Sunday, July 31, 2005


Okay, this is a less fun aspect of the Arizona Drip...drip...drip!monsoon.  Here is a picture of the latest roof leak over my bookcase, caught in mid-drip.

It's a problem on two counts:

1.  My Taxes for Dummies book got water damaged, the ink ran still further on the label to Noodle's ashes, and there could be other damage (to one-of-a-kind interview cassettes, for example) that I don't know about yet.  When John sent me in to check for the leak, it was seconds away from harming some of my precious L'Engle collection.

2.  John has been patching that roof for years, and the leaks keep coming back.  What's going to happen when the appraiser gets here?

Yes, as I alluded to Friday night and at least once previously, we're refinancing this 1958 house that we've lived in for 11 years.  It was a fixer-upper then, and it's still a fixer-upper, but it's worth over twice as much money now.  We're hoping that the refinancing will make it Is the Toros banner damaged?  Are the tapes?possible to finally fix it up properly, and improve our finances generally.

One step in the refinancing is a visit from an appraiser.  Because we don't want to show him a messy house, a messy yard and a leaky roof, we're scrambling to clean and fix things up and throw things away.  I'm pretty sure an appraiser won't like it if the roof leaks.  John says he can get the materials to fix the roof properly this time.  I hope he's right! 

Like most roofs in Tucson, it's what's known as a rolled roof, a nearly flat expanse of white, covered with some kind of Space Age material with a brand name like Kool Kote.  These leaks pop up along a seam between sections.  John said something about getting more "cement" to seal the whole seam this time.  Wish him luck! 

I'm almost as worried about that part of the job as my own ability to do the cleaning I need to do.  This is not a small house, but there's never been enough room to put everything neatly away.  And I'm not exactly Ms. Neatnik under the best of circumstances.

I figure you guys are probably getting tired of my Tucson cloud This afternoon's contrasting, but here's one more anyway, taken this afternoon in my back yard.  The dark blue clouds you see here were more like burnt charcoal in the real world, more black than blue or even gray.  A couple of hours later, it was pouring again.  But John had patched the bookcase leak by then, at least somewhat.  So while it did indeed leak in the front room, causing plaster to peel from a load-bearing crossbeam (or whatever), my books stayed dry this time, and the Charlie Bucket popcorn bucket did not receive another drip.

It gives me hope, y'know?  Maybe John will get the roof fixed, after all.

It's supposed to be extremely monsoon-y all week, so I don't know when or how John's going to get any serious roof work done.  Good thing I already postponed the Wednesday appointment with the appraiser.  Still, John and I both have serious work to do.  And we'll have to do it all soon, regardless of how active the monsoon gets.


P.S.  I knew there was something else I wanted to say!  This is my reminder to you that the latest Round Robin Photo Challenge is coming up this Wednesday.  The topic, suggested by Mary of Alphawoman's Blog, is "Oasis."  Check the Round Robin Challenges journal for details.  Believe it or not, my entry will NOT involve pictures of Tucson weather, Mount Lemmon, or my church.  Are you relieved?

Fiction: Mall of Mâvarin, Part Twenty

I'm starting to feel that this story is getting awfully lame, and too dependent on stuff most of you have never read.  I'll try to do better.

Art by SherlockThe easiest way to catch up on past installments of this serial is on Messages from Mâvarin at Synopses to Parts One through Six can be found at the top of Part Seven. Synopses to Parts Eight through Thirteen can be found at the top of Part Fourteen. Synopses to Parts Fourteen through Eighteen are at the top of Part Nineteen.  The installments themselves can be read in order on Blogspot using the sidebar.

Part Nineteen:  Li Ramet, Lee Ramirez and Joshua Wander go off to try to reverse the effects of Li's modified portal spell, which, along with the appearance of Josh's magic castle, apparently caused all the trouble.  Meanwhile, Rani and Randy announce they have successfully returned their own minds and spirits to the right bodies.  Rani sets out to try to help Carl and Carli do the same.  Despite being only a bookish high school student in a strange and magical land, Randy Foster thinks he has acquired sufficient magic and knowledge to sort out Cathma and Cathy as well.  They sit down together to let him try.

Part Twenty: Memories of Me

Art by SherlockCathma closed her eyes.  After a moment she heard Randy’s voice in her mind.  Cathma?  Can you hear me?

“Yes,” she said.

Not that way.  Just say the words in your head, as you do with Rani Lunder.

