Happy Solstice! Even here, so much further south than I’m used to, the nights were getting longer.* But now the swing has reached its highest point, there’s that breathless pause of no movement, and we’re plunging back the other way towards warmth and light.

Not that it’s been particularly cold and dark here, of course, though you’d never know it from seeing people trooping along in their down parkas and earmuffs. I’m not kidding. It’s about 12C here, but people dress like they’re in Peary’s expedition. I’m really not trying to do the stereotypical “Ho, I am so tough that I don’t even put clothes on until it’s -20” Canadian-weather-bore thing, but I honestly have not felt the need for a jacket even**, and I’m lobbying for keeping the bedroom window open at night.***

Blogging will likely be pretty sparse on my end for the next week or so, so y’all have the happy holiday of your choice. Amen, praise Allah, and have a nice day.

P.S. May I just point you to one of the funniest days of one of the funniest comics that I've ever read? This is really funny.

* Well, that misguided daylight savings idea messed things up a bit.

** I will admit though that if I were spending the day outside, especially if I weren’t going to be moving around much, I would want a coat and maybe a hat.

*** R:tAG’s blood has thinned, unfortunately, and the window remains closed. I try to at least keep the furnace off.

Frost! There was frost on the ground this morning! It was the kind that just looks like faint white dust and it disappeared within a minute of sunlight touching it, but still. Frost! Winter! Comfortable sleeping temperatures!

Hint for Viva Piñata - You breed your piñatas. You can name your piñatas. As you value your sanity, don't give them the names of your friends.

Driving back from SFO to pick up R:tAG, a cop car ahead of me with lights a-blazin' started swerving across all four lanes, side to side in slow sweeps, until traffic behind him was slowed to about 60 km/h (regular = 120). We all drove along like this for a while, following our enforcement pace car since no-one was going to pass the crazy cop. After a few minutes, he switched his lights off and zoomed away, and everyone resumed their normal speed. I noticed, though, that a few miles up the road a cop car (maybe the same one?) was set up in a speed trap. So what the hell? A warning? Spilled coffee? Some guy spiting a colleague who had a speeding ticket quota to fill? R:tAG, who was very tired from his trip, wasn't sure that the whole event had actually happened. I resisted the urge to mess with his head and pretend like nothing was odd.

We're watching Supernatural (on the DVD, of course) and while the first couple of episodes managed to give me the whimpering creeps, the later ones seem to have lost the touch. Maybe it's because the show seems stuck now in a Littlest Hobo kind of rut (we have been so spoiled by shows with a story line that actually advances*), maybe just because the earlier episodes managed to find my personal phobias. We’ll probably stick with it for the rest of the first season, but I hope it gets better. We're only on episode six, I think.

Christmas Fun!

3D Paper Snowflake - I just realized I could do this at work with office supplies. Hmm...
Cocoa in a Jar - Mmm.
Carved Crayons - I'm glad I didn't see this when I was about 12. I'd have spent a couple of years trying to do this.
An Even Scarier Solstice - I love the HPLHS folk so very much. This is possibly even better than the first one. For my favourite track, I can't decide between "The Worst Hotel"** and "The Deep One Song".*** Wonderful, wonderful stuff. Alas, the tentacle stocking is sold out!

* E.g. Rome, Deadwood, Carnivàle, hell, even Buffy. On the other hand, we are also watching Twin Peaks for the first time, so it's nice that Supernatural offers no challenges beyond monster-of-the-week, just by way of contrast.

** "The worst hotel / In which I did stay / Was the Gilman Hotel / In Innsmouth, MA." And it gets better!

*** It's that "Christmas Time is Here Again" song originally done by those chipmunks, except instead of voices electronically altered to be high-pitched chipmunk voices, it's done with voices electronically altered to be bubbly, low-pitched Deep One voices. Marvelous.

Or in this case, Mr. Pilotman, I suppose.

R:tAG just called... I'd dropped him off at the airport this morning in plenty of time for his 12:45 flight. Well, four hours after the ETD he's still sitting on the runway* due to a mechanical problem that they can't seem to fix. He's missed his connecting flight now, so we just hope the airline will take care of everything and get him to Edmonton eventually. They're giving the passengers free beer and a Woody Allen movie in an apparent attempt to sedate them and keep them docile.

So for anyone he hasn't called already, he's running late.

Oof. We just had our company Christmas lunch at Buca di Beppo and I feel almost spherical. Damn, that's good food. Not a lot of work is being done here this afternoon; everyone's in a garlicky coma.

Have a good weekend, all.

[5:00 PM: Edit] So R:tAG's flight ended up being cancelled completely. He's got a few other options, so we'll see what happens.

[5:30 PM: Another edit] He'll be arriving in Edmonton, via Vancouver, at about 1:00 AM. Eesh. Be extra nice to him, he'll be feeling fragile.

* Like, in the plane. Not all by himself.

Like she said in her charming post, Christmas has really snuck up on us. Part of it for us, like last year, is the fact that there’s no winter here. Christmas lights on green leafy trees are still a source of low-level cognitive dissonance for me. Another part is not having TV, listening to NPR, and avoiding (for the most part) stores. I hate most advertising, but cutting myself off from so much of it is having an odd effect. I don’t know what’s going on around me. It’s like walking through the woods with an iPod on, but in reverse.*

I am eating oatmeal with flax seeds right now, and my enjoyment of my lunch has been cut short by the realization that flax seeds look like carpet beetles. Eew.**

So this is a bit late, but if you’re interested in seeing pictures of one of the weddings that I was raving about, they’re here and here.

Man, I should go eat something with protein and have a coffee. Each paragraph of this post is completely unrelated. This does not bode well for all the work I’ve done this morning. I’d better have another look at it before it gets reviewed.

Christmas links!

The 10 Least Successful Holiday Specials
Christmas Knitting - How cool is this? Cenobyte scooped me on this one, though. Now I’ll have to make her something else…
How not to blow it when you buy a woman a gift - A public service announcement
Best. Christmas Concert. Ever.
Christmas Avoidance - You may not miss only Christmas, you might become a complete hermit until February (well, maybe not that long. I’m up to 52 after only a couple of days so they’re not that hard once you get the mindset)

* In that in both cases, you’re ignoring the signs and subtleties of your environment. Am I saying that knowing “what’s hot for Christmas” is the same as knowing it’s going to rain because the swallows are flying low? When I put it that way, it sounds stupid. Never mind.

** This digression brought to you by no coffee, a tired brain, and the letter “S”

So the trees are finally turning that special “winter” shade of green. Just thought I’d share that with all y’all still in Western Canadia. R:tAG’s got a feed on his blog that lets you compare the temperatures in S’toon and San Josey, and I see you have a heat wave going of -10 C. Heh.

Speaking of R:tAG, he’ll be in Edmonchuck in mid-December for a weekend. This fly-by is to renew his TN-1 visa. He has the choice of doing it at the border (i.e. taking a quick trip to Canada) which costs $50.00 + plane fare and takes maybe half an hour*, or renewing by mail which takes 2-3 months minimum and will cost over $1000.00**. Unhappily, I can’t take any more time off, or justify the expense, so he’ll be traveling unescorted. Look after him for me, ‘kay? We're starting to have more friends in Edmonton than we have in S'toon, sad to say.

We’ve just finished watching the new Dr. Who series (the 2005 season, with Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor) and jeez Louise is it ever good! I am sad that they have a new Doctor for the 2006 season (is that the policy? I actually was never a huge hard-core Dr. Who fan***) since I’ve got a bit of a fan-girl crush on Mr. Eccleston. But the writing is really good, the acting is excellent, the special effects are good**** and I am really looking forward to the second season.


Modular pie-cosohedron - Not to be confused with a dough-decahedron. Stuff like this restores my faith in humanity. Honestly.

