.

“Because any self-respecting theatre has a ghost or two,” said one person, an older-sounding woman. “They bring luck, typically. But lately our ghost has been, well, upset with us, I suppose is the right way to put it.”

“Did you say MacBeth three times or something?” one of the voices, a young man from the sound of it.

“Please don’t say that,” said the woman. “We call it the Scottish Play and no that is not what happened.”

They walked past the corridor. All three ghost hunters gave a start; they recognized the young couple walking with the older theatre director. Olson and Van Landingham. The three hunters froze in the shadows and hardly dared to even breathe.

“We must be in the green room right?” Van Landingham asked. Today she had pulled her long yellow-blonde hair into a thick braid that ran down her back. She had combined that with her high round collar and straight-legged pants; she looked like a nun. Modesty did not become her. In contrast, her partner was dressed in a tight-fitting polo shirt and tailored jeans. He looked like he had just stepped out of the frat house.

“No,” said the theatre director, casually, with much more patience than Andy could have ever mustered. “The green room is behind that door. Actor do sometimes change clothes back here during performances. We just wrapped a show,”

“Wrapped,” said Van Landingham.

“And the trouble didn’t really begin until the second week of rehearsals after the last show.”

“Mmhmm. Second.”

“We have callbacks for our next show tonight…”

“Callbacks.”

“…And we know some actors are hesitant about working with us because of some of the issues we’ve been having…”

The conversation paused. A door creaked open. Were all the doors in this building noisy? Then again, the back door had been surprisingly quiet, especially considering how it was opened.

Claire made a run for it. Andy and Eva dashed after her. Claire stopped suddenly at the end of the hallway and peeked around the corner, then dashed after the theatre director and the two despicable pretenders.

The double doors slammed shut with a loud crash. The trio put their ears up against the door, listening in.

“But you two were the only ghost specialists we could think of, and so we called you.”

Andy glanced at Claire. Claire’s face was contorted with concentration. It was hard to tell if the comment had fazed her, or if she was very focused on the finding information. Andy turned her head to look at Eva. Eva’s face was, as always, placid and unchanged. She glanced back at Andy, and then back at the door.

“All of the incidents centered around one actress,” the theatre director said. “Paige Reader — she played Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest.

Posted December 29, 2014 by agentksilver in writing

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Monkey Bread and Tradition   Leave a comment

So it’s our first holiday season really together-together. Which is weird to say, because James and I have known each other since October 17, 2009 (we saw a movie, walked around Tyson’s Corner, and then visited a fish store, where I bought some lovely aquatic plants, in case you are curious).


The audio is annoying due to the noise of the filter

MY FISH TANK WAS BEAUTIFUL *sob*

Anyway, the reason why we are saying that this is our first Christmas together is because:

December 2009: we weren’t dating yet
December 2010: we didn’t live together
December 2011: we weren’t in the same state
December 2012: we didn’t even see each other
December 2013: I was going to be leaving in two weeks, it doesn’t count (says James)

So anyway this is our first Christmas really together. All other years will be compared to this year. So we got a real tree (three feet tall and sitting on an end table). We bought new ornaments to complement the few we actually liked from the ornaments James’ mother gave us. We got a mantle and hung stockings from it.

MINE IS CLEARLY SUPERIOR.

The question now is, what to do about Christmas Morning. My family makes a big deal about Christmas Morning. We have bagel and lox and we don’t open any presents until everyone’s awake. Every year we say we won’t look in our stockings, either, but the first few people to get up always get impatient and take everything out and peruse them until the last stragglers are awake. James, coming from a smaller, quieter family, would have quiet coffee cake and open presents quietly, I guess.

James comes from a very quiet family. They don’t get loud until there’s, like, 40 of them.

Anyway, setting up this entry has taken way longer than I intended. The reason why I bring this up is that I — I mean, we — have to decide on our own version of Christmas Morning. So I thought I would make Monkey Bread.

