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May. 15th, 2012 02:05 pm
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Five

May. 11th, 2012 12:41 pm
I don't know if I've mentioned this, but my neighborhood (you know, the one I've lived in for the past 11 years) seems to have a lot of mad scientists.

I don't know why. So I was knocking door-to-door this week to ask them all.

The fifth house I checked was surprising. It was like a greenhouse, but with huge factory clockwork gears built into the architecture and churning and creaking all over, and hundreds of baby animals frolicking about playing with brightly-colored toys. There were Greek pillars and alchemy tubes and ancient stone tablets littered around the place among all the indoor flowers and trees.

Now, I'm used to the scientists who make giant robots, or time machines, or AI computers that will turn against their creators, or that sort of thing. And I'm used to the armchair-philosopher mad scientists who just sit in a chair mulling over abstract principles until something terrible happens. I'm even pretty comfortable with those syncretic cyber-shamans, mostly. But this one? I had to ask.

And you know what you get when you ask a mad scientist about their work: Monologues.

"The Ancient Greeks believed there are are four types of love: Philios, Storge, Eros, and Agape. Philios is a friendly affection. Storge is a "natural" love of family. Eros is sexual love. And Agape is a divine, transcendant kind of love."

I nodded with polite detached comprehension, as my mother taught me to do when speaking with mad scientists.

"My goal is to create a fifth type of love, unlike those other four. I posit that it must exist, since five is such a nice number."

"And what will this 'fifth type of love' be like?" I asked.

The mad scientist scowled at me deeply, as if my ignorant question just lumped me into the same category as those short-sighted fools back at the university.

"I can't tell you that. I haven't invented it yet. But I'm pretty sure it'll be a Greek word, too."

Maybe it's the love of a mad scientist for a creation that doesn't exist yet. But I didn't say that.
I was having hominy with a frenemy this morning. We like to get together, enjoy a tasty breakfast of grits, and cut down each others' ideas. This time, it was his turn to propose an idea for me to shoot down.

"Soviet scientist Dmitri Belyaev did something amazing. In the 1950s, he began breeding wild foxes: he began with population of 130 silver foxes, a species that has never been bred before. He and his team selected the foxes that showed the least fear of humans, and had them breed together. After about ten generations of foxes, they had developed a new strain of fox that was friendly, with spotted coats, floppy ears, and adorable little curled tails. The animals wag their tails and lick human caretakers to show affection, like dogs. In the span of one lifetime, Belyaev created the domesticated silver fox."

I listened with passive-aggressive disinterest.

"My plan is this: I want to do the same thing with the Australian platypus. We breed the ones that are least afraid of humans, and hopefully within ten generations we'll get something friendly. Maybe they'll still have venomous ankle spurs. Maybe not. They'll probably still have duck bills that can sense electricity, which would be handy for pets in the modern world. Most of all, though, they'll be weird and cute and a testament to the power of modern science. They will sell well and I will become incredibly wealthy and then I'll gloat every time we have breakfast."

I nodded thoughtfully, and composed my reply. "But, this kind of program will be very expensive," I said, "How can you afford to support a population of platypusses on a schoolteacher's salary?"

He beamed with pride, "I already have a plan for that! I'll just shop smarter. I'll keep an eye out for special offers and rebates and things, closely follow the market for necessary supplies, and make a binder full of offers from local newspapers. I'm going to take 'extreme couponing' to the next level: monotreme couponing."

Who?

May. 1st, 2012 10:35 am
"Okay, how many people in the room are actually me?"

An embarrassed smattering of hands rose to the air. Time-travellers, shape-shifters, doppelgangers, evil twins, identity thieves.

Then a few more. Whole-world single-entity theorists. Deep-identity empaths. Non-celebrity impersonators and pixellated virtual proxies. Sacrificial effigies and compulsive hand-raisers.

"Well, this song goes out to all of you," I said, and I started to strum my acoustic guitar. Or perhaps I should say, our acoustic guitar.

Then bats flew out of nowhere and landed on all their uplifted hands.
You know those warehouses where you can join and become a member and then go use the space, and everyone else is using the space at the same time, so you feel like you're really productive? I was at one of those.

The guy next to me had a cello.

"I've created the best music ever," he said to me, "I mean it. I have developed an algorithm for measuring the complexity of music, and tested it extensively with existing music. Then I figured out ways to make the music more and more complex and surprising -- I used neural networks to develop musical scores that are maximally interesting."

I continued working on the transcranial magnetic hobby-horse that I've been cobbling together.

