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Blade of Gliese Chapter One: Riza of Antinome [Dec. 19th, 2014|01:44 pm]
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Riza of Antinome slipped her foot behind that of the Lancastian soldier, pressed with her knee, then shoved the off-balance man hard into the wall. He sucked air in a noisy bray, the wind knocked right out of him. She laughed when she saw the next soldier rush toward her and easily tossed him over her shoulder and slammed him into the floor. She stood back, cackled, cracked her knuckles, then dived back into her fracas. She'd been stuck on board the Lancastian cruiser for too long behaving herself. It was time to let loose. With glee, she plucked the first soldier off the table where he'd collapsed mouth agape and swung him like a mallet into the second one. Both men made funny noises, now.

The soldiers at this bar felt secure with their reputations as ill-tempered thugs. Other patrons gave them deference. The bullies weren't used to resistance. They were too skilled with cruelty to expect anything from their opponents but pleas for mercy, and mercy wasn't really their forte. Riza knew of their reputation, of course. It was what brought her to this bar in particular. She wanted to stretch her legs--work out those kinks.

And so she waded into another man's fight. At the centre of the circle of sneering soldiers was a small, unarmed foreigner whose only crime was to wander into the wrong pub for a beer. He was a Marrup, from the looks of his peculiar dress. Riza didn't give half a toss about this man. She was just itching for an excuse.

The Marrup held his hands out in a placating gesture to the soldiers and screamed as one slashed at him with a knife. Riza grabbed the soldier's wrist and spun him around, smashing his face into the corner of the bar. The knife spun away, tip stabbing into the floor, hilt shuddering to stillness, and the foreigner plucked up his sarong and skittered out of reach of the soldiers.

Riza had always been an adrenaline junkie, as long as she could remember. When she was a little girl in Antinome, she'd often snuck off to go spelunking in perilous glacial crevasses much to her father's chagrin and her mother's secret pride. It had made her strong and quick on her feet. Her love of adventure was a blessing since a life of ease and comfort did not appeal to her at all. Her musculature was most impressive, with immense, sinewy thighs and a massive lat spread. She looked nothing like an average woman, and stood almost a full head taller than the average man. She was most certainly not an average anything. There could be no surprise that she should become a master of the martial arts, and a magnet for mayhem. Riza loved her life.

Five soldiers faced her now, angered that the foreigner had gotten away. She had ruined their fun. They would make her pay, or so they thought. The Antinomian slid Lifedrinker from its scabbard and took a low stance, ready for the onslaught. Her lips slid back, her nostrils flared, and her throat erupted into a terrifying battle cry. The patrons of the bar stood paralyzed, staring at the woman who dared challenge the Lancastian soldiers.

Two soldiers leapt at her with murder in their eyes, blades thrusting. Riza parried and dipped, piercing one man's throat on Lifedrinker, then smashing its hilt hard against the other man's temple.

Riza held Lifedrinker high over her head, and blood spattered down on her face. "My sword hungers for more," she growled.

The last three soldiers charged, swords swinging. Riza sidestepped, teeth gleaming with her battle rictus. From the shadows, someone hit her shoulder with a chair, and she was thrown off balance for a moment.

Taking advantage of the situation, one of the soldiers slashed downward with his sword, etching a long thin red line down Riza's right arm. Ignoring the deep scratch, Riza moved around the soldier, drawing him away from his cohorts. The remaining bar patrons fled as the two squared off, razor-sharp blades dancing through the air. Riza's war face turned into a pleased grin when she realized her opponent was a worthy one. But she wouldn't still be alive today if she hadn't already mastered every attack, feint, and riposte used on Gliese. Slowly, incrementally, the soldier was forced backward, until with a quick twist and a thrust, the Lancastian's military career was permanently ended.

With a jerk, Riza freed Lifedrinker and turned to face the last two soldiers. But instead of two, there was now only one, and he lie in a crumpled heap upon the floor where the Marrup was rhythmically bashing him about the head with a whiskey bottle, shouting with each hit. "Take that," he howled, "And that, and that!" He breathed heavily with exhaustion and righteous indignation.

Looking up, he noticed Riza and clambered to his feet taking a reverent bow. "My life is yours. Only tell me what to do, and I shall do it."

The Antinomian laughed, wiping Lifedrinker on the bludgeoned soldier. "You'd better run for the hills and pray that the gods protect you."

"Maybe we should both make for the hills," said the Marrup. "One of those soldiers got away, and I don't doubt he'll soon be back with a lot more."

