I absolutely LOVE second-hand bookstores! I mean, all bookstores bring joy to my heart, but there something special about the books that have been passed from person to person. It almost feels like they take on a life of their own. I walk into one of these stores and I have to be very firm with myself, otherwise I'd spend hundreds of dollars. It's always been a dream of mine to own a little second-hand bookstore, but I'm not sure if that will ever happen. I'm not very business savvy. So, I guess I'll just have to search out the stores that other people own and live vicariously through them. :)
Saturday, July 30, 2011
If you are wondering where Part 1 is located, it is titled "Sleepless." This is a new category of entries that I've decided to include, since that entry seemed to be a hit. This will include all the the strange adventures of my brain, and my continual confusion with its reasoning. Enjoy.
Brain: I want Cheetos!
Me: We don't have any.
Brain: But we could buy some! Buy me Cheetos!
Me: No, Brain. We're saving up money for our vacation, remember? Every little bit matters. Besides, Cheetos really aren't good for you. You can only have them every once in a while.
Brain: CHEETOS! Cheetos, Cheetos, Cheetos!
Me: I'm just going to ignore you if you keep that up.
Brain: I won't let you! CHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOSCHEETOS!!!
Me: GAH! Fine! I will buy Cheetos!
Me: Here are the Cheetos, Brain.
Brain: I don't want 'em.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
I know, I know. This is my second food-centric entry this month. What can I say? I love food! Anyway. From time to time my brain latches onto a certain food and won't leave me alone until I have it in my possession. (Do you begin to understand how unruly my brain is? I really can't do a thing with it! Example) This week it was Hint of Lime chips. Don't get me wrong, my brain never chooses a food that isn't worthy of praise, but these chips are kind of difficult to find where I live. It's kind of like searching for a needle in a jumble of pins--not impossible, just a pain. :) My husband was kind enough to join me in the search, and we ended victorious. I really like these chips because they have such a unique flavor, and they stand on their own. Sometimes I just can't be bothered with salsa or dip. (Yes, I'm really that lazy.) I also appreciate that my brain tells me when to stop eating them. Some kinds of chips I can eat indefinitely (much to my chagrin), but there is a limit to how much lime flavoring I acknowledge as delicious. That may not sound like a good thing, but believe me, it is. Yummy chips with a built-in stopping point! Where can you go wrong?
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
I couldn't sleep last night, and I'm all sorts of grumpy about that. I blame my brain. It occasionally decides that I don't need to sleep, and gives me as much trouble as possible. Here's a rough playback of how it went:
Brain: He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago way! He had a boogie style that no one else could play!
Me: Quiet, Brain. I'm trying to sleep.
Brain: He was the top man at his craft, but then his number came up and he was gone with the draft! He's in the army now, a-blowin' reveille! He's the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B!
Me: Brain! Shut up! I want to sleep!
Brain: You know what I thought was interesting about the new Harry Potter movie?
Me: I don't care, Brain.
Brain: You just finished the book you were reading, so you should pick another one. Let's do it right now!
Me: Brain, I'm tired and I don't care about books right now.
Brain: Remember how much fun you had playing Zelda for the first time? It's funny that the fairy's name is Navi, because that's short for "navigator" and she is your navigator!
Me: So help me, Brain, if you don't shut up, I will make you shut up!
Brain: He was SOME boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B!
Needless to say, I didn't win the fight. That went on for hours, and now I'm pretty much a zombie from lack of sleep. I hate my brain.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Chapter Two: Lives of the Fortress
It seemed to Adesina that she had only just closed her eyes when she heard the bell toll, signaling the time to rise. The clear resonating tones reached every corner of the fortress, keeping every Shi punctual.
With a heavy sigh, Adesina rolled out of her cot and straightened it to its normal tidy state. She walked over to the washstand, splashed some cold water on her tired eyes, and began preparing for the day. She put on her loose, dark grey training clothes and tied back her long straight hair.
Like her eyes, Adesina’s hair was unusual in color. It was a silver so lustrous that it could not be mistaken for grey in any light. The locks that framed her face, however, were black.
A quick glance in the mirror showed Adesina that all was in proper order. She made a small adjustment in the tie of her belt, but nothing else seemed amiss. She allowed her eyes to stray from the details of her clothing and take in the rest of her appearance.
She was a bit undersized due to the extreme physical toll of her training, but she was not disproportional. She was slender but strong, pale but healthy. A light sprinkling of freckles dusted the bridge of her nose, and her almond-shaped eyes were narrowed in a speculative gaze. She tried to decide if she was beautiful, but had no frame of reference with which to judge.
Her gaze lingered on her hair and her eyes, the two features that seemed to isolate her from the rest of humankind. She had never been given a satisfactory explanation as to why she looked so different from everyone else. It set her apart--made her feel like an outsider.
