What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

31 December 2011

What Have You Done?

I decided to revisit my 2011 resolution list before the year was out, to see how I did. And: It's not too bad.

Here are the ones I missed:

  • For some reason, last January I thought I wanted to be a vegetarian. I don't eat much meat as it is, but my semi-vegetarian ways have remained.
  • I still haven't done the 100 Thing Challenge.
  • I haven't finished either of my previous WiPs, but I did manage to start at least one more.
  • And I met no goal times for my running. I'm not sure why I bothered to resolve that, since we're not currently running any races.

And the ones I hit:

  • I can now make my own yogurt. Also my own bread, granola, granola bars, and pasta. Plus all the things that I was able to make before-- I'm not sure that resurrecting my cookie- and brownie-making abilities was a good thing.
  • I read 100 books for the Goodreads challenge. Actually, I read a lot more than that, but I didn't change the dates on any of my re-reads.
  • Thanks to us being hosts on Airbnb, my house is much cleaner than it used to be and stays cleaner with a great deal more consistency than ever before.
Okay, when I list it out like that, it looks like I did not have a banner year. But I guess I met the ones I wanted to meet and the others were just for decoration? That's what I'm choosing to believe, anyway.

Did you make any resolutions for 2011? Will you make any for 2012?

30 December 2011

Seeds for a New Year

I wanted something New Year-related, or at least something that could tie everything together or be a bit of an inspiration for my end-of-the-year green post.

Yeah. Not so much.

Source.
So, here's a bit of what I have planned for Chez Cheeky this year. Chad & I have been composting for a year now, but thus far have done nothing with our compost, which is sitting on our back porch, getting all nice and crumbly for when it is called into action. That's going to change in a couple months' time, when...

... I plant things. Yep, this year I will finally have that container garden I've been thinking about for my entire adult life. Hot-weather plants do really well down here (naturally), so I'm thinking we'll have some tomatoes and peppers growing on the porch. And probably some potatoes, too, for no other reason that they're extremely easy. I don't think you can mess up potato-growing. And some herbs. I've never used fresh herbs in my life, and I think it's time for that to change.

I had some inspiration the other day from one of the books that I'm reading for my undergrad research: Apparently, marigolds attract pests that might otherwise decide to feast on my tomatoes, so I think I'll have some of those, too, just to give the pests something to look at. Besides, there is no way that I'm getting any kind of anti-bug chemicals anywhere near my asthmatic husband, so we have to look for chemical-free alternatives. I've heard that spraying soapy water on the leaves works too, with the bonus that--once again!-- it's not harmful to us who already eat off of plates that are washed in soapy water. Nice.

Do you have a garden? What do you like to grow? Any other suggestions for a pest-free balcony?

25 December 2011

In Grateful Chorus

I would be hard-pressed to name my favourite Christmas carol. I like pretty much all of them. But my favourite verse lies hidden at the end of "O Holy Night":
Truly he taught us to love one another
His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise his name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
Source.
I thought this was the second verse, but when I went looking to make sure I had all the words in the right order, I found out that it's the third verse. And I don't remember ever hearing the second verse before.

I love this verse for a lot of reasons (I have to say that it's the "sweet hymns of joy" bit that really gets me), not the least of which because it's more or less fiction. Yep, I'm going to be a killjoy on Christmas. Christians have not, alas, lived up to the standard of breaking chains and stopping oppression. We're as guilty as anyone else for starting wars and spreading hatred. And I'm not okay with that.

I'm not exactly setting out on a personal quest to fix all the wrongs in Christendom. Among other things, that's not really my job. I am setting out to be sure that I am doing all I can to live at peace with my neighbour. To love those who don't love me. And to be a light in my little corner of the world. And I encourage you to do the same.

The happiest of Christmases to you and yours. And have a safe and fun week between Christmas and New Year.

22 December 2011

Teaser, erm, Thursday?

So this isn't a proper teaser, not least of which because I've shared from this book before, but also because I'm not finding the passage at random. And it's a passage, not a teaser. I've been proclaiming the wonders of Dash and Lily's Book of Dares all over Facebook, because I really want all my friends to read it and revel in the delight that it is. Word lovers, Christmas lovers, and happiness lovers should all enjoy this book even more than the average person.

So this is the passage that, even if I hadn't previously fallen prey to the charms of this book, would have had me hooked. It's a conversation between Lily's Great-Aunt Ida and Dash:

"Before I ask you some questions, perhaps you would like some tea?"
"That would depend on what kind of tea you were offering."
"So diffident! Suppose it was Earl Grey."
I shook my head. "Tastes like pencil shavings."
"Lady Grey."
"I don't drink beverages named after beheaded monarchs. It seems so tacky."
"Chamomile?"
"Might as well sip butterfly wings."
"Green tea?"
"You can't be serious."
The old woman nodded her approval. "I wasn't."
"Because you know when a cow chews grass? And he or she chews and chews and chews? Well, green tea tastes like French-kissing that cow after it's done chewing all that grass."
"Would you like some mint tea?"
"Only under duress."
"English breakfast."
I clapped my hands. "Now you're talking."

First: Would that I could write that well. Second: This is exactly how I feel about tea. Well-meaning friends have pressed all the above-mentioned flavours upon me at one time or another, but I only drink breakfast tea. It doesn't strictly have to be English; I'm perfectly happy with Scottish or Irish breakfast (although those three are the full extent of my experimentation with breakfast teas. Why mess with a winning formula?).

Anyway, this is great holiday reading. Run out and get it now before your local library/bookstore closes for the weekend. But I do want to add my usual caveat that it really is young adult; it's probably not a good one for your younger kids. And really, I can't imagine anyone younger than about 12 having sustained interest in this plot line anyway.

Have you read Dash and Lily? Did you like it? Do you have any other good holiday reading recommendations?

21 December 2011

Owning a Choice

As I've shared many, many times before, we are car-free at the Cheeky house. We made this decision when we moved to Austin in July 2010, deciding to rely on the local public transportation and cycling. Since then, we've also added a local carsharing scheme to our repertoire, and we've taken a taxi or two in the past 18 months. Apart from the occasional snafu (usually the reason for the taxi) or having to turn down an invitation every now and then, it works.

Yep, this is where I live. Source.
Sometimes, though, it doesn't work. Sometimes we get an invite to a Christmas party with people we really enjoy hanging out with but they live out of reach of the bus system. Sometimes we forget to buy Chad a new bus pass and have to scrounge for change when we get on board. Sometimes we'd just like to go downtown on a Sunday evening but dangit, the buses stop running at 9:30 PM. And sometimes we just like getting home from church in a timely manner without having to wait 30 minutes for a bus.

A lot of times, people will offer us a lift to or from wherever we're going. A lot of times, we accept. Every now and then we'll outright ask for a lift. But I don't like doing that, because being car-free was our choice. It wasn't forced upon us. And I don't feel like we have the right to allow our lifestyle choices to become a burden on other people. Besides, I feel that as an advocate for non-car alternatives, I shouldn't be turning to car-owning friends every five minutes and asking for a bailout. I can hardly say that I'm living without a car just fine when I'm not.

