It’s not Halloween yet, but here’s a story

It’s about six months until Halloween. Since I’m not really a glass half-full kind of person, I can’t help but notice that they are some of the absolute worst months to be standing between me and a chilly fall night lit by jack-o-lanterns.  My spellcheck wants me to change “jack-o-lanterns” to “storm-lanterns,” because it obviously hates Halloween.

I could use more Halloween now. If you, too, are parched for eerie happenings, check out Banshee, a flash fiction story about a punk band struggling to save their show when it’s upstaged by the wail of a real banshee.

Brought to you by the mind-mingling of various Halloween thoughts with the music of X-Ray Spex.

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Wisdom from a bath in Fairyland

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It’s on my bedside table because it’s a good book to read in a cozy place.

I recently read The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente. The book is endearing right from the beginning, but even more so after the main character, September, meets a wyverary, a creature who is half wyvern and half library (on his father’s side). How could I not love that?

Shortly after, there is a passage about a bathhouse run by a soap golem named Lye.  It sums up a lot of what I loved about the book:  that it is adorable, whimsical and imaginative, yet so smart at the same time.  In the first few chapters, I thought the book was mostly smart in the sense of cleverness, but the baths September goes through show how much wisdom is in the book as well.

September first has to go through a Bath of Courage (it’s not called that in the book, at least not with the capital letters), in which she is washed of the various fears that accumulate throughout life. Valente describes the process of courage-washing, in rich language, lyrical yet simple.

Realizing how much fear has influenced my adult life, and trying to change that, has been a huge undertaking in the latter half of my twenties.  In fact, due to anxiety after anxiety, it took me nearly a year to fill out the About Me page on my own website.  Lye the soap golem informs September that the service of courage-washing is difficult to come by in our own world. Very true.

The bath in which Lye helps September wash her wishes resonated with me in a similar way:

The water of the bronze tub gleamed icy and green, redolent of mint and forest nights and sweet cakes, hot tea and very cold starlight.

“This is for washing your wishes, September,” said Lye, breaking off another of her fingers with a thick snap. “For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets. The trouble is, not everyone can tell when they ought to launder their wishes. Even when one finds oneself in Fairyland and not at home at all, it is not always so easy to remember to catch the world in its changing and change with it.”

I think that the idea of washing your wishes is a creative way to rephrase a wise piece of advice: that wisdom comes from accepting the world as it is, and acting accordingly.

In The Legend of Korra, one of my all-time favorite TV series, cartoon or no, Tenzin gives Korra this same advice. And it’s easy to gloss over when Tenzin says it, because, yeah, whatever, Tenzin is super wise and stuff. He’s saying wise things all the freakin’ time, so it’s easy to overlook the true gems and give them their due. But reading Lye’s version of this idea, and how September processes it, brings the point home.

Like dealing with accumulated fear, this is another piece of advice that has been hard-won in my own life, and I hope Valente succeeded at passing on that wisdom to younger readers.

Ways to follow this blog

Last Monday, I posted The Ultimate Smoothie of Power.

Shortly after this, one of my readers informed me that I needed to post more.

“I’ll have you know that I added a new post yesterday,” I replied with a great deal of haughtiness, self-satisfied in the knowledge that this conversation was occurring the day after I had actually posted something.

“What? I didn’t know that.” He sounded surprised. I don’t know if that was because I’ve put out so few posts in 2015, or because he’s such a fervent and fanatical follower of this blog (for thrills like the alliterative spectacle you witnessed previously in this sentence) that he was shocked at having missed a post.

Or maybe, he has a room full of assorted elves and capuchin monkeys sitting in cubicles and refreshing blogs he likes.  And now, one of those capuchin monkeys is going to have to go out and get a crappy retail job because her clever little fingers were nicking a soda when last Monday’s post went up.

He did say he tends to forget RSS readers exist.

In any case, I informed him of the various options available for following this blog.

Here’s what I told him:

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And there’s another RSS icon on the sidebar, and another in the footer. Such excess!

1. Follow by RSS

Click any RSS icon to access the blog’s feed. Since I have Mozilla Firefox, when I do this I have the option to follow this blog from my browser with live bookmarks. Mozilla Thunderbird also has the capability to track RSS feeds.

You can copy and paste the feed’s address into the RSS reader of your choice. I’ve been using Feedly since the demise of Google Reader. You can paste the RSS feed directly into their search bar.

2.  Follow by e-mail

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No, it’s not just you. The follow-by-e-mail icon in the sidebar isn’t the easiest thing to find.

Click the e-mail icon on the sidebar to receive my posts directly in your e-mail. Although 2015 has been a light on posts so far, I’m aiming for three per week.

One of the trials of using WordPress for my site has been picking through the gazillions of available plugins to choose the best ones. I do my best to test all of them, so I can confirm that this will not make you sign up for a membership anywhere, and you can unsubscribe easily.

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Someone with her own newsletter should have a better caption.

3. The Kris Bowser Newsletter

This exists mainly for those interested in receiving news of my fiction as I release it. To be honest, this is in the very early stages, and I’m not totally sure what other content I’d like to include in the newsletter. However, I plan on including links to at least a small amount of blog content.

4. Social Media

Posting links to my blog on social media tends to make me feel kind of spammy and awkward, so I haven’t done a lot of this. Generally, I only do so if there’s a post I’m particularly proud of, if a post sums up my current state of mind better than a status update would, or if I wrote something that I truly think the people who have followed or friended me would enjoy.

If anyone requests it, I’ll post about blog updates on Twitter and Facebook. Otherwise, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing.

Paper robots

The internet failed me.

