Archive for October, 2011


BOO!


I love Halloween. I always have – the costumes, the candy, the spooky decorations, the candy. If it were socially acceptable for a woman of my years to go door-to-door begging for candy in a funny outfit, I would totally do it.

I could get dressed up and go to a Halloween party, I am physically capable of such things, but that aint gonna happen. In social situations where I’m around people I don’t know, I turn from the crazy Ghostie we all know and adore into a shy little mouse. I am painfully shy and it takes me forever to warm up to people. I avoid public places and people in general whenever possible. For that reason I will probably never attend a con, even thought I’m dying to do so. I have read so much about them that I would absolutely love to go, but then I start thinking about all those people and my brain shuts down.

Which is a shame, since I would really love to get dressed up and be around people who were as crazy as me.

My Kind of Crazy


I love my mother – not only does she accept my peculiar brand of crazy, she actually feeds it.

I came home from work one day and she had a surprise for me.

:sniff: it's ... so ... beautiful!

It’s a giant bait pony to practice on!

She had been to one of the thrift stores in the area, saw it and thought of me.

With a normal bait pony for size comparison.

 

It’s not a real My Little Pony, you can tell by how it looks and by how thin the vinyl is, but it good enough for practice.


I have read a phrase on several homebrewing sites that I really didn’t understand until now – “until it falls clear.”

Yeah ... that's pretty clear.

I had thought my mead had reached this point, but I was apparently very wrong. I have been checking on the bottles every few days to ensure nothing wonky is happening and hadn’t really noticed a change in the mead until the other night. Now it looks more like apple juice than cider.

The change was less noticeable in the plum wine, I had to put the flashlight behind it and switch off the lights to see how much it had changed.

Oooh...

The plum wine is actually pretty clear, it’s just so dark that it’s hard to tell.

Hello, Milliput!

And for comparison, the photo from my previous update.

More particulates make for a better light show.

I’m gonna need to do some bottling soon.

How Bad is Bad Enough?


In my duties as part of the Snark Crew over at the Library of the Damned, I go through a ton of fics looking for just the right material to dissect for our audience. While I’m not sure how my fellow Crewmembers select their entires, I thought I’d share my process with you.

I start by selecting a section of ff.net that I’m familiar with – usually a show, movie, or game that I know a bit about but that I’m not a super-fan of. My earlier experience with a Portal fanfic taught me that if I really like the original the fic is based on, I quickly turn into an Angry Fangirl screaming “You’re wrong!” over and over again and no one wants that. For that reason I will probably never do a Batman fic, since I have a certain fondness for the Caped Crusader.

Once I’ve settled on a section and pulled up the listings, I’ll change the filters to list all the fics (the ones rated M are excluded by default) and head for the oldest fics first.

If you’ve never been over to ff.net, the fics are listed in chronological by fic title and author’s name, (if the fic has any reviews there will be a bright red REVIEWS beside the title) under that is the genre(s), (Western, Sci-Fi, Romance, etc) the chapter count, and overall word count. The author also has the option to list up to two primary characters so that readers looking for fics with particular characters or character pairs can search for just those fics. If the author has listed the fic as “Complete” it will state that as well – most of the bad fics are simply abandoned by their authors and lack this on the listing.  Under all of this is a brief summary written by the author and is usually the first step in picking out a bad fic. 

A good fanfic will have a short synopsis and if it has a restrictive rating like M or T (Mature or Teen) will often give the reasons for why the author rated it as such. (strong language and adult themes are the most common) A bad fanfic will either have a couple of horribly mangled sentence fragments or some variation of  “I suck at summaries, just read the fic” instead of a synopsis. I LOVE finding a “I suck at summaries” synopsis, it usually means the fic is so disjointed and nonsensical that the author couldn’t condense the stupidity down into a few sentences.

Once I find a summary that looks promising, I check out the fic’s stats. A high chapter to word-count ratio means that there are a lot of very short chapters, one of the hallmarks of a bad fic. If it’s a single chapter with a high word-count (2000+) you can almost bet money that it will be a Wall-O-Text. I will usually skip over any fic with more than twenty chapters, there’s only so much I can take.

If the summary looks good (and by “good” I mean “terrible”) I’ll open up the actual fic and give it a read. By now I’ve read enough fics that I can usually spot a stinker pretty quick, but not all bad fics are the sort of bad I’m looking for. Once I’ve determined that it is bad, I’ll give it a more careful reading to see if it meets my criteria.

