Let's see, what's been going on lately?
Uno Dinero's (first of the Calender Girls stories -- not a collective title, by any means, Calender Girls comes from the damn song that gets stuck in my head when I think about them) first draft is done and a hardcopy has been proofread. I need to update the corrections on the computer, and print out another copy. Which I will read tonight, and edit tonight. I need to strain my mistakes through several layers, I suppose, to try and catch them all... However, I accomplished one thing -- I wrote a beginning that is not boring! Woo hoo for me!
Wednesday the household -- Trista, Kat and I went to the Bijou Theatre, Worcester's local art house cinema, and saw the movie Shattered Glass. Interesting pic, that. Hayden Cristensen (sp?) shows subtle depths in the wide eyed, bright and cheery Steve Glass, journalist who has a problem writing facts. The direction was good, the acting excellent. The story was interesting, brought home by the fact that my day job (and Trista's and Kat's) all involve telling the truth. Reminded me of the times when I wanted to fake data graphs for data I was supposed to have recorded but couldn't locate. Luckily, I didn't, but I thought about it... Just the way my mind works, I suppose. What fascinates me is that in the end, making sheizzer up takes more work that just going straight and telling the truth. The only problem with the truth is, it's hard work for one moment to tell it. In lying, the work is stretched out over time.
Thursday was gaming day with Jeff (fondly referred to as 'tater), Trista and I. There used to be another player Bob, but he's back in Michigan. The system is Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition. It's a homebrewed campaign, storywise all me, but it takes dungeons, maps and encounters ideas from the Necromancer Games product Tomb of Abysthor. Essentially, the module details a seven level dungeon set in a generic fanstasy world (the dungeon is located in a mountain range called Stoneheart Mountains, egads how ordinary is that?). The module's writing is pretty tight, many fascinating encounters mixed among a few dogs. I added an NPC with motivation, added in Recently arrived Nordic Gods, taking the place of forgotten ones, and then upped a random encounter area into a full part of the campaign. The module provides a scance view of wilderness encounters, to be fleshed out by the Games Master as he sees fit. Well, I did. One encounter is a village of gnolls, who are secretly in league with the forces of darkness (alas, I cannot be more specific, as the players might read this). Well, I've upped the ante, made the village just a cover for an army of gnolls, and designed five levels of gnoll soldier -- commoners (stats in the Monster Manual), footsoldier (gnolls with 2 levels of fighter), sergeants (gnolls with 5 levels of fighter), shadowcurrs (silent killer ninja types, with 5 levels of fighter, 1 level of rogue), and warchiefs (gnolls with 7 levels of fighter, 1 level of rogue). I think a shaman is in the works, but he won't show up for a time. Anyway, the story from last night was this: characters have returned from a foray into the mountains, and dangerous encounters in the mountain dungeon. I asked, before X-mas break, what the chars wanted to see in the future. Tater suggested gnoll activity, so I gave it to them. Assassin Shadowcurrs with lists of people to collect the heads of. Why heads? Well, in the magic world of DnD its more difficult to raise dead when the head is missing. The characters managed to stop the gnolls from going on the rampage through town by helping to start a massive riot of fear and terror. The gnolls have been ravaging farming communities in the country side, and all the refugees seem to be choking the walled city of Bards Gate. So, all these bodies become a dangeous prospect when alarum bells sing... Could be that the player characters ultimately yielded a higher body count than if the gnolls had run amok, but who knows? What will happen next? Well, the remaining nobles are gathering to discuss a message left at one of the assassinated men's houses, to decide what the city must do. The message is this: This Is The Fate of All Warmongers! The Noble beheaded was indeed outspoken about initiating a strong military campaign into the gnoll territories, and... A majority of the nobles remaining, have all been on the side of neutrality and not provoking a war they are ill prepared to wage or ill funded to maintain... Their next step will be to send a peace party to the gnolls. Others in the city have other plans, however, and may use this peace party to their advantage... More on this later, I suppose.
On a non gaming note, Thursday had to be one of the best days at work in a long while. Marco and I have been working to get a new motor controller up and running. Well, we were stoppered at almost every turn. Yesterday, before the Italian came in, I solved the problem. Man, was he bothered! He looked so jealous! He then tried to top me throughout the rest of the day, and at one point, he did demonstrate that he had more information than me -- he told me the fascinating way that CD readers/writers work (the equipment). But, I was still the one who succeeded with a machine that he eventually declared "is broken." Ha!
Friday is here, and I'm sleepy as all get out. I don't know what the plans are today... Grocery shopping is among them, however. Fridays at my Umass Job are days when Pete (the boss) wants to go home early. I don't think I'll argue much at the idea. Hopefully, shortly after lunch, I will vamoose.
So, what's my job? Well, I am a "lab commander" (Pete's terminology) who does just about everything in the lab. I set up equipment, run experiments, analyze the data, write parts of the final papers, order things, clean up, write a crap load of programs (I even have a part time second job doing this for another lab, and a part time job as a writer, how do I have time to sleep and have fun???? Somehow I manage.)... Just about everything in a lab setting. I started here in October 2001, just 21 days after planes were hijacked after taking off from Logan Airport (in Boston, about an hour-and-a-half from Worcester) and slammed into the Pentagon and the Trade Towers. I work with the Physiology Department, in Dr. Peter Grigg's lab. At our first meeting, he told me he was more of a neurologist than a physiology type, and this comes through in his experiments. Currently, we are working on two dimensional stretching of rat skin, while monitoring the output activity of an innervating (that is still attached to the skin) nerve. If removed properly, a skin and nerve sample (which is kept moist in a good buffer solution) will live for over eight hours away from the body it was originally attached to. When I started, we were stretching rat ligaments, now I'm stretching rat skin in a plane... Just call me Stretch!
I don't do the surgery. I'm not very happy with cutting rat skin and such. The rats are alive when we do this, though anaesthatized. They go to sleep, feel nothing, and just don't wake up. Bothers me though. But, as Vonnegut said in Slaughterhouse-Five, "So it goes..."
Last night, I read volume two of Uzumaki -- a japanese horror manga (comic) which shows the strange, macabre and surreal events surrounding a Japanese town that is 'infected' with the titular spirals. 'Uzumaki' means 'spiral-shape'. Disturbing, fascinating and wonderful. Excellent art, interesting stories. Each chapter is a fresh story, but the whole thing is somewhat continous, and a couple of the chapters feed directly into one another. I look forward to volume three! Of the few manga I have actually read, this one is striking me as quite well done.
Other books I've read recently are: Hardfreeze -- volume two of Dan Simmons' series of harder than hardboiled crime novels. Excellent! And fast! Wham-Bam! Good reads!
The Dead Past -- dunno if this is a series or not, I tend to think so. Tom Piccirilli writing a cozy-yet-uncomfortable (most of his stuff is deliciously uncomfortable, unsettling, and chilling) mystery starring an inquisitive grandmother and her reluctant sleuth grandson, who try to figure out why the murdered body of a town troublesome punk ended up in her garbage can...
I've started reading The Soft Touch, a gold medal novel by John D. Macdonald, and it promises to be a gripping thriller, but I haven't finished it yet. As I try to write everyday, I try to read every day, too. Now, I just have to find the time to draw every day (practice my manga skills). Not sure what my next story will be... Maybe I'll work on a short screenplay to shoot locally. Trista's friend Dharia (one of the stitch n' bitch crowd, who also taught me how to swing dance) has an apartment with the creepiest attic -- the perfect place to shoot some kind of icky horror/suspense story... I just have to think of a story that'll work with what I got -- amateur actors, very little money -- and do justice to the space. Hmmmm.