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Vento's LMS VI Pinboard



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Fri Aug 26, 2022 11:56 pm
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Mageheart says...



I'm not sure if you were actually looking for feedback, but I finally caught up on your LMS thread and really like the second and fourth pitches!
mage

[ she/her, but it's a loose relationship at best ]

roleplaying is my platonic love language.

queer and here.

Magebird --> Mageheart
  





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Sat Aug 27, 2022 9:29 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



yeah, the second and fourth pitches are pretty clever and do a nice job setting up the conflict!
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Sun Aug 28, 2022 1:52 am
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Ventomology says...



San Angelo Notes Pt. 4


Um @Mageheart and @TheSilverFox feedback is always appreciated I love you so much.

--

I... want to talk about restaurants, but I have no idea how to talk about them. They didn't teach us about restaurants in any of my urban theory/planning/whatever pretentious sludge classes in college. Is it not strange that the quality of Chinese food was better and more authentic near the University of Washington than it was in Seattle's Chinatown? (Now the International District. Maybe the name is telling me something.)

I suspect it had something to do with the type of Chinese residents in either location and the rate of building new construction. the UW attract students from China right now and is quickly densifying and opening new locations; Chinatown is a long-standing region full of older immigrants with much slower development. We live in a time now when it is possible to achieve a higher degree of authenticity, while Chinatown formed in a time when access to Chinese ingredients was much harder.

Ngl though, the oldies in SF are still so good. I guess it is like, the biggest Chinatown in the US.

--

San Angelo is, as stated previously, based on the monstrous amalgamation of SF and LA, which indicates incredible size and quality in its Chinatown, as well as a certain level of kitsch.

Francesca is kitty-corner to a Chinese bakery. She has take-out dim-sum for brunch with concerning regularity, yada-yada, we've talked about this before.

But we also know Francesca is not much of a cook, so what is she eating for dinner?

Well, there's a Szechuan (God, what Wade-Giles shit is that. Do people recognize Sichuan? Can I use that?) restaurant on the other end of the block that recently replaced its sign to look less awful. It's still cramped and dumpy on the inside though, like many take-out places in densely urban areas. There's a storefront that serves dumplings and only dumplings another block further.

To the north lies a classic American-style Chinese restaurant with a secret Chinese menu, and three blocks south is a brand-new Taiwanese restaurant trying to get by on bubble tea and mediocre Niu-Rou Mian in a district largely made up of fourth generation mainlanders. Their Lu-Rou Fan is okay in a pinch, especially since it's on the walk home from work.

--

I HAVE NEVER HAD NIU-ROU MIAN BETTER THAN MY MOTHER'S OR MINE. ALL OTHER BEEF NOODLE SOUP IS TRASH. YOU ARE ALL MISSING OUT. Also this is the most Taiwanese thing about me.

Francesca, on the other hand, is a third-generation mainlander whose grandparents immigrated to the US from Henan province during the Great Chinese Famine. And she can actually speak Chinese. Lucky her.

--

The Greater San Angelo region's best Mexican food is found waaaaay out in northern Gigport and far to the east in an agricultural exurb of Belle-Ferre called Santa Carla. I don't actually know where the best Mexican food is in San Francisco; I just know that I never found anything worth while, but every rural place I have lived in has had excellent Mexican food.

--

One fun thing about San Fran was that it is an old enough city to have a few classic diners. They don't quite have the retro vibe, but they do have the grease and the breakfast, which is all you really need. Seattle doesn't have much in that way - most of its breakfast places are a little more modern and pithy (Biscuit Bitch is a cute name, but they really needed more butter). Must be nice to be the first big city on the West coast, eh SF?

--

Dining options near San Angelo City Hall are unusual. Because the buildings are so strictly governmental (and because there's a giant plaza for Tuesday/Saturday farmer's market), most of the lunch rush goes through food trucks. There are a few long-standing blue-plate style restaurants in the outer reaches of the area, and even some fast casual beyond that, but most City Hallers who eat out for lunch pick from the enormous lineup of trucks.

Francesca, all business, picks only from the first row outside her building unless someone else drags her elsewhere. There's a truck offering okay-ish Japanese bento that usually stations itself near the Public Utilities building - they are best eaten at when their daily sushi pairing is vegetarian. There's a Haute Grilled Cheese truck that can be relied upon if the workload the Monday after payday is particularly grueling. In Francesca's rare moments of good fortune, she can pay eight dollars for the only good tacos el pastor in town.

Tuesday market, however, is the best day. In the spring and summer, Francesca doesn't even buy real lunch. Who would, when there are boxes of berries and baskets of apricots to be had? All brought in from less than four hours away. It can be a little pricey, but it's so, so worth it.

--

Okay but seriously SF had the best urban farmer's market I have ever been to. Seattle ain't got nothing.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Sun Aug 28, 2022 2:50 am
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Ventomology says...