And there's that little detail that for the majority of the country, choosing whether to have a car or not is not even on the radar screen. There's the group that can't possibly afford a car, no matter what, and have to get around however they can. Then there's the group that lives or works in areas where there are no alternatives to car ownership. And some fit into both categories, which is even more a cause for concern. And that's one reason why I advocate for alternatives to car ownership in this country: We shouldn't be forced into one default mode. We should have choices. And no one should have to feel that their choices or circumstances make them a burden on others.

Do you ever take car-free trips? Is it even feasible for you?

20 December 2011

Funny Thing, Education

Remember that stack of books I showed you all a couple of weeks ago so you would be 1. impressed and/or 2. sympathetic? No? Well, here it is again:


This is the stack of books that I'm reading through over Christmas for my undergrad research project that I'm doing in the spring semester. My supervising instructor (or whatever she's called) approved my proposal last week: I'm reading a bunch of environmental stuff to find the common rhetorical devices. And then I'm going to write about them. She tells me this is called generic criticism. I call it a great way to beat insomnia.

I kid! Only one of the books put me to sleep so far! And I finished it yesterday. I have all the books sorted by due date, because that seemed like the most sensible way to read through them. And as I'm reading along, I've made this magical discovery: They're all talking about the same things.

Okay, I probably should have know this ahead of time, being as I picked the topic and all, yes? But for some reason, I get really excited when I learn about an incident in one book, and then see mentions of it in other books. Because, hey! I know what they're talking about! And as I understand it, this is in fact the point of education, that you learn something, and the next thing you learn builds on your knowledge of the last thing, and so on in this great long chain until eventually you wear a funny hat and someone with a funnier hat gives you a piece of paper.

So, education works. Good to know I'm not wasting my time and money here.

Have you made any magical and/or obvious discoveries lately? Are there any good rhetoric or environmental books I've left out? Do you want to come and help me read them?

19 December 2011

A Part By Any Other Name...

So the other day a friend at church-- okay, it's time for nicknames. This particular friend is responsible for (among other things, I'm sure) keeping everyone abreast of stuff going on. Seriously, she posts a bunch of cool things on Facebook about concerts, service events, and family-friendly stuff going on in town. And so I dub her Social Butterfly. Please only think of the nice things related to butterflies and totally ignore any possible negative stereotypes associated with the term.

So, Social Butterfly said she has a "bike thing" that she can't use but I might be able to, so she wanted to pass it on. I said "Sure thing!" as is my wont, but I was really concerned that I've given anyone the impression that I know about bike things. I assure you, I can operate a u-lock and an air pump, and for anything more complicated than that I call Chad.

I got the bike thing home and we had this conversation:

Chad: What is it?
Me: It's a screwdriver and... (opening the little box)
Chad: A key holder?
Me: A patch kit. A key holder? Really?
Chad: Well, I didn't know.

Aside from the fact that cyclists have pockets, panniers, saddlebags, etc. for holding keys, I can't really fault Chad for thinking the little box with the patch kit inside was a key holder, because as you can plainly see, the pointy thing is not a screwdriver, at least not in the traditional sense. And I've mulled it over for quite a while and still can't think of what it's called. We don't use proper names here in the Cheeky house. So, screwdriver it is!

Actually, the non-use of proper names is my fault, anyway, because much like the Smurfs, I replace any word I don't know (or can't remember) with an all-purpose word: in my case, "thingmy". I did this so often in the early days of our relationship that Chad picked up on it, and our memory has gradually worsened ever since, to the point that I barely know what anything is called any more. To paraphrase Tolkien, I only know my own name because people say it all the time. If my friends and acquaintances suddenly start calling me anything but Su, I may have an unofficial name change. Which will be very problematic if I ever get called to jury duty again.

What do you do when you can't remember the name for something? Do you know what that pointy thing is called?

16 December 2011

Wrap It Up

In the spirit of the holiday season, let's talk about wrapping paper.

I don't use much wrapping paper. I've managed to amass quite a collection of gift bags over the years, and I like them so much that I use them almost exclusively. So, yes, my lesson here is: Reuse those gift bags! And if you must buy a new gift bag, please choose one that is durable and nice-looking enough that the recipient will want to reuse it.

This is wrapping paper that is totally
worth rescuing. Source.
So, wrapping paper. My obvious suggestion is of course to remove the paper from your gifts carefully, fold the  tape under, and roll or fold it neatly for reuse. If all the gift recipients in your house are old enough to do this, brilliant. If not, don't toss that ripped up paper right away! You'll need confetti for your New Year party, right?

For paper that is ripped too small for reuse later but is too large for confetti-making, get creative before you toss. Save the pieces with your gift bags to use as tags next year. Do you have a kid at the paper-tearing stage? You just got a few minutes of non-destructive amusement. Use the non-colourful side for scrap paper or for the kids to draw on. Wad it up as packing in your next package. If all else fails, recycle.

And it wouldn't be Christmas without one more bonus suggestion. If you have some scrap fabric laying around, or a colourful t-shirt that has outlasted its usefulness as a shirt, or a scarf that you don't really wear, consider using those to wrap a gift instead of paper. Break out the hot glue or the string to hold the bottom together and tie it up on top. This is an especially good option for the crafty friends in your life, who will likewise not throw the fabric away but will find something creative to do with it! Even if the friend uses your old t-shirt for dusters once the gift is put away, you've still saved one more thing from the landfill plus relieved your house of a tiny bit of clutter. And I don't know anyone who doesn't love that.

How do you wrap gifts? Do you have another environmentally friendly, stress-saving, creative suggestion?

15 December 2011

Still Time-Travelling

Yep, I'm still attempting to go backwards in time and share all the thoughts I didn't write down during November. But I think I've reached the end of actual memory, so I may have to start making things up now.

On Thanksgiving Chad and I ran the local Turkey Trot with some new acquaintances from church. (I hope they don't read this and get offended, but I'm kind of European when it comes to calling people friends.) This was our first race since the weekend we moved to Austin, but you know what? It was pretty much the same. Right down to my really awful race pictures. Seriously, I do weird things with my fingers while running.

Chad was disoriented at the finish line, which is also pretty much the same, so he didn't meet us at our prearranged meeting spot. I was a bit worried, because he has been known to seek medical attention during races and we were both seriously undertrained for this one. Fortunately, our pal Guy For Whom I Do Not Yet Have a Nickname (now I really hope he doesn't read this. Good thing he has a busy schedule and doesn't spend a lot of time online, huh?) is tall, so when he went looking for Chad, Chad spotted him. Which was just as well, because I didn't want to have a full-blown panic attack in front of people we don't know that well.

