Friday, July 30, 2010

America, The Best: Our Sexist Roots

I am glad to have found yet another way that America is the best country in the world. It has recently come to my attention that England is ruled by a queen.

The misleading sexist bastards. All this time, I thought they had a king! They've been duping us left and right, helter-skelter, and I come with the truth. Why does a queen deserve to be king of England? It's not as if females are any better than males! Honestly, it's scandalous!

That's a reason as good as any to have broken off of England. Sure, they had a king at the time, but we knew, oh we knew, that they would come to this, and show their true selves, so we broke off into our own nation to prove a point.

And now we can justify our behavior. We may have dumped a bunch of tea into Boston Harbor, but not only did that make tea-flavored water, (Err...tea, that is) but it spared us from the sexist English legacy.

Oh, and if you happen to argue that the ends don't justify the means, consider this.
Where does tea come from? Asia.
Where does most of the tea in Asia come from? China.
What is the country with the most women? China.
Is it sexist to have more of one gender than another? Yes.
See? Take that Bernanos!

Now, I won't say America is perfect on that account.
Wait, what am I saying? Of course it is. Bring me proof that the number of men and women in the United States are unequal, and I'll consider it. But until then...

Wait, what's that? also part of the United Kingdom?
Oho! Nice try, England. But I can see right through your tricks. Trying to kiss up to the United States, now, are you? Well, mimicking us by adding United onto your name won't help, and that whole kingdom thing? A sham.

I know who holds the true power. The parliament. For shame! Making a woman queen, and then denying her power! That's even more sexist, for reasons so shocking I don't even know them! I've called your parliament-posing-as-queen-posing-as-king bluff! Just call yourself the Parliamentdom and be done with it!

You can keep the United part, actually. It sounds nice. Got that catchy ring to it.

Hold it. Hold it. Hold it. I was about to let you go there with America proven as the superior country. Then I found this. It's not big enough to make into a post, and you're reading this already, so I might as well rant further.

And I quote, "Research shows that men are far more easily distracted behind the wheel than women."
Yeah, right. Look who this is coming from! I bet your research shows that men are also far more easily distracted by-



Sorry, squirrel. Where was I?
Oh, right. Shame on you, Telegraph, for publishing this! More proof of the sexist nature of England. I bet it's the only place in the world where they say men are more attracted to women the women are. For shame!

Of course, I had to develop a solution to this. What is it?
Cover the windshield of your car with Playboys. Problem solved.

Afterwards: That was one hell of a meandering, confusing post. Hope it made sense to someone out there.
Props go to the Atlantan (Is that the correct form?) who suggested this =)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Because I Can...

Apologies for the overused meme. Saw this, had to make this.

Picture 8 Of 7 (Bonus)

To respond to a request from my "Turkish" friend...

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Picture 7 Of 7

When you hear the word outlaw, you think of someone living in the wild, scrounging together what little they can to survive. Or perhaps they are well-off in their new life in the mountains or woods. Perhaps they seek refuge in a neighboring country, disguised as someone who never existed, except in the minds of whoever the outlaw meets. That is the romanticized image of an outlaw.

The real outlaws of the world live under the noses of the very government which seeks to be rid of them, risking capture, or worse, each day. But few need to fear this. Like the majority of people, their lives are subdued, with very few actions meriting anybody's attention but their own. No government, though they may profess it, can be on watch of all of its citizens. No government will know each and every single person living in their country, though they may try. The nearest they can come is making everybody believe that, and they have nearly succeeded in that task.

So that is how I live, how we live. Right beneath the frozen noses of the Russian leaders. Walking in plain view, and remaining within the great Motherland. My comrades and I, we are all exiles. Exiles in Russian eyes. None of the others in our lives know of our past. Not our real past. Of course, they have heard some feeble tale from the depths of our mind, spun by Alexey. He was always one for tales, and they are believable enough. Before the war, he wished to be a writer. Before the war, we all had our aspirations. But the war changed everything.  It crushed the dreams of so many, the face of war sending scholars to the front lines, and  little children to the factories. And then, that was it. The war began, then it stopped. Lives were lost, battles were won, guns were fired. Then it was over, ended as simply as one might squish a fly. The victors would be hailed as great leaders, and the losers would have their faces ground into the dirt of history, their names reviled forever.

History only cares for the victors. That much was clear. But even the losers are lucky, in a way. The losing side will always be held in fame, if only in the form of infamy. The winning side would only be remembered for its leaders. The names of the soldiers who fought, who bled, sweated, and died would be cast away as one might dispose of an apple's core, used, and now useless. Even the most valorous were cast aside, the "mighty" leaders taking that fame for their own. These true heroes of the war were proclaimed outcasts, exiled for minor crimes that every soldier did, that they were even congratulated for doing. But they lived on. 

Some just wished to reinstate their old lives, though many found this nearly impossible in the recovering Russia. The economy was devastated, and the majority of the men just out of school had no profession, the six years of the war stealing away precious time. The majority of the country only knew how to fight. A small number of the ex-soldiers turned to crime, and many were killed in the resulting wars within Russia itself. Finally, there were those, an even smaller percentage of the population, who sought revenge. Revenge against the government which left the true force which had won the war to rot. Revenge against the officials who stole the glory for themselves. Revenge against all the injustice that was so heavily dolloped upon them.

And now these four plotted in this little shack outside of Novgorod. What their goals were, none of them were sure. They wanted something big. Something worthy of attention. Something that would get those lazy officials out of their easy chairs and make them fear for their lives, their lives which were so readily built upon the backs of others, tricked into taking the fall. Something that would get the world to look up and see the injustice which they had been dealt, to make the so-called victors of the war be reviled as much as the losers.

They had what they needed already. The stealth needed to begin the operation was already there. The government officials were so arrogant to think that the exiles would actually obey them, so they wasted no time informing the police of who to watch out for. And besides, Moscow was so large, one could lose one's self in the crowds without meaning to. The firepower was provided for by their "friends", their supplicants, who operated within the shadows of the minor countries which were beginning to rise out of the ashes of the war. And the publicity would be provided by the media. They wouldn't need to be prompted to jump on this. After all, there had been no news for days and weeks on end. There was just reporting on the plights of poverty, and the endless treaties which were to be signed after the war. The media would jump on this new story like beggars on a 50 Reichspfennig note, and quicker.

All that was left was the planning. There was endless planning. Notes and papers and spent coffee grounds. Kostya demanded it. He was a tactician in the army, ruthless in his planning. He had been diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder early on in life, and it had seized him in a unique way, making him a control freak. He wanted to be sure every situation was planned for, from the obvious to the improbable. Vassily had tried many a time to persuade him out of this, as had I, but he persisted. We now had more notes than the CIA had on Vyshinsky.

We probably wouldn't need to use even a tenth of these notes, but the pragmatic part of me was glad to have them. Better safe than sorry. Already the sun looked brighter.