Most breads you eat are meant to be eaten in loaf form, sliced accordingly. Monkey Bread is made of little pieces of rolled-up dough that you stick together and bake so that it looks like a loaf. But really, you just tear little pieces off and eat it like that. I’ve only had it once but it was amazing.


Oh, hey, now I see what James meant when he asked if he should grab his mother’s bundt pan. It’s made in a bundt pan. Oh. Huh.

I was perusing Buzzfeed and found a list of “incredible” slow-cook dessert recipes. Most of them were chocolate, but I saved the three that weren’t. One of them was slow-cook Monkey Bread. I was excited to read it. Most recipe blogs these days have about six pages worth of lead-up talking about how delicious the recipe is and why the decided to make it, along with tons of pictures of the actual food. I skim/scroll right past all that before getting to the recipe, the reason why I’m visiting the page. I did the same thing for this recipe, and then a sentence caught my eye.

Last week I bought two cans of Pillsbury Grands! Cinnamon Rolls because (1) I’m addicted to those suckers (and, yes I do work for them but no this is not sponsored

Wait a second

I decided…why not make monkey bread? With Cinnamon Rolls? In the SLOW COOKER???

Oh no.

You can make a traditional monkey bread this way, using Grands! biscuits, but I went one step further and used cinnamon rolls because, well, why not?

This can’t be.

Plus? Cinnamon Rolls come with icing.

Please tell me it’s not.

The prep for this recipe is less than 20 minutes. You open your two cans of cinnamon rolls (5 rolls per can) and cut each into 6 pieces.

That is not a real recipe! That. Is not. A real. Recipe. Recipes aren’t “take pre-made food and then chop it up some”. Recipes are “take a whole bunch of uncooked ingredients, prepare them, and then cook them”. I even made a facebook post about it.

*sigh* If a recipe’s first ingredient is premade something-or-other, I immediately reject it. Case in point: a recipe for monkey bread that called for 2 cans of Pillsbury Grands. The blurb at the beginning of the recipe even bragged that the cinnamon rolls “even come with the cinnamon already on them!” No.

Well now wait a minute, I said to myself as I lay in bed waiting desperately to fall asleep for the first time in three days (I have a difficult relationship with sleep). Aren’t you still cooking it? Just because of the first steps are done for you, you’re still producing the final product. It’s still possible to ruin pre-made food. Look at Jose, who couldn’t beat a ball of pre-made pizza dough into a flat pizza. And yet I could, in less time than it took for him to ruin a ball of dough.

Yet I remembered when I mentioned to my manager at Petsmart that I was being trained as a baker for Harris Teeter. He got all excited. “So you’ll be kneading the dough and stuff?” No, I said. I just took the pre-made dough from the cooler and put it in the oven. He looked disappointed.

I brought up my concerns to James, who was laying next to me.

First of all, James agreed with my initial assessment: using pre-made ingredients was lazy and not real cooking.

But wasn’t taking the cinnamon roll dough and turning it into something else…that takes skill, doesn’t it? Cooking skill? Creativity? An understanding of how cooking works? In order to create a recipe, you had to understand how dough works and what a slow cooker would do to it. Just because you saved several steps by using pre-made dough, it still takes skill to turn that dough into something edible.

“Look at it this way,” James said. “Who is going to be more respected on Food network — someone who uses Pillsbury dough, or someone who takes the time to make everything from scratch?”

“Why are we using Food Network as our measuring stick?” I asked.

James didn’t know. I thought it was weird, anyway, that he would take this tact. Just the other day, he had been talking about some famous chef who said that the only deciding factor in whether or not food was good was whether or not it tastes good. This Monkey Bread probably tasted good. I probably wasn’t going to use the recipe, but it clearly made the writer, Dorothy, happy. At the end of the day, that was good enough, wasn’t it?

Dorothy writes:

I find that, when I make monkey bread in the oven the outside gets so hard and crunchy and done in order for the center to get fully cooked. I prefer my monkey bread to be soft, not hard, so this creates a problem. It’s like a fight to the death: who will get to the center of the monkey bread first?

