I yammered about stigmergy, adhocracy, and the relationship between them this afternoon, but I'm not very happy with how it turned out. It's disconnected and drafty - so is the proposal that Iain, Seth, and I tossed around on restructuring the OLPC support-gang volunteer crew, which is going through one of the more painful parts of an eventual phoenix-like rebirth (as is OLPC in general). I don't feel too good about the coherence or lack thereof in my thoughts and actions today, so I'm trying to recover them through writing.
Warm-up: I can always do reasonably well when writing about food. Aside from the Monster Omelet of Glory at Beth's Diner (pronounced "Bef's") there's a little Italian truffle shop in Pike Place. I'd never had truffles before, but I knew that they were supposed to be amazingly good... and extraordinarily expensive. This place had free samples. Free samples! Of truffle-thingies! (Sometimes my happy spontaneous brain is none too eloquent.) Of course I went in.
Truffles are intense. A few drops of truffle oil in an ordinary potato-leek soup turned it from "ehh, mm, good stuff" to "HOLY MACKEREL MY TASTE BUDS HAVE IMPLODED." They're smoky, earthy, they taste like walking through an old mossy forest after a heavy rain when the sun's just started to drip through the leaves again - if you can imagine that as a flavor, that's what a few drops of truffle oil taste like.
When paired with 12-year-old balsamic vinegar (thick and sweet) on a tiny piece of Italian bread, truffle cream approaches heaven. And both flavors linger. Even as you walk out the door, down the block, their ghosts remain, half in your memory and half on your tongue, going ah! that was gooooood. And you know you could never actually afford to buy the stuff, so the ghosts are all you're going to get.
I love free samples.
I did cave in on a $5 winetasting (with tiny-bits-of-food pairings), though, now that I'm old enough. There was a light rose that tasted of raspberry and some other unidentifiable nectar - somewhere between strawberry, honeydew, and apple. There was a thick, dreggy red that tasted strongly like dried fig until paired with tomato sauce, where it blossomed - exploded, really - into a glorious cacaphony like a flower unfolding in your mouth. And then my favorite: a bubbling white with a thin, clear note of orange and honey. I drank all three tiny portions very, very slowly, trying to extract the maximum amount of appreciation possible from each sip. I don't get good stuff like that too often.
I've been experimenting with using a third character as a narrator in the story I'm writing (yes, it's sci-fi, and I keep on restarting - it's not coming out right; the characters in my head are roaming restlessly in the green room, waiting for the right lines to come out). The first character (Emmy) is hyperrational and overanalytical; the second (Paul) deliberately swings between raw extremes, being dangerously impulsive. Neither makes a great narrator (yet). Writing as Emmy feels forced and nitpicks every sentence to death, and Paul splurges through time in a nonsensical babble, leaving you unsure of what the hell just happened.
But a third character who can see and talk about what they see, about the things going on around them that mostly go completely over their head - that could work. Of course, an observer changes what's being observed. Maybe a theatre techie (among other things). Someone who builds temporary worlds for others to inhabit, someone who stands with the script in their hand orchestrating the flight of curtains, a wraith in the dark who makes universes appear and disappear between flips of a switch. Someone who's unextraordinary but smart enough to know it - and also that this means they have the freedom to do and be anything within the ordinary that they wish - they have the luxury of being able to disappear, and so they have the luxury of watching without being watched.
She needs a name. (Suggestions are welcome.)
The harder part is keeping all three characters from becoming narrations of different aspects of myself, because I keep sliding back into my various voices. They need to breathe and stand on their own. Writing is hard. I missed it.
Different topic: I've been hungering more to have fewer interruptions, to have focused time where I'm demanded to learn some difficult technical skill, to have a period of intense study with the word study in italics. This is great. Slowly I'm tuning that part of me back in again. Slowly slowly.
I wonder for what's nearly the first time if working (prrrrobably part-time, since I'd be studying hard) while getting a masters in electrical engineering would be a good intense crunch that I'm ready for now, something that would plunge me into being more able to cut crisply into the world of Making Stuff for a year or two. I'd want to try to finish in a year or two. Then after shooting laserlike into industry/startups for a half-decade or so following that I'd then be more ready to go to graduate school in education or educational sociology or something to study the world of engineering itself (a world I'd then be a much fuller member of) while going on to deeper, more research-oriented graduate work within engineering itself (my infamous dual-PhD plan).
Of course, this could just be my love of school and my inability to not take all the programs of study I've ever wanted to go through. (I'm compromising here, okay? I've already accepted I'll probably never take up library science or an MBA, or get another bachelor's but in fine arts...)
In any case, I can't start to decide for another month minus two days (the not-quite-as-infamous year-off thing), so I'm free to go on whatever flights of fancy I want. I could go back to China, or on to Mexico, or off to California, or stay in Chicago if this summer's office is a rousing success. I know I'm going for my dual doctorate eventually, but what do I do before then, while I'm applying repeatedly over the years until a school accepts me and my half-insane plan (which will get more and more refined with each rejection)?
At some point I'll chip away at more of my romanticized naiveté about graduate school by actually going through it, but right now I'm happy to consciously make wild speculations.
Hey! I've got my brain back! Huzzah for writing. Now if I could just get online to do work...