I'm on my way out the door for one last bash at Christmas shopping (this one involves driving up to the HP Pavilion...) but I have to share this:

World of Warcraft movie (a WoW video of a song from Avenue Q, which I rilly rilly rilly want to see. It's a puppet musical. Oh, and I suppose there's an "adult content" warning too).

Addendum: Mission accomplished, Christmas shopping complete. The HP Pavilion task was easy (it's a huge stadium, and parking at a huge stadium is always a breeze if there's no event happening) but I also went to the San Jose State campus. I found a parking space easily enough, but miscalculated the size of the campus and the location of my target. To use a U of S analogy, I parked by the President's house and had to go to Vet Med. And it didn't help that I misread a map* and went by way of Alexander's (relatively speaking).



* So this map was on a pillar. There was a map on each side. Instead of north being up, each map was turned so that the way that you were facing was up. Who the hell does that? So I got 90 degrees off course, and had to ask for directions. Fortunately, an exam had apparently just let out so it was easy to find a student happy at being asked a simple and straightforward question.

Heartwarming photos
Inspiring angels
Nativity scenes
Singing carols

And of course, BRAVING THE INSANITY THAT IS THE BAY AREA RETAIL SPACE TO GET PRESENTS! Eegh. Is it bad that I'm doing much of my Christmas shopping at Trader Joe's?

(I wondered where that phrase comes from, briefly. What did we do before the Internet?)

Anyway, this morning I was awake before the alarm went off, and I thought to myself how tired I was going to be today. I hadn't slept hardly at all last night; I remembered just lying and staring at the darkness, glancing at the clock every 15 minutes, going over all the things we have to do before the holidays, reminding myself of calls I have to make, worrying about all those things that seem more worrisome at 4:00 AM., trying to sleep, failing, and watching the clock change again.

Then I realized that I didn't have any actual symptoms of sleep deprivation. My eyes weren't sandy, I didn't have that headache, ringing in the ears and slight sense of unreality that usually means I haven't gotten enough sleep. I wasn't even very tired.

So either I've ascended to a higher plane of being and bypassed basic human needs, or I just dreamed I was lying awake, staring at the darkness and worrying. Which is pretty depressing. I mean, dreams are limited only by your imagination. They're a chance to soar on wings of fancy, to go "quietly and safely insane every night of our lives." * And I dream about lying awake and worrying? I suck.





* Charles William Dement, who apparently said or did nothing else noteworthy (um, according to Google... man, my research has gotten lazy) unless he's the same as William Charles Dement the sleep researcher. Huh. He might be, this attribution places C.W. Dement at Stanford, which is where W.C. Dement is. So all the many, many attributions of that quote to "Charles William Dement" might just be wrong. This is the dark side of the Interweb, I guess; how misinformation gets propogated and quoted without examination. The foundation of the Wikipedia flap, basically.

This piece on one of Dr. Dement's (what a great name for a psychological researcher) colleagues is really interesting, by the way.

Wow, two posts in as many days!

But I just had to talk about the San Jose Tech Museum. We went for the first time today*, because a guy at the Festive Holiday Cookie Baking Afternoon thingy told us about an electronic game retrospective exhibit there that is leaving soon. So we just had to see that, of course. They had old arcade games, console games, Space Wars (like on the PDP-1!), and a ton of others that you could play, then exhibits on a whole bunch of newer popular ones that included concept art, design documents, media articles... everything!

And then there was the regular part of the museum, which was pretty damn cool too. The most impressive thing, I thought, was not just how many of the exhibits were interactive but how many used this "TechTag" idea. When you went in, you got this luggage-tag like thing with a magnetic strip. You could use this to save a lot of your interaction experience to the museum website to look at later.

So now that Blogger is letting me post pictures again (she says, knowing that by saying this she's just caused Blogger's image server to explode), here are some pix of today thanks to the magic of the TechTag!



This is R:tAG and me through a thermal camera. I'm wearing a scarf; that's the blue (cooler) thing around my neck. I also have a hat in my hand, but I'd just finished waving it around to watch it cool off so it's hard to see 'cause it's cooled. The camera was up by the ceiling; we haven't become dwarves or anything. And yeah, we're wearing T-shirts. And no coats. In December.




They also had a 3D imaging thing, where you sat in a chair and had a camera circle your head. You then could play with the resulting 3D model, put different textures and colours on it, look at the wireframe, etc. Dark things didn't show up that well which is why the back of my head's missing, and glasses tended to mess it up too which is why we're not wearing any. But it was neat! And on the TechTag page, the whole 3D model is preserved so you can rotate it and everything (though you can't do the texture mapping stuff on the website).

We also got a robot portrait done; you got a digital picture taken, then the computer ran it through an edge-detection filter and passed the result to a plotter. That was funny 'cause we got the picture of us together, but because R:tAG's face is so much darker than mine (the winter fur and all) it skewed the average so badly that his face got drawn and my half of the picture is just a blank with a few vague scribbles. I'd scan it, but his computer is busy with very important research right now. **

Oh, and we saw Constantine a few nights ago, which was actually pretty good despite Keanu Reeves. His lack of acting talent continues to astound me. If they'd gotten anyone else for the role the movie would have been vastly improved (if one forgets completely about the source material, of course... poor Chaz). But Rachel Weisz (Angela) was good, and Tilda Swinton (Gabriel) and Peter Stormare (Satan) were fantastic. I'm sort of excited about Narnia now because Ms. Swinton is playing the White Witch.



* Well, technically for the second time, since we were there once to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the IMAX. Not a success, by the way. Movies that weren't made for IMAX aren't good to watch in IMAX. Everything gets this weird fisheye distortion, and it's way too close to focus properly (subjectively).

** Yeah, WoW.

Wow, does the season ever creep up on you when the weather doesn't appreciably change. I wonder if I'll ever adjust to giant inflatable Santas gaily peering through lush foliage.

One freakin' week before we return to the Great White North. ** Guess I'd better start getting my ducks in a row for gifts. Metaphorically. Unless anyone really wants a duck as a gift, but they'd have to really really want one 'cause I expect that'd be tricky going through customs ("Your infant is quacking, ma'am...").

We were just at a Festive Holiday Cookie Baking Afternoon thingy hosted by a co-worker of R:tAG's. People here have never heard of Nanaimo bars *** or butter tarts, so it's easy to be all exotic and impressive by producing them. Funniest moment of the afternoon; a toddler mistaking a Gaeta (black, wrinkled, very pungent) olive for a raisin. His face was priceless, and he actually did the whole wiping-the-tongue thing.

