How To Cook an Omelette (Alien Edition)

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Imagine you are an alien with a modest grasp of the English language. You have never been to Earth nor met any humans. You learned English from a straight translation of a dictionary. You enjoy reading human books even if you don’t fully understand some elements. One day you find a cookbook. The idea of eating real Earth food is enchanting. After much deliberation, you choose one of the simpler recipes; an omelette.

So, do you, an alien with a modest grasp of the English language, think you could cook an omelette? Let me answer for you: probably not but with a little help maybe.

We will ignore the difficulty in obtaining all the ingredients and the ambiguity of a recipe that calls for eggs. What kind of eggs? Fish eggs? Snake eggs? Dinosaur eggs? No, you won’t have to deal with that conundrum. Fresh chicken eggs will be provided along with the proper spices and fillings.

So, where does the difficulty in preparing an omelette come from? For starters is there air in your alien kitchen? If there is air, what is the air pressure? What is the temperature in your kitchen? Air pressure, temperature, and humidity can affect cooking times and ingredient stability. Even the small variations on Earth are enough to require conversion charts.

Air pressure is measured in pounds per square inch which means nothing to you. A pound is 0.4536 kilograms and a kilogram is … you don’t happen to have a Kibble balance do you and do you have an understanding of Plancks Constant? Can you measure the precise number of atoms in an object? You know what, forget about that nonsense. Here’s a barometer/thermometer combo. Pressure should be between 29.2 and 30.2; temperature between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not that the environment is close enough to Earth’s you can begin. Your omelette recipe says to heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. How hot is “medium-high heat”? Some recipes, mostly baked dishes, will specify a temperature in Fahrenheit. Do you know how to calibrate a temperature measurement device in Fahrenheit? Don’t worry most humans don’t know how Fahrenheit is calibrated, let alone the temperature of medium-high heat, so we’ll allow you a human stove/oven powered by the latest in fusion batteries. I’ll even throw in a frying pan.

Now you’re ready to heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Wait, you do have measuring spoons right? No, well look at the inside front cover of the cookbook and you’ll see that one tablespoon is one-sixteenth of a cup or fifteen milliliters or half a fluid ounce. No measuring cups either huh?

Well, one fluid ounce is 29.5735 cubic centimeters. There are one hundred centimeters in a meter and one thousand meters in a kilometer. Light travels at 299792 kilometers per second. A second is … okay, I’m just going to give you a clock but you have to do the rest of the work.

At this point, you have a properly pressurized and heated kitchen with a working stove, frying pan, measuring utensils, and clock. I have one more gift for you; a set of cooking utensils(spatula, spoon, knife) and a plate.

Now you have everything you need to cook an omelette.

I’ve Seen the Endgame (no spoilers)

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I started today off very lazily. After drifting in and out of sleep for a couple of hours, I got up around 4 pm. (Note: I normally sleep between 6 am and 2 pm.) I put a small load of clothing to wash before heading to shower. After my shower, I set the clothes to dry and I started browsing tumblr and Facebook.

The day before I had checked online to see which showings of Endgame were sold out. Most of the early evening showings were but the later ones were still available. I didn’t want to go out to the theater so late at night and have to walk home at an even later time. I had figured that I would have to decide before 8 pm in order to have time to get to the theater and get in before I was forced into a side seat in the front.

Just before 6 pm, I received a phone call from work asking if I was okay. I replied that it was my day off, wasn’t it? Guess what, it wasn’t. I was given the option of not coming in because it was a fairly slow day and my position, jewelry counter, isn’t strictly essential. I decided to go in and recover what few hours I could. So I rushed about to change into work clothes and hurried to the bus stop. I just managed to catch the 6 pm bus.

After getting to work, I started thinking about going to see Endgame afterward. My store is in the mall which is right next to the theater. The latest showing was about an hour after we would be getting off work, giving me plenty of time to get a good seat. On the con side, I had not eaten before rushing off to work and there was nowhere besides the theater and their inflated prices to get a passable meal.

I flip-flopped several times over the course of a few hours until I committed to seeing the movie tonight. My plan was to fortify myself with a root beer and snickers bar from the break room vending machines.

