Weekend Assignment: Lost & Found

Just a short note today, in answer to the latest Weekend Assignment. This week’s prompt asks:

Have you ever lost something important (or else just really unusual), only to find it again months or even years later? Were you glad to get it back, or was it no longer worth having by then? Tell us your tale of memorable things lost and found. Alternatively, if you never, ever lost anything important, tell us how you manage this nearly superhuman accomplishment. ūüėČ

Well, of course, I’ve lost things.¬† Sometimes they were just misplaced.¬† Once or twice I’ve had something stolen.

The most prominent example of when I’ve lost something, only to find it again later, is when I lost my copy of the “Jurassic Park” soundtrack.¬† I’m very protective of (and fond of) my music, and especially of soundtracks from great fantasy and science fiction films, so it was a pretty traumatic loss to me at the time.¬† It was while I was still in High School that it happened.¬† My family had gone on vacation – we used to go camping as often as we were able – and I took along this CD and my boombox (does that date me?) for a little musical entertainment on the camping trip.¬† I love camping.¬† But communing with the great outdoors doesn’t mean you have to do it in silence!

Anyway, when we got back home, the CD was nowhere to be¬†found.¬† I was devastated.¬† It was pretty much my favorite piece of music at the time (and my first movie soundtrack).¬† And I was thereafter denied such listening pleasure.¬† A year or two later, I got a new copy of the CD as a birthday present.¬† In a twist of cruel irony, within a month, I rediscovered my original “lost” copy.¬† From then on, I had two copies of the soundtrack.¬† I never told anyone this but my wife, because I was too embarrassed that I had merely temporarily misplaced my CD – and worse, that it had been in the very bag I had packed with my clothes during that years-past camping trip the whole time – and had so pined for it miserably when I should’ve just looked harder.

Having that second copy turned out to be¬†fortuitous, as it happens.¬† Because I more recently (in the past couple years) lost a whole case of some ten or twenty CDs – one of my copies of that “Jurassic Park” soundtrack inclusive.¬† By this point, however, my musical preferences had moved on to the entire “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack – and all three of those CDs were also lost.¬† I suspect I left the case in my old car when I sold it a little over a year ago (even though said car had no CD player) but I can’t really be sure.¬† I’ve replaced most of those lost CDs, however, and I am now primed to rediscover the lost CD case in some embarrassingly obvious place.

Now, the story of when I had something stolen is altogether another story, entirely Рand as a writer, a sadder one by far.  I may have relayed that tale somewhere here the blog pages already, but if not, it remains a story for another time.

Stephen likes Weekend Assignment

This week, our assignment asks us about writing “fan” letters.¬† (The title, in case you missed the joke, is¬†a riff on Facebook’s “like” button and fan pages – the modern and sophisticated¬†way to express your fanaticism.)¬† Here’s the Weekend Assignment:

How about a lighter topic this week? Let’s talk about FAN LETTERS. I have never personally written one, because the one time I attempted to, it came off, well, sounding kinda weird! LOL. Apparently I have NO talent for them at all! Nope. Nope. Nope. But how about you? Have you ever written a successful FAN LETTER? If so, tell us about your experience. Did you hear back from the celebrity? Was it a positive experience? Tell us all about it.

I almost didn’t answer this one.¬† Because to answer it truthfully is to expose to the world a deep, dark secret that I buried in past.¬† I thought I could escape what I did that day.¬† I thought I could move on with my life.

I was wrong. Continue reading

Weekend Assignment: What’s Hot? What’s Cool?

Yes, we’re knee deep in Summer, and the Northeast (not where I live)¬† is now like a well-done burger left on a Fourth of July Barbecue for too long.¬† And the grass is always greener on the other side, as they say, so our thoughts turn to how to stay cool in our warmer climes.¬† And here comes this week’s Weekend Assignemt to ask:

Summer is well underway now. If you live in the northern hemisphere, the days are long and the sun is on its way to being about as hot as it gets in your particular climate. How do you stay cool when the weather gets hot?

Well, of course, I stay cool by being cool.¬† Because I’m cool.

But enough about me.

You’re here because you want to know about all of the cool stuff I say and do here.¬† Like, how cool is my writing?¬† And how cool is Fantasy and Sci Fi?¬† Oh… wait… that’s not what this Weekend Assignment is about at all, is it?

Maybe this is supposed to be about how I hit the beach every summer, or go the pool each week.¬† Well… I’m a desk-jockey and evening MBA student.¬† No beach for me!¬† (Perhaps more’s the pitty.)¬† And, I can’t swim.¬† (Dear Wife has threatened on numerous occassions to make me take swimming lessons after I finish my MBA, if for no other reason that to equip me to rescue drowning children.)

Is it about how I use AC?  I use AC.

Bam!  Instant cool.

(Thanks to B.T., we actually have to keep it cooler in our house than we normally would, because we don’t want the poor tyke to overheat.)