Tomorrow, the ground will shake.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Picture 6 Of 7

It was a typical August day. The sun was high overhead, and its rays speared the ground uninhibited by the cloudless sky, where they would rebound and lance back into the sky. A pleasant breeze, sent from the highlands, rolled through the city, ruffling hair and dresses alike, scattering the lighter debris not yet picked up by the cleaners. That same breeze brushed across the face of the president as he paced back and forth on the patio of the White House. To his left was the open lawn of the area, where a pair of lawn care professionals - watched over by a Social Security agent - were tending to the grass, cutting it just right, creating patterns so the birds flying high above would have something pleasant to look at amid the urban landscape. To the president's right were the doors to the White House, one slightly ajar, the air conditioned air mixing with the hot air outside, their interactions invisible to the eye.

Also invisible to the untrained eye was a man clad in full black, standing in the shadows at the far end of the patio. A pair of shades mitigate any sun rays daring enough to try to pierce the shadow, but that was the only part of the outfit suited for the day. The stiff black suit would be hell to wear this day, and one could only imagine that the man would be altogether too happy once this was all over.

"Sir." His voice cut through the air, the breeze delivering it to the president before crumbling the message away. It would never be heard by anyone else.

"Yes." As the president stated this, he kept his back turned to the man. They had had multiple such encounters before, and it had been made clear on the first that the identity of the man, who went by Mr. Black, was to be kept unknown, even to the president. The president had no doubt he could obtain this man's true name - he certainly had power enough - but he chose not to. It would drive him away, and his services were invaluable.

"The Laps gather." The Laps were a boisterous political group, most of whom were not above intimidation and aggression as tactics to gain votes. They were sly, their movements unknown. There were few Americans who knew of their existence who did not work in the intelligence sectors, or who had not been obviously confronted by them. Those who tried to make a story of it were silenced. To the majority of the public, the Laps were just another political party that had recently popped up, like all the others.

Recently, there had been an upsurge of political parties. With Bin Laden finally captured, and a cheap source of alternative energy developed, and no natural disasters on the horizon, America turned to politics. Politics had always been large in the life of the average American, but now, it was nearly the largest thing in everybody's life. There was not a single American who was not strongly affiliated with any party, not a single American who did not know how they would vote in the next election. Sure, the voter turnout was nearly 100%, but the huge variety of political parties meant that gaining more than double digits in any election was a feat, a feat which could give victory.

And with all that political deviation, thuggish parties like the Laps were inevitable. Most were small, restricted to cities, a problem for the city, but the Laps had gained a foothold in California at first, gaining control of the governorship as it finally pulled out of its economic downturn. With that foothold, they moved to other states. First the Pacific Northwest, then the south. The East Coast came next, with the Midwest the last to succumb. The public could still remember Shotgun Sam, the farmer who attended the first Laps rally in Tennessee with his loaded Ithaca 37. He was labelled a crazy during the lawsuits and sensationalist news reports which followed the deaths of five prominent Laps members. He was saved from jail, much to the outcries of the public, via a series of well-greased hands, all slipping off of one another. The first had started from the White House.

"When." The Laps were associated with several pro-vigilante justice groups in the United States, and these groups usually had their own perverse views of how the law should be interpreted, usually in the way which would give them the most profit and fame. The Laps were not above attacking other parties, and used the groups as scapegoats for the resulting slaughters. The White House had been hunting them for months, trying not to expose themselves in the process. It was hard, and trying. They had to kill the whole operation at once, not eat at them slowly. The hydra had to be stabbed in the body, not in one of its many necks.

"Two weeks."

"Then you have two weeks. Get your forces together."

"The bait, sir?"

"Stage political rallies."

"The bait." Someone would die. More than one someone. That was for sure.

"Whoever you can find." The ones who would die would be prisoners, long forgotten in their cells, locked away by the chains of their imprisonment as well as those of time. Their bodies would be altered by plastic surgery and they would be offered freedom if they did a single task for the government. Heaven was a sort of freedom.

"Yes sir. Have a good day sir." With a padded footstep, the figure was gone, away to begin planning the extermination. The Laps had been around far too long, and now the nuisance had to be dealt with in the government's own way. Secretly, beneath the headlines of the news. And it was all so very illegal.

The president was left with his thoughts on that quiet August day. It was about to get a lot louder. A lot.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Picture 5 Of 7

This is Kittech's weekly newsletter, and this week, we have many exciting announcements, including the release of our new catputer, a slew of new products, and the production of our new operating system!

Kittech is pleased to announce its new Catputer 3.0! This state-of-the-art wonder comes with all of the features of the Catputer 2.0, with extra added capabilities, such as an additional two CATA ports, and still has the same Quad Ruped processor you know and love. This new and improved catputer comes with many new features that will make your jaw drop and your wallet open by itself! (Note: Catputer 3.0 does not include telepathy.)

The Catputer 3.0 comes with a new casing for the catputer. Annoyed by the constant roaming of the catputer? Is it quite annoying that your catputer becomes unusable whenever your dog gets near? Are you tired of the extra mice your catputer brings back? This new casing will solve all of that. Just put the catputer in the case whenever necessary. The casing includes many outlets for the catputer to receive input while inside, and includes ventilation for cooling. It also has a CD tray for all the catputer droppings.

In addition to the case, the Catputer 3.0 has added features including a new array of sounds, such as Purr, Yowl, and that-sound-that-you-hear-at-the-back-of-your-mind-when-cats-are-using-their-powers-of-mind-control. The catputer also has three new themes; Calico, Siamese, and Feral.

The Catputer 3.0 also has an improved Biological Internal Organ System which allows a wider degree of control over the catputer during startup. 

This week there will also be a sale in the store on all new items. We are adding new items to our line, such as the anti-cat keyboard, which can detect when paws upon it, and will not register keystrokes made by them. Your catputer will no longer disturb your writing with its incessant roaming, and if there is a sunspot on your keyboard, your weekly progress memo will not look like this:

"To all:

In the hardware department we have finally completed development code to make the catputer more user-friendly. Bites are down by 75%, and angry hisses and yowls have been igaas;gdhuuoiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii"

For those of you users who have been magically transformed into cats, we are sorry. Refrain from buying this keyboard. Yes, there is catnip in it. Yes, the catnip does not add any cost to the product. Yes, it is high quality catnip. No, we don't know why it's there.

In addition, we have new submeowers with an added 100% cap to the treble. They come with two speakers, which are wireless like all our products. Come check out the online store for great deals. They won't last!

On the software side of development, Kittech is also making good headway with its new Catintosh operating system. It will have a better operating interface, including a reduced 10% walk-away-because-I'm-bored-of-you rate, as well as less catty responses when you stumble across an error. There is now code to prevent the catputer from refusing to accept the mouse, and now the catputer can be on for up to eight hours before needing to be put into sleep mode. 

Kittech will also shortly be releasing the new CatPack 2010. It includes the standard array of word processing, spreadsheets, slideshow programs (For your kitty blog posts, your kitty statistics, and your crazy cat lady cat slideshows, respectively), as well as the long awaited Cat++ (Which, we remind you, is not the same as Dog, or Sharp Cat.), which comes complete with its own IDLE. It will be released by itself, and in a bundle with Catintosh 7.0.

