Adventures Abroad: Mountaineering!

Adventures Abroad: Mountaineering!

20160603_144940            Hey-oh! So two weeks ago, after recovering from what shall henceforth be known as Plague Death, I decided to take my—still recovering—body out for a spin. On Friday, the sun was out and the day was a perfect upper seventies with a nice breeze. Our staff meeting ended early and I had a whole afternoon to myself. So I decided I wanted to climb a mountain.

 

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This mountain.

My target: Feng Huang Shan (Phoenix Mountain). This is the mountain that has lights along its upper ridge that glow different colors at night that kind of look like the dorsal spikes of a dragon. Anyway, it’s pretty and my Chinese teachers told me it was free and gave me some vague directions to the entrance.

I almost walked past the entrance. It’s just a sweeping set of stairs with a little landscaping around them pressed right between a small side alley that leads to homes and a restaurant. I mean, there might be a sign, but I can barely read pinyin, definitely can’t read Chinese characters.

Once you get past the building though there’s more decoration like some rocks with characters on them that might be a poem, or the name of the mountain, or telling people not to litter. I don’t know. You go up a little more and the stairs become a staircase and on the railing are the zodiac animals and peonies and birds. There are a handful of ornamental trees that break up the monotony of stone, but not much. It didn’t look like it was going to be a very interesting walk because those first few levels are mostly stone and concrete.

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But once you get up to the first landing you’re already pretty high. Aside from the occasional car horn you can’t hear traffic or people. I moseyed up to the next level and found a small side path. Bingo. I took off down that like a hound on a scent. The little path was cool and shady and smelled so wonderful. You have no idea how much you miss the smell of grass and trees until you don’t smell them every morning. The one thing I miss the most about home is opening the windows and smelling dirt and grass and dew.

 

The little path brought me back around to the main staircase. If ever there was a Stairway to Heaven, it’s this damn thing. I figured the little trail I was on would get me to the top eventually. Nope! That was just a little side expedition, if you want to get to the top you need to climb the stairs.

I don’t know if you know how many stairs there are to the top of a mountain, but it’s a fuck-ton. My gods. And there are no trees. It’s just you and sun and stone and concrete and a fervent wish for an escalator.

 

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So. Many. Stairs.

I had to stop and enjoy the scenery a couple times, but I finally made it to a little oasis. There’s a small park-type thing about halfway up with benches and big shady trees and restrooms. It was nice to walk more than two steps without having to step up a stair, but it was pretty obvious I wasn’t at the top. I wandered about in the maze of little paths trying to find the accursed staircase.

I stumbled out some gates and found a road with nothing and no one on it. It was really weird because where Feng Huang Shan is, I’ve walked all around this area and I’ve never come across a road that came up the mountain. Because if such a goddamn road existed I’d have taken that and not those bullshit stairs.

I was a little hesitant to explore too far because there were several signs around, but none that looked like they said Keep Out, but I can only assume that a Chinese Keep Out sign looks like a European/American one. Thankfully, a couple came down the road that didn’t look like they were on any official business so I assumed it was safe to explore that direction.

And I found it! Just beyond the curve in the road were a small parking lot and a section of a giant city wall that one of my CTs told me was there. Past the city wall is a new looking park area with beautiful rose bushes planted all over the place. The place smelled amazing. All the roses were scented and there were only a handful of people there so it was quiet enough to still hear the birds. Two of the men there were flying kites. They had these contraptions on their chests that looked like boat wheels. They were really serious about their kites. And from this park you can see the whole city. Yan’an is really cool, people. They way its built between these mountains and the river. It’s awesome. Hard to appreciate from ground level, but way up high where you can see how the streets wind and how the buildings work like Tetris, it’s amazing.

But I wasn’t done! There’s a watch tower still standing on the section of the intact wall. And of course there were stairs to get there. And after a hundred more fucking stairs, there’s a steep ramp to climb and then you’re finally at the watch tower, the highest point on the mountain.