Some more random links:

Brilliant Journalism (of course, the story practically writes itself, but the last sentence in particular reaches for greatness)
Cool Perceptual Illusion (R:tAG says this doesn't work for him. Fair enough, those "Magic Eye" posters don't work for me.)
A Preemptive Message to People What Send Me E-mail with Petitions (and I'll re-send this link as needed)
My New Favourite Web Comic
Great Prank Call (I love the Zug folks)



** Someone I met recently said his wife was from the Great White North; he meant Indiana. The hell?

*** I've lost my old Nanaimo bar recipie, so I Googled for one. The first few hits concerned nightlife in the BC city. Not quite what I wanted.

So this morning, I turned on the water for the shower and squinted at the odd flurry of activity around the faucet. Not having my glasses on, I had to get quite close before I saw all the ants running in and out of the tiny crack between the faucet and the tile. Oh well, I said to myself, there are usually a few ants in the shower, no big deal. I splashed them away and pulled the little doohicky to divert the water to the shower head.

For a brief but intensely horrible second, the shower ran ants intead of water.

Then, later, the bottom element on the oven stopped working, and there is nothing sadder than bread dough that's been a 100 degree oven instead of a 350 degree one. The oven is a new-fangled one that doesn't have fuses, just a digital display that is blinking "F3." I miss fuses. You knew where you were with fuses. So I tried to bake in the bread machine, but apparently I got distracted by something shiny while measuring the liquids because that loaf came out with the dimensions of a cabbage and the density of plutonium.

And then I was spraypainting some terrain pieces and had a lapse of reason about the purpose of the little arrow on the nozzle. So now I look like a very dainty chimneysweep.

I think I'm just going to bed.

Well, the ways of different cultures seem strange at first, but it's Thanksgiving here and I have to say it's timed with the weather. The Canadian Thanksgiving date was quite hot, still definitely summer. Now it's cooler, cloudier, and the deciduous trees are actually changing colour.

Don't have time for a really well-thought out post because I'm making Pumpkin Gingerbread for a T-day dinner we've been invited to. To which we've been invited. Whatever. But I just heard a story on NPR that's too good not to share. They were doing a show on T-day cooking disasters, and mentioned a cookbook with a receipe for popcorn-stuffed turkey. The ingredients forgot to specify "4 cups popped popcorn." So all over the nation, apparently, people blithely filled their turkeys with 4 cups of unpopped corn, and roasted them. Well, started to roast them, until the popcorn popped and blew the turkeys apart. They ended up recalling the cookbooks.

And here's my traditional Thanksgiving link, in the spirit of introducing weirdness to every holiday:

The Electric Sheep Thanksgiving Special

Enjoy.

More links

I just keep accumulating these things, so I might as well share them.

Happy Halloween! (somewhat late, but still funny)
Ikea ad (really cool ad. Might take a long time to load, but (I think) worth it. Once the big white title disappears, the ad is interactive. Mouse on it.)
Heinekin ad (Made me laugh and laugh. Mainly because I remember the Slimelight and a couple of hundred hard-core London Goths all dancing their little black hearts out to "Yellow Submarine.")
Kung Fu F*ck You (Naughty word warning, but a most impressive tribute to a classic genre)
The City (It's a model of San Francisco in Jell-o! How cool is that???)
My next car
My next knitting project
Got Medieval (a blog by a medievalist who chronicles "slipshod use of medieval European history in the media and pop culture." One of my new favourites)


I suppose everyone who reads this is Canadian and doesn't really need to be reminded or have this explained, but this post is in honour of Rememberance Day.

(saying "Happy Remembrance Day just seems inappropriate, somehow)

This was a weekend of the red wine.

Saturday morning, we went with Carl and a friend of his to a local winery for their "cork equity" event, where they have free food and a couple of people playing the accordion (um, accordions, I guess, not like there were multiple people all playing one accordion) and they'll fill up the bottles you bring for $5/750 ml. They sell empty bottles, too, in case you didn't bring your own. So that was neat and we got some bottles of a nice Shiraz/Sangiovese blend.

Then Saturday night we went to Teatro Zinzanni for the City of Villains launch party, which was very nice and featured quite a bit of red wine and (for me, at least) a cocktail called a "Lemon Drop." I would link to a recipe, but none of the ones that come up on Google (at least the first page; did I mention I'm lazy?) seem to match what I had. It featured lots of fresh mint, anyway, and was very tasty. I like mint. I figure that was my vegetable serving for the day. Cryptic bussed everyone to The City and back, so we were all free to indulge. The food was good, and the entertainment was spectacular. There was a piece called "Vertical Tango" where the dancers basically performed a tango up and down a 20' pole. Amazing. And there were twin trapeze artists, and a guy who juggled seven hats, and singing, and a theramin solo, and face painting, and little troll dolls on the spoons, and everything.

And tonight R:tAG and I watched Sideways, and had to pause the movie about 20 minutes in to open a bottle (not f'ing Merlot!) .

This was a nice weekend.

... I just heard a radio ad that really made me realize that I'm in California. To paraphrase:

Dad: "Son, we need to talk."
Son: "Uh, what?"
Dad: "Your mother opened your closet to hang up some shirts and we found what you're growing in there. We're very disappointed in you."
Son: "Uh, I can explain!"
Dad: "I mean, yellow leaves, wilting stems... you're using such a poor lighting system! How could you expect to grow anything good like that? We thought you knew better!"
Announcer: "Come to X garden and hydroponic supplies..."

Heh.

I just got my hair cut. I was aiming for Stephanie Leonidas and I think I ended up with Laura Bush. Sigh. Ah well, hair grows.

So here're some pictures. I had to get R:tAG to log in as me and upload them in order to get this to work. Same browser running in the same XP login, but when I type, it doesn't work. When he types, it does. I am not a superstitious person, but this is putting me on a path that will end in waving a dead chicken at the monitor during the dark of the moon.


Anyway, this is the punkin. Note the greenery in the background. It was a serious culture shock to see kids in costumes that don't have a parka and a toque as integral components.


This, as threatened, is almost all the knitting I've done since I moved here (mid-March) Not shown: a pair of child's kilt hose, a lace shawl, a felted purse, a 6' scarf and a couple of dishcloths (all gone for gifts to various folks).

- Three stuffed animals (bear, elephant and squid)
- Two baby hats
- One baby sweater
- One baby blanket
- One pair felted slippers
- Two pairs of socks
- Three scarves (two rectangular, one triangular)
- Seven longsleeved sweaters, most with cables. I like cables. And yes, it gets cold enough here.
- Two tank tops
- One odd felted box (center bottom) as a semi-successful experiment
- Three Jayne-Cobb style hats (all in one night - they go quick)
- Half of a lace tablecloth (the white thing at the upper right that looks like a jumbo-size clot of ramen)

Any questions or requests for details will be cheerfully answered and/or supplied. Knitting makes me happy. But you'll have to wait until R:tAG is home to see pictures, apparently.

Weird

OK, those of you who use Blogger... I still can't upload images. It goes through the whole megillah then ends up with a very useful error message that says "image not uploaded." This happens with Firefox and IE, and with .JPG, .PNG, .TIF files of all sorts (including ones I didn't create), and with both computers we have in the house (they do use the same router, though). I can however, "upload" (sideload?) images that are already on the Web, i.e. that have a URL.