Moving on, there are only three days until E3, where we will unveil the highly anticipated addition to the Catroid series. We can't say much about this new game, though undoubtedly you've already gotten some of the leaks. (Not to worry, those employees have been fired, and will be rehired, as per the procedure, two months before the next game release to leak more news) What we can tell you is that there is an entire galaxy to explore, as well as a new Longcat ability. Beware Tacgnol, who prowls the galaxy in search of good souls to devour!

That's all for this week! See you soon!

Afterwards: Ahhhh the puns! My eyes burn! They burn! Sadly, only 732 words today. Couldn't think of a place to go for this. You were spared 268 words of puns. Be happy.
Also, again, more proof why I should not write so late. Thoughts get muddled, words don't flow as well.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Picture 4 Of 7

Armenian Church - North-Western Iran

The church had always been a central battleground. The Saxons and Danes regularly fought each other for it, and each clash left the ground richer with blood than the last. The river which stealthily crept about the land had a permanent tint of red since the wars begin, since the church was constructed. Athelstan was nearly as pious as his grandfather, something pressed into him since birth, and his ambitions were as great as his grandfather's. He saw a unified Britain, a country called England, of which he would be the sole ruler. This holy church was one expression of that ambition, built upon the charred remains of the manor of Gofraid, who was killed in the same battle which saw the estate ruined.

The place was considered holy ground by Danes and Saxons alike. Gofraid, while he lived, was one of Thor's mightiest warriors. This was one of his manors, a lesser one which had never been well-attended to due to its location. And now it was a church of the most pious country in all Europe. It was little more than that. True, the river Tyne provided an excellent defense against invaders, but there was little else in this region. To hold this place would be to hold barren land, for the soil was dry and unfit for any sort of farming. Both farmers and raiders knew that this ground held no prosperity, and the place was quite barren of civilization save for a well-used dirt road leading away from the church. Even while Gofraid lived here, he had never stayed for long; the scenery was pleasant, and he believed it to be a place where he could commune with Thor, but that was it. There was no high ground for miles around, only gently sloped hills which meandered up and down, not minding the soldiers which trampled across their backs. 

And now the Danes held the church. The church had been raided a dozen times or more. But each time, the Danes had been repelled. And now they looted the fineries from within - the clerics had nearly fainted when they heard that the Jarl Olaf Threysson was picking his teeth with the Saint Tarsus' fingerbones - and made a ruckus of themselves. Aethen could hear them from the mountains, miles north of the church, where they had landed days before. Rapping his fingers discontentedly upon the table, he rested his chin upon the other hand. It was just after the evening meal, and the priests were chanting prayers. Why priests? Religion was fine, but everything has its place. Even God. And omnipotent God might be, his priests, who certainly were not, had no place in what was soon to be a battlefield yet again. Yet Athelstan persisted in his requests, and being the servant to the King of Wessex, Aethen had to comply. If he didn't comply, he would be executed, like Firith, the last one to guard the land. He had become dissatisfied with his lot - as did his soldiers - guarding a barren hellhole, and said as much to the king. His head graced the ground with its presence the next day, and his blood enriched the soil of Wessex.

That same king was the reason Aethen was here fighting for the place, this beautiful land which still held no value, except to the pious priests who had first drawn Alfred the Great into their sleeves, then Edward the Elder, then Athelstan. Edward had been a good king. He saw reason, and he was less inclined to religious fervor than Athelstan. Athelstan...more pious than a convent. Not that the nuns of Wessex were pious at all...half of them were probably Athelstan's bastards. Athelstan, for all his piety, still liked the company of women, and after all, he was the ruler of all Wessex...

But Aethen could ruminate on that later. For now, there was a church to take. And though it was by no means fortified, it would still be a hellish fight. The river had no bridges about the church; the nearest one was miles away. This would be so much easier if Aethen had been able to approach from the south, where he would have both the high ground, and no river to cross. But always, always, the damn priests got in the way. First they said that they did not believe in pagan magics, then they thought that a raving woman's warnings about Odin bringing death to those who trespassed on Odin's sacred high ground held true power. (And where else had Aethen intended to attack from, but high ground?) So now, since a trio of priests pissed their pants at a lunatic's ravings, Aethen was faced with an impossible task.

How would he cross the river? If his troops swam, the Danes would be able to easily kill the soldiers as they came upon the shore, with axes and swords until the river became blood, and only blood. They would also not be able to wear their heavy armor, for they would drown otherwise. Hell, most of his men would drown even without the armor. Constructing a bridge was out of the question; it would take far too long. Aethen wanted to finish this, and be done with it. Saving some barren church in a barren land would garner no glory.

And though a siege could work, Aethen could not use any standard siege tactics. Not only was he without catapult, Athelstan would not hear of any church being so much as chipped by a sword's blade, let alone be blasted apart by catapult. The most he could do would be to camp outside the church, and even then, his men would starve too. They had expected to have a quick battle, nothing else. So a quick battle it would have to be. But how? How was Aethen to ford the river, beat the Danes, and recover the church in so short a time with so few resources? How?

Afterward: Okay, I fudged more than a little here, historywise, and geographywise. But fiction is fiction is fiction. *shrug*

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Picture 3 Of 7

epic fail photos - School Name WIN

Welcome to the Epic school, where we make epic. We understand you are considering epic school as a possibility for your child. Epic school is a K-12 school. It's never to early to be epic.

The children who graduate from our school learn the ways of the epic, and each have their own specialty. Our school covers a truly epic range of subjects, so your child can be superhero epic, internet epic, or just plain epic. We are pleased to say that 100% of our graduates have epic lives.

We have four types of curricula here, one of which will be a new addition this fall. The superhero curriculum is the most popular of our preexisting curricula, and always fills up quickly. The internet curriculum is more popular among our epic nerds, who take make being a nerd a religion. Our plain epic curriculum is the best in the state, and will teach your child to be epic at everything they do. Finally, our newest curriculum is the epic fail curriculum. It is highly experimental, but has nearly filled up with aspiring fail-wannabes (Referred to as winners by our epic staff)

The superhero curriculum consists of superhero basics, such as not looking at explosions, and catching bullets with your teeth. Other popular classes include making shit from nothing, defusing bombs, and shooting lasers from your eyes. We are sad to announce the fleeing from collapsing structures class due to the instructor not fleeing fast enough. Spots are filling quickly, so apply soon! We will be having a free-for-all to determine which applicants will get into the last ten spots. With guns and artillery.

If you aren't interested in having your child's face be known to all in the world, and be the continual target for darts thrown by scheming villains, perhaps the internet curriculum is right for your child. This will allow them to be epic in utter anonymity, unless they give out their Social Security Number, in which case, they're screwed. Our classes include trolling, dealing with trolls, dealing with pricks who think they can deal with trolls, and the ever popular divide by zero paradox class. We promise a your children will not be swallowed by a black hole. Tommy was an accident. We swear.

Then again, some children just want to be plain epic. We support this wholeheartedly, and have dedicated an entire department to it. The plain epic curriculum spans a vast degree of classes, from being a ninja, to surviving thousand-foot falls. There are special electives for those students who know exactly what sort of plain epic they want to be already. These classes are as diverse as the lolcats of the internet, and satiate every student. The topics range from successful Ponzi schemes to never being out of the news. (Unfortunately, Madoff flunked out of the former.)

