Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Monday, August 30, 2004

The New Name Game

I nabbed this idea from Rei.

Names don't just tell you about the people who own them, but also about the people who use them. For example, if you call me:

Georgina Veronica, you're probably my mom, and I've royally pissed you off over something, and even though I'm 31 years old and have a daughter of my own, it still sends a shiver down my spine like I'm gonna get grounded or something. Sad but true.

Jawjna Belnka, you're a Hong Kong government official, and you probably still have my resident's ID because I couldn't for the life of me understand the mangled onomatopoeia you made of my name when you were calling me over to the receiving window to get it.

Georgina, you're from the uber-rich branch of my family tree, the members of whom I see only when someone gets married or dies, but we all pretend like we're incredibly close despite the fact that you don't even know my nickname. Or you're a classmate from early grade school, in which case I apologize, because there are people who remember their seatmates all the way from kindergarten, but I am not one of them.

Veronica, you're most likely a bank teller or customs official, who will have to peer at me suspiciously because I've changed my hair about umpteen times since I had my passport photo taken. You may also be someone who is writing me a check, in which case, may I remind you to please include the 'Georgina', which is part of my name, and which will save me from having to argue with the aforementioned bank teller.

Nikki or Nik, you could be anyone from a new acquaintance to my best girl friend Jen. Whichever you are, you are a very astute and considerate person who calls me by the names I most prefer, so thanks tons, really. You might also be Sage, who occasionally gets the urge to address me on equal terms.

Mommy, you're Sage. Although you are prone to deciding that you're Mommy and I'm Sage. Or that you're Nemo and I'm Dory. Or Peter Pan and Wendy. Names are fluid where you're concerned.

Ma'am Nikki, you're Sage's nanny, or you're one of the flight attendants who used to work under me at the airlines. I tried to make you drop the 'ma'am' habit then, but it's been years and you still do it every time I run into one of you. You might once have been Julz or Jonette, but you have since stopped, under threat of physical violence.

Ate Nikki, you're my brother- or sister-in-law (one of Dean's sibs); and thank you again for compromising on 'ate' (which means 'big sister') instead of 'manang' (which has the connotation 'dowdy big sister').

Nikita, Nikette, or Nikki-cat, you're a friend from college or my magazine days, and I love you for making me sound like either a Russian spy or a French sex kitten.

Gig, you're Dean, and though you started calling me by this childhood name to annoy me, you have now gotten so used to it that you think it's (ugh) 'cute'. You might also be my stepdad, my mom in a good mood, one of my brothers, or a very close friend--so close you know that even though I dislike the name, I will still like you. Or you're a poseur who's overheard someone else call me 'Gig', and you think that doing so yourself will endear you to me. Which it will not.

Jigs, you're my mother-in-law, and you still haven't figured out how to pronounce 'Gig' in almost nine years of being family. On the other hand, in all that time, we've never clashed or fought--unless you count your apparent ongoing efforts to drown me in jewelry--so it's not like I'm complaining.

Ginge, you're Noel, and I suspect that you believe my full name is Ginger. It isn't, but I don't complain because 'Ginge' is easier to say than the other thing you call me, which is 'Fertility Goddess'.

Cheech, you're my big brother Richard, and if you do it again in public, I swear I'm going to break your other arm.

Ellis, you're Kate or Alex, and we're trying to save the world, quite possibly from ourselves.

Bee-yatch, you're someone who is writing or has written under me as your editor. You're also probably right, so I won't hold it against you. Or you're Richard, and you just called me 'Cheech'.
Nikki bit in at 11:14 PM :: ::
Friday, August 27, 2004

Today is The Duchess Who Wasn't Day.

For the life of me, I can't figure out who that is. Enlightenment, anyone?

Look, look!
My sister-in-law Jo (Dean's sister) has a blog, customized by me of course. It's not perfectly pretty yet, but she writes well (must run in the family...) about her experiences as a newbie in New York.

sleeping on clouds
I'm secretly decadent when it comes to linens. My bath towels, for instance, have to be big and fluffy, with threads that don't come off on your skin, unlike the skimpy scraps of terrycloth that serve as poor excuses for towels on the local market. My pillows must be both fluffy and firm, preferably those Italian ones that you cut out of vacuum-sealed packs and can then watch as they puff up miraculously before your eyes. (I dislike feather pillows because they tend to get limp in the humidity.) Even my toilet paper has to be at least two-ply, and preferably quilted. Single-ply toilet paper, in my book, is a travesty.

So it's with quiet martyrdom that I've been enduring the scratchy 180-thread-count beddings my husband and I have been sleeping on for nine years. For those of you who don't understand what I'm talking about, thread count dictates the softness of cloth. The higher the thread count, the softer and smoother the sheets. In civilized society (which excludes most department stores in the Philippines), 300 is considered the minimum thread count for comfortable bedclothes--anything lower is compared to sandpaper. 300-thread-count beddings are locally available in some specialty stores, but unfortunately, the higher the thread count, the more astronomical the price.

This week, though, I was lucky enough to find 800-thread-count bedclothes for under 800 pesos for two complete sets--in the Greenhills bazaar, of all places. It was a case of the wrong venue for a great product; as the shopkeeper lamented to me, none of their other customers could understand why sheets and pillowcases that look just like all the other sheets and pillowcases cost so much more. So they had to keep dropping and dropping the price until someone like me came along and snapped them up.

So now Dean and I sleep on beddings that are patterned with clouds and feel deliciously cloud-like as well. In fact, I'm having a harder time than usual getting up in the morning, the sheets are so damn comfy. Sometimes Sage and I just lie down on the bed and roll around, giggling with glee at the sheer decadence.

The Greenhills bazaar, by the way, has also come to the stunning realization that Philippine shoppers come in sizes other than small and smaller. I was able to pick up three tops and a cute skirt for under a thousand bucks--one of the things ya gotta love about this country is the shopping.
Trivia Quiz
Does plastic grow on trees?

answer to Wednesday's question
Everyone seems to know that cows have four stomachs: the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum. What's less widely known is that cows have no upper front teeth (which is why they need all those stomachs to digest their food), and are largely responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer! Yes, after CFCs and cars, the third biggest culprits are cows, due to the roughly 100 million tons of hydrocarbons they release annually by burping. Which means that burping can be environmentally hazardous; which means that my mother, who was once hospitalized for gas because she refused to ever burp or fart, was right all along.

