Magical Pretty Boomstick! (p.02)

Welcome back to…

On page two, we meet our protagonist, Posy Abbot!

Here’s hoping this is at least a little familiar after reading page 1? =D

I’m still playing with the colouring, so I’ll keep posting in black and white and flat colour until I figure that out (although I’m open to suggestions)!

So, until next time… in the name of love and beauty, I’ll blow you away!

Magical Pretty Boomstick!

I’m writing a comic. About a magical girl with a shotgun. Largely, it’s to help me practice my drawing, but it’s also because there really should be a magical girl with a shotgun.

So here’s a peak at the first page, to fill that tragic gap in the magical girl world. (Which actually has neither magical girls or shotguns in it. Oops.)

Welcome to…

In both black and white:

And in (flat) colour (so you can see exactly how cute Boots is – yes, that’s the space cat’s name).

I’m still working on highlights and shading for the comic, and will post that as well, once it’s done. And once I’ve got a few pages in my pocket, I may even make a web page and consider this a real, actual, almost legitimate webcomic! Ooooh aaaah! 😀

So, until then… some kind of shotgun-y magical girl catchphrase… or something… (In the name of my shotgun, I’ll punish you? Awesome.)

Viorica Arcos, a Brief(ish) History

– Early 4690 AR, Western Ustalav –

A dapper elven nobleman arrives in the small town of Evenvale and practices his charms on the local women. Despite assurances that he hails from the very upper echelons of Kyonin aristocracy, the town’s young ladies peg him quite rightly as a cheat, phony, and general prevaricator, likely due in some part to his inability to remember the name of Queen Telandia (who is not, in fact, referred to as “Queen Pointy-Ears” by her most trusted advisors).

Well, almost all the young ladies.

Cosmina Arcos is wholly and happily fooled, much to her parents’ chagrin.

 

– Late 4690 AR, Western Ustalav –

Cosmina’s whirlwind romance with her suitor ends abruptly when Cosmina gives birth to a baby girl.

According to Cosmina’s mother, the elven suitor’s last words to the young woman were, “I thought you had just been getting fat, and I was sort of into that. But I’m not into kids.”

According to Cosmina, her suitor’s last words to her were, “farewell, my darlingest darling! Though it leaves me in agony, I must away, to rule Kyonin beside my mother, the queen, which absolutely makes you and our daughter elven princesses, and don’t let anyone forget it.”

Incidentally, the conflicting report of these last words would later be the baby girl’s first lesson in which of her maternal figures to get solid, particle advice from.

 

– Early 4691 AR, Western Ustalav –

The baby girl is eventually named Viorica, after her mother’s favourite flowers, thanks mostly to her grandparents’ insistence that naming her “Eluvia the Elven Princess” would probably just get her beaten up.

 

– Late 4697 AR, Western Ustalav –

Cosmina Arcos decides to travel to Kyonin to reunite with her elven suitor, as people stopped feeling sorry for her and humouring her about the elven princess shtick a few years ago.

A six-year old Viorica waves a tearful farewell to her mother, somehow knowing that Cosmina will probably be eaten by wolves before she gets five miles outside of Evenvale. As she never hears from her mother again, Viorica can only assume she is right.

 

– 4698 AR, Western Ustalav –

After catching his granddaughter ordering her dolls to “BOW TO THE PRINCESS OF ELVENKIND!” Stelian Arcos decides Viorica needs to do something with herself before she ends up like her mother.

The something upon which he decides for his diminutive, unassuming granddaughter is espionage.

Viorica begins training entirely too secret to be detailed.

 

– 4699 AR, Somewhere in Ustalav –

Training.

 

– 4700 AR, Somewhere in Ustalav –

Training.

 

– 4701 AR, Somewhere in Ustalav –

Training.

 

– 4702 AR, Somewhere in Golarion –

Training.

 

– 4703 AR, Somewhere in Golarion –

Training.

 

– 4704 AR, Somewhere in Golarion –

Training.

 

– 4705 AR, Somewhere in Golarion –

Training.

 

– 4706 AR, Somewhere in Golarion –

Training.

 

– Early 4707 AR, Somewhere in Golarion –

Viorica completes her training.

 

Mid4707 AR, Somewhere in Golarion –

Viorica and Stelian Arcos begin making their way to Katapesh, where the young spy can ply her trade in the famed Nightstalls. Their journey takes them through adventures in Razmiran, the River Kingdoms, Galt, Taldor, and Quadira before they finally board a ship crossing the Obari Ocean.

Days into their ocean voyage, Stelian takes sick and never recovers. He does not see Katapesh.

 

– Early 4708 AR, Katapesh –

And, of course, that was when her training truly started. Because what did an old librarian from Ustalav know about espionage? It really should have been obvious that, while exciting, the training her grandfather had put her through would be more at home in trashy novels than the streets of any city in Golarion. In later years, she would even find the passages in the worst old novels that he had cribbed his training from, and all she could do was laugh.