By making the monkey bread in the crockpot, the bread steams as it cooks, keeping it soft and doughy but actually baked all over. It’ll get a little browned around the edges, as you can see, but even the browned parts stay soft.

That’s the perfect monkey bread, if you ask me!

I might take those words of wisdom and stick with a slow-cooker as my ultimate cooking tool. But I will probably make my own dough. Everyone has something to add to this world.

Posted December 21, 2014 by agentksilver in Food

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It turns out that character development isn’t as much fun as supervillainy   1 comment

Valedictorian’s lab. Brooke enters. Rob is sitting to the side, playing a game on his phone or texting or something. Valedictorian is doing some sort of chemistry thing. She pours a thing into a thing. A change of some sort.

Valedictorian: Aha, yes, but.

She pours a thing into another thing. A different reaction.

Valedictorian: Are you seeing this?
Rob (not even looking): Yes.

Brooke clears her throat.

Valedictorian: Who dares disturb my research?
Brooke: I am known as Prosperina, Queen of the Dead.
Valedictorian: Yes, the Dead Queen.
Brooke: Prosperina!
Valedictorian: What do you want?
Brooke: I have a proposal. A way to eliminate Pizza Girl.
Valedictorian: You have my attention.
Brooke: Think. What is her greatest weakness?

Valedictorian looks at Rob, who is still playing on his phone.

Valedictorian: Well she has a nicer car than Pizza Boy.
Brooke: Technology! She can’t handle technology. It’s how you eliminated Pizza Boy.
Valedictorian: She can’t be found. She can’t be lured. She’s too strong to be taken now. What you’re suggesting is impossible.
Brooke: She can be. With the right bait.
Valedictorian: She cannot be lured. We have tried. We…failed.
Brooke: She cares nothing for the reporter. You have to take Emily instead.
Valedictorian: Emily?
Brooke: Her best friend, Emily. It is an especially good time. They recently had a fight. Their feelings for each other are sore. Mag…Pizza Girl won’t be in her right mind.
Valedictorian: Who is this Emily? What is she like?
Brooke: She reads comic books and hangs out on tumblr all the time. She’s a silly girl.
Valedictorian: Who is her favorite hero?
Brooke: Heat Shield.
Valedictorian: There’s a movie coming out with her soon!
Brooke: Yes, but they’re having trouble finding a director for the film. I don’t think it will be any good.
Valedictorian: But there is a movie! That’s the important thing!
Brooke: So the plan is, I will lure Emily to you, and you will use technology to defeat Pizza Girl, and then there will be only one hero in this town!
Valedictorian: I am not your minion. Dead Queen.
Brooke: I am Prosperina!
Valedictorian: You want to kidnap someone? That sounds like awfully villainous.
Brooke: I’m not a villain. I just can’t get what I want.
Valedictorian: Neither can I. I can’t get any university funding for my experiments. So I have to scrabble and scrap to support my research.
Brooke: I just want everything to be safe. I just don’t want there to be bad guys anymore.
Valedictorian: And you would do anything to do it.
Brooke: Yes.

Valedictorian opens a lockbox and pulls some cash out from it. She begins throwing the cash at Brooke.

Valedictorian: Here’s what it is! Here are your morals! Here are your ethics! Here’s what hurt you! Here’s all you really want! Here’s what we took from you! Here’s what the bad guys want! Take it! That’s all you want!
Brooke: No! Stop it! Stop it! I don’t want it! I just want Pizza Girl gone! I want it to be my fault!
Valedictorian: Well it won’t be! I am not here to do your bidding! Get your own minion, you useless Dead Peasant!

Prosperina runs offstage, crying. Valedictorian begins picking up the cash she threw on the ground.

Valedictorian: Who is this Emily, anyway?
Rob (reading from his phone): She’s a student at Greensboro University.
Valedictorian: Of course she is.
Rob: She reblogged a lot of articles by the reporter Kurt Gallagher. And here’s a picture of them.

He shows Valedictorian, who peers at the phone.

Valedictorian: Then I think we have to find this Kurt Gallagher again to learn more.