He looked at me expectantly, waiting for my reply.

"You know," I said, "psycho-acoustics researchers have proposed a different model for music preferences. I mean, some of it is just familiarity -- we like songs that we've heard before, as long as we get a little time between listenings so we don't get oversaturated. We like them even more if we can associate them with emotional experiences in our lives. And we like rhythms that feel like they go off-rhythm and then overcorrect themselves a little bit, because that's how we keep time ourselves. But here's the other thing. Each person wants music that is slightly interesting to them, but not so interesting that it's totally unpredictable. Someone who listens to simple melodies will like a slightly more complex melody, but will find anything beyond that totally jarring and staticky. Someone who listens to really complex melodies will like a slightly more complex melody, for them, but will find songs that are too simple to be boring. If something is incomprehensible, it doesn't matter how much it's technically better -- people won't enjoy it."

"So that's why everyone hates my objectively superior music!" he declared happily, "It's too good for them. Their displeasure is proof of my superiority!"

I shuffled awkwardly. "Oh, um, I have no idea. I just realized that ignoring you wasn't working, so I was hoping to distract you with a change of subject."

"Well, it didn't work," he said petulantly.

So I sprayed him with ink and swam away quickly in disguise as a poisonous lionfish.

Oh, also I was a mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus) all along. I should have mentioned that.
I'm getting older now, a smooth boyish face lost within a mop of gray hair. Like every day before, this is the oldest I've been in my whole life, and like every day since my youth, I definitely feel very old, but these days I find myself telling stories about my clever past more and more often, perhaps at the expense of telling stories about my clever, clever future. Call it what you will!

But this means that I think back to my childhood a little more often. I don't remember when I started to be taller than my mother, because I didn't notice it or believe it until long after it had happened, but this was certainly way before then. I remember my mother crouching down to look at me, eye-to-eye. She was speaking seriously, and plainly, and her tone was one of respect -- the respect you give a child when you know the child is ready to hear adult news.

"Child, I love you and I will always love you, but I can only tell you this story once, and I want you to remember it. There may come a time when you need to tell it to someone else."

She reached down and touched my little barefoot toes, all grey and misshapen.

"Those toes of yours aren't an embarrassment. They are a mark of pride. Your mother's mother's father's mother had toes like that, only long and wriggly, and she weaved her way through the sea beautifully, sending jets of water behind her. She was famous for her talents -- she could squirt a cloud of ink to evade predators. She could change colors to become invisible. She could perform analytic calaculus before she hatched, or write a villanelle in an ancient language no human tongue can know, or repair a crystal time-boat using only ancestral knowledge."

She took a locket off her neck and showed me a picture -- like an octopus, perhaps.

"In time, you may learn to do all those things too. In time, you may learn to change those grey toes to another color. But it takes practice. Your great-great-grandmother fell in love with a human sailor, a poet-warrior of impossible cruelty, and she lured him out to sea with her song, and she drowned him, but before she did, she hatched your great-grandfather, whose visage could not be captured on camera, because his shape was beyond the visible spectrum. Your great-grandfather met a woman, a dancer with a smile like pearls and a heart full of adventure, a woman who tampered with powers she could not understand and called upon forces she could not understand, and they settled down in New England and had a house by the sea, with red walls and beautiful glass windows that gave a view of the cliffs outside."

"Grandma's house?" I asked her.

"Yes, and someday it might be yours too. Grandma was born looking almost completely human, and you and I look entirely human except for our toes, but don't forget, child. Don't forget your ancestry. Take pride in the stories, the miraculous coincidences, that led to your birth."

And she give me a warm, loving smile, and tweaked my chin. "Okay?" she asked me, wanting to make sure I understood. I could only look at her and nod seriously -- I had no words.

Those were the days of mango, the days of bread. We look at our childhood through a sunset-orange filter and sift through it for secrets and treasures sometimes, don't we?
So, sometime in August I was writing a recipe for shark soup. A really bold, strong-flavored shark soup.

One of the ingredients of the soup was "a shark so hungry that even the word 'shark' will eat nearby words when you are describing the shark." You can probably already see where this is going, can't you? Well there was a surprise twist -- I was living on planet Earth the whole time.

Anyway, the word 'shark' ate my whole recipe and I didn't bother to post it. I just deleted it. The next day I wrote up another recipe (a tasty recipe for cornbread and the only such recipe that doesn't even need any corn), and I discovered that the word 'shark' (which didn't even exist on that recipe) had eaten the whole post again. I also discovered that Rosebud is a sled.