Cathma was a little surprised that Randy even knew about the other Rani. She was also a little embarrassed about having spoken aloud.  Oh, right.  I forgot, she said in her mind.

That’s because you’re not really Cathma.  Are you ready to be yourself again?

Now, wait a minute, Cathma protested.  Didn’t we all agree earlier that I’m mostly Cathma, and the person in my body is mostly Cathy?  If this works, I’ll still be Cathma, but back in my own body.

That’s one way of looking at it.  But Rani and I figured out that it’s not quite true.

What do you mean?

You’re really Cathy Salazar after all.  Li’s spell just makes you feel and think otherwise, and feeds you just enough of Cathma’s memories to make it plausible.  But it’s just a mindpush, a trick.  Underneath the spell, you’re still the same person I had lunch with in school today.

But I barely remember that lunch.  Are you sure?

I’m sure.

Does Li know that’s what he did?

Probably not, but it makes sense.  Rani told me all about Li’s ability to make people believe stuff that isn’t true.  This weird spell of his fooled everyone, including Li.

Well, I guess it doesn’t matter how it works, as long as you can fix it.

It matters, because he’ll need to get his counterspell right to put everything back where it belongs, and get people feeling like themselves again.  Rani and I can’t fix the fifty or sixty people affected by this spell, at least not quickly.

But you can fix me and Cathy—I mean Cathma.  Right?

Yes.  Just relax now, and let me show you who you are.

She tried to do just that as images appeared in her mind, memories of high school, of evenings spent doing homework on the computer while IMing with friends, of buying clothes and eating pizza at the mall, of going to see Batman Begins with Carl and Randy.  At first it all looked  strange to her, part of someone else’s life in a place full of incomprehensible technology.  But as Randy gently prodded, more memories came.  They all fit together, becoming more and more familiar as she re-experienced a good chunk of Cathy’s life—her life—in the space of a few minutes.  Here was the memory of that one date with Danny from F-M, and there was the memory of 9-11, when…. Don’t, she told Randy.  I don’t want to see that again.

You remember? 

I remember.  I don’t need to see the wreckage of Flight 93 yet again to remember what happened to my parents.

So you know who you are now.

I think so, yes.

What do you remember of Cathma’s life?

Cathy probed for memories that had seemed so much her own just a short time before.  I remember bits and pieces, she told Randy, but they don’t seem real to me any more. 

They’re real for her, Randy replied.  His mental voice sounded exhausted.

Are you going to help Cathma next?

Already done.  Where do you think I got the memories to show you?  I used you both to feed each other.

And you’re sure I’m really Cathy?

Absolutely positively.

In a way Cathy was almost sorry about this.  Cathma had a father who was still alive, and a fairly exciting life as the ruler of an exotic country.  But her own life had its advantages, she realized.

“That’s good enough for me,” she said aloud.

Welcome to Mâvarin

Messages from Mâvarin (use sidebar to get to the individual installments)

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Rain, the Badge and Other Things

This was the scene on Thursday afternoon at Broadway and Wilmot.  I took it to show you, as part of my photographic obsession with Arizona weather, that even during the monsoon it isn't always cloudy.  There's a reason the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce claims 360 sunny days a year.  They're only fudging a little, counting days in which the clouds are mostly just over the mountains, or only significant for part of the afternoon.

I have a story for you tonight that, like many stories, is probably more entertaining to read than experience.  It starts with a weather report, from my beloved husband.

John works at the extreme northwest edge of Tucson.  This morning, as we conferred on the phone about issues related to our refi (a whole 'nother story), he mentioned that he was seeing rain clouds coming in from the south.  His concern was that he didn't want to leave the weedwacker out in the rain, even if it meant my going home at lunch to bring it inside.

I didn't take this seriously. I moved my chair to where I could see the accounting department's large, somewhat distant window, and reported back, "The clouds in this part of town are light and fluffy.  I don't think it will rain before five o'clock."

Today, 12:50 PM.Ha.

Lunchtime came.  I dropped off paperwork at the Wells Fargo near St. Michael's.  Then I crossed the street and took a few picture of the clouds from the church's parking lot.  Very pretty clouds left large, dramatic shadows on the Catalinas.  But it still wasn't gonna rain before five.

Ha. Ha.