Kansas Outlaws Practice of Evolution - OK, you probably saw this, but it’s funny. My absolute favourite part is too long to quote in full, but it’s the paragraph that begins "If Earth's species were meant to change…”

My next knitting project - Well, it’s crochet. And I’ve got too much stuff to do before Christmas to start this. But isn’t this tempting?

Keep warm!

* The Gods willing and the crick don’t rise.

** And he can’t leave the country during that time, which means that he might miss Al's wedding, which Would Not Do.

*** Wow. I guess it is.

**** But the story doesn’t rely on them. The effects are good enough to not take you out of the story (“You can see the zipper on the monster!”) but not at the expense of writing or acting. Yay!

This was The Big Holiday ‘round these parts, and we did absolutely nothing for four days. It was glorious. We only ventured out for food and coffee, and quickly retreated back to our cave. So we avoided Black Friday entirely, and escaped with only the minor trauma of seeing every tenth car drive by with a Christmas tree strapped to the top.*

We’ve got a new game addiction; Viva Piñata. It’s a strangely compelling and tooth-achingly cute resource management game. Many of R:tAG’s co-workers are also hooked, and the diabolical cunning of the Xbox 360 designers means that you can judge your score/level against your friends’. So that’s been on the TV a lot. Another new(ish) fave is Taiko Master, from the fine folks who brought you Katamari Damacy. It’s J-pop weirdness, but you get to drum along to the overture to “Carmen” which is worth the price of the game right there.

To continue the last post’s theme, I’m also on the last stretch of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. I really, really, really like it. It’s very crunchy sci-fi; lots of physics, geology, biochemistry and economics but what I really like is how he writes about the future of the interaction of different human cultures. He doesn’t just assume assimilation into some Star-Trek-like “Terran” monoculture.** His characters are also complex and well-drawn. Good stuff.

Miscellaneous Linkage:

Monkey Dress - EEEEEEEEEEE! (a terrified shriek, not an excited squeal. This is terrifying.)

The Funniest - A constantly changing list of images currently voted “The Funniest.” Really, if you click on only one link on this page, make it this one. You can vote too!

Complainers of the World, Unite! - Hee!

Timing Is Everything
– Cool photos!

Gravity is for suckers!

Do you deserve your high school diploma? - I’m only including this to boast about the fact that I got 97%, of course (and the one question I got wrong was tricksy, precious, tricksy!).

* Like, for transport home. Not upright and decorated, which would have only been slightly weirder. Putting your tree up a month ahead of time seems to be the custom here, and I am baffled. Wouldn’t a real tree put up on November 25 be just a bare dry stick come Christmas? Is that festive?

** I also really recommend his “The Years of Rice and Salt” if you like alternate history stories, which I do. The premise is that plague wiped out 99.9% of Europe in the Middle Ages, and shows history without white people. Fascinating.

Stole this from BinaryKitten... I'm a sucker for a book meme.

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

* 1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
* 2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
* 3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
* 5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
* 6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
*16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
*18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison (warning: don't read these stories all at once. They exceed the RDA for depression.)
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester (wasn't that the PsyCorps guy in Babylon 5?)
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
* 21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (loved it when I was 10 or so... haven't re-read it since)
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson (I really, really hated this book. The writing was all right but the characters were repellant and the plot was uninteresting.)
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
* 27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
* 29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice (don't you judge me!)
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
* 41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
* 43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
* 47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock (loved it when I was 14 or so, haven't read it since)
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks(Hated this book. Powerful weak writing and absolutely no original ideas)
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Huh. There's a stretch in the 30's that I'd never even heard of, and I'm quite the fangirl. I do wonder about the criteria for inclusion in this list, and I also wonder why it's so heavy on the SF and light on the fantasy ("Lord of Light" instead of the Amber series for the Zelazny pick?!?). Xaq said on BinaryKitten's blog that maybe the compilers considered most fantasy to instead be "children's books" instead of "novels" but that doesn't explain how the Anne McCaffrey, J.K. Rowling and Ursula LeGuin books made this list since all of those are traditionally considered "Young Adult" fare.

There's also the old question of how to define fantasy... what about "The Handmaid's Tale"? "Brave New World"? I'd consider them and all their dystopian ilk pretty "significant."

Oh, and some things that I kept reminding myself to include at their proper times and then completely forgot...

1) A link for Halloween: Best Non-human Costume Contest Winner

2) Another Halloween link: Handbags of Horror!

3) A quote for November 5: “Guy Fawkes. The last man to go into parliament with either an honest motive or a workable plan for carrying it out.”

There’s a Remembrance Day ceremony (sponsored by Digital Moose, a Canadian ex-pat group) up in San Francisco tomorrow that we’re going to try and get to. For as militaristic a society as the US seems to be sometimes, you’d think they’d honour Veterans’ Day/Memorial Day better. I think Canada does a much better job of it.

So I got back in time to vote, and I did. I now see the humour in Scott Adams’ ending every story about something stupid or weird that he did with “And then I voted!” I thought I’d just be voting for the Senate and Congressional reps, but this vote was for a lot of stuff. There was the State Governor and Lieutenant Governor, a schwack* of judicial types, a bunch of other state-level positions, some schoolboard representatives, the Mayor of San Jose, some miscellaneous legal propositions, and several bond propositions that, to my mind, deserved a more thorough and careful examination than voters are likely to give them.**

I’m glad I listen to NPR during my commute and therefore had at least an idea of the candidates and the issues. This helped too.

I have to admit that a big incentive to vote was to see what kind of interface my district was using for its touchscreen voting system. I thought the screens were pretty well designed, actually, though I’ve heard reports of crashes because of the sensitivity of the screens (if you weren’t very careful to only touch it in one place, i.e. if you had mobility/stability problems and let your hand brush the screen as you were tapping your choice, it would freeze). I think one especially has to watch for problems like that, since they just don’t show up as often in controlled tests where everyone’s being careful and maybe isn’t from a broad enough demographic group.

War brides renew vows - this made me get a little misty-eyed.

Very, very short stories – I was talking about this with someone last weekend. Good stuff. Personal favourite, because it doesn’t rely on excessive punctuation or sentence fragments: “He read his obituary with confusion.”

Hot Library Smut – one for my sister. Um, this isn’t really smut, Mom, don’t worry.

Chow Magazine – Mmmm, I’m hungry

Shoes - Why do I like these so much? Can I justify spending the money?

* What’s the correct collective noun for judges? A gavel? A wig?

** I didn’t pay as much attention to Canadian politics as I should have, but I don’t think bonds were as popular a thing to do in Saskatchewan, at least. Or maybe they just weren’t voted on? But these all involved incurring a really massive amount of debt.

Despite torrential rain in Seattle , we are home safe and sound with no pilot deaths. I think we were on the only flight to leave on time out of SeaTac yesterday. Perhaps it was because the plane was a big one, as compared to the little Dash-8s that had been used for every other leg of the journey.*

Also, as you may recall, I was worried about only having an hour and ten minutes to make it through US Customs in Vancouver. This worry was compounded by the plane from S’toon being twenty minutes late in taking off, and then delayed even further in arriving due to strong headwinds. US Customs in Vancouver is fairly small and quick, but located approximately a bajillion miles from the rest of the airport. How fortunate we were, then, to find that our scheduled flight to Seattle had been cancelled completely. What a relief!** We were put on the next flight, though, which still got us to Seattle in time for our flight to San Jose. Luckily you can just get your boarding pass at the gate if you’ve no checked baggage, so we stayed behind Security which helped save even more time.***

But what a wonderful trip it was! The Seattle wedding was charming and had great outfits, we got to see Seattle in the sun and the rain, stay at Chelsea Station (a very nice B&B which we recommend heartily), buy lots of used books and drink a lot of coffee. In Saskatoon, the wedding was charming and included the 2-year old flower girl deciding that clothes were for suckers. And the weather was much warmer than we’d expected given how spoiled we’ve become by California.**** And of course we got to see many of our friends again which is good and bad because we’re getting to see you but we also realize how much we miss you.*****

A few other people have already covered the highlights of the weekend, and most of the quotes or stories probably wouldn’t seem near as funny without the context of reunited friends and $1.50 scotch. But it was an awesometastic weekend, and thanks to all who made it so (especially Alan, who became our host and chauffeur despite being simultaneously colonized by three different sets of bacteria and virii).******

Pictures to follow!