My Javascript console says Error: compareForm is not defined, source file http://www.blogger.com/posteditor.js if that helps. Any ideas?

The truly odd thing is that R:tAG can log into Blogger and do THE EXACT SAME THING and get a picture uploaded. We haven't changed browsers, WinXP login sessions, nothin'. However, I made a bran'-new Blogger account, and wasn't able to upload pictures on it either.

Blogger hates me. Everyone hates me. I'm gonna go into the garden and eat worms.

Well, a (slightly) belated happy Halloween, anyway. Oddly enough, I don't get sentimental at the traditional times like Christmas and Thanksgiving... Halloween is when I'm missing friends and family. Says something, I guess.

True to my own tradition, I made my trademark punkin. I'd provide an illustration, but Blogger is being bloody-minded about uploading pictures right now.

No point in doing the knitting post either without pictures. Maybe I'll post this and try again ("have you checked to make sure the power's on?") .

Well, this is what blogs originally were, right? I'm just being old school. Of course, blogs have changed...

Folksongs are your Friends - an absolutely hi-larious list of lessons you can learn from folksongs. If you're a folksong fan (i.e. you know what the Child collection is, who Barbara Allen was, or have ever sung, for any reason, the words "whack-fol-de-diddle") read not only the post but the comments.
You Knit What? - the dark side of knitting.
Mammatus Clouds - I miss seeing all the sky.
Knitted Art - by Freddie Robins. I want this.

The last one brings up something I was pondering. I would very much like to have that in my home (no, I don't know what I'd do with it. That's not the point. Did you see it? How could you not want that?). I could make it, fairly easily.

Is this legal? Is this ethical? It's different, I think, from a painting where even if you try to reproduce it yourself, it's probably going to be different. The pattern for making this is much more reproducible. Is it more like music, where you can easily play the same tune? Should there be a mechanical license to allow a "cover" (an unfortunately ambiguous term when it comes to knitting, but there you are)? Does the fact that I'd make only one, for me, make a difference? If I fully credit Ms. Robins at all stages, does that make a difference?

I suppose I could alter enough about it to make it mine, like cooks do recipies, but I want it just as it is. There would be differences; that picture gives no idea of scale, for example, but that's like me transposing "Yesterday" to a different key and calling it mine. Isn't it?

I also suppose I could just do some reading on knitters' copyrights but most of what I've found concerns written patterns. Techniques and ideas can't be copyrighted, apparently, and that's what I'd be using from that piece. But if it's a "copyrightable work of artistic craftsmanship" (and I'd definitely call it art, rather than something utilitarian) then I'd be doing something illegal. Maybe I should just ask Ms. Robins.


We had a lot of people recommend "Napoleon Dynamite" to us. Good friends, intelligent friends, friends with impeccable (or at least roughly parallel) taste in movies. Last night, we borrowed it (from one of these friends) and watched it.

What a piece of crap.

It's been a really really long time since I've seen a movie that I disliked so strongly. Not because of any intention on the part of the creators (like, I probably wouldn't enjoy watching "Hotel Rwanda," but I'm not supposed to) but out of anger that there is an hour and a half of my life that I'm not going to get back.

Am I missing something? Was there some deep message that passed me by? I am not ordinarily insensitive to nuance; I am no stranger to irony, to deadpan humour, to satire, to black comedy. This was none of those things. It was just a waste of time and film (note that I am not saying talent). There were about 20 seconds of the show that I didn't dislike, and that was only because they featured an alpaca. Alpacas make everything better.

Afterwards, when we could speak again, R:tAG staggered to our video shelf and weakly grabbed the first DVD to hand, just to try to clear our mental palates and let us sleep that night. This cinema sorbet turned out to be Spiderman 2, and it seemed like freakin' Casablanca, let me tell you. Even the preview, for some piece of fluff called "Hitch," seemed like a brilliant masterpiece.

Feh.

Miscellanea

As usual, an update consisting of random stuff to show people that a) I'm still alive b) I haven't forgotten about blogging and c) I can still work a keyboard.

First, some links that made me laugh out loud...
Partially Clips
Diesel Sweeties
License Plate

Now some links that made me go hmm...
Checkershadow Illusion
How to Disappear in America

And links that are just really interesting (have you gone to see Mirrormask yet? Go see Mirrormask!)
Interview with Neil Gaiman and one with Dave McKean


And if you know Cenobyte and The Captain, be sure to wish The Captain a happy birthday today! I can't believe it's been six years since the fateful day with the aromatherapy, the heroin and the toilet.

(if you don't know the story, ask me, Cenobyte or Road Rage sometime. It's evolved into a half hour performance with full orchestration and five-part harmony.)

I am sated

I've seen three movies in as many days. Well, technically, two movies in three days, one twice. Still, I'm movied-out.

I saw Serenity twice, of course. I should have known that no movie would live up to my expectations, though. The second time, I kept clarifying the points that had aroused vague dissatisfaction in me the first time 'round. Hm. Can I do this without ruining it for those what haven't seen it yet? Is there anyone who reads this that hasn't seen it yet? OK, I'll try to be vague, but if you haven't seen it yet and you want to remain untarnished, drop everything and go see the damn movie now. This'll be here when you come back.

OK. I mean, I did like the movie, I'm glad it was made. But...

1) Of the two deaths, one fit and one didn't. I mean, if this were a game, and these were your characters, which death would you be happy with? One was lacking story-juice, to use a friend's lovely phrase. There're movies where bad things happen to good people and life is unfair and arbitrary and generally bleak. Then there are movies where 90-lb girls kick the shit out of ravening hordes and still get to dramatically pose, unscratched, against a backdrop of explosions. Mixing those two genres leads to dissonance.

2) For some reason, the "future-hick" dialog style seemed jarring instead of unfamiliar but natural.

3) After hearing from people who saw the movie without seeing the series, it seems that the movie didn't provide enough background to stand alone, while at the same time changing some stuff that the series had established. Examples off the top of my head: a) Simon's confrontation with Mal seemed not to fit with how things had been going by the time of "Objects in Space." b) You needed to have seen the series to understand Zoe at the end. Without that context, it seemed like she didn't care. c) What happened to the hands-of-blue guys? The series didn't give the impression that they were after River for something she knew, but because of what she was. But in the movie, when The Big Secret came out, she's of no interest to them any more.
In fairness, I don't know what could be done to totally fix this, and it's hard to deal with that many characters in a relatively short movie and make you care about them all.