This was back in the Fall of 2013.  I co-organize events for my local NaNoWriMo region, and our group often hands out mini-mascots at our events, things like toy ninjas, army men, and pom-pom bunnies.  That year, I wanted it to be paper robots.  I didn’t think I’d have any trouble finding instructions for such a thing on the internet, but nothing came close to what I had in mind.  Everything was either too flimsy, too labor-intensive, or kind of ugly.  Or, all three.

While these appear to be the most awesome paper robots on the internet, making twenty of them was out of the question.

What I wanted was a cute paper robot that could survive a knock from a gift bag granola bar, one that would take me less than an hour to make.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m sure I was visualizing the little robot from Machinarium.

So, because the internet failed me, I devised my own means of creating a paper robot.  I went through a couple prototypes, then got what I wanted on the third try.

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Cookiebot doesn’t give a crap about the steel cut oats. Mostly, the container serves him as sort of a missile silo.

Cookiebot has an electroshock arm that extents from his body and zaps anyone who tries to steal the cookies*.  Including me, and they’re my cookies.  It’s kind of like in Super Ducktales when Bulldozertron or whatever it’s called guards Scrooge’s money bin, and no one can get into the money bin until Gizmoduck defeats him.  Only, I don’t have a Gizmoduck in my life, unless you count throwing Cookiebot on the floor and stepping on him.  But I wouldn’t do that, because he’d probably crawl away in a squashed bundle of spider limbs and have his revenge while I sleep.

Which is all to say, I made a pdf guide explaining how to make the robot.  It’s light on pictures, so I hope the text suffices.  The robot takes about 30 minutes.

You, too, can have a Cookiebot in your life.


 

*Not really.  If I knew how to make something like that out of paper, I would be leading a very different life.

Painting the way

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Even though I enjoy exploring the woods beyond the beaten, dog shit-lined path, I like trail markers. Maybe it’s simply the sight of a colorful splotch of paint on rough tree bark. Maybe it’s the secret code aspect of trail sign, bits of twigs arranged in symbols and arrows, miniature rock cairns reassuring you that “this is the way.” Maybe it’s because I’ve been a hiker my whole life.  I can remember all the way back to when I was three years old, running through the woods, ahead of the … Continue reading

The Ultimate Smoothie of Power

Now, I could have called it an Ultimate Power Smoothie, but that’s the jock name for it, and I prefer my smoothie to sound like something my Dungeon Master rolls up for me after I defeat five trolls.

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I blend my smoothies in a six-bladed blender. To add insult to injury.

I like the idea of starting my day with an Ultimate Smoothie of Power. The problem is, I’m a degenerate who cannot manage to make a smoothie in the morning. I can tell myself, “It’s just throwing things in the blender, no biggie,” but realistically, my torpid morning-self needs 30 minutes to make a smoothie. I can manage to roll out of bed and eat leftovers for breakfast, or if it’s a weekend, some kind of omelette that my partner makes me.

The paradox of the Ultimate Smoothie of Power is that I would have to have already imbibed it in order to have the energy to make it. So for me, smoothies are a lunch item. They are for when I would like to eat a fuckton of fruit without having to chew it.

Smoothies have certain requirements, as determined by some governing body, which I have made up in my head and believe to have a clever acronym, like ISAACTRON, whatever that stands for.

Here are the requirements for a beverage to earn the designation of smoothie:

  • Frozen banana. Frozen bananas make smoothies smooth, creamy and sweet. I am no longer happy with a smoothie that does not contain frozen banana.
  • Dairy. In the form of milk or yogurt, or at least coconut milk. Because more creaminess. If there is no dairy, it’s not a smoothie, it’s a fruit slush. These are technical classifications, which I have decided on in my head.
  • Protein. They need to have protein, in addition to the protein already in yogurt. Afternoon-self moves at a better clip than morning-self, but that doesn’t mean afternoon-self is interested in making time-consuming fruit drinks and still having to make lunch as well.
  • These ingredients must be pulverized, otherwise they’re just a bowl of yogurt with a lot of stuff in it.

Because of these requirements, in my world, there are really only four types of smoothie: Fruit Smoothie, Chocolate Smoothie, Pumpkin smoothie, and Smoothie That Has Oats In It.

Here, then, is the recipe for Fruit Smoothie, also known as the Ultimate Smoothie of Power.

Ingredients:

  • one banana, previously frozen.
  • two handfuls berries, possibly also frozen.
  • plain, full-fat yogurt.
  • almond butter
  • crystallized ginger
  • more cinnamon than you think you need
  • maple syrup or honey, if additional sweetening is needed
  1. Put all the ingredients in your blender.
  2. Add more cinnamon.  MORE.
  3. Turn on the blender.
  4. Do not drink the Ultimate Smoothie of Power while the blender is running, even if you’ve somehow convinced yourself that this might be a good idea.
  5. Drink the Ultimate Smoothie out of some kind of appropriate container. Or, one shaped like a penis.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Help! The ginger is still in chunks, and I can’t handle it because food texture is a huge deal for me.

Make the smoothie in two steps. Blend the ginger with the frozen banana so it all the hard stuff gets puréed together, then add the goopy ingredients.

Help! I want more protein in my smoothie, but I don’t have any nut butter and I’m too scared to add meat to my smoothie and still drink it.

Never fear! If you have nuts and a capable blender, first dump a bag of nuts into the blender and grind it into nut paste. Nut butter, if you will. You may need to add oil. Remove all the nut butter from the blender except for a couple tablespoons. Now you have nut butter AND a smoothie, and you didn’t need to turn this into two projects with dishes and everything.

Help! I have no frozen banana!

Rethink your life. You will never be able to drink smoothies professionally. Though, yes, you can use a room temperature banana with a handful of ice cubes.