Cow-rect! Jonette, Rei, and Katrina And like Katrina, I, too, have a second stomach, exclusively for dessert.
Nikki bit in at 1:33 PM :: ::
Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Today is Kiss and Make Up Day.

As if.

acting out
Jonette's recent post reminded me of my own college encounter with Tony Mabesa, lo, these many years ago. It went like this:

I was cutting class with some of my friends, based on the sterling logic that (a) Our teachers were always telling us that if we were thirty minutes late, we might as well not show up at all; (b) We would never get to Nat. Sci. from AS in less than five minutes; and (c) Hey, what's a multiplier of 6 between friends, right? So anyway, there we were, shooting the shit in the AS corridors, when this girl I'd never laid eyes on before traipsed up and asked me if I would be in her playlet for her Theater class.

"Why me?" I asked her suspiciously, examining the actually quite innocent-looking little Chinita girl for signs of madness.

"Because you speak English very well, and you're very beautiful," she replied.

"Oh, okay," I chirped, ever a sucker for shameless flattery.

So I ended up spending every afternoon of the next couple of weeks rehearsing to play the part of the evil-ish sister in Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author (not actually that much of a stretch, I know). When presentation day finally arrived, the class professor turned out to be Tony Mabesa.

"You are lovely," he pronounced when we had finished. "You have excellent diction, and you're a talented actress. But you need to learn to project your voice better. Speak up for me."

"Okay, sir," I tried, wielding my best Vin-you-had-better-show-up-on-time-dammit tones. (Yes, we have been friends for a long while... and he's always been un-punctual.)

"No, no, louder," Mr. Mabesa said. "Shout for me!"

"Sir, I don't shout," I reasoned.

"What do you mean, you don't shout?!" Tony Mabesa exclaimed, gesticulating theatrically (as well he might). "Everyone shouts. Pretend you're calling for a jeepney. Or a taxi, probably, in your case."

I looked at him blankly. "Sir," I said, with perfect sincerity, "shouting for taxis? That's what men are for."

And I never did become an actress, and now you know why.

Trivia Quiz
What's so odd about cow physiology?

answer to yesterday's question
In the very inappropriately-named Normal, Oklahoma, you can be imprisoned for "making an ugly face at a dog". In Maryland, it's illegal to play the song Short People on the radio. You can't play dominoes on Sunday in Alabama, you can't laugh after 10 p.m. in Hawaii, and you can't swear while having sex in Oregon. In Melbourne, men are forbidden to "parade in strapless dresses", but cross-dressing in anything with sleeves is just fine. In Minnesota, men's and women's underwear may not be hung out to dry on the same clothes line--how this applies to cross-dressers is anyone's guess.

doggone right: Ariel, Julz, and Jonette
Nikki bit in at 11:12 PM :: ::
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Today is Vesuvius Day.

Though I'm not exactly sure that's cause for celebration.

why the look went wonky for a while

Suddenly and somewhat stupidly, I belatedly realized that if I just shifted everything to the left and gave up some of my precious yet actually abundant white space, I could make the blog look nearly as good in 800x600. After all, according to my pretty new hit counter, 24% of my readers view in 800x600 resolution (among them Lisa, I figure). 66% view in 1024x768 (probably Alex), and around 10% view at some ridiculously high setting. (Said 10% is probably composed entirely of Amie's two-person household, 'cause she and Ed are just artsy that way...)

Anyway, since I like all the aforementioned people and want them to keep liking me, I valiantly sacrificed the white space. Then, of course, I had to modify this, and adjust that, and well, you know how it goes. It's not so much a tweak as it is a reorganization. Besides, I was always fairly left-wing in nature anyway.

Trivia Quiz
Why is dangerous to make faces at a dog in Oklahoma?

answer to yesterday's question
In no particular order, the six wonders of the world were: the hanging gardens of Bablyon, the gold statue of Zeus at Olympia, the temple of Artemis in Ephesus, the mausoleum at Helicarnassus (built for the Persian satrap of Caria), the colossus at Rhodes (made in honor of the sun god Helios), and the lighthouse of Alexandria. Only the great pyramid of Giza, built near the ancient city of Memphis for Pharaoh Khufu, has survived the ravages of time.

wonder-full: Ariel
Nikki bit in at 9:36 PM :: ::

Speaking of my Actor Brother...

He was in a hit-and-run accident yesterday. He's okay, but he broke his left arm, which is a little ironic since he's sort of an action star and generally comes out unscathed from such events onscreen. Aside from that, though, the whole thing played out pretty much like a movie (or several movies), as you're about to read.

Act One: Richard (my brother, duh!) is tooling along the road on his trusty motorcycle, en route to a meeting with his friend and colleague, Ronnie Ricketts. There are two cars racing with each other to one side of him, but he doesn't take much notice since it's a wide road and there's not much traffic. However, a roadblock suddenly looms out of nowhere up ahead; the cars swerve to avoid it, which sends them careening into Richard's front fender, which sends Richard flying through the air.

Act Two: The cars quickly flee, and the onlookers do nothing but look on, which I suppose is what onlookers do. Fortunately, a Pizza Hut delivery dude pulls over and helps Richard get his bike and his woozy self off the road. (And to think I used to revile Pizza Hut! Turns out they have lousy crust, but great delivery riders.) Pizza Hut Dude helps Richard unearth his cell phone and call Ronnie Ricketts. (I suspect my brother was in shock at this time, because although he had over a quarter-foot of shattered bone in his arm, his main concern was that he was going to be late for his meeting.)

