Heroes of the Storm – Review

In Blizzard’s on-going attempts to create a game for literally every genre on Earth, MOBA was next on the list and Heroes of Storm was created… unfortunately.

As a long time Dota 2 player, I enjoy a good MOBA. I’ve dabbled in League and Smite but Dota is my time-consuming poison of choice. It’s well-balanced for the most part (although some days I do wonder about Axe), it has a simple concept but is hard to master and, unlike LoL, Smite and now Heroes of the Storm, it doesn’t have a free hero rotation. In other words for those unfamiliar with MOBAs, all heroes can be played from go. For the other major MOBAs, players have a rotation of heroes that they can play without needing to unlock them or they can pay for heroes and always use them using either real money or in-game currency. This leads to pay-to-win or more experienced players benefiting from this scenario with those willing to pay or have more game time having an unfair advantage over new players when they have the choice of possibly better heroes than those in the current rotation. As a free game, money has to be made somewhere and this is a way; however, as a Dota player, I’ve always taken not having this for granted. Dota makes all its money through character skins and even shares this income with the skin designers and some competition prize pools. This was the first thing that bugged me but that isn’t even close to the problem with this game.

Some people have called this a casual version of the big-name MOBAs. This is probably because there is very little real skill, knowledge or technique as far as I can see involved in this game. Unlike the three other big MOBAs HotS has: no gold, no items, no last hitting, no denying and no personal player experience. Instead, the team has its own whole-team level culminated from all the XP earned by its players. When this increases, it allows you to level up your ‘traits’ which act as passive stat boosters or improve your abilities, choosing between a set choice of traits at each level. This is as far as the term ‘build’ can be used. Other than choosing what traits you want (initially with each hero you can choose between only two at each level), the game allows no substantial creativity or tactical ability to choose how to counter the enemy team and win. Because of this focus on team level, there is no feeling of personal triumph. Anybody who does any damage to a hero is counted as having that kill. As a result, every game ends with all players having a distorted and meaningless positive k/d. When you do get a kill, it feels pointless. Respawns are very forgiving and having an enemy dead does very little help your team given how slow lane pushing is and how enemies return extremely quickly back to the battlefield.

Meanwhile, with no last hitting and no denying, players end up standing in lane just auto-attacking the minions. Opposing heroes may occasionally leap in and attack, but the game’s heroes (even supports) have such high health that you can almost always run back to your lane’s tower and back through the gate that allows only your team through. These one-way walls make tower diving impossible and interesting ganks awkward (you need at least two friendly heroes to kill any one enemy hero) so the only time characters do die is when team-fights occur. It is a shame, therefore, that team-fights play out awfully. In Dota, team-fights are well co-ordinated and rehearsed in order to guarantee a swift victory in the fight and often mean victory for the whole game. You’ll plan the initiation with a stun, maybe throw in some disarms, activate you blade mail, BKB, etc. and then finally chuck down a couple of good ‘ol fashion ults and… easy money. However, about the most complex and co-ordinated fighting I saw in HotS was grabbing some mercenaries from the jungle (i.e. after killing a jungle camp they become your allies) and using them in the cluster of madness and ability spamming that is team-fighting in HotS.

The game technically has mana. However, quite frankly they could have replaced that by a bar that reads ‘how little fun you’re having playing this game’ and maybe that would explain why it’s always full. Mana regen as it stands is ridiculous. I never once ran out of mana even when I was physically trying to by using every ability as it came off cooldown, playing as numerous heroes. Other stats like movement speed, attack speed and even damage are unknown to the player. In Dota, fights are picked judging on how best your chances are of winning that fight. You’ll look at their health, how much mana they currently have, their armour, magic immunity, items that could save them or even kill you. In HotS, you spam your either unimaginative or unoriginal abilities (Stitches is a ridiculously close copy to Dota’s Pudge with his Hook and Vile abilities) and maybe someone will die, maybe you’ll win the game, but most likely you won’t even care because of how bland the gameplay was up to then and how little the game rewards personal skill.

But just so you think I haven’t been completely negative: I like the mount idea that allows heroes to get into the fight quicker, the minion design is interesting, the changing map makes for some varied gameplay with the different benefits when certain points get captured, character customisation looks strong giving you different looks but also the ability to choose the colour to go with it and a shorter (roughly 20 minute) game might be appealing to those who can’t commit to hour-long game times of other MOBAs. And yet, these nice little additions don’t make up for the hollow and needlessly stripped out gameplay that HotS has.

