Archive for May, 2012

Just thought you guys should know: Posting here for the month of June is going to be pretty sparse. I’m incredibly busy for the first half of the month, and for the last half I’m on vacation.

So if you don’t see me post for a while, this is why.

My frequent blatherings should resume in July.

~ Ian


PS: This is the 100th post on Axolotl Ceviche.

Not that much of an achievement, but I’m somewhat proud.


PPS: The title of this post is misleading. There is no horror in this post, not even horror beyond relatively tame imaginings. It was the best I could come up with, though.


More “Talk to Me, Goose” today.

Can’t stay to talk long. So busy. So sleepy.

~ Ian


Their relationship, if you could call it that, progressed over time.

The woman always brought bread for the other birds, but she saved something for him. Something special. Maybe it was something like a freshly-baked focaccia, or a cranberry muffin, or something else delicious. Whatever she brought, it was always perfect.

Everything about her was perfect.

She would talk, and he would listen. If humans were good at anything, it was talking. And since the goose never had anyone to talk to in his language, he just listened. He slowly became good at listening over time, and she shared more and more with him.

At first she talked mostly about her boyfriend, the infamous Connor. They’d met at a freshman mixer, back two years ago. At first she wasn’t interested when he hit on her. But as time went by, she started to see something in him. They hooked up one winter, after a basketball game. Then they started dating, and things went on from there.

Connor and the woman apparently had incredible sex. The gander’s one-sided sex discussion with the woman of his dreams was, to be honest, a little uncomfortable. But he gained a certain knowledge of human sex from her. He’d had good sex in the past, but to be honest, it was goose sex. There was no emotion involved, just lust and honking. When humans had sex, more than just bodily fluids passed between them. There was something else, too. In fact, the woman had a word for sex that he liked: “making love”. It was an idiom that he liked, as if humans could create love out of nothing.

However, things were, as the woman put it, “on the rocks” between Connor and the woman. Ever since the summer of sophomore year, Connor had been drinking pretty heavily. It started out innocently enough, a little beer or some cocktails at a frat party. But then Connor began to drink more and more. He began pregaming, and then drinking earlier in the week. Eventually Connor would go to bars and get plastered even on weekdays. He’d drink before class. And when he drank, he’d get angry.

“Sometimes he scares me,” said the woman. “And sometimes, when I see him drunk and angry, I say, ‘That’s it. I’m done with him. No more.’” And she smiled, faintly. “And then suddenly he does something that reminds me of how I fell in love with him. Something that lets me see the real him.”

The woman sniffed, and the gander realized that she was crying. He was startled– the only humans he’d seen crying were little children, and they cried in an unashamed full-on klaxon wail. The woman was just making little sniffling noises, and her eyes were leaking. She pulled a couple of tissues out of her messenger bag and blew her nose.

The gander decided to comfort her. But how? He didn’t know what to do in this kind of situation. Eventually, he slumped somewhat confusedly against her, pressing his weight into her side.

Somehow, that seemed to work. The woman smiled, and her eyes were shining like moonlight on a wet street. “Thank you,” she said. “Somehow you always seem to know the right thing to do.”

The woman put an arm around him. “The funny thing is, I don’t have any friends outside of Connor.” She snuggled in closer to him, warm against his feathers. “I know Connor’s friends, and his teammates, and his friends’ and teammates’ girlfriends, and that’s it. I don’t ever talk to my roommate from freshman year. I only talk to my roommate from last year once or twice a month. So I guess that makes you my only real friend.”

The gander decided to try something he’d never done before.

“I’m in love with you,” he said. It took all his courage to say it, but he managed somehow.

Of course she didn’t understand him.

“I wish I could talk to you for real,” the woman said. “Somehow you always know what so say.”

# # #

Spring changed into summer. The world grew warmer and brighter.

It rained a lot in this particular city. Even if it wasn’t raining, the sky always seemed to be on the verge of raining, with gray, looming clouds that were ready to spit at any moment. When a truly sunny day broke out, with white fluffy clouds and a brilliant blue sky, the park would be crowded with people.

On those days, the gander and the woman would move from their usual park bench. The woman would lie in the sun on a beach towel, wearing sunglasses and a bikini as she talked with the gander. And the gander would listen to every word.

Occasionally the gander would have dreams where he was able to speak the human language, that he could tell the woman how much she meant to him. Sometimes he dreamed that he was a human male, and that they could be together. When the gander dreamed, he felt happiness for a while.

When he awoke, the dreams would melt like fog, and he was an ordinary goose again, with a ridiculous walk and an oversized beak.

