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George MacDonald's Phantastes and rain

I start my reread of the classic fantasy works of George MacDonald over at Tor.com today.

In other news, it is raining, raining, raining, a marvelous hard (sometimes soft) dark rain that has turned everything dark and damp and caused one cat to stop using the litter box in protest (for the scientific minded among you, this does not actually make the rain stop) and the other cat to curl up on a lap to stay dry.

Lighting fireworks in the rain.

So last evening I was just quietly minding my own business when something went BANG. Knowing it was July 3rd, I mostly ignored this, although a small grey creature, who had finally chosen to reappear after the bangs of the night before, took a moment to summon up my inadequacies as a Stopper of Things That Go Bang and fled. (I haven't seen her since, which would worry me more were she another sort of cat, instead of the sort of cat that chooses to step out to another dimension when she's mostly had it with us, to come back only to demand that she be scratched and admired right now, never mind what you are doing, because she is the Interdimensional Cat, and a Figure of Extreme Beauty and ANYONE even a sad pathetic human can tell that she needs to be scratched and admired right now. In case you were wondering, the term "drama queen" was invented solely to describe this cat.

With that said, this was also once my little neurotic cat who was terrified of everybody and everything, and especially of getting seen by anyone or touched by anyone other than the other cat, including me. She was just coming out of that when we moved, to temporarily live with, gasp, a DOG, adored by the Little One (because he could sit on the dog, which is pretty much his standard for adoring anyone) and dreaded by her, so much progress was lost until we moved again, and even then, it took months before she would willingly be touched. Things were improving and then….we moved here. But these days, as long as visitors and fireworks aren't around, and sometimes even then, she's out and about, yowling and climbing on people (well, mostly me), allowing and even demanding that people scratch her, and becoming, on occasion, quite bold, which combined with the fact that she's considerably smarter than the other cat (neurotic, terrified, yet able to turn on faucets and open doors) is slightly alarming. We can't QUITE pick her up from anything but the scruff of the neck without risking damage, but we can get her in our laps (this is not always welcome) and get her to purr. Now if we can get her to stop turning on the sink….who am I kidding?

Naturally, we are now planning to move, which will probably mean going through all of this reassuring process again. Oh well. That was quite a digression. Moving on.)

But I did look up, to see a rather impressive explosion in the sky. We live in one of those marvelous states where people are encouraged to explore their rights to explode gunpowder and thus help the economy if not the air quality, so I figured it was just a happy neighbor who had bought out a fireworks tent, and then more bangs, and more, with some really impressive fireworks.

Why it took me so long to realize that this was not, in fact, the neighbors (although some neighbors were contributing) and in fact the celebration of the town of Oakland less than one mile from here, I can't tell you, although somewhat in my defense I hadn't realized that Oakland was having a celebration, partly because Oakland is a very, but very, small town ("downtown" = four buildings and dirt roads, although the dirt roads are left there deliberately to discourage people from driving through), partly because I hadn't been here during previous July 4ths and they hadn't done anything on the one New Year's that I'd been around, partly because it had been raining hard enough to cause small floods and I figured any celebrations would be cancelled, and partly because, well, it wasn't July 4th.

Anyway, I headed to the breezeway, where I realized that other city celebrations were going on – Monteverde, what we were guessing was Zellwood, and few others. Which meant that the Winter Garden celebration, which I'd planned to head to, only to cancel because of the rain, was apparently still on.

The best place to watch that celebration was down by the lake, which not incidentally was also the best place to develop a close and bloody relationship with Florida's extensive insect population and quite possibly trip over an alligator in the dark (they do sometimes come up on the shore by the complex, and although they'll ignore you if you ignore them, if you accidentally kick them while stumbling around in the dark they will not feel overly sympathetic) so instead most of the neighbors gathered in the parking lot, which, given the huge puddles and streams of water heading to the lake, did not seem especially inviting to me. Alas, from the breezeway, a huge tree blocked the Winter Garden displays, but I watched the rest happily enough, and then headed inside figuring that the excitement was mostly over for the night.

I had not counted on the neighbors, some of whom were made so enthusiastic by all this that they decided to head down to get a better look at the Magic Kingdom's next set of fireworks, and some of whom decided that the best way to get more fireworks was to go ahead and buy more at Walmart and set them off in the parking lot.