Such social and emotional isolation had hurt her as a child. As she had trained, she had hoped that her growing skills would create some sort of bond between herself and her classmates. Her unique acceleration merely added jealousy to the list of things that alienated her from her peers.
With a heavy sigh, Adesina turned and walked briskly out of the room. She joined the throngs of students walking from their sleeping quarters to breakfast. Most of them had businesslike expressions on their faces, but a few of the younger Shi looked anxious. Adesina could relate, for she remembered all too well what it felt like to be a new student in the Shimat fortress.
She was greeted in the mess hall by a petite girl her own age whose name was Lanil. Her diminutive stature, in combination with her large blue eyes and benign expression, often led others to underestimate her as a warrior. Adesina envied her this advantage. No one who looked at Adesina took her for granted. Her abnormal coloring alone was enough to make people think twice before approaching her.
Lanil glanced at Adesina’s undamaged cheeks and smiled confidently. “Whom did you mark?”
Lanil giggled in delight and clasped her hands together. “Good! She deserves it.”
Although they were the same age, Adesina had five years of seniority over Lanil because of her early start in training. Lanil and Adesina were both “Shar Children,” meaning that they had been raised in the fortress as opposed to being brought to the Shimat by their parents when they were old enough to train. They had been the best of friends until Adesina was taken away from the nursery--the only friend that Adesina had ever had. They remained closer than most students, but the years had changed them.
Lanil remained caring and sympathetic, in spite of her rigorous training. It was generally assumed that she would take a job in the fortress after she finished her schooling, rather than being given an assignment as a warrior. Adesina, on the other hand, had become more hardened with every year. She was treated harshly by her peers due to her youth, and the level of expectation of her teachers drove her to extremes she would not have known otherwise.
Now this unlikely pair stood in line together to receive their rations, one of the few times they saw each other anymore. It was a nutritious but boring meal that was calculated to give them enough energy until their midday meal. Adesina received her wooden tray with a sort of weary resignation.
Lanil smiled at Adesina and hummed to herself. Most of the other students resented Adesina’s youth, but Lanil was genuinely happy for her.
“So? Does this mean you advance?”
Adesina shook her head and held out her bowl for her portion of porridge. “I still have to meet with the Sharifal.”
Lanil’s expression of excitement turned to fear and dismay. There were many Shar, or instructors, at the school, but there was only one Sharifal. She was the leader of the Shimat, and rarely involved in student affairs. When she was, it was usually for disciplinary action. Severe disciplinary action.
“The Sharifal? Why?”
Adesina shrugged uncomfortably. “All students are interviewed by the Sharifal at the end of my year of training, whether they are marked or not.”
Lanil shuddered. “I do not envy you.”
Adesina and Lanil parted ways. Each student was required to eat with the others of their year of training. As Adesina ate her simple rations, she looked down the table to see who had been marked and who had passed. For the most part she wasn’t surprised at what she saw, but there were a few marked who she had thought would pass.
Basha was seated at the far end of the table, a dozen or so stitches in her cheek. She and some of the other marked students were muttering darkly amongst themselves. Basha threw Adesina a look of utter detestation and malice. Her thin mouth was pressed into an almost invisible line, and her eyes flashed with undisguised fury. Adesina could only imagine the tale of treachery and woe that Basha was spinning about Adesina to soften the disgrace of being marked.
There were twelve Shi in her year of training. When they had first begun as children, there had been twice as many students. Nevertheless, yearly advancement was never a guarantee, and proving oneself quickly became a daily requirement.
Adesina felt an all-too-familiar twinge as she reflected on her life as a student in the fortress. Her childhood ideas of what it would be like to train as a Shimat had been far from the reality. Her initial reaction to her early training had been one of excitement. She had been anxious to prove herself worthy of such an honor. That excitement had rapidly been replaced by a form of desperation. Nothing she did ever seemed like enough, even if it was more than what her classmates could do. Her Shar pushed her more and more each year, expecting her to go beyond her best.
Half of her knew that it was merely part of the process of becoming all that she could be, but the other half of her continued to feel that desperation--that secret fear that she would fail. She hid this fear with bravado, but it was ever present in the back of her mind.
Shaking away these dark thoughts, Adesina turned her attention back to her meal.
After breakfast the Shi proceeded with their daily schedule. It was a review day, so most of their morning was spent in a classroom. Over the years, Adesina had been taught a variety of subjects from botany to psychology, tactics to languages and cultures of the world. Adesina retained information very well, and usually found these review days to be tedious.
Today was different, for there was a palpable tension in the air. They were being taught by a substitute Shar, which meant that their Shar were most likely meeting with the Sharifal. Adesina, along with all of her classmates, had a hard time concentrating on their anatomy review.