* Does it make any sense that I think that big planes fly better? I mean, planes are fundamentally unnatural. Why should something much heavier make me feel safer in the air? Isn’t that like saying I’d be a better swimmer with weights tied to my feet?

** You have to picture the “sarcasm” hand sign here

*** The San Jose-Seattle round trip was completely unconnected to the Seattle-Saskatoon trip in airline terms; they were two independent events. We were therefore expecting to arrive in Seattle and have to start again right from the beginning of the process to get to our flight to San Jose.

**** What I don’t notice until I get back here is how nice it smells in Northern California. Typical urban odours aside, of course, most of the time the air smells like the Mendel Conservatory (as a reference for all you S’toon and ex-S’toon folks).

***** So if you want to take a US West Coast vacation with us, either in our neck of the woods or in Seattle or Portland (two places I’d love to visit again) do contact us. If we know you. I keep forgetting how public the Intarweb is.

****** Maybe I’ll start using numbers for the footnotes. This is getting silly.

Yay favourite holiday! Yay seeing much-missed friends!

Some spoooooky links:

Told After Supper by Jerome K. Jerome, for my money one of the funniest writers ever*. You have to scroll down past all the Project Gutenberg boilerplate, but sooooo worth it. It is of passing curiosity that since the American-style Halloween is a fairly recent innovation in England, Christmas Eve is the traditional time to tell ghost stories there.

Good old fashioned nightmare fuel
- I have no idea who did this or why, it was in a Wired blog. But, damn. This just gets more and more horrifying the more you look at it.

Cephalopod at the Seashore - From the same blog, but this one is credited to Ray Caesar. Unlike the first image, this is unsettling but not disturbing, if that makes sense.

Faerie - Again, uncredited but pretty, from the same blog. I like this blog. I wonder if John Brownlee, who writes most of the posts, is the same one who was involved in the Shared Universe a long long time ago? The post is worth reading in its entirety; it involves mathematically disproving vampires. Of course any VtMmer worth his or her salt will recognize the fundamental error in the logic.

Really really, REALLY scary.

See y'all (well, most of y'all) soon!

* If you haven't read Three Men in a Boat I urge you to do so immediately. I'd say buy a copy, but there are on-line versions as well if reading from a screen doesn't make your eyes sad.

I'm still at work. Phoo.

I’m told today is the last day of Diwali (or maybe yesterday was? I’m not sure how time zones affect these things) but for whatever reason there’re lots of yummy little exotic sweets around the office. Most of the technical work in my company is done in Bangalore, and even in the California office most of the people are East Indian* so the celebratory patterns of the workplace take on a distinctly Eastern rhythm. That also means that going out for an office lunch to an East Indian place is fraught with complications, since everyone has very high standards.** We finally settled on a place that serves goat brain curry… not that anyone ate it, but it was a badge of authenticity and purity of intent.

So RastaChad has a blog now, which is a very nice thing. I love it when people about whom I idly wonder “How are they doing? Where are they now?” spontaneously e-mail me blog information. His post today concerns atheism, a subject dear to my heart,*** but it gets right up my nose when people use phrases like “The Church of Atheism.” Like the man said, if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Yet more cool links!

Best headline ever
Virtual punkin carving – so much fun! Such a time waster!
Great explanation of schadenfreude - I want to see Avenue Q more than ever. I wonder if it’s on DVD? It is! Joy!
Air Travel Guidelines – from The Onion, a followup to the last post

* It’s a Canadian thing, I’m finding out, to specify “East” Indian to indicate someone from India, with the default unmodified “Indian” taken to mean “Native.” It’s always interesting going to some place with different defaults. In England, for example, unmodified “hockey” means field hockey, not ice hockey. Most places in the American South, “tea” means iced tea, not hot tea. There’s always a period of adjustment.

** They are willing to settle for really mediocre Italian, on the other hand. I guess it’s all what you’ve been exposed to.

*** Modified by courtesy, of course. At lunch just a few minutes ago, a white American in our office asked what Diwali was all about, and got an explanation of the Hindu background, full of gods and demons. He then asked “So does anyone really believe all that crap?” (“crap” being pronounced “stuff”). I mean, I wonder the same thing (I also wonder it about most Christian practices) but I really really hope I’m not as rude about it. Any more.

So remember I said that they’d never lift the restrictions on liquids, gels and creams because it was just one more Kafka-esque way for bureaucrats to indulge their power trips? Well, I was wrong in the particulars (they did lift them) but not in principle (now there’s even more opportunity for petty obstruction!).

The current regulations state that the toiletries have to fit in a quart-size clear resealable plastic bag. OK, I thought, not only do mine fit in one, I actually carry them in one. It’s a handy bag that is a very heavy duty ziploc with an additional zippered mesh pouch sewn to one side. So no problem, I thought to myself.

So in the airport, the security guard at the pre-security toiletries checkpoint* said my bag would be fine. Then I got to the actual pre-security checkpoint point**, toiletries bag still in hand (they want you to keep it out when you go through actual security) and the guard wouldn’t accept it. So I went back to the pre-security toiletries checkpoint only to find the original guard had been replaced by a new one who looked like she’d been weaned on a pickle. No way, she said, all toiletries had to be in a Baggie™. No exceptions.

I tried pointing out that what I had was in essence a Baggie. I tried pointing out that the regulations did not in fact use the word “Baggie.”*** I tried appealing to a superior. I tried asking if they had any Approved Baggies™ available. No dice. After watching me get pinker and pinker and eventually admit defeat and take all the consumable contents out of my bag to throw them away, the guard finally told me that the airport store at the other end of the concourse would sell me an Approved Baggie™ for $0.25.

Out of all the possible responses to that, I said “Thank you” and went and got my $0.25 Approved Baggie™. I also did NOT say, upon my return, “Look! I’ve got my toothpaste in a terrorism-proof Baggie! We’re all safe now!” Don’t say I never learn.****

I’m glad to hear that better people than I have also had tribulations.***** What bothers me more than anything, though, is that on the way back I had absolutely no issues. Didn’t have to take out the $0.25 Approved Baggie™, nothing. It’s this inconsistency that really makes me think this is just an(other) excuse for a power trip.

Fortunately, the in-flight magazine contained a heart-warming story about a wise mother who solved her kids’ problems and smoothed over all family conflicts by making everyone play… Risk. I was snickering about that for the rest of the day and my mood improved immensely.

Random linkdom:

On Science Fiction - Damn, I like this guy’s writing. Think I’ll check out his books…
Very Cool Art - Wow. Wow wow wow. This really really really appeals to me.
The strangest news I’ve heard this week - William Gibson wrote documentaries.

* I’m not kidding.

** Still not kidding.

*** They don’t. A copy of the regulations was posted right at the table.

**** And in case you’re wondering about my attachment to a bunch of sample-size cosmetics, my concern was mainly for bottle of perfume that I wasn’t sure I could easily replace. And the principle of the thing.

***** Favourite quote from Mr. Adam’s blog: “one look in (the guard’s) eyes told me that thinking wasn’t his sport.”

I'm off to Indianapolis tomorrow, for a few days of client stuff. Heuristic studies! Yay!* There's not a lot of song lyrics about Indianapolis, as it turns out, so the title of this post is the next best thing.**

Which means that I have only tonight to try out my latest toy. We bought it yesterday but it needed 16 hours to charge. Extra bonus points for figuring out what it is before clicking on the link, and get yer minds out of the gutter. It's probably kind of sad to be this excited about it, but I am.

