A Beginner’s Questions Answered
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Q: Do I really need water conditioner?
A: Yes. Preferably, get Seachem’s Prime. It’s the best deal and is widely considered to be the most effective. But really, any water conditioner that detoxifies ammonia, chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals should work just fine. That sounds like a lot, but most water conditioners cover the list.
If you don’t have water conditioner, run out ASAP and grab some. You can expect to get a small bottle for around $5.
Q: What should I feed my betta?
A: The first food you should get is a basic, good quality pellet food. Not all foods are the same. Look for Omega One Betta Buffet pellets or New Life Spectrum pellets. Frozen bloodworms or daphnia, or (if they’re sold at your pet store) flightless fruit flies can be occasionally given as a treat. Feeding a variety of foods improves betta health, but isn’t strictly necessary.
Q: I just got flakes. Are those okay?
A: They’re all right for a while, but you’ll want to spend a few dollars on a good pellet food. Flakes can cause bloating in bettas.
Q: My betta ate an insect!
A: It’s fine. They eat insects in the wild. Just don’t feed him/her for a while.
Q: How much should I feed my adult betta?
A: There are different sizes of betta pellets. Most are 1mm wide–you can check yours with a ruler. To start out, feed four pellets a day, preferably split up into a day and night feeding of two pellets each. Your betta should look a little fuller after you feed him, but not bloated.
Q: How much/what should I feed my baby betta?
A: That depends. Start a thread.
Q: I’m going on vacation. What’s the best vacation feeder?
A: None at all. Your fish can go for a week without food and be just fine. If you’re gone longer than two weeks, find a reliable pet sitter. Don’t give an extra-big feeding before you leave; this can cause problems like bloating or extra ammonia production that you won’t want in your tank while you’re gone.
Q: What’s the minimum size tank for a healthy betta?
A: This is a debated topic, and you won’t get the same answer twice. If you’re a beginner, I would suggest 2.5 gallons as a minimum. Some experienced people can keep a fish healthy in a 1.5 gallon tank, and you’ll occasionally hear about breeders using 1 gallon tanks. Don’t assume this is normal. 99% of bettas will be happier in a bigger tank than a smaller one. Bettas’ natural habitat, rice paddies, is NOT the same as a mud puddle. Rice paddies are huge! They’re just shallow.
Q: Only 99%?
A: Yeah. Some bettas are kind of agoraphobic, actually, and will prefer (for example) a 2.5 gallon over a 5 gallon tank. That doesn’t mean you can cram them in a half-gallon vase.
Q: What else do I need in my tank?
A: You need a heater and some safe cover for your fish (a place to hide). Don’t waste money on heaters that aren’t adjustable. Get a 25 watt adjustable heater for a small (such as 3 gallon) tank, or a 50 watt for 5-10 gallon tanks.
You also need a lid. Get a lid. Bettas jump.
A: A gallon is about four liters. If you aren’t used to one system or the other, remembering this comes in handy.
Q: What else might I want in my tank?
A: Substrate is a good place to start. Gravel is a popular option, but sand can be easier to clean with a siphon and you might consider it more attractive. If you really want to put time and effort into your fish tanks and you like a natural aesthetic, look into dirt based tanks. They aren’t difficult to set up, and they support lots of different plants, which bettas love (and they keep your water clean!). More on plants in the water quality section.
Decorations and cover for your fish help keep them from being stressed, which helps keep them from getting sick. Soak everything for a few days before you put it in your tank–just keep it in a bucket of water treated with water conditioner. Always check to make sure your decorations have no sharp edges! Plastic plants can be a big culprit. If it snags a piece of pantyhose, it isn’t safe. Sometimes you can sand down sharp edges, though.
You also might want a filter. In tanks over 3 gallons, you’ll want to cycle your tank (it’s difficult, but not impossible, in smaller tanks) and that generally means you’ll need a filter. More on cycling in the water quality section. Note that bettas generally don’t like stronger currents, especially those with longer or heavier fins.
Finally, there are rocks and driftwood. If you add rocks, be sure to make sure there aren’t metal flecks on them which will leach into your water and be harmful to your fish. Testing your rocks by pouring white vinegar over them is a good idea; if they bubble or froth, they’re unsafe. Make sure you rinse them very well after this test. Driftwood will often release tannins into your water, turning it tea colored; bettas like this, but if you don’t, the driftwood can be boiled to prevent this.
Never boil river rocks or other smooth rocks–they can explode from the expanding steam inside of them. Not good. It’s safer to pour a hot (but not boiling) water/vinegar mixture over them, out in the yard, or to soak them in room temperature water for a while. Any decorations put into your tank should be soaked first. Just because it says it’s aquarium safe doesn’t mean it is! Test everything if you want to be safe.
Q: What can I keep with my betta? He lives in a 5 gallon tank.
A: A nerite snail. They’re pretty and they’ll keep the tank clean, and nerite eggs don’t hatch in freshwater. If your tank’s parameters are stable and your betta isn’t too aggressive, you may be able to keep a few ghost shrimp or an African dwarf frog.
Q: Really? I was thinking about a dwarf cory cat.
A: That won’t work. Cories of any sort need a shoal of six to feel safe, which means that if you want to keep cories with a betta, you need a ten gallon tank and six cories, plus hiding spots for them. Same thing with neon tetras… zebra danios… basically a ton of fish…
Besides, the betta and the dwarf cory combined will produce too much waste to live together in a 5g tank anyway. Get a snail.
Q: Are mystery snails the same as nerites? That’s all my pet store has.
A: No, they aren’t. Mystery snails get huge and produce a ton of waste, and your pet store won’t take them back at that point. Check to see if your pet store is calling nerites “zebra snails.” Sometimes they use that name, but it’s the same kind of snail.
Q: What about plecos?
A: They produce plenty of waste, and most species get basically really huge. If you’ve got big tank, like above 10 gallons, then you can probably afford to keep one or two of a smaller species. RESEARCH BEFORE YOU BUY or you may end up with one that grows to eighteen inches long.
If you need an algae cleaner, get a snail or a few shrimp, and make sure you aren’t overfeeding. Can I plug nerites some more? Plug, plug. Some of them come in patterns and colors!
Q: Can I keep two bettas together?
A: NO. The only way a fish keeper of any experience level can safely keep bettas together is in a sorority, which involves a huge tank and 5+ female bettas. This is only to be attempted by experienced keepers–who, for one thing, know the difference between a male betta with short fins and a female.
…Well, okay, I will admit one other loophole. If you have a 250g tank or larger and tons of cover, you may be able to keep two bettas in that tank. They’ll divide up the territory safely. (Well, safely-ish.) So if you’re a millionaire and you want bragging rights, get a behemoth tank with lots of surface space and cover, and you might be able to pull it off without your fish fighting to the death.
Q: Do I reeeeeeeeaaaallly need water conditioner? My tank is cycled and I let the water sit out for a few days.
A: Yes, you do need water conditioner. Leaving the water to sit out will remove some of the chlorine, but not chloramine, ammonia, or heavy metals. A cycled tank will remove ammonia and nitrites, but nothing else. You’re still leaving toxic substances in with your fish!