But for now, Viorica Arcos began again. Because if an Arcos is anything, it’s persistent past the point of any sense.

 

– 4709 AR, Katapesh –

A begger slips through the streets of Katapesh and is chased away from the Nightstalls until she’s quick enough and quiet enough that they stop seeing her approach. It takes longer than she had expected it would, and she has to quickly abandon all of the panache her grandfather assured her were the hallmarks of a master spy.

She misses the panache.

 

– 4710 AR, Katapesh –

An herbalist wanders the streets of Katapesh, and is welcomed into homes and shops where all she charges for her services are a friendly smile. Her sleeping accommodations, however, are not much of a step-up from a beggar’s.

 

– 4711 AR, Katapesh –

A young, only vaguely talented painter visits Katapesh, seeking patronage and coin. How she can survive with such limited skill is a question no one really bothers to ask — at least she’s pretty, and with much less of the political drama a chartiable herbalist ends up attracting.

 

– 4711 AR, Katapesh –

A young and, dare I say, beautiful courtesan makes her presence known in Katapesh. Her unusual tastes make her quite popular among some of the minor nobles who visit the city, looking for new and strange experiences. Strange, she can give them, with pleasure.

She misses the painting.

 

– 4712 AR, Katapesh –

A minor elvish noblewoman arrives in Katapesh, and her light demeanour and seemingly constant amusement raise her status more quickly than any coin could. It’s astonishing how quickly people become bored with the wonders of Katapesh, so a pretty girl in a nigh constant state of wonder is refreshing and much welcome where even a courtesan hadn’t been before.

Plus, no more of that hinky stuff.

 

– 4712 to 4714 AR, Katapesh –

The beggar, the herbalist, the painter, the courtesan, and the minor noblewoman all make regular appearances in Katapesh, and slowly, ever so wretchedly slowly, information is collected. After many trips to the Nightstalls, a reputation is forged.

Most importantly, a grandfather would be very proud.

 

– 4714 AR, Absalom –

And finally, FINALLY, a request from a vendor in the Nightstalls sends her outside the city. To Absalom, of all places, the city at the center of the world. And now that she was there, she knew she would have to make her mark on the city.

The citizens of Absalom would never know the name Viorica Arcos, but she vowed, in the name Stelian Arcos, that they would feel her influence every time they lowered their voices just a little more, because secrets weren’t quite as safe as they used to be in Absalom.

Which is to say, even more unsafe than the already totally unsafe state they find themselves in at present, being that this is Absalom and it’s a bit sketchy, and … Bollocks. Work on dramatic closer before you publish your memoirs VA.

Honestly.

Tixxi

Sometimes, I draw gnomes. Sometimes, I draw them picking their noses.

tixxi1 

tixxi2

tixxi3

tixxi4

Tixxi certainly is cooler than you.

A Game of Thrones: Genesis (part three)

Why am I still doing this to myself?

It must be Derek Jacobi. I can’t resist his calm demands that I seduce and murder everyone.

And it’s only going to get worse.

I know this because I actually completed the last two tutorials and the first mission a couple of weeks back, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to continue with this… strange and somewhat inexplicable blog account of me playing video games. Every time I sit down to, I think “oh no, I have to play A Game of Thrones: Genesis, now. And I think I’d rather just stare at my keyboard blankly for a couple of hours. It’s less confusing and almost as much fun.”

I have to say it. A Game of Thrones: Genesis… is kind of bum. I have no doubt that there are people for whom this brand of bum is totally awesome, but for me, it is not the good kind of bum. It is the bad kind. The game is confusing, stressful, and somehow really boring too. I’ve never experienced apprehensive boredom before, but now I can say I have.

But I’ve only finished the tutorial and one mission, and I feel like maybe I haven’t given it a fair try. Maybe the tutorial and first mission weren’t a fair representation of the game. Or maybe it won’t matter because I’ll get some dragons and I can just burn everything.

So I’m going to try a few more missions, but I should probably catch up with what I’ve done already.

And that means recapping those last two tutorials and that first mission. Here goes…

agot_peacewar

The third tutorial is on peace and war which, while complicating gameplay further, at least serves to clear up what the hell my end goal is supposed to be. I had honestly originally thought my goal was just to screw my opponent into the ground with secret alliances and busty noble woman.

But no, it’s all tied to this peace gauge, and the prestige points attached to it.

Let’s see how Mr Jacobi explains it, though.

agot_peasantfodder

What else are peasants for?

As we learn in the fourth and final tutorial: nothing so important as to be senselessly murdered.

Mr Jacobi has me kill a bunch of peasants in this tutorial to watch the blue peace bar slowly start to fill with red, which I can only assume is the peasant’s blood, which he harvests for this very purpose. In the fourth tutorial, he has me kill a bunch more peasants because he really hates peasants, and also because one of those little icons at the top indicates one of the prestige point goals. What is that goal? Murdering peasants. (And also other units, but you can tell Jacobi’s hoping you’ll concentrate on the serfs.)

