Posts Tagged ‘adventures’

a story

Posted: February 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I was at the bookstore yesterday, and I saw a hipster-type guy talking in an incredibly pompous and longwinded fashion to a girl who was clearly bored out of her skull. He seemed to be trying to impress her with his intellect (it was NOT WORKING), and so he kept talking about some writer whose name was “Bourgé”.

Naturally, I assumed that he was talking about some existentialist French writer, some guy that hung around a lot with Sartre and Camus and smoked cigarettes while being pompous and annoying. It was only until he started talking about how the streets in “Death and the Compass” match up with a dream version of Buenos Aires that I realized that he was talking about Borges.


It’s like the people who pronounce the second word in “Axolotl Ceviche” like “seh-veesh.” IT IS “SEH-VEE-CHAY”. NO EXCEPTIONS*.

So, yeah. Before trying to impress a girl with your intellect, always make sure you know how to pronounce the name of the writer you’re rambling about.

~ Ian

*Okay, fine: I’ll admit it: ceviche can be pronounced “theh-VEE-chay” if you’re in Spain. But I am not in Spain, and the kind of Spanish spoken where I live is a dialect of Mexican Spanish. Therefore: “seh-VEE-chay”.



Posted: February 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Today, as of 5:40 PM, the first draft of The Lotus Imperiate is finished.


Holy crap, you guys.

I wrote a book.

~ Ian

Okay. In order to illustrate the below conversation, here is an image:


This infernal device (for lack of a better word) is known as the HAVE A BLAST! BUTT PUTT. In case you are wondering, yes, this is a putting green where you attempt to knock a golf ball up a fat plastic white-man anus. Why this product exists, I have no idea. But it does exist, for reasons that I cannot fathom– and must not, for I intend to retain my sanity.

Now. Gabby came across a picture of this… thing… in a catalog that was sent out through the mail, full of useless things for useless people to spend their shiny gold rocks on. Upon viewing the aforesaid item, a conversation thus proceeded:

GABBY: Ooh! Have-a-Blast Butt Putt!

ME: (mishearing) Apple Blast Butt Pie?

CALUM: No– it’s Have-a-Blast Butt Putt.

ME: I think that Apple Blast Butt Pie is far worse.

GABBY: Yeah, you’re probably right.

Because I’m curious, I wonder if I could create a recipe for Apple Blast Butt Pie. And if I did, how far would my mind descend into madness, into the realm where nothing exists but the sound of me inside my head, my endless screams echoing off the walls of my skull?

~ Ian

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…

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

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

I got back from lifting incredibly heavy things at Kirkwood today, and came back to my computer, where I found a rejection letter sitting in my inbox.

So that’s awesome.

Now, if I were a certain kind of person, I would rail and rage against the injustices in the universe. I would swear wildly that I was being discriminated against, for whatever reason, and that I would make them rue the day that they rejected me

But I’m not that kind of person.

In fact, I have to admit, that my reaction was a bit of a resounding meh. I’m disappointed, of course. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be. But the story that I wrote (which was “The Girl in the Junkyard”), while it represented my best work at the time that I wrote it (July 2011), probably isn’t my best work now. Since last year I’ve been writing a LOT. And not just for my blog– I’ve been working on fiction, poetry, small humor articles, and all sorts of weird crap since I submitted TGitJ to this place. If I had to estimate how much I’ve written since I submitted it, I’d have to guess about 75,000. That’s a significant amount. That’s a novel’s length worth of writing right there.

So I’ve been practicing. I’ve gotten better. (A lot, in fact– I think that “Cassandra” is a valence level up from TGitJ in the same way that TGitJ was a valence level up from the dumb sword-and-sorcery bullshit that I wrote in high school.)

And even if it weren’t the case that I hadn’t been writing, the market I submitted this story to is pretty prestigious. It’s one of the higher-paying short story markets in the SFF world, and I’m a complete unknown. And while I think I’m a good writer (or at least a competent one), I’m not great. I’m getting there, but I haven’t reached that level yet.

So, yeah. I was expecting this, of course– you don’t ever hit the bulls-eye with your first throw unless you’re some kind of superhuman writing god. And since I didn’t have delusions of grandeur, I knew that TGitJ was probably going to be rejected. There’s really nothing for it– I need to keep writing, and keep sending stuff out there.

Maybe TGitJ will find a home at some point. Even if that home is here, on my lame blog, it’ll be a place for it.

I guess that’s really what I’m feeling right now. Slight disappointment, but also relief, and a feeling of hope.

Mingled with a slight desire for sushi.

Is there any way I can get sushi delivered at 11 PM in Santa Cruz?

~ Ian

A few months ago, I contacted my creative writing teacher from high school, Ms. Franke, who was and remains a fabulous teacher. Basically, I asked her if she would be okay with me teaching a creative writing lecture to her classes this quarter, on the subject of speculative fiction.

Basically, she said yes. And so, on a foggy Thursday morning, I got up in the hours of darkness, hitched a ride to Santa Cruz High with my mom, and arrived at my old high school…

The Fortress of Darkness.

The Seventh Pit of Hell.

The Palace of Rotating Knives.

Santa Cruz High School.

(Yep… can you tell that I didn’t have a very fun time when I was in high school?)