4) The whole idea of important information existing in only one instantiation is getting obsolete even today. The initial recording, sure, you can see why. Afterwards? Why not blanket the solar system with copies? Leave them in caches. Broadcast it to whoever you can... why is reaching everyone at once such a goal? Again, even today people are pretty inclined to not believe media, or at least believe that it can be altered (if The Operative were such a fanatic, wouldn't that be his first reaction at least?). Hell, you find people still believing that the moon landing was faked. And while the Alliance is supposed to be a democracy (at least, they talk about Parliament and representatives), they've certainly played it as a less than ideal one. So, as in the current time, the real powers are probably almost scandal-immune. Also, some idea of public reaction would have been nice, some idea of consequences apart from The Operative saying "Yeah, it sort of worked." Well, I guess that's what sequels are for.

4) Corpses wouldn't remain intact through ablation. OK, this is minor.

--------

But onto the other movie I saw, which was a complete and utter delight. My face hurt from maintaining a delighted grin for two hours. Go see Mirrormask. Not so much for the story, which is Labyrinth, or Wizard of Oz, or any other variation on the dream-quest archetype (though of course, Gaiman retelling myths is never a bad thing) but for the visuals. And for possibly The Best Line in Any Movie Ever, which I won't repeat because I don't want to spoil it for you plus its impact relies somewhat on the buildup. I loved this movie.

(and part of it was set in Brighton and in the scenes on the balcony I think you can see the corner of the flat block where I lived for a year!)

It's Banned Books Week, and since anti-censorship and reading are two things that I can really get behind, I figure I'd do my part to promote awareness. Here are the 100 most frequently challenged books, according to the American Library Association. I've only read 26 of them! I think it's because I was never that fond of Judy Blume. I can't remember which book(s?) of hers I read, though.

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume
33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I'm not sure which of these were challenged in school libraries, public libraries, or what. Of the ones I've read, I'd say that I wouldn't put the Sleeping Beauty trilogy and the Anarchist Cookbook in a school library, just like I wouldn't give a child a martini. You have to save *some* things for growing up.

I imagine that sex is the primary reason for controversy, with racist language being a close second. But (again, as far as the ones I've read), I don't think that racist language in and of itself promotes racism. Is the sentence "The evil, mean man called him a wop" racist? I guess you could argue that it might teach someone the word "wop," but I think it's better to know that words like that exist, and that they're offensive, and how times have changed, than to be ignorant.

This is coming from someone who (AS AN ILL-JUDGED JOKE!) told a bar full of Quebec engineering students to "speak white"... according to my brand of logic, that was only truly offensive if you think that being called non-white is offensive. If someone called me a redhead, I'd just be puzzled and try to see the joke, because my hair's not red. Same thing with skin tone. Apparently there's a lot more to it than that. Who knew? Well, me, now. I'm lucky to still have all my teeth. Maybe I can say that the book that would have explained the situation was banned from my elementary school library...

Looking back on the list, "promoting the occult" probably was a popular factor too. Sigh. So some kids that can't figure out what fiction is might try chanting nonsense, see it doesn't work, and find some philosophy that does make sense to them. Hm. Maybe I can see why the religious nuts are against it.

Aaaannnyway, how 'bout that local sports team?



Arr!

It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Arr, and to honour that, the fine R:tAG and me set the sails of our vessel and steered to the Northern California Renaissance Faire, a'cause this were the Weekend o' the Pirate Invasion! Like at the landlubbery Garlic Festival, we were gobsmacked at the size of the fair(e) and the crowds, scupper me wi' a marlinspike else! Luckily though we've dropped anchor we still kept some fitting pirate duds, close-hauled in our many treasure chests, arr! So we blended in, paid for food at appropriate rates (piratical) and enjoyed the day. We were a trifle confused at the jousts (a plaguey daft way of settling fights, prancing around on horses... whip out yer blunderbuss and let the scurvy dog have it between the eyes, I say!) but after seeing the cove with the huge turquoise sombrero, and all the fairies with gauze wings, and the craze for putting animal ears on yer muffin cap, we decided that the whole concept of "period" was plainly as off-course as a sloop in a gale, belike.

Bugger me with a belaying pin, it's going to be hard going to stop talkin' like this. Arr!

Things I've been brooding about...

A city of half a million people, some of whom were shooting at rescuers, had to be evacuated when there was no phone service, no electricity, few roads, and most supply and support depots in the area were in serious trouble also. To say that this would have been a snap except for the eeeevil machinations of the Great Satan George Bush seems... simplistic. I'm no fan of his, but people are talking like his next step is going to be letting rich white hunters go into New Orleans to club poor black people for sport like baby seals. Sure. Right.

Poor people of all colours were affected the most by Katrina, because poor people of all colours are always affected the most, by everything. They have fewer options, fewer resources. They can't afford to move. They can't buy a plane ticket to leave temporarily. They can't even put gas in the car, if they have a car, or spare the money for emergency bottled water. They're more likely to keep their savings in cash, in their house. Even many that aren't technically "poor" still live paycheck to paycheck. Anything, a house fire, a severe illness, even car trouble, can be a heavy burden. Society manages to absorb or ignore individually ruined lives. Only a bulk deal like Katrina seems to get our attention.

It's easy with 20/20 hindsight to see what should have been done, which reports should have been heeded and which ignored. I'm sure there's plenty of room for criticism anyway. Any large group is going to screw up, never mind several large groups trying to work together. I almost envy the people for whom it's axiomatic that anything bad is Bush's fault. Their world is so much simpler. Of course, there are those who are thinking that this happened to New Orleans for roughly the same reasons that Sodom and Gomorrah encountered their difficulties. Their world is simple too.

I just wish I'd seen New Orleans before this happened. I'd always wanted to go. Now I'm thinking I'd better visit Venice when I have the chance.

So, while the weather isn't actually getting warmer, it isn't getting cooler. Trees are dropping their foliage, but it's the pine trees. Seriously, the gutters are full of long brown needles. Pansies are for sale and no-one's snickering at the thought of buying bedding plants in September. No-one is covering their tomatoes. Fall clothing styles mean less pastel, not more fabric. We're going to a company picnic... in October.

There's a new arrival in the household... yes, it's the pitter-patter of a new 150 GB hard drive. R:tAG's once state-of-the-art system is now only good enough for me to check my e-mail and play Puzzle Pirates on. This new system is sweet, though, especially the 20" flatscreen monitor. The UPS guy carried the monitor box to the house and I thought "My, what a strong man," since when I think "20-inch monitor" I automatically think "weight comparable to my own." When I went to pick the box up to move it into the computer room I nearly threw it through the ceiling. I love this monitor. And the case is this huge black-and-silver monolith... R:tAG called me in to see it with the words "The Death Star is fully operational!" There seems to be an S&M club theme happening with cases these days.

Not much else of interest... I just thought I'd post something to reassure people that I'm alive and haven't broken all my fingers or anything. The job hunt continues but I'm thinking I should start being less picky. We'll see how that goes.

James Lileks on vampires - I remembered why I used to read this guy every single day. And he uses words like "flense" and "desuetude" with a casual competancy that wins my heart.

