Inspired by his post, I’m thinking about clothes. One thing about a big move (when one is not accustomed to them) is that you have a pretty accurate dividing line between pre-move clothes and post-move clothes.* Interestingly, my clothes appear to have a half-life of four years.** There are some spectacular hold-outs; I have a plain black sweatshirt from about 1985 that’s battered but still in service, and of course things like dress coats hang around longer. Like the gentleman to whom I originally referred, I’m a believer in paying for quality because I tend to use things until they wear out. It irritates me that women’s fashion fights me in this; I have a quite expensive suit that I bought in my last year of college for interviews that is too damn ‘80s to wear these days.***

To continue in the vein of consumerism (‘tis the season!) we got an espresso maker. I have to say, it’s awesome. We bought it through Woot, so at about 70% less than regular retail price, and I really think it’s paid for itself. We haven’t been to Starbucks in ages, and not even to Peet’s nearly as often. My dad gave me the heads-up about the Woot offer on my iPhone when I was sitting by our friends’ pool in Phoenix, I ordered it then and there, and it arrived the next week. I really really like technology. R:tAG was able to make really good espresso almost instantly; it took me a bit longer to figure out the mysteries of grind and tamping. He was insisting on being addressed as “The Bean Whisperer” for a while, but I refused to indulge him.

A good thing to do, by the way, is take a double shot of espresso and add hot chocolate mix and honey (proportions to taste). That’s called a “Black Velvet”, and was apparently invented by a barista at a coffee shop near my parents’ place. I salute him.

To continue in the vein of food (‘tis also the season!), we had a potluck lunch at work today and these are a good and easy thing to bring to a potluck. I think they’d be even better with anchovies, but I am respectful of the sensibilities of my vegetarian co-workers. They outnumber me.

* I mean, I can manage to remember in which country I bought a particular item of clothing. Not much else.

** I’m going to try to forestall smart-ass comments and remind y’all that the concept of half-life does not necessarily have anything to do with radioactivity. It’s just the period of time after which there is only half of the original substance remaining, for whatever reason.

*** Plus I’ve gotten slightly broader across the beam since 1991. I can squeeze into the pencil skirt but a containment breach is a real possibility.

The less one blogs, the harder it is to get started again. I will explain. No, it is too much. I will sum up.

I missed International Invent A Horrible Soup Day.

We went to Dia de los Muertos party that our Phoenix friends hosted, which was much fun but which reinforced my desire to not live in Phoenix. I know that technically it is very similar to living in Saskatchewan* but I don’t care for being uncomfortably hot, much less in November. That’s just wrong.

By the way, if you have babies to put into costumes (you know, before they’re old enough to fight back) you should peruse these ideas. These ones in particular. Please won’t somebody with a baby get one of those? For me? It’d be even better if it weren’t Halloween, but I’m not fussy.

The US election turned out well, I thought, though I was just glad it was over.** My only concern now is trusting anyone who would want to be President, given all the current crap. The federal election was also an opportunity for individual states to do the voting thing, and California really disappointed me with Proposition 8. Happily, there are court cases going forwards because putting minority rights up to a popular vote is not really the ideal American way of doing things. It’s made me think a lot about privilege in general, though. I like the idea I read somewhere the best; let’s treat same-sex marriage like carbon credits. For every two heterosexual divorces, we can let one homosexual couple get married. The exact number is open to negotiation, of course; even a ten-to-one ratio might make everyone happy.

I said a while ago that I should really get to Venice before it’s too late, since I didn’t learn that lesson in time for New Orleans. Well, hell.

And now it’s almost Christmas, it still hasn’t really rained here (since, um, March maybe? And last year was also very dry) so next spring it might be us that gets the big wildfires instead of LA. Boy, looking forward to that.***

We’re going to the Dickens Fair sometime soon. I spent all Thanksgiving weekend making a dress for it (what, everyone doesn’t spend their long weekends making costumes?) but then I found out there’s a special Steampunk day. Sigh. Decisions, decisions.

And that’s all I can think of.

Edited to Add: Finally remembered to take a picture of the dress. It still needs hemming, and I'm showing it without the knitted lace collar and the white undersleeves.

It's actually taffeta from the Interior Decorating section of Joann's because I really liked the colour... so yes, it's a Civil War(ish) dress made out of curtains. Just call me Scarlett.

And I didn't mention that we got new bookcases, did I? We got new bookcases. From Ikea, the "Billi" style. I like the glass doors. They keep the dust off, unify the look, and discourage me from putting random stuff down on the shelves "temporarily" instead of putting away properly.

* For about half of the year, going outside is very unpleasant and you stick to climate-controlled areas. For most of the rest of the year, it’s all right with a few perfect days.

** An educational perspective is here, though.

*** Sarcasm hand sign here

Quite the blogging gap, there. Some of it was due to my eccentric reluctance to mention visitors when they’re visiting, out of some fear that an IntarWeb Stalker will deduce that they’re not home and, I don’t know, shave their pets or something. Some of it was due to very bad family news that I don’t want to reduce to a footnote. Some of it was just because of the good ol’ lazy.

Anyway, I took a few pictures of our guests and they’re safely home now.* The guests, not the pictures. We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium which is where all these pictures come from; I am not a persistent or mindful photographer even though I now have a camera with me at all times. Thanks, iPhone!

There is a place where you can crunch down in a little Plexiglas bubble and let a breaking wave crash over you. I think Rilla is imitating the fish.

R:tAG could not come with us because he was officiating at a chili cook-off for fans. So we made him a Space Otter puppet as consolation. We got some Looks in the crafts room, because we were accompanied by neither children nor adults, but we had fun. The Space Otter’s phaser is especially cool, I think (it’s to open the Space Clam that he’s holding in his other paw. Space Otters have evolved beyond rocks!). Most of the otter was pre-printed shapes to colour and cut out, but surprisingly we had to make our own phaser. Kaz did a great job with it.