So yes, if you murder the most peasants, you get the prestige point bonus for murder. (I don’t think it’s actually called murder, but I’m not going to skirt the issue just because Derek Jacobi is.)

I don’t remember if Mr Jacobi even explains what the other point totals are for. Mostly, he’s just like” hey, if you murder peasants, you’ll totally win this. Just saying.”

In between bouts of peasant murder, Mr Jacobi also mentions that basically everything they taught you how to do in the last two tutorials will also disturb the peace and lead to war.

agot_karma

At this point, I’m not sure if you’re supposed to be trying for war or not. The source material doesn’t help with this confusion.

Mr Jacobi does mention that there are some ways to prevent war…

agot_waaaar

…but obviously they’re not that important, because you’re obviously going to go to war. I’m not even sure why he bothered with the word “quasi.” You will be going to war. Everyone in Westeros goes to war. Even babies. Especially babies.

And when you go to war, you can’t do any of that stuff anymore. No more alliances or booty calls or anything. You just hope you have enough food and gold build up your army, and then you hack away at your enemies.

So that’s the other good thing that peasants are for – making food so that you can start an army. But mostly for killing.

And that’s the third tutorial: you are going to war, so you’d better have a lot of food, and also, kill peasants.

As I already mentioned, Mr Jacobi tries to justify that in the fourth tutorial with “prestige points” but to be honest, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to him by this point. In fact, I only took two screenshots doing the fourth tutorial. It’s a super quick tutorial that explains prestige points, which basically reward you for being “the best” at certain actions (like murder). And the person with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Only, I’m unclear if that’s only in multiplayer, or if prestige points show up in the single player game. Even after playing a mission, I’m entirely unclear on prestige points.

Mostly, my goal is just to murder a lot of peasants and hope I get extra brownie points from the AI for it.

But anyway, I totally took two screenshots. One was about fathering bastards.

agot_bastardsahoy

I took this because all I could think about was your enemy envoy riding up to this little kid and pointing at him and yelling “bastard!” and laughing until he ran away forever. I also like the implication that there’s nothing you can do to get your great lord to keep it in his pants. He’s just going to father bastards. Just like you’re going to go to war. Man, Westeros is a wacky place.

And the last tutorial screenshot that I took was the last thing Mr Jacobi says in the tutorial.

agot_impossible

I read this as: “wait, wait, I know you thought that was a lot, but there’s still like a bazillion ways to get screwed over in this game. But we got tired of making tutorials, so we’ll let the AI blindside you. Isn’t that the best way to learn? Yes.”

So, obviously, the campaign is gonna be fun.

But I’ll save that for next time.

A Game of Thrones: Genesis (part two)

Yes, it’s time again to delve into that maddening puzzle that is GoT: Genesis! This time, I decided to try the tutorial on “Underhand Methods.” Derek Jacobi says “underhand methods” too, so I guess that’s how they say it in Westeros.

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Either way, I’m going to wish I hadn’t done this.

If I thought being friends with people was complicated, it was nothing compared to this. I took a mess of screenshots, but at this point, two minutes after completing the tutorial, I have no idea what any of them mean. Mostly, I just know there are are about 27 ways to screw people in this game.

But that sounds about right for GoT.

The first thing we learn about is destroying those beautiful alliances we made in the last tutorial.

agot_alliancebreaker

So, we learn about a new unit: the assassin. You have to pay the assassin’s guild in order to be able to hire one, and they can sneak into towns and do dastardly things, just like the spy. That doesn’t seem so bad, right?

Oh no. That’s just GoT lulling you into a false sense of security.

agot_stealth

Okay, so your assassin is invisible, unless a spy can see him. That’s cool. We do a quick look around and there don’t appear to be any spies around, so we head in and BAM. KNIFED. He even apologizes before he stabs her cos he’s a classy dude.

My assassin hustles back to my territory (conveniently marked by rows of little banners – whoever has to set those up every time I gain and lose territory is gonna hate me in a little while) because stealth units become visible when they stab people, and they can only poof again when they feel comfortable in their own territory, otherwise they get all self conscious with everyone staring at them.

So, one noble lady is dead and that town is just ripe for the looting. Um, I mean ally-ing-with-ing.

But Derek Jacobi has another task for me.

agot_killher

And I thought you seemed like such a nice guy.

Well, we must do what Mr Jacobi says, so I send my assassin in to the next town and in a completely surprising turn of events, things go wrong. Who could have foreseen that?

agot_betrayal

That’s right, not only is Jacobi a dick, he is a betrayer!

I won’t forget that, Derek Jacobi.