Heroes of the Storm is a game trying to take advantage of the MOBA fever sweeping through gaming, but instead looks to be more of a headache. As a beta (and a closed one at that) many things can change. Most probably mana regen reduction and possibly the addition of visible damage and movement speed stats could be easily added. However, this still wouldn’t fix the fundamental issues with this game. If you’re a LoL, Smite or Dota player, you will almost certainly not be ditching them for this. It’s too dumbed-down and feels like it could be a particularly good app. If you’re looking to get into a MOBA, avoid this. Sure, it’s far easier to get into it and most likely requires much less time to become good at it, but even with hundreds of hours in Dota I still learn something new all the time and that’s what makes it so good. I’m constantly challenged and the gameplay can be so much more diverse with gold, items and personal XP. You feel accomplishment for getting a good k/d, being an effective support or simply winning the game. Maybe I’m some old fogey who can’t embrace such big change but with MOBAs you have to pick one and stick to it; they require too much time to be able jump between them. If you played this and now think that all MOBAs are like this, please don’t. As a lover of Blizzard games, I am truly surprised by the meek offering of the game for me personally. Hopefully Overwatch will be a much better FPS than this is MOBA.


Tim Kamuzu Banda Interview

This is a brand new column that will carry quick interviews with influential and sometimes controversial young people in Canada. To kick start the show, we are going to feature the controversial Tim Kamuzu Banda from TKB Projects Ltd. Who are responsible for Kenyan Society-UK.

Q: It took me very long to convince you to do this, why the reluctance?

TKB: I know but it is quite ironic because I am used to conduction Interviews not being the subject of one. I never know what to say.

Q: I will try and keep you calm. You are known to be de facto leader of Kensoc-UK despite there being directors and presidents. How true is that?

TKB: That is absolutely rubbish. I have never been the leader or anything close to that. I have never been the leadership material plus we have had very competent leaders in Sandra and Aaron. The position is presently vacant as a suitable replacement is sought.

Q: I am not sure that will convince anybody, so what position do you hold in the outfit?

TKB: I may have been the brains behind Kensoc but that is all that I am good at. I am absolute rubbish at leading people as I have mentioned before. I have all these great Ideas but without someone to lead the way for me, they end up no where. At the moment I am just in charge of policy formulation and implementation which is the lowest of ranks.

Q: So how was Kensoc-UK formed and what was the grand Idea behind plus who was involved?

TKB: Kensoc-UK was founded some two and a half years back and was the third of the TKB Projects Ltd. The Idea was to unite young Kenyans in the UK and give them a platform to speak as one voice. Instrumental to this were Sandra (first President), Rachel (former Secretary), Brenda Samaji, Andrew Magana and myself.

Q: Some people branded Kensoc-UK as just being an entertainment outfit, how true is that?

TKB: (Smiling) I have heard that before. It is true that we have had our fair share of hangs and all that but why do people forget the exhibitions, the sporting events, the seminars and all other things that we have done? It is all there for everyone to see.

Q: What challenges have you faced as being part of the management of Kensoc-UK?

TKB: It has not been easy but we knew that it was never going to be. The most problematic bit has been the financial aspect of the outfit. We have managed to go for nearly two years without proper financial backing. People have supported us here and there but most of us have had to dig dip in to our own resources to keep things going. It nearly bankrupt some of us but we are not complaining.

Q:   How are you coping with the financial difficulties?

TKB: Things are getting better as we speak. We are half way through securing a much needed grant which should stabilise us. We have also got an offer from a Kenyan business here to support our website for an amount a month which will be quite good plus Brenda is working on some merchandise project for us. So, yes we are getting out of it.

Q: I have also noticed that you have cut down on the activities that you are undertaking for the rest of this year, why is that?

TKB: That has been part of the restructuring process whereby we are holding on to our key events while finding other community organisations to partner us on other events.

Q: Any Idea as to who will be Kensoc-UK’s next president?

TKB: I have no idea at the moment and it is not my decision anyway. I know the team has a shortlist of possible candidates. All I know is that it will be a lady student and preferably a law student for some bizarre reason.

Q: A sticky question at Kensoc-UK at the moment, as I have noticed, is who is Brenda and how come not many people know her?

TKB: (Laughing) I have known Brenda for nearly a decade and she has been the manager for TKB Projects Ltd. For a long time now and the inspiration to many things that I do. She is based in America which may sound strange but is instrumental in every decision we make. So, those who are important know who she is and you are free to interview her next.

Q: So, it is someone really close to you then?

TKB: I will not answer that.

Q: I thought so, so what are the other TKB Projects?

TKB: There is the Media Project; there is Kensoc-UK, Magazines Projects, Environmental Initiative and Kenyan Exiles-UK which I am working on at the moment.

Q: One last question, are you single?

TKB: I shall not answer that one either. Do not trigger my shyness.

Q: One last word for scesoc members?

TKB: Thank you very much for the support.

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Dress for success

When you have your own home business it is all too easy to slip into the mentality that “nobody sees me, what does it matter what I wear”? Believe me it matters a whole lot, especially to your subconscious!

Imagine how you would feel if you were still wearing your pyjamas or your usual sweats when you received an urgent phone call to meet one of your customers or even worse, a potential client arrived at your door! How would you feel? Would you feel totally confident in your abilities or would the situation knock your confidence a bit? Why take the risk? Surely you have smart casual clothes that make you feel good about yourself that you could wear while working in your home office.