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There were two other people up there with me but the three of us were content to stare out at the city. And just when I was thinking I could stay up there for an hour or two I heard it.

Thunder.

I had hope for probably twenty minutes that the rain would stay one mountain over where I could see it already falling. And then the sun disappeared. And the wind kicked up. And the thunder was louder.

I started heading back down. It was about five o’ clock and I still had to figure out if I wanted to make dinner or get something from a street vendor. I usually try to be in bed before ten on Friday night because Saturday night I rarely sleep more than a couple hours. So the more sleep I get before the weekend starts the better off I am.

Anyway, most of the pop up storms we’ve had have been over and done with pretty quick. I knew I was going to get wet, but I wasn’t overly concerned about it. A few sprinkles, maybe a little more, but I figured I’d be dry before I got back to my apartment since I had about an hour walk ahead of me.

Haha! No. I made it back to the staircase that would take me to the street and it was like someone turned on a faucet. I was soaked through in less than five minutes. And of course, I was on the stretch of stairs without even a flower to hide under so I just put in my headphones and trudged on thinking it would end soon enough.

When I got to the street it was still raining so hard the street looked like a river. Still a half hour walk ahead of me and I have fully come to terms with the fact that it is going to rain the whole time. So I bought some cherries from a little side shop and some cookies from my favorite bakery.

Walking into my apartment block the rain started to lesson to sprinkles and by the time I got up to my apartment and had my socks rung out the sun was out. Pretty sure I pulled a muscle when I rolled my eyes. But, I did make some tea and cobble together some leftovers and binge watch The Daily Show for a couple hours and eat cookies. So, rain and all, it was a pretty good evening.

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Be Brave

Be Brave

The great dichotomy of humanity: Even now we’re searching and hoping to make contact with another intelligent alien species. But back on this tiny rock fifty people are killed for having the audacity to love someone.

We can’t even tolerate each other, acceptance is such a far off dream most people are just hoping for tolerance to happen in their lifetime. How are we supposed to present ourselves to a whole other species?

I mean, I’m an American in China right now struggling to explain why the fuck America is the way it is to Chinese citizens. Why do we have so many mass shootings? Why don’t we do something about it? Why are we always starting wars? Why is there such a large gap between rich and poor? Shouldn’t the public education system be better?

How the hell are we going to explain ourselves to another intelligent species? How are we going to say, “Oh, we won’t hurt you, we just want to be friends. Don’t mind the genocide, wars, and terrorism. That’s just…y’know, we’re working through some things.” How are we, not just one country, how are we as a species going to answer these questions? How are we going to explain that, yes, we know what we’re doing is damaging our climate but, well, it’s not that bad yet so we’re going to do it a little bit longer and then try to figure out how to solve it. How are we going to explain that through skewed and corrupted interpretation, there are people who want to kill other people because they think that’s what their particular sky god wants them to do? How are we going to explain the genocides—that are happening right now—where a group of people systematically slaughter other people because they don’t look/think/act/talk like them?

How?

How?

HOW?

How do we, as a species, explain ourselves? Can we? I don’t think we can. And I think if there is any intelligent life lurking out there they’ve done their best to avoid this corner of the universe. We’re not ready to bring anyone else into this mess. We’re children. Not even well behaved children. We’re brats and bullies. No one wants to sit next to the screaming child on the plane, no other intelligent species wants to make friends with that child either.

But we’re capable of such amazing things. Voyager 1 was and still is an incredible feat. We’ve landed a probe on a comet for fuck’s sake. We’ve built a space station. There are people in space right now speeding above us. We’re taking Hi-Def pictures of Pluto and discovering new planets damn near every day. The feats of engineering our ancestors accomplished with nothing but basic tools are still wonders to behold. Stonehenge, Angkor Wat, The Great Wall, Pyramids of Giza, Athens, Rome, Aztec temples, and all those other wonders people still flock to today just to stand in awe.