Q: I tested my water and the ammonia was (a number unsafe for fish)! I’m really concerned. How do I keep the water safe for my fish?
A: There are three methods for keeping ammonia levels safe for your fish: cycling, using plants, or doing very frequent water changes in order to keep up with it.
Q: What’s cycling?
A: Cycling is where you grow a certain kind of bacteria which will eat ammonia and convert it to nitrites (which are slightly less toxic than ammonia to fish), and another kind of bacteria that will eat nitrites and convert them to nitrates (not very toxic to fish–although shrimp may be picky). The process of growing this bacteria is fairly simple, but it can take patience.
There are two ways to cycle a tank: fish-in or fishless. To grow beneficial bacteria, you need a source of ammonia. That has to come from either fish, or from another source (like fish food or straight chemical ammonia).
Q: I heard you shouldn’t do a fish-in cycle. But I researched after I got my fish! Now I have a fish and an uncycled tank! Should I just leave my fish in his cup until the tank cycles?
A: No. If you have a fish and don’t have a cycled tank to put him in, do a fish-in cycle. Remember, his cup isn’t cycled, either. Is it better to put your fish in an uncycled 5g tank, or an uncycled cup (or .5 gallon vase)? Pretty easy question when you think about it.
Q: How do you use plants to make the ammonia safe?
A: Plants will do the same job as beneficial bacteria, and they’ll start doing it immediately. They also provide cover for your fish. But if they aren’t cared for properly, they will die and only add more ammonia to your tank.
Floating plants take all their food from the water column–and what they feed on happens to be the same things that are toxic to your fish. Since they’re so effective at cleaning your water, make sure you invest in some floating plants. Frogbit, duckweed, water sprite and dwarf water lettuce are pretty easy to come by. It doesn’t matter too much which you pick. Just go with what you like. Floating plants can also be some of the easiest to keep.
Q: How do I care for plants?
Java ferns, anubias, and java moss are the three basic plants that require virtually no care. Java ferns and anubias will also reproduce with little help from you, adding to the cleanliness of your tank.
Those species on their own won’t be enough to keep the water safe, however. If you intend to rely on plants to keep your tank clean, you will either need to a) look into dirt-bottomed tanks (i.e., Natural Planted Tanks or NPTs) and buy liquid fertilizer, or b) buy liquid fertilizer and buy or make some root tabs. Some plants feed from the water column, and some feed from their roots (that is, the substrate, or your root tabs.)
Always research your plants before you buy them. Some of those plants sold in tubes aren’t fully aquatic, and need their leaves in the air. Some plants require CO2 injection (a system which can be either bought or made at home) or have greater or lesser light requirements.
Q: How many plants do I need?
Depends on your tank size (well, really, on your water change schedule, which is determined by size) and what you have in it. The bigger the tank and the more inhabitants it has, the more plants you need. If you’re using this method, you should plant heavily. That means that when you look at the tank from above, half of the substrate is covered by plants.
Q: Where’s the best place to buy plants?
A: Usually? Online. They’re cheaper and there’s a much wider selection. Bettafish.com forum members often have the best prices and sometimes have rarer plants. There are also reliable online stores such as Planted Aquariums Central.
Q: Do I need a filter with plants?
A: No. Especially not one that disturbs the surface too much. You need those floating plants.
Q: How do you keep the tank safe by doing water changes?
A: Oldfishlady has already done a very detailed post on this.
Q: I have a 2.5 gallon tank. What method should I use?
A: It’s entirely doable to simply rely on a water change schedule. However, in that size of a tank I would rather use plants. It’s fairly inexpensive to plant such a small tank heavily, and by doing so, you don’t need to worry so much about the water parameters if you have to leave the tank for a week.
Q: I have a 10+ gallon tank. What method should I use?
A: Cycle it. You could plant it if you had the money and patience, but it’s most convenient to cycle that big of a tank.
Q: I have a 1 gallon tank/fish bowl. What method should I use?
A: Water changes–but please! As soon as possible, buy a tank, or at least a bigger fish bowl. 2 gallon fish bowls are out there. Or just get a big Kritter Keeper if you’re short on cash.
Q: My ammonia level is always 0 ppm now! Do I still need water conditioner?
A: Yes. Yes, you do.
A word of forewarning: If you think your betta is sick, seek help in the Diseases and Emergencies section. Until you gain experience, don’t diagnose your fish on your own. Even experienced keepers will ask for a second opinion.
Q: My betta is missing chunks from his tail (or fins)! What’s wrong?
A: It could be one of three things. Either he’s ripped his tail on something sharp, he’s bitten it out of stress or boredom, or he has fin rot (most likely from poor water quality).
Q: How do I tell?
A: Rips tend to make a V shape into the tail. If he’s biting, it’ll look like a U cut into his tail. If he has fin rot, it may be steadily receding all at once… it may have a dark edge… it may look like his tail was made of newspaper and someone took a lighter to it.
Q: Oh no! My fish has a black edging on his tail that wasn’t there when I got him! Does that mean he has finrot?
A: Maybe, but probably not if it wasn’t already there. If you’ve been doing things right, then if there was a time for him to get finrot, it was in that ammonia sludge in his cup. More likely, it’s just a black “trim” to his fins–a natural coloring. Most fish become more colorful when put into proper conditions. A cup is definitely NOT proper conditions. Still, watch him over the next few days to check for any damage to his fins. Just in case.
Q: What should I do for finrot?
A: Add 1 tsp/gallon of aquarium salt (sodium chloride). 100% sea salt is roughly the same thing if you don’t have aquarium salt. Never use salt that contains iodine. Salt doesn’t evaporate, so only add more if you do a water change, and only replace as much as you need for the new water. Always dissolve the salt before adding–it can burn your fish otherwise. Only treat with aquarium salt for 10 days maximum.
Q: My betta’s fins look like melted plastic, and they’re stiff!
A: That sounds like finmelt. It’s very aggressive, and needs to be hit ASAP with proper medication. Ask around for the best current medication available. Aquarium salt will help until you can get medicine.
Q: My betta is having trouble swimming. He stays mostly at the top (or at the bottom).
A: Probably Swim Bladder Disease (SBD). But ask for a second opinion. SBD can be caused by bloating (i.e., you’re feeding too much) or mishandling… Epsom salts will help. Ask on the forum about the dosage for your particular case.
Q: Where do I find Epsom salts?
A: Most grocery stores carry them in the drug section. Humans add Epsom salts to baths to relieve sore muscles. Make sure the stuff you get doesn’t have perfumes or anything extra in it.
Q: I just have aquarium salt. Can I use that to help my fish with his SBD?
A: No, they aren’t the same thing. AQ salt is sodium chloride; Epsoms are magnesium sulfate. They are used for different purposes.
Q: I bought a new fish and his gills look kind of red and sickly. He doesn’t look so good.
A: He probably has ammonia poisoning. Keep as much of his cup water out of your tank as possible to avoid polluting his new environment, and just let him sit for a few days in warm, clean water. Offer food, but remove it if he doesn’t bite. In a few days, he’ll be good as new.
Q: I bought this really unhappy looking betta. He is gray and has stripes and was at the back of the shelf… is something wrong with him?