So there were guardsmen protecting the noble lady that I couldn’t see because I didn’t have a spy around. Sigh. The game gives me a spy and another assassin (because that first one has been totally forgotten about, that’s what kind of employer I am) and shows me that if you position your spy nearby, your assassin will use poison instead of a knife to kill her. Why wouldn’t he do that anyway?! Just in case?!

Apparently these bargain basement assassins need someone there to point out to them that someone is looking or they just go and get knife happy. Sigh.

Now we’re going to learn about another new unit: the rogue, which can be used to foment uprisings.

agot_rogue

Foment is totally a word you don’t hear enough. What a great word. It makes me want to say it over and over again until it loses all meaning. Foment foment foment foment foment.

So you can send rogues in and they’ll start setting fire to things, and they’ll also create more rebels who go and set fire to other towns. This seems pretty simple, but will be important when Jacobi decides to confuse everything I have thus far learned.

That’s right, now is when Derek Jacobi has to confuse it all, because I was getting too comfortable.

In addition to fomenting uprisings, rogues can also be used to buy off enemy envoys. Then they become your SEKRIT envoys and all the alliances that they make are fake. Really? Um, okay, I think I got it.

There’s another way to mess with enemy envoys; those noble ladies from earlier. (Although I really don’t see anything noble about them. Why don’t we just call them prostitutes and be done with it?) They can seduce enemy envoys and stop them from doing their job.

agot_nogroups

In fact, the noble lady can seduce “any unit that is not a group,” because she’s not into that stuff. I’m not clear on what happens once they’re seduced. I think they go home to their bunks, though.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to stop both rogues and noble ladies once they get up to this business.

agot_awkward

If you can get another unit over there, their shenanigans become really awkward and they all kind of stare at each other wishing this awkward moment would pass before they all wander off in different directions. It’s really awkward.

Okay, I think that all makes sense.

But wait, you can use spies in another way too – you can send them over to your enemy’s noble house and have them pose as an envoy, assassin, or spy. And when they go out to do their thing, they’ll only be pretending to actually do it.

This all sounds good, until you realize that your enemy can do the same thing to you.

So what does this mean?

Every time you send an envoy in to make an alliance, you have to use a spy to check the town for guardsmen who might stop your envoy, and then you have to check your town on a regular basis afterwards because it may be undermined at any time, and you also have to check your envoy, because they could actually be a spy, and at any time, any of these units could be paid off by a rogue, or seduced by a noble lady and then who the hell knows what happens to them, and you could also be assassinated by an assassin unless you have guardsmen around and maybe a spy who can see assassins? I’m not entirely sure on that one.

So really, what it means is that you can’t trust any action you ever make in this game. Ever.

I’m starting to worry I’m going to accidentally betray myself somehow too.

On to the next tutorial!

A Game of Thrones: Genesis (part one)

…starting with A Game of Thrones: Genesis.

That’s… not so alphabetical…

Look, it’s Steam’s fault, not mine.

steamalphabet

And Steam is the boss here, not me. So we’re starting with A GAME OF THRONES: GENESIS.

agot_title

Now, as far as I recall, GoT: Genesis is a real-time strategy game that chronicles the beginnings of Westeros, so back when the Targaryen’s were still chomping on people with dragons and they were the first family of incest (Lannisters are such posers).

Since this is a Game of Thrones (or Song of Ice and Fire) game, I have a feeling this is going to be complicated. Not just complicated, but mind-bogglingly complicated.

So I’m going to start with the tutorials.

Let’s go!

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Hrmm. Loading screen.

What I like most about the loading screens is that each and every one of them likes to freeze my cursor, which makes me think the entire game has frozen. It’s a bold design decision, but the GoT/SoIaF series does have long history of playing such mind games, so I’ll call it a feature and move on.

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Once the game finally loads, it looks like there are less options than I actually feared there might be. I’ve seen RTS games with tutorial windows that scroll right off the page. Still, I feel I shouldn’t let my guard down – this is still GoT after all. I decide to learn about creating alliances first, since it’s at the top of the list.

I am instantly greeted by Derek Jacobi, which I find very comforting. Surely, he won’t lead me astray!

agot_derekjacobi

derek jacobi

But just as I suspected, Derek Jacobi is a talker. As such, I’m not going to screencap everything. This is GoT, so everything is excessively convoluted. I’m pretty sure there were at least six or seven dialogue boxes that explained walking. To be fair though, walking is tough…

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In this world, everyone has been struck with a terrible case of the rickets, making walking both difficult, and painful. Their soft, soft bones means that they walk incredibly slowly. I think that’s why there were so many dialogue windows about walking – to build up their confidence before they make their first, stumbling steps out into the world.

My favourite part about this is that they haven’t taught me about a fast-forward button yet, so I get to watch the little envoy take every excruciating step as he hobbles along. There is a fast-forward button, right?

Anyway, at this point, I’m learning about using envoys. I’ve hired an envoy, and I’m getting him to go to a neighbouring town to make an alliance with them. Making an alliance means I get to collect money from them, and I don’t burn their town to the ground. I can burn towns to the ground, right?