Snowflakes - OK, this is old, but I won't even say how much time I spent with it. And check out the snowflake's shadow... it changes as you cut!

Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva Dance - Amazing.

Google Earth - No, really. Try this. Jaw-dropping.

Now that I've slept a lot and my feet don't hurt...

- It was really really great to see Jen and Terry again. I think I didn't make that explicit enough. There are few people who would run around for a day with me dressed as (and acting like) a teddy-bear hunter, as well as get involved in a drive-by Tribal dance routine. And Terry was late, and disorganized, and doing things spontaneously, and spending more money than he planned, so it was worth the price of admission just to see that. :)

- It was also really really great to meet some of R:tAG's Pinnacle colleagues. I was amazed at how quickly and effortlessly it seemed like I'd known them all (and liked them!) for a long time. Great folk.

- On two separate occasions, I had a conversation that started with "Where are you from?" and ended with "Saskatoon??!!!??? Me too!" One was understandable, since I'd never met the guy (he moved in June) but the other was someone I had actually met a few times. My defense is that at GenCon you're constantly seeing people who look familiar. It's like there's about 10 "Gamer" prototypes that everyone's just variations of.

- You can't pay too much money for a good pair of shoes.

- I will avoid flying Frontier until they change their policy of serving Doritos on board. The trip back was pure hell.

- Layne has ruined my ability (slender as it was) to do a German/Eurotrash accent. All I kept hearing in my head was "But it is so wonderful to be naked and free!" and stifling giggles. Damn your eyes, Layne!

- I talked with Ron Glass! Squeeeeee!

So. Back from GenCon, which was a hoot. I didn't actually end up playing many games, because socializing was far more fun, and it was too much work to sort out a schedule on the fly. Man, there were a lot of choices. Too many, I almost think. I did make three LARPS, one of which was run by my second-favourite Cthulhu Live ST (my first favourite being, of course, R:tAG). This guy is one of the few STs I know to obsess as much as I do about setting, props and costumes. We shamelessly begged our way into his full-up game despite having only generic tickets. It was Cthulhu Dark Ages, the first he'd ever done, and while I had great fun I felt my familiar problems with any Dark Ages game surface. It's just too hard to get into a mediaeval mindset, in my opinion, even if you're trying, and I was surprised to see some people not even trying. I mean, you don't have to have a degree in history to understand that society was different then, do you? And if you sign up for a LARP, you do understand that you're playing a role, don't you? But I don't want to sound like a total snark, most did well, and the game was fun. Crusaders and Muslims facing eldritch horrors that threatened all humanity, and still killing each other. Heh.

(That game of his wasn't the one that I wanted to get into, though. That one was the WWII German U-boat one, where he and his crew had constructed a 16' x 24' submarine interior out of PVC pipe and sheeting, complete with control panels, lighting, a working vintage phonograph and field telephone, and a galley filled with potatoes and Spam. The attendance limit in that game was, for obvious reasons, non-negotiable. I did get a tour of the set after, though, and it was mighty impressive.)

Deciding at the last minute to enter the costume contest also played hob with my plans, since that ended up taking most of Saturday what with the dressing up and the running about and the actual contest and the hey hey hey. Jen and I decided to steal a brilliant idea from Carla, Layne et al. (don't remember who all was involved, sorry) and dress up like teddy bear hunters. As in, hunters of teddy bears. We spent Saturday morning stalking catgirls and stuffed animals carried by small children. We had so many people say "You'll win the costume contest!" that we decided to enter the costume contest. And we did indeed win our category, and $100. The overall winner had taken 5 months to make her costume, which involved 12' moveable wings and 5,000 golden pheasant feathers. Considering I spent $20 on teddy bears and 2 days gutting them (with Suz's unnervingly willing help), and the costumes started out as a joke about catgirls, I can't complain.


(I am slightly worried that my first picture ever on this blog shows me like this. Honestly, I'm an adult.)

Deep breath

OK. Last set of vistors waved-farewell-to (and there may also have been hugging), last bit of cleaning ready to start, last clothing bit packed (opening my suitcase is like looking into the Abyss, but black is so versatile!) and off to GenCon. With a brand new sinus cold. Yuck.

In retrospect, of course, going off to spend four days with 40,000 people (most of notoriously questionable social skills) is probably not the best way to cap off three weeks of houseguests and sightseeing. I'm starting to resemble a rabbit in a petting zoo at 5:30 PM. I hope that something will snap and I'll just pass through all the stress and anxiety into a calm floating pool of Zen acceptance. Or sociopathy. Either-or.

Whew!

I'm not dead yet! But the visitors are all starting to blur together. I was trying to continue a conversation with Suz that I'd started with Jeff, used an in-joke from Ben and Rilla with Randy, and almost sprayed Orange Guard on Chris.

Man, though, it's nice to have friends. Just thought I'd say that.

We're really really looking forwards to our visitors from Saskatoon. This morning, though, we found visitors that we didn't want. The kitchen floor was black with ants. Little teeny-tiny ants, apparently "grease ants" since they seemed to be ignoring the sugar-ant traps that we had around (we'd been invaded before, but not this exuberantly. ExuberANTly. Heh.) Something, apparently in the kitchen garbage, had drawn them in from our backyard, a distance of about 7 meters and through a patio door. I swear the garbage didn't smell that bad.

They were in a neat marching line, about a centimeter wide with a few foraging tributaries, for almost all the distance until they got to the region of the garbage can where they turned into a "freaked-out mess" in the words of a friend of ours who had had the same problem.

So a quick trip to the hardware store (which has an entire aisle of anti-ant products, our first clue that this is not a problem unique to us) produced an orange-peel based spray which, in addition to smelling really quite pleasant (pleasANT. Heh.) kills the little suckers on contact and repels future invasions. and is not so extravagantly (extravagANTly. Heh. OK, I'll stop) toxic as Raid and sprays of that ilk.

I think there's a story in here somewhere. If only Leiningen had had "Orange Guard."

Partially Clips

Does that make me a bad person?

Two days until our next deluge of visitors, and I am still full of warm and fuzzy thoughts towards Rilla for doing some major cleaning before she left. I find it difficult to clean my own house, let alone that of another, so such charity astounds me (and I'm kicking myself for not pointing her towards a few other places in the house... and the car is dusty... :))

The City of Villains beta starts soon, and I'm gingerly participating. Not gingerly because I think the game will be anything other than excellent (with R:tAG involved, how could it be?) but because of my tendancy to motion sickness, or, more accurately, simulator sickness. I was also worried because I'm pretty unfamiliar with City of Heroes, but R:tAG assures me that a novice point of view is just as valuable.

Our main computer is back and working, avec new power supply, which is a Good Thing. I hadn't realized how often I looked things up online until I needed to scout around for activities to keep our guests amused (assuming that just basking in our glorious presence isn't enough for these ingrates :)). Train and bus schedules, museum, zoo, and park locations and hours, movie listings, news... none of this is on paper for us.