Riza nodded to the Marrup, sheathed her sword, and breezed out into the Gliesean night. She sprinted down the street, pacing her breath with ease. She paused after turning the first corner, peeking back around the closed shop and down the street. Although she doubted reinforcements had arrived yet, she wasn't prepared to bet on it. But as she stopped to look, the little Marrup, sarong held high to give his legs freedom, darted around the corner and ran smack dab into her. Growling, she grabbed him by the collar and lifted him until they were eye level to one another.

"I'm through with you," she said. "Go your own way."

"I mustn't," said the Marrup. "By the laws of my people, my life belongs to you for a year and one day. Since you have saved my life, I am yours and may not leave your side."

Riza cursed and gave the Marrup a shake. "And I suppose that's why you threw a chair at me."

"My aim has never been good," cried the man half in terror and the other half remorse. "I apologize with all sincerity. I was trying to hit one of those soldiers in the head." He drooped in self-reproach.

Riza laughed and let the man go. "Maybe you do belong to me now, and maybe you don't," she said. "We'll sort that out later. In the meantime, do you know this part of the city?"

The Marrup straightened his collar. "Like the back of my hand," he said.

"Then get us out of here," said Riza.

"This way, lady," said the Marrup, and he whisked off into the shadows.

(to be continued...)
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Blade of Gliese Prologue [Dec. 18th, 2014|10:25 pm]
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(I'm going to see what happens when I completely rewrite every sentence in a book I've never read, doing it on the fly.

The book I've chosen is an old pulp fiction sci-fi book called The Sword of Lankor, by Howard L. Cory.)

..................

Prologue

The Sun Ball was the size of a fat lady's ass and it hovered several centimetres over the parking lot of the Church of Kaga, the ubiquitous two-headed God of War of the planet Gliese. An hour ago, the Ball had first appeared in orbit and had spent this time descending steadily from the sky.

When the Ball showed up, people didn't know what to think. Though the faithful were in abundance, so were the nonbelievers. Rumours of the Ball's arrival quickly spread, first, from the Church itself, to the palace, shopping centres, schoolyards, and the tourist traps. Atheists and pious alike streamed to the Church parking lot. The rotund Labak, manager of a religious book and figurine megastore, who had already made a very comfortable living huckstering spirituality to the masses, hurried his way there with all due haste. If he got the drop on the other retailers, he could secure the lucrative rights on Sun Ball statuary. He could see his coffers swelling if he could just be the first to license the exact measurements and colouration of the actual Sun Ball. He sent a courier to the head of House Malor, renowned for their goldsmithing. Labak didn't doubt for a moment that the Cardinal would grant the Seal of Kaga to his Balls, especially if he promised a sizeable percentage of the profits to the Church. After all, he'd done just that with the ceremonial medallions, official Church of Kaga holy items, complete with the Malor hallmark, of course.

Labak wasn't the only one whose day had suddenly been made brighter by the arrival of the Sun Ball. Taxon, a tiny sliver of a man with a bushy beard and a wispy comb-over from the neighbouring Marrup'ska, was a Holy Speaker. If he got there in time, he'd make a fortune interpreting, with appropriately obfuscated prophetic language, the true meaning of the Arrival. While in transit, he muttered a variety of True Meanings under his breath, mentally weighing the effect of each upon his bankbook.

Captain Carpat Rom of Her Majesty's Twenty-Third Regiment also viewed the Sun Ball with joy. How auspicious that it had arrived on his twenty-fourth birthday! He made sure to appear at the parking lot in full dress uniform, his moustache waxed to needle-sharp points. He marched smartly up to the parking lot, snapped his heels, and presented arms to the Sun Ball. This was as much to impress the masses as it was to give honour to the Battle Deity. He was very handsome in his brilliant gold jacket with navy piping. His medals gleamed almost as bright as the Sun Ball itself. He went to lay his sword upon the Sun Ball itself, but something stopped the sword from touching it. Perhaps it was a force field? Perhaps it was the sudden realization of impropriety? In any case, Captain Carpat Rom's moustache began to twitch in a rodent-like fashion, and then the dashing young man transformed into a dashing young corpse.

Shelby, a seasoned thief had been casing the parking lot and contemplating the best route of escape once she'd nabbed the Sun Ball, decided at this moment to rob a jewellery store, or anything else at all, really, instead.

Koal, a bishop of Kaga, stepped out of the Church and chewed his lip for a moment. Deep in thought, he walked up to the Ball and looked at it and the dead officer. After a moment, he clapped his hands and his attendants appeared by his side. "Have that removed," he said, pointing to the corpse. He paid no attention to them as they carried the handsome body away. For several minutes, he stared at the Ball, stately and solemn in his crimson scapular. Then he exhaled slowly, as though he'd been holding his breath all that time, and vanished back into the Church.