Part of the work at home battle is to feel confident about what you are doing and when things go wrong, the last thing you need to do is to look in the mirror and think, “I do look like a failure” or “I wish I was better dressed” like we all have done at one time or another.

How many times have you thought about a household job to do when you are supposed to be working at your desk? I would bet almost everyone who works from home has had these thoughts and most have even acted on these thoughts. This is because your subconscious is telling us that because we are in our normal house clothes and we are in the house we should be working on the house, doing our usual household routines. We need to train our self-conscious to forget about household chores and to concentrate on building our business into a success and part of this re-training is to dress appropriately for working in our home office.

When we work in an office or an outside business environment we usually get dressed up for work and then when we get home we change into something more comfortable. When we decide to work from home our “office” clothes are resigned to the back of the wardrobe and we automatically start wearing our usual around the house clothes.

Why do we do this? Is it because we get sucked into the “I’m at home so I dress like I do when I’m at home” syndrome? Why put ourselves at disadvantage, dress the part, dress for success, your success!

At times we all need to elaborate our experience to get the job, its not that you don’t have confidence in your abilities, its just that you’ve never done this type of job before. Imagine trying to convince someone to give you the job while wearing your sweat pants and then imagine convincing them to hire you wearing your smart business wear? It doesn’t need to be a suit, just so long as you are smart. Which situation would win hands down?

You see actors and actresses putting on their costumes to play a part that is the total opposite of their personalities but once they put on that costume, they become the part, they live and breath the part. The same can be said about you, when you start out you are full of enthusiasm for your new ventures but as time goes on, reality hits and you realise that you really are running a business with bills to pay, products and/or services to sell and customers to find and satisfy. For many of us it’s a new territory that we are in. Become an actor, put on your business clothes and become the businesswoman that you dream about being. For a while you will be acting but before long you when you put on your working clothes you will suddenly realise, you are that businesswoman with or without the costume and a successful one at that!

Go on dig out your home business clothes that are lingering at the back of your wardrobe and start wearing them. Just feel the difference it makes to your attitude towards your business abilities and then act on these feelings. You are a success, you just need to start to look like it and when you do, business world watch out!


My favourite tree’s part 2

Crab Apple Tree (Malus sylvestris)

The Crab Apple is one of the most popular trees in the UK and is the original British Apple Tree. It produces the perfect fruit for cooking for pies, jams or jellies and is even an ingredient in many British wines.

This tree offers a wonderful habitat for a wide range of wildlife and with its beautiful white blossom is well loved in many gardens, orchards and across the British countryside.

Though it can grow to an average of 9 metres when left unpruned, it can also be cut back well to use as an interesting feature in a traditional hedgerow.

Elder Tree (Sambucus nigra)

Due to the ability of this tree to reproduce with great speed, especially in high nitrogen soil, the Elder tree is often considered a weed. However the sweet smelling white flowers produced in the spring and bright berries in the autumn can provide a splash of colour and make a great asset to any horticultural feature.

Commonly found in natural woodlands and hedgerows, the Elder tree has natural repellent properties that can deter flies while the berries are a very popular source of Vitamin C and are often used in wines, jams and cordials.

As a small ornamental deciduous tree, the Elder can grow up to 9 meters high but due to its rapid growth rate may leave gaps if used in the initial development of a new hedge when supporting plantation does not grow as quickly.

Elm Tree

Though many varieties of Elm Tree are at home on British soil, it is only the Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra) that is native to the UK.

As this tree ages the deep grooves that appear in the dark brown or grey bark create further interest to this tree as well as habitats for a range of local wildlife.

Though considered a non-suckering variety of Elm, this tree will produce suckers when under stress and is sadly prone to the Dutch Elm disease which nearly completely eradicated the Elm from British soil. Look for varieties such as the Lacebark Elm which are now resistant to the disease for a greater possibility of success.

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Hawthorn Tree (Crataegus monogyna)

Also known as the Quickthorn or May due to its close association with May Day celebrations, the Hawthorn tree can grow up to 14 meters high and ideal as a protective barrier against animals, people and pests.

This deciduous tree is an ideal habitat for numerous forms of wildlife including many British birds that take advantage of the protection that this thorned tree offers while feasting on the delicious red fruit provided in the autumn.

Thanks to its early white flowers, the Hawthorn has come to symbolise the imminent arrival of summer and is probably Britain’s most common hedgerow shrub while the berries, known as Haws, are still commonly used to make jellies and wine.

beechtreeHazel Tree (Corylus avellana)

Native to the UK, the Hazel Tree prefers chalk, limestone or mildly acidic soils and rarely grow above 15 meters.

Widely grown for its timber which can be used in basketwork as well as being the traditional material to create hurdles, the nuts from the Hazel tree are very tasty and attract many forms of wildlife.

The Hazel Tree is ideal for making semi permanent barriers that use a combination of harvested rods and living trees or can be combined with hawthorns to create a denser blockade. One single rod of Hazel tree can be continually coppiced to produce new shoots so that an even further density can be obtained.