We are also glad to present our newest curriculum, the epic fail curriculum. In this curriculum, students will learn how to fail at life, whether it be by dropping their ipod into a blender, or by knocking their house down while trying to repair the doorbell. Due to the high standards of the classes, students who wish to pursue this path must fail to turn in their registration form.

But our school is not just academics. We have extracurricular activities as well, such as jumping off bridges, and fighting the terrorists. For those who aren't so into the outdoors, there are clubs like build-bombs-from-scratch, the hackers team (As the most epic hackers in the world, they have hacked into the interface of every defense agency, and left comments in their code like ), and the esteemed Schroedinger's Club. We think they exist, at least. Nobody's ever opened the door to their club room, though.

Epic school is also home to the World Savers Club, which is still celebrating it's victories from the past year, in which they save the world over 9,000 times in a 24 hour duration from an assortment of threats, such as Dr. Devious, Mr. Malevolent, Mrs. Nomorefuckingalliteration, nuclear warheads, radical Islam, radical Christians (Also known as Limbaugh), radical drugs (Woah man! Radical!), and dolphins. (Everybody knows they're pure evil. Would they be smiling all the time if they weren't planning on making us their slaves?) We are amazed by the epicosity of this. So much so that we made up that word to describe it.

Our school also has a great history of alumni. Among the most prestigious alumni are Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, King Leonidas, That Guy From That One Film, Arnold Schwarzlastnameistoogoddamnhardtospellnegger, Chuck Norris('s Left Fist), Batman, the United States of America, the Internet, and Chuck Norris('s Right Fist). 

Throughout the history of the school, many have passed through. Here are some testimonies from our satisfied students.

"I sent my son to this school as a pathetic weakling. When he graduated, he was still a pathetic weakling, but he is now fucking epic at it."
-Satisfied Parent

"FIRST!!!111 LOL!"


"I am 12 and what is this?"

"Okay, seriously. This is getting out of hand. You can't give a testimony! You're 12, so you can't have graduated yet!"

"I have learned many useful things at epic school, such as how to remain anonymous on the internet, how to make a lolcat, and how to keep my social security number, which is 584502521, a secret. Wait. Shit."
-No Longer Anonymous (Also known as Richard Buckard, who lives at 1720 Greensly St., in his basement.) 

"Epic school is truly epic. It is...umm...what does that say? Oh! It is epic beyond belief and taught me the epic skills I use daily in my life like throwing trucks across rivers and....oh, screw this. I can't say this. Nobody would believe it."
-Guy we pulled off the street

Thank you again for considering our epic school. We hope to receive your applications soon. Remember: epic is not made. Wait. Scratch that. Yes it is.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Picture 2 Of 7

Tiger Woods

Celebrities are idolized in America, and across the world. A single song, movie, or photo can send a previously unknown face onto the front page of every newspaper, and everybody will know their face, committing it to memory. I've got no problem with this.

My problem is the special treatment. Special treatment does not necessitate good treatment, though it all too often does. Celebrities can wave their authority as a sort of "Get out of jail free" card, reducing or nullifying their sentence, making fines disappear with the wave of a manicured finger. Does their fame allow them to bypass the laws of the United States? Should they truly be able to put themselves above the average Joe? Sure, a successful movie might merit extra pay, but extra rights, I think not. Being the star of a movie or a song does not put you above the justice system. A very recent example of this is Lindsey Lohan. She'll be spending two weeks, tops in jail. For a 90 day sentence. For any other person (apart from another celebrity) the most they'd get off would be 30 days for good behavior. Lindsey is getting 75% of her sentence knocked off for....being a celebrity.

But on the other side of the special treatment is unwanted attention. The Tiger Woods scandal still lingers, and in his golf tournaments, commentators to this day always, always put in a comment of how "he has recovered from that scandal last year". Divorces, births, and affairs happen every day. When a baby is born, (Oh! One just was! And there's another! And another!) does it make the front page of People? Does CNN, or the New York Times put it as the headline article? There wouldn't be space. The American media follows the lives of celebrities like hounds, recording their every moment, exploiting every scandal. If Fox News doesn't report every affair in the United States, did Tiger Woods' extramarital activities really warrant four months, if not more of coverage?

The public is also somewhat to blame for this elevated status of celebrities. (Though I still place most of the blame on the media. Yes, a hit movie is something you should talk about. No, it should not be talked about for weeks and months. No, it should not take precedence over the 8.3 magnitude earthquake in California.) Why do people think that imitating the lifestyle of a celebrity will make them famous? Having a haircut like Michael Jackson will not, I repeat, will not give you singing or dancing skills. Taking on Megan Fox's personality will neither give you acting ability, nor land you in the news. And no, becoming pregnant on the same day as [insert celebrity of your choice here] will not make your child a celebrity.

Crap. This is just turning into a media rant, isn't it? Ah well. 

My opinions will hardly make me popular, but so be it. Celebrities have gotten it into their head that they are better than the average Joe. I cannot say this enough - the ability to act, or throw a ball, or to look very pretty should not lead to a "superhuman" status. Celebrities are still human, though the media would prefer them not to be. They want superhumans who will make every American stay glued to their TV, or computer, or radio, and add ratings to their stations.

Celebrities are only human. They do not have superior ethics, nor are they above the law. They are not immune to the emotions of humanity, and they are not so perfect that they will never be compromised in an embarrassing position. They should be given no extra rights, nor should they be held to higher standards. There is no correlation between starring in Transformers, and being an emotionless automaton. 

Okay, not the best comparison. Moving on to another place in this wildly careening rant of a post...

My idea of an ideal take towards celebrities would be where they rise to fame, give an interview here, give an interview there, then fade away until they do something else. And that something else should not be taking a smoke break, or going to McDonalds. The position of a celebrity is overblown in America, and in my ideal world, it would not be so. An affair would not be discussed over the new for months at a time. A charge for drug use would take up an hour, not a week, of news. A marriage between two celebrities looked down upon by one of their parents would warrant a sentence of news, not a front page. There are important things in the world. Knowing what every movie star and every sport star and every fashion model is doing at every goddamn minute of the day is not one of them. 

And yet, unless some sort of crazy phenomenon occurs, this will never be. Political commentators will still hold the president to be a superhuman, to be able to know exactly what to do in every situation, to be able to scare oil back down a well, to be able to solve the economy by snapping his fingers. Magazines will still crow about the latest kiss, or breakup, or child. The media will still neglect the natural disasters, the crime, and the poverty in the world, pushing the latest jail sentence, or "Shocking Discovery!" to the headlines.


The public comes to its senses, and demands change. Not one, not three people. Not ten, not twenty. Not even hundreds will do it. Thousands upon thousands would need to rise to this, and achieve something to bring fame to themselves, rather than lusting over the fame of someone else.

But that change will start with a single voice. Until it turns into ten. Then a hundred. Then a thousand.

While the world aches under the weight of poverty, and disease, and while natural disasters wrack the world, everybody will be gasping at the latest celebrity breakup. Unless something changes.