Or maybe this post¬†should be about¬†how Dear Wife and I like to take weekend trips – when time permits (which it usually doesn’t) – up to the mountains, where it’s cooler (and where the views are much cooler) to get away from it all.¬†

Well, to be honest with myself… I’m quite frankly not sure what to make of this topic.¬† Mostly, I’m stretching, here.

But you know what is cool, these days?¬† Steampunk.¬† So… tomorrow I’m gonna drop some Steampunkery on y’all.¬† Stay tuned.

Weekend Assignment: Fantasy Camp

Weekend Assignment this week asks to imagine myself the keynote speaker at a “fantasy camp”…

Guess what? You have been offered the chance to be the keynote speaker at a world famous fantasy camp! Great! Tell us what kind of camp it is, and what makes you such an expert!

So… what am I an expert in?

I guess that would be… Fantasy!

So, yes, if I were suddenly transported to a magical world where I was an invited guest-speaker and an expert in anything, it would be something to do with the fantasy and speculative fiction genres.¬† So, the “fantasy camp” in question would probably be some kind of convention where I’d be a panel-speaker or some-such as that.¬† There are a lot of real-world sci-fi-themed conventions, but I’d have to be¬†at one that was slanted slightly more toward the fantasy end of the spectrum.¬†¬† Likewise,¬†it could be a fantasy-themed writer’s convocation, or a writing workshop of some sort.¬† ¬†Why it would have to lean¬†more toward fantasy than sci-fi¬†gets to the second part of the question: why am I an expert?

That, obviously, is because I primarily write fantasy stories.¬† Sure I’ll dabble in sci-fi and other speculative genres, but fantasy is my mainstay.¬† Not only is it what I primarily write, though, it’s also what I primarily read, when given the opportunity to read.¬† So, in an ideal world, I’d be both very widely read in fantasy and a published author in the same genre.¬† Those two notes of cred would make me an ideal “invited guest speaker” at just such an event.

In the meantime, and in the real-world… I’ll continue doing what I do best, and hobble away at my keyboard churning out stories that I hope are worth reading… As I continue to improve the latter part of that equation will be more and more true, and over time, this idealized “fantasy” world may just come close to touching on reality!

Weekend Assignment: Tech Savvy

So, here’s this week’s Weekend Assignment:

When you bring home some new piece of technology, do you usually get it up and running with pleasant anticipation and calm confidence, or is there more likely to be much swearing, wailing and gnashing of teeth? What’s the most trouble you’ve had with a new computer, tv, phone or related tech gadget?

Extra Credit: Who do you call in to help, if you get stuck?

Yes, it’s typically with pleasant anticipation and calm confidence.¬† There is only rarely swearing and gnashing of teeth.¬† Me and technology, we usually have a thing.¬† An understanding.¬† An agreement, if you will.¬† It does what I ask of it, and I don’t blast it to kingdom come.¬† It’s been a pretty fruitful working relationship.

In all honesty, though, I love technology, and gadgets.¬† I don’t make enough money to afford nearly half the technogadgets I’d own if I could.¬† (Dear Wife and I just got a Wii only this year…)¬† So, in practical terms, I’m a veritable luddite: no smartphone (Have you seen the data plans on those things!¬† They’ll eat your wallet!), mostly last-gen game machines, only just bought an HD TV, a Dell laptop with barely enough RAM to run Windows Vista.¬† It’s like I live in the dark ages, or something, while the rest of the world marches on without me.¬† And to think, in my undergrad, I Minored in Computer Science.¬† (I used to write code for fun!¬† But¬†it’s like a Foreign Language; I used to speak French, too, though no more.¬† Now, I remember most of the “grammar”, but I’ve forgotten nearly all of the “words”.)

So, the most trouble I ever have with a computer or other gadget correlates strongly with the size of my wallet.¬† Being unable to afford the beefy scream machines that I crave, I settle instead for what I can afford.¬† And that means they never have enough power to do what I want with them.¬† For instance, I started creating a map of my fantasy world (the one for the belated novel that I’ve been on-again, off-again writing since forever [NOTE: you may need to register on the linked forum to see the linked image]) using a program called the GIMP (a free and pretty powerful graphics manipulator)… but I reached a point where my computer just couldn’t handle it and I had to stop…¬† It would take me an¬† hour to render even a minor change to the map, and I didn’t have the patience (or time).

As for where I go when things don’t go right?¬† Well, I take a certain satisfaction from “doing it myself”, so more often than not if I can’t figure it out by tinkering with it directly, I’ll turn to the internet for answers.¬† I liken using the internet to having the cheat code for a favorite video game.¬† (And¬†I don’t consider it cheating when you’re playing a single-player game.)¬† Barring success by asking the internet, I may turn to the professionals, and consider paying them money.¬† I’ve only ever had to do this a couple of times in my life.