Holly Tree (Ilex aquifolium)

As one of the only evergreen trees or shrubs native to Britain, the Holly tree can be grown in even the harshest of environments where other plant life is unable to thrive, just as long as it is not too wet!

Characterised by lush red berries that attract a variety of birds, this plant is incredibly versatile. Growing up to 20 meters tall, it can be cultured into an ornamental tree, is ideal to create a strong, dense hedge on its own or can be incorporated into a traditional hedgerow with dramatic effect but as the plants themselves are single sex, you do need a mixture of males and females to produce the winter fruit.

Larch Tree

The European Larch Tree (Larix decidua) is part of the deciduous conifer family that are very popular in Britain but are not actually native to the UK. With a tolerance for polluted air, the Larch can reach heights of over 45 meters and can be forced to grow quickly however can become prone to spring frosts when this happens.

Commonly seen in gardens and parks, this trees popularity stems from the colour spectacle provided throughout the year starting with a display of bright green foliage in spring which darkens in the summer before creating a beautiful golden brown canopy during the Autumnal months.

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Oak Tree

There are two species of naturally deciduous Oak Tree native to Great Britain: the English Oak (Quercus robur) that prefers the heavier clay and loam soil of the south and the Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) which is more dominant in the lighter soils of north and west.

Often called the ‘King of the Woods’ some Oak trees have live for over 1000 years and are one of the most common and instantly recognisable trees in the UK.

The naturally strong timber of this tree is ideal in furniture production but also provides essential habitats for a wide variety of wildlife while the acorns are used in the feed of many livestock.

In addition to our native varieties, both the Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) and the evergreen Holm Oak (Quercus ilex) are also widely seen in Britain and are now as prolific as their native cousins.

Rowan Trees (Sorbus aucuparia)

The European Rowan or Mountain Ash is the only Rowan native to Great Britain however related varieties including the Common Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) and the Service Tree (Sorbus domestica) happily grow in our climate.

A deciduous tree with an almost shrubby appearance, the Rowan is ideal for gardens, schools and streets as it naturally grows no more than 9 meters high and can withstand frost more than most other trees.

With beautiful white flowers in late spring, the abundance of bright red berries in autumn provide the main attraction and are still used in parts of Scotland to create national wines, jams and sauces.

Silver Birch Tree (Betula pendula)

The Silver Birch is the most common and most beautiful of Birch trees. Native to Europe and North Asia, this is the national tree of Finland and has distinctive silver bark and tooth edged leaves that create a highly attractive specimen.

Reaching a maximum of 20 meters in its relatively short ten year life span, the Silver Birch attracts a varied form of wildlife thanks to the shelter and food it can offer.

Most at home in wet, boggy ground, this tree will not block sunlight from the garden and is ideal as a decorative canopy to any ground level display.

Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

The Scots Pine is the only one of this group of evergreen conifers that is native to the British Isles, though related varieties including the Corsican Pine (Pinus nigra var. maritima) are equally at home here.

Able to achieve heights of 36 meters in its 250 year life span, this variety is distinguished by the pinky colour at the top of the bark and paired needles that are usually twisted and shorter than other varieties.

Pines are an essential element to sustaining our environment as they provide some of the last remaining habitats for the endangered red squirrel however are becoming much rarer as the demand for its timber increases.

Willow Tree

When most people think of the Willow Tree they think of the Weeping Willow (Salix chrysochoma) with its long pendulous branches that sweep down into the water. However all species of Willow are not alike and though some do enjoy water logged environments such as the Crack Willow (Salix fragilis) and the Bay Willow (Salix pentandra), other varieties including the Pussy Willow (Salix caprea) prefer moist but well drained soil.

In general, willows are quick growing trees that produce soft catkins commonly used in the flower arrangements and indoor decorations. They are incredibly useful in gardens and arboretums due to the draw of their flowers to the common bee while though their long and hardy root structure can cause issues in smaller areas; they can also be invaluable in protecting eroded soils from further destruction.


Some of my favourite trees

Aspen Tree (Populus tremula)

Most famously known to supply the wood used for the Cross of Jesus Christ, the Aspen has been nicknamed the quivering tree thanks to its leaves that can be heard rustling in the wind.

Completely deciduous, this tree is hardy enough to tolerate a varied range of weathers and, though it grows relatively quickly, can only reach heights of approximately 30 metres.

Found most commonly in woodlands and wasteland, the Aspen is often planted as a garden tree due to it attractive pale slender trunk, bold green leaves that turn golden in the Autumn and white catkins that develop in the spring however it does continuously produce suckers in an attempt to spread.

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Alder Tree

The Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa) is a hardy tree resistant to rot that enjoys wet low lying areas next to riverbanks and in areas of high waterfall unlike the Grey Alder (Alnus incana) which is more commonly used in gardens and cannot tolerate being waterlogged, though still thrives in moist ground.

Though the Grey Alder can grow up to 80ft tall it produces a range of elegant catkins at the beginning of spring and emits nodules on the roots containing nitrogen fixing bacteria that make it idea for the reclamation of industrial ground and enriching poor soil.