Afterward: Well, that was unexpected. I'll try not to go near the media as a topic in coming days....I could go on forever about it. Grrrr.
The end was also unexpected. Apologies if it meandered/repeated itself a bit. It happens.
Got a bone to pick with me over this? Go for it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Picture 1 Of 7

Abandoned city

Nobody thought it would end like this. Everyone thought it would be something more...theatric. But when the apocalypse came, there was no fire raining from the heavens, and the earth did not split apart to swallow all humanity. No dead crawled from their graves seeking human flesh, and the tide did not rise to engulf the land. There were no aliens, no plagues. There was just…science.
The world wept. The earth did not have enough power to sustain the rapidly growing population which it held. There was not enough food, not enough water. Not enough oil. Humans slowly drained its resources year after year, held in political deadlock, unable to find alternatives. An idea would be proposed, then shot down. Everybody badly wanted glory, and even more than that, they did not want anybody else to have what they saw as their glory. There were those who brought new ideas to the government, but they would never succeed. Nobody would let them.

But then, there were the entrepreneurs. They struck out on their own. They cared about the human race as a whole, putting its needs ahead of their own. One might call them the pragmatists, using their own bodies as experimenting grounds, willing to sacrifice all to determine the final outcome of humanity. These experiments ranged from the basic – alternative fuels – to the improbable – low-energy consumption drugs – to the crazy – splicing animal and plant cells together. Genetic engineering was big, to be sure. There were all sorts of plant-hybrids – tomatoes the size of watermelons, carrots engorged to the point where they could be lances – but these would not last. They were temporary at best, and all too often, just a waste of the most precious resource. Time.

The media didn’t help. Like most, they were only concerned for their own well-being. That meant airing sensationalist, alarmist, the-end-is-nigh, type stories. They instilled a sense of panic in the public, that the end was inevitable. It probably was. They called for the dissolution of governments and corporations. The voices which spoke against this fatalist behavior were quelled, by a suitcase of cash for their bank account, or a bullet for their head. The public, as a whole, panicked.

When a mass turns to panic, there is no heading back. Voices of sensibility or reason will be suppressed by the raw emotion which flows, by the ignorance. By the fear. By the anger. It is at this point when the mass is the most vulnerable. There is only one thing which can dissolve the mass into calm-headed people. Salvation, in no uncertain terms.

And salvation is what was wrought. Wasily Skardt was a lone wolf sort of scientist. He was one of the “crazies”, experimenting in splicing animal and plant genes. Or, that’s what he began as. But then, he went even further, to the point where his “crazy” colleagues dubbed him insane. He was put into a sort of exile, but it was more self-inflicted than anything. One could call him a mad scientist, and he was just that. But at one point, there is rationality, a sort of calm, to any madness.

Skardt believed that the solution to the world’s problems lay in the speed at which food could be made. Start with the most basic problems – food and drink – then progress to the tougher ones – energy. So he tried to make sentient plants, which would reproduce as quickly as bunnies. And he succeeded.

~ ~ ~

A massive tree stood in the center of the Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco. A man, shadowed by the many limbs and leaves of the tree, stands beneath it, a radiant grin plastered upon his bearded face. His face was grimy, and by no means fit to be displayed in public. Skardt had spent a few minutes trimming away some of the worst of it, but the residue of months and years of work could not be so easily removed. But the photographers, the journalists, the reporters, none of them cared. They just wanted the story.

Apples rained down, and occasionally one would hit an unwary spectator on the head. The apples would bloom, grow, and, too heavy for the tree, drop in hours, a process which should have taken months. No sooner would one apple drop than would another begin to grow in its place. The day was filled with amazement and shock, but most of all, was Skardt’s announcement. He would be making his process publicly available, for all to use. He saw becoming rich on this as a fringe benefit, and saving the world was the primary goal. He announced that he and whoever would join him would make a string of plant factories, to mass-produce – in quantities never before seen – food, and thus solve one of the greatest problems which would plague the world. The world was saved, and Skardt would go down in history.

~ ~ ~

In the days to come, there would be outcries by the scientific community, of how this was not a good idea, that this hyper-metabolism would cause evolution to occur at unnatural speeds. But the rejoicing public quelled their cries, thinking them spiteful for the glory they were denied. And so they faded into the background, watching “factories” spew out plant after plant, always watching. They tried time and time again, but they were always shoved away. Until the apple.

~ ~ ~

The apple was the first sign of the downfall of humanity. It was the first sign that Skardt had overlooked something. That the public had overlooked something. No surprise. This apple in particular released a noxious gas when bit into. A gas fatal to humans. So the apple was thrown away for another, and the dead man was mourned. Both were forgotten. Then came the true sentience. Plants developed defense mechanisms when they should not have. The first few deaths were written off as unfortunate incidents. But then, the deaths came quicker and quicker. Plants grew rampant, and mankind fell to their salvation. And the world wept. 

Afterward: This turned out to be a little more apocalyptic than I meant it to be. There's also a bit of tone change right near the end. Hope it didn't throw you off too much.
New one tomorrow!

July Writing, Week Three

Okay, so I've been slacking on this. Time to get back on track, and use some overused phrases to show that I'm serious about it. Not going to beat around the bush any more.

For lack of any other idea, I'm going to go off of a well-known idiom. A picture is worth a thousand words. Let's see if I can do this. Seven days, seven pictures, seven thousand words. Hell yes.

Just to make this more challenging, I'll limit myself to one thousand words per picture, as well.

If you have any pictures you would like to suggest, put a link in the comments, email me, or (for you forumites who read this) PM me. The first picture will come shortly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Achievement Unlocked! Again!

1,000 views, and the world hasn't ended! It could have been a disaster half the size of Y2k, but it wasn't. Disaster averted.
Anyways, big thank you to all my readers!
Hm. I should probably change around some settings with the hit counter at this point. Maybe give it a few more digits? Change the font?

Wait. What?
Eight views? You're kidding me! Eight. Wow. What. The. Hell.

And I gave a freaking car to Kubasti for being the eighth visitor? In another eight, I'll have to give up another car! Fffffff-

Again, a big thank you to everyone who is reading! Happy reading!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Media Rant #1 - Oil Spill

The first of many to come. Yes, I'm also touching on BP again. Apologies.

So, the first thing about the media which irks me is the lack of sense that half the people spew. It may reflect human senselessness, but honestly, do we really need so many commentators? And commentators who comment on commentators? It's all quite legal and in line with rules, which only serves to annoy me further. But this time, what's set me off have been all these commentators attacking Obama for not being mad at BP, and not going down the to Gulf to see the damage caused by the spill. (Yes, this is old news, but the bomb which is my anger also has a long fuse.)

I've got a couple bones to pick with these people. I won't call them idiots, because I don't know if they really believe this, or are doing it for the ratings. Gah. The whole rating/publicity thing in itself is enough to set me off. But I'm not willing to assume either way, so I'll call them people, as loath as I am to do such a thing.

First, why the hell are you calling Obama a bad president for not getting pissed at BP? When does anger do anything? I'm sure that BP execs will piss their pants when they see Obama go into a rage, and will hustle down to the gulf at once to clean up the spill by imbibing all the oil. Or perhaps the oil will be frightened by Obama's mad face, and hightail it back down that pipe, back into the oil well. Perhaps the oil will even rebuild the destroyed rig! The hot air coming from Obama's mouth would also clean off all the oil off the various sea animals, and heck, it'd probably send the Dow Jones up a thousand points, just because of the power of Obama's anger.