As I rounded the corner of the mall I saw the theater parking was full and overflowing into nearby mall parking. I nearly walked straight home but I had committed myself to this course of action no matter how foolish (but harmless) it was. A line hugging the side of the theater again tested my resolve. Were these people in line to buy tickets? Was the line to an earlier showing this long? Once closer to the theater I saw the line was constrained by a pair of retractable queue poles and not nearly as long as I had feared.

After buying my ticket, I joined the line I had seen on my approach. Not long after the line was moved inside to the short maze next to the ticket taker station. A police officer walked from end to end informing people this was the line for the 11 pm 3D showing of Endgame. I was seeing the 11 pm 2D showing of Endgame. I inquired about the line for the 2D showing and was directed to a line that had at most twenty other people. My fears of getting a bad seat disappeared.

About thirty minutes into the movie I started to feel a headache beginning to wrap itself across my forehead. Watching a movie in a theater, in general, has a chance of triggering a headache in me but combined with not having eaten an actual meal since the day before it was almost a certainty. I used some simple relaxation and pain management skills to push the headache aside for most of the movie.

Even with a mild headache and an empty stomach, I quite enjoyed the movie. It’s not perfect but nothing could be. For better or worse the Infinity Stones Saga is over and I’m mostly content with the ending we have been given.

Rating 4/5

The Night Bus

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The first time I rode the Night Bus was an accident.

During the holidays we ended up getting out just a little later than usual and I missed the last bus of the night. The stop was well lit and I had some surprises in my purse so I was more annoyed about missing the bus than worried about being out there late at night. As I sent off a round of “Hey can anyone give me a ride home?” texts to my friends, another bus pulled up. I quickly mass texted “Never mind bus just got here”.

The regular city buses were white and blue with silver chrome trim. This bus was scarlet and teal with black chrome. The door slid open and I climbed the shallow stairs that seemed more like a short ladder. At the top of the stairs, I looked for the machine to swipe my transit card; there wasn’t one. I turned to the driver and showed them my card. The driver just pointed me to the seats. When I tried to tell the driver my stop, they reached up and tapped the “Pull Cord For Stop” sign. So I walked back to the seats.

The seats were comfortably padded bench seats with seatbelts draped over them from back to front. I sat in the third seat against the window. The door closed and the bus pulled smoothly away from the curb. The bus turned off the regular bus route at the next intersection. I was wondering if I had gotten on the wrong bus line when the world flipped.

The street lamp lit city was replaced by a noonday sun in the desert. My head whipped around to look out the other windows. On either side of the two-lane highway, the bus was now driving on, was desert. Behind the bus, the highway stretched straight toward the horizon. Ahead the highway curved to the right. I started to stand up and heard a sharp tapping. The driver was reaching up their arm stretched inhumanly long to tap the “Passengers Must Remain Seated While The Bus Is In Motion” sign.

I felt the gentle sideways push as the bus took the curve and the world flipped again. Smooth concrete replaced the sky and domed lights the sun. The two-lane highway was now eight lanes inside a tunnel. I scarcely had time to notice the multicolored cars sharing the tunnel with the bus before the tunnel turned to the left. The tunnel was replaced by a city at night but the bus did not speed through this landscape. It slowed and stopped at a bus stop.

The size of the buildings around the bus felt weird to my eyes like the sidewalk was too wide or the buildings too close. The bus stop shelter towered over the bus. A woman waited under it. She was almost as tall as the bus but had no problem entering the door. The woman walked to the seat opposite mine ducking her head only slightly though she was at least four feet taller than me. She sat easily somehow without cramming or contorting her body between the seats.

“Hi,” she said, her voice deep and resonate, with a smile.

I glanced away in embarrassment from staring at her. “Hi,” I replied.

“You have the cutest voice. Are you riding alone?” No one had called my voice cute since I gave up on voice training.

“Thanks, yeah I was just heading home from work.”

“You work?” She tilted her head to one side. “Wait, how old are you?” Her eyes narrowed as she examined me.