The woman told the goose that she was staying in the city for the summer to take more classes. It was the first time that she spent the summer away from Yakima. “I feel pretty nervous,” she said. “But I’m looking forward to staying over the summer. Besides, Connor’s living in the city now. We’re sharing an apartment.”

The woman’s relationship with Connor wasn’t going well, despite their cohabitation. He was getting sullen and angry. One day she told the gander that he’d come home at two AM and punched the wall in their apartment over and over again. He smashed a gaping hole in the sheetrock and broke two fingers.

Another time, the woman said that Connor was drinking even in the middle of the day, that he would go through an 18-pack of Coors in two days, and that he was saying things to her. Abusive things. Hurtful things.

One day in the middle of summer, while the woman was talking with the gander, she suddenly burst into hot tears. Later on the gander realized that she had been talking about one of her favorite coffeshops– a place where the woman and Connor went on one of their first dates.

The gander knew that the woman was dependent on Connor. And soon the gander realized he was dependent in a similar way on the woman. He found that he needed to be around her. Every moment of every day, when she wasn’t there, was simply a gap. There just wasn’t anything there. Every day she didn’t come to the park was a day that didn’t happen. She defined his life.

The summer slowly faded away into autumn, and the rains came again to the city.

This Sunday, I went on a dorm-sponsored trip to here:

For those of you who don’t know, this is Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, location of the de Young art museum and a lot of really cool paintings. Which are the things I looked at.

Now, I respect art as much as the next person. I mean, I write, and the creative process is similar for writers and painters.

However, I’m also an irreverent bastard. So when I looked at the paintings, my mind couldn’t help making lame jokes. So I decided to mix two forms of art: the high art that is on display at the de Young with what many consider to be the lowest form of art: the internet meme.

Here are the results of my visit. Hope you enjoy.

~ Ian


PS: A note to anyone from the de Young who reads this post: I really did like your museum. The paintings were beautiful, and I had a lovely time. Sorry for making a mockery of your art.

That being said, you had some really funny paintings there…

So, I had a long, complicated dream last night. And because I sometimes get ideas from dreams, I decided to write down the idea that I had from this dream in my Book O’ Ideas (which I carry around all over the place, and no, you can’t look it it).

In any case, the dream was huge and long and beautiful and moving, with a massive cast of characters and an epic scope.

That’s all I can remember, though. Everything else? Gone.

So, I wrote down the three words that were in my head when I woke in the middle of the night at about two AM. And… well… here’s what they said:

My thumb is included with no extra charge.

Keep in mind that I don’t remember this dream. I have no idea what I was dreaming about. None at all.

So I ask you, my dear readers: what the hell does “Skyrim Bucket Grab” mean?

Yours befuddledly,

~ Ian

The epic saga of the unnamed gander continues in this… the second part of “Talk to Me, Goose”!

…And I don’t have much to say, except for the fact that this point is where the love story that drives the whole plot comes in.

I’m busy today. Maybe next week, once things calm down a bit, I can put up some more about this story. For now, though, here’s more philosophical goosely meanderings.

~ Ian


It was in a rainy northern city in late spring that the gander first saw the woman.

He was swimming in a pond in a city park, enjoying the cool slimy water on his feathers as he paddled (for all his intellectual advances, occasionally there were some goosely pleasures too strong to resist). Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw her sit down on a bench.

It may have been that he was lonely. Or maybe it was a newfound ability to see the beauty in the strange and ungoosely. For whatever reason, he looked at her, and instantly his heart pounded.

She was beautiful. Her hair was the red-gold color of a sunset over the ocean. Her eyes were the color of the sky on a clear summer day. She wore a coat the color of fog, a top the color of young grass, and faded, tatty blue jeans. But what struck the gander about her most was the intelligence in her eyes. There was something brilliant and sad in her expression, as if her face was a mirror of the gander’s deepest desires. She was like everything he’d ever dreamed of and nothing he’d ever seen.

The woman opened her messenger bag and got out a thick textbook and a loaf of bread. Birds of all kinds– geese and ducks, pigeons and starlings– flocked around her as she broke off chunks of the bread and tossed them the crumbs.

The gander didn’t come any closer than about twenty feet. He simply stood there, watching her read, enraptured.

Soon she ran out of bread, and the other birds moved away, uninterested. The gander still watched her, marvelling at the way she pursed her lips as she read her book, her brow furrowing in intellectual contempation.

Eventually she noticed him.

The woman looked at the gander, and smiled faintly. “I’m out of bread, you know,” she said. “I haven’t got anything else.”

The goose didn’t say anything. He was shocked that she’d spoken to him.

She laughed, and her voice was like the sound of wind under his wings. “Why are you staring at me?” she asked.

