I’m squatting at my balcony, smoking and minding my own business. Apparently, me minding my own business does not impress on others that they had better mind their own business too because after a while, I’m hearing some high-pitched shrieking noises that won’t stop. Then I notice it’s the neighbour’s kids jumping up and down at the common backyard and screaming, Mornin’!
They seem to be looking straight at me, though I can’t be sure, as I’m badly short-sighted. I turn my head antagonistically in their direction and yell back, Morning what? The kids, pleased to have established contact, enthusiastically cry back, G’ mornin’! I grunt, I wish it were, and continue minding my own business, hoping the kids will take the cue.
They don’t. Soon they’re yelling again, We have a tiny little problem here, missus! I interpret this as an act of war and rise up to the challenge. My joints squeaking a bit, I stand up to the full extent of my medium height. I do a hair toss with the half of my head which has hair and rub thoughtfully the half of my head which is buzzed. I pet the cat sitting on my shoulder and cough up a furball.
While I’m preparing myself thus to confront the enemy, the kids shout that they accidentally threw a ball on the roof. I’m genuinely dumbfounded, so I say, How is that any of my problem? The boy kid says, Duh, and, Can I climb for it? I take a long draw of my cigarette in lieu of a dramatic pause. I say, I don’t know. Can you? The boy kid accepts the challenge and assures me he can.
Then it dawns on me that the kids are of the tender age when they still believe that grown-ups have answers to all the world’s problems. So I decide to take responsibility and yell at the kid that using a shopping trolley to climb somewhere isn’t a good idea because, duh, wheels. Unless you’re suicidal, of course, I add. The kid doesn’t know what suicidal means. One lucky bastard.
While I’m at it, I warn the kid that if he damages the roof, his parents are going to pay for it. Literally. Finally, I suggest that they summon their parent or legal guardian, finish my cigarette and retire, hoping the kid won’t break his neck. On the other hand, it would probably discourage him from nagging random people in the future. I’m great with kids, aren’t I?
I cook every day. Still, I’m even worse than the worst cook ever. In cooking, I follow strict principles:
the dish must not require more than two ingredients
no more than two pots and one piece of kitchen utensil are allowed
it has to be done in under ten minutes
I usually end up with cooked frozen veggies and tofu.
I was feeling ambitious today, though, so I procured exotic ingredients to produce a shockingly complex meal. An omelette.
It involved eggs, bacon and onion. (This breaks the rule of maximum two ingredients.) It took half an hour to make. (This breaks the ten-minutes-tops rule.) I had to dust off a plethora of kitchen utensils I own just so but never use. (This breaks the two pots/utensils rule.)
In short, I wasn’t recognising myself. I forgive myself though for I did not know what I was doing. (Literally.)
I needed to Google the recipe. Why, no, I don’t really know how to make an omelette. The recipe called for a pan, but fuck that, I don’t keep such devilish devices at home. So a pot it is instead. The instructions demanded that I beat the eggs. What? I’m pacifist, I don’t beat anything. I compromised though and massaged the eggs for a bit in a mug with a fork. That’ll do.
I was also peeling and cutting an onion. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was seriously surreal. Onions might be nice, but they’re optional and I don’t remember ever going for the option. (It goes against all that my minimalist cooking code represents.) I was trying to make small cubes from half an onion, alas, I somehow ended up with thick crescent-shaped slices. Whatever.
I vaguely remembered from my random observations of people cooking that you put the onion in first. Which I did. It well quite well to start with. Then I put in the bacon and poured the eggs over it. Only then did I attempt to add salt and pepper, which turned out to be a bit late because it didn’t mix. Oh well.
I proceeded to hypnotise the pot and wait.
The recipe claimed the omelette is ready when the top gets crusty. The top refused to do such a thing and while I was willing to wait for it, I was increasingly disturbed by the smell of something burning that started to emanate from the pot. I tentatively poked the work in progress and found that it got stuck to the pot. *shrug* I peeled it off and discovered the omelette’s bottom is burnt and the top is raw. Interesting.
It tasted better than it looked but you’d better not try this at home.
I’ve always wanted to be a software tester. (Always means ever since I got sense and shifted my flaming passion for Scottish Literature—why, yes, Scotland has a literature—to all things tech. After all, it is a truth universally acknowledged that code is poetry.) If you’re, like me, deeply in love with WordPress and testing, I have a secret to tell you. You can totally test WordPress! Check out WP Horizon testing environment! (This so deserves exclamation marks in two consecutive sentences.)