A: He is stressed. In warm, clean water, and with good food, he will turn as bright as his brothers and lose those “stress stripes.” However, since he’s been badly stressed before, he may be easily stressed in the future. Good job for taking him in!
Q: My betta has fluffy white stuff on him! What’s that?
Q: My betta is darting against all the stuff in his aquarium! Why?
Q: My betta looks like a 3 year old girl attacked him with gold glitter!
Q: This betta’s scales are all raised up and he looks like a pinecone! What’s wrong with him?
Q: He’s got this weird thing on his fins!
Q: The poor fish has this odd sore!
Q: What’s this lump?
A: Hold on! There are actually quite a few problems that you might run into once or twice (or more often if you get your fish from Walmart or Meijer’s). Covering them all here would make this a very long guide! Direct your questions to the Diseases and Emergencies section, where some knowledgeable members should be along soon to help you find out what’s wrong.
KINDS OF BETTAS
See this post for tail types and colors.
Not all abbreviations are here. A big thanks to the people in this thread (http://www.bettafish.com/showthread.php?t=418834).
DeT: delta tail
EE: elephant ear/”dumbo” (opaque pectoral fins)
MG: mustard gas (a type of coloration)
I’m sure I’m missing some fish descriptions, but they’re probably listed in the Tail Types And Colors thread.
Sometimes you see combinations to describe fish, written like a code. Sometimes they get so long that you could play Boggle with them.
OHMEEMGDSPK: Over-halfmoon elephant ear mustard gas dragonscale plakat (this is a thing that honestly could exist. I think we have too much free time.)
MTS: Malaysian trumpet snail. Also refers to Multiple Tank Syndrome, a compulsion affecting many forum members. (It is incurable and highly contagious.)
NPT: Natural planted tank. The closest you can get to an ecosystem in a glass box. Not quite there, though.
LFS: Local fish store. Generally refers to independent stores or smaller chains, rather than big-box names like Petsmart or Petco. Often these take better-than-average care of their fish.
LPS: Local pet store. Similar to LFS.
SBD: Swim Bladder Disease
BB: Beneficial bacteria (see: cycling)
PPM: parts per million
IAL: Indian Almond Leaves (a beneficial additive to tanks, these are bought online)
CO2: Carbon dioxide
HOB: Hang On Back (a variety of filter)
OO: Omega One (the pellets)
NLS: New Life Spectrum (also pellets)
BBS: Baby brine shrimp (used as food)
Sometimes it seems like I can’t write a blog post without somehow complaining about high school, which means that when it comes time to submit my college apps, I’m deleting my name from every part of this site and using a different email. (Somehow, “myexplodingcat” doesn’t really sound very professional anyway.)
But in all honesty, and without any censorship… I hate high school!
And I don’t think I’ve elaborated much, here, on what exactly I think is wrong with the system. It’s probably just been a bunch of irritated angsty-looking stuff. I do have reasons–clear, logical, sensible reasons–that I don’t like the way high school is set up or (nearly) anything it does.
I have chosen to stick around high school for a few reasons. One is that I’m pretty sure you still have to be 17 to take the GED. The other is that they offer free dual-credit programming classes. By the end of this year, I’ll have five college classes done towards an Associate’s degree in Programming at my community college, which is my ticket to not working in food service during university.
Those classes are lovely and amazing and I get good grades in them. But the reason I hate high school is very much bound around the system, and the grades, and the high school credits.
1. Everything is centered around passing courses.
It’s about the grades. Nobody cares if you’ve learned anything. Do what you have to do in order to get an A, and then move on. Don’t learn; memorize. And if you’ve already learned how to do whatever the class is about? It doesn’t matter. You didn’t pass the course yet.
Is it just me, or are these priorities bat-flapping insane?
I’m good at getting the grades. I don’t mind hard work–actually, I like hard work as long as it’s well-thought-out and for a useful purpose. But passing some arbitrary course and getting a menial “A” is not motivational to me. I want to learn. I don’t find the idea of being officially recognized as having learned something exciting. An “A” doesn’t mean you understand the class’s subject matter.
Maybe the system works for somebody? I don’t know. I’ve looked for other ways out.
2. High school isn’t a place to learn.
It’s a place to prove that you’re a hard worker (or… something) so that some college will take you in. You spend four years proving that you can, in fact, sit down and study something for a few hours and not goof off.
And yeah, maybe you can get some value out of your classes if they’re in things you still need to master, and especially if it’s the subject you’re going to major in. But for some of your classes, it just doesn’t happen.
Early Western Civilizations? Fills the Social Studies requirement. Was it useful, entertaining, did it even just improve me as a human being? Heck no. The student teacher was a better teacher than the actual teacher, both of them taught straight off of PowerPoints when they weren’t showing movies that had little to do with the broad scope of what we were studying, and then they tested us at the end. They didn’t even collect our notebooks, which they said were going to be a big part of the grade. (This was probably just something they said so we’d take good notes.) It was like in The Education of Robert Nifkin, almost word-for-word. Personally, I was kind of impressed that the teacher had managed to make Romans and Greeks boring. *facepalm*
There’s no capitalistic competition between high schools. People aren’t paying them directly; it’s an obligatory tax thing, and if they want to send their son/daughter elsewhere, they have to pay extra. Public high schools don’t have to be good. They’re the default. The teachers can be folks who don’t actually like teaching, but did it anyway to avoid being drafted.
I want to be challenged, to be given assignments that I have to make myself good enough to do well. I do better work when given that kind of assignment. It’s like archery. No, not about targets; try the bow as a metaphor for once. A bow that you’re able to draw too easily won’t force you into the right stance to shoot it. But if you have to really use your muscles to pull it back and hold it as you aim, then by the time you fire, you’ll be standing correctly, with your arms and hands in just the right places.
Heh. A cat just spilled my glass of water on the floor, and I cleaned it *all* up with paper towels. No blotting or anything, I just wiped it up.
3. High school is just a means to an end: college, the place where you actually learn.
I feel bad about being really anxious to go to college, because it kind of implies that I hate my parents or something. I love my folks. But I’m bored. I really want to get started doing something useful and interesting.
High school isn’t the place where you get an education. It’s a waste of time and government money (read: everyone’s money). All it is is a competition, to weed out the people who don’t actually care about the prize: college. We’ve gotten to a point where you need a bachelor’s degree for nearly every career. Bachelor’s degrees have become the new high school diploma: a sign that you’ve been basically educated and are ready for the work force.
But the reason college works is that–drumroll please–capitalism rules. People have to pay for a college education, so there’s a competition. The professors have to be good. You HAVE to learn something. Otherwise, people will just go somewhere else, and that college’s diploma wouldn’t be meaningful and valuable–like “money” drawn by a three-year-old. College has to be productive and worthwhile. Otherwise, nobody would pay for it, and nobody would care.
High school isn’t like that. It’s a place to stick your teenage kid until s/he’s eighteen or so and can go across the country to the college they want. It’s like a waiting room filled with magazines that are about very specific hobbies. Some people might find their time used well. Others (those who don’t like golfing or knitting or underwater basket-weaving) won’t. But reading those magazines is important to the people you’re waiting to see, and your doctor is probably going to quiz you on their contents or something to see how much you read. You can be like, “I don’t golf or knit,” but they don’t care.