Good news for Sinbad!   1 comment

Last night I came across the North Carolina Herpetological Society. They’re a Raleigh-based organization dedicated to, like, the study of reptiles. They didn’t sound like they rescued beardies per se, but they sounded like a great resource nonetheless. So I emailed them.

Hello! I rescued a sick bearded dragon, and I cannot keep the bearded dragon. I’ve been trying to find a new home for the beardie. Does your society have any recommendations on how to find potential rescues?

They actually replied! The webmaster had contacted a few folks, including their “husbandry chair” (they have a person dedicated to reptile husbandry!) but needed a few more details, so I replied back with a few more details.

I work for a Petsmart, and Sinbad was one of the beardies on the salesfloor. He was bullied by the other beardies in his tank, so that he couldn’t eat; they also sat on him all the time. He developed Metabolic Bone Disorder. He still is not the best eater, I give him 10 crickets 3 times a week, and he sometimes doesn’t finish all 10. He is also undersized; I don’t know exactly how old he is because of that, beyond “juvenile”. He doesn’t really use his legs to support himself, although he does try to sometimes. He doesn’t like being touched on the back. He has improved a lot since he was separated from the other dragons, though. He’s trying to use his legs more often and he’s grown about two inches (he’s about eight inches now). We’re located in Morrisville.

Then I included a picture, because the more that people see how cute Sinbad is the more the world is a better place.

I also contacted a different rescue directly, Midgard Serpents Reptile Rescue and Sanctuary. Their testimonials indicate that they do a good job in spite of how their website looks, so I emailed them about Sinbad as well.

I’m feeling optimistic. Sinbad could have a forever home in time for Christmas!

Posted December 3, 2014 by agentksilver in Lizard

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The Adventures of Pizza Boy and Maggie: a secondary love interest   Leave a comment

Maggie: Why are you doing this? WHY ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME?
Kurt: The people want to know.
Maggie: The people want to know — I want to know! Stop following me! I’m not going to answer your questions! Why don’t you go ask Emily, aren’t you dating her?
Kurt: No, we went on one date so she would introduce me to you.
Maggie: You are an awful human being.
Kurt: How does that make you feel?
Maggie: I hate you.
Brooke who has, at some point in this discussion, entered: Ohoho, looks like someone’s found a new love interest!
Maggie: What?
Brooke: First a superhero, now an ace reporter! I sense a theme. Superb.
Maggie: We are literally arguing. I literally just said “I hate you” because I am genuinely angry at him.
Brooke: You’re just covering up the fact that you would totally bang.

Rob gives Maggie an appraising look and concludes that he would, in fact, totally do her.

Maggie: You’re disgusting.
Brooke: Called it.

Brooke exits.

Maggie: Brooke sure has changed. She used to be all whiny and now she’s…different.
Kurt: She’s Prosperina. Calling it.
Maggie: What? No she’s not, she’s totally…Prosperina. You’re right. She is totally Prosperina.
Kurt: What does that mean? How does you knowing this affect things?
Maggie: You’re really quick on the ball. A lot faster than Emily is.
Kurt: Yeah, I’m pretty smart.

So the way that I write is, I come up with a good idea for dialogue, get it written down as quickly as possible, then call it a day. This is an idea that I came up with in the shower. By the time I had gotten out of the shower, put clothes on, and opened this and started writing, I had lost the last half of what I wanted to write. Maggie yells and shouts about Emily, about how all she wants is to be a college professor (they were tied up somehow). But I don’t remember how they got from this point to that point.

This obviously takes place after Pizza Boy has electrocuted himself. I don’t remember if Maggie recognized Brooke when she was dressed as Prosperina. I do know that the big climax is going to involve Prosperina and Valedictorian kidnapping Kurt and being disappointed that Maggie doesn’t show up immediately to rescue him. Because in the real world, arguing and saying “I hate you” means that you don’t like that person.

Emily provides the emotional subplot that is normally reserved for love interests.

One of my saved drafts is the scene where Maggie meets Kurt. I really gotta finish that at some point.

Posted December 2, 2014 by agentksilver in writing

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