Act Three: In time-honored heroic fashion, Ronnie Ricketts arrives with a car to whisk Richard off to the hospital, as well as a motorcycle-riding pal to take care of the bike. At the hospital, Richard is swarmed by medical and non-medical personnel--in particular, he is somewhat alarmed to see an orderly toting about five sealed packs of blood. "Is that for me?" Richard asks, wondering how he could have lost so much blood without even noticing. "Oh, no, this is for the O.R., not the E.R.," says the orderly. "I just wanted to get a look at you." Already disconcerted by the unprofessional behavior, Richard and Ronnie decide to transfer hospitals when a doctor friend advises them that the one they're in is not to be trusted for surgery.

Act Four: Richard's wife Snooky arrives at the new hospital, just in time to join him in the emergency room as they insert four inches of titanium into his arm to replace the shattered bone mass. Richard remains conscious throughout the operation and wants to know if they can give him pop-out claws like Wolverine, but the doctors sadly refuse. Instead, everyone from the surgeon to the orderlies keeps asking if he managed to get the cars' license plate numbers, when in fact he was busy spinning through the air at the time. Because he's an action star, they seem to think that, Neo-like, he should have been able to activate bullet-time, whip out a notebook, and jot down the plate numbers as he was involuntarily defying gravity.

Denouement: Richard is transferred to a private room for observation, and hooked up to a menacing-looking contraption known as a 'Vulcan frame'. He has now hopped film franchises from X-Men to The Matrix to Star Trek in under 12 hours' time. In the same half-day time period, his room is invaded by a reporter from Channel 7, despite the fact that his mother-in-law told me that I should memorize his room number, since the hospital had been instructed not to give it out to anyone. Snooky dispatches the reporter with her customary professional grace; and Richard doesn't really care because he's decided he's now a cyborg, and is angling to replace Jim Carrey in the upcoming revival of the Six Million Dollar Man.

Ya gotta wonder if his life is cinematic because he's an actor, or he's an actor because his life is cinematic.
Nikki bit in at 1:58 PM :: ::
Monday, August 23, 2004

Today is Ride the Wind Day*.

*celebrating the anniversary of the first man-powered flight

wash and wear
Charles's doctor recommends that he shampoo his eyelashes to prevent a recurrence of his chronic problem with styes in his eyes. Charles evidently finds this perplexing, but I'm not entirely surprised.

See, I'm betting that Charles washes his face in the same way that Dean (and every other guy I know who is not my actor brother) does. That is to say, he stands in the shower, rubs his hand once or twice over the bar of soap, scrubs the resulting lather haphazardly and somewhat viciously across his face, and rinses quickly.

This is in extreme contrast to the way most women wash their faces. First we stand in the shower or over the sink, and splash our faces until they're good and dripping wet, to prevent the cleansing product from sticking too much to the skin. Then we apply a dab of cleansing cream or scrub or gel or whatever to our clean hand or facial brush or sponge or that strange-even-to-me artifact of hygienic arcana, the 'face lily'. (But we never use soap, unless it's super-duper-wonderful specialty soap.) If the cleansing gunk is supposed to be lathered, we spend some time working up a good lather. We next massage said cleansing product gently into the skin, preferably using upward strokes, taking special care of the delicate eye area and the crevices on the sides of the nose (where dirt gets trapped, potentially forming--shudder!--black- or whiteheads, which no one else will ever see, but will bug us tremendously, because we'll know, won't we?). Then we splash our faces again, about 20 times to get all the product off; or we stand under the shower spray long enough to belt out one or two songs, which we would except that we're too busy remembering to breathe through our mouths.

The really annoying thing is, on the whole, guys don't actually have significantly worse skin than we do. Yet if we were to cease our ritual ablutions for, say, a day, we'd break out in zits and blotches before you could say "Neutrogena". Not to mention styes in the eyes.
Trivia Quiz
What are the seven wonders of the ancient world, and how many survive to this day?

answer to Saturday's question
Hoodie Hoo Day is a holiday on which people are encouraged to go outdoors at noon in order to wave their hands over the heads and shout "Hoodie hoo!" at the sky. Celebrated on February 20 in the Northern hemisphere and August 21 or 22 in the Southern hemisphere, it is intended to 'chase away winter and bring in spring'.

In ancient times, people sought to ensure the arrival of spring each year by electing a Winter or Summer King. This man was married to the overall matriarch figure of the town or village, and enjoyed all the rights and privileges of rulership for one year, at the end of which he was ritually sacrificed in a ceremony meant to bring an end to winter and bring about 'the renewal of the earth', a.k.a spring. Hoodie Hoo Day is nothing more than a sanitized version of this rite (because presumably it was getting a leetle challenging to find willing candidates for the role of Winter King).

hoodie hoo-dinis: Ariel (with special props to Rei for making me laugh with "Begone, Foul Enemy of Mine Village!")
Nikki bit in at 11:55 AM :: ::
Saturday, August 21, 2004

Today is Hoodie Hoo Day.

Welcome to the new blog!
Turns out I've been tinkering so much with people's blogs that I've actually managed to teach myself a good bit of HTML and CSS along the way. So I took a couple of online tutorials just to round out my knowledge, and voila! You are now seeing my very first proprietary blog template, hard-coded from the ground up by me own self.

I chose my somewhat ornate, see-rious old template at a time when it seemed everybody else in the blog-o-sphere was using these cheery, candy-colored looks. Now that everyone is all sober and professional-looking in the wake of the Blogger redesign, my old look struck me as kind of boring and stuffy. So I decided to go for elegant minimalism--to celebrate my blog's one year anniversary!

Thanks to Dean, Vin, Lisa, Jo, and Sage for letting me practice on their blogs. Jason will be so proud of me!

Trivia Quiz
What the hell is 'Hoodie Hoo' day, and how is it related to the Winter King mythos?

answer to Monday's question
Although it is the hardest natural substance on Earth, a diamond will burn if heated up enough. At about 763 degrees Celsius (That's 1405 degrees Fahrenheit), a diamond will combust and simply vanish, not even leaving a residue of ash. Only a little carbon dioxide will have been released. Diamonds are also surprisingly brittle; if you hit one hard with a hammer, it will shatter.