And then we ate at a restaurant that was on a pier sticking out into the bay, and it was pretty good despite the aggressive seagulls and the attack seal.**

We (all of us) also went to the Exploratorium, which we’d never been to before (shame! Shame!) and despite ferocious traffic*** it was fun too. The docents there wear bright orange vests with “EXPLAINER” on them in big letters. I want one.

And there was sangria, and the Venture Brothers, and Guillotine, and D&D 4th Ed., and 80’s retrospectives, and sunburn, and eating and hanging out. It was a good time.

And we (R:tAG and I; our guests had left by then (or so we thought… they were actually still at the airport but we didn’t know that)) also saw Igor which was pretty good but not a children’s movie yet not quite an adult movie either. Pretty, though.

* After a cancelled flight and a day delay. Yay airlines! ::sarcasm hand sign here::

** The pier is beside a small beach, and there are a lot of seals and otters just off shore. So I was glancing at the water, and I saw a seal head poking up (not unusual) and heading at a really high speed towards the beach, directly for some wading children (unusual). I was just about to call attention to what I thought would be a Fox headline (“When seals attack!”) when the “seal’s” shoulders and body came into view and I realized it was actually a dog playing fetch.

*** We’d decided to take the scenic route to the Exploratorium, up I-280 and through Golden Gate Park, but the Academy of Science opened that same day, in the park, and had 10,000 visitors and, well, we chose poorly.

Q: Why is pirating addictive?
A: Once you lose your first hand, you get hooked!

Q: Why do pirates always bury their treasure 18 inches below th' ground?
A: Because booty is only shin deep!

Q: Why does it take pirates so long t' learn t' read?
A: Because they spend years at C!

Arrr, happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

To be more precise, “Relocations to take advantage of economic opportunities, and the concomitant expansion of social connections, are breaking up that old gang of mine” but that’s harder to fit to a catchy tune.

The Wedding of the Year was awesome, because it was a celebration of the union of two lovely people of course, but also because it was a chance to see so many old friends who have scattered to all corners of the earth. We are running out of good reasons to get together, unless somebody converts to Judaism in time for a child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

The wedding was in Ottawa* and we took the time to see some sights** as well as a jaunt up to Montreal*** to see my sister, her husband, and their cute offspring.

Highlights of the trip:

  • Having the sweetly sincere wedding officiant gush over the symbolism of the eagle that she’d seen flying overhead earlier, then her saying “Oh, how wonderful, there it is again!” as she pointed upwards to a turkey vulture. I’m sure it’s still very symbolic of something, though.
  • The wedding cake being a three-tiered tray of Timbits. Genius!
  • Seeing “Red Max” meet the man who privatized the Saskatchewan mining industry.
  • A presentation at the War Museum on the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, explained by a guy wearing a Leafs jersey and a guy wearing a Canadiens jersey, watching the battle from a couch with comments like “Montcalm is leaving the high ground? What is he thinking?!?” When they started discussing the consequences of the battle, the camera moved back to reveal a third (Native) guy in a Canucks jersey (“Hey, when did you get here?” “I was here all the time, man.”) and, well, it was just really really funny and very Canadian.****
  • Hearing that my niece and nephew are a 7 year old Jamaican and a “forty-twenty” year old Japanese, respectively. *****
  • The expression on my love’s face when he finally got a plate of smoked meat poutine. It was everything he'd hoped for.
Not so good parts of the trip:
  • Picking up a nasty wet sinus cold from somewhere. I apologise to anyone I involuntarily infected, since I was probably “shedding virus” (as the kids say) on Saturday and Sunday before I felt the symptoms.
  • Forgetting to reserve a rental car on Labour Day weekend (like that wouldn’t be a high demand time) and having to do some unnecessary imposing-on-friends and expensive running about to procure one.
  • Mosquitoes. I’d forgotten about mosquitoes, though the smell of Deep Woods Off actually made me get all nostalgic, if you can imagine. Proust can keep his lime-flower tea; I have my DEET.

* Outside Ottawa, technically, at a lovely riverside country inn.

** The Museum of Civilization, the War Museum (I only got through a part of it, but that was more than I thought I’d be able to handle), Byward Market, the Manx pub, the Brig, Darcy McGee's… um, I guess I shouldn’t list bars, should I?

*** Outside Montreal, technically.

**** And it included the Anglo guy telling the Francophone guy "It was a long time ago, man, just get over it!" and the Native guy commenting on the influx of British refugees following the American Revolution with "Just what we needed... more white guys."

***** This is not actually the case. Just thought I’d be clear.

The last post was awfully long, with the zombie pictures and everything, so here’s the overflow.

A while ago a group in an on-line community that I belong to (the Ankh-Morpork Knitters’ Guild on Ravelry) decided to create a group afghan for Terry Pratchett, the author of the books upon which the group is based who was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.* We finally got it done, and the lovely lady who volunteered to sew all the squares together and back it got a chance to present it to Mr. Pratchett in person. Here’s a more comprehensive picture of it; assuming (1,1) is the top left square my squares are at (9,3) (a hedgehog) and (9,9) (red and white striped stocking close-up). I am quietly proud.

And the last GenCon post was more about the zombies than it was about the steampunk, wasn’t it? Rest assured that the steampunkery was not neglected!** The dance on Saturday was a steampunk theme, and yours truly and cenobyte were in fact featured (in last years’ costumes) on Page 100 of the event guide, as part of the dance advert. Again, I am quietly proud. However, I am lacking pictorial evidence of our costumes this year, since my brain was starting to leak quietly out my ears by Saturday (so I didn’t take any of myself) and I cannot find anything with a quick Google. I started making my buckled overskirt at 11:00 PM the evening before we left*** and it turned out pretty well though I need some kind of butt-bow**** to cover the placket in the back and it can benefit from more trimmings as well as something other than a safety pin to hold it closed. I may wear it to the Handcar Regatta if we can go this year.

