Category Archives: Life


Eyeball Bead (DIY macro lens)According to my Fitbit Flex, the average amount of sleep I currently get is around four hours per 24 hour round. In the last month, there has been only one night where have I slept longer than 6 hours. Last night, I slept about 90 minutes, total.

The weird part is that I haven’t been sleepy during the day. I definitely don’t feel right, but I seem to be alert and functional. (I did ask a coworker this morning if my face showed human emotions, though, so your definition of “functional” might be different from mine.)

The Fitbit graph shows a steady decline over several months, from an average of six hours of sleep per night in December, to around five in February, to four by the end of April.

There is probably a confluence of reasons for this. The stress of getting married a few weeks ago (along with a second ceremony for the parents this weekend). New medication, started in February. General disarray in my life. The wax and wane of OCD. A constant feeling of being behind on all my projects, so I keep putting in longer hours to keep up.

The impact of the insomnia is deep, even though I can still mostly operate as a human being at this point. I’m feeling distant from my husband because I’m awake all night instead of cuddling up and snoozing. I spend a large portion of my waking hours alone in the living room, in silence, working on projects. The part of the day where I am around humans, I feel like I’m not fully engaged. I’m not exercising, because my day is so out of whack that I can’t carve out the time, and I don’t want to go out running at night because it might make the insomnia even worse.

I’m worried that the line on the graph will continue to decline to lower numbers. I’m wondering if I’ve forgotten how to sleep.

However, this really isn’t unusual for me.

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More Words Than I Ever Thought I’d Write About Prince

First Ave!It’s been a little more than one day since Prince Rogers Nelson was found dead at Paisley Park, which is about 20 miles from my couch. He was 57, which is too young to go for any human, but especially young for someone who we all kind of suspected was an immortal sex alien.

I’ve never considered myself a “fan” of Prince. I never was a huge listener of his music. I mean, yes, I grew up in Minneapolis during the 1980s, which means I lived and breathed his music for that decade because it was inescapable. I saw Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge because they were filmed here. I owned a cassette of 1999 (which my mom confiscated after she heard it), and I still have a CD of the Batman soundtrack. But after the 1980s passed, my musical tastes didn’t latch onto Prince’s music. (That’s not a comment on his talent at all; it’s just that once I found Mr. Bungle, I fell deep down the avant-garde metal rabbit hole.)

So, because of that, I would have never expected to grieve much for his passing. I have many, many friends who are far more passionate about his music than I, and their grief is fully understandable. And yet, I was sobbing in the shower this morning as I got ready for work. I’ve been wrecked for the last day.

Even though I never met the man, he meant a lot more to me than I ever thought he did. Perhaps I took him for granted, like he was some sort of permanent fixture of my hometown.

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Arid January

Beer O'Clock

So, I decided to have a dry January.

Okay, maybe not exactly dry. Just arid.

Lemme explain.

Last year was rough. Really rough. Incredible things happened, but I was pulled beyond capacity.

And I was drinking a lot.

The two aren’t necessarily related. I don’t think I was drinking to get away from problems. However, I was drinking a lot because I was too tired to stop myself. I didn’t have the mental fortitude to say, “Yeah, let’s stop at one drink tonight.”

I was drinking 1+ bottles of wine by myself every time I recorded Xanadu Cinema Pleasure Dome. I was drinking 1+ bottles of wine at every movie night at my house. I was drinking at other events. I never got stumbling drunk because my liver is apparently supernatural, and I’d rarely have a hangover the next day, but that’s a lot of booze. That’s a lot of empty calories. That’s a lot more booze than necessary for enjoyment. That’s not drinking because I like the taste of beer and wine and scotch — which has long been my mantra — that’s drinking because it’s there.

And it’s been taking a toll on my body. My weight was skyrocketing in the latter quarter of last year, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t all just stress putting pounds on me.

So, I decided to have a dry January, to see if my suspicions were right. To see if quitting alcohol for a while was harming me in more ways than expected. To reset my love of beer and wine and scotch.

Or, rather, an arid January.

Lemme explain.

I’ve never gone dry before because it kills me to be in a restaurant or at a party where someone has a beer or wine or food that I’ve never tried before… and I have to say no. New experiences are the oxygen I breathe. If anything was going to undo a pledge to go dry, it was going to be that. It was going to be me greedily eyeing a booze label I’d never seen before.

Thus, I’ve made a caveat to my pledge: I get to taste things. If it’s something I’ve never tasted before, I get to have a sip of it. Not a full bottle or glass, but a taste.

And guess what? That seems to work.

I actually lounged around at a tiki bar all last evening, had only one taste of a tiki drink, and spent the rest of the evening happy. (In fact, I learned something: if you need to be a teetotaler in a bar, there might be no finer place than a tiki bar. Those bartenders can whip up some great non-alcoholic drinks from their arsenal of fruit juices.)

So, what are the results of (mostly) not drinking for a bit over a week?

I lost four pounds.

Yeah, I was drinking a lot.

Here’s to another three arid weeks.

Looking Back and Looking Forward

I sucked at keeping it together in 2015.

No, that’s probably not quite right, even though that’s how it feels on the first day of 2016. I sucked at keeping my brain together in 2015. On the outside, if I look at the evidence, there’s a lot I did in 2015 that should make me proud. The fact that I accomplished any of it while being sabotaged by my own personal issues is a wonderment. It’s weird that I can look back on all the stuff that happened in 2015 and only see weight gain, daily struggles with mental illness, far too little creativity, and way too much alcohol.