Yeah. I'm sure his anger would do all that. Honestly, what use is his anger? Apart from clouding his judgement, anger would do nothing for him.

Second, does Obama really need to make trips down to the gulf? Does he really need to make five? At the same time political commentators are calling Obama to go down to the gulf and attend to the problem and show he cares about American people, they're bashing him for....what? Spending taxpayer money needlessly? Like on flights down to the Gulf of Mexico to take a few publicity pictures, shake a few hands, and nothing else?

And then they attack his foreign policy.'re saying our relations with China are strained? That wouldn't be because Obama put off an appointment with the Chinese to respond to your requests to go down to the gulf, would it? No, never!

Finally, commentators bash and bash Obama for not getting anything done. And then bash him more once he passes a six month deep-water drilling moratorium. The main argument against it is that it will kill so many jobs. Well, these commentators obviously realize that Americans need jobs. Which is why they shouted down Obama's job creation bill. Because there's no way in hell a job creation bill could, you know, create jobs!

And I suppose Obama really was looking to kills jobs. As opposed to preventing another disaster until some reform could be made, or until we could deal with this current disaster fully. Nope, no way. Obama is out to kill us all! Don't you understand?

Maybe I'm being unrealistic about this. Can we expect the media not to contradict itself? Perhaps it's alright if the media feeds the public loads of bull (then turns around, and says that steak increases your chances of heart disease by 12%). I mean, there's no law against it. So, maybe my guff with this whole thing is wrong.

I've got an inkling it isn't, though.

But that might be my self-righteousness kicking in. Feel free to express yourself.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Asking The Internet

For those of you who don't wish to read the rough of the second week's of writing, here's a bit of humor for you.
Well, it is clear that the internet is never wrong. Absolutely never. But the internet has varying degrees of correctness, as well as varying degrees of helpfulness. The internet may only be a tool, but that doesn't mean it's the most helpful tool out there.

I had a bit much spare time on my hands today (Okay, 15 minutes) so I did a bit of research on the search engines. The search engine wars have been raging for quite a while, and today is no different. Except I intend to find out for myself which search engine is the superior one. I'll also be using some non-standard searching techniques. The deciding factor for all this? How well they answer a question.

The zombie apocalypse is a long-standing worry for all nerds. So I'll go with that. I will also start with Google. Google is notorious for its search-engineyness, and commands two-thirds of the search market. It seems to be the top competitor for this.

Hey, it's like Google can read my mind!

Oh shit.
Ummm...I'll have to look into that later. Meanwhile, let's get back to searching.

Hey, that's pretty damn helpful. They even have videos! But I'm not so sure about that last one. Eh, anything helps.

I'll give Google a 9.5 out of 10 on this one. Their searches were quick enough for a panicking nerd at the onset of a zombie uprising to find the results they need, giving that nerd ample time to run afterwards, and the searches still retained valid results. I docked a bit for the whole mind-reading thing. That's just intolerable! I thought we had a deal Google! I give you hits, and you don't read my goddamn mind! I'm filing a complaint, you hear me?


Okay. Time to move on. *glares at Google*
Let's try Bing. This is Microsoft's upgraded version of MSN search which doesn't suck quite as much. It's like Google's adopted malformed cousin, except that cousin also happens to have the support of a millionaire.

Okay, same mind-reading shtick. I get it. But it's not as creepy as Google. Yes, yes, I know you have the whole insane-killer-peering-at-you-through-a-window thing, but just let it go, just let it go. Okay, look, I'm sorry I said that. The truth is the- Hey where are you going get back here!
Okay, Bing, you weren't helpful at all! Immature little brat of a search engine.
I guess it can't be helped though; Bing is only a year old, after all. But when you take everything into perspective, I'd have to give Bing a 6/10. I mean, at least it told me it wasn't telling me anything quickly. Which gave me time to go to go to Google and get real answers.

Yahoo's time. Yahoo is one of those old search engines that's been around for a while.
Too long, it seems. Well, let's see if any of these search tips will help. Yahoo Answers might be of some help.

Oh, gee, thanks. Just what I needed. Forgot Yahoo Answers was an adolescent. I'm just glad I didn't get any sort of rebellious results, or bass-filled results. That would've attracted every zombie in a fucking mile.
Yahoo, you get a 4/10. I mean, at least you answered that question quickly. But honestly, get that Alzheimer's treated. Can search engines even get Alzheimer's? Sheesh.

Well, let's see if the AI of the internet has anything to offer. Off to Cleverbot!

Well. That was oddly rational. Does Cleverbot have no emotions built in yet? I give it an 8/10. It's answer was fine, although upsetting, but the wait time was just horrific! I don't have five seconds to wait to be told I'm going to die! I want to be told I'm going to die this instant!

So, I'm just going to make a final stop here, at Omegle. If Cleverbot is the computer's response to this, Omegle is the human's response to this. I would use Chatroulette for this, except then there'd be a dick on the screen, and I'd have to make this blog NSFW.

Oh, that was real helpful. I have now lost all hope in humanity. Or maybe the answer lies in bad grammar and not having a shift key. That must be it!

Omegle, you get a 3/10. Not only did I not get any useful information (Shift keys are not good projectiles at all!), but I also had to wait for almost 45 seconds! That's intolerable! My one-minute-ramen doesn't even take that long to cook!


So, all in all, Google still wins. Although using Google might just be helping them in their plans to take over the world. (I'll cover that soon.)

Cthulhu Flower, Go!

A small interlude before my next post.

Alonsoa unilabiata

Thursday, July 15, 2010

'P' & 'M'-less Writing

A Clear Sort Of Craze
By King Xia

Nathan leaned down onto the wall, sighing. Dish duty was the worst work he could be assigned. The ennui caused by the task was second to no other, and the nuns knew it, doling out the task with none of the generosity or kindness they should have held. Nathan was not the best worker, nor was he able to force his thoughts to tarry on any given task for too long. Surely it wasn’t his fault there were things of greater interest in the world! But the nuns stated it his fault, and here, their word was the final word. Unless the nobility saw fit to say otherwise, but they stayed out of such tedious affairs.
Now, it couldn’t hurt to quit this task, could it? There was that cove he had just discovered yesterday, and the castle had dishes in excess. These dishes wouldn’t be needed, at least not for weeks! In fact, Nathan figured, the nuns would be glad to have one less servant underfoot, at least for a little bit. It couldn’t hurt. Not in the least.