And here’s something not related to anything else, but it’s funny; an MST treatment of some really really REALLY bad fanfic. Like, almost “Eye of Argon” bad (which itself has been MSTed here). It’s a Sailor Moon + Daria crossover. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And another thing... ChaCha is a new service that provides free answers to questions that you call or text in. It's people doing this; ChaCha has literally thousands of people (who get paid $0.20 per question) who do all the lookups for you and/or provide an opinion. If you've read The Diamond Age, you'll probably see this, as I did, as yet another example of Neal Stephenson's prescience... these people are prototype ractors. Technology provides the tools for people to interact with people, not the replacement. Interesting.

* Grammarians, I dare you to diagram that sentence!

** For example, we brainstormed some great ideas for a steampunk action movie, the tagline of which will be "I am vexed by these thrice-cursed marmosets on this thrice-cursed zeppelin!"

*** Why does inspiration always arrive when one doesn’t have the time to properly entertain it?

**** Yes, that’s the official tailoring term.

We're back from GenCon 2008, and I'm glad to be home in dry, cool(ish) weather.* We met up with Cenobyte, and QKv2.0, and Suz + Cheruby, and the Too Tall Guy, and Thunderhowl and Ferlak.** Here's a picture of most of them all together, too. R:tAG had to work through most of the con, but their game has gotten a lot of interest so yay!***

It was very fun. I bought some very pretty stuff, like a Shoggoth necklace complete with running victim:

And a Cthulhu necklace with a lovely piece of mother-of-pearl:

Pictures do not do them justice, especially with a cell-phone camera, but our real digital camera is on the fritz. They are handmade in silver by an artist from Quebec, and they're really lovely.

And we dressed up. Here is a photojournal of the Victorian Zombie experience:



And probably my favouritest pic of them all:

The little girl in the stroller would not stop laughing and smiling at us. Even when we told her we would eat her brains, her smile got wider and wider, and as her parents wheeled her off we heard a high-pitched little "om nom nom!" receding into the distance. Epic zombie fail!

More GenCon pictures here, more zombie pictures here. Good times. I didn't take enough pictures at the Steampunk Ball, though. Phoo. And a small child vomited on my luggage on the airplane home. But apart from that, good times!

* Though Indianapolis was actually pretty dry and cool for the time of year. Not like last year, when walking outside was like being slapped with a hot sweaty sock.

** My one intentional pic of Thunderhowl turned out terrible, and I have none of The Mysterious Ferlak at all.

*** And yes, he is going up to Toronto in two days for another convention. No, I don't know how he does it.

R:tAG is feeling better, but everyone should still noodzh him into seeing a physiotherapist to find out what preventative measures he can take. And then noodzh him into actually taking those preventative measures.

So I didn’t want to really mention this at the time, because of perhaps over-thought privacy concerns and everything, but the “quite a lot of stuff” that I mentioned in my last post including entertaining the fabulous Neuba and James, seen here experiencing Bay Area prices* for the first time:

Despite R:tAG’s lack of mobility we got a reasonable amount of stuff done, showing our guests some of our favourite places and also turning them loose to fend for themselves (and walk for miles; sorry about that) when we had to work. So it was an excellent visit and it was wonderful to see them again!

If you like fantasy on the order of George R. R. Martin or Warhammer (low, gritty, muddy, cussin’, bad-things-happening-to-good-people fantasy, in other words) then may I recommend Joe Abercrombie? I’m halfway through the second book of his “The First Law” series, and I am enjoying it quite a bit.

Other links:

This must say something about our society. I’m not sure what, but it must say something.

I’m not going to complain about my ant problem for a good long while.

Those Twilight books seem to be the new big tweener thing (alas for feminism). I don’t have to read them, thanks to the marvelous Cleolinda. ETA: They seem to be a direct ripoff of the Anita Blake books, just minus all the sex. And plots not related to sex. And female characters who are easily differentiated from doormats. OK, I'll stop now. ETAA: Check these out. Haw!

I think I need these boots like I have never needed footwear before.

* This was the same restaurant wherein Cheruby managed to break a tooth on scrambled eggs; we had no dental misfortune during this meal.

This is sort of turning into a “cool things we did on the weekend” themed blog, isn’t it? Anyway, that cool thing on the weekend, let me show you it!

We went back up to the same neck o’ the woods as that Firefly Shindig to see a local production of Evil Dead: The Musical. We didn’t sit in the “splatter zone”, which was probably a good idea because the fake blood smelled really gross* plus the theater was set up like a nightclub, with individual tables and chairs and waiters, so the blood would have gotten in our food and drinks. The production was marred a bit by a terrible sound system, but the tunes are really catchy and I'm glad R:tAG was so keen on going (Saturday night was the last show until next January)

In more recent news, R:tAG managed to hurt his back again and is pretty much laid up. Ah, the joys of getting old. It’s very bad timing; there was quite a lot of stuff we wanted to do in the next few days so I hope he can get some physio attention soon and get fixed up. Plus I suppose there’s the whole not-wanting-to-see-a-loved-one-in-pain thing…

* Not like blood. Not like anything organic, really. Plus it was really really pale, so the overall effect was more like a Pepto Bismo fight.

The Unification Day Shindig was a lot of fun; the pictures that I took are here and here's one of me that R:tAG took at home afterward when I realized I didn't have any of me. I made the shirt; I found a Fruity Oaty Bar image on the Web and used that cool iron-on inkjet paper and an old tanktop. Everything else is just scavenged from army surplus and/or my regular wardrobe (these are my everyday goggles, not my fancy Steampunk goggles). I was considering a more elaborate costume, like a Reaver or something, but the venue was a hot 1.5 hour car ride away and elaborate makeup would have slid right off me.

The iPhone camera is not the best quality in low light (should have brought the real camera) but it gives you an idea of some of the costumes. I missed a bunch, because it wasn’t until it was suboptimally dark that I remembered that I really ought to be taking pictures. Dur. I won a prize for my Firefly trivia knowledge so go, me! The location was interesting too; a really out-of-the-way place that I don’t think I’d have ever visited on my own. But the GPS worked really well and kept us from getting lost out in the black.