Teetle Tattle Tittle Title Ugh


  • Patchwork City
  • City Shuffle
  • The Shifting of San Angelo
  • Rush Hour III: San Angelo
  • The Scrambling of San Angelo
  • City Scramble
  • City Scrambled
  • City Shuffled
  • Please just end me
  • Live in Pieces
  • Why You Should Study Civil Engineering
  • How to Run for Mayor
  • Maybe I should just give up now
  • City Asunder
  • San Angelo Asunder
  • Liberté, Egalité, Utilité
  • Liberty, Equality, Utilities
  • Community, Equality, Utilities
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • City in Pieces
  • The Sundering of San Angelo
  • God, something with wizards
  • The Magical Mixing of San Angelo
  • The Sorcerous Sundering of San Angelo
  • City Wizardry
  • Shitty City
  • City Wizards
  • Shitty Wizards
  • Please send help

Assonance and consonance my loves .

Spoiler! :
Hahaha 'ass'.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Sun Aug 28, 2022 6:30 pm
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TheSilverFox says...



There Are Many Benefits to Being a Marine Biologist Civil Engineer

(I like The Scrambling of San Angelo and Liberté, Egalité, Utilité, but I might be biased about the second one because I've been organizing my coin collection and I have too many french coins)
S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
a persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma per ciò che giammai di questo fondo
non tornò vivo alcun, s'i' odo il vero,
senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

Inferno, Canto 27, l 61-66.
  





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Wed Aug 31, 2022 12:44 am
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Ventomology says...



San Angelo Notes Pt. 5


Does anyone know where to do oversized scanning? Like... 3x4 feet scanning? Asking for me.

--

IT'S PUBLIC FIGURES TIME.

The the last major burb of the San Angelo metropolitan area is Sequoia. This hotbed of film studios and starving actors is conveniently located on the eastern peninsula near Whitby Island, where the hottest stars of the Sequoia movie industry build luxurious hillside mansions. Go just a little more inland and you'll find the theme park district, which sprawls over the low-lying Redwood Valley.

--

Okay but seriously. Scanning. 3x4 feet. I have had the most horrible idea.

--

San Angelo Mayor Lawrence O. LaFleur at one point played the president on TV. He tries his best. He's so handsome it hurts. Francesca is pretty sure he just picks the kindest tweets he can find related to public policy and then copies them without really knowing what they're about, but at least his heart is in the right place.

Hopefully.

--

I called FedEx. ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ It'll cost me, but I think it'll be worth it.

--

It is unclear if the biggest CEOs of Belle-Ferre actually live there or not, but regardless of the answer, their shadows loom large over Fantasy Silicon Valley. Search engine XYZ's figurehead is the ethereally beautiful (and unsettling) Tabitha Quell, whose trademark, unblinking stare has graced the cover of TIME not once, not twice, but thrice. Francesca isn't sure she's even seen the woman blink in film footage.

And god, can we have a conversation about absurd tech CEOs without mentioning Harris Beiberg? Though often called the 'Iceberg' for his famously cold demeanor on camera, the man is known for posting ill-conceived, yet oddly excited, posts on social media. The headquarters of his company, Burgh, are sometimes called his... well. You know. Francesca refuses to use such terminology though, because it would imply that he's well-endowed, even if the term is clearly meant to just be disgusting.

--

Next stop: Blick art supply.

--

Do I have to talk about influencers? I wish I didn't have to. Francesca may not be on much social media, but Timothy certainly is, and he loves to talk about it. Timothy sometimes seems like he wishes he were an influencer. He has the latest top-of-the-line EV out of Edison Co. and styles his hair like a K-pop star, and his posts have immaculate lighting and filtering.

Alas, he will never be as cool as comedian-turned-influencer Thomas Chiang, the OG character of wealthy, ABC himbo-ism that Tim wishes he could embody. And he'll never top Emily Walsh's impeccable beach photos, often taken at massive parties on the Whitby Island shores.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Fri Sep 02, 2022 4:09 am
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Ventomology says...



We're One Long Weekend Away


Image
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Sun Sep 04, 2022 4:17 pm
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Ventomology says...



San Angelo Notes Pt. 6


Image

I could not find a full 3x4 piece of paper. This one is only 33 x 40 inches.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Sun Sep 11, 2022 1:03 am
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Ventomology says...



There are Chapters Now


The Scrambling of San Angelo - 1 - July 27th
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Oct 03, 2022 2:44 am
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Ventomology says...