Weekend Assignment: Oh Beautiful, for Spacious Skies…

Weekend Assignment this week asks what the America of 2062 will look like:

Next Tuesday is my birthday, I am not quite 50 yet, but when I was a little girl I liked to sit and imagine what the world, more specifically, America, would be like when I reached 50! Having nearly arrived at my goal age, I am now aiming for another 50 years! So, in honor of my 48th birthday, I want you to search your imaginations, and tell what I can expect in the year… 2062!

Extra Credit: Tell me, is the world anything like you imagined it would be when you grew up? What’s different? What’s the same?

And so, I slip on my time-visor helmet, and prepare to reveal to you the FUTURE!  Or FUTURES! as the case may be: Continue reading

Weekend Assignment: Brand Disloyalty

So, the latest Weekend Assignment asks about our favorite products:

We all have a certain product in our lives we simply couldn’t live without. Tell us about your favorite product. How long have you used it? Why is it the best? If it were no longer on the market, what would you use instead? Give us all the details!

Extra Credit: Time to get creative. Take a photo of your favorite product!

So… Dear Wife and I aren’t the “brand loyalty” type.¬† I was probably nominally more brand-loyal than Dear Wife before she came along, but since she makes the majority¬†of our shopping decisions, I’ve lost most of that.¬† So, instead of buying Skippy peanut butter¬†(which I grew up with) we typically get JIF¬†or maybe even the store-brand instead.¬† Instead of Cheerios or Rice Krispies¬†we get “Toasted Oats” and “Crispy Rice” (store brands, of course).¬† Instead of an iPod, I have a Sansa Fuze (which, frankly, I love; it’s as stylish looking as an iPod, and I don’t have to use iTunes or feel like a cultist¬†– Dear Wife got it for me as a birthday present, and it’s great).

That being the case… (other than my momentary gurgling over the Fuze above) it’s pretty hard for me to pick out a brand of product I use exclusively above all others.¬† I own a Dell laptop, for instance, but it’s got problems.¬† Dell’s model has basically been copy-pasted by all the other manufacturers at this point, so when that laptop dies, I’ll gladly play the market to find the best deal for the maximum under-the-hood beefiness (tempered by reviews from reliable sources).¬† If Windows weren’t so ubiquitous, I’d drop in another OS just to give it a whirl.¬† I regularly switch between browsers, just because I can.¬† For food, we typically go middle-of-the-road.¬† We look for good bargains for good-quality stuff.¬† We don’t need sterling, top-level luxuries, and we want a good deal.¬† For other¬† household goods, it’s the same.

Basically, I just don’t want to get caught up in the horse-race other people often get caught in, where we start attaching emotional value to stuff that’s just stuff.

That said: I do have my weaknesses.¬† But my weakness isn’t so much for a product, per se, as a… hmm… how do I put¬†this… I’m a fantasy geek.¬† That means I love my fantasy novels.¬† (I own all of the “Wheel of Time” books to date, I have a matching set of “The Lord of the Rings”, another set of “The Chronicles of Prydain”, an all-in-one-volume “Chronicles of Narnia”, and so on… There are gaping holes in my collection that, in time, I will be pressed¬†to fill.)¬† I love my fantasy movies.¬† (Dear Wife recently bought me the special edition of “The Two Towers” movie, which has been on my Amazon wishlist for years.)¬† I love my fantasy games and video games.¬† I love my fantasy-related paraphernalia.¬† And, yeah… I’ve invested a lot of emotional self-identification in this stuff.

What’s so great about fantasy?¬† It’s hard to pin down.¬† I love it because I can travel to new worlds.¬† I love it because magic is real – there is a sense of wonder and awe.¬† I love it because I can be a hero, someone who makes a difference, someone who conquers evil and saves the world.¬† I love it because I can see things that no eyes on this earth can see, or see things that I can never see on my own.¬† I love the pastoral and wilderness¬†settings common in many fantasies.¬†¬†Most of this can be said of science fiction, as well, but here’s where fantasy frequently trumps sci-fi: more than anything else, fantasy is a reflection of who we are viewed through the prism of the myths and beliefs we have about ourselves and our world.¬† Sci-fi is forward-looking, and that’s great.¬† But fantasy is inward-looking.

I mean, I’m not an elitist, or anything.¬† I’m a huge fan of sci-fi as well, and of many other speculative fiction genres.¬† If fantasy weren’t around to feed my unquenchable hunger, I suppose those other genres would do to keep me at least minimally nourished, if not moreso.¬† But my first and greatest love has always been and always will be fantasy.¬† You sprinkle a little bit of fantasy on something, and I’m all over it like a rabid squirrel on Mr. Peanut.

I guess that’s at least part of why I write this stuff.

Now… how do I take a picture of fantasy?

Oh… here’s my best shot:

An Image of Fantasy

Is this what Fantasy Looks like? Maybe a little less blurry?