When the bishop sighed, the crowd murmured. A leggy boy, his voice not yet changed, whispered to his mother. "Maybe it's a sign from Kaga?" She tried to shush him, but it was too late. The thing that he had said had rippled outward spreading through the crowd, and within the next forty-eight hours, through the rest of the entire nation.
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Banana Bread [Nov. 28th, 2014|02:13 pm]
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I had some sad-looking bananas that had to be used or tossed, so I went looking for a banana bread recipe. I found this one and modified it thusly (it's delicious!):

1 cup gluten-free flour
1 cup teff flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Demerara sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
3 mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup plain yoghourt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Olive oil to grease pan

Preparation

Heat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar, stirring with a whisk.

Mash up the butter and add the eggs, beating well. Blend in banana, yogurt, and vanilla. Add flour mixture; stir just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch greased loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
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Danse du Jour: Snake Danse [Nov. 16th, 2014|09:02 pm]
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This is Janine Janik and Christian Arnaut performing an incredible contortion act that I consider dance. This performance is from 1954 and was done on the Colgate Comedy Hour Christmas Special.

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The Sharpshooter II: Champion of Dogs [Nov. 11th, 2014|11:00 am]
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For a few years, while my family lived on the other side of the country, we rented our home to a destitute family for a pittance. Dad knew they didn't have much money, so charged them a mere dollar a month to live in our house. He figured the place would be in better shape with someone in it, plus he'd be doing these people a favour.

Unfortunately, Mel, the patriarch of the family was the sort of person so rotten that he seemed like a cartoon villain. He was an abusive man, dispersing torture to humans and animals alike. Our house was hacked to pieces and filled with feces, mouldering garbage, and slime. When we moved back home, he was evicted, and for quite some time, Dad stood outside our destroyed home with a match and a can of gasoline. To this day, I don't understand why he didn't burn the place.

But this story goes back a bit before Mel's eviction. Mel had a dog. It was a poor, wretched creature. Mel never bothered feeding him, so he subsisted on mouthfuls of grain and plundered garbage. Guy, the WWII vet who lived next door, took pity on the poor animal and put out a bowl of dog food every day. The dog began spending more and more time at Guy's place. After all, he was being fed there, and not kicked and whipped.

When Mel was finally evicted, the dog suffered the most. Mel decided that he was through with the animal. He got liquored up, got out his gun, and went hunting the dog. Terrified, the dog tore off to Guy's house. Mel managed to shoot the dog, but the bullet passed through its cheek. The dog cowered in Guy's porch while Mel struggled to reload his gun.

That's when Guy came out of his house with his gun in hand. Guy was a sharpshooter, and a damned fine one, at that. At first, Mel blustered about having the right to kill his own dog, but Guy, cool and icy as a November evening, told him the dog was his now, and if he ever saw him on his property or near the dog again, he'd shoot Mel the same way he'd shot the dog.

Mel left, and never came back. Hobo, as Guy christened the dog, made a full recovery and went on to be a great dog.

(More at The Sharpshooter I)
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Remembering the Fifth of November [Nov. 5th, 2014|11:42 am]
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When I was a kid, my Dad told me many stories about growing up in rural Newfoundland. One story stuck out in particular. There was a schoolteacher or a pastor, I can't recall which, who was sexually abusing children. Dad was one of the kids attacked by this guy. The grownups didn't believe the kids because he was an upstanding community member. So the kids decided to take matters into their own hands.

Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night, was a big holiday in 1950s Newfoundland. The kids timed their vengeance for this night. They waited for the pedophile to go to the outhouse, and once he was there, they quickly bound the door shut with rope and proceeded to build a great bonfire around the privy. They got a fire going, but the man's screams drew the attention of other grownups and he was freed.

He packed up and left the town. I have no idea if he ever molested another kid again, but he never bothered these ones again.
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Danse du Jour: Zaouli 21 (Gouro Dance Mask) [Nov. 3rd, 2014|07:56 pm]
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"According to most people who show interest in cultures and especially in the culture of Gouro ethnic group, Zaouli, a popular mask dance, was created in the fifties. The Gouro ethnic group is the midwestern part of Ivory Coast / Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa. According to what people say, there are diverse legends regarding the origin of the Zaouli mask and dance; yet, all come to the agreement that such legends were inspired by a very beautiful girl - 'Dzela Lou Zaouli' - daughter of Zaouli." -- Gouro Culture

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Princess Tubby [Oct. 26th, 2014|06:41 pm]
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My sweet little chinchilla was euthanized yesterday after her health continued to deteriorate over the past couple of years. She was about 15 years old. I miss her very much.