I tried to go to Souper Salad for lunch, but there was a notice on the door that they'd decided to close the location after fifteen years rather than renew their lease.  So I ended up at McDonald's instead.  After lunch I headed back to the office, parked in my usual place, and hoofed it to my new entry point into the building.  I gave a wide berth to a smoker who was hanging out there, and instead brushed against an agave plant with my left hand, impaling myself on a thorn. Blood starting running down my fingers.

I  used a napkin to sop up the blood, and reached into my pocket for my plastic security card and ID badge to get inside.  It wasn't there.

It wasn't in my purse.  It wasn't in my car.  It wasn't in the Souper Salad lot.  It wasn't at McDonald's. 

And by this time, it was pouring rain.  I was looking for the badge in the rain.

Broadway and Wilmot, 12:53 PM.  Where did the mountains go?The photo to the left was taken in roughly the same place as in the first picture.  Where did the mountains go?

The rain only got worse after that.  Look at the next picture, taken about two minutes later.  Mountains, nothing.  Where did the world go?

I was still looking for my badge, but losing hope.  Watching the water swirling into a rain gutter, on its way to refill the aquifer, I could easily imagine the name badge going down with it.

As I checked the St. Michael's lot for my security badge, I ran into Alicia, the parish administrator, coming back from lunch herself.  She let me call my office, and loaned me her umbrella.  Not having any accounting department numbers with me except my own, I called one of the numbers in the book--or thought I did.

"Bueno," a kid answered.

Nope, that wasn't the company switchboard!

I tried again, left voicemail for my boss, thanked Alicia, and headed back to work.  I still didn't have a card to get in.

Heck, where did the world go?
Fortunately, there were employees standing outside, some of them smoking, watching the rain.  I explained about my card.  Nobody moved to let me in.

"I don't recognize you as an employee," one guy said.

I explained that I was in the accounting department.  I would have told him to call my boss, but having gotten her voicemail, I figured she was in a meeting.  I was about to suggest that the guy call anyone else in the accounting department, or an IT guy who knows me, when the man said, "Oh, Accounting!" and carded me in.

The wet rat eventually made it back to Accounting, to the amusement of all.  I was told to email a certain guy to get my card replaced, for a $15 fee.I did that.  Then a woman called me to say she'd found my card while she was at lunch.  "It looked important, so I picked it up," she said.  Gee, thanks. Although I arranged to go pick up the card,  I figured that I might as well get the new one anyway, That way I'd have one with the kind of clip it's supposed to have, instead of a clip taken off an old convention badge.  And I'd have a spare in case of problems.

When I returned to my desk from a brief meeting with my boss, there was voicemail from the security badge guy.  I was still responding to that with voicemail of my own when I heard a voice behind me.

"Now that your hair is drying out, I recognize you."

It was the guy who hadn't wanted to let me into the building!  He was smiling.  My new badge was in his hand.  He was the security guy with whom I'd just played phone tag!
Nevertheless, I went to another office complex a few miles away to pick up my old security badge.  The woman who'd called me was just leaving, but gave me directions to Suite 210.  I messed them up, and barely caught her co-workers on their way out.

Then I went back to work.  I caught my arm on another agave plant on the way in, and made myself bleed again, but only a little.  Then I swiped my old card to get in.

Last pic of the day.It didn't work.

What did I just do with the new one?

Thinking that it might already be 5 PM, and that particular entrance might not work after five, I went around to the other entrance.  On the way, I found the new card, and deduced that the old one had probably been deactivated.  I got back upstairs with no further problems, cut up the old card and threw it away.

And when I left for the day, about 45 minutes later, I took one last picture.

Five o'clock had come and gone.  The weedwhacker was still outside.  And the sun was trying to break through the clouds.


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Readers in the Sky

Weekend Assignment #70: Suggest a book for a long trip. You know, something to keep me from banging my head against the plane wall as I'm bored out of my skull at 36,000 feet above the chilly North Atlantic. I'm open to fiction and non-fiction, and I like to read from all genres. I don't mind something challenging, but this should be a book for enjoyment; I'm not planning to study for a test or anything. Please don't recommend a book that's sold over, say, 5 million copies, because that's waaaay too easy. So no Harry Potters or DaVinci Codes or the Five People You Meet in Heaven or most primary religious texts or stuff like that. You know what I'm talking about, here.

Extra Credit: If you have any special tips or techniques you used for dealing with long trips, I'd love to hear them. - J.S.