A diamond is 58 times harder than the next hardest mineral on earth, corundum, from which rubies and sapphires are formed. Synthetic diamonds--made from lithium, bone oil, and paraffin heated red hot in iron tubes--have the same properties as natural diamonds, but are considered inferior in value.

cut & clarity: Dean, Pauline, and Ariel (at least partially)
Nikki bit in at 4:22 PM :: ::
Monday, August 16, 2004

Today is Watermelon Day.

the naked untruth
So there I was coming out of the bathroom, and the first thing I saw was Sage,sitting on our bed and leafing through her parent's CD case, which contains our collection of porn--most of which is rather graphically decorated with images of joyfully-entangled groups of people in varying degrees of nakedness.

"Hello," Sage was saying politely to the depicted porn stars, "Why you all naked?"

Not wanting to screech at her to put it down and thus scar her for life with the perception that sexuality is bad, I just stood there and stared at her until she looked up and waved a disc at me. "Mommy, I want to watch this."

"No, sweetie," I found myself saying. "That's Daddy's. It's only for boys."

Gah. So much for liberal parenting.

Trivia Quiz
What happens to a diamond when you raise its temperature high enough?

answer to last Monday's question
If you spin a hard-boiled egg fast enough (about ten rotations per second), the egg will spontaneously rise on end and spin upright like a top. This is because friction between the eggshell and the surface it's on destabilizes the egg's spin and causes it to shift position. It only works with a boiled egg because eggs have more weight when cooked--enough to create sufficient friction for the effect to occur.

Raw eggs spin pretty interestingly too, though. If you spin a raw egg, then stop it, then release it, the egg will resume spinning, because the liquid inside doesn't immediately stop spinning when the shell is stopped. If you don't stop it again, though, what you end up with is probably a broken egg...

egg-sperts: Actually, I don't think anyone got it--or did I just not understand y'all? But kudos to Jovan for an earlier answer which started me off investigating the topic!
Nikki bit in at 11:16 PM :: ::
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Isle Notes: episode seven

the party
Elana Correze, Ellis Correze, Zoilo Itash, and the Barber Tarlun

the conspiracy (identified by the symbol of a hilt-upwards dagger, sewn on the right breast of their clothing)
Lysander, the False Bastard
Asela Puissant: female, 5'8", short cropped hair, angular features, lean and wiry; a member of the Raseldan family, who have the knack of jumping and staying in the air a fraction longer than other people
Minato: male, 5'4", loose attire, staff-wielding, Oriental-looking
Gabriel 'Gabby' Mansuetude: male, 6'3", muscular, green eyes (very rare on Isle), copper-colored ponytail; does not kill.
Admetus 'Addy' Dusk: Isle's finest Clothier/Tailor

Granny: an elderly woman; apparently Addy's servant
Mateus Rose, a banker of the Isle
the Fabulist: presumably the most powerful of the One and the Five who govern the Isle
an unnamed Herald

fuschia for tracing threads
blue for flying

Part One
Having arrived at the location of the true Bastard's imprisonment, the party is stunned to find Lysander, Puissant, Mansuetude, and Minato already present, though apparently equally taken aback. There is just time for Lysander to order his co-conspirators to attack the party before Mansuetude envelops the entire area in an atmosphere of overwhelming calm, leaving both groups feeling serene and disinclined to take any action, offensive or defensive.

Despite their enforced calm, the party is more surprised than ever when Mansuetude uses this advantage to attack--instead of the party--the false Bastard, literally beating him into unconsciousness. After giving her an opportunity to surrender (which she wordlessly and angrily declines), Mansuetude does the same to Puissant, and is apparently prepared to deal similar treatment to Minato, except that the latter signifies that he will take Mansuetude's side if Mansuetude can "produce a coin". Accordingly, Mansuetude takes a silver coin from a pouch, and, in a manner disconcertingly similar to Elana's power use as a Rich Man, purchases Minato's service for a duration.

His own companions dealt with, Mansuetude asks the party if they and he can converse. Upon their acquiescence, he withdraws his aura of calm and introduces himself as Gabriel ("Call me Gabby") Mansuetude, a member of 'the conspiracy'. In a back-and-forth exchange of questions and answers, he explains that he, the others, and his best friend Admetus are members of a conspiracy dedicated to developing their inborn knacks into abilities of consequence--what the party knows as 'Crafts'. In order to achieve this, the conspirators have for some time been ingesting a mysterious substance exclusively provided by the False Bastard, known to them only as 'ambrosia'.

To the best of Gabriel's knowledge, none of the group aside from Lysander knew what ambrosia consists of, nor were they aware that Lysander was anyone other than the Bastard Roman. He and Admetus had noticed some suspect changes in the Bastard's behavior, however, such that Gabby became convinced that something was well and truly wrong when Lysander had arrived for that evening's meeting wild-eyed and furious, with news of young people from the future with exactly the kind of power level they had been striving to achieve. When the party arrived and Lysander ordered their deaths, Gabriel realized that the Roman he knew was hardly likely to want to kill people who could potentially be of enormous use to the conspiracy in pursuit of their stated goals.

Upon further questioning, Gabby reveals that 'Lysander' is the name of a legendary thief, famous for having successfully stolen "from all seven offices" some 250 years ago. He sheepishly admits that there are seven positions of governance on Isle, not six as is publicly believed. The seventh is the Lover, a hereditary post passed on through the family line of the Widow's paramours.

Naturally appalled at the possibility that Lysander may be a nigh-immortal Thief, Zoilo searches the false Bastard's prone form. (Minato has been keeping both Lysander and Puissant unconscious with periodic strikes of his staff.) As feared and half-expected, Zoilo finds a miniature sap, the traditional tool (what Gabby calls a "focus") of the Thief's Craft. Zoilo tries to query the sap for answers, but it immediately begins trying to subvert him into a paradigm of thievery--clearly a treacherous and dangerous tool even without its master's guidance.