So having an iPhone is a bit like having a pet; you end up getting all these little accessories for it, not to mention having to feed it more often than you expected. The best app I’ve seen for it so far is Shazam, where you basically hold your iPhone up so it can listen to the music and it tells you what the song is, who it’s by, and gives you an iTunes link to purchase it. Bloody amazing. It worked in a crowded, noisy restaurant, too.

We saw the new Batman movie, and it was really good, though it felt like ten pounds of movie in a five pound bag and (my mind being the burden that it is) I could not get past some of the more egregious violations of physics*, but I thought the acting was excellent. We also saw Tideland which was just as good a movie as The Dark Knight in its own way but really really disturbing. But not for the obvious reasons. Well, OK, a little for the obvious reasons.** Well, OK, a lot for the obvious reasons.*** But also because it really does succeed in presenting these things innocently and sort of beautifully, and then you realize what you’re watching. It was actually filmed in Saskatchewan, near Katepwa, but I don’t imagine it played well there.

* Glass is transparent to light, not sound.

** As soon as the neglected, precocious eight-year old heroine met the Faulknerian man-child, I started the anticipatory cringing.

*** Not to spoil things too much, but Faulkner really is in the same genre as this movie.

Eeeee! We did it! We did it! The future is now, and it’s pretty damned cool. I do think we saved money, all in all, because in the past four or five years we have bought two iPods, one digital camera, and two bog-standard cellphones. That’s all. So now the iPhones have taken the place of all the iPods, Blackberries, cameras and GPS’s that we could have bought. And they’re very, very spiff.

We got them Saturday morning, after the tumult and shouting had died, so I don’t have pictures of the baseball game that we attended on Friday night. It was hardly a squeaker; 9-2 for the Oakland A’s (they were playing the L.A. Angels) but we had really good seats* and one of the friends we went with was an extreme fan who was recording info in code on a big score sheet and everything, so she explained the finer points to us. And there was good food and beer.** And there was a fireworks show afterwards that was awesome! The pyrotechical state-of-the-art has come a long way since I last saw a big show.

And then Saturday was that Relay for Life, which was a good, if tiring, time. I did have my iPhone by then, so I took some pictures and was able to answer people’s idle questions about celebrity gossip and music lyrics! It’s the aspiring know-it-all’s dream technology! And our team raised just over $4,000, I think, both from straight-up donations (thanks, Chad!) and from the sale of various knitted items at the event. Each team had an area on the inside of the relay track where it could set up a booth to sell stuff, tents to rest in, whatever, and the only rule was that all money raised had to go to the Cancer Society. So we sold hats. Here are pictures of our booth, some of the hats, and the final lap at the end of the relay (most of the tents etc. had been taken down but you still can see a few to the right)

Oh, and we saw Hellboy 2 and it was really quite good. I want to go see it again; del Toro creates such… complicated visuals that it takes me a few passes to really appreciate them. Especially in the Troll Market scene, I badly wanted to be able to pause and zoom. I maintain that the animated Hellboy features are just as good as the first Hellboy live-action movie, but for this story, I don’t think that that simple Samurai Jack style of animation (as much as I like it) would work as well. Maybe it’s just a question of which I saw first, but del Toro’s rich visuals are really successful in making this other, parallel world believably present but different.*** Anyway, even apart from the spectacle, the story and acting were solid. Like Miyazaki’s stories, there wasn’t really a “bad” guy, just people doing what they think is right. Two thumbs up.

* So good that I was a bit nervous about being killed by a pop fly ball. It could happen!

** Good, expensive food and beer. I guess the baseball people have realized what the movie theatre people realized a while ago; you don’t make money on tickets, you make money on the concession and souvenirs.

*** If del Toro did a version of Neverwhere, I think my head would explode with glee.

Well, we had a nice weekend despite the heat. I got the majority of R:tAG’s Victorian vest done with the themed fabric, and it looks all right though of course I can now think of at least two things that I should have done differently*. It just needs the buttons put on. So I think we’re set for GenCon, costuming-wise. We didn’t do anything special for either Canada Day or Independence Day, though, apart from laze around the house, eat, putter with hobbies, and listen to the sirens.**

But speaking of getting out of the house, there’s a GBACG event coming up on July 19th that I’m quite looking forward to; it’s the Unification Day Shindig, a Firefly-themed party. It should be interesting; the GBACG usually does more historical events, which of course are easier to dress up for. Not easier in terms of the actual effort required, but easier in terms of there being a “correct” look. Firefly provides a lot more… possibilities.

It’s supposed to get stinkin’ hot again this weekend, and I’ll be doing that Relay walk thing (you remember, the one to which you could donate?) but not during the hottest part of the day. At least, I hope it won’t be during the hottest part of the day; I don’t actually remember which shifts I signed up for. We’re also going to a baseball game of some sort which will be a personal first for me; I don’t believe I’ve ever been to a live baseball game before. I’m told they serve beer, though, so how bad can it be?

* Paid more attention to where the fabric pattern falls, and made a muslin first. The neck-line doesn’t fit very well; it’s like they drafted the size XL to just have more width at the side seams, without considering the fact that large gentlemen usually have larger necks also. I am not proficient with redrafting patterns, but I think next time I might try making the large instead of the XL but adding the extra width at the centre back and front sides.

** Not near as many as I’d expected, even though random neighbourhood fireworks were a pretty constant feature of Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I guess people wanted to use up their purchases.

There are 1100 wildfires burning around California. I think about 1099 of them are in this area. The smoke was so thick this morning that I couldn’t see any of the hills around our place, and my eyes and throat are getting sore. If I wanted this air quality, I’d live in London.*

I’m sad that Big Sur is burning. I camped there way back in 1991 during the Red Dirt Salsa Tour** and it was the first time I’d been in a redwood forest. It was also the first time I saw Steller’s Jays, which remain one of my favourite birds. At dawn, a bunch of them would be lined up on a branch over our tent, with their shoulders hunched up, all muttering “bleah” to themselves under their breath. I’m exactly the same way in the mornings. As the day went on, they’d get more cheerful, especially when we were eating. They’d fly down and eat off the same plates that we were eating from.