Just the writing for week 4 bc I'm on travel

It served Francesca’s best interests to completely wipe the hours between midnight and four o’ clock in the morning on Tuesday, September twenty-third from her mind. She had probably sat catatonic on the sidewalk until Tim picked her up and nudged her into his passenger seat. She had probably stared out the window at the skyline as they crossed the wrong bridge into what should have been the city of Gigport, thinking to herself the entire time about how it all sat in the uncanny valley between city-she-loved and freaky-hell-place. She had probably gone to bed without brushing her teeth or changing her clothes, because her mouth felt like goop and she was, unfortunately, wearing a very wrinkled blouse right now. And she had probably hoped to go to bed and wake up and find that none of the nonsense she’d seen last night had been real.
Well. Here she was, with a stinky mouth and a wrinkled blouse and her phone, on the last legs of its charge, held to her ear as her boss panicked from the airport in some European country.
“How early can you make it to the office?” he asked, his deep bass voice quivering in a way it should not have.
Francesca almost said ‘twenty minutes.’ That was her normal walk.
“I just- God, Francesca. I tried calling George, but he and Winona got stuck in Belle-Ferre and had to stay in a hotel because they can’t find their apartments, and I was thinking maybe you would have gotten home”-
“Does anyone even know where our office is anymore?” Francesca interrupted. Her throat hurt, and wow, her breath could kill.
Jon hummed for a moment. “Ah. Maybe? I think some people from maintenance made a list in the city hall forums. Hold on, I’m pulling it up.”
Like a zombie from a grave, Francesca sat up in her bed and scrubbed at her eyes. She yawned, too tired to pay attention to Jon's hemming and hawing.
"Okay, found it. The Department of Public Utilities is at Dock Forty-Seven."
"The aquarium?" Francesca didn't want to think about where the actual aquarium building was. Half the fish were probably dead now. "I think I could get there." Even if she had to walk, she could make it in around two hours. Some people had driving commutes that long.
Jon sighed so loudly the phone turned to static. "Thank god. How soon do you think you can get there?"
"If there's public transit still running, maybe under an hour. I'll see what I can do. Hopefully the building isn’t flooded by now.”
“Forum says it’s clear, and everything is working. Let me know when you make it? My flight leaves in four hours.”
Privately, Francesca wondered if it would be better for Jon to stay on vacation. In Europe, he wouldn’t be dealing with the constant shifting of buildings, or the possibility of his internet and electricity going out due to a utility mismatch. And he’d already paid so much for the trip.
“I’ll let you know,” she promised, dragging herself out of bed and haphazardly shoving the blankets back over the mattress. “Will anyone from the other teams be there?”
“Constance says Xander has been there since two in the morning. His apartment wound up at Dock Fifty-Three. We’ll try to coordinate shifts so you won’t be by yourself when he has to sleep.”
Literally any other electrical engineer would have been better than Xander. But help was help, and Francesca couldn’t complain. “Sounds good,” she said through her teeth. “Have a safe flight.” And then she hung up.
With a long, shuddering groan, Francesca raised her free hand to comb through her hair and consider her plan of action. She could just walk to the docks. She remembered from the drive last night that the Bay Bridge had switched places with the Whitby bridge, and it had large sidewalks on either side for bicyclists. She didn’t relish the idea of a five-am walk a hundred feet over water, but she’d manage if she had to.
She plugged her phone in, just to keep it from death’s grasp, and brushed her teeth, grimacing at the dark circles under her eyes and the waxy, unwashed sheen of her hair. Her bathroom felt lonely at this hour, a single point of bland, white light in a landscape of darkness. Gigport had a late sunrise too; the hills around it kept it dark a good ten minutes later than everywhere else. When Francesca peeked through her curtains to survey the neighborhood, she saw only the barest hint of green light over the hilltops.
She sighed. It was too early to be awake. But hey, given the situation, she could probably show up to work in her pajamas and no one would bat an eye, so that was a plus. No time spent putting on mascara, no coordinating her blouse and pants. With sluggish glee, she tied her hair back with the same giant, plastic clip she used when cleaning the apartment and tugged on the first shirt and pair of pants in her dresser. She threw her bag together and opened the train website just as she shut the door to her apartment.
The San Angelo Commuter, unfortunately nicknamed ‘The SAC,’ or even ‘The Ballsack’ by those less subtle, had a thick, red banner across the top of their website. Francesca had seen the banner once before, when a fire took out one of the line’s power feed, and she thanked whatever wonderful person had updated the website when this disaster struck.
“All lines are running,” she read aloud, half-mumbling. “Please check line maps for station updates.”
Francesca tapped her way to the line maps, not paying particular attention as her feet carried her down the echo-ey concrete stairs of her building and onto the street. She walked on instinct, free hand half into her purse to grab her wallet, when the page for the lines loaded, and she looked up to see, not A-yi’s bakery, but a prairie-style suburban house with an emerald lawn and postage-stamp bushes. The whole block across from her building was just single-story house after single-story house. They even had mailboxes at the sidewalk, painted in firetruck reds and pristine whites.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Oct 10, 2022 3:41 am
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Ventomology says...



God this needs so much editing I hate travel anyway picking up from where I left off...