Read me! Okay, here's the pitch.  Read one of the books I've been working on recently.  It's got likeable characters, adventure, intrigue, humor, magic, a couple of battles, psychological depth, alienation, and my favorite word in the title.  I know this book has all of those things, because I put them there.  It is, in fact, my first novel, Heirs of Mâvarin.  Like the first novel of someone else we know (historically, anyway), a bit of it can even be sampled online.  And oh yeah, it's much better than Mall of Mâvarin.

Don't worry about any ulterior motives I may have in foisting my book upon you.  I really don't expect you to do anything else with it, such as take it to every agent and editor you know and say, "This Karen Blocher's really got something here!"  No, no, nothing like that (not that I'd mind, not in the least).  No, this would be strictly for your reading enjoyment.  (And if you don't enjoy it, don't tell me.)

But not like this!I'll grant you, carrying someone's unpublished novel onto a plane in a big white binder is somewhat impractical.  So you don't.  Let's deal with the extra credit right now:  you have a laptop, right?  Well, then you're set for the plane ride, and the waiting in airports.  A laptop is about the most entertaining thing you can have on a plane or on a concourse, even without the online access.  With your laptop you can read Heirs of Mâvarin from a series of handy-dandy Word files, which can be sent to you upon request, at the speed of dial-up.  If you get bored, you can play one of the many games you've introduced us to in By the Way, write a blog entry offline, edit digital photos of airplanes in surprising ways, defrag your hard drive (if you're really desperate)...why, the possibilities are endless!

You can judge these by their covers, but...Okay, you want an actual published book for the trip?  Here are two alternatives:

1. The Essential Ellison by Harlan Ellison.  I haven't read this book, but devoured much of its contents in prior publications, namely my extensive collection of Ellison paperbacks (from the 1950s on) and 1970s hardcovers.  Still, it's chock full of Harlanesque goodness: silly stuff, social commentary, depressing accounts of how we ruin our lives (sometimes all in one story!), well, you get the idea.  My personal favorite is "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," but I also love the other side of the LP I have somewhere, "Shatterday," and "One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty," and lots and lots of other stuff.  Depending on your mood, you can pick and choose what to read here, for hours and hours of provocative entertainment.  (Drat.  I see that this tome does not have some of my favorites, such as "Shatterday"and "The Crackpots."  Oh, well.)

The good stuff's inside!2. A Treasury of Great Poems, English and American, edited by Louis Untermeyer.  You're not likely to get hold of this before you leave, or find it anywhere this side of eBay or an antiquarian bookshop.  It was published before my parents even met each other.  But if you're in the mood for poetry written between the Middle Ages and 1940, inclusive, this is a great book to explore in.  Yes, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Keats, Whitman, Frost and Pound are all here, but so are Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Ogden Nash, and old songs by that prolific writer, Anonymous.  Good stuff!

Honorable mention:  Chosen by Nancy Holder is a good, long, relatively undemanding read, that manages to make entertaining sense of the entire final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And heck, maybe in a few years, on another long plane trip, you'll be able to read Heirs of Mâvarin in paperback. Perhaps it will even be for sale in the airport. 

Have a fun trip!


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I Don't Wanna, Can't Make Me

Listen, I don't wanna stay up late AGAIN tonight writing a long blog entry.  Anyway, I don't want to talk about the few things that are on my mind. 

I don't wanna explain about the new route to the office that gives me three minutes of walking in an air conditioned corridor instead of four or five minutes in the 104 degree heat.  I don't wanna tell you a really interesting story about someone at work that I've barely met, but connected with briefly and unexpectedly the other day. 

I don't wanna explain this photo.

I don't wanna try to come up with interesting things to say about these cloud pictures, or even gripe about the almost total lack of rain in town from these otherwise impressive cumulonimbus that fill the sky.

I don't wanna explain this photo.

I don't wanna tell you all about another bad session with my personal trainer.  Oh, it wasn't as bad as last time, but it sure wasn't good.

I don't wanna explain this photo.

I don't wanna explain why I was so relieved after calling Worldwide Travel on Monday.

I don't wanna explain this photo.

I don't wanna discuss an upcoming trip to Disneyland, and why I'm nervous about an inevitable revelation.

So I won't.  You can't make me.  Not tonight, anyway.

I don't wanna explain this photo.

What I wanna do is show you a lot more cloud pictures (from yesterday and mostly today) than I should put in a single entry.  I uploaded ten pictures altogether.  Let's see if I can keep the actual posting to five.

Then I wanna play around with Mages for a few minutes, take my bath and go to bed.

So I will.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Monday Evening, Revisited

Tuffy and the puddle, yesterday. 