And a few other links, in no real order or theme...

Tact Filters - it makes so much sense!
Royal Blood - maybe I am a bad person. These are pretty.
The Brothers Grimm - OooOOooooo, Monica Bellucci! >>drool<<
MirrorMask - This has been "coming soon" for so long now! Argh!

Whew!

So, still no pictures of anything, but this time I have an excuse. Well, more of an explanation. R:tAG's computer was apparently fried by a brownout a few days ago (and this is in spite of being connected to a UPS... grrrr) so uploading pictures is way more of a pain because we're using our agonizingly slow auxiliary backup emergency computer. Plus, at the moment, R:tAG has the camera.

Anyway, I just saw Bne and Rilla safely off to the airport after their week here. It was really, really, really nice to see them both again, and our subsequent visitors should not worry about us being burnt out on guests because we really miss all y'all. Burnt out on driving, maybe (it's always a bit of a shock to realize how much time one has to spend in a car here). But as I was thinking on the drive home, there is still a lot that we actually didn't even get to with Bne and Rilla, and what we did do, I wouldn't mind doing again. Well, except for seeing Batman Begins. It's a fine movie, but three times in as many weeks would be a bit much. But we also saw the Serenity trailer, which looks so great that I'm bouncing up and down slightly just thinking about it. I'm such a raving fangirl, it's embarassing.

So now the house is quiet... too, too quiet. Quieter than it's been since Friday night, when everyone was away playtesting CoV. A different sort of quiet than three people sitting together reading (which was every morning that wasn't spent in a car getting somewhere... >>happy sigh<<) I suppose I'll just be getting used to it again by the time our next guests arrive. This is the kind of problem I don't mind having.

If WWII Had Been a Realtime Strategy Game

More to come, describing our yachting weekend (yeah, no kidding, we're going to start calling each other Biff and Muffy and wintering in Antibes at this rate) and maybe a few pictures!

I feel vaguely dirty about this. Rilla "tagged" me in a blog-meme-virus thing about music, and what the heck, I'll go along with it although I've never been a bandwagon type, and I'm actually not a huge music buff. It'll keep me from peeling sheets of dead skin off my sunburn, anyway.

Number of CDs I own: Lemme go see... between R:tAG and I, we own about 300, it looks like. I think most are his.

Last CD I bought: Hmmm... This is a tough one. I could sort of cheat and say Sacrifice but I haven't actually bought it yet because I never remember to ask R:tAG to do his Paypal mojo in the short window where he's conscious and home (he's been putting in very long days at work this week). Sorry, Gayleen. The last CD I remember buying, because I was so happy to find it, was Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie's Together In Concert. This was a staple of my childhood. I also, within the last year I think, bought Lute Music For Witches and Alchemists after hearing it at McNally Robinson. But I don't buy a lot of music, actually (and no, I don't pirate it either. I just don't listen to music very often. Distracts me from my reading :))

Recent Favourite/New Listen: Aw, man. Does it have to be CDs? Because pretty much all I've been listening to recently is Shanty Raid-io (see sidebar for link) which is mostly drinking and pirate songs, or my I-Pod, which still has the music that Suz and Chris so kindly loaded for me when I realized I'd have to drive down to California on very short notice after my CDs had been packed and moved. As far as "Band what I had never even heard of but really quite like, from the aforesaid I-Pod," I'd have to go with Cake. As far as "Band what I hadn't heard of but as it turns out does some of the songs I really like on the aforesaid Shanty Raid-io," I'll go with The Jolly Rogers. And the mix Pirate CD that Tomas made for us gets played a lot too, especially when I'm cleaning. What can I say? Pirates are cool. :)

Five CDs that are meaningful to me:

Interesting category. Not necessarily CDs that I like, or own, or would recommend, but that are meaningful? Hm. As it happens, I do own all of these:

- Kirsty MacColl's Titanic Days because I think it's wonderful, tragically under-rated, and one of the few albums I've ever heard where every single song resonates with me to some extent.**
- A mix CD that my sister made me for Christmas one year, containing music from our childhood... Linda Ronstaadt, Schoolhouse Rock, Willie Nelson, because it's basically a bunch of in-jokes from growing up together that always makes me smile.
- The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band because it's just one of the best albums ever and "When I'm 64" was our wedding recessional.
- Beethoven's 9th, the lovely, lovely Ludwig Van, especially the Cleveland Orchestra disc. It's not George Szell conducting, but you'd never know it. This is almost the only music that I just sit and listen to... I don't read, knit, anything (and you may or may not realize how significant that is for me)
- Shoggoth On the Roof because when I grow up, I want to do something like this.

There's plenty more... I didn't even mention the Plaid Tongued Devils, the Arrogant Worms, Spirit of the West, Sting, Sisters of Mercy, Dead Can Dance, The Mission, The Cure, The Real Mackenzies, Inkubus Sukkubus, the Pogues, CCR, The Flying Pickets, The Nylons, Mozart (especially the Requiem and the 40th), Mendelssohn, Bach (both Johann Sebastian and P.D.Q), O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Roxy Music, XTC, The Wonderstuff, Fishbone, Captain Tractor... I guess the trouble is that because I don't listen to that much music (really!), what I do listen to gets invested with an unfair share of memories and associations. Each of these has a "because" clause after it, but this blog entry is threatening to get too big as it is. :)

Tag 5 more

Hm, no. I think everyone I know who would do this has already been tagged, and passing this on would just increase those uncomfortable chain-letter vibes. If you're reading this, and want to do it, feel free to tag yourself. Go ahead, it doesn't grow hair on your palms, it's beautiful and natural.



** Geeky admission that I hesitate to even put in a footnote: every LARP character I write a background for has a theme song. Two are from Titanic Days - Don't Go Home and Soho Square. I'll be amazed if anyone identifies the characters... it's more to do with a theme or mood than specifics, plus there just aren't many people who "met" both of them. Anyway, yeah, geeky. Sorry.

If you haven't seen The Story About the Toddler, go and read it immediately. The previous "The Story About the Baby" is partly available, but the author actually made it into a book so most of the content is taken down. But damn, that's some funny stuff.

As is I am a Japanese Schoolteacher.

Oh, and never, ever buy presliced mushrooms. Hm. I guess that is original content. Oops.

I just got my CA driver's license, having passed both the written and the driving test (without once referring to any instructional material, I might add... I am quietly proud). I am also pleased that they re-took my license photo. The first one was taken after a 2 hour wait at the DMV and without access to a mirror. If I want to know what I'd look like in twenty years after a nasty crack habit and being arrested for disturbing the peace at 3 AM, I now have a reference. Even the DMV lady said "Whoa!" when she saw it. Or maybe it was "Woe!" Either fits.