Basically, society has just said to anyone aged 14-18, “You’re useless for anything important. I’ll pay some people to keep you occupied while you sit in this building, and give you this consensus-fueled motive for paying attention to them.” 400 years ago, those teenagers could’ve been captaining small ships and no one would have thought it was unusual. Now, we’re stuck in class. Admittedly, there was a lot less to learn 400 years ago, but we aren’t learning anyway.
4. I want to be in college.
To me, this in itself is a reason to dislike high school.
I feel bad about being anxious to start college, because it kind of implies that I hate my parents or something. I don’t. I love my folks dearly. But I’m bored.
I want to be in college because I dislike high school, and I dislike high school because I want to be in college. I don’t know how sound that logic is, but I’m going to go with it.
And in case you’re curious… this is my opinion on some of the stuff I’ve taken. As you’ll notice, a teacher can make or break a class…
Here is an honest list of the courses I liked in high school (that I can think of right now).
My French classes, except AP. I still remember some French.
My German classes.
My art classes, except AP. Especially Drawing. I took them because I liked them.
My Psych classes (both the normal and the dual-credit one). I don’t know whether it’s right to list these here, because I have a book that’s small and about an inch thick called Psych101, and it contains the entirety of both classes’ curriculum in an easier-to-understand format. But I didn’t mind being in the classes themselves, because I really like psychology.
All my programming classes. I learned something from them! Although it’s worth mentioning that taking a class in Java doesn’t mean you’re “able to program in Java.” They teach you the basics, and that’s about it.
Most of my Science classes. They were interesting, useful (did you know you can store carbon dioxide in a tub because it sinks? Also we learned how to make moonshine in Chemistry), and the teachers were cool.
My one TAG class. It was full of critical thinking exercises and other good stuff. And a lot of dry reading, but hey.
The class on politics–that was interesting, and useful, and I liked the teacher a lot.
Here is an honest list of the classes I hated in high school (that I can think of right now).
Physics–the teacher was awful, my dad taught me better
My math classes–teachers again. I don’t actually mind math.
AP French–Wasn’t the teacher’s fault–she’s a really good teacher. Circumstances were stacked against this class. Nine people made it through.
AP Art–Was the teacher’s fault. Controlling art teachers don’t work. Fortunately, I got mono, and was able to drop it.
Newspaper Lab–I have stories about this one. Man. You don’t want to know.
My writing/reading classes–not the teacher’s fault, and I actually (obviously) like writing and reading a lot. But they were so menial that they were meaningless.
My history classes. Actually, the one freshman year was okay, but Early Western Civ… see above.
My basic tech class, freshman year. Excuse me… I know how to use Microsoft Word. But this class is kind of necessary, because of the freshmen who are all like, “Um… teacher? I don’t have that web site on my computer.”
And with that… good night.
I’m sitting in the middle of my room, on a queen-sized mattress that’s been unceremoniously (but very comfortably) plopped on the floor. This is nothing new. What is new is that the floor is now hardwood instead of carpeting, and the walls are now a nice medium green–”Lochlan’s Meadow”–instead of its old color, which was named “Tickle Me Pink.” It’s actually kind of weird that I still remember the original color’s name, because I was five years old at the time, but maybe it’s because I campaigned for that color so endlessly that it’s been stuck in my memory permanently.
Anyway, it’s gone now, and it isn’t being missed. The ceiling and one wall are still yellow, because it goes with the green and nobody really wants to repaint the ceiling because it’s such a pain.
The floorboards and the wall color are lovely. I’m still waiting for the molding to be put in (the ‘rents have to fuss with it first to get it the right color and so on), and I have a black-and-white-patterned border yet to arrive in the mail and a pile of black-and-white-patterned curtain fabric waiting to be sewn. Then we have to move a bunch of my furniture back in, including the 4.5-ft-long oak desk from my brother’s room, swapping for the 3-ish-ft-long desk from mine, and not including the white-and-oak-ish-looking table I was setting my plants on. I liked that thing at first, but it takes water damage easily, and it’s really just become another flat surface to put stuff on. I think I want my desk in front of the window this time, anyway, if I can get it to work. And then we have to weed out all the little-kid things that have been hiding in my second closet, which I haven’t been able to really access and clean for years.
What I’d *like* is for that second closet to become usable for… y’know, clothes. Iowa winters are crazy, and it would be nice to be able to store winter stuff in there without fighting the way the closet’s set up. Right now, it just has a clothes bar at the top, and a rack in the middle, which makes kind of no sense to me because once you put anything on the rack, it gets harder to use the clothes bar and/or your stuff gets buried.
I’m curious as to what’s in those boxes I haven’t dug through in ages, though. Probably lots of stuffed animals. I used to have a MASSIVE collection of stuffed animals, almost exclusively dogs and cats. They all had unique names, and I knew them all. I still remember a few of them. (I wonder if that early practice is part of why my memory is so good now?)
I’m glad I didn’t let my parents do this last year, though. Being driven out of my Introvert privacy space does a number on me. A really big number. Like 1031 or something. (I may not have mentioned the context for this yet on the site. This time last year, I was still more depressed than anyone should ever be, which is mildly depressed by general standards but still really, really miserable. I’m pretty sure I would have gone flying-squirrel-poo insane with my space upheaved under those circumstances.)
Anyway, I’m off to write another post about a different subject.
This is why I’ll be glad when I’m in college. Some of this will stop, and be replaced by different idiocies. But at least it’ll be refreshing to be answering a different litany, or maintaining a different farce, or tolerating a different kind of (well-meaning?) adult.
What people think: “Wow. You’re taking Latin of your own volition?” [Granted, it does sound impressive... unless you have a realistic view of what high schools are actually like.]
What it’s really like: “Yeah. We learn pretty much no grammar, I fudge my way through stuff I’ve missed after being out sick and I still get a good grade, and probably nothing I’m doing here will be useful to me. I’m not going to use it, and colleges are unlikely to ever notice or care that I took it. By the time I get to that point, they’ll want my transcript from community college and not my high school one.” [By the way? This is what high schools are actually like.]
What I say: “Sure. I like languages.”
What people think: “Wow. That must be really difficult!”
What it’s really like: “Wow, book. I just translated the sentences, ‘Birds fly in air. Fish swim in water. Humans walk on the ground.’ I am astounded by your profound insight.” [This is Chapter 10, by the way. The course is almost over.]
What I say: “Here you go, Teach.”
What the teacher (and everyone else even remotely related to the program) says:
“This is a dual-credit class. I am a real teacher, from an actual legit seriouspants college. This is just like a college class. It’ll be more difficult than your high school classes, like a college class, because it is a college class, a really real college class. It’ll go on your real, serious college transcript that everyone will look at, because it is a real, serious college class. Really. It’s a college class. You’re in a high school building but it’s a college class. I’m serious. I’m serious because college classes are serious and this is a college class.”
What I’m thinking: “It is important that this will go on the college records. Nevertheless, the class is actually easier than its high school version, which I took last year. Most of the students here have taken a few dual-credit classes already anyway, and we’ve all heard this spiel more times than the teacher has fallen asleep whilst reciting it.”
