"oh my..." © meilin wong

LJ Idol 9, Week 9: Keep Calm and End This Meme

Does anybody else miss the days when Frank, the LJ mascot, was having a romance with Meme the Sheep? Okay, so in actuality, I barely even read those things and thought they were kinda dumb, so I guess what I miss is LJ's heyday, before it became this desert wasteland of ONTD and people who will never leave because they shelled out for permanent accounts. (And some other stragglers, I would say like me, but that's not accurate, because I almost never post. I just come here keep up with the holdouts on my f-list. And do LJ Idol.) Meme the Sheep is just a sort of silly symbol of the wider LJ community that the powers-that-were tried, however weakly, to foster.

I despise Facebook, and I can't hardly say anything in 140 words, much less 140 characters, so Twitter's out, and I'm on Pinterest, but I don't really get it.

I sort of use Google+ the way I used to use LJ: a place to blather about my day or something that's on my mind, in brief or at length, and at least my actual, real-life, people-I-actually-like-to-talk-to friends are on there and put up with my blathering. Though instead of memes and quizzes, my friends are more likely to post articles, or link to Cracked.com or TV Tropes. And since unlike That Other Site, I don't have any family members or professional peers in my circles, I can be candid, like I used to be here, where I am anonymous.

I miss the other friends. The online-only friends who I'm sure are on That Other Site, but it's not the same because people interact differently there.

And even LJ Idol, which when I first signed up, back in Season 8, isn't really about what LJ used to be about. When I write for Idol, I have to have some kind of point to make. I can't just blather on. I have to impress people. It's fun, and it's good practice, but it's not what I liked about LJ, even if my LJ usage was always sporadic, at best.

And even though Gary has been doing his absolute damnedest to make people feel guilty about leaving, I find I'm rather calm about it. I don't regret giving it another try, but this wasn't a good time for me to do it, and it's not getting any better. You'll see me around here and there in the Green Room, and depending on how early or late Gary rolls out Second Chance, maybe I'll see if I can give Idol more attention then, but for now, thanks for reading and commenting, and good luck!
"oh my..." © meilin wong

LJ Idol 9, Week 7: No True Scotsman

“And you call yourself a geek.”

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do, and I don’t need your permission to do so, no matter how many movie quotes I fail to recognize, or what my geek number is (pretty low, actually).

The thing is, no one can tell you what you are or aren’t.

For years, I didn’t consider myself a gamer, even though I spent a significant amount of my free time playing computer games. But I wasn’t a gamer the way my brother was a gamer; I played a combination of casual games and more “hardcore” games, and never played the newest games, because my computer was always too outdated for them (still is). I’ve always been more than a casual gamer, but less than a hardcore gamer, and I didn’t/don’t have a good name for what kind of gamer I was, so I didn’t make it part of my identity. Then I had a friend in college who found out I liked computer/video games, and insisted that I was, in fact, a gamer. I immediately resisted the label (labels are dumb, anyway), explaining all the above reasons ad nauseum, but he didn’t care.

I now occasionally call myself a gamer, but I still don’t really think of myself as a gamer. Gaming is an important part of my geek identity, but it’s not an identity I claim in its own right; it’s more like a convenient shorthand (which is really what a lot of labels boil down to in the end, isn’t it?). But what’s crucial here is not whether I meet some sort of gamer qualification, or whether merely playing games, of any type, regularly as a hobby makes me a gamer, it’s whether I choose that identity for myself. My college friend couldn’t force it on me, however hard he tried, though he did make me think more about how and why I choose my identities, and that's a valuable thing.

So, I’m a geek, right? At least, I claim a geek identity. To a certain extent, contrary to what I just said, this was initially forced on me. I was a nerd because my classmates said so, because I liked weird things, and I wasn’t very good at social interaction. But now there’s a whole community of people who not only have a shared experience of *cough* mean kids looking down at them for liking sci-fi, or Dungeons and Dragons, or whatever. They also have those interests in common that were once so different.

I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, especially fantasy. But it took me something like five years to finish the Lord of the Rings because it bored me to tears. I’m not especially into superhero comics. I didn’t get into D&D until adulthood, but I love it now. I cut my teeth on Star Trek: TOS reruns. I’ve never watched the updated Battlestar Galactica.