And it wasn’t like she hadn’t known it was there. It wasn’t like A-yi’s bakery was in any better shape, either. But seeing something she wasn’t used to had Francesca startled. She stopped in the middle of the street for a moment, something she hadn’t done since her first day of work, when she had second-guessed her decision to buy a pastry before work. Then she sighed, thankful no cars had been around, and kept going.
The train maps finally loaded, and Francesca kept one eye on the ground in front of her as she scrolled through the files. The hulking regional loop that crawled its way around the entire San Angelo bay, marked on its map in neon orange, had a station closure in the heart of the downtown financial district, but had escaped largely unscathed. The north-south line between Gigport and San Angelo proper, on the other hand, was littered with bright-green call-outs marking closed stations.
Francesca wondered what buildings were now on top of all those underground entrances. She wondered what had happened to all the above-ground rail. What had happened in those peculiar places where trains chugged out from the hidden tunnels below San Angelo’s hilly landscape?
She checked the station that should be closest to her and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw it free of any notes. She’d make it to the office by five. And then, as she watched a block of tidy suburban houses pass by on her left, she felt a squelch under her shoes and immediately winced. Francesca peered down. Oozing out from under her sneakers was a pile of gut-turning brown gunk.
“Oh no,” she groaned. She glanced at the postage-stamp lawns and perfect row of red mailboxes lining the street, then at the criss-cross of human waste all across the once-pristine sidewalk. Across the street stood a crumbling brick building smothered in spray paint, with ‘condemned’ in fat, red letters on a sign in every window. Or, well, in every window that wasn’t boarded up. The homeowner’s associations were going to be apoplectic.
Trying not to step in anything icky, Francesca picked her way over the sidewalk, marveling at the mosaic of different buildings on her way to the train station. She saw a superstore that probably came from the suburbs, complete with a mostly-empty parking lot of lost patrons and their cars. The parking structure from the University of San Angelo medical school sat heavy and brutal in another block.
The train station, she found, sat under a generic-looking apartment building that had graciously opened its lobby so commuters could use the stopped escalators that now cut through its floor. Francesca could not help it when she walked, not to the escalators, but to the edge of the opening itself.
Ignoring the angry voice inside that lamented the drainage situation-no curb or lip sat at the edge of the hole to prevent water falling inside-she knelt to examine the construction.
There was no construction really, though. In a well-designed floor opening, there would be a cover on the cut edge, something to disguise the place where all the uneven materials met. There would be guardrails too, but all that sat between a person and a twenty-foot drop here was a line of cones with bars between them. Here, it looked as though some force had simply sawed a hole into the floor, leaving an uncannily smooth cut behind.
Frowning, Francesca glanced around to see if anyone was watching her, but only a few commuters walked by, all of them too caught in the hurry and panic and weariness of an unfamiliar early-morning commute. The building’s security guard stood in the doorway scrolling through his phone, oblivious except for the occasional check for homeless people trying to come inside. Confident no one would notice, Francesca tapped her glasses, reached under the makeshift barrier, and stuck her head over the edge of the opening.
The light of aether glittered to life in front of her. It swirled about, golden and sparse, not particularly concentrated in one place or another. Even in the places where some kind of magic should have been at work, Francesca saw nothing but the eddies of background aether, slightly dimmer than usual.
Biting her lip, she tapped her glasses off. There had been nothing. No conduit circle, no residue, no sign of any great magic except a slight reduction in the ambient aether levels. Well, it didn’t matter. Francesca was no wizard or aether-loved. It wasn’t her job to solve this problem. She carefully pried herself out from under the barrier and straightened out her clothes, noticing as she did that she’d slid her shirt on backwards. Xander was going to make fun of her for weeks.
Whatever. Francesca had better things to worry about than stupid Xander making fun of her. He’d woken up two blocks from work. She had to travel a city she barely recognized any more. Any issue with her appearance was well-warranted. Huffing, she descended the escalator and scurried to the train platform, taking note that the station’s underground portion looked as it always had. It glowed with the same queasy yellow lights and dripped with the same untraceable dampness. Its concrete columns had the same painted icons it always had, with the same station name as the one that had been here for four decades.
An LED sign with scrolling text told her, in broken letters, that the next train would come in five minutes, so Francesca opened up her phone again and pulled the maps back up. She squinted at the tiny text, looking for patterns in the descriptions of the closed stations. One was flooded and currently under the aquarium. Several lay beneath single-family homes. One more had, somehow, found itself below a transformer station, and the voltage of the nearby power lines was so high it would be dangerous to allow anyone through the entrance, even if it was otherwise fine.
In no cases had a line needed to shut down because some building foundation was suddenly in the way, or because the rails themselves had been shuffled. Hell, even the above-ground sections seemed to be mostly working, though the lines were delayed for additional curves. It made no damn sense though. Francesca felt her brow furrowing at the sheer lack of rules surrounding what changed and how.
The rumble of the train echoed down the tunnel, sending a blast of cold wind into the platform, and Francesca reached up belatedly to keep her hair from tangling too badly. Her brain itched, but she shoved the feeling down. She’d have enough to deal with at work. She didn’t have time to think about the magic.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Sun Oct 16, 2022 11:40 pm
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Ventomology says...