And this is just weird. It’s awfully hard not to cynically suspect “lobbyists” at work (and I finger-quote the word lobby, since I’m pretty sure the Supreme Court is not supposed to be lobbyable). The Second Amendment was pretty clearly for a militia and I really don’t follow the argument of ignoring that. The NRA is already talking about challenging states’ registration, waiting period, and limitation laws*** because they “infringe” the right to own a gun. Guh.

Today, I am leaning towards the “moving back to Canada sooner rather than later” opinion.

* A Londoner friend told me that at his university’s orientation, new foreign students were asked about how living in London was affecting them so far. After thinking a bit, one guy said solemnly “Well, my snot’s black now”

** After graduating university, two friends and I decided to drive south until we had half our money left, then turn around and drive back. We made it down to LA, because we camped most of the time. It was a fun trip – about fifteen days and $600 each, as I recall, most of which was gas.

*** Like, say, the one that says that someone with a restraining order against them shouldn’t be sold a gun. How unfair.

Go see Kung Fu Panda. It’s pretty awesome. If you don’t like Jack Black, don’t be put off by the fact that his voice is in it; it’s not a typical performance (I don’t think). And like one of the reviews says, it’s really refreshingly pop-culture free but still manages to have humour and interest on all levels (child through adult).

So I’ve actually been asked to put some knitting content here; Ravelry really diverted all of it but Ravelry's still in beta so you can't see it. I think I know what someone really wants to see, but I haven’t started it yet, so she’s out of luck.

Here’s something I was pretty proud of, because the original instructions not only were in Latvian, they had a lot of errors. With language help from a lovely person on Ravelry, I came up with workable alternatives, though it did turn out a different shape from the original. The mad doily woman strikes again! It' s on 2.25mm needles, 16/2 linen, for those that care.

And also in knitting related content I joined a team for a cancer relay* that, as its shtick, has decided to knit constantly while doing the relay. Apparently, though, the Cancer Society wants money as well as knitted items. Imagine! I really hate begging, and I especially hate begging from friends, but if you were going to donate to some kind of disease-based charity anyway this year, you could consider my Relay for Life Team, maybe. If you wanted.

* Like, anti-cancer. To raise money towards finding a cure. Just to be clear.

Owie owie owie. I have the worst sunburn I’ve yet suffered here and my face hurts. It’s only on my face; the rest of me was covered by a pirate costume*, and I suspect the worst of it happened on the ride home in a convertible, where I couldn’t wear my hat and the wind kept me from realizing the ravages that the sun was wreaking.

Speaking of burning (ooo, nice segue!) there are lots more fires here, including a big one what is burninating one of my favourite wineries and that turned the sky on Friday into a dark hazy mass and the sunset into something apocalyptic. Every morning now the traffic reports feature road-side grass fires. The moisture level in the vegetation in the hills (monitored to get an idea of the fire risk level) is at normal levels for August and it doesn’t rain here in summer. It is duh-RYE!

My company summer picnic thing was Friday; we took the day off and all went to Great America for the day, which was really quite far from my idea of fun. But I found the place that served beer, and actually had a good time chatting with some of our sales folks whom I don’t see very often. And I ended up going on one rollercoaster at the end of the day since I figured if it made me ill I’d be going home anyway, and it didn’t. Maybe I’m getting my rollercoaster legs (and stomach) back. Maybe Katamari and Lego Star Wars is training me!

Update: I just got back from lunch at one of my favourite places, and the waitress, a motherly Vietnamese lady who barely comes up to my armpit, peered into my face as she brought my iced coffee and said “Ooooooh, you got bad sunburn!” Yes, I know, thanks. My skin feels like an unpricked grilled sausage casing and I suspect it’s glowing slightly. This is going to result in something that ends in “-oma”, I just know it, even though I had so much aloe on my face last night that I looked like a glazed doughnut with limbs.

* Yes, it was NorCal Pirate Festival time again!

** The Flight Deck, to be precise. It was a short ride (like, a minute or less, I'd say) which helped a lot.

Thanks for the birthday wishes, everyone. R:tAG went up to KublaCon and I spent the day completely alone at home. It was fantastic and just when I started to think “OK, it’s been about ten hours of isolation, maybe I am reconciled to human contact” the phone started ringing with family and friends calling. Good timing!

It’s been a shooty-action-movie sort of fortnight; we’ve seen 3:10 To Yuma, Indiana Jones and the Implausible Crystal Plot,* Iron Man, There Will be Blood,** Shoot ‘Em Up,*** and Crank, and that’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure there was another bulletfest in there somewhere. 3:10 To Yuma was quite good, Iron Man was good if you like the genre, the rest were enh for me (which was too bad, because I was quite excited about the Indiana Jones movie).

Other than that… hm. Not much to report. Oh, you should read The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon, if you like noir detective stories with a twist. I really liked it.

Oh, and with dance, I took a workshop with Sabine about sword dancing and it was great. She is amazing, and about eight feet tall, and gorgeous, and has huge sharp swords. What’s not to like? I don’t know if she’s just a really good teacher (well, she is) or if I’m starting to learn differently, or if the particular subject was just easier for me for some reason but this was a workshop where I really felt like I got something out of it. Yay, swords!

* Motto of the movie: “Wait, what?

** Motto of the movie: “This soundtrack is violating my ears, without lubrication”

*** Motto of the movie "I call no way!"

So this fire, this one is close to us. We live basically under the “P” in the words “Cambrian Park”, at about 11:00 of the fire. No danger, though the air is very hazy and the smoke smell is very strong. Luckily today there is no wind, so the fire-fighters are able to make progress containing it.

Anyway, our guests are home now, after an unexpected extra day (gee, thanks, Air Canada!) plus unexpected Dental Issues and an unexpected heat wave* that made most activities a burden. But they got to go to SuperCon** and we saw the Prince Caspian movie, and involuntarily attended a street festival,*** and visited Emperor Norton’s grave, and Cheruby got to play Irish music with some other musicians**** and it was a lot of fun.