[Last visit to the vet]
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20 Things [Oct. 3rd, 2014|11:43 am]
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1. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life. In fact, I haven't taken as much as a single puff off one.
2. I have, however, smoked a pipe and part of a very expensive cigar.
3. I think cheesecake tastes like sweet, flavoured lard. Yuck.
4. I am sizeist when it comes to cats. I do not like obese cats. I don't know why this is.
5. I'm racist when it comes to goats. Nubian goats are idiots, albeit cute ones. I know why this is.
6. Probably due to being an outcast for the duration of my formative years, social interactions and rituals often mystify me.
7. Due to spending a lot of time with poultry, I became able to communicate certain simple things with birds using body language.
8. The 1990s is the decade I remember with the most fondness.
9. I'm scared of a lot of things but do them anyway.
10. When people are nice to me, unless I know them well, I can't help but be suspicious that they're setting me up for something. Thanks, grade school bullies, for making me so paranoid.
11. I do not like watching wipe-out videos where people are injured or killed. For some reason, this surprises a lot of people.
12. I am fascinated by cruelty in general, and the amount of creativity that goes into causing suffering.
13. I have an iron grip on my emotional response. Some people say crying is cathartic. I mustn't let myself cry. If I do, it triggers an asthma attack and sometimes also an anxiety attack. Crying has *never* made me feel better. It always makes me feel much, much worse.
14. I am fairly sure I developed asthma because of Irving spraying Agent Orange over my house when I was a kid.
15. I am fairly sure my gut issues were caused by antibiotic use in my childhood.
16. I have an iron grip on my breathing. If I start sucking air, like many people do when they are exerting really hard, I get an asthma attack. Therefore, when I exert, I am always focusing on my exhalations, timing them, and doing all my inhalations through my nose. As a result, I've had a classical voice instructor tell me with admiration that I have "lungs of steel." Not bad for an asthmatic....
17. I learned at a very young age that I have a strong ability to manipulate people. After experimenting with it briefly as a kid, I decided it was unethical, and now I only ever use this ability within roleplaying situations.
18. I have learned I am very good at stealing physical items, even right under the nose of others. This is a skill I only ever use at LARP.
19. I have been trained in techniques of how to kill and maim. I do not use this anywhere.
20. I cannot bring myself to personally put an animal out of its misery. I consider this to be one of my greatest shortcomings.
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Bad Ass Dash Review. [Sep. 14th, 2014|01:59 pm]
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Pro
- Course was solid, over all. Challenging hills, and a good length.
- Australian back crawl was a great obstacle. The hill leading to it was an obstacle itself. Though I have good, strong legs, I had to work them hard to make it through this one. Challenging, and the risk factor was not too high for those who had to really struggle to do it.
- The long, uphill tubes were another challenge. I imagined I was Bishop in Alien as I crept/slid my way through them. Lots of upper body strength necessary to make it through this one. Definitely not for the claustrophobic or those with great big butts. I could see a large person getting good and wedged. I found it a tight squeeze.
- The long, twisting, uneven trail through the forest. This was my favourite part. The downside is the trail is narrow and it was a bottleneck point because there were few places where people could squeeze to the side to allow faster runners to pass. That being said, I found my way and sprinted through the woods, while the vast majority appeared to take it at a snail's pace.
- There was a fire pit close to the finish line where racers could get warmed up.

Cons
- We arrived in plenty of time for my 11 am heat, but the parking lot was full. We were told by the attendant to drive all the way back to Best Buy and park in that parking lot. Shuttles were leaving from there regularly. I thought this was weird. The parking lot at Best Buy is not huge, so overflow from Bad Ass Dash would surely take all their customer parking spaces. Still, we drove back and parked there. There were about ten of us waiting, in all. A couple of the guys had been there at least 15 minutes and had seen no shuttles. We waited at least a half hour and no shuttles came. Finally, one of the women drove us back to the site, because she didn't want her kids to miss their run or to see their Dad run. When we got back to the site, parking was available, but at $20. Emails told us parking was $10. Not cool. And no, shuttles were not being sent to Best Buy, but to a parking lot somewhere a few blocks behind Best Buy. We'd all been given incorrect information.
- The registration line was horrendously long, and being shunted into a building through a narrow doorway. We waited well over an hour to get my racing kit. They needed a LOT more people processing contestants.
- Several obstacles were removed by the time I ran. Some had no one there, and no explanation of what to do, so no one did them. One of the water stations had no water by the time I got there. Good thing it wasn't a hot day.
- I saw no places where people could shower or get hosed off.
- Post-race snacks included a giant tray of loose crackers. Uhh, everyone is COVERED in mud. No one wants to reach into crackers when covered in mud. This was a strange and bad choice for food.