It's been a week and I'm still tired


Xander Montavon stood in the break room, butt parked in front of the cofee machine, in his shiny oxfords and just-barely-rumpled slacks, and the mere sight of him made Francesca seethe. It wasn’t fair that anyone could be presentable at five in the morning.
He turned at the sound of her footsteps on the linoleum wood floor, quirking one stupid, blonde eyebrow at her. “Fang. Good morning. I thought you’d come in looking a little less… you know.”
“Be glad I came in at all,” she grumbled. So what if she had jeans on? At least she wasn’t in sweatpants or leggings. And yeah, she’d foregone styling her hair. It didn’t matter, since this was an emergency. “I had to take a train.”
“Oh please,” Xander said, pulling his full tumbler of coffee from the machine and waving it about. “I take the train every day.”
“Uh, not today you didn’t.”
“Nevertheless,” Xander replied, sloshing his coffee once more. “I used to ride the train every day.”
Big deal. Lots of people rode the train every day. But Francesca didn’t, and she felt perfectly justified coming to work dressed down when she had to be here at five in the morning after an unexpected commute. Ignoring Xander as he enthused about public image, she found a cup and filled it with hot water, then dropped two teabags in it.
“I don’t know how you drink that stuff,” Xander said, sniffling at the bitter, herbal smell.
“I don’t know how you drink motor oil,” Francesca spat back. “Swing by my office if you need anything. I’m getting to work.”
“Fine.” Xander peeled himself off the counter and stalked toward the other end of the break room. “I was just about to get back myself.”
“Fine.”
Xander said something else after that, but Francesca let it go. He just always had to have the last word, and Francesca didn’t care. She didn’t. Stomping through the halls to her office, Francesca considered her to-do list. Whatever she’d written down was probably no longer applicable, and - oh, if George wasn’t here today, she’d have to disable her hex first thing. She sipped her tea, wincing at the scald of hot water on her tongue, and barged through her office door.
Too quickly, she had disabled her hex on the office phone and drained her tea. When Francesca looked at the clock again, the time was only five-thirty, and the sun was still low and weak outside. Her office window, which normally opened over a quiet, cobble-lined street with another government building across the way, now faced a wood plank dock over the open water of the bay, dark and dank in the shadow of the utilities department.
With a sigh, she clicked open an email from the day before regarding a request for a street closure for utility upgrades. She skimmed through the short message and was about to open the attachments when her phone rang.
Francesca almost leaped out of her seat. When was the last time she’d actually heard her phone ring? It didn’t even sound the way she remembered. Groaning, she picked up the receiver and held it to her ear.
“Francesca Fang, San Angelo Department of Public Utilities. Who’s speaking?”
“Oh thank god you finally picked up,” breathed the voice on the other end of the line. “I kept getting this runaround to someone else.”
Oops. Well, sue Francesca for not having the foresight to disable her hexes before all this mess. “May I ask who’s speaking?” she repeated.
“Right! Right. Um, this is Irina Wilde, from the Presidio Hospital group. I spoke with your electrical team earlier, but well. They could only do so much.”
Francesca had a strong suspicion she could only do so much as well. Outdoing Xander would be kind of nice though. “Alright. So, what’s the issue?”
“Well, luckily every building has its own backup generators, so we’re just coordinating fuel delivery on our own, but the water…”
Yeah, that might be a problem. If the city had passed its greywater initiatives ten years ago, it might be less of a problem, but what could Francesca could about city policy? She hadn’t even been able to vote ten years ago. “The water?” she prompted.
Irina, in her soft, whispery voice, let out a sheepish laugh. “You see, we’re having water pressure issues at the four buildings that got moved out to Cathedral Valley.” And so was everyone else. Welcome to the club.
Then Francesca chided herself for being so mean. This was a hospital. She wasn’t sure which part of the hospital, but even the non-emergency parts would need working water.
“We can’t get tap water above the fifth floor,” Irina explained, “and the plumbing is backed up in our basement.”
“Can you get me the street and block number for your current location?” Francesca asked, pulling up the city zoning map. Irina had mentioned Cathedral Valley, so she navigated there first. The map lit up with blocks of orange and yellow, zoned for low-population commercial buildings and three-to-five story apartment buildings. The topography overlay showed a severe dip into the valley, and Francesca could see from memory yet another overlay of the city’s underground storm sewers pouring into the area. Why anyone would build churches there, she didn’t understand.
“It looks like we’re on the eighteen-hundred block of Canyon Boulevard?”
Francesca scrolled the wheel on her mouse, hunting for the right block. “Looks like you’re sitting on a block that used to have two churches and two apartment complexes. I can’t help with the water pressure–you’ll just have to move things–but the back-up might be manageable.”
“Oh! Great. Anything will help. I guess we’ll just have to get bottled water.”
Having greywater conservation requirements would help too, but Francesca kept that to herself. “The storm sewage in your area is suited for a very heavy load,” she explained. “It has to be, at the bottom of all those hills. If you can pump your back-up into the storm drains, you should be able to manage it. Presidio is a pretty big campus–do you have some contractors you can call up?”
“Yes! Um, if you don’t mind though, can we get some instructions in writing? Just in case.”
Francesca could read between the lines. The hospital wanted someone to blame if this didn’t work out. She pulled the receiver away and grumbled to herself about how everyone wanted to cover their own butts, even in emergencies, and then asked the woman for her email address.
Irina read off a couple different emails, and somewhere in the middle of it all, Francesca heard the beep of another incoming call. Whatever, if it was important, they’d keep calling. She sent off her email and bid Irina a good day, and then fell back into her chair, one eye half-open to look at the time. It wasn’t even six yet.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Oct 24, 2022 3:35 am
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Ventomology says...



When will my publishing schedule return from the war?