So how small is Canada, you ask? Well, in reading one friend's blog, I find out that she has met (well, seen) another friend of mine. I'm pretty sure they don't know each other, but are there only two degrees of separation in Canada? Speaking of Mr. Pencil Zombie, he's all growed up with his own blog now, as is Blogger B (links also in the side bar).

Oh, and I saved this link as a special treat for Pokey... enjoy.

* And I'm not actually being sarcastic here. This sort of stuff is so interesting to me that I switched careers and spent a lot of money on an extra degree for it, after all.

** Of course if the client had been in Gary this would have been a no-brainer.

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving! I’m sad to say we are doing nothing to celebrate. We are becoming assimilated into the Borg of American culcher. I will say, though, that if Thanksgiving serves as a commercial bulwark against Christmas then it's nice to have that bulwark in November. In Canada, I seem to recall Halloween pumpkins and Santa dolls side by side on shelves.

At least we can finally talk freely about R:tAG’s company’s new product.* At least I’m pretty sure it’s OK to talk about it. I figure if I can find a bunch of Google references to it, the cat is pretty much out of the bag. The project was called “Fight Club” for the longest time, as a code name sort of thing, which led to some confusion about thinking Cryptic was actually doing an MMO of Fight Club. Which I personally don’t think would work very well. I mean, what would be unique about a Fight Club MMO? The chance to form into little disturbed cliques that the world outside doesn’t understand? The chance to beat the hell out of each other without consequences? The construction of an alternate persona to escape from the problems of your life?**

Er, the last paragraph was not meant to be a diatribe, as much as it seems to have been turning into one. This is a problem with off-the-cuff blogging; it takes you to unexpected and unrepresentative places. I have no real news to report and nothing (unusually enough!) that I feel that I can rant amusingly about. Even knitting, that topic of last resort, is off the table*** since all my current projects are gifts and therefore Top Secret. And while I’m willing to subject you, Gentle Readers, to the occasional boastful picture of a specific finished project, I doubt that most of you would find a discussion of the generalities of knitting very compelling.****

Have some turkey and mashed taters for me.

* Check out the preview video and tell me what you hear the lyrics to be, OK?

** Huh. Is it just me, or is that really missing the point of the movie?

*** Though a knitting store is opening within walking distance of where I work. Uh oh.

**** I could be wrong. Tips on how to do a K3tog tbl, anyone?

I think R:tAG's folks took summer with them. The day after they left, we started getting overcast and hazy skies. Rain will be here soon, which is nice. Leaves here are brown, like the song says, but it's because they're crispy and dead from the dry summer.

I have nothing really important to say, but I have some amusing links that I wanted to preserve and share. I'm usually the last one to the pop culture party, so all y'all have probably seen and gotten bored with most of these already.

50 Dark Movies, Hidden in a Painting - So cool. I wish it weren't an ad, but at least it's an ad for dark chocolate. I got them all in 31 minutes, but that was with a bit of Googling for the last five. This makes me want to re-examine a couple of Hieronymus Bosch's paintings.

Recipies of the Damned
- food anti-porn?

Warcraft Wonders of Tomorrow - For all the WoW addicts.

Caring for your Introvert - have I posted this already? Oh well, it's worth repeating.

The Last Knit - Best. Animation. Ever.

A Great Hat - though if one weren't a huge Katamari Damacy fan, one might think first of some sort of unhappy medical condition.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

R:tAG's parents and sister are visiting us, and it is lovely to see them again. Of course, we've had to modify our standard visitor routines a bit* but it's a good challenge to think of new things to do, or new ways to do old things.

I've also had to pretend to not be a complete slob, but that's probably all for the best.

On Saturday we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row, briefly down to Carmel, and on Sunday up to San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Golden Gate Park** to see the Gee's Bend quilts at the De Young museum). And during the week, R:tAG took 'em to the Winchester Mystery House, Santana Row, Los Gatos and to other shopping opportunities. And tonight they're going to a Giants game (I won't be home in time to join them). So I think that makes up for not having TV for them to watch.

And R:tAG's mum still found time to make us a huge batch of perogies. Yay!

And it's time for me to clear out my bookmarks:

A new Halloween idea
High Fashion - I think it's official, fashion designers are flat-out insane.
The Cultural Role of Apologising - very interesting

* Turns out two-hour hikes up and down hills aren't so attractive to the over-sixty set. Who knew?

** Which is not actually contiguous to the Golden Gate Bridge, mysteriously enough.

So I turned on good ol' NPR this morning in the middle of a political program and I heard something like "... of course there are checks and balances in place in the country's Constitution to prevent a concentration of power, but when someone deliberately ignores them, what can you do? Also, his party controlled the entire government because they were very good at manipulating the system, so it was a corrupt single party rule and many of the intended checks and balances simply don't work when that's the case. Of course, this man was elected democratically, we can't forget that, but he'd abused his office to the point that the people wouldn't stand any more. This coup by the army really might have been the only solution."

And I thought to myself, sweet fancy Moses, what have I missed?

And then, listening some more, I realized they were talking about Thailand.*

* I am reminded of another blog I read a while ago, when someone pointed out that over half of the population of the largest democracy in the world was illiterate peasants, and someone else got all het up about describing Americans as peasants.

Arrr, me hearty R:tAG has already put this link on his blog, but it be too good ta keep mum about! It's International Talk Like A Pirate day, and in case ye be a scurvy landlubber what's never sniffed the salt sea air, here be instructions.

Yarr, I bin singin' Barret's Privateers as I voyaged to work, and that fine tune from the movin' pitcher, and the pirate song from me home port, and any other shanty that came to me mind. Do ye the same, and send the day out with a song and a drink!

So, much of the media today is taken up with the obvious. The oddest comment, I think, was one I heard from a caller on NPR insisting that in the past five years, there has been no national introspection. I can only assume she meant "there has been no introspection that has resulted in a conclusion with which I agree."

On a selfish and personal level, we had a great weekend. Neuba and Pokey had public transit issues on Friday, and I got to ponder once more how completely and unobtrusively the cell phone has become part of my worldview. Saturday was R:tAG's company picnic, with good food, schwag, and train rides! Yay! We left a skitch early to see the Yarn Harlot, who was obviously tired but still a very funny and kind person. And they were giving out door prizes, and as soon as they said "And this one goes to the person who travelled furthest to be here," I started poking Neuba to just go up and claim the prize, since there was no way in hell anyone else would win. And she got camel yarn!*

I am holding The Sock with Ms. Pearl-McPhee here. I am smiling way too hard, but I'd just had some wine and awesome spaghetti carbonara**, and was actually talking to the Yarn Harlot. So I was a bit overexcited. She got us four (the husbands were there too) to all sing the Smarties song together as a test of our Canadian-ness. You know, "When you eat your Smarties, do you eat the red ones last..." I had that damned jingle in my head for the next twelve hours.

And the next day was the RenFaire (huzzah!). It wasn't the Pirate Weekend, alas, but it was still fun. I was semi-sort-of looking for a top to wear with my new corset, but I simply can't bring myself to pay $88 for a metre of crinkle cotton, half a metre of elastic, and six seams. I was likewise semi-sort-of looking for a skull mask, but again came away empty handed. Unlike the clothing, the masks were not something I could do myself and they were lovely, but still awfully expensive. The best bit of synchronicity for me was when we were just walking in, and I heard doumbeks and raitas. Perking up like a hound of some sort, a belly-dancing hound, I tore over to the stage, and caught a Hahbi 'Ru performance. Yay!

And I'm not even mentioning the standard weekend activites like dance class and a trip to a gaming store and watching the new MST3K disc. So it's actually quite nice to be sitting at work right now, in a climate-controlled office and on a comfy chair, doing only one thing.

* Not just the colour, the actual fibre. I think Neuba was a bit taken aback when the first thing I did after she gave it to me for inspection was to smell it, but I'm sure she was even more weirded out when every knitter she handed it to did the exact same thing.