So it’s time, Earthlings. It’s time to tip the scales in favor of the incredibly good things we’re capable of, not the awful. It’s time to be brave. If you see or hear someone spitting hate and fear, be brave. Tell them they’re wrong. Tell them after the flesh melts from our bones and archeologists dig us up all they’ll know is how tall we were, if our bone structure was male or female, how old we were, and if we had European, Asian, or African features. That’s it. No one will know the exact shade your skin was. No one will know what color your hair or eyes were. No one will know if you loved men or women or both or neither. No one will know what god, if any, you sent your prayers to. And certainly they’ll be curious, but you’ll be long past answering questions. You’ll be long past defending choices made. All that will be left is society as a whole. Who were we, not just you.

The longer the good parts of us stay quiet, the worse we’ll become. What’s that often quoted MLK line? “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

You think those people perpetrating genocide will stop on their own? You think those people who force children into sex slavery will stop by themselves? You think those people who preach hate and fear will shut up without another voice to shout them down? You’ve got to be brave. You’ve got to find the good parts of yourself and you’ve got to stand up. Even if your voice is quiet, let it be heard.

Make them stop.

Make us a species worth talking to.

 

If you want to help end genocide, you can donate to this group. They work to predict, prevent, and punish those who employ genocidal techniques, as well as those involved in human trafficking.

If you want to support those in the recent Orlando shooting, you can donate here.

If you want your congress representative/senator to tell the NRA to fuck right the fuck off, let them know. Send them an email. It doesn’t take long. Literally five minutes of your time. If you don’t know what to say, here’s a form letter. Read through and edit as you see fit and send it off. And if you don’t know who your representative is, you can find out here by putting in your zip code.

If you’re not part of the US, please, feel free to contact representatives as well. In fact I think it’d be rather amusing if these assholes suddenly got an influx of international correspondence. You can choose my home state if you want, Indiana.

And feel free to add that you’d like to see NASA’s budget expanded, too. There’s no reason we should be searching the deep recesses of space with a candle, but that’s all NASA can afford right now.

 

 

Writing Update: May/June

Writing Update: May/June

All right, time for another writing update! Let’s see if I can keep up with doing these bi-monthly.

No, I have not started earnestly writing the sequel to Where the Lonely Ones Roam. I have a few scenes written but I don’t know if any of them will even make it into the final draft. As I said before, I don’t think I’ll post anything until the end of this year. Although, the tentative title is Spark which is also the title of a Digital Daggers song like “Where the Lonely Ones Roam”.

I think I said in my last update I was looking at fleshing out Cybertronian culture and religion and I really do want to make this coherent and sensible, not just a bunch of strange things cobbled together. And, I’m looking at taking a weeklong trip to Zhangjiajie next year after my teaching contract is up. This is really significant because these are the mountain ranges that inspired me to write Prowl as he is in this story.

So the sequel might not be up until after I take that trip because I know that’ll change probably everything I’ve written thus far.

Long story short: Sequel will be up eventually, but not any time soon.

oOo

Breach! Oh, this has turned into a delightful quagmire. I am still looking at turning this little thing into multiple chapters, but a wonderful review got me thinking I want to try and write this from Red Alert’s POV. Aside from that brief chapter in WtLOR, I’ve never tried to write Red Alert and it’s actually harder than I thought it would be. His paranoia is his most obvious trait, but I’m finding other subtle layers that I think deserve more spotlight.

I also think it would work really well with a One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest vibe and I’ve never written anything like that before either. This little oneshot is turning into a pretty extensive writing exercise.

So, like I said, quagmire. But, think once Master’s Apprentice is concluded this will be easier. I need to stick with having no more than two WIPs at one time.

oOo

And what a great segue, Master’s Apprentice has one chapter left! And I’m so glad everyone has enjoyed reading it so much. I’ve had a lot of fun writing Ratchet and little First Aid. And I saw quite a few people enjoyed Red Alert and Prowl at their most sociopathic; excellent.