“I’m twenty-three. How old do I look?” The bus turned right and the world flipped. The road was now lined with giant green and blue mushrooms.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I forget people from little worlds ride the Night Bus too. I thought you were a child.” She chuckled. “I’m Nora.”

“I’m Yenna. Have you been on this bus before?”

“Sure plenty of times. Is this your first time?”

“Yeah, I missed my bus and then this one showed up. What is going on?” The bus turned right and the mushrooms vanished. Another tunnel, this one had clear walls allowing travelers to see into the ocean they drove under. Fish swam in multi-colored schools. A whale glided overhead.

“It’s the Night Bus. At least that’s what everyone calls it. I really don’t know much else.”

“How do I get home?” I asked.

“Just pull the cord for your stop,” Nora said pointing at the cord that ran the length of the bus just above head height.

“But how do I know when my stop is?”

“Your stop is whenever you pull the cord. The next turn will take the Night Bus there and you can get off.”

“I’m not stuck on an adventure through strange worlds?” Another right turn, this time onto a cliffside trail overlooking snow-capped mountains.

“No, of course not. It might be strange but the Night Bus is still a bus. It takes you where you want to go. I like to ride through a few turns before pulling the cord, to see something different. You haven’t been stuck on the bus for too long have you?”

“No, I got on a couple of worlds before you. If you hadn’t, I might have been stuck for a while.”

“You would have pulled the cord eventually and figured it out yourself.”

“Do you ride the Night Bus often?” I asked.

“Only when I work the closing shift. I used to take the regular bus but like you I missed my bus and the Night Bus showed up. I find it relaxing to see these other worlds. Plus it gets me home faster and cheaper.”

“How much does it cost? The driver wouldn’t take my transit card when I offered.” Right turn into another clear tunnel looking out at a barren gray landscape and black sky. In the distance, domes full of plants offered the only color.

“I don’t think driver understands money. They’ve never accepted or asked for money. The Night Bus is free as far as I know. Maybe we’re racking up debt that we’ll have for in the afterlife.”

“Maybe we’ll be fated to drive Night Buses of our own until someone else takes our place.” We laughed through the next world.

“This is nice. I’ve never had anyone to talk to about the Night Bus before,” Nora said.

“You’ve never brought anyone with you?”

“No it doesn’t feel like the kind of thing you just show people, you know?”

“Yeah, that makes sense. ‘Come ride a bus through alien worlds with me’ isn’t something you just spring on someone and you can’t talk about it without sounding delusional.”

“Yes, exactly. I wish I could stay longer but I really do need to get home.” She reached up and pulled the stop cord. We rode in silence as the bus made a left turn onto a street in a city. I recognized the scaled-up architecture from the stop she had gotten on the bus. She stood and began walking to the front of the bus. She stopped and turned back to me. “I’m off tomorrow but I might ride the bus if you wanted to talk more.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow I guess,” I said smiling at her.

She smiled back. “See you tomorrow.”

I watched her wave as the Night Bus pulled away from the curb. I waited for two more turns before pulling the stop cord myself. The Night Bus turned a corner and pulled up to the bus stop closest to my home. I smiled at the Bus Driver and thanked them as I got off. The Bus Driver smiled back; their mouth showing too many teeth that were too square. I tried not to think about what the driver was too hard as I hopped off the steps and onto terra firma.

The Night Bus’s doors closed and it drove off turning left at the intersection and disappearing. I walked the rest of the way to my home wondering what I should wear on my date tomorrow night.

This Used to be My Job

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At almost midnight I stand before Grandma Whitkin’s grave. Buried earlier today. Ideally, I would have done this right after her death but the family doesn’t understand things like this. So I waited until it was just me and her. Just like old times, when I knew her as Susan.

Susan was a healer. Like most healers, she built up a residue of death in her body. It’s not hard to cleanse and purge the necrotic energies but she died suddenly, without warning, without preparing herself. The first time I got close to her at the viewing I could feel it. She won’t rise tonight or tomorrow but someday she would.

