Back Bay, I.1

I. Daylight: Serena and Deliverance

Wee hours of the morning, rain pelting. My feet, bare and bloody on the gravel at the side of the road. I'm wearing the sodden, matted bathrobe and flimsy pajamas I'd walked out in, because I don't have real clothes anymore. Or, if I do, I don't know where to find them. The pale of the moon glows beyond the rain. Trees overgrow the narrow old road, mostly pine, some maple. I smell pitch in the darkness.

I don't know where I am.creepy dark road

"Charlie," I begin, out loud, because who is going to tell me to shut up here? I wrap my thin arms around my thinner garments and squeeze. "Charlie, what now? I did everything you said and it worked, just like you said. But what now? What do I do now?"

The night answers me with rain.

Maybe if I listen just right, I'll hear Charlie's voice in the wet splats of the drops on the leaves of the trees. Or maybe I'm having a lucid moment, in which case I won't hear Charlie at all.

"C'mon, answer me Charlie! It's only been a few days since you died, you can't have moved on already!" I'm surprised by the angry edge to my voice.

Splat, splat, splat goes the rain.

I'm cold enough that the drops hurt where they fall on my hands and face. Not on my feet though, my feet are numb and I'm scared to look down. I must've run miles in my skin, miles over grass and gravel and pavement and things I don't recall.

I shiver into the rain. Despite the cold and the dark, I'm more clear-headed than I have been since childhood. And that scares me more than anything else.

The moon-glow brightens, slipping its way down the sky suddenly fast. I pinch myself to find out if I'm awake or in a nightmare. I feel the pinch all right, but the moon splits in two anyway. Two moons now come at me very fast, very bright, so bright they are turning into suns. Two suns and--

"Charlie! Charlie's that's a car!" I stick my thumb out so fast I don't know I've done it till the car slides to a stop and the passenger's door swings wide.

creepy forest, bright yellow taxi, woman hailing itTurns out it's not a car--it's a taxi. A bright yellow taxi, with a bent front fender and a big wide front seat. I can't see the driver but right now I don't care. Even if it's a homicidal axe-wielding maniac, that's got to give me better odds than staying where I am. "Charlie keep me safe," I mutter, as though she can protect me, as though she is even real, and I duck my head in.

Inside the cab is warm and dry. I'm icy and wet and the heat hurts at first and I'm glad it's not January or I'd have hypothermia. Not that it would be raining in January. Here in Maine the snow lies thicker than the crust of the Earth in winter.

The driver is older than me, but not too old, probably in her 30's. Her thick, wiry hair is worked up into a bun on the top of her head, away from a face both pretty and weary. Her skin is the color of strong chai tea--she even has nutmeg freckles--and her brown eyes are the color of kindness. I spread my own icy shaking hands out across my lap, the frozen white of the dead.

"Funny place to wait for a taxi," the driver smiles at me. She's got no make-up, no jewels, no frills.

My heart sinks. "I got no way to pay." My teeth chatter as I say it.

The driver shrugs shoulders padded by a thick, dark, wool sweater. Can't tell the color in the bad light. "I'm not on duty yet," she smiles in a way that makes me have to smile back. "Even cabbies have to drive in to work, you know."

She takes off and we drive for a long time before I'm warm enough to say, "I'm Serena."

She nods her head, pleased. "Deliverance," she says, "Deliverance Brown. And before you laugh, my momma gave me that name, fair and square!" Then she looks at me and laughs.

"Where are you--"

"To Portland."

"Where are we--"

"About 20 miles northwest of the city, driving down the old Grey Road."

Thank you, Charlie. I sink into the warm seat and close my eyes. Behind the lids, big men reach for me, hands hard on my wrists and ankles, grinding bone. Their dead-fish gaze drinks me in as I scream and fail to get away.

Annoyed, I open my eyes and focus on the pavement going by instead.

Deliverance makes complex shapes in my heart: warmth and safety, pain and anger. Something broken, someone who fixes.

"I'm gonna find out, Charlie," I take care not to talk to her out loud this time, I just do it in my head. "I'm gonna get to Portland and I'm gonna find out who killed you."

I'm afraid again. I want to turn the cab around, run back time. But I'm not the one in control of the wheel.

Deliverance turns her warmth on me, and her smiles, and her kindness, and says, "Serena Lynn Penny, that's your full name, right?"

I can't breathe, for the racing of my heart. Maybe there really are worse things than the place I just left.

"Funny thing meeting you here," the driver's eyes are back on the road, one hand lightly on the wheel. "I had this passenger a few days ago, told me you'd be out here. Told me to pick you up and take you to 315 Grant Street, tell you apartment 2A. You know anything about that? Know anyone in apartment 2A?"

Fear becomes hope so fast I wonder if they're the same feeling. "What'd your passenger look like?" I squeak out with someone else's voice.