After a few days of this, I opened another recipe journal elsewhere. No luck. The word 'shark' ate every entry. I switched to a new computer and a new service, but still the word 'shark' followed me. I turned state's evidence against the shark and got on a FBI witness relocation protection service, changing identities entirely, but no luck -- I just couldn't get away.

So I worked with some Con-Lang fans and constructed a new language, designed so that the language would be difficult for the word 'shark' to digest. We named it Sharlingok, for obvious reasons.

It took a few months, but I've been successful. This entry is translated from Sharlingok into English, and seems to be just fine. I expect that all future entries will be posted in a similar fashion. But I won't continue with a recipe journal, just to be safe, because who knows what kind of dangerous ingredients are out there. Also, the killer was calling from inside the building.
"Apangho is the least important meal of the day," says the 17th century book of New Jersey recipes that I got from my family. "It was briefly popular just before the invention of the printing press, but was never important enough to write down. So far, it has been passed down from mother to daughter along with a great body of more important information, but over time mothers have bothered to teach their daughters about apangho less and less often, because no one really cares about it. Today, no one is even sure at what time apangho is supposed served. Some say it's a meal to be eaten late ate night, for night-watchmen and the like. Others say that it's a meal that you eat during lunch-time when you don't have time for lunch. Most don't even bother. I suspect that soon apangho will be lost to history, unwritten and unrepeated, like space-floss or the teleporting ant, and good riddance to all three, I say."

I have paraphrased and reprinted the original recipe for your dubious benefit. The recipe also notes that there were several other dishes that were traditionally served for the apangho meal, and that maybe the author would write them down later if she happened to have time for it.

Apangho

Ingredients:
Variable amount of dandelion greens
One radish or turnip or something like that
Half a cup of tea leaves
One or two tiny bits of salted pork, just to spite any vegetarians

Do not bother to cut the dandelion greens -- instead, just tear them into pieces of a variable size. Soak tea leaves repeatedly until they are totally flavorless. Mix all ingredients together if you have nothing else to do.

Eat it or don't; it makes very little difference. Serves three.

Pot Pie

Aug. 22nd, 2010 03:01 am
I got this recipe from an old Boy Scout magazine. Well, not a Boy Scout magazine so much as a diorama of the solar system that I made out of magazines, around the same time I was in the Boy Scouts. But in the world of pot pie, different always means the same.

Pot Pie

Ingredients:
Special (see below)

Before you can eat the pot pie, you must make it. Before that, you must want it. Before that, you must know hunger, and what it means to live without things that you want. So step one is not to have any pot pie at all. The rest can be safely derived from understanding your own internal desires, listening to the hunger with in, and balancing indulgence with reason.

Serves four.
I think I got this recipe from my enemies, stolen by a defector who traded it to me in exchange for political asylum and a chance to start a new life here. But I have kept it on an index card in the back of my index file for a long time so I may be mistake.

Stone Cold Soup

Ingredients:
Stone, medium, smooth, grey
Water, 500 mV

Place stone in pot of water. When an old woman glorious with peacock feathers comes along and asks you what you are making, tell her you are making soup, and when she says that she has just bought automobile parts ask her to toss them all into the pot as well for part of the soup. When a man with thick eyebrows who looks meaner than he has ever been comes along, and asks what you are making, tell him you are making soup, and when he tells you that he is bringing blankets to his great-nieces, ask him to toss those blankets into the pot as well for part of the soup. When two women walking arm in arm happen upon you and ask what you are making, tell her that you are making soup, and when the two tell you that they are carrying furniture to their new office, ask them to toss the furniture into the pot of soup as well to become part of the soup. Then cook soup at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (or 300 degrees Celsius, it really doesn't matter) until it is hot and delicious. Then cool in a refrigerator until it is no longer hot but still delicious. Also be a member of a species that can eat stones and automobile parts and blankets and office furniture.

Serves five.
There are some that say that the tomato is a vegetable and some who say that it is a fruit. Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, insisted that the whale is a fish and not a mammal, demonstrating that he was sort of a dumb goon sometimes. This is a recipe that contains neither tomatoes, nor whale, nor fish. I am told that children all hate the taste of tomatoes because their taste buds are looking for sweet, sweet, sweet, and that people who think they don't like tomatoes actually possibly just haven't given tomatoes a good square chance since adulthood. Then again, I'm also told that milk is one of the four basic food groups, so you'll excuse me I hope if I am a little bit skeptical about this whole process of learning facts and techniques from my environment, experiences, and culture. Wait, that's not skeptical, it's just stubborn. I guess excuses will only spoil me, so keep me honest, folks. Keep me honest.