I kneel and plunge my left arm up to my elbow into the loose mound of dirt over the grave. Freshly turned graveyard dirt is a powerful conductor letting me reach the necrotic energy easily. I begin pulling it strand by strand out of Susan. It coils in my arm; contained, compressed. I control my breathing as my flesh tingles and fizzes under the skin. When I die, I have special instructions on how to dispose of my arm so no one has to do this for me. This was my job. Ensuring the dead stayed dead.

Well, the dead used to stay dead when it was my job but there’s a reason people like me retire early. I feel a blockage and pull hard. It pops free and a surge of necrotic energy burns up my arm. Something gives, blood flows; I jerk my arm out of the dirt. A ragged tear across my palm drips. I squeeze my hand shut and back away from the grave. Did I pull out in time or … A faint thud comes from the ground followed by cracking wood and the dirt begins to shift.

It’s been too long or I’m just not strong enough to do it properly anymore. The result is the same. After a few minutes, Susan begins to claw herself out of the grave. I pull my revolver and put two in her skull and one in her heart.

I wrap my scarf, I really like this scarf, around my bleeding hand. I wait a while to see if Susan will have a second rising and to see if anyone called the cops about gunshots in the graveyard. It’s all quiet for thirty minutes so I make a phone call.

“Hey Johnny, it’s Denise. I need a clean up in Northside Memorial Park Cemetery.”

“Denise? I thought you were retired.”

“Special job. It went a little sideways. One corpse, buried earlier today.”

“Ok, I’ll be there in thirty with my people. Stay safe. Bye.”

“I’m trying. Bye.” And then it’s just me and Susan waiting in the graveyard like old times.

Us – Reaction Post

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Yesterday, I went to see Us. Normally I don’t go in for horror and it’s kinda out of season but after sleeping on Get Out I knew I had to see Us in the theater.

I left the theater feeling unsettled. I walked outside and around the side of the theater into bright sunlight to record some quick thoughts. I accidentally ended up standing in front of the Us movie poster while recording. When I got back inside I was still feeling off. I didn’t really recover until the pre-roll for Shazam started an hour later. If I hadn’t gone to see Shazam, I don’t know how long it might have taken for me to recover.

Despite ending the film unsettled there were a few scenes that made me laugh. There was a tumblr post about how Jordan Peele has made the transition from comedy to horror. It pointed out that humor and horror are about building tension and the difference is how you release that tension. You can see this in many Key & Peele sketches that zig-zag between the two.

In Us, the bits of comedy never took away from the horror. The film didn’t linger in the comedy; it hit those beats and continued on. I do wonder if the comedy didn’t enhance the horror. Did those fleeting moments of mirth provide needed contrast to the near constant dread?

Some elements of the film, doppelgangers or clones, memories, personhood, are things that I often think about. I’ve touched upon them in some of my writing but not in a horror format. In a way, this film was made to scare me.

Rating 5/5

Spoiler thoughts under the cut Continue reading

I just read Paper Girls and so should you

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Paper Girls is a comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Cliff Chiang.

Go read Paper Girls right now. Don’t stop to read a preview or synopsis. Just go right now.

I somehow decided to read this series, without knowing anything about it beforehand, over the past couple of days. One of my podcasts just did an episode on it, which I haven’t listen to, but I don’t think that was the actual cause. I must have seen the name somewhere else as well but again without finding out anything about the plot or characters. It feels like my mind was wiped after I was convinced to read the series.

The titular paper girls are four teenage girls who deliver newspapers. The year is 1988. Something Strange happens to them. #scifi #surreal #mind bending

Early Spoiler: #time travel

Plot: Okay so the four girls end up on a time-traveling adventure due to two time-traveling factions from the future.

The time travel element is super well written. There are three or four timelines weaving among themselves that we see from the perspective of the paper girls as they try to get home.

There are knights riding pterodactyls. Clones. Lots of time travel movie references. Surreal dreams. Interesting looks at 2016 and 2000 from a 1988 perspective. Lot’s of good ‘80s nostalgia and perspective. Overall the series is a metaphor for current vs future generations conflict.