I don't mean to be mean to Walmart here, but for all of their size and strength, they have forgotten to provide one item essential to worldwide happiness, or at least, happiness in a Florida parking lot: waterproof fireworks. If you haven't tried to set off a small personal firework in a parking lot filled with puddles and water streaming down to a large lake, it works rather like this:

Grownup puts firework carefully on the ground.

Grownup realizes that he can't find his )(**(&T^*(*)( cigarette lighter.

Different grownup reminds us all that children are around.

More discussions ensue about the cigarette lighter.

Eventually, a different cigarette lighter is found and produced. This is not, I must note, a Cool Patriotic Cigarette Lighter and is widely and loudly criticized. Firework is lit.

Firework fails to go anywhere.

This is repeated with more fireworks in the box.

Eventually, grownups agree that this is a problem that can only be solved with beer. Children are promised trips to see the "real fireworks" at Disney tomorrow and that these will not be the cheap-ass )(*)&)(*_)_)_)**&(_))( fireworks sold at Walmart. Also, they can do DisneyQuest. Parking lot erupts in delighted cheers.

It rains again.

Anyway, today's plans include a July 4th party thing at my parents, which will involve – you guessed it – watching fireworks, including the new Universal display that had to be Severely Altered to accommodate the arrival of Hogwarts (the fireworks previously went off from where Hogwarts is now located, and now have to be shifted for safety reasons) although since apparently several of the city displays were last night, I'm not sure how much of those we'll see – but SeaWorld and Universal should still have something.

Happy Fourth of July to all, especially British friends!

You can stop now, really. I'm ok with that.

:: looks outside ::

Ok, Fay. You can stop raining now. Really. It's ok. I think we've got the point.

(It's been raining almost continously since Tuesday night -- mostly light rain -- largely because where we happen to be located, we got hit with the north side, then the south side, and then the storm stopped moving, leaving us on the edge of the south side, then it moved west, hitting us with the west side, then the south side again, and now, according to the radar, hitting us with the south to southeast side, which happens to be a heavy rain side.)

(to also give an idea, I opened up the porch door to check on matters, and the Little One, who loves that porch and thinks he should be living on it, poked out his little nose and immediately dashed off. Alas, a half inch of standing water (on a roofed in porch) and still more water blowing in is enough to quash any devotion, it seems.)
1. My mother's condo has a splendid view of most of the major fireworks shows in the area -- from Epcot all the way to downtown Orlando, along with several private shows, with a particularly good view of Universal Studios. So we joined her, several of her friends, and chattycatsmeow, and, after showing my father's art collection to some of the first time and repeat visitors ("It's like a museum!") settled down on the balconies to watch. Fewer fireworks than I remembered from a few years back -- apparently everybody's cutting back on expenses these days.

2. On the way home, we encountered this, which really has to be seen to be believed, or rather, not seen: even by the unquestionably low standards of tackiness in the greater Central Florida area, this, um, reaches new depths. (More discussion here, where post the nearly obligatory "Don't attack our faith" remarks a remarkable number of people agree that this just looks tacky.)

3. Yesterday, we headed to the recently opened Winter Garden public library. It's a lovely, sunfilled building, with a large computer lab, help desks, more computers, a gaming station, CD racks, DVDs, open study spaces, more computers -- and almost no books.

Seriously.

At a guess, perhaps 25% of the library space -- probably less -- is dedicated to books. I can understand this, I guess, given my unscientific, anecdotal observations that these days, most people are heading to public libraries to use computers and check out DVDs and CDs. Still, it seems wrong to call this a library. Perhaps a county tech and information center -- or is that name too long? Meanwhile, I felt a strong stirring of nostalgia for old style libraries, jammed full of books, with narrow passageways, and mysterious book encounters....

5. Late last afternoon, the AC broke again; a window unit AC has been installed as a temporary fix which was working quite splendidly until -- and you knew this was coming -- rain hit, really hit, and started merrily going right through the window AC, to the genuine delight of the cats who think that windows should do more of this. Oh well. It will be properly fixed by Tuesday.

Naturally, the rain only hit when we had something that could leak -- all last week, I kept looking for rain (I like rain, especially the heavy, heavy Florida rains) -- and kept seeing rain everywhere, to the north, south, east, west -- hovering over the lake, simmering over the trees to the south -- except here. Apparently, we can only have rain here if the window can leak.