I’m not trying to board the Geek Train because it’s suddenly become cool to be a geek. I genuinely like a lot of geeky things. Not all of them, and I make no bones about that. My brother (who frequently questions my Geek Cred) and I had a discussion about the aforementioned “geek number” thing and its limitations. If you take the quiz, it asks things like (I’m paraphrasing, forgive me) “Have you seen all of [insert Geeky TV Show here].” What, because I kind of lost interest in Star Trek: DS9 after a few seasons, I’m not geeky enough? I actually enjoyed Voyager a lot, but I still didn’t see all of it. While we’re at it, a lot (A LOT) of Star Trek fans disliked Voyager, and look down on fans who like it.

Whose standards shall we judge by?
"oh my..." © meilin wong

Oh look! It's not an LJ Idol post!

Though it is tangentially writing related. I know a lot of people on my f-list are big readers, and a fair few are fantasy/sf people, so I wanted to share this:

Crossed Genres Magazine Kickstarter

It's a small sf/fantasy magazine from a publisher (of the same name) that actively encourages submissions by and about underrepresented people of all types (you can read more on the Kickstarter page, but for example, I just purchased a science fiction anthology titled Fat Girl in a Strange Land). (Their novels and short fiction collections are a little looser in terms of genre, but the Kickstarter is directly geared toward funding the magazine.) They have only a few days left, and few thousand to go to meet their goal, so in addition to supporting them directly, I wanted to spread the word. This is the sort of thing we need more of, especially in SFF.
"oh my..." © meilin wong

LJ Idol 9, Week 5: Build a Better Mousetrap

Marc double-checked everything in the van to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. Two tents, sleeping bag, air mattress, extra sleeping bag because someone always forgot theirs, duffel bag, and cooler filled with ice and pop. The empty cooler, waiting for food, sat on the driveway. Satisfied, Marc went back inside to wait.

Leslie arrived first.

"Coffee?" Marc asked as he led her into the kitchen.

She replied, "That sludge you drink? No thanks. But maybe I can make you some real coffee." She smirked and drew a small metal and plastic cylinder out of her tote bag.

“What is this thing?” Marc asked. He picked it up and turned it around in his hands.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a French press!” replied Leslie.

“Okay, I won’t tell you.”

“You’re the worst, you know that?” She snatched the French press out of her brother’s hands. “Here, let me show you.”

She reached into her bag and pulled out a small bag of coffee she’d ground that morning and spooned some into her press. Marc eyed his sister dubiously as she went about heating up the water and explaining the ideal temperature and steeping time.

“When it’s done,” she said, “you push this plunger down to keep the loose grounds out of the coffee when you pour.”

“I have an electric coffee maker, “ said Marc. “I put all the stuff in, push a button, and it beeps when it’s done. I don’t need some newfangled contraption that makes me work for my coffee.”

"It’s not newfangled!" Leslie scoffed. "It’s been around for . . . I don’t remember, actually, but longer than electric coffee makers.”

"Ah-ha!" said Marc, "I always did say that you were regressing, Sis."

Leslie rolled her eyes. "Hmph. Innovation isn't always an improvement, you know. Besides, you can't take your electric thing glamping."

"Glamping? Is today International Confuse Your Brother Day, or something?"

"Glamorous camping. You know, like, enjoying nature, but still having creature comforts like fluffy pillows and hot showers. And good coffee."

"But laying your head on rocks is part of the charm!"

"As if you don't already have an air mattress packed in your van."

"Well, yes, but I still get to wear my rattiest clothes and not shower for a couple of days and not get judged for it."

"That's what you think. Claire and I totally judge you."

Another voice came from the front door, making Marc and Leslie jump. “Oooh, judging Marc is always fun!” Their sister Claire appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Sorry,” she continued, “the door was open, so I let myself in. Is that a French press? Nice!”

“Oh, not you, too!” Marc groaned.

Leslie asked, “Would you like a cup?”

“Yes, please!” replied Claire.

Leslie got a couple of mugs out from the cabinet. “Marc?”

“I’m fine with my sludge; you girls go ahead.” Marc took a sip from his own mug. “So, Claire, are you in cahoots with Leslie on this glamping business?”

Claire raised an eyebrow and answered, “What the heck is glamping?”


Marc sat at the picnic table in the fading sunlight, contemplating Leslie’s centerpiece--his parent’s dented old percolator, filled with fresh flowers. He and Leslie had cooked most of the dinner, so Claire was cleaning up with the help of a cousin and his wife, while the rest of the cousins were playing horseshoes nearby.

As he sat, he could see Leslie sashaying back to the campsite from the showers wearing a strappy blue sundress. He lifted his coffee cup to her in greeting as she approached the picnic table.

“So what do you think?” she asked.