The girls are so great. Diverse racial, religion-wise, and sexually. They’re smart and brave and care for each other and stick together.

Listen you may be thinking by now this sounds like “Stranger Things with girls” and you’ll probably be thinking that until issue five when the time travel shenanigans things really start to kick off. That’s when you will realize Stranger Things is “Paper Girls with boys but not as good”. Stranger Things wishes it was half as good as Paper Girls.

I just flipped back through the first few issues to write the previous paragraph and I saw things that connect to stuff in like issue 25-26. I’ve only just binged the series. I didn’t even try to decipher the future language (there’s a partial key in issue 15ish) that is used throughout the series. There are layers to this story that I haven’t started to peel.

I don’t know why you’re still read this go read Paper Girls. Issues 1-27 are out now and the series ends with issue 30 so now is a pretty good time to get caught up.

And here’s a little taste of issue 1 under the cut:

Continue reading

Sunset Watching

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Little Suzie came out while I was recording the evening conditions. “Tía Mary said to come in for supper,” she said.

“Tell her I’ll be in a couple of minutes.” I checked the barometer and noted the reading in my notebook.

“You tell her.”

I laughed. “Ok, I will.”

“Is the sunset going to be beautiful tonight?” I had made a habit out of watching the sunset and recording my thoughts on it even if it didn’t have much meteorologic value.

“Maybe. Why don’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know.”

“Look at the sky and tell me what you see.” I flipped to a different section of my notebook and began making notes.

She shaded her eyes and looked toward the horizon. “I see clouds.”

“Are they thick clouds? Thin clouds? Fluffy clouds? Cotton candy clouds?”

“What’s cotton candy?” I forget sometimes how long it’s been since things fell apart.

“It’s sweet and fluffy like a cloud you can eat. Maybe we’ll make some one day. Tell me about the clouds.”

“They’re long and thin,” she said.

“Cirrus clouds. High in the atmosphere where they can catch the light and bounce it back to us. Horizon’s clear so the light won’t be blocked. Could be a nice looking sunset.”

“What’s the most beautiful sunset you’ve seen?”

“The most beautiful sunset.” I paused watching the clouds drift. “After the bombs fell, we huddled in the cellar for two days. We were outside the blast zone of course but we weren’t sure about fallout or like radioactive wind. The cellar wasn’t a bomb shelter it was just a cellar so it was lacking in certain accommodations. We decide to risk going out and into the house.

“When we climbed out of the cellar, the sun was just setting. The sky was washed in brilliant vibrant colors. Reds, oranges, purples, violets. You’ve seen them but not like that. And the scattered clouds caught the light and practically glowed. We were awestruck and just stared until the horizon turned black and the stars took over the sky.

“With the spell broken we raided the house for blankets, pillows, batteries, can food, water, clothes, whatever we thought we might need then we retreated to the cellar still afraid of radioactive wind. But we weren’t so afraid that we didn’t watch the sunset the next day and the one after that. The second night there were no clouds to break up the bands of color. By the third night, the colors were beginning to fade to normal.

“The colors of the sunset are caused by sunlight being scattered by the air. When you have mid to high clouds then the light has something to bounce off and the sky gets some texture and shape. After the bombs, the smoke and thick dust clouds cleared in the first day but the finer dust and ash took longer to settle. So for a few days, there was a thin layer of particulate to reflect the light and boost the colors.”

“Suzie,” her mother, the aptly named Big Suzie, called from the back door, “Dinner time.”

“I’m coming!” she yelled back while running toward her mother.

“You too, Toni.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said and slowly limped back to the house. We were lucky no bombs had dropped out here in the middle of nowhere. Then we were lucky more people came this way. Including Suzie.

“How’s the weather?” she asked, lending me her arm to get up the back stairs. I could have used the railing but this worked too.

“Oh not bad. Might rain day after tomorrow. Temperature is steady for now.”

“And the sunset?” I held on after reaching the landing.

“It’s going to a looker as long as the clouds don’t blow out but I doubt they will. You want to watch it with me?”

“Of course. Dinner first.”

“Of course.” It was a little awkward walking through the door arm in arm but we managed.