Then her phone rang, reminding Francesca of the call she’d put on hold.
“Ugh.” Taking this next call might as well have been one of Hercules’s seven labors. With every ounce of customer service cheer she could muster, she answered. “Francesca Fang, San Angelo Department of”-
“Do you know how long I’ve been on hold?”
Francesca gulped down whatever noise she’d been about to make and ripped the receiver from her ear. The tinny, screechy voice kept on, loud even an arm’s length away. “I have been calling since five, and when I finally get redirected to a real person, I have to sit on hold for ten minutes.”
Slowly, Francesca brought the phone back to her ear, only to flinch away from it again.
“This is unacceptable! There is an emergency! What if someone’s life was in danger?”
Then she should call an emergency line. Francesca wasn’t even sure how this person had gotten to her through the phone tree. Utility lookup calls usually went to an automated system that eventually put a notice in her inbox. The only reason the hospital could call directly was because they were a hospital.
“Um,” she tried. She reached for a pen, just to keep her hands occupied.
“I can’t believe city hall is so incompetent and understaffed. What do we even pay taxes for?”
Francesca did not mention that, if the citizenry paid less taxes, then city hall would be even more understaffed. “Ma’am,” she tried once more. “Can you please tell me what you’re calling for?”
“Isn’t it obvious? The whole city has moved!”
Yeah, obviously. But Francesca wasn’t going to solve that problem. “Yes, ma’am, that is true. However, if you don’t have a specific water or sewage issue then I would suggest”-
“It is a water problem,” the woman insisted. “My tap water is discolored.”
Oh, well. That really was a problem for Francesca. Feeling silly, she tempered her own sense of antagonism and fidgeted with her computer mouse. “Alright, let’s look into this. Can you tell me what your current address is?”
The woman rattled off a street name and number somewhere in First Hill, and Francesca frowned. If there were water problems in First Hill, then maybe there were parts of the underground utility system that had been shuffled. Maybe the water treatment plant had a problem? This might take more than a few suggestions on a phone call. “Uh, well, I’m going to have to look further into this,” she said, bracing herself.
“Ugh! What kind of”-
“Ma’am,” Francesca interrupted, “we can have someone out to test your water today. Let me just get it in the system. In the meantime”-
“When today? How long will it take for them to get here? Because wherever I am, it’s not First Hill. You know, where I’m supposed to be.”
Logically, Francesca knew she could not feel her blood pressure rising. But she could hear her heart in her head, could feel the surge of blood tensing her fingers and heating her face. “Ma’am,” she said. And wow, her voice was shaking. Excellent. “Where in the San Angelo metropolitan area is your house right now?”
There was a long moment, during which the woman on the phone muttered and mumbled and maybe typed something on her phone. Then, finally, she came back. “I’m in New Valle,” she spat out.
New Valle sat somewhere south of South San Angelo. It wasn’t part of the incorporated city of San Angelo. “You’re going to have to call someone at New Valle’s city hall,” Francesca explained. “I don’t have any kind of jurisdiction”-
The woman hung up. She didn’t even give a warning, or a sound of discontent. Francesca stared blankly at the phone her hand and just thanked her lucky stars the woman hadn’t started yelling again.
Then her phone rang again.

--

Francesca dragged herself home at four in the evening, somewhere near the beginning of what would soon be a deluge of bewildered commuters. Her stomach complained the whole way, angry that she’d missed breakfast, angry that she’d eaten some gross, tasteless salad at lunch, angry that she’d messed up her daily schedule. She wanted something familiar for dinner, like spicy mapo dofu or literally any noodle soup.
But she hadn’t seen hide or hair of a decent Chinese restaurant since last night. She’d seen a lot of tacquerias, and a sushi place, and even a motley collection of fast food chains that probably were supposed to be part of a shopping mall, but no Chinese. There wasn’t even American Chinese food on her commute today. She couldn’t even find orange chicken.
Feeling desperate, she pulled out her phone on the train and texted Tim. He had a car. Maybe they could find Chinese food together.
She waited, eyes glued to the screen, as the train clunked to a stop at the University of California Gigport station, and kept staring when the typing bubbles appeared. She stared so hard she didn’t notice the person sitting next to her, or the announcement that the doors were closing and to please hold on. She stared as the train jolted to life, and she bumped right into her seatmate, phone slipping from her hands to clatter on the plastic floor.
Francesca scrambled for the phone. “Oh gosh,” she said, “sorry, sorry.” Thank god for phone cases.
As her fingers brushed the case, the person next to her leaned forward as well, and their hand hovered a scant few inches from Francesca’s, like they’d reached out too. She turned to look at them and promptly forgot to sit back down.
He? She? They? Francesca couldn’t tell. She wasn’t sure it mattered. They were irrefutably beautiful, by any standard, any set of requirements. Francesca’s seat mate had the most luxurious black hair she’d ever seen, resplendent with wide waves that shone even under the soulless white lights inside the train. They had perfect, tan skin and a perfect, straight nose, and they smiled with the most perfect, white teeth she had ever seen in a mouth.
Okay, that sounded weird. But nice teeth were important.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Oct 31, 2022 4:58 am
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Ventomology says...