That’s however not how I got to be a WP tester myself. (No, I’m not really a WP tester, but I had a go at it, twice!—another excited exclamation mark.) A few days ago I received an email from WP offering me to take for a test drive a new commenting interface. I nearly spammed the message (because, hello, if it’s too good to be true, then it must be spam). Then I googled the sender, who actually appeared to be WP staff. (Either that, or I’m the victim of a conspiracy scheme. Or I’m just paranoid.)
I replied not at my earliest convenience, not even ASAP, but immediately. I jumped at the opportunity, obviously, and reserved my slot for a video call straight away. Another day, I found another email from WP in my inbox. It was an invitation to do user testing of WP’s new editor. (Yep. That’s how popular I am.) I tried to act casual. It didn’t work out because I replied in the affirmative (What’s more than affirmative? Superlative?) and hastily signed up for a slot for another video call. (Whew!)
I got instructions that I didn’t need to prepare for the testing in any way. So I took a day off to prepare for the testing. (Yes, I know.) On D day, as the H hour was approaching, I started to panic. For no good reason, but try telling that to my anxiety. I ended up medicating. (Perfectly legit and prescription sanctioned.) Shaking just a bit, as the Lexaurin was starting to take effect, I opened the link for the video call as my clock struck five. (Kidding, I don’t have a clock, this is the 21st century.)
A youngish good-lookish male face popped up on my screen (the youngish good-lookish guy would surely prefer not to be named here and I can’t vouch for the youngish and good-lookish part because the picture was small and blurry). But, that was a reason to panic. I know what a video call is but it didn’t occur to me that we’d be exchanging faces. I thought we’d be exchanging screens (screen is not an euphemism). Damn it. Seriously. I wasn’t presentable. I was wearing pants, but a hairband and no make-up isn’t presentable. (Of course that no one cares, but I do. Full stop.)
For convenience, let me call the youngish and good-lookish guy GOD. (At the uni, I’d idolise professors, now I idolise tech people, so GOD it is.) God spoke to me: I can’t see you. I talk back: It’s a good thing you can’t (not what I said). Of course God can’t see me, I have my camera covered for paranoia security reasons. (Also, I didn’t switch on the video function in the app—duh.)
After initial ice-breakers (Hello, I’m God and I am who I am. — Hello, I’m Mara and I don’t have a life and you’re the first person I’m speaking to in days, so please excuse my, uh, everything.), we got down to the testing. I opened the new commenting interface and went aww. Seriously, guys, it’s pretty and practical and when I love it, you’ll love it too. I wouldn’t bother praising something I don’t adore.
I was being extremely helpful. Such as: Oh, the Spam icon is the same red colour as the Bin icon, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On which I went to my desktop to check what colour my Windows bin is, and it was grey. God, shall we make the bin grey, pretty please? I got an hour to play around with the new interface. According to God, it should roll out in a few weeks. Also, I was granted permission to blog about it because it’s apparently not secret. (Unless it is, and I’m an Edward Snowden.)
The testing was awesome and thoroughly enjoyable. I even got excited. (I never get excited unless there are kittens involved.) I was so excited I could hardly talk. You’d never believe they gave me a doctorate in English Literature if you heard me struggling with conditionals and spontaneously constructing new, never heard-of tenses at the spot. (*shrug*) At the end, I was asked for some general feedback on WP. I complained that with my second-world earnings, the cost of the paid plans is a small fortune. (Another greatly helpful feedback. Not.)
We said goodbyes. And God will never know I’m pretty. (Does one qualify as pretty when one is only pretty when made-up and dressed-up?) Anyway.
Cut. Enters God2. That’s the nickname for the other youngish and good-lookish WP guy whom I had a video session with. This testing was about the new editor. (But really, it was all about me. Better than therapy.) God2 says that he isn’t testing me and that there aren’t right and wrong answers. I say: Sure. (And I think: Sure, that’s what you say, but I’m prepared, and I start: “WP was founded in 2003 by Matt Mullenweg and is currently running on more than 60 million websites etc. etc.” Because I’m a Wikipedia.)
To start off on the right foot, I immediately offend God2’s professional pride by confessing how I disapprove of the new editor. However, I blame myself. (I’m not sure why but I say so, and that’s enough.) God2 is visibly upset and blames himself. On which I’m sincerely sorry, from the depth of my cold black heart, and I mention kittens. Not related to anything whatsoever, but kittens! God2 cheers up because he has three of them. Kittens. I cheer up because he’s a cat gentleman (the male mutation of a cat lady).