“I just think that you’re the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen,” said the gander.

Of course she didn’t understand him. But she laughed again, more brightly this time. Her smile widened, and a light came into her eyes. “Listen to you!” she exclaimed. “You don’t sound like any goose I’ve ever heard. It’s kind of funny, actually.”

“I made up my own language.” Even though he knew that she wouldn’t comprehend, he still spoke to her, as if he could pretend to have a conversation with her. “That’s why I sound funny. Because I can talk.”

“It almost sounds like you’re talking,” said the woman. She stroked her chin thoughtfully, and crossed one perfect, jean-clad leg. “Here. I think I might have something.”

She reached into her messenger bag and pulled out an energy bar. “I was saving this for a snack later. But you know what? I just might split it with you.”

The gander brightened at that. He came over to her, self-conscious of his goosely waddle, and hopped on the bench next to her. She laughed, and unwrapped the energy bar, breaking it in half and crumbling it up into small pieces for him.

The gander looked over her shoulder at her textbook. He couldn’t read– even though he knew that the ink sqiggles on the page were words, he’d never learned to decipher them. There were a lot of pictures on the page. Pictures of the insides of animals. Dogs and cats.

“I’m studying to be a veterinarian,” said the woman. “I’m go to college here. Actually I’m from Yakima originally, but I like it here. It’s a big city. Yakima’s beautiful, but it’s kind of boring.” She bit off a piece of energy bar. The gander saw a lump in her neck bob up and down as she swallowed. He’d never noticed how smooth and pretty human skin could be. Easily as pretty as feathers. “I miss my dog, though. I would talk to her like she was a person. None of that stupid baby talk. Kind of like I’m talking to you right now.”

Then she paused, and shook her head. “Ahh, I’m probably crazy. You don’t understand what I’m saying. You’re just a goose.”

“Of course I understand you,” the gander said. “I learned human language a while ago. I can understand it– I just can’t speak it. It’s something to do with how my throat’s shaped.”

She laughed. “You sound so funny!” And she put a hand on the gander’s back and stroked it gingerly.

The gander tensed. He’d never been touched by a human before. But her hand was warm and smooth, and soon he controlled his instincts and grew to enjoy it.

“Is this okay?” said the woman. “I mean, you’re a wild animal, and this is probably a little… uncomfortable for you.”

“I love it,” he replied. “It’s better than flying.”

Eventually the woman went back to her book. The gander read over her shoulder (though really he just looked at the pictures), wondering about what the word “veterinarian” meant. After a while, he decided it meant “a human who is a friend to dogs and geese”. He wondered why she needed to study to be that.

The sun sank lower and lower, and the unlikely couple drew odd glances from passersby. But the gander didn’t care. He may have been sitting on a park bench with a human, but in his heart, he was soaring.

A blast of tinny, low-fidelity rock music cut through the silence. The woman looked up from her book and pulled a cell phone out from her messenger bag. She opened it and put it to her ear. “Hello?” the woman said. “Oh, hi, Connor.” A pause. “I’m at the park right now, studying.” Pause. “Really? Come on, Connor. Does it have to be now?” Pause. “Okay, fine. I’m on my way. Love you.”

The woman turned to the gander and smiled bashfully. “I’m sorry, buddy. My boyfriend just called me. He’s got a big paper due tomorrow, and he needs me to write it. I’ve got to go.” She gave him a pat on the head, and stood up, taking her messenger bag and textbook with her.

The gander watched her walking off, her movement so smooth and perfect, like the waves on the sea. He knew the word “boyfriend”: it meant a mate. A committed relationship, part of that elaborate human mating ritual called “romance”. That made him sad, of course. The feeling of soaring that he had earlier was replaced with a feeling of sinking, a feeling like he was falling from the sky. But he’d still shared that moment with her. Besides, this was a big park. Humans came back to this place regularly.

The next day, the woman was back on the same park bench, her messenger back next to her, her textbook out. When she saw him, she smiled, and it was like sunlight.

Site Updates!

Posted: May 21, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Apropos of nothing, I updated the site today.

I added a menu, with links to my About page, as well as an FAQ and an IAQ (infrequently-asked questions).

I also changed the header image.

You gotta keep things fresh, y’know?

~ Ian

The epic trilogy CONCLUDES!

Okay. Now the afternoon winds down at Maker Faire. As the epic trilogy of blog posts concludes, we come to the anticlimactic climax of my adventures at Maker Faire 2012, which does not contain tiny teddy bears with spears. However, it does contain Warhammer 40k cosplay, Bradburian fire trucks, and bubbles.


After seeing the MOST AWESOME SCULPTURE EVER, I came over to the midway to listen to some music.