Also in November... The Celtic Festival! I love the Austin Celtic Festival. We looked at pretty jewelry, laughed at all the jokes, and heard some fabulous music. And we heard a guy lecturing about William Wallace, which was not only cool, but also stuck me into Scottish accent mode for the rest of the day. I probably should have written things down about how much fun I had that weekend. But hey! Come to Austin the first weekend of November for the foreseeable future and see with your own eyes how great the Celtic festival is.

That's probably everything... now maybe I can finally catch up with all those Book Festival posts I never got around to writing.

What is your preferred method of time travel?

14 December 2011

NaNoWriMo, UT Version

So I may have mentioned once or twice (or never-- it's been that kind of semester) that I started a NaNoWriMo/Script Frenzy club on campus with TARDIS Girl, co-conspirator extraordinaire. We decided to call ourselves Frenzied Novelists, because that was the best we could come up with to encompass both events. A couple of other people came along for the ride, and we have something like 55 people who have joined us in our noveling and other writing craziness (we're the only creative writing group-- that we know of-- at UT, so we've flung open our figurative doors to any creative writing types, not just novelists).

Our recruiting poster from earlier in
the semester.
The Sunday before NaNo ended, I got a couple of text messages from TARDIS Girl that someone from the Daily Texan (the campus newspaper) wanted to interview her. Which I thought was all well and good and fabulous-- the more publicity, the better, right? I was just sad that they waited until the end of NaNoWriMo to write about us, but hey, I'll take what we can get.

Later that afternoon, the intrepid reporter called me as well, so I spent the rest of the afternoon in an excited frenzy while I was also trying to do homework, finish my grad school applications, and write some more of my novel. The article (you can read it here, if you are interested) went live before I went to bed that night, and I read it quite happily until I came to this line: “I’m taking more hours this year than I did last year, but it’s actually been easier,” she said. “It’s definitely been an exercise in time management. You kind of get this feeling like you’re on drugs, like you always have to be doing something.”

Yes, that was me that said that. Or rather, me that didn't say that. I said the bit about time management, and I said the bit about always doing something, but I most definitely did not say anything about writing being like doing drugs. First of all, I have no basis for comparison, and secondly, that's not the sort of thing one says to a complete stranger who is writing down one's every word.

So the next morning, TARDIS Girl sends me as text wondering why on earth the reporter had chosen my quote about doing drugs. I told her I didn't know, considering that I never said it in the first place. And once we were done being mortified, we decided to have some fun with it, posting it all over Facebook and Twitter (we even made it onto one of the Twitter daily round-up things), as well as cutting out the article, highlighting my quote, and hanging it up in the Undergraduate Writing Center for the amusement of our coworkers.

A couple of days later, one of our coworkers told us about how last spring, the Daily Texan grossly misrepresented some activities of one of the fraternities on campus, so that the organization got lots of hate mail. Yikes! That makes this little goof seem rather small by comparison, being as we've yet to receive any mail at all.

Have you ever been interviewed? Misquoted? Both? What do you think I should say next time?

12 December 2011

Heard at University: Semester's End

I completely forgot about compiling a list of goofy things I heard on campus as the semester went by, which is a pity, because there were some good ones. So, instead, some things from the last day of class:

Caffeinated: You can never have too much coffee! That's ridiculous!
He went on to tell us that caffeine is what gives him all his energy. And quite frankly, I am so envious, because I need about three cups of tea in the morning just to be functional. It never gives me his level of energy. Mind you, there is a lot less caffeine in three cups of tea than in three cups of coffee.
***
The next one needs some background: On the next-to-last day of class, Honours Teacher was giving us some pointers on our final papers, including that we should not use "continuance" for "continuation". He went on to insist that "continuance" isn't a word anyway. I turned to the girl next to me and said, "Isn't it a legal term?" She wasn't sure, so I didn't say anything. So, on the last day of class:
Honours Teacher: I was wrong about the word "continuance". It's something you ask a judge for, so it is a word.
Girl next to me: Hey, that's what you said!
Me: Yeah.
Teacher: Why didn't you say something if you knew it was a word?
Me: Because I was getting this information from the movie Liar, Liar.
***
French teacher: You really need to come to the study session on Tuesday.
I decided that this was because he believed there was no point on giving up on me altogether, instead of it meaning that I needed all the help I could get.
***
Linguistics teacher: Do you even know what time class starts?
Okay, this one didn't happen. But it probably should have. When I ride the bus, it's a crapshoot as to whether I'll get to campus by 9:30, unless I want to be very very sure and get there an hour early. I was rarely in class on time.

And that was the last day of my semester. So, what memorable quotes have you heard lately?

11 December 2011

New Church

I'm so far behind on things I want to blog about. I may have to sit down and make a list. Tomorrow may be Write Lots of Blog Posts Day in addition to be Catch Up on Blog Reading Day.

(Follow-up on Friday's post: I'm done applying to grad school! I still need to get my transcripts and GRE scores sent, but the part that involves me writing statements of purpose and begging teachers for letters of recommendation is finished. And now, I wait.)

Chad and I decided a few months ago that the church we were attending wasn't quite the right fit for us. It didn't really feel like home, and since when we moved to Austin we left behind a church that had been a family to us in every sense of the word for our entire marriage, feeling like we were at home is pretty important. You might say we have ridiculously-high standards, and you would be correct, but the former congregation wasn't doing it for us.

The church we go to looks nothing
like this. Source.
So, we started looking. And a few weeks into our search, I took a wrong turn on the way home from UT one day, and ended up on a very busy street during rush hour. I was considerably freaked out, since this street had no bike lane, and was relieved when I got to the street that I had actually been aiming for (a much quieter street with a bike lane). I got a good look at the building across the street while standing at the red light, and since that building was a church, I Googled it when I got home. Chad and I liked the looks of it, so we went to visit. And kept going back to visit. We went off-and-on all summer long, and finally decided in October that this church that I found by accident is the one for us. We really do feel at home there.

I'm sure I'll end up giving them nicknames eventually. Maybe I'll wait and see if any of them decide to start reading my blog first. In the meantime, they're all lovely people.

What's important to you when choosing a church? And for my non-church-going readers... What do you like to do on Sundays?

09 December 2011

Crickets

So, since we last met...

  • I finished NaNoWriMo. (71129 words! Beat my goal by 1129!)
  • The semester ended. Final grades are still pending.
  • I finished applying to UT grad school, and made a sketchy start on the other two schools I'm applying to.
  • Chad and I went to Lubbock to see a friend get married.
  • While there, we also got to have a look at some brand-new twins.
  • And the Christmas Tea, which I was chairwoman of for a couple of years, has new life and a new name under some new leaders. I got to go to that, too.
  • I've already started reading for next semester.
  • And I went back to volunteering more often than once a month at Bike Texas. A surprising number of them still recognise me.
This is my stack of
books for undergrad
research. Minus one book.
And ten scholarly
articles. Holiday reading
at its finest.
The thought of everything I managed to finish in the last couple of weeks makes me want to go lie down, because it didn't seem so bad when I was in the thick of it but looking back I'm surprised more people don't hate me from me being über-cranky at them. 