Ash Tree

Native to Britain and many parts of Europe, the Common Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is a deciduous tree that provides very pliable but strong wood making it ideal for hockey sticks, tennis rackets and bows.

Both the Common Ash and the Weeping Ash (F. excelsior ‘Pendula’) enjoy moist lime rich soil and are commonly found on riverbanks or in moist woods as well as a lot of old grave yards.

The Ash is one of the last trees to leaf in spring yet it is also one of the earliest to lose its leaves in the autumn. Growing to heights of up to 40 meters, the beautiful purple flowers produced in spring create a stunning effect, yet the tree is most famous for the ‘helicopters’ or winged seeds that flutter down in the autumn.

Blackthorn Tree (Prunus spinosa)

Also known as the Sloe, the Blackthorn Tree is traditionally the first deciduous tree of the year to come into bloom and produces the distinctive sloe berry which is used to create the flavour of sloe gin. The thorns created by this tree can be effectively used as a natural barrier to against unwanted pests or as a protective shelter for birds wishing to nest.

In the spring, the blackthorn produces eye catching white flowers and can grow into a tree up to 6 meters tall but can also be an effective wind break or hedge with a hardy constitution that will thrive in a range of environments, though always favouring chalky soil in a sunny position when possible.

Beech Tree (Fagus sylvatica)

Though the Common Beech tree is found all over Europe and Britain, it has been discovered that it is not actually native to this country as was previously thought.

With an average life span of nearly 250 years this deciduous tree and can grow up to 45 metres high.

Though possibly too tall for a single tree in a garden, the Beech can be trimmed closely making it ideal for a hedge or as an individual feature in a larger area where the beautifully smooth silvery bark and wavy edged leaves are instantly recognisable.

Successfully thriving on both chalk downs and acidic soils, the Beech has great skill in finding water; however it is prone to a large variety of fungi, pests and diseases which can cause mature trees to die quickly.

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Cherry Tree

The Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) and Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) are the only varieties of Cherry Tree that are native to Britain and produce a white blossom, in contrast to the pink flowered varieties that are derived from cultivated species.

Though the fruits of both varieties of the tree are attractive to birds, it is only the cultivated species of the Wild Cherry that provide recognisably edible fruit while fruit from the native tree are used to create cough mixtures and syrups while Bird Cherry fruit is only digestible by the birds themselves.


My boyfriend being entertained by my seizures

I staggered outside with that blank look on my face.

“You found another one, didn’t you?” Cool-guy asked, turning the salmon he was grilling.

I looked at him, numbly.

“COOL! What was this one named?”

Named? Did they have names? I sank into the chair.

“Let’s see.” He said, turning the salmon over. “Think you named the last one, AAAAHHHHHH! Was this the same one, or a different one?”

Slowly, very slowly I registered what he was saying. “You mean. You didn’t hear my screams?”

“Nope. Missed it. Why don’t you go back down to the basement and give me another chance?”

I gave him a hard stare.

“Holly. Don’t give up on me. I’ll listen for your screams this time. Go on. Go back down there.”

I leaned back in the chair. “You mean. I could get carried away by a man-eating-woman-eating Monster Mouse and you’d never hear a thing? You wouldn’t even know I was gone.”

“Honey. Of course I would know, eventually. When the brown rice rotted I’d know for SURE you were gone.”

I lifted my legs up onto the chair and looked around for more mice. “You REALLY didn’t hear me?”

He laughed. “No. Come on.” He reached for my hand. “Let’s go down to the basement right now. You can show me where he went.”

Yeah. No. The last time I showed him where the mouse had run, we’d discovered a large stash of dog food in an old pair of his shoes. I know. That may not have been a big deal for someone else, but he doesn’t have a dog. And. He doesn’t have houseguests with dogs either. Which means the mouse must have been stealing dog food from a neighbor’s house and carrying it over hill and dale to hide it in that shoe.

I think that’d be pretty hard to explain to the neighbors. How their dog food ended up in his basement. But. Cool-guy thinks it’s great and refuses to kill that mouse, hoping it might graduate to lifting more interesting items from his neighbors.

“He escaped, again.” I tattled. “He squeezed out a little hole next to the door. That must be how they’re getting in.”

“Honey! You scared him out? That’s why I love you so much. You’re better than a cat.” He gave me a big, smacking kiss on the mouth.

Why this man is willing to co-exist with mice, I’ll never understand. The only place that’s off limits to rodents in his house is the kitchen where he sets one trap. It’s enough to keep me from eating for a whole week if and when the trap does its job.

“Did you have a seizure?” He asked.

I nodded.

“Good.”

I stared at him, open mouthed. Good? For me to have a seizure? Good? GOOD?

He laughed. “These mice are really medicine testers. I’m convinced that your neurologist has sprinkled them throughout my house to test the effects of the Topamax. To see if it’s working.

I walked into the house and slumped on the couch.