And the weekend before, my ATS dance studio had a public recital, which went pretty well I thought. I had a solo, with belly rolls. I like the belly rolls. Here are some pictures. I need to remember to smile, apparently. It doesn’t come naturally, and I also need a head arrangement that gives me more height without being a turban (this troupe doesn’t wear the turbans that are traditional to this dance style, but honestly the good ol’ turbans really visually balance the rest of the costume).

* That coincided almost exactly with their visit. Hmmm…

** I had to work all Saturday. Phoo.

*** We only wanted olive oil! I swear!

**** It was a fun time and everyone was extremely talented, though towards the end I had to kick R:tAG every time he was about to holler “It’s all the same song!” and he’d kick me every time I was about to holler “Play ‘Lydia the Tattooed Lady!’” so decorum was preserved.

The visitors of Round 3 arrive today, hopefully, ‘cause their plane’s fifteen minutes late already and it hasn’t even left yet. And there have been Baggage Issues.

Here are some links that I’ve just been idly collecting. You’ve probably seen most of these. You might have even sent me these. Forgive me, the temperature outside just shot up to 100F / 38 C today, and my brain is correspondingly sluggish.

  • Find Your Daemon - Golden Compass related, of course. A very pretty web site. “Your profile reveals that you are modest, spontaneous, inquisitive, a leader, and assertive. You are therefore matched with the Crow Daemon.” Modest? I don’t think so, but I think all in all I’m very pleased with Anicetos. One of the other questions was about being easily distracted, and of course I

    Sorry, I just saw something shiny. Where was I? Oh yeah. Crow daemon. Yeah, I like him.
  • Flying Chocolate Pig - A culinary principle of mine is that any food can be improved by adding chocolate or bacon. But both?
  • My latest earworm - "Latest" in that it's been in my head for almost a month now. Argh.

Round Two of visitor season is over, with Bne being safely delivered to the airport (hey, he’s legally a grownup; my responsibility ends there) in plenty of time to catch his flight. Too much, one might say, but I couldn’t take any more time off work. I might have managed to convince him that FAA regulations require you to check in four hours before your flight is supposed to leave… back me up on this if he asks, OK?

It was a great visit. Much wine was consumed, much “Venture Brothers” was watched. On Friday we drove up to an East German restaurant in San Francisco to meet some on-line friends of Bne’s who luckily turned out to be good people, because most of the evening was spent straightening out the web of lies that Bne had woven.*

And on Sunday we went to Maker Faire, which was AWESOMETASTIC and had a Steampunk/Victorian mobile home (my favourite!), and the biggest Diet-Coke/Mentos fountain that I ever did see**, and a hypnotizing auto-Zen garden, and a steampunk motorcycle, and motorized cupcakes, and a bigger-than-life sized robotic giraffe that people rode in, and yarn, and sewing machines, and a room full of books about making things, and music, and a traveling blacksmith, and big robots, and little robots, and just… everything. I didn’t even see Saturday night, which had the “Steampunk Lounge.” Ms. Geekchick took some great pictures here, but I’m not sure if they convey the scope of the event. Attendance was 65,000 people, with 500 exhibitor/vendors/makers. My people. And I got compliments on my apron and goggles.***

I took Monday off, partly to recover from darting around like a caffeinated hummingbird going “EeeeeeEEEEEEEeeeee!” for all of Sunday, and partly so Bne could indulge in an orgy of consumerism in preparation for his new Grownup Job. Thank me, people of Alberta, for now Bne owns decent pants.

(and I also might have bought some clothes myself. From Kenneth Cole and Calvin Klein, even. Eesh.)

On to Round Three!

* A mere sample: I mentioned that I was quite a bit older than Bne and one of the nice friends said “Really? You certainly don’t look it” and I was so pleased until Bne leaned over and said “I told her I was 43.”

** Not a great video, but it gives you the idea. There was about 200L of diet Coke involved. It was awe-inspiring.

*** What, you didn’t think I’d not go in costume, did you?

Before we begin, I want everyone to go hug or call or e-mail someone they love, right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Anyway, R:tAG and I went to Las Vegas over the weekend, thanks to his employer which flew everyone and their SOs down, gave us some spending money, and put us all up at the Palazzo for two nights. We saw O and Spamalot and the Star Trek Experience (again) lost exactly one dollar gambling (R:tAG insists on feeding a dollar into a slot machine every time we go, as some sort of appeasement to the gambling spirits) and had some really good meals* and got into this private club (the Foundation Room at the top of Mandalay Bay) and had an amazing view of the city thanks to a friend of a friend.**

Las Vegas gets more surreal every time I go, and more expensive. When I first visited in the early 1990’s, on my way to somewhere else, it was depressing and seedy and sleazy but cheap. They assumed that everyone was there to gamble, so hotel rooms and meals were pretty much loss leaders. Now that it’s more like adult Disneyland everything is about twice normal price, at least on the Strip. Most of the shops are designed to make you feel poor and fat but if you are blessed with robust self-esteem like me, it’s very entertaining to go in and giggle at what people will pay $800+ for.

You also do a lot of walking. They’ve just added a monorail which goes from the MGM to the Hilton, but because it was an afterthought and because the casino buildings are so unbelievably huge, and because it is not easy to walk in a straight line in Las Vegas,*** it usually takes almost as long to walk to the nearest monorail station as it does to walk along the street directly to your destination. In our case at least the schlep to the monorail took us through the Grand Canal, which is a pleasant if disconcerting walk because they’ve painted and lit the ceiling to look exactly like early twilight of a spring day. It is very disorienting to leave the noon-time desert sun and walk into cool spring evening.****

But we're home now and I'm glad. Las Vegas is about the one place in the world that makes the Bay Area seem humid and inexpensive. Now we just have to prepare for the next visitor and restock the wine rack.

* The tuna carpaccio at Olives immediately joined a pantheon of dishes that I keep in my head and dream about when I get hungry. The lemon crème brulee at Table 10 was also damn fine.

** The whole place was done in this over-the-top décor that I can only describe as Tibetan Bordello, and mostly consisted of dark red fabric-upholstered corridors, underlit private rooms and Buddhist statues. The main area was shoulder-to-shoulder with people far far younger and hipper than I, and we didn’t stay too long but it was a pretty neat place.