This weekend is Grad School Application weekend here at the Cheeky house. And also Finish my Research Proposal weekend, because that reading I've started is for my undergrad research project for next semester, but I haven't turned in my proposal yet. I'm hoping my thesis adviser is patient and understanding. 

What does all this mean? Well, I hope that next week can be Catch Up with All My Blogging Friends week, once I get through this weekend and finally feel like my semester really is at an end, instead of mostly at an end. Wish me luck.

What are you doing this weekend? Anyone else applying to grad school? Do you think we should organize a Let's Take A Nap blogfest?

25 November 2011

Shop With Care

I hope all my US readers had a fun and relaxing Thanksgiving! Chad and I celebrated by going to the local Turkey Trot with some new friends from our new-to-us church (that makes it sound like a secondhand church, doesn't it?) and running five miles, something we hadn't done in months. Today we are sore but feel great. Afterwards, we came back and cooked our dinner slowly over the course of the afternoon, finally eating at about 6 PM, except for our sweet potato fries, which we grazed on while cooking so they were gone when it was time to eat. A good time was had by all.

So in this part of the world it's the start of the Christmas shopping season, and already tales of people being stupid are floating around Twitter. I'm starting to think the retailers can't possibly be making enough money to justify opening early, having all their staff working all day, risking losing a lot of staff after the frenzy, never to mention breakages, thefts, and general havoc wreaked in the store. How is Black Friday possibly profitable? (BTW, if I'm participating, I call it Red Friday. I have a feeling it's the same for a lot of people.)

It's not used, it's vintage!
So, today's green-living, wallet-friendly, sanity-saving tip is this: Don't go out and buy a ton of new stuff for everyone you know. Buy some new stuff, sure. But for other gifts, consider looking in secondhand stores or on ebay. If you have small kids, do a toy swap with other friends. Sign up for your local Freecycle and keep an eye on the emails. Remember that previously-used (and loved!) items come with their own history and you can mix your stories with the other stories that the new-to-you gift already has. And on a practical side, also remember that new-to-you things can frequently be cleaned up to look new.

Do you shop on Black Friday? Do you do any secondhand shopping for Christmas/birthdays/etc.? Was it a normal Thursday for you yesterday?

22 November 2011

First Date


This is my final short story for my creative writing class. It's kind of long, but I could't find a good place to split it. Enjoy!

            Dustin’s heart pounded as if he’d already run ten miles. He tried taking deep breaths to settle down. Should he breathe into a bag? Was that for times like this? He shook his head. He was more likely to throw up into the bag than breathe into it, anyway. He’d barely eaten any lunch, but that handful of french fries was looking for revenge.
            Every day after school, he and Shanna ran in the park across the street from their houses. She was on the cross-country team and this was her off-season training. Her parents had been nervous about her running alone, so she had asked him to come along and her parents had no objections. They had known him since birth, after all.
            The days were short now. It didn’t get dark until after they finished running, but the late-afternoon sun was more in the business of casting shadows than making things brighter. Dustin thought the sun had a split personality—six months of happy and six months of cranky.
            Even telling himself lame jokes wasn’t working, because his stomach was still churning and he had goosebumps that had nothing to do with the cold. He hadn’t intended to fall in love with Shanna. She was his childhood friend, a known Tinker Toy thief and an expert at Chutes and Ladders. But she also shared her M&Ms—she sorted them by color and let him choose which ones he wanted first. It had been their game for as long as either of them could remember, a tradition they kept long after she returned his Tinker Toys and Chutes and Ladders gathered dust in her closet. And now he wanted more than her green M&Ms.
            Shanna dashed up from across the street, sending the butterflies in his stomach into a fresh frenzy. She smiled at him and he got warm all over. She was much better than the sun.
 “Hey, Dustin! Thanks for waiting,” she said. “My running clothes were buried in my laundry and it took me a while to find them.” She raked her hair back from her face with her fingers and wrapped a rubber band around it, leaving hair sticking out in all directions. “Ready?”
            “Yeah.”
            Shanna took off. It was a three-mile loop around the lake and she always took the first mile too fast. They could talk during the second mile, after she slowed down. Today he hung back, going over his plan again. Once they finished running, he would ask her to go ice skating. The outdoor rink opened this weekend and he thought it would be perfect: Shanna loved skating but had an awful sense of balance. She always had to hold onto someone to stay upright, and this weekend, Dustin would be that someone.
            “What are you doing back there?” Shanna called over her shoulder.
            “Huh?”
            “Why are you still behind me?”
            He came up level with her. “I can’t keep up. You’re a speed demon.”
            Shanna rolled her eyes. “Right. After all the meets I ran, I have one third-place ribbon. And that was the time everybody else had the flu. I’m only faster than turtles and slugs.”
            Dustin was in safe territory when they were teasing each other. “Probably other things, too,” he pointed out. “Snails. Possoms. Babies.”
“Gosh, that really makes me feel better,” Shanna said. “Hey, Dustin, do you have any tutoring time available this week? I think my algebra teacher is just making things up now.”
“Sure,” Dustin said. More time with Shanna? Yes, please. “I have some time tonight.”
“Can’t,” Shanna said. “I have plans. What about tomorrow morning before school?”
            “Yeah, that works for me. Your kitchen or mine?”
            “Yours. It’s a date. I’ll bring Pop-Tarts.”
Dustin’s stomach twisted around itself. Did she say date? Did she mean it?
“What are you doing tonight?” he asked, hoping he sounded normal.
“I’m watching a movie with Brad.”
Dustin tripped and staggered a few steps. Shanna slowed down.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he muttered, trying to hide his red face. “Can we stop so I can tie my shoe?”
“Sure.” Shanna stopped and pulled a tissue out of her pocket.
Dustin re-tied both shoes. Shanna with Brad? His whole world had just flipped upside down. Since when did she hang out with that guy? Dustin and Shanna had been in the same circle of friends since kindergarden and Brad was not part of the gang.
Shanna blowing her nose brought him back to reality. She may have a gorgeous smile, shiny hair, and lots of green M&Ms, but she blew her nose like everybody else. He hoped she wouldn’t do that on Saturday—he wasn’t sure how he felt about holding a snotty hand. Although Shanna’s snotty hand was probably better than anyone else’s.
He stood up in time to see her stuff the damp tissue back into the rear pocket of her pants. Did she see him looking at her backside? Maybe he should run behind her again for a while. No, too obvious.
            They started off again and Dustin’s legs protested.
            “Ow!”
            “What?”
            “My legs. I think I stopped for too long. So, what movie are you watching with Brad?” He tried to sound like a friend, not a stalker.
            “Much Ado About Nothing. Have you seen it? It’s one of my favorite Shakespeares.”
            “Shakespeare? Since when is Brad interested in Shakespeare? He can’t even spell Shakespeare,” Dustin said. He needed to remember Much Ado About Nothing for later. Never mind. This crushing avalanche of jealousy would probably remind him for a while.
            “He needs me to translate it from English to idiot for him so he doesn’t flunk a test. He was standing around in the hall the other day when I needed to carry some drama club stuff upstairs. I could only get him to help me if I promised to do him a favor.”
            Shanna promised a favor to Brad? This girl needed a security detail. “Why didn’t you just ask me if you needed help?” Dustin asked.
            Shanna shrugged. “You weren’t there and he was.”
            Dustin wondered how awkward it would be to follow her around so she didn’t have to ask any other guys for help ever again. And especially not Brad.
            Frightened squirrels ran away ahead of them as they ran, scattering leaves that would probably be covered with snow by morning. Dustin hadn’t been interested in running until two months ago, but he could see why Shanna loved it so much. He just hoped she didn’t want to start training for a marathon anytime soon.
            “So, Dustin, I have a question,” Shanna said. His heart leaped. Was it a good question?
            “What?” He tried to sound calm.
            “Do you think we’ll be able to go on running together? Like, after Christmas? Once baseball starts? It’s just that running with you feels really safe. Like I don’t have to worry about what you’re thinking, you know? It’s like running with my best friend.”
            A surge of joy hit every one of Dustin’s nerve endings at once. “Yeah, that would be great. I mean, I’ll have to ask Coach first. But he wants us to be in shape, you know? It should be okay.” Shanna was always talking about a runner’s high, and Dustin thought the sudden energy he was enjoying right now was pretty close. Except it didn’t come from running.
            The end of the loop was coming up. “Race you to the finish!” Shanna shouted. She liked to sprint out the final quarter mile. Sometimes Dustin tried to beat her to the line they had spray-painted in the dirt, but today he stayed level with her and they crossed at exactly the same time.
            Shanna bent double to get her breath, while Dustin walked around in circles to keep his muscles from cramping up even more. And to enjoy the view while it lasted.
            She stood up and grinned at him. “How do you feel? Are your legs still sore?”
            “Nah, I’m good,” he said. It was true; his nervousness was almost gone, and he didn’t care about his legs. Now was the time to ask her, before he changed his mind.
            But she was already talking. “I gotta get some homework done before Brad comes over. See you in the morning?”
            “Yeah. Hey, Shanna, I was wondering…” He hesitated.
            “What?” she asked, still smiling. Her face was red and sweat-streaked and her hair was a mess, but her smile was perfect. An unexpected wave of terror crashed down on Dustin and he forced the words out.
            “You know the ice skating rink is opening this weekend? I think just about everybody will be there, so I was wondering if you’d like to go.”
            “Oh, great idea!” Shanna exclaimed.
            Relief and joy flooded through Dustin. “Really?”
            “Yeah, I’ve been wanting them to open it for weeks. I was thinking the other day that it’s been too long since the last time we all went out together. I’m so glad you were thinking the same thing. Everybody is always so busy.”
            Wait. “What?”
            “So I guess you’ve talked to everybody else already, then? Okay, I’m in.”
            “No, I meant—”  
            “Do you know what time it opens?”
            “What? Oh, uh, one, I think.” Dang, this conversation was going the wrong way. Dustin wasn’t sure how to clear it up without sounding like a moron.
            “I’ll check the website when I get home and send everybody an email so we can decide where to meet up.”
            “That’s not exactly…” he hestitated.
            “Oh, I’m sorry. You should send the email. It was your idea.”
            “Oh, no. No, it’s fine.” Dustin gave up. Whatever he had said wrong, he wasn’t going to act pathetic. “Go ahead and send it, I don’t mind.”
            “Cool. I’ll bring the M&Ms.” She smiled, and his whole body tingled again. “We can all grab some hot cocoa or something afterwards. It’ll be fun. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
             Dustin watched her jog across the street, up the steps, and through her door. He turned back toward the trail and started running again. Shanna always said that running helped her think better, or at least made her tired enough to go to sleep.
            He was going to find out if it worked.