"Woman. Tall, thin, redhead. Real green eyes. Soft voice."

Charlie! She just described Charlie!

But no, that can't be. I'm not lucid after all.

I huddle back in the seat, nursing my thumping heart.

A long time later the sky reddens along the horizon of the road. There have been more houses, and more often. The red light is different from dawn.

"That's Portland," Deliverance points. "We're almost there."two women in a cab

I swallow, glad of the thinness of my robe and PJs now, glad because the heater in the cab has dried them. My feet throb and I don't look forward to standing up.

"My passenger, the red head?" Deliverance says causally, eyes still on the road. "She told me to get you in safe. Told me you were gonna save the world."

next to installment I.2 →

Story Time!

I'm going to start posting experimental short serial fiction. Because I need another thing to do, right? Really, it's a writing-chops-practice-thing. Some Facts:

  • 6 characters, 6 short stories, 1 larger arc

  • each short told in installments of no > 2000 words (shooting for ~1000)

  • 1st person, present tense

  • illustrations included

  • no writing ahead, no editing behind

  • no other rules!


The Death and Life of Paper

sketch of a small woman reaching up and a huge woman with a trident reaching down against the backdrop of abstract building-shapes
Unless it's for fine arts, I have a hatred of paper. It's unsortable, loseable, destructible--entirely untenable. Over time, I've phased paper out of my life; I've scanned it, transcribed it, swapped it for white boards, and even photographed it so I don't have to bring it home. Yet I've kept a notepad nearby because no matter how many alternatives to paper emerge, I'd yet to find something for sketching and scribbling hasty notes. Switching between keyboard and tablet is too awkward, typing on iPad is too slow, and for someone used to sophisticated control of her drawing media the fixed-width lines available on touch screen apps are frustrating at best (not even getting into the awfulness of the UI design).

Enter: Paper by FiftyThree + Bamboo stylus + iPad. Which is what the drawing included with this post was created with. The most exciting part of the Paper app is that its drawing tools create variable-width marks, just like drawing tools on physical paper, which makes for a full range of mark-making expressiveness. Unlike physical drawing tools, that variation is created by speed of pen (or finger) rather than pressure on its tip, but it didn't take long for my hand to adapt. Plus the UI is designed to emulate actual drawing and doesn't get in the way of the tool and color switching. The only thing I wish is for more color palettes.

Will this replace the notepad at my side, the physical sketchbooks where I still draw feedback loops and engineering diagrams and pseudo-code and maps and characters and bits of plot? Too early to tell, but it's definitely got more potential than anything I've tried before.

Image: Digital drawing, Paper by 53 + Wacom Bamboo on iPad. Testing the capabilities of the technology for mark-making and color-blending.

Hipstamatic Tram Stop

tram stop top of marquam hillPlaying with the hipstamatic which simulates a badly behaved analogue camera and poorly developed film. While the irony of telling a $600 digital smart phone to act like a $10 disposable from the 70's isn't lost on me, there's a quirky, uncontrollable, unpredictable monster in pre-digital photography that I quite miss. That monster has equal potential for creating an accidental masterpiece or an utter disaster. Only now, I don't need to spend money on film and developing to find out which I've captured.

This photo is from the tram stop at the top of Marquam Hill (OHSU campus).

Or, alternately, this photo is from another planet (an option which doesn't entirely rule out the OHSU campus).

You decide.

iPhone Hipstamatic, John S Lens, Blanko Film, no flash

Writing Group?

A-hoy my writerly friends!

Are any of you currently doing a regular writing group? If so, could a friend of mine and I join in?

If not, anyone interested in doing a regular writing group (organization on me)?

Either in person at my house or in email or both?

I know that these things happen on-and-off, just wondering if it's an on time, and if not, whether it should be. (I'm a little out of touch so forgive my not-knowing.)

Interest, takers, info? Fiction / non-fiction / anything?

Old Tales and Curious Drawings

I'm in this weird sudden space of renewed interest in fiction writing after over 5 years with zero interest. That sort of thing has happened before but typically not for quite so long a stretch (although this time there were "circumstances"). Some of my Interests are cyclical, not constant.


Anyway I was poking through old stuff I'd written and came upon this ancient, unfinished project that I started like, no joke, 15 years ago. It's a collection of short, surreal stories on themes of transformation that take place on a parallel version of this island I used to live on.


I don't really know if the stories are any good--I haven't reread any of them because I was more intent on re-familarizing myself with the cyberpunk world of Liminal (a project I actually did finish, and on re-read 5 years later still feel is pretty damn good). But I did create these curious pencil drawings to go along with the island stories.


These drawings are pretty strange to me because they represent a super-precise hyper-realistic style that I've not really worked with since, oh, maybe '98 or so. All of my more recent work (back when I was able to do any of it) was all in the direction of the collage painting wackiness, some of it dangerously bordering on (shhh, don't tell!) abstraction.