People wash their cars here a lot. Like, once a week. Perhaps as a consequence, car washes have evolved strangely. You drive your car up to the "vacuum station" and give it to the care of the attendants. Then you while away the wait in the fully appointed gift shop. This one reminded me of Home Again on Broadway. Clothes, hats, shoes, all kinds of candles and scented unguents, tchotchkes, a wall of wine, wine accessories... and the wall of the corridor to the cashier is glass so you can watch your car proceeding through the cleaning process. The cashier's room looks more like a hotel lobby; comfy chairs, coffee and tea. You pay the cashier for the car wash and whatever else you picked up, then stroll out to your shiny-clean car. It's positively decadent.

Upon reflection, car washes like what I'm used to (a la the PetroCan) are probably poorly suited to the climate. They probably had one too many cars roll out with their occupants parboiled and dead.

And the oil in my car is still there after the weekend's driving, and still even a reasonable colour! After my old "Check the gas and fill up the oil" Civic, this is a pleasant surprise indeed. I'm planning on making an exploratory call to the Honda dealership here, to see what's involved in replacing the speedometer plate (though I'm getting pretty good at the km->miles conversion) and maybe even installing air conditioning. Hey, it might be possible. Allow me my dreams.

So, no pictures from the mountains, since the idyllic mountain stream we went to turned out to be a nudie idyllic mountain stream and it felt, as Bne would put it, "kinda stalky" to be taking pictures. But it was a beautiful place. and one quickly becomes blase about the flesh on view. There were enough people wearing clothes that we didn't feel too out of place, which was good because I got a pretty ferocious sunburn over the bits of me that were exposed, so I don't even want to think about what the parts that never see sun would have been like.

It was a three hour drive up, in my black car with no air conditioning and 104 temperatures (about 40C) . I was on the edge of heat exhaustion... when we stopped for cold drinks and exposure to a controlled climate, a cashier actually asked if I was OK. I was beet red and sort of glassy eyed, I expect. But we soldiered on. To get to Yuba River, you leave the highway and start up a very very winding, steep, heavily forested mountain road. The road starts out as paved and two lane, then goes to paved and 1.5 lane, then to unpaved and 1 lane. Traffic is light, thank Christ, because there's barely enough room for two cars to pass. The second car that we met, I started getting grumpy about how they seemed to be driving in the middle of the road, squeezing me up against the cliff on my side. Then there was a thin spot in the trees on the other side, allowing a view.

Oh.
My.
God.

I had not realized how high up we were, or what a steep drop there was. It was like the view from an airplane window. You know how you can walk on a board with no problem when it's on the ground, but if it's three stories up, you can't? Yeah. And being in a car makes it worse, for me at least, because it's harder to have a sense of where the wheels are and where the car's center of balance is. That drive took ten years off my life, I expect. And, at the end, the parking lot was full so we had to park on the road, pulled over as far as we could to let people pass but not so far as to tumble to a fiery doom. I made R:tAG come with me so I wouldn't die alone to tell me how much room I had, and he practically needed pitons to get out of the passenger door and back onto the road.

Luckily, the beach the next day was a short easy drive, and overcast and foggy, and actually chilly when the sun went down. A rarely expressed sentiment, I know! (I found this picture on the Web, but the guy must have been sitting exactly where we were. Picture the clouds at ground level, and you've got it...) The last time I was at an ocean beach was Fort Lauderdale, I think, and this was different. Florida beaches are so clean that they look sifted and swept, the water stays shallow forever, and is almost as warm as bathwater. This ocean looks like a scary chicken soup... full of vegetable material and feathers, and it's COLD. I got my feet wet and decided that that was enough. R:tAG stayed out for a very long time, learning to boogie-board with some friendly locals. He's a better man than I. :) But my sunburn didn't get aggravated, which was all I cared about.

The best part about the beach was not, alas, immortalized on film. Around sunset we lit a fire and were sitting around chatting. That bit of the beach has a row of firepits, so there was a family next to our group doing the same thing. There were four children, about 8-14 I'd guess, and watching them "play" quickly became our entertainment, because they were more vicious than the average WWF event. The highlight was when the three youngest stuffed themselves into the adults' bunnyhugs, back to front, with their legs in the armholes, and the hoods up over their faces. The kids' arms were pinned by the bodies of the sweatshirts, and they were forced into sort of a crouch, and they were blind because of the hoods. So they started hopping around trying to push each other over while the oldest (who was too big to fit into a bunnyhug like that) tried to peg them with a huge purple beachball. It was like "The Prisoner" re-enacted by squigs, to make a hopelessly geeky reference, but it was hysterical. Unhappily, it was too dark for pictures to turn out and we felt weird about taking pictures of strange (in all senses) kids, but damn.

So, a good weekend. We got to see some really beautiful parts of California and hang out with new and old friends. We were careful to drink lots and lots of water, so apart from the sunburns, there was no recovery needed (you get wimpier as you get older, but you also get smarter). And we learned that any car we buy here is going to have air conditioning.

Miscellanea

Another culinary discovery: lasagne made with sliced polenta instead of noodles is a very good idea, and might actually be superior. Thanks, Frugal Gourmet!**

We're about to have an outdoorsy weekend... the mountains on Saturday and the beach on Sunday. As per usual, my initial idea of "snacks or something" is threatening to become a Martha-worthy Event (hmmm. I initially meant Martha Stewart, not R:tAG's mom, but looking at all the food I've assembled I think the phrase works either way). At least I remembered to not use mayonnaise, since it's still stinkin' hot here -- hot enough that I had to move my chocolate chips to the fridge lest they become one uber-chip. Maybe I will use our new cooler after all.

Pictures to follow, if not on my blog then on the other. Have a great weekend!




** Huh. I didn't know he'd gone to the big kitchen in the sky. Rest in peace, Rev. Smith.

http://www.cantrip.org/stupidity.html

And on a completely unrelated note, I think that the thrift stores here are better than the thrift stores in Saskatoon. Maybe it's just that I found exactly what I wanted and was looking for and something I wanted but wasn't looking for and something that is probably completely useless since I don't LARP regularly any more but which I couldn't resist for $3.50. Maybe it's that when I went to thrift stores in Saskatoon, I was usually looking for something specific, which as all thrift shop habituees know, sets one up for disappointment.

But the stuff in the local Goodwill seemed in better shape and more current than the stuff in, say, Value Village, which seems to stay in that narrow zone between old enough to be cool and new enough to be cool. It was more like being in Winners' than Value Village. Well, OK, that thrift store smell was still there, but for example there were a whole bunch of formal dresses with the shop tags still on them.

Maybe pictures to follow, if I can find the camera and the charger, and everything doesn't melt in the freakin' 41C heat. Of course, it's announced as 105 and although I know it's in Fahrenheit I still get an involuntary spasm of panic... "It's above boiling! Aaaaaaahh!"