~ ~ ~

            Lynn tried, she really did. But there was no ending the boy’s gallivanting, nor his willful behavior. One could only wait for such things to fade. But Nathan did not have that luxury. He had been taken in as a forsaken child, and Lynn had only just convinced the castle to allow the boy to stay. He had to be useful around the castle, and after thirteen years, the nobility was considering throwing Nathan out, along with a great deal of the other servants who were not carrying their load. The other servants Lynn did not carry such great relation to, but Nathan…she had raised the boy since he was naught but a baby, taking Nathan as her own as she could not truly have her own child. Her faith denied her that choice, she willingly gave this right away when she was first inducted, not knowing how it would affect her later on. But regretting what has already occurred would not change the future. So Lynn took Nathan as a consolation of sorts, though he was of greater significance than that now.
            Lynn cursed to herself – or nearly did so, catching herself just before the event – when she found Nathan, or rather an absence of Nathan, cleaning dishes. That boy was off getting into trouble again…How would she win over the head of staff this round? She could attend to that later. For now, where in God’s wrath was that blasted boy?

~ ~ ~

            Lynn had given Nathan quite the chewing out when he finally ran out of the cove. It was such an excellent site, though! Lynn hadn’t found the location until he was tricked into shouting out. The verbal lashing which he was given after was little cost for this discovery. Of course, he would be given another task, what a bother. The dishes couldn’t have been that great a loss though!
            To Nathan’s delight, the task given in rebuke to his actions was nothing at all! Just a delivery. That was nothing at all! He’d quickly finish that and go continue to excavate the cove today. If only all these tasks were this easy-looking.

~ ~ ~

            Rale was crazy. Bonkers. Totally, utterly nutters. Everybody but the king knew it, but the king was convinced of his ability as a sorcerer, though for the twenty-odd years Rale had resided at the castle, he had yet to ostend even the least sign of bearing such skill. Things had gotten better as of late, at least. The king had transferred his quarters to the northern tower, at the beleaguered requests of his advisors and the castle’s inhabitants alike, and now things were quieter. Before, when his quarters were on the ground, there would be fires every fortnight, and a the “lab” would give birth to a variety of noises – quiet as unnerving hissings, or as loud as deafening outbursts – all through the day, and all through the night. Occasionally there would be a yell – whether it was of agony or of delight, nobody knew, and nobody bothered to find out. The king would never tell anyone, but the treasury had felt the brunt of rebuilding Rale’s shack of a hovel again and again. A tower of stone would be a good deal tougher to wreck…and to rebuild. (Though the king did not let his thoughts dwell on this last though for very long.)
            The only downside to this tower of Rale’s was the necessity of food and Rale’s own indulgences. The stairs stretched the furthest of any in the castle, yet food was necessary and so were (as Rale solicited) the ingredients which the crazy requested. This service was given to whichever servant could be tricked or bribed into the task. Nobody looked forward to ascending the tower, yet one servant or another had to act as a courier for Rale. The tower had a good one-thousand stairs, the legend went. Nobody had ever bothered to count, or those who did quickly lost either track or interest.
            And now, Nathan faced this task, ignorance of how tough it would be altering his feelings. That ignorance was soon to fade, like the echoes of Nathan’s heavy feet as he ascended the tower. That dish of sandwiches had not been quite this heavy when he had first started, Nathan was sure of it. It was slowly gaining weight – was it an enchanted dish which created sandwiches? No. There were still four sandwiches on the dish. Why was it so heavy?
            Nathan’s belly slowly began to overflow with nothing, and the sandwiches began to entice the boy. It would both give energy and reduce his load! But he could not eat one, he knew that. So he toiled on, footfall by footfall by lead-footed footfall…

~ ~ ~

            Nathan was heaving as he finally knocked on the dry wood of Rale’s door. Barely calling the strength to raise his hand, he hit the door with the flesh side of his fist. Once…twice…the sound echoed hollowly through the lodging beyond. No answer.
            Exhaustion began to turn to anger. Had he seriously just ascended these accursed stairs only to have Rale absent? Nathan cursed, loudly, beginning to turn back down the stairs. At least he could eat the sandwiches on the way down.
            “Hey now, don’t be using that sort of language here!”
            Nathan  nearly fell down the stairs in shock at this sudden voice. The sandwiches shook, but did not fall. “Y-yes sir!” Was this Rale? The voice sounded far too energetic. And young!
            “And don’t be a laggard either! The door, quickly, quickly!”
            Nathan shoved the door ajar with one shoulder, only to be shouted away by Rale. “No, no, no! Not you!” He closed the door in fright. “No boy, that wasn’t at you. Get in here.”
            Nathan walked in, now quite unsure of anything.

~ ~ ~

            Rale was nothing like the tales Nathan had heard. He was no short dwarf with a beard as long as a horse, and neither was he a tall giant, with legs thick as haystacks. His eyes did not burn with the fury of Hell, and his fingers were not lined in silver. Instead, he looked to be a cleanly sort of being, and his clothing was not stained, charred, or eaten away by acid.
            “Well?” He asked of Nathan in an irritated fashion. “What do you want?”
            “Your food, sir.”
            “I have none, so, off with you!”
            “No, I bring your food!”
            “Oh, good. Enter, quickly! ‘Ware the rug!” Nathan was already in, and the floor was quite bare, but Nathan did not contradict Rale. Better to get this over with, even though none of the tales rang true. Save for the lunacy.
            “Would you like one?” Rale offered Nathan a sandwich.
            “Oh no, I just ate. I should-” Nathan’s hunger betrayed itself with a low growl.
            “No, I insist. Salt?”
            “No, that’s fine.” Nathan grudgingly took the food, quickly biting into it.
            “Good lad. Can’t stand the stuff.”    
            There was no talk for a second or two, the sound of concentrated chewing filling the area. Then, “So you’re a servant? Where did the last one get off to?”
            “Don’t know.” Nathan said around a bite of bread.
            “I wonder if the alligators got her…”
            “Oh, don’t worry. They can’t fly yet, so you’re quite safe here.”     
            Nathan hadn’t the foggiest idea what an alligator was, but unsolicited thoughts of terrible flying creatures belching fire hijacked his attention. Curiosity got the better of his senses. “Do they breathe fire?”
            “Are you crazy, boy? Of course not! Why do you think that?”
            Nathan nearly laughed at this lunatic calling others insane, but caught and strangled it before it could conjure itself into existence.
            “Well, I only thought…”
            “No, you wouldn’t have known what they are. It’s a sad, sad thing, though. They haven’t been teaching you, have they?”
            Nathan blushed. It wasn’t a lack of effort on the teacher’s behalf, nor a fault of their own. Their lessons were just so….tedious! The boy voiced this.
            “Oh, good! Bunch of blathering idiots, they are. Don’t let their senseless jabber get to you. But you still should be taught in one way or another.”
            Silence was sovereign once again.
            “I know! I’ll take you in!”
            “You will?” When did I agree to such a thing? Nathan wondered.
            “I shall, I shall! It’s been since forever since I had a student! Or even since never! You like green, correct?”
            Nathan found his head nodding along, as if he had lost all control of his body.