** There were about 300 people at the talk, so we had time to find a neighbourhood Italian place and have a lovely dinner before our signing tickets came up.

Neuba and Princess Pokey are here, with no travel hiccups. Yay!

We have some fun stuff planned for this weekend! Yay!

Yahoo Avatars has some way cool new Western stuff. Yay!

I booked the tickets for the Multiple Wedding Weekend for less than I'd thought they'd be. Yay!*

The weather is perfect. Yay!

I have nothing else to say right now. Yay!

* I am concerned about only having an hour and ten minutes to get through Customs in Vancouver (returning to the States) though. This seems tight to me, though it seems like security's getting back to normal speeds. Of course, they're probably never going to allow liquids in carry-ons again. I mean, we're still taking off our freakin' shoes because of that crazy jerk five years ago and somehow, rules like this never seem to get repealed any more than strip malls ever get bulldozed to make parks or farmland.

The taking-off-the-shoes thing is useless. I could stuff an equal amount of plastic explosive in a belt or a backpack strap. The no-liquids thing is useless. There's an exemption list of six or seven cases (baby formula, prescription medicine, juice for diabetics, etc.), so all any would-be suicide bomber has to do is forge a doctor's note or bring a baby. So this is not stopping anything, and causing a lot of inconvenience at the best and a quasi-police state at the worst. But there's a certain type of person, I think, that just gets off on ticking things off a list and making everyone Follow The Rules (any rules) and it seems like they're making a lot of decisions these days.

I predict that within ten years airline passengers will have to strip and wear provided jumpsuits and slippers, like prisoners or mental patients. Wanna bet?

I'm still at work. Bleah.

Still, this is a breather before the storm of the next two months, wherein we will be visited by friends, relatives (possibly from both sides) and also become visitors ourselves at two weddings in two different countries, three days apart.

Normal people try to spread this out over a whole year, I think.

This weekend, we caught up with Jeff D., a friend from Toontown who was in the Bay Area on business. It was great to see him again, and I am happy we moved to a place that is easy to get to and that people commonly pass through. As much as I love Toontown, neither of those things are true there. We went to see Little Miss Sunshine, which I really liked. It has a dance number that immediately went into my Pantheon of Nail-Bitingly Repellant Performances.* It is not a kid's movie; there were a couple of pre-teens in the audience when we went, and I can't imagine what the parents were thinking.

So I was thinking of combining two of my self-improvement goals by telling myself that I would only buy yarn that I'd biked or walked to get. From now on, that is (she says, hiding the latest $80 bill**). There are three decent yarn shops within a half-hour or so bike ride, after all. I still haven't found a yoga or pilates class that fits my schedule, so I'd like to do something active, but on the other hand my dance class is twice a week now.*** I have to reduce my aphid level, after all.

In other news, I woke up on Friday morning and my head was covered in ants. That was pretty horrible. Every other place we've had ants in the house, their entry point was obvious, and liberal application of repellants and traps solved the problem. The bedroom is different; I can't find where they're coming in, and (except for that one time during the heat wave, and on Friday morning) they don't congregate. It's just that every time you look at the bed, there're three or four ants on it.

Random Amusements:

700 Things Mr. Welch Can No Longer Do During An RPG
Lord of the Peeps
Five Geek Social Fallacies - maybe I don't miss LARPing all that much
What to do when you can't win an argument - maybe I really don't miss LARPing all that much.

* The other current members being, of course, "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers and "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" from Drop Dead Gorgeous

** But it was for gifts! That doesn't count!

*** I'm taking the Beginner/Intermediate class as well as the Beginner class. It is so damn much fun!

So much stuff!

Alamalan finally got here, after a travel saga that would cause strong men to weep. Happily, he's staying for an extra couple of days, to make up for the initial schlemozzle. So, as will happen, we're doing all sorts of stuff that we wouldn't normally do, and dragging poor Alamalan around with us when I'm sure all he wants to do is relax. I also made him fix up my plants.

Saturday was an all-too-brief tour of Napa Valley with Carl and Tam. Much wine was drunk and not enough food was eaten (at least on my part). Sunday was a trip to The City, mainly to visit MOMA but also to do the standard touristy things. I was hoping to get to the Golden Gate Park and, specifically, the Gee's Bend quilts, but wandering and shopping snuck up on us.*

Monday was supposed to be local wandering, but I ended up having to do jury duty for half the day. I'm almost totally unfamiliar with the legal systems of both Canada and the US, so the novelty kept my interest for about an hour or so, but I was very, very glad to finally be excused. There's a pool of about 40 people, of which 12 have to be picked.** So they randomly pick the first twelve, and then the lawyers apparently do a game of demographic-balancing, taking turns replacing various "unsuitable" jurors*** with new ones from the pool. The trial wasn't anything particularly interesting (a contested DUI charge****) and would have gone until Thursday. I think I was excused because one of the questions was whether I had any friends who worked in law enforcement or the court/justice system. So thanks, Chris, Zena, Calvin, Jared and Rob!

And Tuesday I had to work, so I just put our guest on a train pointed towards The City and he managed to amuse himself for a whole day, buy cool new boots, and find his way back! Yay!

And today I had that long-awaited doctor's appointment, and found out that indeed, I should exercise more, eat more fruits, vegetables and fibre, and lose a bit of weight. Told ya. However, the doctor did have a good guess about a crazy-making-itchy rash that's appeared right below my navel; she thinks the lacquer has worn off my jeans button, exposing the nickel and causing an allergic reaction. Here I was blaming the new laundry soap, but the nickel explanation makes more sense, considering how localized the rash is and that if I wear earrings with nickel my earlobes swell up like kumquats.

It's been a busy week!

* I bought a lovely dress in Chinatown, but suffered severe body-image issues when I realized that I needed an XXXXL (yes, 4XL). Then I realized that my skeleton is a Chinese size XXL, and felt a bit better.

** My take-home lesson from Monday was that I should do everything in my power to keep my fate from resting in the hands of twelve average Americans.

*** Unsuitable for the purpose of obtaining the verdict they want, of course. Completely unsuitable people seem to be weeded out before this stage, mostly. Mostly.

**** Do things like this need a jury in Canada? I thought it was just for murder and stuff, not some frat boy claiming that he can still drive after six beers.

Yeah, the same song twice in a row, but it's just so damned appropriate.


So R:tAG got all the photo credits on this trip; go to his blog to see 'em. In the picture of our hotel room/railway car, you can just see my head peeping out the bathroom door... this was on our last morning there and I was still en déshabillé.


Fourth funniest GenCon moment: R:tAG's company had a recruiting booth on the exhibition floor, separate from the booth actually advertising their game. There were only four employees attending, including R:tAG, and all of them are gamers and therefore wanted to be elsewhere during GenCon. So various spouses and friends frequently ended up manning the booth. So when the official GenCon photographer came 'round, none of three people in the picture of the booth actually worked for the company they were shilling.

Third funniest GenCon moment: R:tAG and his boss were in the company booth when three very large and very hairy drag queens came up. Fans of the game, apparently, they excitedly asked which of the two men was "Statesman." R:tAG's boss (who plays Statesman) wordlessly pointed to R:tAG.

Second funniest GenCon moment: This happened to a friend of a friend, but I did meet him and witnesses who swore to its truth. This guy was at GenCon this year. His wife doesn't game, but came along for the trip. The guy has gamed at least once a week since he got married, and has a wall full of minis and books. So, he bought a D&D board game and brought it back to the hotel room. His wife flipped out upon seeing it, screaming "YOU PLAY D&D?????!!!???" and went on a fifteen minute rant about how she couldn't face any of her friends or relatives now. I am still not clear what her problem with the game was, but I am baffled about what she had thought all the weekly events, paraphenalia, and the bloody con that they were in town for were about, exactly.