I beg God2 to outlaw hamburger menus and toggle options. Because I WANT TO SEE IT ALL. At once. That’s how greedy I am. In exchange, I promise God2 that I will give the new editor yet another chance. I mean it. For God2’s sake, I’m writing this in the new editor! Also, to give the impression that I’m knowledgeable (and to pass the test which isn’t a test but it is), I throw around random terms: Calypso. Framework. CMS. target_blank. White screen of death (no, seriously, that’s a thing!).
I wanted to conclude with something deep and important but I forgot what. Instead, I’d like to thank everyone involved, that is, WP staff, particularly God1 and God2, my laptop Lena and myself, who collectively made all this possible. Also, I’d like to thank my cat (who makes the world a better place too). The testing opportunity was a geek girl’s dream come true. So you know, WP people are really trying to do their job, as I’ve seen for myself. Let’s gloat in that. Here’s to WordPress (*raises her mug of generic brand coffee*)!
Today’s writing prompt is a shameless advertising of Google Maps, which we are supposed to use as a starting point for our story. I’m not doing product placement. I don’t even like Google Maps. They’ve led me to unspeakable places where I didn’t want to go in the first place. They always get me lost. I wonder whether it’s the product’s feature (mind you, not a bug) or whether I’m just so clueless. (I don’t wonder, I know I’m clueless.)
There’s no place but where you are.
What I seriously wonder about now is where I got this quote. I couldn’t have invented it. Come on, you can’t invent anything original anymore. But since I can’t find the author of the quote, let’s attribute it to myself. You’re welcome. Thinking of the place where I am and how it happened that I am here—apart from the unfortunate coincidence that I happened to be born here—I recalled my nation’s foundational story. In the light of the story, no wonder I’m clueless. I took after my forefathers.
If Google Maps did their job, they would place me correctly in the Czech Republic. Lazy people call it Czechia nowadays, which leads to a common confusion with Chechnya. Well, close enough, one Soviet satellite state or another, whatever. We used to be Czechoslovakia. That’s when we were pals with Slovakia (not to be confused with Slovenia), but we had a little domestic and split states. Shrug. Here is how Czechia came to be according to a legend.
Once upon a time, there was this guy called (wait for it) Czech (surprise!). Today known as Forefather Czech (I dub him the Lazy Sod, you’ll soon see why). This First Czech and his tribe resided in what is now Croatia. (Which is where our foundational story really should end: so we are descended from Croatians and that’s it.) However, the mythological First Czech felt frisky, gathered his people and led them towards the setting sun. (People with sense would follow the sunrise but not the Clueless Czech.)
Our Frisky Forefather didn’t anticipate that the hike would be such a bugger. He and his tribe were soon totally wiped, so, probably in imitation of Moses on Mount Sinai, Forefather Czech climbed the nearest mountain. There, he didn’t receive any instructions, but he was hallucinating the vision of a rich and fertile land. He rolled down the mountain and, the Lazy Sod that he was, he told his people they could just as well stay where they were because it wasn’t getting any better.
He was so wrong. I wish he had the sense to move a bit further west, and I could have been born in Canada. Also, please bear in mind that this is a creative retelling which utilises a degree of poetic licence.
Today’s challenge is to play with word count. I don’t consider word count too attractive a toy to play with, but out of sense of duty, I shall oblige. I’ve been producing posts of unchristian length lately, so in contrast, here’s a post of a christian length.
A short short story, I mean. Six-word-story, precisely. I did this format before in a characteristically cheerful and optimistic post (I mean the opposite of what I say), but once you and your blog reach a certain age, you can’t probably reasonably expect to do something new.
She prayed for help. Unheard, unheeded.
And that’s all of my writing assignment for today!
He would take Ben for a walk. He loved Ben. He always wanted a dog. But father didn’t let him. No animals in the house, he said. He didn’t love father so much. Mother was way better. She allowed him Ben. As long as it’s just THIS, father said. But he was angry.
Now he would walk Ben. He put him on the leash. Ben didn’t like the leash. He chewed it. But he would learn. He would teach him tricks too. He carried him down the stairs. Ben was still small. But he would grow. He would be as big as him.