He followed me inside. “What was your visual hallucination, honey. During the seizure. What was it?”

I ignored him. He thinks it’s good that I have seizures? GOOD?

“A mouse?” He laughed. “Did you see a mouse then have a seizure with a mouse? That would make two mice.” He laughed harder.

I waited a moment. “A train.”

“A “choo-choo” train?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“Did the mouse hop on the train? Is that how he got out of the house? He hopped on the Mouse Train?” He laughed hysterically, holding his chest and rocking back and forth on the couch. “That’s hysterical. A Mouse Train.”

I sat up. “Is that why you won’t get rid of the mice? Because you’re so entertained by their seizure starting techniques?”

“No, honey.” He said. “No. Not at all.” He tried to stop his laughter. “But you have to admit. It’s a good thing that I’m not the only one scaring you into seizures… or you might want to get rid of me too…”

“You know…” I said, laying down on the couch. “If I ditched you, I’d get rid of two pests with one stone.”

He lost the laughter. “Two pests?”

“The mice and YOU.”

“Oh.” He said, nodding his head. “I was afraid you’d get rid of the mice and the mouse train.”

I stared at him. Open mouthed. What? Making fun of the seizure? What? So this WAS entertainment for him…

“I know.” He giggled. “That’s what I was worried about too. How will the mouse get out of the house if you get rid of his train?” He collapsed into laughter, rolling back and forth while little tears welled up in his eyes.

As for me… I’m tough. I can take it. And besides… I have power too.

aI decided not to mention the salmon that that he had clearly forgotten. It had certainly burned to a crisp on the grill by now. There is nothing that will dampen a chef’s mood more than burning an expensive slab of fish.


Steak for two

“Come on.” Cool-guy said. “Let’s go.”

“Soon.”

“I’m starved.” He said, tugging on my shirt. “I’m hungry enough to eat a steak.”

“Wait.” I murmured, knowing full well I resort to single syllable words the moment I near my addiction.

“Hello? A vegetarian just said he was hungry enough to eat a steak?”

“K.” I agreed, not hearing him. I turned the page in my book.

Fine.” He said, patiently. “Five more minutes. But you’ve already overstayed your allotted bookstore time.”

I nodded absently and continued reading. What a great book. Something about how to mingle at parties when you don’t know anyone.

Oh. I know. I didn’t need the tips in the book. If I can enter a room and be assured I don’t know anyone there, I become Ms. Personality. My lack of visual memory is the only thing that slows me down at parties and keeps me from enjoying myself, because I can never be sure if I’m standing next to my best friend or talking to John Travolta. I can usually figure out who people are when I hear their voice, but that can take a lot of effort at a noisy party.

I put that book down and picked up another mingling book from the stack I had collected. How many socializing books are there? Book number two suggests striking up conversations with people at a party who are dressed the same way you are.

Um. No. Who wrote this book? Bad, bad idea. How could I look forward to stimulating conversations if I only talked to my fashion doubles? No. I recently had the most delightful party conversation with an old woman who was wearing a thick pink sweater. I was wearing a black dress so according to the book, we never would have talked. Why do people write this stuff?

I tossed the book aside and chose the next from my pile.

I flipped open to an essay on the whiles of positioning oneself around the food table to find a good conversation. Oh. I totally disagree. I HATE people who monopolize the food table so all the guests have to talk about carpooling if they want to eat. I’d rather go hungry.

I prefer to fix a small plate and remove myself to a far corner of the party. Then I can ask a handsome man if he’ll refill my plate with his favorite foods. See. That way we can have a great conversation when he comes back. Yeah. I know. That doesn’t work well if he’s married or if his date happens to see him doing my bidding.

Cool-guy came back and touched my elbow gently. “Time to leave?”

I looked up at him. “Not yet?”

“I’m going to read a magazine. I’m a fast reader…. I’ll be right back.”

“Thanks.” I picked up book number four. This one suggested walking up to a group of people you don’t know and jumping into THEIR conversation. Oh. Yuck. Like. Who wants to talk about the stock market anyway? Not me. I’d rather go over to a large plant and look for bugs, or stare at the stars. Believe me. Some bored person will seek me out and start a conversation.

I dropped that book and thumbed through the next one. This author insisted that if all else fails, you might wait on line at the bathroom to meet some people. No. No. No. I mean. Sure. Meet people in the bathroom, but they will be able to tell INSTANTLY that you’re sad and lonely and searching for camaraderie and it will SCARE them. Everyone knows loneliness at a party can be catching and they won’t have a THING to do with you.

Rather I like to strike up a conversation with the hired help. If all else fails I pretend I’M the hired help. It always brings out the curiosity in people if I’ve donned an apron and started serving cheese and crackers. A friend and I once jumped into a failing party and became the Holly-appointed bar tenders. Man. That was fun. And we met tons of men. (mostly alcoholic…)

Cool-guy hugged me from behind and whispered. “I love you. I’m hungry. You’re a bore in bookstores.”