Using his Tinker abilities on less tricky objects, Zoilo discerns that the so-called ambrosia is, in fact, the blood of the true Bastard, who is being both imprisoned and sustained by the gigantic emerald which forms a portion of the wall in the very hallway in which they are standing. He learns from the pendant which Elias lent them that Roman cannot be freed from the huge emerald (which is linked to the emerald in the pendant) without dying, except with the assistance of "that which is greater" than the emerald.

Gabriel and the party are able to deduce that each of the seven offices must have an item such as the pendant, which is likewise linked to a larger gem of power. Tarlun tries to trace the unseen connection to the other items, but finds that they have been severed. As they all try to decide how to proceed with this knowledge, Minato suddenly turns and runs through the portal leading out of the hall.

Perplexed, the five new allies are dismayed to discover that the prone form of Lysander now bears the face and form of Minato--apparently the false Bastard had somehow switched places or identities in order to escape.

Part Two
After a hasty withdrawal (bearing the unconscious forms of Minato and Puissant), the allies travel to the residence of the Hollow, where they gain entrance by showing the Bastard Son on duty Elias' pendant(really the Bastard's symbol of office). However, although the Hollow acknowledges that they speak the truth, and recognizes Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo as people whose help she will enlist in the future, she is unable to offer much assistance, other than the knowledge that the eight tools of Craft associated with the Isle remain in her possession (except for the Rich Man's pouch, the Soldier's dagger, the Tinker's hammer, and the Thief's sap).

On Gabriel's recommendation, the allies then decide to enlist the assistance of Admetus, Gabby’s best friend and a Clothier or Tailor of some ability. Admetus' occupation--as well as his family name, Dark--are a source of some consternation to members of the party, particularly Elana and Tarlun. However, they decide to put their misgivings aside temporarily when the Thief's sap abruptly announces to Zoilo that its master is calling, and vanishes right out of Zoilo's grasp.

Admetus ("Call me Addy") proves to be an enormously fat man of effete and affable disposition. After hearing a brief and very incomplete explanation of the situation, he agrees to help, and is able to trace the threads that connect the Bastard's symbol of office to the other six symbols. All of the six prove to be 'greater' than the emerald; and the allies decide to journey to the location of the most powerful, in hopes of acquiring the aid they need to free the Bastard. Elana and Zoilo make a quick trip to the home of the banker Mateus Rose, in order to withdraw coins for Elana.

Leaving Minato and Puissant in the care of Addy's helper Granny, the six allies ride Admetus' flying carpet through the air to one of the forbidden areas of Isle, an apparently deserted forest. In the forest, they make their way to a rundown shack, which Gabby and Addy correctly guess to be the residence of the Fabulist. Zoilo learns from the door that the Fabulist is sleeping and must never be woken, for then everything that she has dreamed into existence will cease to exist.

Elana, Ellis, Zoilo, and Gabby enter the house cautiously, leaving Tarlun and Addy outside. Unable to find the large gem within the otherwise uninhabited house, they creep into the Fabulist's bedroom, where they find a drab-looking woman asleep under glass, with a ruby mounted in a white-gold tiara upon her forehead. Zoilo attempts to communicate with the gem, but this causes the Fabulist to stir in her sleep, instigating an alarming flickering of many objects in their immediate vicinity, including Zoilo himself.

Hearing Tarlun's voice raised menacingly outside, the four rush outdoors, where Tarlun is threatening Addy, whom he still distrusts. Admetus makes light of the matter, instead volunteering to try and trace the thread leading to the larger ruby from the Fabulist's tiara. Tarlun opens a portal to take the entire group inside. However, even as Addy performs his task, Tarlun takes one look at the Fabulist and panics, hissing, "It's the Dowager!" as he hastily cuts open a portal and flees. Gabby grabs Elana and follows, but Elana struggles free and returns inside the bedroom just as the portal closes behind her.

After more alarming fitfulness from the Fabulist--and corresponding flickering--Zoilo takes the four back outside, where there is no sign of Tarlun or Gabriel. They are searching around the outside of the house to make certain when the false Bastard suddenly appears, laughing disdainfully and rather maniacally. Zoilo instantly moves to subdue him, but the matter is truly resolved when Addy sits on Lysander, knocking the wind out of him.

Lysander appears to be very weak and unwell, and not only from the effects of this confrontation. He has just enough time to smugly inform them that he has passed the Thief's sap to Elana and Ellis' mother before he perishes of unknown causes.

Part Three
Before finding their companions or going to the twins' mother, the four decide to make another try at finding the Fabulist's ruby. They find a cellar door at the back of the house, which refuses to open for them, and which they are afraid to force for fear of waking the Fabulist. Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo are stymied until Admetus uses a thread to simply yank the door open.

Since Addy's girth prevents him from descending into the entrance, Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo go on without him into what, indeed, proves to be the chamber of the ruby of dreaming. From the chamber itself, Zoilo learns that past Fabulists used to pass into the huge ruby, but in recent years their essences have been absorbed by the current Fabulist (lending credence to Tarlun's assertion that she is the Dowager). He tries to communicate with the ruby, but is told by the chamber that the ruby will only speak to women, because men are motivated by desire, whereas the nature of dreaming is truth and reality.

Elana then addresses the ruby, which tests her first before revealing that it has known it would be approached by the eight Craftsmen of Isle, just not when. It asks her to display one of eight related abilities, and Elana calls on Ellis to render the traditional greeting of the Soldier.

The ruby then consents to answer three questions, each of which it answers with one or a combination of the eight Crafts associated with Isle. To the problem of freeing the Bastard Roman, the ruby replies, "Tinker, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Beggar Man." To a question which Nikki doesn't remember, it advises, "Beggar Man, Poor Man." And as to how to keep the Fabulist from awakening, the ruby's answer is, "Thief," which the trio takes to mean that the Fabulist will inevitably wake unless her Craft is stolen from her.

Questions answered, the trio leaves the chamber, only to find that Admetus has been accosted by a Herald, who sharply orders Addy to leave the premises immediately. Addy complies as slowly as possible, clearly not wanting to leave his allies behind. The Herald speaks into an insignia on the left breast of his uniform, through which he is apparently instructed to kill Admetus.