*** And not because of the tasty cocktails. The whole place is a living lab for social engineering. Maps don’t show anything outside of the area controlled by the people who provide the map. You pretty much have to rely on signs to find anything even with a map, because everything is designed to obstruct sightlines and put your attention on the advertisements or the gambling machines or the bars or the restaurants. And the signs do get you to your destination… eventually. After you get led past all the advertisements and gambling machines and bars and restaurants. Even the carpet patterns manipulate you. I kept oscillating between being appalled and lost in admiration of the psychiatry of it all and the money on display.

**** And because I was traveling with geeks, the wonder of this was expressed by “Did you see that sky file?”

Tax day is No Fun for us because we can’t seem to get the correct amount deducted from our payrolls and so for the second year running we ended up paying about $4,000. Phoo. My fault for not getting off my ass and figuring out how these Roth IRA things work last year.

But last Tuesday we went to the local instantiation of the Department of Homeland Security* and after waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, and then a bit more waiting, R:tAG now has his Green Card. The actual Final Interview wasn’t near as stressful as we’d been thinking; we’d been picturing something like that game show where a husband and wife are (separately) asked questions and the audience merrily chuckles at the discrepancies but in our case the laughing audience would be replaced by a couple of stern officials and a deportation notice resulting from the fact that neither of us can remember the year we met.** But we brought a tote bag full of evidence that we have not been running a long con for the past nine years***, and happily it was sufficient. A key piece of evidence was our nephew, whose growth from an adorable ring-bearer to a handsome visiting teenager is handily documented in our photo albums and difficult to fake.

And Saturday was Yuri’s Night, which was like a rave-airshow-science fair up at Moffat Field. It was stinkin’ hot until the sun went down; the Bay Area had a bit of a heatwave over the weekend. We listened to a great talk by Will Wright about the Soviet space program (mainly), saw a bit of Spore, listened to music, gawked at costumes, learned about microbial mats, watched things burn, lusted after cars, and went home early like old people because I had the collywobbles from the heat and the sun. Here are pictures.

It's a walking eye, people!

Picture does not do the costume justice. All-silver body paint, silver gas mask, tangle of armor cable that made an eerie jingly scraping sound on the concrete... and then it got up on a harness thingy and did an arial show. Cool.

R:tAG in a Tesla Roadster. He wants one, but they cost more than our first house did.

Moving metal sculptures ON FIRE!

This guy did not win the costume contest, which was a crying shame. He was dressed as Sputnik, and he had little red lights on the end of the antenna bits, and he would orbit things given the least provocation. After the picture was taken, he shook my hand and said "Dosvedanya" and I managed to reply with "Spasibo! Dosvedanya!"

* Which shares a building with Gold’s Gym, and the gym’s sign is much much bigger. So that was confusing. Also, security in the building is more stringent than an airport’s, so we had to make two trips back to the car to drop off a pocketknife and then our cellphones.

** 1995? 1996? The only reason either of us remembers the year we were married is that we had it engraved on our rings. I’m glad we did that and not “Put It Back On” like I was wanting.

*** At least, I’m not.

Long time, no post. Some stuff has been happening (with work) that is keeping me busy, not that that’s an excuse.

So, what to talk about? R:tAG’s sister and her two teenage sons were here for four days, which was great. We went down to Monterey, of course, then we left them to their own devices for a couple of days before joining them in The City * and going to the SF Zoo and the obligatory trip to Fisherman’s Wharf. I hadn’t been to the zoo before; it was mostly good except for a few very old** and dilapidated enclosures containing pacing, stressed animals. Those enclosures also didn’t have any kind of signage,*** which made me think that this was just temporary accommodations for the animals except normally zoos put up the cutesy “I’m waiting for my new home!” type of thing to reassure people that the animals are being taken care of. The only sign was one between two enclosures; a generic “Adopt a Zoo Animal” solicitation poster that gave the subtle impression that the animals were being held hostage. But maybe that’s just me.

Next Saturday we are going to Yuri’s Night and I’ve half a mind to wear my steampunk rig. Most of my costuming resources are not futuristic since the only sci-fi LARP I’ve done is Fading Suns, which is so futuristic that it’s gone ‘round the other side and become old-fashioned. So it’s either the steampunk apron, or a floor-length black vinyl coat**** and my other pair of goggles.

Speaking of steampunk (nice segue, eh?), this looks cool. With the T-shirt, apparently, you get a lil’ sample of their special steampunk scent described as “Burnished gold and oiled bronze notes with Abramelin incense and sage.” I’ve been circling Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs for ages now, virtually, but the shipping to Canada was prohibitive. But I finally realized I don’t live there any more (duuur!) so I ordered a six-pack sampler.

  • Frumious Bandersnatch (“Redolent of spicy carnations, wild plums and chrysanthemum”)
  • Crossroads (“A chill twilit garden of blooms over dry earth and mosses, heavily laden with incense and offertory herbs”)
  • Zombi (“Dried roses, rose leaf, Spanish moss, oakmoss and deep brown earth”)
  • Arkham (“Maple, birch, dogwood, cypress and pine softened by a garland of New England wildflowers: bergamot, columbine, rue anemone, blue violet, creeping phlox, bloodroot, toadflax, and pixie moss”)
  • Vicomte de Valmont (“Ambergris, white musk, white sandalwood, Spanish Moss, orange blossom, three mints, jasmine, rose geranium and a spike of rosemary”)
  • Kitsune-Tsuki (“Asian plum, orchid, daffodil, jasmine and white musk”)
And they sent me two freebies:
  • Cairo (“The essence of holy Kyphi”)
  • Lucy’s Kiss (“The gentle scent of rose and a blend of Victorian spices”)
My favourites are Arkham and Crossroads, though Zombi is really nice too. All the scents that involve roses seem to end up being very strongly ROSE! on me for the first while, but Crossroads and Zombi fade into something more interesting.***** The two plum-based ones are a lot sweeter than I expected. And I might just be suckered into the steampunk scent.