“Hey, no worries,” they said. And holy cow, they had dimples. Perfect dimples, symmetrically placed on either side of the face. Wow.
Francesca dropped her phone again. Her hands were so sweaty. Gosh, she hadn't been like this since college. The phone clattered along the floor, and Francesca felt her whole body go red with embarrassment. It was fine though. Everyone in the whole city was doing funky things with their schedule and commute today, and she'd probably never see this mysterious Hot Person ever again. She'd go back to her routine and admire Tim every Sunday at brunch, and it would be fine.
"Having a rough day?" Mysterious Person asked. They'd shifted over in the seat to give Francesca more room. Francesca didn't think about it. She sat as far away as possible and shoved her phone somewhere where she couldn't drop it.
"Isn't everyone?" she replied. "I think I used up all my train fare today." She should have just left it at the first part. Strangers didn't need to know about Francesca's life.
Hot Stranger laughed, their voice in that very cool middle zone where it sounded deep and high and lovely all at once. "Ouch. Long commute?"
"Long for me," Francesca sighed. "Usually I walk. What about you?"
"Not too different from usual, I guess? But it's weird. I'm so used to just staying on the orange line, and I almost got lost trying to find the stop out of downtown."
Ten of the fifteen lines around the San Angelo Bay connected in downtown San Angelo. Even the locals got lost sometimes, and that was when all the buildings were in the right place.
An automated voice called out the next station, and Francesca twiddled her thumbs. When was the last time she'd spoken to someone new who wasn't a restaurant worker? She thought back through her weekly routine and realized that the last time she'd done more than order food from a stranger had been at the Silver Sea, almost two months ago. And she'd only talked to those strangers because there'd been an emergency.
Well, going by that standard, this was also a kind of emergency.
The train clunked to a stop, and Francesca braced herself on a handrail to keep from sliding into her seatmate. Obviously the conversation was done now. They would never see each other again. Her hands drifted to the pocket where she'd stashed her phone before she even thought about it.
"Um!" Hot Seatmate said, very suddenly. A passing commuter shot them a raised eyebrow. Francesca wondered if she could walk from this station to her apartment complex.
"What's your stop?" they asked.
And god, Francesca could not ignore them. Their eyebrows furrowed, and the corners of their lips pulled in, and their eyes widened until they glittered with wet, horrible hope. Or maybe that was just the flickering of the station lights.
“I get off at the Porter Street station,” she admitted.
Immediately, the stranger’s face brightened. “Oh! My family’s taqueria is a few blocks from there now! You should come. I’ll give you a discount.”
“Oh, no that’s fine,” Francesca tried to say, but the stranger had brought back the hopeful puppy-dog look, and she was as much as sucker for strangers as she was for Tim, and already her stomach was changing focus. She could forgo the comforts of Chinese food for discounted tacos. The inside of her mouth tasted like cumin and chili peppers and dripping pork fat, anticipating the meal to come.
“I insist,” the stranger said, dimples accenting the ends of their smile. “And besides, if the store is going to be somewhere else now, it’s good business to know the people in the area.”
Francesca suspected they had no trouble attracting business with that face at the counter. “Um. Okay then,” she managed to say.
They disembarked together a few stations later, and Francesca trailed after her stranger as they led her exactly on the route to her apartment. They passed the same row of out-of-place suburban homes, the same broken-out piece of shopping mall, and the same trails of human waste that had been there this morning. In the light of day, without the dim glow of sunrise, the amalgamation seemed even stranger. A man in a button-down shirt and clean khakis stood on his lawn examining the leftover hints of a homeless presence, and Francesca wondered if the city planning department had received calls like hers earlier today.
Well, no. It had probably been the police.
They made it almost all the way to Francesca’s apartment complex, and the stranger led her right up to the taqueria. It was the same one she’d been bitter about, when her stomach grumbled for lack of taro pastries. She bit her lip, feeling needlessly guilty. The stranger never had to know she’d thought ill of their family’s shop. This was silly. She just had to enjoy a few tacos now, and probably be a regular until she moved closer to work.
The stranger beamed at her, bright as the afternoon sun, and gestured at the brick walls and old, but looked-after sign over the door. “Here we are. What’s your favorite? Chicken? Beef? We do the special ones too, you know.” They gestured at the big, white-board menu over the counter as Francesca stepped through the door. Even if there were ‘special ones’ up there, she wouldn’t recognize them. She didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, aside from ‘gracias’ and ‘por favor’.
She looked somewhat helplessly at her stranger, before noticing the smell.
Francesca might never find the richness of peppers and fat and corn flour as comforting as she did steamed buns and scallions, but she could taste the appeal. The scent of the food here sat on her tongue, teasing her, wooing her, urging her eyes to scan over words she didn’t recognize, in handwriting she could barely read.
“Do you like pineapple? We have el pastor. That’s always a favorite.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Nov 07, 2022 3:42 am
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Ventomology says...