Tuffy welcomes you to another round of pictures from Monday evening's light rain, sunset and dusk.

 The "uncorrected" version of the purple sunset.
This is a version of the purple sunset photo from last night's entry, without the "autocorrect."

Sunset Monday.

More sunset photos, taken in different spots in and around my neighborhood.  (Neighborhood, hah!  I don't know the name of a single neighbor!)

Almost dusk.

The "hills" are rooftops of off-base housing.  I fantasized that someone would think I was a terrorist, taking photos for strategic purposes.

Sunset lights a culvert.

Sunset reflects in a culvert's flowing rainwater. It was dark enough by then that my camera needed a long eposure time, resulting in blurriness.  Sorry!

Sunset Monday.

Dark creeps in on a street near my home.

a car crosses a wash behind Palo Verde High. 

I didn't manage good pictures of the wash behind Palo Verde High School, and I was holding up traffic.  But you get the general idea.

a car crosses a wash behind Palo Verde High.

Dark now.  Time to go home.


Monday, July 25, 2005

How Cool!

Your Monday Photo Shoot: In a picture, illustrate how hot it is where you are. This can be be something as simple as a picture of a pool packed with kids, or, if you want to get really creative, something more imaginative. - J.S.

June 21st at 2 PMTonight at 7:30.

Tuffy seems happy about the wet yard.
Remember the picture on the left? This was the temperature in Tucson on June 21st. My has car said it was 110 degrees or higher every day for the past month. But not today, I think. Although the coming of the monsoon has quadrupled the relative humidity around here, the actual temperature has fallen quite a bit. The official high today was "only" 100 degrees, and it was down to 84 degrees by 6 PM. You see, it rained this evening.

It wasn't exactly a gullywasher. It rained a little bit off and on, but there was no lightning and it never poured. Still, check out the car's thermometer at 7:30 tonight. In the past I've often seen it up over 90 degrees late into the evening.

Tuffy isn't fond of thunder or lightning (no surprise there), but she seems to be pleased with the wet back yard. Maybe she'll stop knocking over her water dish for a while. We think she does it to cool her feet.

You can tell we need the rain!When we get a decent rain, there's always a puddle that lines our side of the street for a while. Yes, that's our mostly yellow-to-brown grass, and our blue mailbox. You can tell we needed the rain! We still do.

If my sunset pictures from tonight aren't the best in-town ones I've had yet, it won't be because Nature didn't cooperate. I've never seen the colors brighter. I drove around until dusk, taking a few dozen photos...okay, it was more like 50. Satisfied? I'll show you more of these tomorrow night.

The first ones here were taken in the Safeway lot again. Given the number of photos I take there, you'd think Safeway was the Eighth Wonder of the World.

Sunset at safeway, again.

color "corrected"

I allowed Microsoft Photo Manager to "correct" the color on that last one. Which do you like better, the original colors (tending toward orange) or the ones the software gave me (tending toward purple)?


Seen from a Mall

I was going to write a series of little reflections and anecdotes tonight, inspired by postings by Becky and Patrick and Carly.  But then I got sidetracked clearing stuff off my hard drive and cleaning up photos, and well, it's 1:37 AM and I'm in danger of wasting the benefit of the nap my brain forced me to take this evening instead of going to the gym.  So instead it's picture time again.

John and I were at El Con Mall today, looking in vain for anything worthwhile at Home Depot, and then wandering around Target.  The two stores are recent additions to the mostly-dead mall.  Hardly anyone ever goes inside it any more, and large sections of it have been closed off or demolished.  Home Depot and Target are accessed from outside the mall itself, so they do nothing for the few stores that survive inside it.

One of the reasons El Con is failing is that the neighborhood associations that surround the place lobbied successfully to limit street access to the mall, which makes it a little difficult to navigate to it and around it.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  The houses around the mall are rather nice, and I can see them not wanting people to wander into their yards, and possibly leave graffiti and trash behind.  On the other hand, the mall has been there for 45 years, so it's not like their neighborhoods have been invaded.  Wouldn't it be better to be a few feet from a viable mall than a derelict one?

A good example of this dilemma is this white house, sort of a modern castle.  It stands directly across the parking lot from Home Depot.  I'd love to own that house, but I have to admit the view is not ideal!

 a castle at El Con- sort of.

From the mall parking lot I was also able to document the progress of the monsoon.  So far it consists of lots of clouds, and almost no rain.  Drat!