Anyway, I came to the doors of Ms. Franke’s new classroom (which was my Government teacher’s classroom when I was in high school), armed with three powerful weapons:

  • a pink cardboard box filled with eight dozen donut holes,
  • a folder filled with about sixty copies of Neil Gaiman’s poem, “The Day the Saucers Came”,
  • and my trusty Jayne Hat.

Sits sorta cunning, don't it?

Armed with these three tools, as well as my luck and my wits, I came into the Valley of Sorrow and Tears that is Santa Cruz High, and entered into darkness…

Or rather, I sat outside of Ms. Franke’s classroom for about twenty minutes until she showed up.

It was great to see her. Really, it was. I wasn’t aware of this, but Ms. Franke was surprised at how much older I looked. (Yeah, I know: I graduated high school two years ago. I blame the beard.*)

We had a nice conversation for the twenty minutes before class started, discussing such perennial subjects of interest as Michael Chabon and the divide between literary and genre fiction. She also asked me what I was writing, and I sort of evaded the subject, saying simply, “Oh, short stories, mostly. A lot of poetry, too.” I didn’t mention that the vast majority of my creative output was going towards my lame blog, because honestly, when I feel like writing for fun, then Axolotl Ceviche is the first place that I’ll go to put up my random bleatings and babblings.

The students filed in, one by one, somewhat glassy-eyed and sleepy-looking, but hey: I’m never at my best at 8:00 in the morning. In all honesty, I prefer to be unconscious until noon. But I had bolstered my wakefulness with some +3 Coffee of Eternal Hyperactivity, and I was ready. I had prepared myself well.

The first period class went along fine. What I tried to do with the students was to engage them in a discussion, rather than lecturing them. One of the things that I did was, essentially, ask them: “What do you think the definitions of SF and fantasy are?”

There were many interesting discussions to be had. Pretty early on, a student caught me using fancy twenty-dollar words that they done learned me at the univarsity, but when I realized that many of the students hadn’t been through the same sort of classes that I’d gone through where I learned my high-falutin’ vocab, I was able to modify my lecture to kind of talk more… well… plainly. We had a fascinating discussion about what it means for something to be SF or fantasy, and we went off on tangents (specifically, is Star Wars science fiction or fantasy?****)

Eventually we did a writing exercise: I asked them to write down a “What if?” question on a scrap of paper, and then placed the slips into a Jayne Hat. Then, we pulled out five questions, and voted on the three best questions. Then, everyone did a writing exercise (basically writing a piece of flash fiction) for twenty minutes based on that question.

Here were some of my favorite questions that people asked:

  • What if we had wings?
  • What if we could use technology to control our emotions?
  • What if you found the end of the rainbow?
  • What if oxygen was toxic?*****
By the end of the second period writing class, I felt like I was put through the wringer. For one thing, I had to be enthusiastic with the second-period class, which, while they had many good qualities, didn’t seem like they were very geeky. All the geeks seemed to be concentrated in the first period.*******
Furthermore, I was exhausted, physically and mentally: I tried to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and that’s not easy. For that, I should have drank more coffee. Or at least used some coffee with a higher enchantment bonus.
However, it was fun and exciting, and a few of the students who enjoyed it more than the others asked me about my own writing. So I mentioned this blog. If any of you are here from Ms. Franke’s Creative Writing classes, welcome. Feel free to leave comments below.********
As for me?
I headed home, watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, and fell asleep on the couch.
DAY WELL SPENT.*********
~ Ian

*Take note, young high schoolers who want to get crazy shitfaced: when you’re in a bar or restaurant, a good beard is more valuable a disguise than any fake ID**. Not that I would know of such things, being the morally-upright and outstanding citizen that I am.

**A good beard, mind you. You’re not going to get into a bar with just any kind of chin-pubes. You need it to be as lush and full as the Amazon rainforests. For those of you who are not capable of growing beards***, why not check out my line of Ian P. McJohnson’s Hirsute Helpers: #1 in Bearded Elegance? We have a variety of false beards, from the Rothfuss, to the Gimli, to the David Gilmour (circa 1977).

***This includes women. Just because your follicles are underperforming doesn’t mean that your beauty couldn’t be improved by a flowing, manly chin-wig. At the very least, it will help you pick up dwarf men in taverns.

****Pretty much everyone agreed that Star Wars was both. This surprised me, because I’d expected at least one person in the class to claim that it was SF.

*****Many of the students who chose to write on this prompt had all the people in the hypothetical society wearing masks. When I asked one student what the people in this universe breathed instead of oxygen, he said that he didn’t know.******

******Okay, fine: one person did state that the people in this universe breathed “sulfur”. I took this to mean that they breathed sulfur dioxide, and amused myself with a visual of a society of people with INCREDIBLY DEEP VOICES.

*******I had to explain to them what Doctor Who is. I WEEP FOR THE YOUTH OF TODAY.

********For those of you who were wondering about the books that I was talking about that none of you seemed to read, then here’s a list of some of them:

  • Dune, Frank Herbert
  • Neuromancer, William Gibson
  • The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation)
  • The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. LeGuin
  • American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  • The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein
  • Probably others that I can’t think of right now. (If you heard any books that you’re interested in, and you can’t remember the title, just tell me a description of the book and I’ll see if I can remember the name.)

*********Yes, I did go overboard on the footnotes in this post. Tough. It’s my blog. I’m driving.