This is my first Tin Lizard blog post in over a year, which belies a year were I felt I was either doing too little of import or was doing too much to talk about it. I look at my computer records and see swaths of unedited photos and the sputtered sparks of once-promising projects. It’s like simultaneously looking at a year that didn’t happen and a year that was too full to have any sense applied to it.

Thus, to smack my brain back to reality, I need to list what I actually accomplished in 2015. I need to dump all the junk out of the box so I can sift through and find the keepers. Perhaps then I’ll be able to hash out what truly has been missing.

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Lessons of Holly

Melissa_and_HollyI don’t remember when I first met Holly. She just always seemed to be part and parcel of the Butt-Numb-a-Thon experience. Every year, when I’d go down to Austin, TX, chances were pretty good that Holly was also there, having traveled from Atlanta. Holly was always a burst of energy. She’d instantly befriend the new folks. She’d remember you even if she’d only met you briefly years ago. She’d wrap you up in a hug when you arrived, and she’d hug the hell out of you when you left.

I’d run into Holly several times per year. I’d run into her at Dragon*Con and at Fantastic Fest. She’d always have a story to tell. She’d introduce me to random people she’d just met. She’d always have a different hair color.


I remember one Fantastic Fest where I had just seen a film named Love, which was set on the International Space Station. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, led by none other than video game designer/astronaut Richard Garriott. I sat through most of the Q&A baffled by the fact that I was in the same room with Lord British from Ultima, and that Lord British had lived in space.

After the Q&A, the audience got up and started to leave the room. I saw Holly near the front of the theater, so I walked up to say hi. She was chatting with some other folks, but when I arrived she said, “Oh, I want you to meet someone!”

I was then led by the hand to up to Richard Garriott, who’d she’d just met and of course immediately befriended.

“Richard! This is my friend, Melissa! She’s an amazing person, and you two should know each other.”

Dumbfounded, I shook the hand of Lord British. The part of my brain that still functioned had an internal dialogue that went something like Holly what the fuck why are you talking me up as awesome to somebody who has LIVED IN OUTER SPACE?

But Richard was totally cool. By the time five minutes had passed, I had learned a lot about how people poop in space, all because Holly talked me up to Lord British.


Holly loved people. She was a main driving force of the BNAT Facebook group. She would welcome the new folks. She kept the fires of discussion stoked during the year. She was one of the reasons that the BNAT family of attendees really is like a family. She was like that one fun, wild aunt who would always keep the conversation going at Thanksgiving.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say anything mean about another human being.


#ff2013 has marked me for life.Last year, at the closing party of Fantastic Fest, I was one of the lucky folks on the short list to get a free tattoo. It was a long wait, but Holly would drop by every now and then to make sure I wasn’t dying of boredom. I think she even brought me a beer at one point.

When I was called up by the tattoo artist, Holly was there like a shot. See, I’d chosen the top of my foot as an excellent place for this tattoo. I’ve gotten tattoos before, so I knew what to expect, but I knew that running a tattoo gun over the tiny bones of the foot would hurt like the dickens. I was prepared to grit my teeth on my own, but Holly would hear none of that. She was determined to keep me distracted while I got jabbed thousands of times by an inky needle.

So, all during the procedure, Holly held my hand and told me stories about when she worked as an abortion clinic escort. They were a mix of serious and funny stories, told with the pace and speed of a machine gun. She just talked nonstop until the tattoo artist was done.

At the end of it, I knew she must have been an amazing clinic escort.


Just before BNAT last year (if I remember right), Holly announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Throughout the last year, she has been a paragon of positivity and good humor. She’d make Hulk jokes about the radiation treatment. She was very open about posting photos of her various operations and treatments, and yet she always found something light to say about the damage her body was taking.

She made it to Fantastic Fest this year, which means she was deemed healthy enough to travel. I took it as a good sign, especially since whenever I saw her flit by, she looked great. She had a radiation burn across her upper chest, and her build had changed since the last time I’d seen her, but otherwise, she looked great. Even her super-short cancer recovery haircut looked great on her.

She was maybe a touch less full of energy than usual, but the difference was slight. It honestly looked like she punched cancer right in its goddamned face.

The last time I saw her at Fantastic Fest was at the final party. She was waiting to get one of the free tattoos. As she sat in line, everyone was dropping by to say how great it was to see her. A common refrain was Goodbye, see you at BNAT!

I unfortunately had to drive other folks home early, so I was unable to wait very long with her. I did get to have a nice, long goodbye, and got a hug, as always.

I was sure I was going to see her at BNAT this year, because Holly is always at BNAT.


After she got home from Fantastic Fest a couple weeks ago, she learned that the cancer had metastasized. She was riddled with the stuff.

Yesterday, I learned that Holly has been unconscious since Tuesday. Last night, I learned that she’d been taken out of the ICU and moved to hospice. This morning, I learned that she is gone. The tired goodbye at Fantastic Fest is the last I will ever see of Holly.


She was effervescent. She was an unstoppable dynamo of activity, a fun-seeking missile, a maelstrom of energy. It’s hard to believe that her own body betrayed her. That there will be no more Holly.

All of us who saw her at Fantastic Fest are kicking ourselves. We should have skipped a movie and had lunch with her instead. We should have hugged a little longer. I should have just waited with her for that tattoo. But really, how could we have known? Hurricanes can’t be stopped, so how could we expect that Holly could be stopped?

And as I pen this, I realize that I am doing this all wrong. Holly had it right. Holly was in the moment with everyone she came into contact with. You felt appreciated and welcomed at all times. Meanwhile, here I am, expressing gratitudes into a machine after the person who should be thanked and praised can no longer hear them.

Oh, Holly. I thought there was more time. I was certain there would be more movies and karaoke and free tattoos.

May we all live with your zeal.