Now this sounds like a fun sort of auction:

Federal regulators auctioning off the assets of man who accumulated $34 million -- in jail. Full kudos to Willoughby Farr for not allowing a simple little thing like incarceration to prevent him from becoming a multimillionaire.

The air today is mildly smoky again. Grr. I miss the rain.
What happens when I announce on Wednesday….

….that I'll be having a nice uneventful weekend?

I have a surprisingly eventful weekend, of course. Highlights include:

1. Finally caught a couple of episodes of John Adams, which is a surprisingly good show, if not quite good enough to convince me to invest in HBO right now. (But when/if Song of Ice and Fire comes to HBO, that little cable box Will Be Mine, I swear it.) Lots of dirt and grand palaces and ungrand palaces and a bit of drunken running through Harvard Square, always a plus, although admittedly off camera. Something to check out later on DVD.

2. Found myself coasting along the Pirates of the Caribbean ride looking for a leg. A very specific leg, as it happened, which led to dialogue like this:

"Is that the leg?"

"No, that's the leg."

"Where?"

"There."

"Oooh, the leg."

Usually, I'd say that you had to have been there, although most of you are probably feeling grateful right now that you weren't. Said Quest for the Leg happened because I happened to be there with the granddaughter of one of the Disney Imagineers, and that was his leg. We shall call the granddaughter A, although that isn't her real initial; I'd joined her, her husband D (also not his real initial), C (the real initial) and chattycatsmeow for a mostly unplanned trip to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. I am very sorry to inform you all that chattycatsmeow still cheats on the Buzz Lightyear ride (she insisted on aiming).

The weather got quite interesting in the afternoon/early evening, but since we'd already sampled a rose champagne that you put little chocolates into, and then sip, and then eat the chocolates, and a hot spiced wine, and a few other things, we didn't really notice. We ended the day with D and C adding what I can only call a completely unnecessary level of excitement to Splash Mountain (they jumped me while we were going up the incline, freaking me out to the point where I almost jumped off the boat, with the result that I was already shrieking well before we plunged down the 60 foot waterfall thing, and with me saying, "YOU SUCK! YOU SO SUCK! OOH LOOK FIREWORKS!"

3. I'd mostly unplanned to stick around Orlando for dinner on Sunday, but after looking out the window and hearing a rather fearsome weather report, I decided that pure flight might be the safer option, so off I headed to the Florida Turnpike in the afternoon to try to beat the rain coming down.

Naturally, I got caught in the monsoon. At first, it was just a normal, rainy rain, Florida style, allowing me to yell at the Florida drivers who treat normal rain as if it were the sign of the Apocalypse and god knows the last thing you want to do is meet that at a rush, so they slowed down, down, down, which is about when a friend called and asked if I'd be back in Fort Lauderdale in time for dinner.

"No clue," I said sadly, looking at the crawling traffic.

Right around Yeehaw Junction it began to really rain -- possibly the worst rain I've been in since Hurricane Irene. And just as the rain got really bad, Shuffle Play suddenly turned on "Confutatis" from Mozart's Requiem. I looked at my iPod. "Are you trying to tell me something?" I asked. As it turns out, driving 20 mph in a monsoon is the perfect accompaniment for Mozart's Requiem, so yay on ShufflePlay for picking it up.

But the next few miles were genuinely interesting – sheets of rain, people actually pulling off at Yeehaw Junction, no visibility, and then a phone call from an Orlando friend. "Where are you?"

"I'm thinking Florida. And I think I just passed Yeehaw, but it's a bit difficult to tell."

"You should see the weather you're driving through!"

"I am," I said.

"On the computer it looks like a tornado!"

"Yes," I said cheerfully. "And if I'm going to die, I don't want to do it on my pay per minute phone."

4. But as it happened, I did end up getting home in time for dinner with said friend, which was a plus, and fortunately tgregoryt saved me from at least part of last night's plumbing issues. Incidentally, tgregoryt wants to rename The Little One "mosquito," on the basis that he - the cat - is so difficult to remove.

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I'm soaking wet. It must be Sunday.

So the general concept was that I would spend the day writing. Like most of my general concepts, this went poorly, when I got distracted by various things in the morning (sends evil looks at various people) and then later that evening when not-carpooling J and I decided that the day was simply too beautiful to be wasted indoors and that we both needed to see the ocean.