What I say: Nothing. They’ll shut up about it by the fourth week or so.
Art college reps
What they think: “These kids like art a lot. Obviously, it’s my job to get them an art degree from my college, or they will lead sad and unfulfilled lives. Also, I want their parents’ money.”
What I think: “…No. I don’t need your liberal indoctrination OR your expensive degree, which is even more useless to me than it is to anyone else in this room. Go talk to the three to five students in this art class who actually want jobs in art. The rest of us would just like to chuck your information card in the trash to avoid being spammed by your college for the next two years. But when you get bored of talking with the hippie guy, we have a drawing of Batman to show you.”
What I say: “Oh, yeah, I’ve heard good things about you guys… no, I don’t think I’ll go there. Thanks. No. Really. I’m sure.”
People trying to get me to nail down my plans
What they think: “Surely you have a dreeeeeeam, young scholar. Tell me all about how one particular career path is Your One True Path, and anything else will leave you to leave a sad and unfulfilled life.”
What I’m thinking: “Uh, no. Actually, I want x, but… cynicism, and realistically, I’ll probably change my plans sixteen times like every other college student ever. So I’m making sure I have a plan B. No… I’d be just fine with plan B, too. Thanks. No. Really. I’m sure.”
What I say: [At first, what I'm thinking. Then I realize I'm probably talking to one of my dad's relatives or somebody else who didn't actually ask the question in order to get an answer, and I say whatever will make them nod approvingly and leave me alone.]
People trying to get me to nail down which four-year college I’ll attend after community college (if they paid attention to the last bit)
What they think: “Surely you have a *dream college* where you must get in, for any other college will leave you to lead a sad and unfulfilled life!”
What I’m thinking: “This question is just as silly as if you’d asked a sophomore where she’s going for college. I can’t read the minds of admissions counselors (and wouldn’t want to anyway–too scary). I’ll go to whichever of my hand-picked short-list colleges accepts me, or the best offer. What do you want, my list? Because I’m pretty sure you don’t actually care one way or the other. You’re trying to make conversation. Maybe you just don’t remember how convoluted the whole process is for everyone involved? Either way, you’re never going to get a straight, simple answer out of a student on this one. Can we talk about cats?”
What I say: “I’m not sure yet.”
Any relatives who don’t know me very well
What they say (invariably):
1. “So, what school are you going to?”
1a. (optional) “I thought you were going to _____.”
2. “Do you like it there?”
3. “What are you going to do after high school?”
3a. (optional) “I went to _____. You should go there!”
4a. “What degree are you getting?”–they want specifics–OR
4b. “What are you going to do when you grow up?”
I usually say:
1. “‘X’ High School.”
1a. “I was last year/two years ago/three years ago/that’s a middle school.”
2. “Don’t ask that question; you don’t want to know the answer.” (Or, if the relative is someone I have to be diplomatic around, the answer is, “It’s better than Y High School/Middle School that you mentioned in 1a.”)
3. “Community college for programming, then a four-year for Psych.” (Cue questions about which four-year.)
3a. “Oh, cool. Maybe I’ll look at that one.” *nod, smile*
4a. “Uhhhh…” (Psych degrees are weird. Nobody can decide whether it’s a B.A. or a B.S., since it’s one of the newer fields of science and a good chunk of it isn’t actually science. Throw in that programming degree, and you’ve got yourself a question impossible to answer concisely. It’s especially frustrating since I *should* be able to give a simple answer like everybody else. But this is me, and I can’t do anything education-related the simple way. Y’know?)
4b. *incredulous stare, then snaps out of it* “Eh… I’m keeping my options open for now.” *Smile and nod.*
But I’m thinking:
1a. “Did you know that sometimes people do different things?” (Or, if the relative hasn’t seen me in a while… “That’s a middle school.”)
2. “No. Do you actually remember high school?”
3. “Eat a burrito.”
3a. “Yes, I acknowledge your name-drop. No, I don’t want to go there; I don’t enjoy being in debt enough for that. However, I will indulge you, because after paying 40K a year for a degree you could’ve gotten anywhere else and clawing your way out of a financial pit, bragging is the only consolation you have left, and I will stand here and look suitably impressed as you toss out that it’s your ‘alma mater’ and ask me if I know what that means.”
4a. “My psychic powers inform me that I’ll be employed as that dude who sits around and comes up with new Dorito flavors. I am getting a degree in that. You can probably do this in California.” OR
4b. There’s a whole list of responses to this. A few of the PG ones:
“I wanna be a fireman!”
“I wanna be a coroner!”
This is why teenagers don’t like family reunions.
When you’re an older sister, the ability to stare into a closet and pull out an acceptable Halloween costume thirty minutes before trick-or-treating starts is a highly useful skill. In fact, even if you’re the youngest in your family, the invention of a clever costume can be what swings you out of that gray area you slip into as a teenager, and make it somewhat socially acceptable for you to still wheedle candy out of your neighbors. The fact is, when you turn about fifteen or so, you can no longer get by with going up to your neighbors’ house in a grungy T-shirt, grunting, “…trickrtreat…” and holding out a bag for candy. And eventually, we all get tired of dressing as black cats and hippies every year.
It’s best, of course, to offer to take someone else’s kid for them, so it looks like you still have a reason to be doing this beyond the obvious. (Face it, it’s kinda lame to be at the acne-ridden age and still running around with all the little kids. Even the adults think it’s kind of pathetic looking and you won’t get candy from a bunch of them.) But if no such younguns are available, you need a clever costume–or at least one that looks like you sort of tried.
Unfortunately, Halloween is often the kind of event that people sort of forget about, unless reminded by huge inflatable gimmicky things stuck in the middle of Walmart’s produce section, which are among the only reasons anyone remembers to buy candy (which is, naturally, why they’re there). This forgetfulness means you probably don’t have such a neat costume. But don’t worry! If you regularly make a habit of wearing clothing, it is statistically likely that you can forge a costume in the last thirty minutes before people turn their lights on.
But not by reading most articles you find on the Internet. I know from experience that if you search for this kind of thing, you’re way more likely to pull up Family Home Whatever Magazine and instructions on how to turn an innocent two-year-old into a grumpy-looking bumblebee than you are to pull up something useful and not embarrassingly terrible.
I mean, you can make a really bad costume and run around giggling about how bad it is–that, like B-movies, is an art form all its own. Or you can make something slightly more serious. It’s up to you how much of a crap you want to give.
I have dealt with this before. Now, I pass my knowledge to you.
Last year, my brother and I went as highwaymen. We put on brownish clothes and leather jackets, tied a bandana on our heads, and ran around saying, “Stand and deliver! Your candy or your life!” This is clever, and gets you out of saying “Trick or Treat,” which is kind of a dumb phrase.
Slap some sparkly silver makeup on your palm, wear boots, and claim that your dragon has a sweet tooth. Nobody wants to upset the dragon, right? This costume is unabashedly ridiculous. It also gets points for being a reference to Eragon… although most people have only seen the movie, which was terrible, you’ll get a high rate of recognition. And nerd points! It’s more excusable to still be trick-or-treating if you’re a nerd. It’s kind of expected.