I swear I'll publish again I really swear it


“Uh.” Francesca eyed the expanse of writing in front of her. “Surprise me?”
The stranger’s eyes gleamed. “Oh my gosh. Okay. You’re going to love this.” They patted Francesca on the shoulder and raced past the service counter, stopping only to jump for joy and spin an older coworker into some complicated Simply Come Dancing dip.
That same coworker caught Francesca’s gaze and laughed. “I see Alex is already trying to catch new people. You don’t have to humor them if you don’t want to.”
“No, it’s fine,” Francesca said. She looked around again, taking in the decor. It was different from the restaurants in Chinatown. The century of history there, of complex legal and architectural ploys enacted to make sure people didn’t have to move out of the neighborhood, had resulted in deliberately stylized furnishings and buildings. Everything in Chinatown said ‘Chinese’ all over, in lucky red paint and delicate wood carvings.
This restaurant didn’t have that. The walls were plain white. The tables had checkered, waxed table clothes that made Francesca think of picnics in the park. It was so generic. Only the smell and the language and the soft Latin music floating through the speakers indicated that this was a Mexican restaurant.
Then again, most new Chinese restaurants followed the same path as well. Not everyone had the luxury of setting themselves up in a seventy-year-old building complete with cultural markings.
She sat at one of the tables and fiddled with the tablecloth, shifting it this way and that until every corner had the exact same length of drape, and the checkered lines were perfectly plumb to the edges of the table. She prodded the vase of flowers until it sat exactly in the center of the table, exactly over a white checker box, and then rearranged the daisies in the vase until they sprouted to her satisfaction.
“Order up,” she heard her stranger–Alex–say. And then came the quiet, caressing thunk of a plastic tray on the table. She heard wax paper wrinkle as Alex pulled their hand away, and she watched as they fidgeted, as they watched her, waiting for her judgement.
Francesca scooped out a taco, wondering idly if Alex had decided to feed her liver or tongue, and took a bite.
She loved it immediately. No, it wouldn’t ever beat the experience of slurping broth out of a pork dumpling. No, it wasn’t the comfort of hand torn noodles from her mother’s kitchen. But she could taste that this was someone’s comfort. The meat melted on her tongue, dissolving into fat and spice, and the crunch of onions echoed in her skull. Every spice was somehow separate and combined, the result of decades of trying to live up to the nostalgia of the generation prior. Francesca knew this depth, if only in a different profile.
She licked her lips and swallowed. “This is amazing,” she breathed, and wow, she was not prepared for the smile that grew across Alex’s face in response. “I guess I’ll have to come in here regularly, now that you’re across the street.”
Alex leaned forward, excitement dancing in their eyes. Francesca noticed a streak of red-tinged grease splashed across their jawline. “Oh my gosh, really? You’re across the street? We should exchange phone numbers. I’d be so psyched to have a friend in the area.”
“Oh! Uh, sure.” Francesca couldn’t say no. And, honestly, she wanted to have a friend here too.

---

Francesca’s phone buzzed on her night stand, rattling her brain out of a pleasant dream about xiao long bao and shoving her right off a cliff into the waking world. She groaned, rubbing her eyes, and fumbled with her phone until she managed to pick up the call.
“Hello?” she croaked.
“Oh, good.” It was Jon. Already feeling the headache coming on, Francesca pulled the phone from her ear to check the time. “You picked up. How soon do you think you can get to the office?”
She almost said twenty minutes. Again. But yesterday’s commute had taken almost an hour. Her phone screen blinked a dreary one-o-five. Yikes. “Two?” she suggested. “Maybe two fifteen? I have to get ready and stuff. Actually. I don’t even know if the trains are running right now.”
Jon sighed, and Francesca could hear his blood pressure rising. Her own blood felt like it was about to burst from her veins like a great, sluggish monster.
“Actually, I didn’t wake you up, did I?”
Francesca felt her entire bloodstream convalesce into a raging beast. “I went into work at five. Yes, you woke me up.” Somehow, she said this with a straight face. Jon had cut his vacation short to come back and deal with this emergency. She could give him some grace.
“Ah. Well, um. Why don’t you take a minute to check your GPS first?”
Francesca hadn’t thought it possible to be both so tired and so incensed. Instead of getting up, she collapsed back into her mattress and pulled the covers over her shoulders. She was cold. Her heater had somehow turned off in the night.
Her eyes wandered as she pulled up her GPS, and she noticed her phone wasn’t charging either. She didn’t even bother reaching over to check if her lamp would turn on.
Her GPS pin dropped all the way in Whitby Island. The whole city was single-family. Of course she didn’t have power. And since Whitby was made for people rich enough to have cars in the middle of San Angelo Bay, she’d have a hell of a time getting to the office. Wherever it was now.
This time, she sighed. “Well, Jon. Is the office anywhere near Whitby?”
Her boss’s tinny voice grumbled. “Shoot. No. It’s way down in South San Angelo. Stupid, right? Our own city services aren’t even headquartered in the right municipality anymore. Did you maybe take your laptop home?”
Francesca never took her laptop home. Work belonged at work, and home belonged at home. “You know my policy on that,” she replied. “Also, my building doesn’t have power right now.”
“Geez, for real? Ugh, is there even anything I can put you on like that? Let me think.”
Francesca had an idea, but she wasn’t going to suggest it. She wasn’t a wizard. She didn’t want to get involved in all the magical hubbub around this shifting business. Bracing herself for Jon’s suggestion, she curled tighter under the blankets and prayed he wouldn’t remember her wizardry experience.
“You took a few wizardry classes in college, right?”
Well, he did remember. “Yes,” Francesca said.
“I know you’re not actually a wizard, but I’m sure you have a few contacts, right? See if there’s any research you can do on the situation.”
Francesca almost said yes. “Does City Hall not have anyone working on this specifically? I thought they would have started looking for a few wizards and sorcerors to help yesterday.”
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  








A memorandum isn't written to inform the receiver, but to protect the writer.
— Dean Acheson