  • Are the characters behaving out-of-canon?
  • Is the setting (if described) not one found in-canon?
  • Are the characters or settings described, or does it take place in a Formless Void?
  • Is there a Mary Sue or Gary Stu?
  • Are there any glaring inconsistencies within the fic itself?
  • If there is dialogue, does it sound natural or is it stilted and forced?
  • Is the grammar and spelling terrible?
  • Can I understand enough of what the author is trying to say enough to explain it to someone else?
  • Can I make this interesting or funny in some way?
  • Is this relatable to someone who is unfamiliar with the original work?

The last point is the most important and I’ve had to discard many fics because it was something that I or another fan of the original might find it funny if I joked about it, but someone who was not as familiar with the original would not and explaining a joke always sucks the funny out of it. The Library is staffed by people with a very wide and eclectic range of interests and we hope to reach readers that are just as varied, which means we try to do our riffs in such a way that even those unfamiliar with the original will find something humorous about it. While this does slightly limit our material, there is a vast ocean of bad fanfics out there and we aren’t as restricted as, say, a site that only riffs video games or movies.

If the fic meets my requirements I will do one of two things – I’ll stick it in my queue of riffable fics or I’ll post it to the list of orphaned fics the Library maintains. This list of unclaimed fics are things that we have found during our searches but not fics that we personally want to riff. Any Snark Crewmember can claim an orphaned fic – for example; when I found  BatPink I had no desire to riff it, so I posted it as an orphan and Lara jumped at it. (And did an excellent job, I might add.)

There are certain things that will make me instantly discard a potential fic – I will not riff anything with graphic  sex in it; there are sadly a lot of these and they read like the script for a particularly bad porno. I call them “monkey-spankers” since that’s probably why they were written in the first place. Graphic violence will also earn a fic a place on the discard pile, especially if it’s combined with graphic sex. There’s just nothing funny about those sorts of things.

After weeding out the blandly boring and disgustingly detailed, I’ll select a fic from my queue and start taking notes. There is a fair amount of research that goes into each of my riffs – unlike the original fanfic author, I actually care if I get my facts right.

 

 

Scheduling Conflicts


The first of November is rapidly approaching, and with it NaNoWriMo.

For the uninitiated, that stands for National Novel Writing Month which is held every year by the Office of Letters and Light and open to any writer in the world. You keep a running tally of your word count and once you have reached fifty thousand you have “won” the NaNoWriMo.

It’s all about quantity, not quality. The three years I’ve done it, what I was left with at the end was … well, it was a lot of words. No one ever reads it to make sure you’ve written something good, so you can just go nuts. It’s quite freeing.

The forums over at nanowrimo.org are wonderful, I just wish they were up year-round. The site goes dormant from (I think) January 1st to October 1st, I guess since it’s all not-for-profit they need that server space for their other projects.

This year I’m working on a re-imagining of Cinderella, which is something new for me. Normally when I write, it’s all made up out of my brain. Following a well-known plot-line, even loosely, will be a new experience for me. I’ve got a stack of notes and quite an outline done, so I think everything will go fine. Still – the closer Tuesday gets, the more nervous I get.

Unlike some, I’m not getting up at midnight to start cranking out the words as fast as possible, mostly because I like to sleep when I can. If insomnia hits – sure, I’ll stay up and write. But I’ve got to go to work so I think I’ll skip the early morning word rush, thanks. I have done it once, when the 1st happened to fall on the weekend, but with work it’s just not worth it. As fast as I write, I don’t have to squeeze in every little second possible, I can just take my time.

My only problem is how I’m going to juggle my blog writing and my riffs for Library of the Damned with NaNoWriMo – I’m a fast writer but there’s only so much time in a day. I’m trying to build up a cushion for the Library and the blog so I won’t have to rush about the night before, we’ll have to see how that goes.

Expect to hear a lot of griping about my writing over the next month.

Safety First!


Once again we venture into the Weird Work Files!

This happened some time ago – I sent the story in to notalwaysright.com but it has never appeared, so you lucky people get to see it first!

Like most banks, [ghostbank] has safe deposit boxes that operate under the dual control system – each box has two locks, one that an employee has a key for and one the box renter has a key for. The locks that the bank employees have a key for are the same on each box, it is the box renter’s lock that is unique to each box. This is to prevent bank employees from going through your priceless stuff, like those naked pictures of Betty White you keep meaning to get scanned.