A nice hat, a long necklace, and a knee-length dress = flapper. Best if you have short hair. You also need to be a girl. This one doesn’t work on guys.
Throw on a whole bunch of jewelry (must have big earrings) and swooshy-looking clothes, drape something over your head, and take on Professor Trelawney’s airy-dramatic demeanor. Also a girl’s costume, although if you’re a dude and you want to modify it (like, a face-painted gypsy with one earring or something), go for it. You get points for creativity.
Mess up your hair, wear mismatched clothes, and carry a really blank expression. Don’t respond to people easily. If you’re really committed, don’t shower. If you’re a girl, put on makeup. Badly.
All you need is a huge and confusing-looking map, maybe some dorky shorts, and a shirt with the name of a state on it (or the classic Hawaiian deal).
This one is more of a guy’s costume, but girls can pull it off too if they have the right clothes. Guys just need to find the darkest-colored clothes with the most holes in their drawers, put on their sister’s black eyeliner, and bathe themselves in Axe. (The guys with the right clothes for this are more likely to be the guys who bathe themselves in Axe anyway.) Girls might need to put on a bunch of jewelry and nail polish, rather than Axe.
Pin a blue circle to a black T-shirt. Find a name tag sticker that says “YOU KNOW WHO I AM” and stick it on. Put on a suit jacket if you have one. Now act like a pompous jerk, but a really funny pompous jerk. Boom, you’re Tony Stark. Now you have the excuse of wanting to run around dressed as and acting like Tony Stark, which is a good enough excuse for trick-or-treating, or really probably doing anything.
Got a leather jacket? Great. Got boots? Great. Braid your hair? Great. Bonus points for an orange backpack.
Got a white T-shirt and some sweats you don’t mind marking up? Grab a black Sharpie and make yourself into a stick figure for the night. Draw down your arms, up your neck, and a circle (or a black headband or ribbon) around your face, and wear black shoes. You’ll need to shower well that night and the morning after to take off the Sharpie (don’t use Crayola markers–they’ll come off if you get sweaty, making a huge mess), unless you’re cool with people thinking you’re really, really, really weird.
A girl’s costume. Put on foundation that’s three shades lighter than yours (or highlighter or something), use lipstick as blush, and overdo your eye makeup. Then wear something frilly or little-girl-ish. There are ways to take this costume seriously and make it look really awesome, but they require somewhat more preparation and this is an article for the lazy.
You may or may not have the clothes for this one, but you can swing by Walmart in less than thirty minutes, so I’ll still put it here. Another one that gets points for being a reference. Find a brown T-shirt and stretch it (or somehow tie or affix it) over a backpack. Wear a yellow short-sleeve T-shirt or a yellow tank top over a green T-shirt, and some green sweat pants. Make yourself a mask in your chosen color–be creative with that. It’s not terribly difficult to find something to make a mask out of. Raid your coat closet for old winter scarves if nothing else. Also, make lots of references to pizza.
This one’s not too hard. It’s not very far off from the jeans-and-T-shirt non-costume, but the difference is mainly in the accessories, and your acting skills. Put on your glasses. Carry a computer bag (with a book in it so it looks like you’re carrying a laptop). Find a lanyard and string some Flash drives on it. Wear glasses. Drink a bunch of coffee before going out (bonus points if you spill some on your shirt) and act jittery. Mutter about your company’s management, saying they never know what they’re talking about. If you really want to nail this costume, look here.
This is kind of obvious. Don’t bump into people.
Your football gear, cheerleading outfit, karate uniform, tennis clothes…
Kind of lazy, but they look pretty good. Some of these might be kind of overdone, though.
You, plus some sportsy looking stuff you found in the basement
Might work. You never know.
You as a zombie fighter
Okay, this is just kind of a classic. Torn or military-looking clothes are great. A baseball bat or a fake crowbar/sword/other fake weapon is a must. Tie your hair back if it’s long enough to do so. Wear good running shoes and a serious expression.
You as an annoying over-preppy teen girl, or a teenage guy who’s trying too hard
This is pretty self-explanatory, too. Get ready to bust out the most sickening perfume or Axe you can find. Try to stay away from asthmatics.
The IM A WIZERD costume
This is the one where you take a blanket, wrap it around your shoulders, and pick up a wand-ish-looking stick from your front lawn. Definitely a B-costume. But if you’ve gotten all the way down here and you haven’t found something you like, it may be your final answer.
Sign the petition!
Why do computer rooms have to be so cold? I don’t get it. Computers do best in ~70 degree temperatures–the same temperature that’s comfortable for humans. It’s like 60 degrees or something in here. It’s nearly impossible to type. And I’m wearing long sleeves.
D’you think if I came in with a huge marshmallow winter coat and typed with gloves on, they’d get the idea?
I’m kind of feeling miserable. I wish I could just not be at school right now. Actually, I wish school started maybe two or three hours later–nobody should be up at 6:00 AM. Classes shouldn’t start until 9:00. Nobody remembers anything from early-morning classes. I nearly fell asleep in Classical Languages (not helped by the fact that Classical Languages is Classical Languages).
Worse, I forgot to put the book I’m reading in my bag.
I should probably go back to using my freezing typey hands to make my stupid, useless Java program. Java is of the few classes that might have some real-world value, and it really likes to pretend that it doesn’t. Whatever.
Having the flu kinda sucks. Sometimes it’s a relief from stress and responsibility; sometimes it’s because of too much stress and responsibility (in that, in my case, those seem to seriously weaken my already-terrible immune system), but mostly it involves a seriously stinging nose, hacking up globs of goo from the depths of your lungs all night and especially in the morning*, having your sense of touch replaced by an odd sort of blind, sore sensitivity, and drinking as much tea as you can possibly stomach. (For me, that last part is fortunately a hard point to reach. I really like tea.)
Right now, I’m sitting here with a massive headache and wondering about the distinct possibility of taking four ibuprofen dry. Would it conflict with the vitamin C horsepills I’ve been sternly told to take as often as possible, or the approximation of two tablespoons** of cough medicine that is ostensibly doing something to my buildup of mucus?
I’m also chewing a giant wad of anise gum. Anise, a flavor similar to licorice (not the kind that just tastes like red wax), functions in small doses as an antihistamine and in large doses as a narcotic.*** Currently, neither of these effects is exactly unwelcome.
I should probably go downstairs and get myself some more tea, but I’ve had at least five pots (ten mugs) of it today and I think I’ve reached my “no more tea” point. The best “no more tea” point example I’ve come across is demonstrated in (the final?) Bone book by Thorn, who is at one point not allowed to go to sleep for some pretty freaky reasons involving, if I remember right, Possession By Evil Thingy, and the weird old magician-type people who are looking after her keep trying to feed her tons and tons of tea with different weird magic-type herbs in it. Eventually, she stabs her sword into the floor and tells them outright: “No more tea.” The two elders, realizing they’re arguing with a just-barely-not-possessed, sleep-deprived girl wielding a sword, decide not to push the issue.
No more tea. …At least for tonight.