Clouds over Mount Lemmon, but nothing much in town.

Clouds over Mount Lemmon,but nothing much in town.

The view from El Con can be rather pretty.

The view from El Con can be rather pretty.  Too bad nobody goes there any more.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

Fiction: Mall of Mâvarin, Part Nineteen

Well, I'm getting down toward the end on this.  I hope it's not too anticlimactic!

This is probably exactly where I left off in my typing.I've been thinking a lot about the real books lately, particularly Mages of Mâvarin.  This serial is only a sideshow, probably apocryphal and way too padded.  Still, I think it's been worth doing.  For more about recent developments in the writing and editing of the novels, please see my LiveJournal, Mâvarin & Other Inspirations.

The easiest way to catch up on past installments of this serial is on Messages from Mâvarin at Synopses to Parts One through Six can be found at the top of Part Seven. Synopses to Parts Eight through Thirteen can be found at the top of Part Fourteen. The installments themselves can be read in order on Blogspot using the sidebar.

Part Fourteen:  Cathma and her friends meet Lee Ramirez, the American who inherited Li Ramet's magical talent for understanding and being understood in any language.  With Lee's help, the Americans and Mâvarinû compare notes.  It turns out that they all know their situation: their spirits and consciousness have now been transferred into each others' bodies.  Lee confirms that his counterpart, Li Ramet, is involved, and should arrive soon with the remaining affected people.

Part Fifteen::  Back in Josh Wander's castle, Fabian points out that Cathma is speaking English again, as is everyone else.  She remembers more of her life as Cathy, but still feels more like Queen Cathma than Cathy Salazar.  Fabian and Fayubi compare notes, and conclude that they both have Fayubi's talents.  What is needed, though, is Rani's talent as a mind mage.  Rani says that he needs Randy too, to have any hope of helping all the people affected by the transfer of minds and spirits.  Fortunately, Randy is just arriving at the half-destroyed mall--in tengrem form.

Part Sixteen:  Randy arrives, confused and half-feral.  Rani calms him down, and gets him to come inside the castle.  There he is able to understand and be understood in words.  Although he admits to enjoying the tengrem condition while fully immersed it it, he doesn't want to take Rani's place forever, and experience the kinds of horrors Rani has lived through.  After exhorting the others to find the source of the leak between worlds, Rani and Randy sit down together to try to exchange minds and spirits, thus putting themseves back in their original bodies.

Part Seventeen: While Rani and Randy commune in mindtouch, Lee Ramirez reveals that he knows where Li Ramet's portal is, and that it's the source of all the trouble.  Before he gets far in his account, Li Ramet arrives with the last of the affected people, and suggests that they all "get started."

Part Eighteen: Li Ramet explains what he was trying to do with his portal, and what he thinks went wrong.  Because of the arrival of Josh Wander's castle, the doorway became much larger and more powerful than it should have been, with strange effects.  It encompasses the whole of Shoppingtown Mall, part of which is now in Mâvarin.

Part Nineteen: Just Do It

Art by Sherlock“So what’s the plan?” Carl asked.  “How are you going to get Shoppingtown back where it belongs, and us back where we belong?”

“I think I can change the spell definitions enough to make our spirits flow the other way,” Li said.  “But I’m not so sure I can get the actual stores back to Dewitt intact.”

“Let me work with you on that part of it,” said Joshua Wander.  “I’m used to moving my castle around.  Since my magic does work here, I should be able to help you move a shopping mall.”

“That’s good of you, since your castle probably caused the problem in the first place,” Li said grumpily.

“Well, that’s gracious,” Josh said.  “I don’t know whether Toujours Chez Moi was part of the problem or not, but I’m willing to help.  You can at least be courteous about it.”

“Sorry,” Li said.  “Come with me, then, and I’ll show you what we’re working with.”


“I thought the whole mall was your portal,” Carli said.  “Isn’t that what you just told us?”

“Yes, but there’s a particular spot where the spell started, and the effect is strongest.  That’s where we need to concentrate our efforts.”

“Then I’d better come with you,” said Lee Ramirez.  “If it starts to work, you’ll need your own body there to keep things going.”

“Right.  Come on, then.”

“Are we going to trust him to get this fixed properly?” Cathy asked the room at large.  “Maybe we should go too, and keep an eye on things.”

Li looked at her.  “What would that accomplish?  There isn’t anything you normals can do to help or hurt.  Just leave it to us.”