Each renter is given two keys when they rent the box and the system is explained to them at that time. If for some reason they lose one of their keys, we can send the other back to the lock manufacturer to have a duplicate made – it’s not something a local locksmith can do. If they lose both keys, the locks have to be drilled out and a new one installed by the company that built the boxes, a lengthy and expensive (around $200 for a lock replacement versus $18 for a key duplication) process.

I always giggle when I see bank heist movies where they drill out a safe deposit box lock in a few seconds – I’ve seen the real thing many times and it’s nothing like that. (Also not depicted in movies – large amounts of cash stink. Bad. It smells like moldy rice and dirty laundry.)

I’m not sure what the policies of other banks are, but at [ghostbank] we do not keep record of what is in a box. Employees are not even allowed to see the contents once the inner box is removed, the renter is shown to a small room and the door is shut to give them privacy. (The only exception is if a member has died and we have to do an inventory of the box for the estate, but that’s a special circumstance and there are several restrictions regarding it that I won’t go into right now.)

One day a man comes in and wants to get into his box. While he is signing in I ask him if he brought his key – it sounds like a stupid question but I’ve have lots of people come in and wait a long time only to discover they don’t have their key, so now I ask.

“No, I need to use yours.”

“I don’t have a safe deposit key, but if you have yours with you one of our representatives can let you in.”

“I don’t have mine, I lost it. I need to use one of the spares you have here.”

I explain to him that we don’t have “spares” and ask him if he has misplaced one key or both of them and explain what would happen if he can’t find both of them. He starts to fidget a bit, hemming and hawing before finally answering the question.

“I know where one is, but I thought I could borrow one of your keys to get to it.”

I suddenly understand what he is trying very hard not to say.

“Sir … Did you put your spare box key in your safe deposit box?” I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped when he nodded, but he had the good sense to flush red as a beet. His defense?

“They told me to put it in a safe place!”

I have never wanted to do an actual headdesk so badly in all my life.

It’s In The Bag


I was in a homemade tote bag swap this week – we had to send a Halloween-themed tote bag.

And what’s more Halloween than candy corn?

Lots of stuff, but I already had candy corn fabric. So I made a candy corn tote bag.

Fearless helped. A lot.

I had a little less than half a yard of the candy corn material when I was done and I have been kicking around an idea for a while that I wanted to try. Since the swap was just for one bag and I had already made that, I figured I could play a bit.

After fiddling with some white, yellow and orange flannel and the fabric, I had something similar to what was in my head.

It's a tote bag! (You'll notice Fearless hasn't moved.)

And after quite a bit of stuffing …

Candy corn!

I based it on the little strawberry bag I have, I had to make the corner pocket bigger to accommodate the thicker fabric and bigger bag. Compressed down it was about the size of an apple, so still fairly compact.

Now I want to make one for myself – with a wider white tip and more yellow so it looks more like a real candy corn. I need to get more candy corn fabric, though – I used the last bit to line the candy corn bag.

Fearless can't wait. She LOVES to help.

Buttons


I was watching Coraline on TV the other night. For those who have never seen this movie, it revolves around a young girl who finds a door to world that mirrors hers but is … different. It goes from quirky to trippy-evil over the course of the movie and one of the unusual things about the world is that everyone in the mirrored world has black button eyes.

This is the first indication that things are not quite right.

While watching the movie, with the main plot point of the creepy button eyes that indicate the very wrongness of the mirrored world, I see a commercial for an odd doll.

Holy. Crap.

I’ve seen these in the store, they are hard vinyl dolls that are meant to look like rag dolls. I personally think they look weird.

It would probably be a good idea for people in charge of programming to screen the commercials they play – the juxtaposition of creepy characters with black button eyes followed by happy little girls playing with plastic dolls with black button eyes was just strange.

I’m Watching You


Always watching ...

The way he stares at me sometimes, I swear he thinks I’m only seconds away from doing something amazing like juggling live mice or something.

Entertain me! NOW!

Cool


I have a small refrigerator – it’s a holdover from when I lived in a camper. The built-in fridge pooped out on me so for Christmas my parents got me a small fridge. It’s not a tiny dorm-fridge, but it isn’t quite full-sized. It works pretty good, but has a small problem – anything placed too close to the back will freeze solid.

For example – eggs.

Eggcicles - they're what's for breakfast!

 

The corner of the carton touched the back of the fridge and these eggs were closest to where it was touching. The shells split open and came off when I pried them out off the carton.