So off we headed to the Atlantic Ocean off Delray Beach, parked the car (this will become important later), walked up and over the dunes (this is less important) and on to the beach, where we walked and walked until we found a little stone outcropping and watched the splendid thunderstorms over the dark evening to night ocean. If you haven't seen thunder on the ocean, you should -- from, I add hastily, a nice solid place where a boat isn't rocking under you making you too sick to watch. The waves rolled in a lovely foamy whiteness making us both think of Deborah Kerr. We shall skip over the singing part and pretend that didn't happen. Lightning glowered. Brightly lit boats bobbled on the ocean. The stars gleamed between the gaps in the clouds. The lightning glowered a bit more. The clouds rolled in, in an unhurried fashion, and --

"I think that's rain, not ocean spray," one of us said.

One of the difficulties with taking long walks on the beach is you entirely forget just how far away you've parked and just how long it will take you to get back to the car when you are stumbling over sand that your feet keep sinking in, although it doesn't seem so bad because so far, this is just a nice light rain and --

Everybody living in South Florida has guessed what happened next. Let us just say that the words "nice" and "light" no longer applied, and the words "utterly dripping" soon did. Which is more or less when we got back to the car, soaked to the bone (and before people ask, yes, T-shirts were involved). We mutually and woefully agreed that our planned follow up trip to a bookstore and cafe was not, under the circumstances, the best of plans. I started up the car, headed towards the road, and --

Remember the bit where I mentioned the moon and the stars?

Many of you clever people immediately leapt to the conclusion that, given the presence of said moon and stars, the sun must have set. This was not the same conclusion I'd come to, which was a pity, since if I'd had, I might have remembered that this particular parking lot closes at sunset, and a large locked gate would later bar our way.

Eveeeennnnnnnttttuallly, we were seen and rescused by an unhappy park ranger in a poncho who opened the gates, one of which then almost slammed into my windshield in another overly exciting moment. But at long last, we could escape back into warmth and dry clothes, and now, I have wine, cheese, and a very warm bed.

*****************

Apropos of nothing, my spam is advising me to invest in codmites.

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What I did for Easter

Because some people asked:

1. Looked out my window, saw lightly cloudy skies, and walked over to the pharmacy, not in the rain, bought laundry detergent, still not in the rain, and walked home, most decidedly in the rain, getting utterly soaked to the skin.

2. Since I was already wet, deliberately jumped in puddles and splashed.

3. Upset a cat who did not believe humans should be in such a wet condition.

4. Showered and got into nicely warm clothing, and then did laundry. Lots of laundry. Loads of laundry. (Thus the expedition to the pharmacy, which was utterly necessary, partly for asthma medication, but mostly for detergent.)

5. Made things up to the cat.

5. Had macaroni and cheese for dinner, since, I gotta tell you: I don't like ham. Correction: I like ham in sandwiches, as in ham and tomato sandwiches. Yay. But I'm not much for cooked ham on a plate surrounded by scalloped potatoes and whatever else. The greatest joy of being a grownup on Easter: you can eat whatever you want. So I had macaroni and cheese.

6. Finally got around to framing four pictures I picked up in the fall – well, three small pictures, and a piece of marbled paper that I made, with some assistance, back in September. I placed the marbled paper on some purple cloth backing, framed it up, and voila! High quality abstract art. Sorta. The other pictures are posted around my desk, to encourage dreaming at the right moments. One more picture still left to frame (although I have no idea where to put that one.) I moved a few other pictures around here and there, too, just to change my daily vision for awhile.

7. Wrote a part of a story and a part of an article and started up another story.

8. Did laundry. A lot of laundry.

9. Contemplated, in a deep and very real sense, cleaning the bathroom.

10. Wrote more of a story.

11. Chatted with a distant friend, and hung out with a local friend, watching, yet again, more Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And Rome, because, really, what's more appropriate for Easter than naked sweaty Romans reveling in violence and sex just before Christianity added guilt trips to all that?

12. Pulled overfriendly cat from lap of local friend, since overfriendly cat loves C and more specifically loves C when C is pretending, however inadvertently, to be cat furniture. Explained to less friendly cat that yes, sometimes I will allow other humans in, but I promise that the vast majority of them will not want to climb into the box springs or climb on the hot water heater, so those domains can remain hers. Received a yowl for my efforts.

I'm agnostic, and I wasn't planning on celebrating the holiday in any case, but in my own way, I think my day's creativity marked the spirit of the holiday very well.

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Mari Ness

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