Oh, and on yet another unrelated topic, here is an open letter to SGI:

I miss you. I never appreciated everything you did for me. I was inconsiderate, and there were times where I even said unkind words about you. But now that I'm with someone else, I understand how much you meant to me. I hope you know that I think about you a lot... all this past week when I was getting quotes, and today when I look at my bank balance and realize that I'm paying four times as much for less coverage. I only hope that someday, maybe, we can get together again and put all this behind us. I miss you so much.

Sigh.


Dammit

So we are, rather unexpectedly, going to GenCon. We'd planned on it, then with me not working we figured we'd be frugal (opted out of KublaCon too, which I am still somewhat regretting) and not go this year. And as time went on, of course, it became easier to justify not going... "Oh, we'd never get a hotel room! And flights are expensive!"

Then, of course, R:tAG found out that friends of his have a pull-out couch in their GenCon hotel room. And flights will be less than $250 each. And today was the last day for early registration. So we're going.

So why the title of the post? Well, I got our Con registration done before the noon deadline, no problem, but spent too much time looking at the bewildering choices of LARPs, RPGs and seminars when I was subsequently registering for events. I didn't realize that the deadline for registering for events was the same as for registering for the Con. The Con registration is $10 cheaper when you do it early, the events aren't. May I say, parenthetically, that the registration web page is not particularly well-designed? Anyway, at 12:15, when I had picked all my events, I tried to pay for them only to find that I was 15 minutes too late. Argh.

I don't think this is such a big deal, actually, since one can buy generic tickets at the door and use them to get into any event if there's room. It was more that many of the events I wanted were LARPs, which means, of course, costuming, which means luggage planning. I'd hate to haul the 3 meter tall foam gargoyle wings all the way for nothing.**

But hey, if this is the worst thing that happens to me today, I am Lady Luck's own tot.




** Alas, this is a joke. I don't have 3 meter tall foam gargoyle wings. Yet.

You can overcook jam. I now am the proud owner of six jars of plum-flavoured rubber cement.

I will add this to my other hard-earned bit of kitchen wisdom... a minute makes a difference when you're baking cookies.

Well, I didn't expect to update this thing every day. Every week is perhaps a more achievable goal. When all else fails, lower your standards.

I was all set to do a big "Why Canada is Awesome" post on Friday, what with it being Canada Day and all, but it sort of turned into just slagging the US, which isn't really fair. There're things I disagree with in both gummints, and the fact that my disagreements with the Canadian side are fewer and minorer (it's a perfectly cromulent word) might well just be due to familiarity.

(Though, parenthetically, it's still a shock to hear about what a burden medical expenses are even to insured people here. One mishap can literally ruin a family. And in an environment like that, preventative medicine doesn't have much hope.)

Of course, my equanimity is mostly due to the fact that I FINALLY GOT MY FREAKIN' SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER in the mail about 15 minutes ago. Yay! Of course, this happened just as I bought a big batch of yarn and was looking forward to weeks of knitting. The yarn came from a "Freedom From Taxation" sale; apparently a common feature of the July 4 weekend. We're still trying to get a handle on how holidays work here... there is no such thing as a stat holiday as I know and love them. Smaller stores may be closed, but mostly it's business as usual, 9 to 9 (at least), 7 days a week. It's the land of instant gratification.

Off to do some job scouting...

An update

Two posts in one day! This will probably never be repeated, but R:tAG took the car today so I'm kinda bored.

So, I thought I'd summarize the situation for those with whom I haven't spoken.* I am still unemployed, and sinking further into the Slough of Despond. I applied for my Social Security Number on March 15, and am still waiting for all the security checks to go through. I am gobsmacked by how difficult this is. Apparently, the American government is regretting the days, not so long ago, when one could get as many SSNs as one wanted. They are also regretting promising that the SSN would never be used as an ID card, because it is now, universally. It's almost impossible to get or do anything without an SSN (anyone can ask you for it, unlike the Canadian SIN). So now, somewhat tardily, the gummint is getting all squinty-eyed about SSN security, which is ridiculous considering how insecure the whole structure is.

But I'm told by a friend here why I appear to be having issues. I guess a few years back a book was published on easy ways to get multiple SSNs. Tip #1 was "Claim you're American, but you've lived in Canada all your life." For those of us for whom that's true, this created a huge set of obstacles. I had to prove that I'd lived in Canada all my life (a huge pain, but not impossible) and that I hadn't ever had an SSN before (logically impossible, which may be why it's taking so long). Luckily, I'm a packrat. I brought in a six-inch thick stack of papers; my life history from birth to my 2003 tax records, only to be told that it might not be accepted because I was missing report cards from Grades 6-8. Fortunately, they eventually discarded the possibility that I'd slipped across the border at age 10 to work in the sweatshops of North Dakota. I kid you not.

My freakin' AMERICAN PASSPORT was not held to be proof of American citizenship, so they're certifying my birth certificate now. Unhappily, I was born in the most notorious hive of beauracratic ineptitude in the Western Hemisphere, and they've changed the rules so that now you have to pay for stuff like this, even if you're, say, from the Department of Social Security. So the request from my "case worker" or whatever the hell she's called took two months to work its way to the top of the queue, only to be mailed back because it didn't have a cheque attached (this payment policy was implemented after she'd mailed the certification request in).

And while I'm ranting, may I say how insulting it is to be keyed in as "SUSPECT" as step one of an application process? And may I deliver a virtual slap upside the head of every American here who expresses amazement that I didn't get an SSN magically assigned as an infant? "When did you get yours?" I ask. "Well, when I got my first job," they INEVITABLY reply. It's like this whole stupid daylight savings time thing. It's not ordained by nature, people! I weep for humanity when I hear people honestly saying things like "You can tell it's spring, it's light for so much longer!" THE FREAKIN' DAY AFTER they've set their own clocks ahead an hour.

So while I'm seething with bile, I might as well share this.

* Tangent: Winston Churchill got a corrected draft of a speech back, pointing out where he had ended a sentence with a preposition. He crossed out the correction, adding "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put!" Maybe.

So yeah, y'all win. I've gotten tired of cutting and pasting endless text in endless e-mails. This was partly inspired by another blogger quitting, actually, saying that she didn't like the fact that so many people only knew what was happening to her through her blog. I realized that that was exactly what I wanted, seeing as how I'm now far away from most of the people who care.

So this will never be a venue for really personal revelations; if you know me at all, you'll know I'm not about that. :) And I've never ever understood why bloggers post intimate stuff and then get all shocked that people ==gasp== read it. If you don't want people to form opinions of you based on what you write, well, don't publish your writings.

Because I'm fundamentally a very, very lazy person, this is mainly a way to keep from having to write tons of e-mails but still keep a thread of communication open between me and those who (despite my laziness) I still do think of as friends. Even the impersonal one-sided peephole of a blog is better than nothing, right?

Right?

 

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