Vegetable Orchestra

Ingredients:
Sound, 40 decibels
Thought, 100 human minds' worth, contemplative
Thought, 1 human minds' worth, active
Motion, 30 meters/second
Mystery, 5 kVt

Render savage meaning from the random signals that surround you, drilling experience into thought and thought into narrative. Become the protagonist of your narrative, then face the truth that your narrative was attempting to hide from you. When achieving perfect clarity, add tomatoes and fish, then become angry and disappointed and confused at this betrayal. Spend years making amends. Apologize, reconstruct, reconsider. Name your shackles. Translate sound into thought, contemplation into action, motion into mystery. Once this is complete, mumble mumble mumble vegetable orchestra. I am sorry about those tomatoes and fish, I understand that they probably caused problems and I want to make amends.

Serves eleven.
I truly love America, let me say. However, I also truly hate American cheese -- not as much by a long shot, but I still do. Nonetheless, I have finally found a use for American cheese! After you have negative-one-cheese pizza, the next cheese you eat will be cancelled out anyway, so you might just as well eat American cheese and get it cancelled out. It's like flavor landfill for your anticheese debts.

Mostly, I just liked that last sentence.

Negative-One-Cheese Pizza )

Once meal is prepared, lose consciousness from the wild violations of the Second Law of Quesodynamics.

Wake up and enjoy delicious pizza. Serves six or negative six, depending on your orientation.
I figured this recipe out from trial and error, assisted by Drea.

Amazing Cupcakes

Ingredients:
All

Become Julius Caesar and walk the streets of ancient Rome. There, in those garbage-filled streets, find a scroll and read it. The scroll will remind you of who you once were, before you were transformed across times and identities. Become a tyrant, then an emperor, then a divine king. Leave a legacy that will last fourteen hundred years.

At the very tail end of that legacy, dangle a single seed on the clumsy, precarious edge of the Byzantine Empire. The seed will fall and catch the wind, blowing across the Aegean Sea to land in Cyprus. There it will take root and grow into a tree no one has seen before.

A little less than six hundred years later, that tree, that majestic and unknown tree still anointed with the name and history of Caesar himself, whose adopted son commissioned the Aeneid simply to prove that the family was descended from Venus -- that strange and terrible tree that has silently watched the chaos of history and done nothing to sway humankind to reason -- that strange quiet sage of a tree will bear one fruit and one fruit only: a single, perfect cupcake.

Serves one.
I got this recipe from an old fictional book titled "One Hundred Domestic Uses For Mordenkainen's Sword." I don't think I'm allowed to publish it, so I'll try it and see what happens.

Beholder Cubes

Ingredients:
1 beholder, version 3.5, 11HD, Large, Aberration
25 sticks butter, version 3.5, unsalted
30 gallons olive oil, version 3.5, medium, plant, Int --
1 sprig of parsley, any version, OGL

Dice beholder, being careful to remove the eyestalks for petrification, death ray, and cause serious wounds. Boil water on high and add olive oil. Then, pour diced beholder into Huge cauldron, cover and simmer for 30 days. After 30 days, drain cauldron and leave diced beholder pieces in Huge colander. Pour into serving tray and mix with butter. Garnish with parsley.

Serves one party.
I got this recipe from a chef who swears he is from the future. He insists that he is giving us only the recipes that the human race needs to survive the next hundred years. Most of the other dishes are asparagus dishes, and I don't eat asparagus because I don't like it when my pee smells funny. So this is the recipe you get.

Roast Warbot

Ingredients:
1 robot, war, fully functional, bristling with weapons, redolent of heartless violence, splendid in its destruction, leaving a wake of ashes and tears behind it

Hunt the robot, not with speed but with tenacity. Keep pursuing that robot, keep focused and flawless. That robot was planned by managers, not engineers, and those managers were trying to keep a schedule and release this robot on time, with as many features as possible, despite any bugs that might turn up. With enough time and load and capacity and whatnot, that robot will experience some form of fatal programming error, just during normal operation. Keep focused, I tell you. When that moment comes, that blue-screen-of-death or whatever the robot warrior equivalent is, you will be there ready to exploit that moment of weakness. You will be hungry and cunning and ready.

Then put the thing on a spit, one with a crankshaft that goes round and round, over a raging bonfire. Cook that robot until it is delicious. And believe me, it will be delicious.

Serves one tribe.
People seldom plan for catastrophes until after they have happened. This recipe should help with that.