18 November 2011

Heard at University. Kinda.

Apparently all posting schedule and theme days has gone to the winds. Ce la vie, especially during November.

So here's another "Su is a walking disaster" story that I know you all enjoy so much. It all starts with my rhetoric teacher, hereafter known as Caffeinated by virtue of saying at the beginning of every class, "I'm really excited, but that may be the three cups of coffee talking." In case you're wondering, yes, I have written him into my NaNoWriMo novel.

This is the sort of thing that really
adds to camaraderie and
embarrassment in the classroom.
Source.
So I really like his class, but the work is a bit time-consuming. The other night I was chatting with a classmate on Twitter at about 11:30 PM and she said that her rhetoric homework took her about an hour. I was not excited about the news that I was going to be up late, so I said back, "Oh, good, because I've been looking for a reason to be as caffeinated as (insert Caffeinated's real name here)."

Now before you freak out, I do have a pair of filters that I run everything through before I put it on the internet. The first, and most important, is: Would I be okay with my friends' kids seeing this? Number two only applies in situations like this one, and it's: Would I say this if (insert name) were in the room? Since Caffeinated has a sense of humour and, more importantly, occasionally tweets about class himself, this remark passed both filters.

Next morning, I walked into class, fresh cup of tea in hand, and was greeted by a grinning Caffeinated who asked, "Are you highly caffeinated enough this morning, Wilcox?" Heh. I was about 10% embarrassed and all the rest amused. Well, another 10% chuffed that he read my tweet, since we don't follow one another on Twitter. I'm not real clear on how he found it, actually, but I didn't ask for details. Also, I can't remember the last time someone called me by my last name only. This guy is writing me a recommendation for grad school, so I guess I should tone down the cheekyness to below normal levels. (Unlikely.)

So after class I sent a message to my classmate, who missed all the excitement, and she said, "Sounds like I missed a good class, then." Yep.

Do you ever have any Twitter crossovers into real life? Any real-life people in your NaNoWriMo novel? How much caffeine have you had today?

11 November 2011

We Remember

I think I'll dispense with my usual practise of reciting In Flander's Fields for you, partly because everyone else is doing it. And if you'd like to read it, Delores has a lovely post for Remembrance Day with that and other poems that you should go have a look at.

Source.
I admit to being a bit put off by all the fuss over it being 11/11/11; while that's exciting and all, I'd rather focus on the day of remembrance that happens every year at this time. There's a solemnity to Veterans Day, as there should be, as we consider what all veterans, those who came home and those who did not, had to sacrifice. And the sacrifice their families made, too.

Blessings upon you on this day of remembrance.

08 November 2011

Oh, Dear

So I'm behind on NaNoWriMo (that didn't take long!) and I'm having trouble writing a statement of purpose for grad school. However, I am miraculously caught up on my homework, so I should probably make a note on my calendar.