To get her mind off of her anxiety, Adesina began studying the Shar teaching them that day.
She was a young woman in her mid to late twenties with striking auburn hair and sharp grey eyes. Adesina assumed that she was still training to be a Shar, based on how she reacted to teaching a class of near graduates. Her emotions were kept in very tight check, but Adesina could sense a bit of underlying nervousness.
The Shar walked with a slight limp, perhaps from a broken leg that had been poorly set. She was also quite tall for a woman. Adesina wondered if such height was an advantage or a disadvantage as a Shimat warrior.
Adesina also began to speculate on what kinds of missions this woman would have been sent. Potential Shar were required to give at least five years of service before training as teachers, so this woman must have had some experience.
Perhaps she had been a bodyguard to an important Shimat. Perhaps she had been a messenger. But it was most likely that she had been a spy. Most Shimat were trained to appear as normal citizens and then placed in cities and towns in every nation. The Shimat always knew exactly what was going on in every part of the continent.
Such thoughts carried Adesina over into the midday meal at noon. All the students then massed back into the mess hall where they received rations only slightly more ample than their breakfast. Lanil gave Adesina another friendly smile, which Adesina had trouble returning. Her nerves were starting to wear thin.
After the meal the Shi were sent out to the courtyard for time to practice their skills in weaponry and horsemanship. The courtyard was a large open area, divided into sections that each served a different purpose. There were obstacle courses for those on horseback as well as those on foot, target ranges, circles drawn on the ground for sparring and hand-to-hand combat, etc. The stones on the ground were worn smooth from many years of use, as were the blocks in the surrounding walls. Shimat guards patrolled along the top of the wall like caged panthers pacing back and forth, watching those within the fortress as well as any that might be without.
As usual, Adesina kept a close eye on Basha and her cohorts, who had the unfortunate tendency to “miss” their mark and send some sort of weapon hurtling in her direction. The first few clumsy attempts had been in their youth, so Adesina’s injuries had been minor. As they grew older and more skilled, so did Adesina’s capacity for sensing danger before it arrived. In a way, Adesina was grateful for the unintentional training she had received from those who meant her harm.
Adesina began sparring with one of her classmates. They both held long wooden staffs, and wielded them with precision and force. In spite of this, it was clear that both of them were merely going through the motions, for they each had their minds on what lay ahead. Adesina’s thoughts kept turning to the tallest tower, where the Sharifal lived.
While there were plentiful rumors among the Shi about their revered leader, little was actually known. Those students who were taken to see her never returned, regardless of the reason for their summons. Adesina wondered what the Sharifal looked like and if she had seen her before; for it was said that the Sharifal disguised herself as a Shar and walked among the students.
Adesina’s sparring partner seemed to be thinking along the same lines. “What do you think she is like?”
Adesina blocked his blow and returned with one of her own. “Who?”
Adesina frowned. “What makes you think I would know?”
He flashed his teeth in an expression that was half smile and half grimace as Adesina brought her staff down on his shoulder. “I did not say I thought you knew. I was asking for your opinion.”
Adesina stepped out of the way of his staff as he jabbed it forward and shrugged. “Why bother speculating? There is no benefit in it.”
He let his weapon drop ever so slightly, as if letting his guard down. Adesina knew he was just trying to draw her in, and ignored the gesture. She continued to circle cautiously and said in a voice of forced indifference, “I suppose we will know soon enough.”
There was a noticeable jump in anxiety as their Shar filed into the courtyard. Every Shi fell silent and their bodies became tense. The students stopped what they were doing and bowed to their instructors.
Per pulled out a list and read the order they were to go see the Sharifal. It alternated between a marked student and the one who had marked them. Adesina was glad to hear her name near the beginning. She didn’t think she could bear the agitation of waiting for hours.
The Shar left with the first student on the list, and the eleven remaining Shi tried to go back to what they were doing. Some gave up entirely and began pacing along the edge of the courtyard next to the stone walls. Adesina bowed to her classmate, indicating that she was finished sparring, and walked over to the range.
She was particularly good at throwing knives and the activity took her mind off the stress at hand. Adesina walked to the end of the range and closed her eyes, imagining her goal. There were four targets on the opposite side of the range: one on each side, one in front, and one behind. The object was to run into the center of this circle of targets and throw the knives without breaking stride.
Adesina took a deep breath and began running at full speed. The calculations of each shot flashed through her mind and translated to action almost automatically. She threw knives at the front and left targets first, then spun and threw knives at the remaining two. She slowed to a stop and inspected each target to see where her knife had struck.