What bothers me most is the fuzziness. When you’re sick–or at least when I’m sick–all your senses are dulled. It’s like walking around with a cloth bag over your head. I’m not wearing my glasses because I have a headache. I can hardly smell anything. My hearing is terrible, except for my own voice–because people keep asking me to repeat myself, which I’m guessing means I’m talking more quietly than normal. My taste is off (actually, since I have the flu and I was already stressed, I also have canker sores in my mouth, plus a bunch of mucus, plus the numbed feeling that’s in my arms and legs apparently extends to my mouth and is worsened by all the coughing). And my fingers are so numb that I’m not even going to try stressing them with computer games like Castle Crashers, Cave Story, or even Aveyond.
This, naturally, means I’ve been finding things to do. I went through all the pages on this site and revamped what needed to be updated; I combined or shortened up some stuff to make it more accessible, and got rid of some “Coming Soon”s that never came soon. Or… not soon. Because I put them there four years ago. *facepalm*
I also spent some time on NetFlix. Ordinarily, if I wanted to kill brainless time, this would result in a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic**** marathon; for some reason, I currently don’t have the patience. Or perhaps I feel it’d just give me a worse headache. I watched some Blackadder, but that amount of laughter makes my headache and coughing a lot worse. All the other shows and movies in my list are either hilariously, headache-worseningly funny, or require brain power I don’t have at the moment.
Then there’s the matter of my brain. You see, I’m both tired and thinking slowly at the moment, and that’s not a good combination. I have this complicated theory as to why, and when I’m a psych major looking to BS together a paper, maybe one day I’ll look back on this blog post and I’ll find some material in it.
1. Normal people speak… normally. That is, they speak in common, easy-to-understand words. It’s how we learn language, and we automatically, or at least more easily, use the words we learned sooner when we were children.
2. However, I’m conditioned both as a writer and as someone who grew up in a cerebral household to use longer, more precise words. Throughout the entire time I was homeschooled (which was a large chunk of my formative years, thankfully), an expansive vocabulary was highly encouraged. I was also a kid who had a large vocabulary very quickly, meaning that I didn’t stick with those common, learned-them-first words for long, and that this conditioning has the strongest influence on me.
3. BUT then I entered middle and then high school, where nobody understands me unless I push down that conditioning. I have to take my time, and use those shorter, easier-to-understand words, for the sake of the people around me. (If I lived in a British sitcom, this wouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, the other problems people in Britcoms have probably outweigh this advantage.)
4. And yet, when I’m tired, I lapse back into talking like a professor. I don’t have the energy to translate myself, or to take the long way when I’m talking. I’ve been trained, by my experiences, to make good use of the beautifully specific, fine, and varied words of the English language as it is today.
5. Still finally (I’m running out of emphasis words here), my brain as it is now is not working on all cylinders, and really doesn’t want to make the effort of using any words past the first six hundred I learned. It really, really doesn’t. But my conditioning says otherwise: that it takes more effort not to use complex words. Which, for me, is true.
All this boils down to this extremely weird and puzzling process that’s happening as I write this post. As I finish a sentence and start on a new one, my brain is sending me these ideas of more precise words I should have used in the previous sentence I’ve written. Something kinda like this:
I have this complicated theory
“I don’t wanna use the word ‘complicated.’ Everyone says the word ‘complicated’ and now it doesn’t have as much meaning. Use ‘complex’! No, wait! What? What are you doing, moving on?!”
and now it doesn’t have as much meaning.
“I wouldn’t have said it that way. You should have used the word ‘effect’ instead of ‘meaning.’ Also, if you’re going to use both a question and exclamation mark, it should have been an interrobang!”
it should have been an interrobang!
“You should have said that I said that you should have consolidated it into an interrobang!”
You should have said that I said that you should have…
As you can see, it’s (rather/sort of/becoming) (difficult/arduous/aggravating/irritating) to (write/compose) a blog (post/entry) when your (brain/consciousness) has (unwittingly/unwillingly/inadvertently) (turned into/become) a living thesaurus.
And especially when I’m dealing with this headache.
Considering my current condition, I should probably best be spending my time playing Bookworm Adventures (either 1 or 2), a game in which you can highly (profit/benefit) from this kind of (thinking/thought pattern). It’s why I’ve always been so good at those games. Some of the words I use casually can’t even be made from their 16 provided tiles! “Inadvertently” barely fits! With the aid of either luck in the draw or strategic disuse of certain letter tiles, I can sometimes pull a word like “magistrates” from the grid, possibly at just the right moment in my word battle with that evil brass falcon thing in order to fell it and move on to Defeating Moar Evil Things.
To answer the skeptical question you’re probably thinking by now, no, I’m not actively trying to think up long words to put in this post. (Examine the writing more carefully. I lapse into Stupid Talk sometimes***** before going back to my pattern of sesquipedalian verbiage.) Maybe you have to know me personally, but my incomprehensible babbling (case in point) isn’t intentional. In fact, in a normal situation where, for one reason or another, I need to invent some pseudo-smart-person-talk, ASAP, I actually can’t come up with anything, because in those normal situations, I’m set on being understandable.
It’s almost like if I were an immigrant who came to America at about the age I started attending public middle school (11), and I mastered local colloquialism… er… … … dang it!… but, when tired or under stress, I still spoke with an accent from wherever I grew up. And if I were really tired, I might start mixing in bunches of words from my native language with English sentences.
It’s also kind of like having a bad case of editorbrain, and the off button is broken.
I’ve rambled too long about this and I’m kind of feeling weak at this point and want to go to sleep, so I’m just gonna end this here. Maybe I’ll pick it up again tomorrow. Or I might just spend tomorrow rereading Eragon… for the zillionth time. (I could swear I’ve read that book like seven times by now…)
*This being defined as that point sometime after you finally fall asleep and about a half hour before noon, when you wake up to your concerned father who a) was probably wondering if you were still alive, and b) now wants you to come up with something he can do for you so he can feel better about your condition. No. Dad. I don’t need anything. (Subtext that doesn’t get read: No. Dad. Can I go back to sleep? Yes. I’m alive. Now, please close my door, I have a headache and I want to go back to sleep.) This definition of “morning” is not to be confused with my normal definition of “morning,” which involves being roused at the unholy hour of six in the morning in order to go to school. Seriously? I went through a sick spell last year in which 6:00 AM meant I could probably manage to go to sleep already. Yay.
**Due to my inadequate slug of an immune system, I tend to be sick a lot and I can approximate two tablespoons pretty accurately. It won’t kill me.
***I was a serious botany nerd when I was, like, eight. I still have the giant herbal reference book that I used to make many valiant attempts at casually reading. Sometimes, when I come across a new extract I’m using as perfume or a spice or something, I still reference it. Which is what it was supposed to be used for. Whatever.