This is just sad.
I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of word count widgets on the NaNoWriMo site, but now that I'm behind I think I'll just skulk off. There aren't any yet, anyway.

So, my general topics of interest for rhetorical research are (in no particular order): controversies over YA literature, public debate in the U.S., environmental issues, and transportation issues. I'm hoping to talk to an instructor ASAP about these to see if they qualify as viable interests from which I could draw out a dissertation topic in a few years' time.

In the meantime, happy novelling!

How is your NaNoWriMo going? Do you have a PhD? Should I find a happy place with no grad school in it?

04 November 2011

Breakdown

Four days into NaNoWriMo and I'm already neglecting you all! That's mostly because I didn't get my posts auto-scheduled last weekend as intended. Maybe this weekend, if I'm very very lucky, but I'm going to the Austin Celtic Festival most of the weekend so my chances of that kind of luck are looking pretty slim.

This is what I'm like... I'm the one
looking the wrong way because
I want to make sure all the other
chicks are doing it right. Source.
So today's tip isn't necessarily green, but I'm also into general healthiness, and I think that's what this falls into. But first, some backstory! I have this tendency to approach the whole universe like I'm its older sister. One of these days I hope to grow out of it, and start leaving the universe alone to do whatever it wants to do without me bossing it around. (I'm not really that bossy. I'm the older sister who offers you a tissue and says "there, there" and only bosses you if you ask my opinion.)

And the other downside is that I tend to take on other people's stress and worries. Specifically, this week, it's some of my coworkers at the Writing Center. We've hit the stressful point of the semester, plus the onset of cold season. And when you add to that the normal "what do I do with my life" and the hormonal garbage that comes with being in your early 20s, my coworkers are carrying around a lot of stress. (Yes, a lot of it is self-inflicted. That doesn't make me feel any less sorry for them.) And I absorb that anxiety off of them and add it to my own.

So, coming back round to the point, my tip this week is partly adopted from Sleeping Naked is Green and partly my own experience: Search for healthy, uplifting ways to deal with your stress.

Maybe you need a cup of tea. Maybe you'll go for a walk. Maybe you'll read a book or watch a funny movie. Maybe you just need a nap (easier said than done, I know). For me, it's been NaNoWriMo... I've been inflicting my own stress upon my characters, which frees me from carrying it around. Works great.

What do you do when the world gets to be too much? Should I write you into my novel?

31 October 2011

Youve Painted a Quite Picture

I should start a regular post about my spam comments. Really, we all should. I get some serious entertainment in my spam filter.


Perhaps brinkka2011 should
ponder this. Source.
So, this one came from someone called brinkka2011 who, a casual Google search tells me, gets around the blogosphere and sneaks past some spam filters to leave ridiculous comments all over the freaking place. This particular comment was on my post about it being my 1000th post. If he (or she) is looking for cheap publicity, well, here it is! His (or her) statements are in red; my hypothetical replies are in blue.

How is it that just anyone can publish a blog and get as popular as this? I know, it's a scandal. What can I say? I bribe my readers! Its not like youve said anything incredibly impressive more like youve painted a quite picture through an issue that you know nothing about! Funny, my rhetoric teachers say the same thing. Well, sort of. They say it with better spelling, correct punctuation, and fewer adverbs. Although I did write about my own blog in this instance, so I'm confident no one knows this issue as well as I do. I dont want to sound mean, right here. Oh, don't you? You're doing it wrong. But do you genuinely think that you can get away with adding some quite pictures and not truly say something? Yes. Yes, I do.



And now if you'll all excuse me, I'm off to figure out what a 'quite picture' is.


Anybody else get good spam comments? Should we have a spam comment blogfest wherein we all make fun of our spammers? I bet you all would come up with some brilliant stuff to answer back.

28 October 2011

Libraries, Amazon, Goodreads...

I'm still in the throes of trying to get homework, grad school applications, and my proposal for undergrad research next semester all done before next Tuesday hits and NaNoWriMo commences. Oh, and pre-scheduling some blog posts, so you don't all think I died. (Although, if I pre-schedule... never mind, let's not go down that garden path.)

So! Today's green tip is meant to be in keeping with the book theme I have going this week (like that's different from any other week): Make sure to get as much use out of your books as possible.

No, I'm not going to say to never buy new physical books, even though I know that technically, that's a darned green thing to do. But as we booklovers all know, to give that kind of advice is to dance on the edge between "taking care of the earth" and "enjoying my time on earth". If I didn't buy books that I love, I would be depriving myself of one of the great joys in my life and I'm not going to do that.

So, what do I mean, then? Well, try before you buy. Borrow a book from the library before deciding to buy it, and if you love it and you know you want to have it available to read over and over, then absolutely, go buy it.

Next, try to buy secondhand. Look on Amazon, Ebay, or one of the dozens of secondhand booksellers online. Better World Books donates some of their profits to literacy programs, as well as donating actual books. Plus, they send the best "your order has been shipped" emails that I've ever read. Seriously, order a book from them just to get the email. You won't regret it-- unless you buy a book that you didn't really want. You might regret that. Also in good-karma-land: Chegg donates to education programmes and they plant a tree for every book they sell or rent.

At the risk of entering the realm of broken records, e-books save paper, shipping, and for most titles, some of the sticker price.

If you get a book that you thought you would want to keep forever but it turns out it wasn't meant to be between the two of you, find it a new home. Swap with friends (either in person or virtually), post it on one of the aforementioned sites, donate to a local library... you get the idea. Old textbooks or books that you can't unload get a bit tricky... here in Austin, we have Recycled Reads that actually recycles books that they can't sell (and anything they do sell benefits the local library system). I turned to my good friends at Earth911 for a solution, and they do have a search page where you can find book recycling near you.

And finally, I can't leave this subject without a strong plug for local secondhand bookshops. Every place I've lived, I've been a frequent customer and donater to a secondhand bookshop. They have mixed results if you're looking for something in particular, but I've found just going round every couple of weeks and browsing yields some really nice fruit. Good place to bring the books that no longer fit on my shelves, too. And, if you get a really good one, where you can get to know the owners, they just might take note of your reading preferences and keep something back for you if a book they think you'll like comes in. No guarantees... but it has happened.

What do you do with old books? Any good secondhand bookstore stories (those are the best, imo!)?

27 October 2011

NaBloWriMo

You know, I'm crazy enough for filling up my schedule like a nutty person. Why I thought I should throw my hat in the ring for NaBloWriMo I'll never know.

Anyway, I wandered over for a prompt (I'm saving the rest of my book festival posts for when I have a bit more coherence), and found: 1. Who is your favourite author? or 2. What is your favourite book? or 3. Do you find yourself talking like the characters in the book you just read?

Hey, look. C.S. Lewis and Elinor M.
Brent-Dyer, hanging out on my
shelf. (They were contemporaries,
after all.)
1. I don't have a favourite. I like most authors that I read. BUT, according to Goodreads, here are my most-read authors: Terry Pratchett, Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and in a 3-way tie for 4th place: J.K Rowling, Beverly Cleary, and C.S. Lewis. Sounds about right.