The remark was a bit insulting, but Li had a point, Cathma thought.  Even as Queen of Mâvarin, there wasn’t much she could do about a problem like this. “Let him go,” she said.  “He’s already gone to the trouble of bringing us all here.  I think he’s sincerely trying to help, and he has a better chance of succeeding than the rest of us.”

“What about what Rani and Randy are doing?” Carli asked.  “Is that going to work, in case Li and Lee and Josh fail?”

“It worked for us, anyway,” said Rani—or was it Randy?  The two of them had finished their mindtouch and gotten up from their chairs in the back of the castle’s Great Hall.  They came forward, smiling. 

“I think we can both help everyone else with this,” said the one who was dressed as Randy Foster.  “I may be only Randy now, but with a bit of instruction even a certain high school student from Dewitt can do mind magic here.”  His smile faltered.  “Too bad I don’t get to take that ability home with me.  That would be cool.”

“We’ll take you in pairs,” Rani said.  “I can do Carl and Carli, and Randy will work with Cathy and Cathma.  Then we’ll need to rest, but we should get to everyone eventually.”

“And if Li and Lee succeed in what they’re doing?” Jami Baret asked.  “What then?”

Rani smiled.  “Then our contribution should speed the process, with less effort on our part.  We can do this.  I know we can.  All you have to do is trust us, and cooperate in the mindtouch and transfer.”

“Well, you know I trust you,” Carli said.  “I always have.”

“Come on, then,” said Rani.

“Come on, Cathma and Cathy,” Randy added.

The idea made Cathma a little nervous, but she knew it had to be done.  She followed her counterpart and Randy to the back of the room, not far from Carli and Carl.  Randy had two chairs pulled next to each other, with a third chair facing them.  Cathy sat down in the left chair, and Cathma sat next to her. Randy sat across from them.

“It will help if we all hold hands,” Randy said. Cathy and Cathma exchanged glances.  Then Cathma reached out with her left hand, and clasped Cathy’s right one.  Randy took hold of Cathy’s left hand and Cathma’s right one.

“It’s like a séance, except that nobody’s dead,” Cathy remarked.

“Ready?” Randy said.  “Here we go.”

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Friday, July 22, 2005


Please excuse Karen from writing a long, insightful entry tonight, or from posting a bunch of pretty pictures.  Her poor blog is already overloaded with too many photos for dial-up comfort, and her poor body and brain are suffering from overindulgence (in blogging and photography, mostly) and neglect.

Please excuse Karen from the cardio portion of her workout tonight, or even the long dogwalk she promised to do instead.  When she got home, Stargate SG-1 was on tv, and she didn't manage to tear herself away until Galactica came on.  Now it's too late - John doesn't like it when Karen and Tuffy go out after 10 PM, because the barking dogs wake up the neighborhood.  She'll walk the dog tomorrow, honest!

Besides, Karen really couldn't do that third set of leg presses, or move the bars back to a locked position.  Her feet were really hurting for some reason, but that wasn't why she couldn't do it. Thanks for helping her get free of the leg curl machine, where she was trapped for the second time this week, unable to work the release mechanism with her legs pressing against the pads.

Please also excuse Karen from having to use her security card to get back into the building after lunch.  She is aware that she left it behind on her desk upstairs two days in a row, and promises to have it with her at lunchtime on Monday.  Thanks for letting her back into the building, and onto the second floor.  Twice.

Karen absolutely promises to get more than 4 1/3 hours of sleep tonight, and to do better in the week ahead.

Sincerely yours,

Karen's Brain

Update: Went to bed at 3 AM, got up at 4 PM!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Sublime and Ridiculous Ice Cream

Weekend Assignment #69: You've been hired to create a whole new ice cream flavor that's never been thought of before (so far as you know). What flavor do you create? For this assignment you can pick any flavor -- or combination of flavors -- that you like, but, you know, try to make it something that you'd actually want to eat. Also, try to give it an ice-creamy name, like how Ben & Jerry's chocolate and cherry ice cream is called "Cherry Garcia." Mmm... Cherry Garcia. Indeed, here's the Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard, so you can see how the experts do their ice cream flavor labeling.

Extra Credit: Oh, fine. Create an utterly inedible ice cream flavor, too. Try not to make it too gross, and definitely don't make it a TOS violation. But it can include ingredients that you wouldn't really put into food. Usually.  - J.S.

What I have on hand isn't nearly as good.