I also still remember a lot of what I learn(ed) from that book. For instance, the antihistamine effect of anise could have the side effect of improving my mood. This is because too much histamine in your system reduces the effectiveness of glial cells in the brain, which transport tryptophan, a chemical deficient in depressed people. SO MUCH COMPLICATEDNESS
****This is a show I watch in bursts. No, I haven’t seen all of it. Yes, it’s pretty ridiculous, and that’s why everyone from the intended audience of six-year-old girls to male college students who need to be working on thesis papers to… well, you don’t want to know… watches it. Contrary to what you’d believe, although it’s kinda cheesy, it’s pretty gender-ambiguous… sort of (if they were dragons and half the main cast was gender-flipped to male, it’d easily be a unisex show). My main complaint is that when I got onto Netflix some days ago to watch some after a brain-killing Latin assignment, and made a personal profile and then watched a few eps of MLP, Netflix was thoroughly convinced I was a six-year-old girl who desperately wanted to watch all the LeapFrog shows on the site, along with freaky-looking cartoons with names like “Super Why,” “Jem and the Holograms,” and, scariest of all, “Bratz: Fashion Pixiez.”
*****Stupid Talk is when you start writing/talking like an Internet meme, and/or you capitalize random words like it’s a TVTropes article. You might also be using a loose, imprecise writing style, or even dropping/forgetting minor (for some folks, major) grammar rules due to fatigue or apathy or both.
I’d fuss about the possibility of these footnotes being longer than the actual post, but I know how long the actual post is, so… fo’geddaboudit.
I took a hiatus from posting after I entered the depressive funk of AP French (long story), and didn’t start again over the summer. But I didn’t stop writing. Here’s the synopsis of my latest project, a steampunk novel called A City Reclaimed.
This post contains massive spoilers after the dotted lines.
A City Reclaimed
A girl called Ella is the last surviving member of a noble family wiped out by plague (the reason she survived is kind of a spoiler, but I’ll say that for a few reasons, she wasn’t as at risk as the rest of her family). She manages to sell some of her family’s possessions and hightail it out of her city before the next person to take power kills her or her sketchy godfather catches on to the fact that she’s still alive. She survives on the street for a while in Corveny, the next city over, until she’s picked up by the city’s governor, a scholarly man called Gabriel, because she looks like his late wife.
Under his wing, she meets Gabriel’s son and future partner in crime, a boy her age named James. She quickly demonstrates that she is a) able to read, and b) able to construct machines that make Gabriel a lot of money, because of a tutor she had for a few months (against her parents’ best intentions).
And he needs it, because Corveny is being attacked by airship pirates. A lot. They slip in during the night, get past the walls and guards, and steal things from the citizens, which is starting to upset the economy. Then, one night, they go for a less subtle attack, and they bring their guns. The armed citizens hold them off pretty well, but Gabriel is abducted.
Naturally, James and Ella pack up and go after him; they take off a prototype machine of Ella’s, which is a metal chariot with mechanical horses. (The fantasy fans will get the joke in 3… 2… 1. They actually are using mechanical horses, and they still require more maintenance than the horses fantasy heroes ride.) Along the way they meet a cyborg boy (Andrew) who has nowhere else to go and a genetically engineered empath girl (Ivy) who won’t leave them alone, both of whom turn out to be pretty helpful.
It gets more complicated, but don’t read past this if you’re planning on reading the book.
SPOILERS: I’ll tell you how it ends.
They rescue Gabriel. He’s poisoned a bunch of the pirates in a sneaky way only a scholar would know about, and James, Ella, Ivy and Andrew act as his getaway crew. Meanwhile, they find out that the pirates are actually privateers: hired by a family that’s trying to take over all the surrounding cities in order to build an empire. This family is also the one that poisoned Ella’s folks with the disease that killed them; it was spread through makeup, and then from person to person. (Ella, who didn’t wear makeup and avoided her family as much as possible, escaped the spread.)
Both actions are against a treaty signed by all of the southern river cities, including the one the family originally ruled. (The treaty allowed for expansion in cities as long as there was land to put it on, but prohibited multiple cities being ruled by the same group or person.) This is fortunate, because it gives Gabriel a good rallying point when he’s looking for alliances. The band of five has to deal with the family and their privateers, and then organize the re-stabilizing of all the affected cities.
In the end, Ella reunites with the tutor who taught her mechanics (Samuel) and installs him as her home city’s governor (by now, she’s a bit sick of politics, so the intelligent tutor gets the job). Gabriel goes back to running Corveny, and also takes on the duty of coaching and helping Samuel. She and James go back to their workshop and continue to work together as mechanic and engineer, respectively. Ivy and Andrew end up together romantically. Apart from generally liking each other, Ivy’s lonely knowing what everyone else is feeling and thinking about her all the time and Andrew’s robotic limbs make that far more difficult (since she works off body language), and Andrew needs help learning to read body language so he can interact with people more normally. Also, they’re both artificially altered, and they value each other’s lives more than a normal person probably would.*
Everything’s okay in the end. Broken, needing repair, but okay.
Note: I’m not disparaging all guys. Just, like, 95% of those I’ve seen in couples at my high school (and, well, some people’s adult boyfriends, because there are those who are permanently mentally teenagers). Granted, a pet rock has advantages over those. But don’t overanalyze…
My cat Jake is a huge, muscular Egyptian Mau. He weighs a very full fifteen pounds, and very little of that is fat, because he’s just so big. He’s very attached to me–Maus tend to glom on to one person that they claim as theirs, and I’m his. Recently, it’s occurred to me that he behaves much like a high school boyfriend, except better.
He has a six-pack… under a layer of fluffy, creamy, spotted fur.
He’s possessive of me… and it’s adorable and kind of hilarious rather than stalkerish or suspicious.
He likes to cuddle and watch movies… and makes no demands to watch 300 again rather than my weird speculative-fiction Netflix list.
He demands my attention… so I’ll scratch his ears and behind his whiskers.
He’s got a beard… of soft white whipped-cream fur.
He yells at me… and it’s funny enough to belong on YouTube.
He kinda smells… but not of Axe.
He keeps me awake at night… demanding to be let into my room. No, out of my room. No, in. It’s still better than depressive late-night texts or the needy midnight romantic conversation you’ve been too diplomatic to end. It also ends in a smaller phone bill.
He makes lovey-dovey cat blinks at me… instead of the expectant, nervous, premature “I love you” that ladies across the centuries have struggled with responding to. All you have to do with a cat is slow-blink back.
That, or he sleeps on me… without the obvious ensuing complications this entails when a human male does the same thing. (Kids, don’t ask.)
If you like, the cat will listen to your problems without feeling the need to barge in and fix them for you.
The cat will probably jump up on places he’s not supposed to and manage to make a mess, but so will your boyfriend.
If the cat tries to eat your food, you can give him a bop on the nose with your hand, which you can’t get by with when a human does it.
Rescue cats sometimes come with emotional damage. With TLC and time, the cat will get over it. Rescue boyfriends are typically not the same way.
Your cat may get fur all over your clothes, but I doubt he’ll ever give you a hickey.
You have to clean up their crap. Was I talking about cats or teenage boys? Well, think about it.
Cats don’t need you to attend their football games.
Obviously, there are a few things that will not happen with a cat and may eventually happen with a boyfriend, but I’m sixteen, so… I’ll take the cat. (Although cat + engagement ring would also make a ridiculously funny YouTube video if done right…)
Anyway, if you have a malfunctioning Creepy Guy Alert System, just get a cat. Lots cheaper and far more convenient. Plus, they’re cuddly.
That is all. :3