2. At this moment, my favourite is probably Spindle's End, by Robin McKinley. Love love love that book. My perpetual, life-long favourite? Well, favourites, actually, because it's the Little House series. Little House on the Prairie was the first 'real' book that I read and I've been a fan ever since.

3. Always. Chad can usually guess what book I've been reading by the way I talk. It's ridiculous. What's even worse is that I think the way the characters talk x 25-- it's no wonder I talk that way, really.

What about you? Same questions!

25 October 2011

Nefarious Plot

Our UT NaNoWriMo group had a plotting party tonight, with lots of people in attendance. Yay! Not much plotting was done, I'm afraid, but we did have a good time talking about our novels and deciding on write-ins. And finding out what sort of things we have in common.

I may be the only one of the group not writing a fantasy novel. (I'm writing a school story.)

Are you a Wrimo? Let's be friends! (Once the Writing Buddies are activated, that is. Using the word 'activated' makes me feel like we are writing Power Rangers. Ooh, maybe we are. Get your Zords!) I'm cheekysu, the one from Austin. Chad was kind enough to find another cheekysu on the NaNo site the other day, so I know there are at least two of us.

Not a Wrimo? Well, okay, but most of what I post for the next month probably isn't going to make a lot of sense.

Okay, well, I already asked one question. How about: What is your genre? Favourite writing music? Will you bring me a cookie?

24 October 2011

Texas Book Festival: The Late American Novel

I chose this particular lecture because my Creative Writing teacher was one of the speakers. And I'm so glad that I did, because it turned out to be an informative and thought-provoking session. Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee compiled 25 short essays about the future of books, basically getting the spectrum of people who have a good grasp (or so it seems) on the future of books right across to my creative writing instructor, who readily admitted in class on Friday and at the festival on Saturday that she has no idea what is coming next.

This picture is the artist's attempt to
build an e-reader from stuff laying
around his house. Source.
Mr. Martin began with the story of the lectors in the cigar factories in Tampa (I think?) during the '20s and '30s, who would read to the workers as they rolled cigars. The point he wanted to make was that the cigar workers didn't care what the lectors were reading, so long as they were receiving the content and the entertainment thus provided. His larger point was that it will be the same with e-readers-- as long as we get the content, we won't care about the delivery system.

Now after reading about this very issue across the blogosphere and even starting the conversation a bit here, I know that many readers do not feel this way. You don't get the same texture and smell that a paper book has on a Kindle. It just doesn't engage the senses in the same way. Having said that, it's hard to argue with having a ton of free classics that I got from Amazon via their free PC app. So I do agree to some extent that it's the content that I really want, but I also kinda want the book as a thing. He also quoted a recent study that found that 1 in 6 Americans either have an e-reader or plan to purchase one in the next 12 months. I don't know anything else about the study, including how loosely they define an e-reader (would I count, since I read books on my PC?), but if they're anywhere near close... that's huge.

As to books that will never be digitized: Children's picture books, especially the ones with things to feel and move. You can't get that on a Kindle, either. Coffee table books. And here's one for my YA writerly friends: the YA market is currently keeping the physical book market afloat. In other words, keep writing!

I don't really want to ask an e-book question, since I just asked one the other day. So: when's the last time you read aloud to someone? Or had someone read aloud to you?

23 October 2011

Texas Book Festival: Juan Williams

So I've decided that the easiest way to cover the book festival in all its glory (which I fully intend on doing, so if you hate books or festivals, now is a good time to take a vacation from Cheekyness) is to start at the beginning and write about each talk or panel in order. Here goes.

Mr. Williams' latest book.
When I saw Juan Williams on the list, I was delighted. I read his book a couple of months ago and promptly decided that he is about as close to a voice of reason as we have on political TV in America today. He's a champion of civil rights, freedom of speech, and honest debate-- all of which are sorely needed now as much as they have ever been. You can read Mr. Williams' story that led to his latest book at the Wikipedia page.

Some of the takeaway points: We can't have a healthy national debate when the slightest dissent leads to people, and politicians in particular, being labeled RINOs or DINOs (Republican or Democrat In Name Only). This isn't limited to one side; both parties do it to their own. Unfortunately, this leads to a niche landscape, which is where we are now, with everyone locked into boxes. Mr. Williams said, "We need the freedom to debate and the freedom to be wrong." (In case you pay even less attention to politics than I do: Politicians aren't allowed to change their minds about things, for fear of attack, even if their previous position is wrong/untenable/really embarrassing/whatever. It's really dumb, IMO.)

A nice moment: During the Q&A, one participant noted how guests with opposing viewpoints will appear on those news analysis shows and all talk over each other (think Crossfire), and asked, "Do the producers think this is good TV?" Mr. Williams laughed and said, "No." He then went on to elaborate, but I was too busy applauding along with everyone else to write it down. But hey, "no" sums it up pretty nicely!

Have you read this book? Do you have an opinion on debate in the US? If you're not from the US... how is your weather?

22 October 2011

Texas Book Festival

... day 1. I definitely got multiple posts' worth of stories from the first day at the book festival, so I'll start with the easy ones. (Don't worry; I took notes! I won't forget too much!) We went to a Pitchapalooza session with the intent to watch and learn-- Chad doesn't have anything book-length planned at the moment, and I don't have anything worth pitching, except an idea that I want to give some life to before pitching it around.

So we listened as one stellar idea after another came out. I don't remember them all, but one guy is telling his uncle's (really interesting) life story; one was a historical fiction involving a cache of guns somewhere in Texas; one was a boxing noir story set in Austin; a couple more historical fictions, a couple of middle grades, and one racy romance, and a handful of YAs. The eventual winner's story is about a boy who doesn't communicate well with others, so he draws pictures as his connection to other people.

Most of what the panel said to help people improve was stuff I've read on various author blogs already, so I don't have anything new to report. However, it was insanely helpful to hear other people giving pitches. Also, they all looked so calm. I would have been shaking so hard that my hair would have been vibrating. People would have thought I had a mysterious tremor in my scalp.

One notable moment: The moderator, wanting to call on someone to come pitch, pointed at a skinny guy with long hair and a beard and said, "Jesus!" I think I laughed for five minutes. The guy looked embarrassed.

And the sweetest moment of the day: A 13-year-old young woman pitched her book about a girl whose sister is kidnapped. The girl gets a text from her sister in the middle of first period, but the sister is gone by the time she gets home. So, the girl sets out to rescue her sister. The pitch was actually crazy-good (much, much better than my recap) and the panel didn't have much to critique. One of them asked, "Do you have the book written?" And she said, "It was written, but it caught fire. I live in Bastrop." Yeah, you'd better believe that a groan went across the audience. Such a gut-punch moment. In case you missed it, the wildfires across Texas a few weeks ago were mainly concentrated around Bastrop. Lots of houses are gone. And so is one young writer's WIP.