He met Mrs Nowak at the stairs. She was good. She would take him to her kitchen and give him tea. But only when father was angry. Now Mrs Nowak smiled at him. He said hello. She said, Oh, hello, Ben, now, that’s a cute guinea pig, but why do you have him on the leash?
The neighbour’s kid was a queer fish, she thought. They must be abusing him, a bad family, fighting on the regular. A person can’t have a moment of peace, and she was fed up. She was making her mind to call child welfare. This used to be such a quiet house, it would be nice to have it back.
My flat has been bugged. Buggers. I don’t mean surveillance bugs, unless the big brothers in FBI or KGB are using actual bugs as spy drones. I woke up hearing tapping sounds as something was making contact with the blinds. I was about to yell at the cat to cut it or she’ll take the blinds down and they’ll cut her neck, but the cat sat in the middle of the room and her fixed stare was blaming me for whatever on earth she was upset about at the moment. Her alibi was convincing.
I opened the window to air, at which point the cat suddenly went mobile and sprinted with unusual agility to the window in question. There she sat down, bulged her eyes, commenced rapid head movements and was swinging her tail from left to right with great agitation. I’m not against the cat sweeping the floor, though I’d prefer her to use the vacuum instead of her shedding tail. I knew now that there was a bug in the flat. I couldn’t see it, but the cat sees the invisible and I trust her on bugs.
When I put my glasses on, my vision was resumed and I spotted a perfectly visible bug sitting cheekily on the ceiling. The bastard. I harbour an extraordinary hatred for bugs. In moments of intellectual clarity, I may acknowledge that bugs have the right to exist too, but they automatically lose all their rights the second they trespass in my territory. I attempted to vacuum the bug, my favourite terminating method. It didn’t quite work out, so I just battered it with the vacuum.
The cat was disappointed because she planned to spend her day watching the bug and doing absolutely nothing to take care of it. I was disappointed to disappoint the cat, but then disappointment is her chosen lifestyle. She must have got it from me. I was also proud of my presence of mind when facing the invader. It takes guts to gut a bug with a vacuum. Bring it on, bugs, I may be afraid of you but I shall still kill you. No one attacks me with impunity.
I have highly irregular sleeping patterns, which involve phases of sleeplessness alternated by phases of sleepmania. Today I was struck by an episode of the latter. I went to bed at five am, which is pretty much my usual hour when I’m working. I work at nights because I’m an owl (or a vampire, but shh). I won’t admit that I wasn’t working this time but binge watching a rather disappointing TV series. Like I never said it.
In my sleep, I constantly kept on hearing the screaming of ambulances. I live next to a hospital, so a moderate amount of ambulance sirens is to be expected, but today there seemed to be two or three times more than the average. While still sleeping, I was wondering what the hell (or heaven, if you prefer) was going on. Is it an international suicide day and I’m missing it? Or are we being invaded by the Soviets? I mean, it already happened once (Warsaw Pact, 1968), and I hear the Russians have enduring interest in recruiting new territory.
I could also hear my neighbour very insistently hammering into something. That would make all the sense if we were in the process of being occupied. In my mother tongue, martial law translates literally as tent law, so I was imagining there were ambulances and tanks in the streets, martial law had been declared, and the neighbour was busy pitching up his tent. Why, yes, I am capable of complex conspiracy theories when I’m sleeping.
Twelve hours later, I woke up. Well, that was a nice nap, about a day longer than I anticipated. It was dark outside, and I was quite disoriented. Of course, if I were asked on the spot to transcribe someone’s recklessly complied bibliography from barbarian into Chicago Style, I could do it with my eyes still closed. But otherwise I wasn’t sure of my name or number. (In my country, people are numbered—it’s called the birth number and it’s similar to US social security number.)
I checked and discovered that nothing interesting apparently happened while I was indisposed. That is, not counting that my cat missed me so much that I couldn’t get her off me when I got up. Also, meanwhile, she peed outside of the litter box. The little bastard. I will allow the benefit of doubt and will assume that it was an accident.
Outside, there was darkness visible because the street lights stopped working. I could see no tents though (I was using the lighted end of my cigarette as a flashlight), so I decided there was no martial law after all. I already concluded that I missed absolutely nothing by sleeping the whole day, and I was starting to think that I could do it again. Then I happened to see the news that there was a prank bomb call in my town, which resulted in prolonged sweeps and police maneuvers. That of course explains the sirens. The prank didn’t amuse me.