I look at these weird drawings and wonder if I'll ever do anything like them again. I could, but will I? Do I still have that in me, or has my own Muse moved on?



Survey to Assess Needs for Improved Course Designs

I am posting this study information for a colleague. If you have been diagnosed with an ASD, and have not taken the survey yet, you may find it fun / interesting, click-y the link... (note you do not have to be a student to take the survey).

Survey to Assess Needs for Improved Course Designs

As colleges and universities offer more courses online, it is important that we consider how students with autism spectrum disorders approach online communities, especially online classes. My experiences as a diagnosed high-functioning autistic student and instructor have led me to question how online courses could be designed to better serve students with autism spectrum disorders. I am conducting a survey, seeking to determine if there are characteristics of some online communities ASD individuals prefer. I am also interested in learning what qualities of online communities might be disliked by individuals with ASDs.

If you are an individual with an officially diagnosed autism spectrum disorder interested in offering opinions about online communities, I hope you will consider completing this brief online survey. You do not have to be a student. However, you should have some experiences with online communities so you can explain what design qualities are or are not appealing in various communities.

This will be an anonymous survey. Only your answers to interview questions will be saved and referenced during the study. The survey is offered via a secure server and all data will be destroyed after analysis is complete.

If you are interested in participating in these interviews, please visit the following survey link:

Click Here to take survey

Thank you,
Christopher Scott Wyatt
Doctoral Candidate
Rhetoric; Scientific and Technical Communication
        Digital Literacy and Pedagogy
Dept. of Writing Studies
University of Minnesota

This study is referenced by University of Minnesota IRB Code Number 0909P72516.

ASAN-PDX Protests

No time for a real entry still (poor, sad, neglected LJ!), but wanted to post in really fast with these media links from a successful protest this Saturday held by the Portland chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

KABOO interview with Phoebe 9/28 5pm

KOIN 6 interview with Elesia 9/26 11pm

KOIN 6 short spot, edited by Harry Williams to include our photos from the event 9/26 6pm

FOX 12 interview with Elesia and footage of the protest itself 9/26 5pm

These links are also posted together online at look in the column on the right hand side.

Photo from philosophography

black and white photo of protesters holding signs reading 'i am not a puzzle i am a person', 'autism speaks does not speak for me' and 'nothing about us without us'


This picture which I took today features the eyeball of a 10 foot, 500 pound, 70 year old sturgeon. The sturgeon has not evolved for millions of years. It is literally a dinosaur fish. They can grow over 20 feet long and can live for over 100 years. This sturgeon's name is Herman.

Now you can't ever say this journal is nothing but boring! ;-P

Posted via

Order / Chaos

Participate in the AASPIRE Gateway Project

Participate in the AASPIRE Gateway Project

You are invited to participate in a continuing online research project called the AASPIRE Gateway Project. This online research project is conducted by the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE, in collaboration with Oregon Health & Science University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Portland State University, and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.

The AASPIRE Gateway Project is recruiting participants with and without disabilities, and participants on the autism spectrum, for a series of continuing online studies on topics such as health care, Internet use, online sense of community, identity, problem solving, and perspective taking. The goals of the online AASPIRE Gateway Project are

(1) to collect the Gateway Survey data;
(2) to use the Gateway Survey data to invite eligible participants to AASPIRE’s continuing online research studies; and
(3) to use the Gateway Survey data in AASPIRE’s continuing online research studies.

You may participate in the AASPIRE Gateway Project and contribute to continuing AASPIRE research studies if you are at least 18 years old, and you have access to the Internet.

The first step in joining the AASPIRE Gateway Project is completing the online AASPIRE Gateway Survey. The AASPIRE Gateway Survey asks about (a) personal information, such as age, gender, disability, education, and employment status, (b) information about which hand you prefer to use when doing activities such as writing with a pen or pencil, and (c) information about your personal preferences regarding interests, habits, and social interactions. Completing the AASPIRE Gateway Survey will take approximately 20-40 minutes. In return, you may choose to be entered into a drawing for a 1 in 25 chance to win a $25 gift certificate to or to receive 1 extra credit point in your introductory psychology class if you are a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Adults who identify as having a disability and adults who identify as being on the autistic spectrum are especially encouraged to participate in the AASPIRE Gateway Project.

If you're interested in participating in the AASPIRE Gateway Project, or would like to learn more about AASPIRE or the study, here are three ways you can get started:

1) Go to the study’s website at
2) Send an email to
3) Make a telephone call to Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, at (503) 494-9602 or Morton Ann Gernsbacher, PhD, at (608) 262-6989.

OHSU IRB # 3762; UW IRB# SE-2008-0749
Principal Investigators: Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH, Oregon Health & Science University
Morton Ann Gernsbacher, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Katherine McDonald, PhD, Portland State University
Dora Raymaker, Autistic Self-Advocacy Network