These guys (I didn’t catch the name of their band) sounded like a combination of the Dresden Dolls and Queen– which, of course, is a good thing.

Now, if you look over to the right of the picture, you can see people on bicycles, pedaling. These people were providing all the power to the amps for the band.

I pedaled for a little while, turning gyro into G-chords, and helped the following band to make wonderful music.

It was fun. And good exercise.

My legs were tired afterwards.


A jeep! That you can affix Legos to!


Guess what you just lost?


Here at Maker Faire, the fire trucks don’t shoot water. Rather the opposite, actually.




I don’t know what kind of beast is being summoned here. All I can guess is that it’s from the Elemental Plane of Water, and it hates all life.




This was really cool.

It’s a working replica of the 1960s teaching computer, the Digi-Comp II. But instead of electrons, it calculates things using billiard balls.

I find it shocking and amazing that humans from the Digi-Comp II to the PlayStation 3 in just forty years. And that the PS3 costs far less than a DCII did in its day.

People are awesome.


Jannek was delighted to see an antique German fire truck at the Maker Faire.

And I got to learn an awesome new word: Feuerwehr!

(It means Fire Department. Unfortunately, ich kann nur ein bisschen Deutsch sprechen.)


A Lego metropolis– Legopolis, if you will.


Finally, we end with this picture that really demonstrates what Maker Faire is all about: a man riding a gigantic bicycle through the fairgrounds, a thing that should not be and yet his, a thing that he built with his own hands.

Maker Faire demonstrates something important that we’re in danger of forgetting. Creativity isn’t something that is taught. It’s not something that you have to go to school to learn. It’s inherent in all of us– whether we’re high school students building a BSG flight sim in our garages, a bunch of friends who get together to make music in the sunshine, or a guy who gets snails to eat through paper. Nobody has a monopoly on creativity. Ideas come from everywhere. Science isn’t something done by stern men in white coats in secluded desert laboratories– it’s something that surrounds us and permeates everywhere we go. And people should never let what other people say is possible get in the way of doing something awesome.

Godspeed, Maker Faire. I’ll see you again in 2013.

~ Ian


PS: If you want to go to the Maker Faire, but are one of those people who live in the secluded hinterlands, despair not. There are other Maker Faires, including ones in New York and Detroit which are coming later this year, as well as dozens of mini Maker Faires held all over the world, from Ghana to Gujarat, from Melbourne to Minnesota.

Here’s a link to the main Maker Faire page.

But look at me still talking when there’s science to do! Be good to each other. ~ Ian

Gaaah… tired…

I promised you guys a second Maker Faire post though, so here it is.

My previous post brought you guys up to lunchtime. With that in mind, I’m going to talk some about the things that happened after lunch. Here we are with Episode V (which, not surprisingly, is the best of the trilogy), which contains giant cast-iron sculptures that shoot flame, children engaged in combat, and snails.


What does one have for lunch at the Maker Faire? Well, typically, a big plate of this:

This is paella. For those of you who don’t know, paella is a Spanish dish that is prepared by taking a net, dragging it across the bottom of the sea, and cooking whatever you catch in it.

It’s by far the most popular dish at the Maker Faire, so the line was huge. As much as I enjoy todos los mariscos, I decided to avoid the line, instead choosing to get a gigantic gyro and a cup of lemonade that had no sugar in it, so it tasted more like watered-down lemon juice.


This face loomed over the eating area.

Its eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, and lips moved. Rest assured, this was CREEPY AS FUCK.


Snails, making art.


The SCA was there, allowing small children to sample the art of warfare…


…as well as pursuits of a more peaceful nature.


3D printers were there in abundance.






Now, this next section is so incredibly awesome that I need you guys to brace yourselves…












Are you ready?















You sure?











Okay, check this out…



This image doesn’t appropriately convey the size of this giant iron dandelion (and, by the way, Yrön Dåndélyönn is the name of my new black metal band).

It’s about twenty feet tall.


Not really a fire-shooting sculpture, but this thing was cool and looked like something you’d see in a Fallout game.


Of course, this was the thing that made the heavy metal fan in me die a little with joy…







I was gazing raptly at this giant, beautiful monstrosity, thinking, This is one of the coolest things at the Maker Faire so far. The only thing that would be better is if it could breathe fire. 

The second I thought that, this happened:


This was the shortest turnaround from dream to reality that I’ve ever experienced.

I never got the names of the people who made this beautiful piece of congealed epic.

I bet we could hang out.


Actually, you know what? I’m having an upcoming D&D campaign this summer. Now, it’s a bit of a stretch, considering the medieval fantasy setting I’m considering, but I kind of want to put this monstrosity in my campaign.