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Now we get to see an enemy envoy try to make an alliance at a town where I’ve already made an alliance. The joke’s on him though, because my envoy is still there, and look at them – they’re wearing the same outfit. Who would be caught dead wearing exactly the same outfit in the same town? So he’s going to have to go home and change because I was here first.

Unfortunately, this means that now we get to wait while the enemy envoy walks over and then every so slowly turns around. At the very least, I’m relieved to find that my foe has also been afflicted with rickets.

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About two minutes pass between these two screenshots. I amuse myself by imagining the enemy envoy’s chagrin at arriving and seeing someone else in that super sweet robe and hat combo. He knew he should have gone with the full-length ball gown!

A little while later, I’ll see me get a guy with a horse, which you would think would be faster. Unfortunately, the horse also has rickets.

agot_brainrickets

Sadly, Derek Jacobi has also caught rickets in his brain.

Anyway, now that I know about the basics of making alliances with my envoy, my next step is to get a spy, so I can do sneaky spy things.

But of course, since this is a GoT games, it can’t be that simple. First, I have to pay the spy guild, so that they’ll think I’m cool. Then, after a little while, they’ll let me know if a spy is available. Why do I need a spy? So I can see guardsmen in town. Because all of my other units have conditional blindness, apparently. Or they’re all giving town guardsmen the silent treatment, and they need the spy to act as a go-between and ask them to pass the butter or why they haven’t done the laundry since it’s THEIR TURN.

Really, the thing is, if you send in a unit other than a spy, and they have town guards, then you have to turn around and go all the way back home, and no one wants that, whatever the reason may be.

So that’s what spies are for.

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Here’s my spy snooping on those guardsmen. The other cool thing that spies can do is that if your rival has sent an envoy into a town and made an alliance, you can totally send your spy in to make a SUPER SEKRIT alliance and be SUPER SEKRIT BEST FRIENDS with the town. That means that they secretly send all their money to you, instead of your rival. So that’s what we’re gonna do, and it’s gonna be pretty rad.

Of course, the problem is that my rival can totally do that to me, although I don’t know why any of my towns would want to be SEKRIT BEST FRIENDS with my rival when I have Derek Jacobi on my side. But whatever.

Unfortunately, when this happens, you can’t just raze the town, which is dumb (especially since I’m clearly playing the Targaryens and we’re supposed to have DRAGONS), instead you have to bribe the town with boobs. So I’ll send in a noble lady to marry the town (yes, the whole town).

I wish I’d gotten a screenshot, because her skill bar is the best. She has two options – marry and seduce. Because that’s what the ladies are for.

So, anyway, we’re going to hire a noble lady.

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Apparently they’re just hanging out outside the local castle, waiting to be chosen for such a mission. Luckily, unlike the spy, they don’t have a guild, so we can get them on the cheap. (Although, to be fair, Derek Jacobi does let me know that normally noble ladies can’t be bought like this. I think he means you usually have to buy them dinner before hurling them at a neighbouring towns.)

So I send my gal off and she marries the town. TUTORIAL COMPLETE!

That’s one down! What have I learned?

I’ve learned that this game is probably unnecessarily complicated, which is going to make campaign mode a hoot. 

I’ve learned that maybe it’s a little foolish to be upset you can’t raze a town during the “Making Alliances” tutorial, and not to give up hope that that option may yet be available.

I’ve also learned that Derek Jacobi is the most polite tutorial guide ever.

agot_politejacobi

That’s right, he doesn’t tell me to check the mini map, he invites me too. You’re such a gentleman, Derek Jacobi.

Yes, It’s a NEW PROJECT!

So, I own a few games.

alotofgames

Um. As long as you’re under 1000, it still counts as a few, right?

What may come as a shock is that I did not buy these games simply to enjoy that extremely large number. No, I intended (and still do intend) to play them.

But how to go about such a Herculean task?

Why, blog about it, of course! Because… blog…

Um.

So, starting in alphabetical order, I’m going to play those 638 games… plus the ones I own on Origins and outside of game management systems and from other places… so, you know, maybe closer to 700? 700 games maybe? Oh god…

SO! Starting in alphabetical order, I’m going to play those bazillions of games, and blog about them.

I have no idea if I’ll try to finish them, or just play them until I get bored, or become so transfixed by the title screen that I am never able to begin the game, much less finish it, but at least I’ll have tried them all, right?

So, here it goes. Starting with A

Stupid Awesome Cupertino

It’s been a month since we arrived in California and, as a result, I’ve written this first blog post at least a dozen times in my head. And that means that now that I’m sitting down to write it, I have no idea where to start.

One of my pseudo-entries opened with a joke about time warps in California, which is why it seemed like it had taken so long to write this blog post. Really, it had only been a few moments for those of us trapped outside of time (so no getting mad at me).