However, she didn't say it like she wanted us to feel sorry for her. And as one member of the panel said, "Sounds like you have another book to write." I don't know if having to completely re-write her MS will help the editing process, but I hope she re-writes it. I hope it gets published. I want to read it.

More to come! In the meantime: Have you ever been to a book festival? Have you ever been to something like Pitchapalooza? Don't you want to come visit me now that you know we have stuff like this?

21 October 2011

The Future is Today!

So today's green living tip is a little bit cheating and a lot born out of my frustration with having to tear down half a forest all by myself just to get through a couple years of school. And it is:

I still like this, too, but I'm a bit
stingy with it. Source.
Do as much as you can electronically.

I love the instructors who ask for homework electronically. I even more love instructors who assign books that are available as e-books so I don't have to pay for shipping. I am so enamoured with people who don't require me to print things.

This is not an anti-book or anti-paper post, btw, but just a reminder that services like Google Docs and email attachments and Kindle for PC might save you a bit of cash on paper and ink while also keeping trees in the ground. And I'm all in favour of that, because I live in Austin and think any part of the city without shade is doing it wrong.

Are you a teacher who assigns (at least some) homework electronically? Do you avoid printing things? Should I go around Austin in the dead of night planting trees?

20 October 2011

A Car That Goes-- Creative Writing #2

I wrote this little story the day after I took a car2go home and missed my exit. One 'cultural' note: UT's colours are orange and white, so the people wearing orange are college students.
***
Source.
            A little blue-and-white smart car, illuminated by street lights, zooms through Austin.
            This particular car had its beginnings in a factory in Europe, a land where streets are narrow and all cars are small. It boarded a boat to cross an ocean, bound for a place where streets are wide and some trucks merit their own zip codes. Cars do not usually think, and this car was at the beginning just as naïve as any other. And for the sake of its mechulinity, that was probably just as well. The not-so-smart car might have developed an inferiority complex once it got a look at Austin vehicles, since it could have fit inside some of them with plenty of room left over to pick up some groceries.
            Any hopes the car might have had of finding a nice home with a young couple and a pretty garage were dashed when it was accessorized with all sorts of fancy locational devices and then released to the care of the general public. At least it would never get lost, although if it had been looking forward to quiet drives in the park or occasional time to itself, those plans were on permanent hiatus. The car now served at the pleasure of the hip and trendy.
            Some days the car carried serious people in suits. The car noticed that they were hooked up to electronics all the time, much like itself. Perhaps they also were prone to getting lost. They never had any interesting messages on their phones for the car to read, and to judge by the local paper (and the car did not), they never gave anyone else anything interesting to read, either. They did a lot of shouting about words that sounded like ‘duck’, ‘shell’, and ‘dam’. The car certainly had cause to admire their concern for aquatic life.
            Then there were people who wore a lot of orange and carried heavy backpacks which were also orange. The car had no measuring devices, but it had a hunch that the backpacks weighed almost as much as the people carrying them. One day one of them got in and the car amused itself by reading her texts while she punched numbers on the GPS and muttered something about “go, cod”. She zoomed off as if she had seen the green flag and ignored the GPS until just after she missed her stop. And then she started yelling about ducks. Once the car delivered her to her destination, she stormed off and left the door unlocked. The car had to send a call downtown for help to get its doors locked, so it had plenty of time to ponder Austin citizens’ remarkable awareness of the plight of smaller animals.
            Sometimes grey-headed people would drive the car as though they wanted to make sure it had time to take in all the sights of Austin. They said things like “Oh, my” whenever a stoplight turned yellow, but did not seem to be interested in ducks. They did not shout, although other people often shouted at them.
            The car was unaware at first that it had started thinking. Little things, like passengers leaving him in the sunlight or dropping their trash on his  floorboards, started to annoy him. He tried sending polite messages via the GPS system, like “Please refrain from driving as if you were at Indianapolis,” or “The next passenger does not wish to sit in a seat covered in McDonald’s grease”. No one ever paid attention when he tried to speak to them. Sometimes they laughed and talked about the programmers having some fun with this car. So he went for a more passive-aggressive approach, like switching between his automatic and manual transmissions mid-trip, to alert passengers that they were displeasing him. He also noticed, after a while, that he was never in the vicinity of water when people started yelling about ducks. Considering how little regard his passengers had for his own well-being, he suspected that they were not as enamored with marine wildlife as he had once believed. He puzzled over this for a while, then gave it up as one of the great quirks of humanity.
             And his passenger this night is really confusing him. The kid stumbled up to the car a few minutes ago as if he had tripped over something. It took him two tries to scan his card and punch in his code. He smells fruity, but not in a good way, like the time someone left a bunch of grapes under the seat for a week.
            The car doesn’t like this passenger. He’s using every stunt in his arsenal to irritate the kid enough to take his orange-shirted self elsewhere—he even turns himself off at stoplights—but the kid responds by screaming about ships, pounding the steering wheel, and driving faster. The car gives up trying to reason with this kid and sends out a distress signal in case someone is watching who can call for help.
            The kid speeds up again and swerves around a truck in front of him. The car feels a strange sensation: gasoline burning faster than usual. He is confused: What is this kid doing? He enjoys the rush, and that adds to his bewilderment. Is he supposed to go this fast? There is nothing he can do but wait for help, so he decides that if the kid is going to drive like one of the Andrettis, he may as well have fun while it lasts.
            The lights on the freeway come at him like a rope of white. Other vehicles beep and honk as the kid swerves, speeds up, slows down for a second, then whips around. The car enjoys the rush of gasoline and the pulse of the road beneath his tires. It is every car’s dream to go to Indianapolis, but this feeling is a good substitute.
            High-pitched wails come up behind them. Blue and red lights stab through the darkness. The young man screams again and speeds up. I called the police, the car thinks. That was dumb. This is really fun.
            But the kid doesn’t stop for the blue and red lights. The swerving and zooming continue. What had been a game for the car now frightens him. I’m going to fast, he thought. He tastes his oil burning. Gasoline spurts through his system, making him whine. “I’m going too fast!!” he says through the GPS. But the kid doesn’t look down.
            The car is terrified. He is doing over 80 now, faster than he is supposed to be able to go. The kid takes a flyover. Is he trying to get away? the car wonders. “I have a GPS! They can track me!” the car shouts. The kid still doesn’t notice that the car is talking to him.
            His tires skid on the road as the kid takes the first bend too fast. They swerve, recover, speed up again. His lights illuminate a second bend up ahead, and the car sees what will happen: He will crash through the guardrail, his tires will lose contact with the road, and he will fly off into open air. There is nothing he can do to stop it, because for all his newfound consciousness, he is still not in control. He sends a final message through his oily tears, an instant before the impact will render him forever mute:
            “Duck.”