Funniest GenCon moment: Seeing Freelancer Five's techique of defusing discussions that are getting heated.*

Spending Money:

I only ended up attending two games, both Cthulhu Live LARPs run by the PST boys and they were, as always, awesome. R:tAG and I might be helping them run Something Cool at Origins next year, and I am wiggly with excitement.

We saw the PEG people, and Dan F. and Don K. from S'toon, which was an unexpected pleasure (unexpected to me, anyway), and even Raven and Shades from Edmonton whom we hadn't seen in... must be ten years.

I bought a very nice mask, and a very nice corset. Lord knows where I'll wear either, but they sure are pretty.

I didn't buy a new game called Qin: The Warring States but I should have. I might like to run a one-shot of it. I'll have to watch more wuxia movies to see if I can set the mood properly and get some plot ideas.

I bought the new Order of the Stick book but didn't manage to get it signed by Mr. Burlew, alas.

We bought some art from Andy Hopp, creator of Low Life and a nice guy.

Once again I didn't buy a T-shirt with "DON'T TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER" written on it. I am strong. I don't need more funny T-shirts.

And I'm still a bit tired.

* It consists of saying "Penis!" over and over and over again, getting louder each time, until eventually he is standing up, shrieking and waving his arms. I can personally attest that it is impossible to continue an argument in those circumstances.

For once, thinking of an appropriate song lyric title was very, very, very easy.

Unfortunately, we left for GenCon mere hours after the whole no-liquids-creams-or-gels thing came down.* Fortunately, we listen to the news every morning, so we were apprised of the situation, as they say, and packed accordingly. Unfortunately, the news also said that it was now recommended to get to the airport three hours before your flight, and the only way we could do that at that point was to bend the laws of space and time. Fortunately, we still made our flight, with mere minutes to spare. Unfortunately, this had put me in a suboptimal mood.** Fortunately, the flight itself was fine and I had found airplane-suitable knitting. Unfortunately, our hotel had no room to match our reservation, which negated any effect that the knitting had had on my mood. Fortunately, that meant we got a really schmancy room, which (this being a railroad themed hotel) was an actual Pullman rail car, one of 26 parked indoors and converted into a nice suite.

Unfortunately, we'd missed the first day of GenCon. Fortunately, the events we really wanted were on Friday and Saturday, and it's more about the socializing*** for us anyway. Unfortunately, I had no cool costume to wear this year. Fortunately, the costume contest was at the same time as one of the LARPs I really wanted to attend anyway (or maybe that's another "unfortunately" since I did really want to see the contest. Fortunately, the LARP was excellent. Unfortunately, I've lost track of the alternations of fortune with this parenthetical nesting).

Unfortunately, our flight back was early this morning, so between the new length of time it now takes to do the bag-check and security thing, and the three-hour time change, and that I actually went to work today, I'm going to continue this post later after I've slept. Fortunately.

* When memes collide!

** The kind of "suboptimal" that has roughnecks staring at me wide-eyed with their knuckles pressed against their teeth, and Marines reaching for the smelling salts.

*** The kind of socializing that comes in pint glasses, especially.

I need to work on my snap decision making. Even having a week's notice for something, which is really not very snappy at all, doesn't seem to be enough for my poor spongy brain. We're going to GenCon tomorrow! The dishes aren't done! I'm not packed! I haven't even looked at the events list to know what I should pack! I can't even look at the events because the website's been disabled! The toilet is leaking and the landlord's out of town!* I don't have any airplane-compatible knitting! I can't decide whether to go to dance class tonight or not!


ADDENDUM: It's 9:30 PM, and I decided to go to dance class. I found out that I keep a surprising amount of my stress in my hips. I always thought I was more of a lat person in that respect. But my shimmies looked like a Devo imitation, and the Pigeon Pose during the end-of-class cooldowns was a special flavour of hell.

So now I'm more relaxed, but dog-tired. Aaaaaaa.... enh.

* He's back and informed now, and should be surveying the damage this afternoon.

Well, nothing like a last minute decision. Last year we were going to go to GenCon, then decided not to, then decided to. This year, we decided to, then not, then to, then not, and now, since cheap airfares and an excellent hotel room have once again fallen into our laps, we've decided to. And it's next weekend. At this rate, next year we'll decide to go the night before. I guess certain friends have really inspired us with the whole spontaneous trip thing. Monkey! Go!

Just buying generic tickets and whining our way into events seemed to work out pretty well last year, and honestly it ended up being more about the socializing anyway, so I'm looking forwards to it. I'm not sure I'll be able to manage a prize-winning costume this year, though, as I am short of both inspiration and time.

On a completely different (and more annoying to me) topic, check out the new "Plus Size" clothing option in the Yahoo Avatar. I'm using it there to the right. Plus Size. Yeah, right. How about "human size"? And it's such a limited choice of clothes! I'm hoping that if the Yahoo folks see enough usage of this option, they'll increase the alternatives (or add an independant control for body size) so I encourage all y'all Yahoo Avatar users to use it.

And on yet another different topic, I've been considering using public transit to get to work, since I found this very cool utility that's like MapQuest but that tells you what buses/trains/etc. to take to get from A to B in the Bay area. Marvelous thing... you can set it to give the quickest route, the cheapest route, the route with the least walking... very very cool. Unhappily, the quickest route is 1 hour and 20 minutes for me. Cost-wise, I think that would be $99.50/month since that route involves taking CalTrain... the all-bus route would take 1 hour 40 minutes and be $61.25/month.

It takes me about half an hour to drive to work on the average, and I fill up about every ten days... about $100/month at the current prices. There's wear and tear on the car and I suppose the possibility of getting into an accident.* But, of course, I have the luxury of following no-one's schedule but my own.

I suppose I should pay the day fare and try it out one day. With a trip that long I'm worried about getting sick.** But just think of the moral high ground I'd achieve! And if I could knit without getting ill... hmmmm...

What do you, the viewers at home, think?

* I'm not counting the licensing and insurance costs; since I'm not giving up my car completely, those are a constant.

** I don't get sick when I'm the driver. It all has to do with synchronizing action and reaction, I guess.

The Peripatetic Enthymeme has returned to his travels, alas, but he sent a few pictures that he took. This one I really really like (despite forgetting to suck my gut in for the camera, and having serious sunhat-hair).

This was (as you probably noodled out for yourselves, you clever little creatures) at the Rosicrucian Egyptian museum. In addition to the standard indoor museum-y stuff, they have a full reproduction of Ancient Egyptian temple grounds, with a lotus-and-fish pond, vegetable gardens, and this unexplained little structure (it wasn't the main temple; that was a different building). Maybe the Egyptians went in for really elaborate sheds.* The heat on that day was like actual pressure against your skin, so we had the area pretty much to ourselves and explored it by scuttling from shady patch to shady patch like lizards.

The heat wave has broken, thank goodness, so we're eating and sleeping and being civil once again, and the ants have gone on their mysterious ant way.

A few interesting links:

A sanity-destroying picture - I warned you
Stupid comics - not everything old is classic
Brilliant theory! - I like Scott Adams' blog! Thanks, neuba!

* How long can it take to build a shed, anyway?

I miss rain in summer so very very much.

This weekend was miserably hot, so we ended up seeing a few movies just to be exposed to an air conditioned environment. I’m having a hard time even remembering what they were, since it took a couple of hours in the coolth just for my brain to coagulate enough for thinking.

Oh yeah… A Scanner Darkly (at the recommendation of The Peripatetic Enthymeme) and My Super Ex-Girlfriend. I quite liked “A Scanner Darkly”, though I found it physically hard to watch. The animation… overlay, I guess you could call it, constantly slides the foreground around with respect to the background, which I am sure is an artsy decision to heighten the tension and surreality but which in my case also heightens the motion sickness. I want to read the original short story now. Dick’s stories make good movies.

“My Super Ex-Girlfriend” was about what I expected, light and unengaging* but it had sufficient laughs, didn’t annoy me at any point, and did I mention the air conditioning?