~ ~ ~

            Nathan took Rale’s offer – it was an assertion, really, rather than an offer – seeing it as a boon of sorts. He would be delivering food and ingredients to Rale, so studying under Rale would at least give Nathan a little (however trivial the education) benefit for the arduous journey.
            The weeks went by, and gradually Nathan took interest in what Rale had to offer. The so-called “sorcerer” was as insane as the tales said, but one could find a certain clarity to it all. Nathan’s friends thought that the insanity was contagious when he tried to reason his way through this. It didn’t further his case that he never succeeded in successfully backing the warrant. Lynn was glad that Nathan wasn’t off adventuring every day, and was tending to his tasks. He was also learning – though there were those who would call the obscurities Nathan was being taught not learning at all – which greatly astonished all who knew the easily-bored boy. Lynn was also concerned for the boy, not sure what he was getting into. Dealing with a lunatic was never safe, and those who believed they wielded abilities beyond the ken of the average being held greater danger.
            Danger or no, Nathan was learning and growing. The saga that was the journey to Rale’s quarters had to be undertaken thrice a day, and that was if Rale had not received any deliveries. It was nothing short of a heroic feat to do it so often, but Nathan slowly built the required constitution. He soon found he was able to ascend the tower in its entirety without yielding to fatigue at the landing, to his joy.
            Nathan’s hunger for knowledge of the “arcane” and the scholarly – which had bided in latency until now – was satisfied by Rale’s lectures, and on the days in which they weren’t quite enough, Nathan would take a book back to his quarters to devour before dozing off , face buried in the book.
            Rale was a fraud; he had acknowledged this in the first lesson, but told Nathan in a hushed tone, as if telling a great secret, thinking his act to be flawless. Though he did not know any true sorcery, he knew the art of deceit, knowledge he gave to Nathan within the lessons, as well. Unfortunately, his insanity was not an act.
            But the benefits Nathan gained in studying under Rale were not without their drawbacks. He found that he went gallivanting with friends far less often, electing to go off in search of strychnine, or safflower, or any other of the legions of herbs which were referenced in the arcane texts instead. Those servants who did not know Nathan so well began to doubt his sanity as well, or began to believe Rale actually had sorcerous ability. Why else would Nathan so willingly take on that crazy task? They did not know what to think, or what abilities Nathan wielded. And the unknown has always caused fear.

~ ~ ~

            This all discharged one fine day. The sun shone overhead, not bearing any hint of what was to befall Nathan that day, laying a fa├žade over the boy. A trio of boys – large, bulky boys, the sort who always sneak into existence – closed quarters with Nathan as he was delivering a crate to Rale. He was carrying a crateful of various ingredients and vials. One of the boys – the leader, in all likelihood – accosted Nathan.
            “We heard you been ‘sortin’ wit’ th’ foe.”
            “If what you intend to say is that I have been consorting with the foe,” Nathan nearly sneered at this horrid enunciation – though it was not unlike what he would have said not a few weeks back – but held that back, not wishing to instigate anything. “Then I do not know who you are talking about.”
            “That bastard of a loon!”
            “I feel obligated to tell you that he is no fraud.” This was a lie, of course, but if it drove the three away, then it would have served its intent.
            Darro was the son of the king’s head advisor. Like his father, he shared an innate fear of the unknown, which vented itself as scorn, anger, and aggression.  Of course, for Darro, “the unknown” covered a great deal of the world. He used his elevated status to get out of lessons when greater frequency than any other – even Nathan – but ignorance was no worry for the boy. He saw his fists and his father as enough to get through anything life would throw in his way.
            While Darro was akin to his father in nearly every facet, he was different in that he truly believed Rale held unnatural ability. This ready belief in sorcery was due to an encounter with the lunatic when he was young, and nosing into what he should not have been. A burn to his rear was enough to get the boy running out of Rale’s shack, and he was quite convinced that was a real ray of fire, instead of a burning rod.
            While Darro was thick, he was not idiotic enough not to realize the significance of Nathan’s assertion. But this launched Darro into action. Aggressive action.
Darro snarled, and charged, one fist raised to strike. The other two flanked Nathan; he couldn’t run! The crate of Rale’s bought goods crashed to the ground as Nathan raised both hands to block the blow. He cried out as a fist struck his ribs, a strike which caused the ground to rush to the sky. Nathan ended laying on the earth, alongside the delivery. Nathan warded off another blow, but there was a devastating crack an instant later as a foot launched into his side. His shouts for aid were left unanswered; there was nobody around, or if there were, they certainly were not answering.
            It was several shouts before Nathan realized this, shock turning to anger all of a sudden. But he couldn’t get off the ground. Every such try was turned away with a blow which would give his head another date with the dirt. He flailed out with fists, and grabbed one of his assailants down to the ground, socking the boy cleanly in the gut before rolling over to send his other flanker to the ground.
            In a fair fight, Nathan would have easily beat Darro, for the countless journeys to Rale’s quarters had built excess sinew and brawn. But with Nathan flat on the ground, surrounded by three assailants – albeit two were only just recovering – Nathan wouldn’t be able to win without a few dirty tricks.
            So he tried one.
            Nathan’s hand stretched out for the crate. He knew there were, along with the now-shattered glass and various leaves and roots, dangerous acids and oils best left untouched. Ah! Shit! A kick to the head left his vision starry, and now the other two were on their feet, and kicking away again. Their cries of violence, too, were unheard or unanswered. So Nathan acted.
            Seeking a slight window for action once again, he lashed out with one leg, knocking Darro to the ground. He lifted his leg to finish this action, then brought his foot down where it would hurt, all the while enduring continued blows to his sides. With any luck, the healing unguents in the crate wouldn’t have broken.
            Nathan took this chance to roll to the side, his hand finally thrusting into a broken face of the crate. A frown, followed by a cry of agony. He had skewered his hand on glass. Blood hindered his efforts, turning the objects within the crate slick. Nathan beseeched any greater entity to ensure that the broken vials had not had anything – aha!
            His hand grabbed ahold of a cluster of intact vials, and he rolled over, hugging the flasks to his chest. Liquid within sloshed back and forth. Good. The right vials. Around Nathan, the assailants were recovered, although Darro was still staggering. Nathan allowed an evil grin to cross his face before taking one of the flasks he was clutching, throwing it at Darro. It cracked on his brow satisfyingly, and the liquid within blended nicely with the head wound, causing Darro to howl in distress. Two flasks later, and all three of the cowards were gone, leaving Nathan behind on the ground, clutching his bleeding hand, wondering what he would do next. He would go see Rale about getting his hand healed, in all likelihood.

~ ~ ~

            Nathan knelt before the king the following day. The king’s countenance hovered between stern and forgiving, as if not knowing what to settle on. True, Darro and his goons had attacked Nathan, but that reagent he had used – or that sorcery – had nearly killed Darro. Darro was overblowing the whole thing, no doubt, but he was the son of his head advisor, and he certainly could not get rid of the head advisor’s son! But one or the other had to take the fall for this. Nobody envied where Nathan stood. He had no ties in the castle, and had unsatisfactory work. Darro would, of course, be given a cuff to the head, but his lineage blocked anything further than verbal correction. So Nathan took the fall.
            He was out of the castle before dawn, trudging with nothing but his clothes (and a goodbye gift courtesy of Rale hidden beneath) to ease his journey to wherever he would wander. A circle was burned into his hand. He was an outcast.

ENDNOTES: Well, this ended up as more of an into to a larger story than anything else. This (again, rough draft!) is awkward in places where words didn't quite work out the way they should've. No "him", "hope", "them", "someone", "something".....Grrrr. At least it showed me my dependence on "someone" and "something".