He is able to stab Addy before the trio can intervene; however, Elana is quick to apply some of her Sovereign Balm to instantly heal Addy from the injury. The Herald moves to attack the party with a blast of force that emanates from his body, knocking the heroes back and rattling the windows of the Fabulist's shack. He is able to attack once more before Zoilo knocks him unconscious with his hammer.

By then, it is apparently too late, as the Fabulist's door slams open, revealing someone standing awake in the doorway.
Nikki bit in at 11:49 PM :: ::
Monday, August 09, 2004

Today is Single-Out Day.

TV land
Dean and I had to move the furniture around to make room for the 25-inch TV that Marco graciously sold us at a low, low price (because he recently purchased a 29-incher for himself, the tech whore!).

It was high time, really, since we had been surviving with the same TV that Dean had bought way back before he and I were even a couple. This would make it a minimum of 12 years old, which I'm told is an exceptionally long life span for a television-- apparently TVs age in dog years or something. The poor thing had gotten to the point where the sound would simply cut out from time to time-- you'd have to get up and thump the set to get it working again-- and last week, the picture abruptly disappeared for ten minutes or so.

Hence the new set. It certainly is a change to be able to watch TV with the volume set to twentysomething, instead of in the high forties, as had become necessary with the old one. The television proved to be too large for our old bookshelf/TV stand in the living room, so now it lives in our bedroom atop my great-grandmother's Chinese teakwood trunk. This meant we had to move our bed to the center of the room instead of in one corner, which is odd because I now feel like I'm sleeping on the wrong side of the bed. On the other hand, we're much closer to the window and electric fan, so it's cooler, which I love and Dean probably hates.

But the most important thing is that I can now play with my PS1 again, since little girls will no longer be able to wander by and wrest the controller from out of my grasp. (She still has the old TV in the living room for watching-- shudder-- Barney, as well as her morning kiddie shows and evening telenovelas with the nannies.) And technology marches on...

Trivia Quiz
What happens to a boiled egg if you spin it on its side?

answer to Tuesday's question
The test I know about involves placing an egg in water about an inch deeper than the egg is long. If the egg lies on its side at the bottom of the water, then it's good and very fresh. If it lies at an angle, it's three or four days old; still good, but not so fresh-- the air inside the shell has expanded a little bit. If the egg stands on its end at the bottom of the water, it's about ten days old-- you can use it for baking, but it won't taste so great on its own. If the egg floats to the surface of the water, then it's already rotten and you should trash it.

I knew nothing about Jovan's spinning test, which turned out to be inapplicable, but interesting enough to merit its own trivia question. As for Jason's snake test, I still don't know if it works, but I'll give Jason cred for it anyway because it's just too cool. However, it's probably not too practiceable for most households-- do not try this at home unless you are on good terms with a snake or happen to be one.

eggs-traordinary: Katrina, Ariel, Dean, Jonette, and Jason
Nikki bit in at 1:40 PM :: ::
Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Isle Notes: episode six

If anyone is actually following the continuity, sorry I skipped Episodes 4 and 5. I was just too busy to write them the first week, and too sick the next.

the Widow of Isle: ruler of the Isle
the Bastard Roman (a.k.a. Lysander): second-in-command of the government of the Isle
Asela Puissant: an intimate of the Bastard
Mateus Rose: a banker summoned by Elana on Isle during the Age of Heroes
an unnamed healer
Gretchen Itash: Zoilo's next-younger sister; one of a pair of twins
Theresa Itash: Zoilo's next-older sister
Elias: the deceptively youthful-looking longtime lover of the Bastard Roman
Cravan: an under-city dweller
Elana Correze: a thirtyish version of Elana; Rich Man
Ellis Correze: a thirtyish version of Ellis; Soldier
Zoilo Itash: a thirtyish version of Zoilo; Tinker
Alain: Elana's personal Banker
an unnamed female Candlestickmaker
the Candlestickmaker Thelaia: transported the party back to their past
the Barber Tarlun: friend and official guardian to the party
the Candlestickmaker Sabellia: Thelaia's twin sister

Part One
Still being pursued by a throng of adoring Isle citizens as they drive the accidentally-acquired carriage of the Widow, Ellis and Zoilo come to a halt and dismount as they face an oncoming phalanx of Bastard Sons, led by the Bastard Roman himself. Upon questioning by the Bastard, Zoilo admits that the carriage is occupied by Elana (not knowing that Elana has already discovered another passenger within, a drunken young girl who identifies herself as the coachman's daughter). The Bastard then asks Elana to step out, which she does, closing the door hastily behind her in an effort to protect the coachman's daughter from chastisement.

As the Bastard questions the three more intently as to their unlawful possession of the Widow's carriage, the erstwhile coachman's daughter tumbles out with an anguished cry, claiming responsibility for the whole affair, and apologizing to Roman for "wanting to pretend". It soon becomes clear to the party that the young girl is, in fact, the Widow of the Isle herself, not only drunk but slapped around a bit by Elana as they rode in the carriage. A green-clad young man, who accompanied the Bastard in his carriage, volunteers to escort the Widow back to her Hall, while the Bastard cordially 'invites' the party to his residence.

Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo quickly realize that the Bastard is highly aware of the minutiae of their lives, down to Zoilo's father's profession and the twins' upcoming birthday celebration. They tell him as much as they can of what has happened to them, Elana taking the lead since she was questioned first. As midnight nears, however, Elana remembers that she still has to spend three of her Rich Man's coins, and therefore asks the Bastard for permission to summon a Banker to his home. The Bastard apparently has no idea what 'Crafts' are, much less what a Rich Man is, and it is only with some hesitation-- and the encouragement of his compatriot, Asela-- that he agrees. Elana accordingly summons a Banker, only to wind up, to her chagrin, with Mateus Rose, a banker of the mundane variety, who is evidently so taxed by the summons that his nose begins to bleed. Elana deposits her surplus gold with him and dismisses him as quickly as possible.