Marc grinned before answering. “The coffee is excellent. The dress is ridiculous.”
"oh my..." © meilin wong

LJ Idol 9, Week 4--Nobody can ride your back if your back's not bent

“Do you know the story of the oak and the reed, dearest?” The old woman lifted her granddaughter’s chin with one finger to look into her eyes.

Mia shook her head and snuffled, wiping the back of her hand across her wet cheek.

“Ah, now, the oak was proud, and boasted about his great strength. He mocked the little reed because she bent with the wind, while he remained straight and tall. But then one day, a mighty storm blew in, and the oak who would not bend could not stand against the gale, and he broke. But the reed bent under the wind, as always, and she survived the storm.”

Mia frowned. “What does that have to do with anything?” she asked.

“What indeed?” replied her grandmother. “Just think about it for a little while, sweet pea.”


“Hey, new girl!”

Mia looked up. It was Cori, the queen bee of fourth grade. “Yeah?” Mia replied.

“Those cookies look really good.” Cori smiled and sat down next to Mia.

“Yeah, my mom made them. She says there should always be something to look forward to on Monday,” Mia said.

“Wanna sit with us at lunch today?”


“Well, if you give me your cookies, I'll save a spot for you."

Mia held out one of her cookies. “Okay, I’ll share with you,” she said.

Cori giggled. “What am I gonna do with one? I share everything with Taylor and Billy, and that’s not enough to go around. I need all of them. I mean, you probably get to have more at home, right?”

Mia hesitated. The cookies were all she’d get to eat until lunchtime, but Cori was the first kid at this new school to pay her any attention.

“So, are you gonna be one of the cool kids, or not?” Cori asked.

“I’m so glad you finally made some new friends, honey!” Mia’s mom said.

Her dad said, “All she needed was a little time. Isn’t that right sweetie?”

Mia ducked away as he reached across the table to ruffle her hair.

“Maybe you should invite this Cori over after school one day,” her mom said as she passed the salad. “It’s not too cold out yet--you can play outside for a while, and she can stay for dinner if she wants!”

Mia shrugged. “I dunno . . .” she mumbled.

“Why not?” her mom said. “You used to have Nikki and Riley over all the time.”

“These kids are cool, but they aren’t Nikki or Riley,” Mia replied, staring hard at her mac and cheese.

“Sweetie, I know this move has been hard on you . . .”

“Just let her be, hon,” her dad said. “She’s made the first step; now let her go at her own pace. She had years of friendship with Nikki, and she’s only known Cori for a couple of months.”

Mia’s mom pursed her lips.


Taylor winked as Mia handed over a brownie. “Nice. You always have the best stuff, Mia.”

Mia watched her move to the next row, collecting tribute. She glanced at Mrs. Patterson, but her nose was buried in her gradebook. Cori sat at her desk, examining the booty Billy had collected from his side of the room. Mia imagined having Cori at her house, pawing through her toys. Going home with her favorite Barbie.

“You’re lucky,” whispered Andrea from the desk behind.

“How so?” Mia turned around and raised an eyebrow.

“Your mom only gives you junk food once a week, right?”

Mia nodded.

“And Cori let you in the group, anyway. She usually doesn’t bother with kids who don’t bring treats every day.” Andrea glanced down at the carrot sticks on her desk.

“Yeah, I guess I’m lucky, then,” Mia said.

At lunchtime, Mia carried her tray over to her usual table. Cori was already there, parceling out the treats she didn’t want to some of the other kids.

“Hey, Mia,” Cori said. “I got these chips from Micah, but I don’t feel like potato chips today. You want them?”

Mia scanned the other tables before answering. “No, thanks,” she said. “If you really don’t want them, why don’t you ask Micah if he wants them back?”

The whole table fell silent. Cori’s mouth opened and closed, and Micah’s face turned bright red.

He said, “You can do whatever you want with them. I didn’t want them, anyway.”

“Hey, aren’t you gonna sit down?” Taylor asked nervously, picking at Mia’s brownie.

“Nah. I think I’m going to sit by Andrea today. Enjoy the brownie.” Mia marched over to the corner table where Andrea sat with Luis and Blake.


“I’ve been thinking about the story you told me last time I was here,” Mia said, cuddling with her grandmother.

“Oh? And did you figure it out?” Grandma replied.

“I think so. It’s good to be like the reed, and be able to bend instead of break when things get hard.”

Grandma smiled and said, “That’s right, sweet pea. We have to be flexible, because we can’t always have things our way.”

“But Grandma . . .”