My friend Finn has been on me to make a steampunk-themed campaign. If I ever do that, I’m definitely going to put this thing into the story.

You know. Because steampunk D&D campaigns absolutely HAVE to have a fire-breathing robot dragon.

I think it’s in the DMG.


This fellow had a nice bicycle.

Since I mentioned that I wanted this picture for my blog, he gave me the business card for his website, in case any of my ten regular readers are interested in wooden bikes with piratical themes. They’re called Masterworks Wood and Design, and they’re based in San Jose.

You know. Check them out.

That’s all for today. My trilogy of Maker Faire retrospectives wraps up tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Now my reward… blessed, blessed sleep.

~ Ian

Today I went to Maker Faire.

It was awesome, as usual.

For those of you who don’t know, Maker Faire is an annual DIY festival held in San Mateo, and it is awesome.

The closest description I can give to Maker Faire that comes close to portraying the whole thing is that it’s half hacker convention, half industrial art exposition, and half street fair. But this description is absolutely nothing like what it is.

(Yes, I know– there are three halves in there. But Maker Faire is so cool that it defies the laws of mathematics.)

Fortunately, for those of you who weren’t there (I’m looking at you, Steve), then I took pictures.

Lots of pictures, actually.

Almost two hundred, in fact.

So, I’m dividing my account of the Maker Faire into three parts. This first part, which I have chosen to designate as Episode IV, contains cyborg plunger-monsters, lightning-producing supermachines, and  hats.


A view of the West Entrance of Maker Faire.

Observe the man in the robot costume in the foreground. As you may not be able to tell, his costume is also a soundsystem.


These teens built a flight simulator of the Viper from Battlestar Galactica.

All that I could think about while watching this was, damn, I wish I was that creative and brilliant when I was in high school.


The Dalek was popular with the children…


…as was the fleet of Astromech droids.








Personally, I can think of no higher aspiration for humanity than to put children in a cage and shoot lightning at them.

(Oh, don’t look so shocked. The children were fine– except for one who came out with white hair and the ability to control electricity with her mind. But personally, I count that as a net benefit.)


A typical form of public transportation at the Maker Faire: Peyote.


As usual, the steampunks were out in force.


Steampunks, with their newfangled Horseless Carry-azhe™.




I decided to try on the most manly of the hats.

In case you’re wondering, this is the second installment of the ever-growing chronicle of Ian Photographing Himself Wearing Strange Hats (the first being, of course, my Jayne Hat picture).


And finally, as a sign of What Is To Come…

You will come to notice that Sculptures That Shoot Flames™ are a recurring theme at Maker Faire.

More tomorrow,

~ Ian

l’heure de l’or

Posted: May 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Since I haven’t played around with my camera for a while, I decided that I’d run around Cowell, Stevenson, and the East Field today, taking pictures of things.

The light quality was kind of interesting: sort of a diffuse, white light. The fog’s rolling in off of the bay tonight, and you can tell by some of the mist in these pictures.

Here we go:

I’ve talked before about how the redwoods on campus are very small redwoods. Here is a demonstration of the size of some of these puny dwarves of the species Sequoia sempervirens.

Like I said.


If I were a Cowell student, then I assume that this would be the dorm where I would live.

I presume that this house is reserved for manly men with manly beards. Of which I am, and have.

Cowell College, with random students.

The deer were very obliging, and let me photograph them.




A Bases-Ball game.


This “pedestrian crossing” was so named not because it was a crossing for pedestrians, but because it’s really run-of-the-mill and dull.

A tree, aglow in heavenly light.

It tried to talk to me. But since it was not a burning bush, I paid it no heed.

The famed Goat Statue of Cowell College.

There are a lot of myths about this statue. The truth is actually rather boring. But ask any UCSC student to tell you the story behind this statue, and you’ll get a beautiful, poignant story that explains why one of the school policies came to be and is entirely made up.

I really like the composition of this picture. Something about the combination of the rigid geometry of the plaza, the off-kilter angle, and the organic chaos of the plants growing on the trellis makes this a cool image to me.


I also like the composition of this one. Very much a two-point perspective view, if I were a painter.


I could not find a badger or a mushroom. Which is a good thing– badgers are friggin’ scary, man.

I don’t know about the mushrooms, though.

Any film buffs, Goths, or vampire aficionados in the audience should recognize this house.

It played an important part in the movie Lost Boys.

A tree, with some peeps.

Some light, shining through the mist.

I’m going to be going to Maker Faire tomorrow, so there will be more picture blogs coming up. In any case, here’s some pictures that I done took. With mah camera.


~ Ian