Curiosity aroused, the Bastard asks Zoilo to demonstrate his abilities in turn, which he does by cutting the wooden table with a fork and gleaning the Bastard's true name (Lysander) from his ring. Asked to perform similarly, Ellis attempts to demur on the grounds that a Soldier's Craft is difficult to demonstrate without bloodshed. However, Asela turns out to be the very founder of House Puissant, so they engage in an initial skirmish, which Ellis handily wins using the Craft of the Lightfoot-- an ability that only Asela had been thought to possess. This is followed by a prolonged and rather spectacular aerial combat in which Ellis also triumphs-- though not without some difficulty, and, as anticipated, a modicum of bloodshed.

The Bastard then challenges Zoilo to a more explicit display of power-- a battle between the two men. Using a combination of his Tinker and Prophetic abilities, Zoilo manages to evade the Bastard's first two assaults (a chi attack that appears to project a devastating energy form of his body). Impressed, the Bastard informs Zoilo that no one has ever survived three of his attacks, and the Bastard's staff confirms to Zoilo that he has "no chance". Zoilo wisely surrenders; even so, the Bastard brings his staff down on Zoilo's back with such force that Zoilo is unable to rise from the pain and injury.

Using the Tinker's Craft, Zoilo acts to heal himself, and finds himself compelled to answer the mental question, "Higher or lower?" He chooses 'lower'; and it is only because they are in the Age of Heroes that he realizes this means his next-younger sibling will have to take the injury for him. Distraught, knowing that the Craft-less Gretchen cannot survive such physical trauma, Zoilo asks the Bastard to send a healer immediately to the Itash household.

The Bastard refuses, instead challenging Elana to use her last coin to heal Zoilo's sister. Elana hesitates, knowing that spending the last coin in her Rich Man's purse will render her unable to open it again for some time. However, after much agonizing, she decides to make the sacrifice if it is the only way to save the girl's life. It is only after Elana makes this decision-- but before she spends the coin-- that the Bastard dispatches a healer, assuring the trio that the healer will arrive in time, and advising them to retire to their bedrooms as he does so himself.

Part Two
The trio go to their rooms only after Zoilo attempts to leave through the courtyard, where he is politely but firmly detained by the gate guards. As the twins enter their chamber, Zoilo approximates the Craft of the Opener (which is only possible because there is no Opener at this point in time) to open his bedroom door into Gretchen's bedroom at the Itash home. Arriving at his destination, he uses the Tinker's Craft once more to heal his sister, only to be asked again, "Higher or lower?" Despite his attempts to negate it, he is compelled to make the choice, thus dooming his older sister Theresa to the same life-threatening fate. Even as Gretchen's injuries disappear, Zoilo commands the house to protect Theresa, only to learn that it is pointless to try using his power to countermand his own power. An image of Zoilo commands the house to let him through and inflicts the same damage upon Theresa.

Meanwhile, at the Bastard's residence, Elana is elated at the stroke of midnight, when her Rich Man's purse once more fills up with coin, enabling her to help Zoilo's sister. She attempts to summon a Healer, only to encounter the same problem she faced earlier with the banker-- a Craft-less healer is summoned, with obviously deleterious effects to the man's physical and perhaps even mental health. She dismisses him hastily, and decides that she needs to be at the Itash home itself in order to effect healing.

Ellis Lightfoots the two of them over the walls of the residence, then activates the Runner's speed to get them to their destination in time. She miscalculates, however, crossing the waters around Isle and nearly slamming them both into the surrounding Wall. She manages to get them to Zoilo's house, though not before Elana sustains some serious abrasions on her back from an actual brush against the Wall.

Heedless of her own injuries, Elana races upstairs, where she calls for some healing salve to help Theresa. She is transported to a darkened room lined with shelves littered with bottles and jars. She grabs an armful, one of which Zoilo discovers to be Sovereign Balm, a panacea so effective that a small amount begins to heal Theresa's hurts even before it quite touches her body. Zoilo uses the last traces of balm on his fingers for Elana's back and Ellis' trembling legs.

Crisis resolved, the trio returns to the Bastard's residence using Zoilo's Opener trick. As they prepare for bed in their respective rooms, Ellis' Soldier-sharp hearing picks up the sound of the Bastard's carriage leaving the courtyard, and even the Bastard's voice as he tells the driver to drive to the "Widow's Peak" (a very low-class and somewhat disrespectful term for the Hall of the Widow).

Ellis tells Elana, and requests the adjoining wall to inform Zoilo in the next room-- which results in an intriguing scene in which the figures on the fresco of Zoilo's room animate and attempt to deliver the message in pantomime. After some minutes, the three gather in Zoilo's room to discuss what they should do. Using Zoilo's Tinker abilities, they spy on the Bastard for a time via Zoilo's mirror, but he seems to become aware of the scrutiny, turning towards the watching trio.

As Zoilo hurriedly deactivates the mirror, a knock is heard on Elana and Ellis' door. Ellis sneaks through the windows to answer the door from within, and only then learns that the youthful-looking figure who accompanied the Widow back to her Hall is in fact Elias, the supposedly elderly lover of Roman. Elias reveals that the Bastard is not Roman, but rather an impostor who plans to kill the party because they constitute a threat-- among other things, they might find and free the true Bastard.

Ellis rushes to the next room to share the stunning information. They urge Elias to leave them so that his complicity will not be discovered, and he does so after cautioning them once more. As the trio frantically tries to decide what to do, Ellis once more overhears the false Bastard's voice: "Do it now while they're sleeping." Zoilo quickly uses the Craft of the Opener again to transport them to the under-city of the Others, in front of the vacant home of the Wanton.

Yet again, our party tries to figure out what to do, politely declining the aid of passer-by Cravan, apparently a dweller in the under-city. They decide to move their deliberations to the nearest temple of the Widow, where Elana is startled to find a Candlestickmaker's candle forming out of nowhere in her hand. As with Zoilo previously, she finds herself facing the mental question, "Yes or no?" The trio agree on 'yes', and they are plunged into blackness.