“What is it, dear?”

“I think sometimes you can bend too much,” Mia said.

Grandma nodded. “That’s true. The reed bends, but she always gets back up.”

“I think maybe it’s okay to be like the oak, too. You just have to know the difference between when to bend and when to stand tall.”


On the first day back from Winter Break, Mrs. Patterson introduced a new student, Sunny, to the class. At snack time, Mia got up from her desk to sit by her.

“Sunny, right?”

The new girl nodded.

“I’m Mia. Hey, are those oatmeal-raisin cookies? They look really good! Did your mom make them?”

“Yeah. She stays at home, so she bakes a lot,” Sunny replied.

“My mom only bakes on weekends because she works. She gave me a lemon bar today. I’ll split it with you, if I can have a taste of your cookies.”
"oh my..." © meilin wong

LJ Idol 9, Week 2: The Missing Stair

Janny’s nose had been stuck in her book since she sat down in the bus to go home. Her parents had installed a keypad lock, so instead of fumbling for keys at the front door, Janny simply transferred her book from right hand to left, without so much as glancing up, so she could punch in the combination, and switched hands again to take off her backpack just inside. She went through the living room, into the kitchen, and to the freezer, dodging furniture and stepping around her little sister’s toys as though she had second sight. She cut open the package of her pocket sandwich with scissors so she wouldn’t need two hands.

When the microwaved dinged, Janny didn’t wait two minutes for her snack to finish cooking; she grabbed it and a paper towel and went back through the living room. She rounded the corner to the staircase, and lifted her foot up to the first step.

A moment later, she tumbled down onto a field of grass.


Tel did a quick headcount to make sure no sheep had wandered off while he was intent on his spell. Then he returned his attention to the shimmering square of light before him. He couldn’t make out much beyond it, just dim shapes that didn’t look too different from the boulders dotting the pasture. He waited for something else to happen.

“Stupid Spellmaster thinks I ‘don’t have enough potential to train’,” he said to a passing ewe. “He’ll see. He’ll come back for his stupid spell book, and when he sees what I can cast, he’ll have to take me away from here.”

He watched the portal intently for several minutes, but nothing happened. Tel flung the stolen spellbook on the ground, scowling at a lamb nudging him for attention.

Then he heard a high-pitched “Oof!” and the sound of someone hitting the ground. He turned back toward the portal, but it was gone. In its place was a girl, a little older than Tel, wearing strange clothing and a startled expression.


“Where am I?” Janny said, raising herself to a sitting position.

Tel shrugged. “You’re here.”

Janny raised her eyebrows. “Here,” she repeated.

Tel nodded.

“Okaaay. How did I get ‘here’?” Janny picked up her book and frowned, picking at a bent corner of the cover.

Tel grinned. “I summoned you!” he said. He picked the spellbook. “Well, maybe I didn’t summon you. But I made the opening that you came through!”

“Like, with magic?” Janny’s face lit up as she asked, book forgotten again.

“Yup!” replied Tel. “I’m a Spellcrafter! Or at least I would be, if Master Rilta had picked me to train.”

“Do you have a name, Spellcrafter?” Janny asked.

“Telna. Tel for short.”

“I’m Janice. But everyone calls me Janny.”

“Hey,” said Tel, “aren’t you going to ask me how to get home?”

Janny looked at Tel for a long moment. “You said there’s magic here. Why would I want to go home?”
"oh my..." © meilin wong

LJ Idol 9, Week 1: Jayus

I see that my boss has come in for the day, so with a big smile on my face, I sidle into the Service office, where he’s sitting at his desk. In my best Perky McCheerful voice, I ask, “Would you like to know how my morning has gone?”

He side-eyes me from his computer, taking in the scan report I’m holding close to my chest. “Not when you put it like that,” he replies, but he turns to see what I have for him.

“So, 142 was over $20, 143 was over </em>$80</em>, and 144 was short $500

These are our service desk drawers. My boss is . . . not pleased.

“Lottery scanning is all over the place,” I continue, handing him my scan report. “I’ll let you take a look at the numbers while I get Western Union.” I bounce out of the office, still smiling.

Just as my Western Union report is printing, the last one I need to check for discrepancies, my boss comes out of his office to the service desk, flailing and going on about “why is it so hard to push the right buttons on the screen for lotto?”