I was hoping we could get a swamp cooler for the house, since they’re cheap to buy, cheap to run, and you don’t close all the windows for them to work** Unhappily, it looks like it’s too humid here for a swamp cooler to be effective.

So lacking any cooling technology more sophisticated than a fan and a bowl of ice, we have not been sleeping well, not been eating right, and have been generally cranky. And last night just put the icing on the metaphorical cake. I went to bed, not even bothering to turn on the light (lightbulbs produce heat!) and tried to get comfortable, but couldn’t. My skin felt itchy. Crawly, even. Really, really crawly. I think I spent about thirty seconds in denial, then turned on the light and looked down.

My old friends the ants were back, in the bedroom this time. All over the bed, and especially between the mattress and the boxspring.

Sweet dreams!

* I use that phrase so much, Ferlak… thanks for it!

** The only window in our bedroom, which is where we desperately want the cooler air, is a patio door. So to install a regular air conditioner unit, we’d have to build a big wooden filler thing to block the doorway, with holes cut in it to stick the air conditioner through.

So the Peripatetic Enthymeme is visiting us, and it is a pleasure to see him again. And of course, we only start looking around at the vast number of entertainment options available to us when we have visitors. So on this weekend, we happened to discover, is the Ancient Egyptian Epagomenal Festival; five days marking the end of the Ancient Egyptian year.* And although the connection is somewhat opaque to me, the local Rosicrucians have a large Egyptian Museum here, and are celebrating said Epagomenal Festival with special activities and re-enactments of ancient rituals! And Sunday, the day we found out about all this, was the Birthday of Set!

Most unhappily, after we got there we found out that there were no rituals scheduled for re-enactment on Sunday. All the activities were generic Ancient Egyptian, and mostly geared towards children. So I didn't get a chance to see if my own recreation of a Set-based ritual was accurate or not.** But the museum was actually pretty neat. Apparently the facility is pretty much the Rosicrucian Vatican City, to use a comparison that would probably anger both parties.

We've also tried out some nice new (to us) restaurants, and found out, once again, that Northern California beaches are much colder and foggier than you think. I like having visitors!

Some random links:

Questionable Content - A new favourite comic
A New Fashion - Well, probably not.
Kansas Classrooms - Heh
Food Pr0n - Mmmmmmmm...

* Well, technically, five days between the years, not belonging to either the previous year or the next. You need to do jiggery-pokery like this to make your astronomical calculations come out right.

** Um, it occurs to me that not everyone who reads this may be familiar with all my hobbies (hi Amanda!). This was for a game. Just a game. I wasn't even pretending to be someone who worshipped Set, actually, I was pretending to be someone who was pretending to worship Set...

(There aren't many songs that reference knitting. How odd! I did find one or two, though, in addition to the one I used above)

So I still haven't really recovered from the tablecloth, in that I've just been doing little projects. Here are two of my favourites:

The top is from the latest Interweave Knits, an issue worth purchasing, in my opinion. It's the cover garment, the "Lotus Blossom Tank".* 4mm and 3.75 mm needles, smallest size, Euroflax Linen, 3 skeins almost exactly. I really like the neckline, and it's a quick knit. The linen is hard on the hands when knitting, but it softens up miraculously after a trip through the washer and dryer.

The knitted supervillain is Hellstryke, R:tAG's main character in CoV, and it was my (somewhat late) birthday present to him. Let's look at the little guy closer up, shall we?

He's a mix of various worsted-weight stash yarns (fun fur for his goaty legs... one of the few valid uses for fun fur) on, um, 4mm needles IIRC. I needed a dense fabric so the stuffing wouldn't show through too much, but as you can sort of see on the shoulders I probably could have gone down a needle size. The horns and spines are sock-weight yarn on 2.5 mm needles, the cape is lace-weight mohair on 4.5 mm needles. The pattern is out of my own head, based roughly on the last super I knit.**

And of course, socks, because socks don't really count as a work-in-progress. They're the constant background noise knitting.

It's the yoga that let me hold my feet up like this long enough to take a picture. Thank you, yoga! The pattern is the Jaywalker Socks, the yarn is Schaefer "Anne" which is one of the bestest sock yarns I've ever used.*** The socks took most, but not near all, of a 4 oz skein. and I used 2.25mm dps. The colours in the picture are not at all true; the reality is a much warmer, richer blend of browns and jewel tones of red, green and blue.

And finally, also from the latest Interweave Knits, a mini-Faroese style shawl. The pattern is free! I had in my stash a little bit of alpaca handspun (not my hands) that was an odd weight; like a thin sock yarn but a) I didn't have enough of it to make socks and b) alpaca socks would probably make my feet combust.

It was hard to get a good picture because the shaping that makes it stay on your shoulders also makes it into a three-dimensional shape that won't lie flat, and R:tAG isn't home right now to take a picture of me in it. I used maybe 50 g of this handspun stuff, on 5mm needles to get a really lacy, drapey, fabric. Again, the colour isn't near as blue as the picture shows (stupid digital camera), it's a natural warm heathered gray.

So there you go. If I don't mention the knitting, the pressure just builds up and you get a huge post like this one instead of a few sentences at the end of every post.

* And yes, all the jokes about Zen armies using Lotus Blossom Tanks have been made already, thankyouverymuch.

** I actually wrote down what I did for the Statesman doll! I amaze myself!

*** It's also horribly expensive.

Guess what we went to see at midnight! Squee!

Some of the review have been pretty savage, but I think it’s still a fun movie. Not as good as the first, but I was bracing myself for acute disappointment so I was pleasantly surprised*. The movie spends too much time referencing old jokes and not making new ones, there are too many action scenes and not enough plot**, and it’s the first half of a really long movie instead of a self-contained story. But hey… pirates!

Returning to land, I’ve decided to definitely change yoga venues. Last night’s class felt like it could have ended with me in a wheelchair. The instructor’s lackadaisical teaching might be acceptable when you’re just trying to touch your toes, but this involved weight-bearing on the neck with no description of technique. I don’t know for sure*** what the position is called... it wasn’t The Plow... it looks like “The Bridge” variation of The Wheel. All sorts of danger flags. Looking at this website, I can see now that I was right to ignore what she was telling us to do; it looks like your weight should be on your shoulders but she never actually said that. From her vague description it sounded like she was telling us to support our weight with our heads.****

Also, all you yoga-takers out there, could you describe how Salute to the Sun should look? Not pose-by-pose, but overall impressions? I’d thought it was a relaxed, flowing series of moves, a bit like T’ai Chi. In our class, we jump between postures with explosive changes of position accompanied by barked instructions (“Right leg back! Left foot forward! Chest out! Chin up!”). Odd. Bootcamp yoga?

Anyway, that class and I will part ways. Leaving aside the potential of physical damage, when the only reason I’m doing something is because it would make a good blog story I think a little bit of me dies.

On the weekend, a knitting post! With pictures! Yay!

* The key to happiness, right there.

** Yes, I know… “too many action scenes?” But how many kraken-fights does one really need? Sometimes less is more. And the whole cannibal thing, while funny, was too long in proportion to its plot importance (= none).

*** Another complaint I have is that she rarely mentions the name of any position. I have to browse through yoga sites to find out anything, and almost always discover warnings and tips that would have been really good to know, oh, say, IN CLASS! Oh, and in addition to thinking the solar plexus is below the navel, she also thinks we have 27 vertebrae.

**** Not that I tried that for a second before the self-preservation instincts kicked in or anything. Because that would have been very stupid. Ahem. Because she’s doing the poses along with us, it’s sometimes hard to see exactly what she’s doing if the angle is wrong. The class is enough people in a small enough room that it’s hard to move to get a better view.

So, all you IE users, sorry about the visible HTML on the last post. I think it's fixed now. MS-Word generates the ugliest HTML known to man, and it looks like Firefox handles it better than IE does, oddly enough. I shall do my composing directly in Blogger in the future.