Master’s Apprentice is the first in an AU called Street True, so there will be more stories with the crew as they appear in this story. All major characters are getting backstories: Blaster, Red Alert, Prowl, Tracks, Helios, Wheeljack, Ratchet, etc. I’m even going to try my hand at writing an Optimus Prime story because he needs to have a voice in this. Ironhide is a possibility, but I might weave his narrative in throughout the Prime’s. Annnnnd, someone asked if Jazz will make an appearance. Uhhh, maybe. Currently, I don’t have a background story for him that’s really significant. For this AU Jazz is going to be more like a background specter; spooky XOps prowling around at weird hours that no one ever really sees.

I think the next story will be how Trailbreaker met Blaster, Red Alert, Prowl. Or, I might decide to go with the tragedy and we’ll find out why Tracks is so very messed up.

oOo

Monster! Boy-howdy, has this story taken a turn since I first started writing it. Ah well, all the better for it. If you’ve not noticed, it has been changed to a DeathFic and that is for Major Character Death.

It’s brutal.

I already wrote the last scene and I’m pretty sure y’all will set your computers on fire and I’m really excited to get there. Because much like George R.R. Martin, I thrive on my readers’ tears. But, if you want to stop reading before things take a turn you’ve got…one more chapter. I have some characters I’ve never written before coming up in the next chapter and one of them is going to really throw Jazz for a loop. And then shit is gettin’ real.

I admit, I did almost write this in a way to avoid the major character death, but we have so many “Jazz/Prowl is a Decepticon sleeper agent that slowly changes because the power of friendship/love!” Be real now, this isn’t MLP, you know you don’t want another happy ending.

oOo

I am still trying to work out a good Soundwave story. I really, really, like Soundwave but I just can’t come up with a story where he fits. No matter what I think of he falls flat or doesn’t mesh with the setting or other characters. I don’t think I can write a feel good story with Soundwave. I think anything I write with him is going to be tragedy in every aspect. Which is cool for me, not for people who want a “Soundwave is such a great mech!” story. You see how dark I’ve got the Autobots, you really think I can write Decepticons as being sweet and altruistic deep down inside?

oOo

Next ambitious project! Uh, Pre-War merging into War possibly going into Post-War following Prowl, Red Alert, Jazz, and Bluestreak.

Oh yeah.

And I mean from how Jazz met Prowl and Red Alert to how they went from frontliners to officers to how they meet Bluestreak all the way to what they wind up doing after the war ends.

Unlike the Street True AU where Master’s Apprentice is set, this one will be in chronological order and all the better for it. It will either be magnificent or a screaming train wreck that will make me trash my computer and never write again.

oOo

Miscellaneous: Have fully storyboarded the Extended Universe snippet from WtLOR where we find out how Prowl met the Twins. It’s a really short story, no more than four chapters, but adds some good texture to all the characters.

Also, expect more oneshots like Fear and Broken Pieces, Game Change, etc. I find on Sunday nights when I’m too tired to pick up where I left off if a multi-chapter story oneshots are the perfect way to write without falling asleep on the keyboard.

And, when speaking with a reader, they mentioned a Starscream/Skyfire story. That’s not a pairing I’ve ever really considered because I always thought Starscream’s personality was too unstable for anything less than a Trine bond. But. That short conversation got me thinking and now I think I might start storyboarding a story that explains how and why Starscream became a Decepticon.

oOo

And way down here at the bottom: Original Content!

I have the first section of Last Rites—formerly Rebel Love Song—written. I have the Brothers and Maidens section storyboarded and need to write it. From there, I’ve opted to change the ending quite a bit which is really going to up the stakes for her in the next book.

And she shall remain nameless. I’ve weighed the pros and cons a few times and I’ve made the executive decision to stick with what I set out with. She does have a name, and readers will learn it, but how they learn it is more important than what it is. Unless they know what the literal translation is, then that shit is going to Blow Minds.

And that’s about the only original writing I’ve done.