I continue to smile. In fact, I am barely holding back giggles. I was not laughing an hour ago, when I had to count each one of those drawers twice, to make sure my totals were correct, not to mention double-checking that I didn’t somehow miss a cash drop for the $500 drawer and having to emerge from my Cave of Solitude (also known as the cash office) to make sure some stray bills didn’t get stuck behind in a register drawer. All of which set me behind in my workflow. I had some interesting things to say an hour ago, most of which aren’t really work-appropriate. But there’s no one to hear me back there.

But now it’s hilarious. The Sunday morning service desk crew also finds it pretty amusing, since neither they nor I were working the desk the day before--the day I’m balancing for--and we all agree that it’s really not that hard to push the right buttons.

I can only control so many things. I can’t control whether or not people at the service desk who are not me push the right buttons when they sell and redeem lottery tickets. I can’t control whether or not a cashier makes sure a tax-exempt slip has the customer’s exempt number written on it, or whether someone made a mistake loading instant tickets into the lottery vending machine. I can’t control whether the full-time cash office person emails me the postal inventory so I can update it.

And ultimately, these things aren’t even my problem. They’re my boss’s problem--all I do is discover them. The worst thing that happens to me is that it takes a little longer to finish my work, which, yeah, I've been up since 3:30am, and I'd rather not stay any longer than necessary, but I still get paid by the hour.

So when these things I can’t control happen, I can either rant and rave and clench my fists, and have a bad day, or I can laugh at all the crap the day throws at me and have a good day.

Today, I had a good day.
&quot;oh my...&quot; © meilin wong

LJ Idol 9, Week 0: Introduction

It is halfway through the first quarter of my 8th grade year, and my family has just moved. My new school has “electives” for junior high. I have been placed in Creative Writing, which is a disappointment because I enjoy writing, and I’d really like to be able to take the class for a whole quarter.

The teacher explains to me that the class is working on writing an eight-page story. But she’s concerned that it’s unfair to ask me to do the same assignment, because the rest of the class has had all quarter, and I, of course, only have half that. So she gives me an alternate assignment: make a list of 25 things I like about myself. I make an easy start: I’ve always been one of the “smart kids,” and smartness is what I get praised for the most by pretty much everybody, so I’ve come to define myself by it. It goes on the top of the page.

Then I stare at the paper. And stare at it. And stare some more, becoming increasingly miserable until finally, I raise my hand, and the teacher comes over, and I say I’d really rather try writing the story, even though I don’t have as much time.

I write a story about animals in the woods, a favorite motif of mine. Not only do I finish the eight pages in half the time as everybody else, I write almost twice as much and have to pare down, because my starting definition of “page” includes both sides, and at some point, I realize nobody else is writing eight double-sided pages. I get an “A” on my story. I walk away happy--but not really. That “25 things I like about myself” is still hanging over my head.

Because, you see, I have always been terribly shy, and consequently have long since been labeled a “nerd,” and I’ve come to define myself by that, as well, and having to face the fact that I don’t like myself is perhaps even more painful than not being liked by others.

That eighth grade experience is now a distant but vivid memory. In some ways, I have come a long way. I can see the irony of being able to write that story in that amount of time yet not like myself enough to make that stupid list. I am able to recognize and give a name to the source of the dark, nasty thoughts that have haunted me throughout both adolescence and my adult life. I've even had periods where I felt pretty good, and didn’t have those thoughts so much. I’m still terribly shy, but manage to find ways to relate to people; I even work in retail, and many people wouldn’t even guess that I’m secretly terrified of them. (It helps that there’s a “script.”)

In other ways, I am still that sad 13-year-old who doesn't understand why she’s sad. Being able to recognize those dark thoughts and feelings as depression doesn’t make me not feel them. It doesn’t stop me from having days when I am convinced my friends secretly hate me. It doesn’t stop me from getting into cycles where I feel like a failure, stop trying because “there’s no point,” and then feel bad for being a failure and for not trying. It doesn’t stop me from saying to myself, “Wow, could you be any more of a downer in your introduction?” But this is who I am today. It might not be exactly who I am tomorrow, or next week. Each day is its own challenge.

As for that “stupid” list, I can’t number the times I’ve thought about whether I could write that list today, and even that I maybe ought to try, as an exercise in learning to love myself. Most of the time I put it from my mind, because I’m horribly afraid that I still couldn’t do it, and I don’t want to have to deal with that. But who knows? Maybe, if the topic is right, it’ll become an LJI entry of its own.
&quot;oh my...&quot; © meilin wong

(no subject)

So, I know that I'm an inveterate LJ lurker even in the best of times, but I have been in moving limbo for a while, and I haven't had internet for three months. Did I miss anything?