No Sugar Added "Berry Rocky Road":

  • No Sugar Added Chocolate ice cream base
  • No Sugar Added Brownie and chocolate chunks
  • Pecans, coated with--you guessed it--NSA chocolate
  • NSA marshmallow bits - not drizzle, not dry, but chewy mini-marshmallows
  • and, to make it unique:  blueberries and raspberries.  They aren't completely low carb, but they're not over-sweet, either.
However, I freely admit I'd rather eat Paul's flavor.

Extra Credit:

P.B.B.S. - Peanut Butter and Baloney Sammich!
  • Peanut Butter ice cream
  • Actual chunks of white bread
  • Strips of bologna
  • Drizzled yellow mustard

With an abbreviation like that, it should have some sort of public tv tie-in, such as Norm Abrams eating it if you pledge $1000.

This was inspired by a sandwich I used to make around sixth grade.  It had bologna and peanut butter, mayo, mustard and lettuce.  Eventually I had to admit to myself that it tasted better without the peanut butter. So I spun off the peanut butter into a separate creation: peanut butter and applesauce.  Hmm.  How would that work as an ice cream flavor?


Update: I couldn't stand it any longer.  Having read Carly's and Paul's entries, I had to go get at least a vague approximation of my ice cream.  I made a midnight run to Safeway, and bought NSA butter pecan ice cream and and an Atkins candy bar.  The berries I had already.  It's not perfect, but it's not bad.

P.S. Random photo from my uploaded leftovers:

Wednesday sunset at Wilmot and 22nd.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Monsoon Sunsets

I've taken about 150 digital photos in the past three days.  The combination of great picture-taking conditions and serious sleep deprivation leaves me with even less ability than usual to pick and choose what I show you.  So this entry is going to have way too many pictures.  Sorry.

The reason I've been taking so many photos, aside from the Round Robin Photo Challenge, is that Tucson's had dramatic weather this week.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a monsoon!  Quoting from the National Weather Service monsoon page:

The 2005 Monsoon began on July 18th, 2nd latest start.

That goes along with all sorts of records this year for having a long string of very hot days, almost all of them topping out at 110 or higher.

The monsoon, of course, is a seasonal weather pattern that brings moisture up from Mexico and the Pacific to fuel most of Tucson's annual rainfall. The web site I linked to above explains it better than I can. Basically, it means that for parts of July and August in Tucson, it frequently rains between five to seven PM, and occasionally at night.  Most of the rain falls on the mountains that ring the city, but sometimes we get a serious thunderstorm, with flash floods and power outages.

The monsoon brings clouds, of course, and clouds are fun to photograph, especially as part of a sunset.  So I've been taking a zillion pictures of clouds and sunsets, and even of darkness.

Monday evening, while waiting for chicken wings near Safeway:

One of a zillion sunset pictures from last night and the night before. This was the night before.

Monday's sunset reflected in an unrented storefront.

Tuesday evening at Boston Market, 22nd and Kolb:

Tuesday sunset from Boston Market

Windy night at Boston Market as the storm blows in.

The wind of the approaching storm toys with a promotional banner and a string of banner flags.

Boston Market again.

Sunset viewed from inside the restaurant.   I took at least a dozen pictures outside, too, but this one is more unusual.

  Here comes the rain!

And here comes the rain!

There was lightning in the distance all evening long, but not much rain.  I took about thirty pictures in five minutes around midnight, trying to catch lightning in a box.  None of the lightning was that great, I didn't get lucky, and the camera wasn't up to the challenge.  But I like this shot of the Safeway lot at midnight:

Safeway at midnight. That is not a lake!

The thing that looks like a lake is the roof of my car.

Here is the best of my lightning pictures, taken near my house when I got back from Safeway.  I fiddled with it to make it more visible.  It ended up looking a bit like Starry Night, except, you know, not very nice.

I had to lighten this a lot to make anything visible but the street lights.

The balls of light are street lights.

Wednesday evening:

Hansen's, 22nd and Wilmot

I took this picture more to capture the lights on the gas station than to photograph the sunset behind them.  The lights flared too much to look the way I wanted, but it's still kind of a neat shot.

in motion, 22nd and Wilmot.

Taken in motion after the light changed.

My street, post-Sunset.

Just past sunset on my street.

Cloudy dusk, Wednesday.

I took this one in front of my house at dusk.  Again, I lightened it a lot.

Weird.  In trying to be selective, I've left out almost all of the pictures I specifically set aside for tonight.  Oh, well!