In one of my pseudo-entries, I decided to calculate how many elephants it would take to get from Cupertino to Calgary. If you know me, you know about my fixation with elephants as a unit of measurement that started in a college astronomy class (it’s only fair to call it a fixation when you’re reasonably sure all of your friends have heard “who measures things in elephants?” more than once). I’m still going to do that, because, well, it’s a fixation! And now I’m curious! And it feels like my blog will be more professional with some math in here.

So! It’s 1,336.7 miles from Cupertino, California to Calgary, Alberta (according to google, anyway, and who questions google? Certainly not me — they can actually find me and beat me up pretty quickly now, since they’re only about an hour or about 7,656 African elephants away — just a second, I’m explaining my calculations here, I promise.)

So, the average African elephant is apparently 30 ft.

I say apparently because it’s really hard to find out how long an elephant is. They’ll tell you how tall they are, sure, but what good does that do you, unless you’re counting how many perfectly–vertically-laid-out elephant carcasses it takes to get from Cupertino to Calgary, and that’s really morbid.

I did find one site that told me they’re about as long as five to six dogs.

Oh good; dogs are a much better unit of measurement.

But what kind of dogs? That could potentially be a pretty small elephant.

So I had to go with a random answer I found on WikiAnswer, so it’s probably completely inaccurate. But it’s all I had to go on. I mean, if I wanted to, I could tell you very precisely how many elephant penises it takes to get from Cupertino to Calgary, because searching up “How long is an elephant” is a really bad idea, because no one on the internet means the elephant itself, they obviously mean its penis. But I’m pretty sure my mom is going to read this, so I’d better stop talking about elephant penises.

So, assuming that this random person on WikiAnswers is right, we’re looking at 30 feet for an African elephant. I found another source that said 21 feet for an Asian elephant, but when you say elephant, you think Africa. Also, it’s already clear to me that this math is going to be ludicrous and going for the smaller elephant is just asking for trouble.

SO! 30 foot elephants. Google tells me that there are 5,280 feet in a mile. Hoo boy.

I better break out Excel for this.

So, we’re looking at 1,336.7 miles x 5,280 to get the number of feet, which is… 7,057,776 feet. Then, we divide that by 30, right? Oh, why am I showing my work? If I had just said that if you lined up elephants between Cupertino and Calgary there would be a gajillion elephants, who would have questioned me? But now, now you can see all the flaws in my logic.

Well, no turning back now. So, 7,057,776 feet divided by 30 feet per elephant gives us… 235,259.2 elephants. I feel bad about the point two, because I don’t want to have to be the one to hack that bit off an elephant just to get that last step to Calgary, so we’ll call it 235,289 elephants.

See, and it’s a damn good thing I picked African elephants, because my good friend WikiAnswers is telling me that there are between 450,000 and 700,000 African elephants in the world, but only 35,000 to 40,000 Asian elephants, so if I’d picked Asian elephants, I’d be stuck in like Oregon or something.

So I’m pretty sure people aren’t reading this to hear about elephants. I should probably talk about California.

I’ll start with a map, because those are educational:

On this handy dandy map, you can see San Jose sort of in the middle-ish, and then off to the left is us — Cupertino. If you swing all the way north and west, you hit San Francisco. It takes about an hour to get there on the freeway, while San Jose is about 20 minutes away. Fingers crossed that gives you at least a vague idea of where we are.

If you want to get more specific, we’re here:

Knock knock...

Yep, that’s our front door.

No, there will be no pictures of the inside, because it looks like a cardboard bomb went off in here.

Okay, it’s not that bad anymore. But still, I want our friends reading this to think of us as actual adult human beings, and that won’t be possible if you see our box fortress. (Although, I guess that ship sailed when I started talking about elephant penises, didn’t it?)

Cupertino is a small city with a population of about 60,000 people (there’s a Wikipedia link there too, for you nerds), and it’s probably best known because Apple’s headquarters are here. In fact, it seems like Apple owns just about half the buildings here — walking down the street, you’ll see Apple logos everywhere.

Obviously, Lab126 (the company that makes the Kindle, and is part of the Amazon group of companies — yes, you have to say it like that, you can’t just say “it’s owned by Amazon” because if you do, your head will explode. Ryan actually explained all the legal reasons, but it made me feel like my head was going to explode, so I’m going to go with exploding.) is also here (although the Amazon headquarters are in Seattle).

If you head over to San Jose, you’ll see the head offices for just about every tech company you can imagine — we’ve seen Adobe, eBay, PayPal, Cisco, TiVo, and a whole bunch of others — it’s a little surreal. It’s like you’re travelling in the internet. Except with less elephant penises. (Sorry, last one.)

But the only way my brain can really think of it is that San Jose is like downtown Calgary, and then all the little cities that surround it — Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Los Gatos, Santa Clara, Mountain View — they’re all communities. Except they’re not, they’re their own cities, and they have their own little downtowns. It’s weird.