DANGER
I realize there's an element of danger in these races, but this is the first time I felt so paranoid of injury at an event. For this, I give this set of cons its own section.
- Pontoon bridge obstacle. This was problematic for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was the absolute worst bottleneck point in the entire race. I'm fairly sure I was stuck in line for this obstacle for a solid half hour. The reason there was such a bottleneck is because it was extremely unlikely anyone could do this obstacle quickly, and only two people could go at one time. Floating plastic cubes were tethered together in a very unstable bridge across a stream of unknown depth. I'm not sure even one person made it across on their feet. The chances of smashing your head off a pontoon while falling were high. The water appeared to be deep, and was so muddy that the bottom could not be seen. If anyone went under, no one would be able to see where they were. As I came up on my turn, I turned to a couple of the volunteers and asked, "How deep is the water?" They laughed and said, "Oh, 6 feet. No, thirty feet!" I said, "I ask because my asthma is bothering me, I cannot float, and water pressure on my chest often makes my asthma flare up suddenly."

That's when they realized I was asking for a damned good reason. But they still didn't know how deep it was.

I looked at it again, and figured I could probably belly creep my way across, and if I fell, I had to fall to the left where I could see a rope I could pull myself with if necessary. Even belly creeping was difficult. I made it. Just.

I don't think there was a life guard posted at this obstacle where there was a serious risk of drowning if someone fell off and bumped their head.
- Scaling wall with a rope. This sort of obstacle is normally one of my favourites. A rope hangs from the top of a tall wall. You grab the rope and walk up the side of the wall. The other side can be descended in a similar fashion. So I thought, "I've got this," and I walked on up the wall, piece of cake. On the other side, I slid my body down a bit, got a firm grab on the rope, and ... THE ROPE WAS NOT ATTACHED TO THE TOP. There was a lot of slack on that rope. I went into a straight fall down the wall, scraping the shit out of my elbow and giving my first-ever scream of terror at an obstacle race. Fortunately, I'm tall and hit the ground before the rope caught up suddenly. I kept my knees soft and landed ok. However, I heard someone else dislocated their shoulder on this obstacle. I'm not surprised. Someone shorter than me would've been caught up suddenly on that rope. Jebus.
- Mixed grouping of adults with children. For some bizarre reason, the 7-13 year old contestants had a shared course with the competitive adults. This was terribly dangerous, in my opinion. On some of the obstacles, a 200-lb adult falling, losing their grip, or losing control could result in pretty devastating injuries to another adult, let alone a 50-lb kid. The absolute worst was at the...
- Slip and Slide. When I saw kids were going down the same high speed slip and slide obstacle event as adults, I stopped and said, "ARE YOU SHITTING ME?" Of course, people weren't exactly taking turns and making sure the area was clear before jumping on. I moved to the side furthest away from the most kids and sat on my ass. At first, I didn't slide too well, but then the speed came from nowhere. It was like I'd been shot from a cannon. When I realized I'd lost all control, I immediately laid down on my back, arched my back up, and raised my head in an attempt to slow my speed, increase stability, and minimize damage to myself. I shot past the end of the tarps and kept going full speed for a good 30' or so. This was the second time I've screamed at an obstacle. There were people whizzing past me at high velocity. It was like a firing range where the guns are shooting out bullets made of soft muscle and breakable bones. knightky had been watching this obstacle. He saw numerous injuries, some from people wiping out, but even more terrifying, some from people hitting big rocks at the end of the tarp.

I don't know what the injury tally would be at this event, but it had to have been high.

I saw a few people in slings. But worst of all, at the end of the race, I saw a pallid, dead-looking man being rushed to an ambulance on a gurney while paramedics administered CPR on the run. Someone else saw someone being rushed away on a gurney with an oxygen mask. I don't know what happened to them. Maybe a heart attack, which could happen at any time, really. But maybe they were lost in the mud water? I don't know.

I won't be doing this race again. The clusterfuck of the beginning was bad enough, but the unnecessarily dangerous obstacles are the clincher.

I sure hope those men are ok.

[Bottom of slip and slide]
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