Part Three
When they are able to see again, the party finds itself in a bedroom, which, as Zoilo quickly ascertains from the nearby objects, is a room at the Inn of the Unseen Gables. All of them are visibly older than they were, somewhere in their thirties. They also find luggage which clearly belongs to them, including Elana's valise, which contains a checklist. The checklist is water-damaged and illegible, except for the following final items: "Go to the Inn of Unseen Gables," "Wait for our younger selves to arrive from the past," and "Follow the plan." Zoilo also learns from various inanimate sources that the Elana of this time period is 'a bitch' who is hated by Ellis.

As they puzzle over what has happened to them, they are mysteriously transformed back to their original age-- not 18 and 19 as they recently were on Isle, but in their early twenties, as they had been when they first received their tools of Craft. Even as this occurs, Ellis hears their own voices coming towards the room, presumably from the hallway outside. The trio quickly rushes to the balcony, which Zoilo causes to lower them to the ground, then return to its original position.

Although they initially manage to hide from the thirtyish Ellis and Zoilo, the party quickly comes under attack from their older selves. Elana is forced to engage in a Rich Man's bidding war, as her older self tries to summon her using the purse. Ellis barely manages to avoid the physical attacks of her counterpart, while Zoilo wrests control of a nearby cart wheel from his other self, in order to move them far, far away. Unfortunately, the wheel is activated just as Elana runs out of money and is forced to come face to face with her evil-looking other self.

Initially, the older Elana seems sneering and disdainful. However, as they talk, she begins to reveal another personality, one that seems helpless and lost. She tells Elana that the Widow herself paid the Candlestickmaker to give Elana the candle that took the party back into the past, perhaps because she wanted them eliminated. Their disappearance created a void, which was then filled by the older Elana-- who "came back from the Land of Night"-- and her companions. The thirtyish Elana warns that Candlestickmakers are not to be trusted, "not after Alain". She also shows Elana a thread that protrudes from the skin of her back, reminiscent of the work of the Tailor.

Meanwhile, Zoilo and Ellis, discovering Elana's absence, hasten back to the Inn of Unseen Gables. As they agreed, Zoilo makes short work of the older Ellis, sending her spinning away on his very useful wheel. Ellis attempts to Lightfoot her way to the balcony, only to be wrapped in stone in midair by the thirtyish Zoilo. Zoilo and his older self then engage in a Tinker-to-Tinker battle, in which Zoilo gains enough of an upper hand to free Ellis from her rocky prison. Ellis dives down to attack the older one, and Zoilo rushes inside to find Elana.

Struck by her older self's obvious despair, Elana asks why she hasn't used her Craft to free herself from the thread that binds her. The thirtyish Elana responds that she has tried, but to no avail. Finally, Elana uses her own coin to purchase the other woman's death, with her unspoken acquiescence. Thread unravels all around the older Elana's form, revealing that it was wrapped around the form of the unnamed girl from the Isle who was supposed to become a Tailor, but was instead killed by her intended teacher.

Outside, Ellis engages in hand-to-hand combat with the older Tinker, thrashing him freely until the return of her older self. Although Ellis holds her own, she gets the worst of the uneven battle until Elana's purchase unravels the other two as well, showing that they were entirely composed of thread. Ellis limps upstairs to join her compatriots.

Together again, they catch some much-needed sleep, afterwards deciding that the best way to make sense of everything is to return to the past and free the real Bastard. Elana hies off to withdraw money from the Bank, where she meets her personal Banker, Alain, with whom she apparently enjoys a very personal relationship. After declining an invitation to dinner, she withdraws an appropriate amount and returns to the Inn to purchase the services of a Candlestickmaker.

An unknown Candlestickmaker arrives in response to the summons; and Elana, remembering the words of her older self, immediately dismisses her in favor of finding Thelaia, the Candlestickmaker she dealt with previously. Zoilo activates a mirror to scry out Thelaia, and the party discovers to its delight that Thelaia is not only alive, but currently being badgered by their good friend Tarlun, the Barber.

Elana quickly summons Tarlun, and a glad reunion ensues. Tarlun reveals that it has been fifteen years since they disappeared. In that time, the Widow has declared war upon the Vast for not fulfilling her demands; Crafts have become much harder and less effective to use; and the Marchion as well as all the Barbers save Tarlun have died in the conflict.

The trio becomes even more determined to return to the past and repair matters. Thanks to Tarlun's abilities, they journey to the home of the Candlestickmaker Thelaia, who apologizes profusely for the confusion caused by her earlier mistake. She had been engaged by Elana, she explains, to return them to the point in the past when the Days of Blue Salt had occurred, since the death of the Tailor's apprentice had rendered the Hollow's return spell inutile. However, Thelaia mistakenly delivered the candle too early, thus delivering the party to a correspondingly early point in time. As for the older Elana's assertion that Thelaia had been paid by the Widow, Thelaia conjectures that there may have been some confusion between her and her twin sister Sabellia, also a Candlestickmaker.

More confused than ever, the trio prevails upon Thelaia to send them back once more, which she agrees to do for free in reparation for her mistake. Tarlun pleads with them to take him along, and they agree, thinking that his abilities may be useful in locating the Bastard. Thelaia provides Elana with a candle for their return before sending them on their way.

Part Four
Back in the Age of Heroes, the party arrives moments before Elias knocks on the twins' door. Ellis surprises him with her foreknowledge of what he has to say, and asks him if he has some possession of the true Bastard Roman in his keeping. Elias gives her an emerald pendant, and asks her to please find him.

Ellis returns to Zoilo's room with the stone, handing it to Tarlun so that he can use his Barber skills to follow the connection to Roman. Tarlun slashes his hand to spill blood, as he had to do in the future due to the lessening of power. Now in the Age of Heroes, he all but slices his arm off, and is only saved through application of Elana's Sovereign Balm. After some understandable confusion, he then slashes a portal to the green-tinged realm where Roman is being held.

As they spy the dim outline of a person behind a wall of green, the party (now including Tarlun) is confronted by the false Bastard Lysander, who calls upon his colleagues Puissant, Mansuetude, and Minator to join him in the upcoming battle.
Nikki bit in at 2:18 AM :: ::
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