Cupertino itself is basically the most expensive area around because of Apple and because of the school systems. The city has one of the top-ten high schools in America here, so people come from all over the world to send their kids here, and apartment prices are at a premium. Since I can’t work (I’m here on a dependent visa, so telecommuting for a Canadian company is about all I can do unless a company down here will sponsor me for a visa), I figure my best bet is to try and infiltrate this high school. I’ve decided that this time, I’m going to be one of the popular kids — I’ll be the slightly chubby cheerleader that is therefore totally non-threatening to the other cheerleaders, but makes them feel better about themselves. I also have an older boyfriend (younger boyfriend, maybe? I dunno if Ryan can pass for older than a high school student, let’s be honest) so I’m no threat to their boys, while being someone that they can look up to, because I’m totally experienced.

Yes, yes, it’s all coming together.

I keep getting distracted, don’t I?

Here, let me distract you with some pictures of our apartment complex!

Our complex:

A little park across the street:

Corporate housing across the street from that:

Inside the complex…

Into our little area…

And up the stairs to our door!

There, now we’re back on track!

As you can see, it’s pretty beautiful — I actually took those pictures yesterday, so you can see that it still looks like we’ve only just hit fall here. Ryan and I went out for lunch yesterday and I was walking along in a short-sleeved sweater and shoes with no socks, and there were people walking past us in toques and jackets, so I asked Ryan if he could tell I was from Canada. (Speaking of, yes, I have called someone a hoser, but only because he asked me to “talk Canadian”. ;D)

The weather, which everyone asks about, has been in the mid to low 20s every day, so I guess I won’t be able to break out my snow pants for Hallowe’en this year. (But all of my costumes are fat somethings. Fat ghost. Fat bride. Fat Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I guess this year I could go as a ghost who has just come off a really successful diet.)

And now we come to it, I’ve talked about being far from home, I’ve talked about the area and where we live now, and I’ve talked about the weather, so now I have to talk about the food.

I’m not even talking about amazing restaurant food, although there is that here. Okay, I’d better talk about normal person food first, and break out the pictures.

Everywhere has glorious unsweetened tea to drink, which makes me both stupidly and obscenely happy.

The food is also truly awesome. That’s Figgy Piggy pizza from Pizza My Heart — it has bacon, black figs, fresh sage, and feta cheese. It is totally amazing. They also have an equally amazing Watsonville Apple with green apple slices, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, green onions, gorgonzola cheese, and garlic. So yes, I will be about 300lbs when I come back for Christmas.

There’s also a Japanese Curry House (above is a picture of Ryan with a delicious lime float, and the cutest smile!), an Indian restaurant, a really wonderful Italian place with a wine bar (it’s okay, they let us in even though we’re not cool enough to drink wine), a little bagel place, and a bunch of other places, all within walking distance.

If you go a little farther, there’s also an amazing candy shop in downtown Campbell that has a bajillion flavours of salt water taffy including maple bacon, root beer, and coffee.

Please just attach the bag to my face.

But now that the normal person food is out of the way, let me tell you about the junk food.

Look. Just look. Bask in its glory:

What is that gentle friends? That is the gajillion kinds of pop tarts they have down here. You may notice Cupcake Pop Tarts, Apple Pie Pop Tarts, Hot Chocolate Pop Tarts, and Cookie Dough Pop Tarts, which leads me to ask… what did Canada do to anger the Pop Tarts people, and how can we rectify it?! Because when I come back, there’d better be Cupcake Pop Tarts waiting for me, or there’s gonna be some kind of Pop Tart incident at the first grocery store I hit. (Sprinkles and frosting everywhere!)

I have to say, the choice here is flabbergasting. There is a cherry variety of every pop ever. And there are fancy cookies as far as the eye can see. CHEETOS COME IN FLAVOURS HERE. FLAVOURS, MY PEOPLE!

It is indeed a glorious place.

And really, isn’t that all you actually needed to know about Cupertino?

The Currently Untitled Fairy Tale Story 3

Hazel, One.

In retrospect, Hazel had to admit: she was lucky. She had so much.

She had grown up surrounded by love, with a mother and two wonderful aunts in a house that smelled always of cookies and sweets. She had been given an extraordinary education in the forest that surrounded her home on all sides, learning from her family and from the woodland creatures in equal measure, and eating up every morsel of knowledge they had to offer.

She had never wanted for food, or friends, or fun.

* * *

The two children had been trudging through the forest all night and were exhausted. They had begun their journey in high spirits, but in the waning light of the setting sun, with empty stomachs aching, and weary feet smarting painfully, both had to admit that running away from home did not, any longer, seem like such a clever idea.

“Jane, I’m tired.” The little boy tugged at his sister’s skirt and cast glassy eyes too big for his head at her, hoping for some sympathy.

“I know, Albert.” She tried not to look at his puppy-dog eyes, knowing they would be her downfall.