I laughed. “Would you rather BUY me this book? I only have about ten more pages to scan. Can you wait?”

“Yes.” He said, kissing my cheek.

He stood behind me while I turned pages, reading as fast as I could.

Oh. This was worth all the wasted scanning time I’d put in. The last book insisted that when you’re ready for some interesting party conversation, you should turn to the person next to you and say, “Tell me something dangerous.” EXCELLENT. Great idea. I’d never thought of that. I could even add sparkle to grocery store lines with that bit.

I turned the page, “Another way to catch the attention of someone you don’t know would be to say, ‘Do you think I’m hotter than the hostess?”

Excellent. I decided to try these lines on Cool-guy. After all. The poor man had waited for over an hour while I wandered through the mingling books.

Without turning around, I leaned in to him, and gazed up at his chin. “Tell me something dangerous.” I said in a low, seductive voice. Yes. That sounded good. I took a step forward, ran my hands down my body and spun around as I said in my sexiest voice, “Do you think I’m hotter than the hostess?”

“Uh huh.” Stranger said. He cleared his throat.

My mouth fell open. That was not Cool-guy’s voice. That was not his body. That was not his beard. That was not his face. Oh. God. Where was my boyfriend? He was standing right behind me.

Stranger was surprised by my behavior. He cleared his throat again. “You’re REALLY hot.” He stammered.

Oh. God. The books. I had scanned all these books, and not one had a suggestion for escaping humiliating situations. “Oh. Um. Yeah. No. I mean. Thanks.” I forced a smile, and mechanically handed him the book, a reflex from my assistant-manager-of-a-bookstore days. “You should read this. You’ll really like this.”

I turned and stepped away, quickly.

“Yeah. Thanks?” He mumbled after me.

I found Cool-guy in the magazine section; at least I thought it was him. Closely shaven beard. Blue shirt. It looked like him. I waited.

He looked up. “Hi honey.”

“I’ve overused my allotted book store time.” I said, pulling him by the sleeve.

“Oh. Now you’re ready to go?” He asked, dropping the magazine. “What’s the rush?”

“I was overly friendly with a man who wasn’t you.” I said, quietly.

“OHMYGOD. Where is he?”

“Can we go? Please? Now. Can we go?”

“Did you kiss him?”

“No.” I said a little too quickly. My God. I might have kissed him.

He laughed hysterically. “What did you do?”

“It’s not what I did. It’s more like what I said.” I looked over my shoulder. Was he following me?

“What did you say?” He laughed.

I bit my lip to try to turn down my blooming blush. It didn’t work. “Well. It’s not what I said. The problem was more in the way I said it.”

Cool-guy took my hand and gently pulled me back into the bookstore.

I resisted with all my strength. “Where are we going?”

“I want to meet my double.” Cool-guy laughed. “I want to see his face when he sees you again.”

I tugged and pulled, trying to get free. “I don’t remember what he looks like.”

Cool-guy was scanning the aisles. “I’m guessing he has a closely shaven beard. Right?”

“No. He’s short and fat. A midget I think. Oh. Look. No midgets here. Let’s go.”

He released my hand. “Honey. I’ve decided to extend your allotted bookstore time. I realize now I’ve been cutting you off and not letting you be the real you.”

“No. Thanks.” I said. “Time to feed the boyfriend?” Food always changes the subject. Surely this would grant us a fast exit out of there.

He handed me a book on bird watching. “Watching you mangling your mingling skills is all the food I need.” He laughed, clapping his hands. He leaned against a stack of books. “Please. Continue.”


Call of the wandering boy

“Cool-guy?” I called out, looking around. Where was my boyfriend? He was standing right next to me a minute ago.

People turned to see what I was yelling for. I know. I was causing a commotion at the garden festival and they wanted to know why. I yelled again, not knowing how else to find him.

I looked back the way I had come. Ok. Blue shirt. He’s wearing a blue shirt. And he’s tall with a closely shaven beard. I know what he looks like because I’ve memorized his attributes. Now if only I could recognize him when I see him again.

“COOL-GUY?”

Not one of the curious people who turned when I called was tall with a blue shirt. Great. This is the one time not having a visual memory annoys me the most. When my boyfriend might be three feet from me and I can’t find him. I slowly scanned the crowd for people wearing blue shirts. Remind me to dress him in a long, dotted caftan with a ten-gallon hat next time.

I leaned against a pole. There were jillions of people walking around the garden show, so finding my man was going to be a chore. Oh. I know. He could find me. His visual memory was perfect. And he knew the moment he stepped away, my brain promptly forgot what he looked like. I couldn’t remember faces at all. My epileptic seizures had burned out my visual memory long ago which made all people look basically the same. If three men with closely shaven beards walked up to me and they were all wearing blue shirts, I would have to wait for a voice to be able to tell which one was my boyfriend.