Pasta Done Wrong

Ingredients:
60 lbs. pasta, whole grain, somewhat bitter
1 egg, unnecessary

Place all ingredients within a treacherous patch of cactus and retrieve again. Place pasta in water, then place both inside a huge saucepan that is also made of pasta. Superheat at 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit and continue cooking until you lose interest. Leave pot, pasta, and water on superstove as you leave and move away to another time zone to live with someone you have never met except on the internet and who turns out to be nothing like what you hoped, and where you don't know anyone else. Refuse to admit you made a mistake until ten months later when you are packing your things and discover the very horrible egg. Regret thoroughly.

Serves six.
I got this recipe because sometimes everyone just needs a friend.

Chocolate Friend

Ingredients:
64 oz. (2 bags) semisweet chocolate chips
3 shots orange liqueur, tasty
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, clever
8 oz. (1/4 bag) white chocolate chips

Acquire novelty ice cube trays and line each ice cube tray compartment with plastic wrap, and set aside. Melt semisweet chocolate chips and, once melted, pour in cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and orange liqueur. Mix thoroughly and pour into novelty ice cube trays and cool in freezer until very solid.

Remove chocolate pieces and assemble into an adorable little humanoid figure. Lay on a wax sheet.

Then, melt white chocolate. Observe that white chocolate is neither white nor chocolate. Then consider that silverfish and neither silver nor fish, razorbacks are neither razors nor backs, and that words in general don't mean anything.

Then snap to. Hey! Pay attention, you are making a thing here and you still have melted white chocolate on the stove so you should probably pay attention. Ready? Okay.

Pour white chocolate over joints to glue chocolate friend together, and allow to cool. Then take little white-jointed chocolate buddy and put him or her in the passenger seat of your car, or the basket of your bike if you are using the metric system.

Go out and make mischief with your buddy. Use an ATM check card and when the screen says "REMOVE CARD QUICKLY" remove your card slowly instead. Go to a grocery store and when they ask if you want plastic or paper, ask for equal amounts of each. Go to the mattress store and sew on new tags.

Chocolate friend will come to life and begin dancing.

Serves one but don't you dare.
Okay, apparently this is supposed to be a secret, so please make sure that this recipe doesn't get posted to the Internet anywhere.

Coca-Cola

Ingredients:
1 can Pepsi-Cola
1 dog, small, adorable, not too yippy
1 mirror, full-length

Pick up cola in one hand and dog under other arm. Unlock mirror and step through to mirror universe. Set down cat that is now under your arm, and drink Coca-Cola.

Actually, I can barely tell the difference. Sorry.

Chow Fun

Aug. 12th, 2010 07:37 pm
I collaborated on making this recipe with bettybaker. She got her half of it from the underside of a toilet plunger. I got my half of it from the underground antiques market in Bangkok. We discovered that our two halves of the recipe fit together perfectly, and the rest is the future.

Chow Fun

Ingredients:
1 chow-chow, well-behaved, in need of entertainment
12 party hats, torn
1/2 lb broad flat noodles, raw
1 plastic swimming pool, cool, refreshing
1 medium sized death ray, just in case

Place one party hat on chow-chow. Place other 11 party hats on imaginary friends. Wonder if that is a little bit depressing. Use death ray to murder one of the imaginary friends and steal party hat back for self. There, that came in handy.

When chow-chow tears uncomfortable party hat off self, pick up chow-chow and jump into swimming pool. Grab forgotten broad flat noodles and sprinkle into cool refreshing swimming pool.

Serves one person, one chow-chow, and ten imaginary friends.

RIP other imaginary friend. We will always remember you for your citizenship and verve.
I got this recipe from the Internet, and put it on the Internet at the same time.

Roasted Digital Garlic.

Ingredients:
1 bulb garlic, digital

Complain that digital garlic has rendered old-fashioned garlic obsolete. Admit that, yes, it's very convenient that digital garlic doesn't give you bad breath or carry a strong stink, and that pregnant women aren't horrified by the stink of digital garlic because it doesn't have a scent. Insist that, nonetheless, something is lost in this high-tech streamlining of digital, virtual garlic. Conjecture that it is this messiness, this stinkiness, this wasteful aromatic uncontrollable passionate organicness, that makes garlic what it is.

Decide to use physical garlic instead of the digital garlic-equivalent, in honor of our culinary past. Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes and allow to cool.

Then get attacked by a digital vampire. Serves you right.

Spread over toast or sourdough bread. Serves four.
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