“Jane, I’m hungry.” Somehow, Jane was sure, his eyes had gotten even bigger.

“Albie, I know.” If he started crying, she was done.

“Jane, I’m scared.” And now that his lip was quivering, it was all she could do to keep her heart from breaking.

“Oh Albie, we’ll find somewhere soon, I promise!” She knew she shouldn’t promise, because she had no way of knowing if she could keep it, but if he kept looking at her like that…

Blessedly, Albert didn’t say anything, and Jane had a moment to gather her thoughts. When her little brother spoke again, though, she finally did break down into tears herself.

“I’m still glad we left, Jane.”

“Oh Albie, you’re so terribly brave,” Jane wept, great wet tears rolling down her pink cheeks in waves as she threw her arms around her brother and squeezed him tight. “I wish we were at home, even with horrible old Gertrude. At least she was better than our last stepmother. She’s only a little ugly, and she only beats us every other Thursday.” In hindsight, it didn’t seem so bad at all.

“And she made lovely lemon tarts for her desserts, and even blueberry treacle sometimes, and every so often she would make the most wonderful gingerbread, why I can smell it even now…” And she could.

“So can I!” Albert cried excitedly, charging off towards the scent before Jane could say another word.

“Albie, no!” Jane cried as she dashed after her brother, crashing headlong through a bush before stopping dead in her tracks, right next to little Albie. For before them was the most wondrous sight either of them had ever laid their little eyes on.

It was certainly the most splendid house that had ever been built, all made from gingerbread, with marzipan shingles and pulled sugar windows, and a little door made of pink shortbread. Gumdrops lined the sugar windows, and jellybeans dotted the gingerbread walls with bursts of colour. Best of all, tiny candied birds alighted on the powder pink branches of cotton candy trees, too tiny and darling to be real. And yet, there they were.

“Is it real, Jane?” Albie asked, his eyes as wide as the peppermint doorknob.

“Oh, it couldn’t possibly be,” Jane breathed, her voice thick with delight.

“Do you think it belongs to anyone?” Albert asked, glancing this way and that before taking a hesitant step towards the delicious little cottage.

“Like who, a witch?” Jane asked incredulously. Everyone knew there was no such thing…

“Probably,” a voice posited behind them, and it was a testament to the house that it was a full ten seconds before either child was able to tear their eyes from it and turn around.

Behind them was a girl only a little older than Jane, but certainly much taller, and much willowier. Jane had to admit that with her long raven black hair and her large violet eyes, she was beautiful. Or, well, she would have been if not for the gargantuan hairy mole on the end of her nose. But she was still beautiful enough that it nettled Jane, who was only a little pretty.

So she snorted. “Witches aren’t real,” she told the older girl, crossing her arms over her chest in what she hoped was a superior gesture.

“Oh no?” the girl asked, smiling softly at the pair of them in a way that almost made her lovely enough to forget the mole, and which consequently nettled Jane further. “This is the Black Forest, you know.”

“Do witches like the Black Forest?” Albert asked, hiding behind his sister and clutching at her skirt.

“Haven’t you heard of Hansel and Gretel?” the girl asked him curiously.

“Of course we have,” Jane nudged her brother. “And everyone knows that after Hansel and Gretel came home, the word was spread to all the kingdoms, and all the witches in the forest were killed during the Great Gingerbread Purge, and now they’re all dead.” Jane smiled smugly at the girl, feeling much better knowing that she was at least much better educated than her.

The girl smiled prettily and shrugged, “well, then I suppose you’d best come inside and have something to eat. You both look positively famished.” With that, she beckoned them towards the house as she started towards it herself.

“It’s your house?” Jane asked uncertainly, glancing back at the wonderful little house and hoping her stomach wasn’t growling too audibly.

“Mmhmm,” the girl agreed, “I live here with my mother and my aunts. They found this lovely little house in the woods before I was born. I suppose it’s a relic from the Gingerbread Purge, but it’s stood up quite nicely.” The girl smiled so warmly that Jane almost forgot how much she disliked her, and when she held open the door for them, she almost went straight in.

“Oh, please Jane! I’m so hungry!” Albert said when she hesitated.

His eyes had once again doubled in size and his lip was already quivering, so all Jane could do was swallow a little sob and guide him through the door.

“Are you sure your family won’t mind if we stay for a little food?” Jane asked, belatedly remembering her manners as the girl closed the door behind them.

“Oh no,” Hazel smiled, “they won’t mind at all.”

* * *

Hazel was certainly lucky to have all she did. But just as lucky, her mother and her aunts would have said, were the things that Hazel didn’t have.

Growing up, she didn’t have any mirrors, so she had never really noticed the huge, hairy mole that dominated the end of her nose. She had never quite gotten the hang of telling time, so she didn’t wonder why her mother and her aunts never seemed to get any older. And she had been kept far away from the nearby village, so she didn’t know that plump village children weren’t part of every growing girl’s diet.