Oh. Sure. I know. My neurologist constantly reminds me to switch to auditory when I lose someone in a crowd. I keep begging my doctor for more practical help. Isn’t there a drug I can take to help me locate my boyfriend in a crowd? Something that would make our magnetic pull an optical reality? But my sweet neurologist doesn’t seem to understand that auditory doesn’t help locate a missing man in a blue shirt. I wonder if I could learn some kind of echolocation like bats use?

I tensed. I hate losing Cool-guy. If I could find him right now, before he knew I was lost, he’d never know my disability had separated us yet again. I started the nonchalant scan. He couldn’t have gone too far.

Sure. There might be methods for us to find each other quickly. Everyone and his brother had suggestions. At a recent party several of my closest friends excitedly gathered around and shared their top three ideas for me finding Cool-guy in a crowd.

“Ok.” Pete said. “The top three ways to find each other when lost in a crowd.”

I looked at Cool-guy. Was it too late to opt out of this game?

“Number three: Use an electric dog collar that can send out small shocks.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” I tried to back away. “You’re trying to be funny, right?”

Pete grabbed my hand. “Think about it.” He said, excitedly. “You could press a button and send out a SHOCK to let Cool-guy know you’re looking for him.”

“Do you have anything kinder?” Cool-guy asked.

“You could hold the collar in your hand.” Pete continued. “Think about it.”

“Is number two any better?” I asked. “I need a drink. Number one has me craving alcohol.”

Angela smiled. “Number two: Carry a flag around and wave it back and forth when you get lost.”

“No.” I said. “Everyone will think I’m leading a parade. You guys are scaring me. I thought your top three were going to be a joke. You’re serious? Could you lighten up?”

“We won’t need a flag.” Cool-guy added.

“Ok.” Pete said. “The number one suggestion for identifying your man when you don’t have a visual memory…”

I cut in. “I’m thirsty.”

“Me too.” Cool-guy said. “Let’s find a drink.”

Pete continued. “Have him wear a hat with a big X on top. And whenever you can’t find him, climb onto something tall and look DOWN.”

Cool-guy took my hand. “White or red wine?”

“Vodka.” I said. “Straight up.”

“Twist?”

“Already had one, but thanks.”

Cool-guy led me to a quiet spot in a garden. “I’ve never lost you yet. I’m not worried about it.”

“Me neither.” I lied.

Ok. That was last month. Now. Here I was wondering how long it would be before he realized I didn’t stop to look at the street musician or art exhibit or whatever grabbed his attention. How long until he would retrace his steps to find me? Because if he didn’t I might have to live here forever in this garden festival and get a job watering the grass, because they’d never trust me to go near the flowers.

Maybe I should have paid attention to where we left the car. We had absolutely no plan for finding each other. Wonder if they have laws against adults showing up at the missing children’s tent. What other option would I have?

I tried to even out my breathing. Ok. Enough of all this worrying. He’d figure it out. Eventually.

I heard a high pitched call. “Who-dee-hoo” It was a human voice that was mimicking a bird’s call. I heard it again. And again.

Hey. Was that Cool-guy’s voice?

I heard the call again. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.” I turned towards the voice and saw a tall man in a blue shirt with a close shaven beard waving his arms back and forth over his head. I laughed and walked towards him.

“Who-dee-hoo.”

As I made my way through the crowd, I noticed not one person around us turned to see where the noise was coming from. Couldn’t they hear him?

“Who-dee-hoo.” Cool-guy called again.

I laughed my way up to him. “Where’d you get the wild call?”

“Barney Fife. He used it once during a steak-out.”

“Really?”

“Yup.” He handed me the freshly squeezed lemonade he had stopped to buy. “Barney said when the bad guys were coming, they would use the secret call, ‘Who-dee-hoo.” It worked for them, so I figured it would work for me, too.”

I laughed at our new secret code.

Later we stopped for a sorbet. I turned after buying mine and Cool-guy was gone. Where was he? Ok. Fine. Blue shirt. Tall man. Close shaven beard. Where was he? I didn’t see him. I exhaled slowly and shook my head fast. Again? Twice in one day? Again?

“Who-dee-hoo.” Came the call from across the street.

I turned and saw a man in a blue shirt waving one arm over his head. I laughed. How could I get mad at a man with such ridiculous methods? Especially when nobody else was paying attention to all the hooting going on. Really. This call was going to work. We had found our way.

As I got closer, I heard what sounded like an echo. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.”

“OhmyGod.” I said, kissing his cheek. “Someone has stolen our secret call.”

Cool-guy smiled. “Listen to this.” He called out, “Who-dee-hoo.”

The birds in the trees repeated the call back to him. “Who-dee-hoo. Who-dee-hoo.”

“You know.” He said. “Maybe I’d better be careful. When I step away and send the secret call, those birds could really mess us up by sending out false signals. We’ll get all turned around.”

“I like the hooting.” I said. “It’s better than hollering. But maybe we should match it with the electronic dog collar. I think a little shock therapy might help you remember not to wander.”

“Bad idea.” He said, handing me my second freshly squeezed lemonade of the day. “It could cut down on your lemonade supply.”