This was a festive and active holiday weekend; Canada Day on Saturday, of course, with a celebration at a beautiful local park hosted by Digital Moose Lounge, an organization for Canadians in the Bay Area. It was quite a bit of fun; everyone's nametag included their city of origin so we met quite a few other Saskatchewanians. There was also a small vendor area, so we got our Coffee Crisp, Winegum and Dare Maple Cookie fixes.

Sunday was our normal Farmers' Market cruising, with a score of Ollalieberries* and blueberries, and then a viewing of Superman Returns. It was a good movie technically but it left me feeling sort of "enh."** R:tAG felt that Lex Luthor, in particular, was sold pretty short (no criticism of Kevin Spacey, this was in the writing). Maybe it was that lack of an interesting antagonist, maybe it was some pretty big plot holes,*** maybe it's that the whole superhero genre doesn't turn my crank (ironic, eh?).

And Tuesday was fireworks-and-BBQ day, one of the two times in the year**** that Americans seem to treat as an actual holiday (i.e. shops might actually be closed, and public events like parades are scheduled). We biked to Los Gatos to eat grilled meat and listen to J.P. Souza on a high school lawn, which is about as American as you can get. And then, just to make it an official holiday, we drove a friend to Emergency for stitches and a tetanus shot after she nearly severed a fingertip on a can lid. Luckily, we beat the rush of drunk-drivers and fireworks victims. It's never a holiday until someone gets hurt!

A potpourri of linkage:

Beauty Tips for Ministers - sometimes, it's refreshing to read something that is completely and utterly different from what you normally read. Religion and fashion.
Table of Condiments - just plain funny.
Self Worth Issues - and here I thought I was a special little snowflake.
Diesel Sweeties - I lurve this comic

* A type of blackberry, apparently, but to me with more of a raspberry flavour. I haven't had them since Ferlak's grandparents graciously hosted us for a few days during a trip to Brandon. They make good pie.

** Apart from Brandon Routh. Mrowr!

*** OK, maybe a spoiler, but the whole thing with Jason? Lois' son? The only way Cyclops Richard White could have thought Jason was his was if he and Lois had gotten it on relatively soon after Jason's conception, right? But I thought that when Superman disappeared, it was suddenly and with no notice that his absence was going to be an extended one. So didn't Lois kind of jump the gun (as far as she'd have known) with her relationship with Richard, if for all she knew, Superman was going to return any day? And if Richard did know Jason wasn't his (before the events in the movie made him go hmmmm) that potentially interesting plot element was completely ignored.

And Luthor's eeevil plot completely didn't make sense to me.

**** Thanksgiving's the other one.

I had to double check, ‘cause it’s hard to believe, but today is the one year anniversary of this blog. Which means we’ve been in California for a year and a half. Wow. We still have those little moving stickers on half our stuff.

So I’m still having Doubts about the yoga. I didn’t get a chance to ask the instructor what was up with the bouncing; she was surrounded by a gaggle after class and I wanted to go home. The instructor seems like a wonderful person, don’t get me wrong, but I have items of concern.

  1. Everyone talks. A lot. The first forty five minutes of the class is like a church social. The instructor spent ten minutes in a monologue about how there was a mouse in her fridge and her cat refused to chase it (all the while in the Butterfly position bouncing her knees up and down while pressing down on them.)
  2. The instructor thinks your solar plexus is three inches below your navel, which is wrong both according to Western and Eastern terminology.*
  3. The instructor apparently has four buttocks. At least, she keeps saying things like “Put your right hand under your right buttocks.”**
  4. The instructor described at length a salad a student had brought her, saying how delicious the aloe was and how aloe is so good for you, and it’s no wonder aloe tastes so good seeing as how good it is for healing and burns, ignoring the student intermittently saying “no, um, no, it was nopales...”***
  5. The instructor is also an aromatherapy person, and when we were all in corpse pose at the end of class, relaxing and meditating, she snuck up and squirted us with an incredibly strong-smelling spray. I don’t think she’ll do this to me again, as she noticed it provoked a prolonged coughing fit (she apologized afterwards). I think I’m still tasting it in the back of my throat.

So I dunno. The class fits well into my schedule, and it’s geographically very convenient. The instructor is also a very nice person, very friendly, energetic, and bendy. And it’s not like I can do all of the poses, so obviously I have a lot to learn.

It’s just that the poses are strenuous enough that I think I could hurt myself if I didn’t understand what I was doing. And I don’t, really, so I’m applying what I learned in T’ai Chi and dance for lack of any other guidance. While I like the instructor, I’m not sure I trust her the way I want to, i.e. like I did my T’ai Chi and dance instructors (hi, Jen!)

There’s another studio a bit farther away and more expensive, that seems to focus more on the physiological side of things and less on the “you are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars” side of things. Maybe this is more what I want at this stage.

* And it didn’t help that I kept thinking about locating my ass chakra. Damn your eyes, cenobyte!

** OK, this just made me giggle more than anything.

*** Aloe not only tastes incredibly vile, certain varieties are actually poisonous if taken internally. I admit to a certain sadistic hope that someone will come in next week with tears in their eyes saying “but you said it was delicious!”

Well, I’ve done one each of the yoga and dance classes, so no need for the puppy-eyes so far. I’ve never taken a yoga class before, so I have nothing with which to compare this. The instructor seems very California new-agey, and there’s a lot of other stuff available at the studio (aromatherapy, homeopathy) that I think is complete bunk, but I’m not sure how avoidable that is once one decides to take yoga. I want a martial-arts style yoga class, if that makes sense.* There was only one thing that made me go hmmm… the instructor bounces a lot on the stretches (and encourages us to also do so). Now, my experience with jockness is really, really minimal, so I could have just missed a memo, but I thought you were never supposed to bounce when you stretch?

The dance class was awesometastic! I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was doing it (it’s about the one thing that I don’t think I’m really very good at but which I like doing anyway. Most times, my ego and/or competitiveness keeps me from enjoying things if I don’t think I’m at least better than average**). Though this was the “beginner” class, I’m really glad I have experience because I think I’d have been a bit overwhelmed as a beginner. The classes are supposedly designed in a rotating drop-in-any-time way, but I think in practice they’ve become more sequential. Or maybe the instructor, knowing that I wasn’t a complete newbie, didn’t simple things up. My ribcage still aches a bit; the muscles used in chest elevations apparently aren’t used for anything else, so mine have been atrophying for over a year.

The doctor’s appointment isn’t until August (so much for private health care meaning improved service!) so I’ll have to wait until then to have my triglycerides, lipids, and aphids checked. I can predict what she’ll say, though; lose about 10 pounds, do aerobic exercise for an hour a day, eat less bad cholesterol and more fibre, fruit and vegetables. It’s medical cold reading.

And on a completely different topic, I hear the SLARPA thing went well; I am happy for everyone and a bit wistful at not being there.

* No, I know it doesn’t. Move along.

** I know what you’re going to say. Keep moving along.

(I think I'll ride this "song lyric as blog entry title" wave all the way to the beach...)

It is stinkin' stinkin' hot. Low to mid 40s (Celsius, of course). A couple of days ago, I saw a squirrel in the neighbours' yard just lying on a deck railing, belly flat to the wood and paws and tail dangling. I know how it felt.

And of course all the sogginess from the wet spring briefly turned into humidity, and now is just gone. Plants are crispy. A highway was closed a few days ago because of a grass fire; and this is in the middle of one of the most urbanized areas I've ever lived in.

I still have no air conditioning in my car.

Some interesting links:

How to Blog - I disagree with almost all of these to some degree.
Principles of the American Cargo Cult - I agree with all of these (um, I mean I believe that most Americans believe these things at a deep level, and that these misbeliefs constantly underlie bad arguments in public debate. Not that I believe in these items as such)
Superdickery - An oldie but a goodie.

Oh, and yoga is harder than it looks.


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