Most of them stood dead center, but one was slightly left of where she had aimed. Her nerves were proving to be more of a problem than she wanted to admit, and she shook her head in frustration. She gathered her knives and started again, this time with more concentration than before.
No students returned from their meeting with the Sharifal, but Shar Per reappeared at regular intervals to call the next name on his list. Adesina felt a twinge of satisfaction seeing Basha leave with Per pale and shaking.
Basha’s interview was longer than the students’ before her, which made Adesina even more nervous. Her mind flew over all of the things that could possibly prevent her advancement, in spite of the victory she won the night before. When Per returned and called her name, Adesina hoped she didn’t look as scared as Basha had.
As Per led her through the fortress to the Sharifal’s tower, the details of her surroundings stood out in Adesina’s mind.
The fortress was devoid of any sort of decoration. The walls were a dull grey stone, lined with torches that were rarely lit. Every so often there would be a brazier that lent a little heat, but not enough to overcome the chill of the season. It was a drab and gloomy place, but Adesina didn’t have much with which she could compare it. The only time she ever left the fortress was to train in the surrounding area, which consisted of the woods and the small strip of grassland along the coast.
They arrived at the base of the Sharifal’s tower, where Jareb was waiting. Jareb dismissed Per and led Adesina up the long winding staircase. At first Adesina silently counted the stairs as they climbed, but the numbers got higher and higher until she finally gave up. She sighed softly and stared at the back of Jareb’s head, wishing he would say something.
They finally reached the top of the tower, where Breyen stood waiting for them. He was standing next to two stern-looking Shimat who were guarding a simple wooden door. Breyen dismissed Jareb and waited until he left to speak.
“Shi Adesina, you have come before the Sharifal as victor of your trial. Enter and be recognized.”
He opened the door and stood back. Adesina walked through the door with as much confidence as she could muster. She found herself in a large circular room that was both meticulously tidy and minimalistic. A good portion of the walls were covered with bookshelves, some of which were bolted shut. There were two windows: one facing toward the courtyard and the other facing towards the ocean. There was a large desk placed next to the ocean-viewing window, which was covered with neat stacks of papers and books.
As Adesina’s eyes turned on the Sharifal, she stopped in her tracks and stared in shock, unable to believe what she saw.
I heart Stephen Fry! I will admit that my knowledge of his work is limited, but I've loved everything that I've seen him in. That would include: "V for Vendetta," "I.Q." "Bones: Season 2," "Alice in Wonderland," (the new one with Johnny Depp--he does the voice of the Cheshire Cat) "MirrorMask," and he is often called upon to narrate for various projects. Stephen Fry has a delightful way of adding humor to any role, and also shows great depth in each of his various performances. Apparently he is going to be in the new Sherlock Holmes movie, as well as "The Hobbit," so I'm looking forward to that. If you are not familiar with this amazing actor, I would advice you to seek him out. He's awesome!
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Mmmmmmmmmmmmm...sushi! It's definitely one of my favorite foods. I bet I could eat it every single day and not get tired of it! There's so much variety available, and I love trying new combinations of flavors. Unfortunately, I don't get to eat it very often, but I suppose that's a good thing. All things in moderation, right? My husband and I are having a couple of people over tonight, though, and we are going to be making sushi. Yum! I'm very excited! I don't know if it's the Japanese in me, or if it's just the fact that the Japanese are brilliant chefs. Either way, this is my favorite thing of the week.
I have nothing against pet names. A number of important people in my life call me by various pet names, and it's an endearing way to refer to each other. However, I hate it when strangers call me "sweetie," or "honey," or "darling," or any such term. What gives them the right to takes such liberties? I'm not joking, either. It's a serious affront to my sense of propriety. I don't know you! What makes you think you can treat me in such a familiar fashion? I only let the people I love refer to me in such a way. The only exception I make is for old people. They can get away with it, but that's just because they're cute and old (creepy old men are excluded from this rule). If a high school student calls me "love" (which actually happened once), I get the urge to give my coldest glare and tell them to only call me by my given name. I will admit that I'm rather old-fashioned, but it's not like I'm requiring people to call me Ms. Kanno. All I'm asking is that there be some respect in how people treat those around them. That includes not calling complete strangers by pet names.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Did you know that the ancient Chinese invented fireworks in order to scare away evil spirits? I love learning about stuff like that. I read an article recently about how fireworks are made, which was also fascinating. It's amazing to me that they can take a bunch chemicals/elements and put them together to create a dazzling display of lights and sound. This is the month of fireworks where I live. One can hear them going off almost every night. They aren't my favorite thing about this month, but I do enjoy driving down the freeway at night and seeing the burst of color appear at random. There's something about seeing fireworks that fills my imagination with all sorts of flights of fancy, and I love anything that has that effect on my mind. Hurray for legal explosions!