Mmmmm, smelliness. In a good way.

*”What, like Oakland is just a collection of houses?”
** They had plaques on them saying “Built in 1940.”
*** Luckily polar bears are difficult to mis-identify.
**** Bought at a steep discount after last Halloween.
***** R:tAG, that olfactory master, took a deep sniff of my wrist when I was wearing Crossroads, furrowed his brow, gazed into the distance, and finally said “I smell… flowers?”

I work odd hours to beat the traffic. I’m in the office from 9:30-7:30 most days. Last in, last out. But this morning was different; there was a stream of cars leaving the parkade* which is not usual. I drove in, feeling like a salmon, and immediately noticed that all the lights were out because I am observant that way. Luckily because of the exodus I didn’t have to go down to the inky black depths for a spot. I made my way up the emergency-lit stairs to my office, and found it locked. The lock is a RFID lock. Which requires power.

Since no-one responded to my knocking, obviously there’d been a power outage (probably related to the construction next door) and everyone had been told that it would last for a while, so everyone went home. This would have been a great work-at-home situation, but I’d left my laptop in the office the night before. Just as I was heading down the stairs again to find someone with a good old fashioned non-electricity-requiring key, the lights went back on. Phoo.

I think this will be short day for me anyway; there are only two other people in the office (I called a few people to tell them the power was back on; why should I be the only one to suffer?) After all, it’s Easter, or Nawruz, or Ostara, or Mawlid-al-Nabi, or Purim**, or whatever else floats your boat, and even apart from that the house needs cleaning in a big way.***

* An unknown word here, did you know? It’s a “parking garage” here and most Americans find the word “parkade” unduly hilarious.

** If there’s anything that would encourage me to be a cultural Jew, it’s Purim. Commanded to get drunk, wear silly costumes and eat hamantaschen? I am so in!

*** Visitor Season begins this weekend.

And so the semi-annual Daylight Savings nonsense strikes again, and everyone is saying “oh, an extra hour of daylight, how wonderful.” Except no, it’s not an extra hour, now it’s just dark in the mornings. I feel like I should be running through the streets like Charlton Heston... “There is no extra hour, people! It’s all a trick!”

R:tAG’s back’s been bothering him again, so we sprung for an iNeed* thingy that is actually really really nice and I've been stealing it from him. I hope he will be up for walking more soon, because I just got a book on hiking trails in the Santa Cruz hills (the big green hills immediately to the south of us, not the dry brown hills far to the north of us, for those of y’all that have visited) and I wanna go.

A good book: Benighted by Kit Whitfield. It’s like the good bits of the Anita Blake books (i.e. not the soft-core porn, which means there is 90% of the book left to fill up with plot and characterization)

A good movie: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I had absolutely no knowledge or expectations of this movie before it showed up in our Netflix queue, and I liked it quite a bit.

A movie that I am bouncing up and down in my chair even thinking about, ever since I saw the trailer on Saturday**: The Forbidden Kingdom. Jet Li and Jackie Chan! High-budget wuxia! Eeee!

A good thing to do: Pilates. I found a class that works with my schedule, and I’ve only been once so far but I think I’ll like it. This is the “mat class” version, not the big scary Inquisition machine version, though I’m looking forwards to that too. It is like yoga, I think, in that you think “How hard can this be?” and end up kind of sweaty and shaky at the end. It’s being offered at a really nice new community centre right by us, and since they have a pool and a weight room as well as all sorts of classes, we bit the metaphorical bullet and joined up. Fitness “R” us!

Yet another case where I suspect that web cartoonists are spying on me because they are DOCUMENTING MY LIFE: here. The alternative is that I am really boring and predictable and not a speshul snowflake at all. ::sniffle::

* This “i” prefix trend is getting wearisome, isn’t it?
** We saw The Bank Job which is all right but nothing really special.

The February malaise extends to blogging, I’m finding.

But I did the Year of the Rat Treasure Hunt* and our team (“Plague It Again, Sam”) placed fifth in the Regular division (up from about 33rd last year, and out of hundreds of teams!) We should also have won best Film-Noir Themed Team Name but apparently there was another team with the same name and they got to the podium first**. Whatever, at least we got to feel clever! The weather was pretty lousy, windy and rainy, but not as bad as the predictions said it would be.

Also, this year we were much, much cleverer in planning our route, and we hardly saw the big parade at all. This meant that we finished much sooner, but also meant, obviously, that we didn’t see the parade which was too bad even if most of the paraders were swathed in protective plastic like ambulatory parlor furniture.

Odd treasure hunt story; so I’m standing with a crowd of about 15 other people, and we’re all looking for a number that we know is somewhere on a building. A little old man*** comes up to me and says in a thick accent “I have live here forty year. I never see this people before. What is happening?” I tell him it’s a game, a treasure hunt. “Treasure?” he says, confused. “Not real treasure,” I say, “Just a game. We get clues and have to go to places and find stuff and write it down.” “I have live here forty year!” he says, louder. “That’s nice,” I say. “Here!” he says and lunges towards me. I step back, and so the thing that he was trying to put on my shoulder instead falls to the ground. At first I think it’s a flapping wind-up toy, but then I see that it’s a small white live bird, like a small dove. I barely have enough time to register this when the little old man dives for the bird, scoops it up and makes it disappear somehow into his coat.

My teammates, having found the elusive number, attract my attention and I go to leave, when the little man is in front of me again. “Here!” he says, “This treasure! You want treasure!” He’s holding out a book; I can’t quite see what it is but it looks like an elementary school atlas or something with a purple ‘70’s looking cover. It has loose pages stuffed inside. “Here!” he says insistently. I say “No thanks! Take care!” and leave with my friends.

I’ll never get to Narnia at this rate.

* R:tAG bowed out; it was lousy weather plus he wasn’t sure if his lower back could handle the strain.

** We were also all wearing trenchcoats, fedoras and mouse noses, though the noses didn't last long. They're hard to breathe through.

*** Apparently I am a veritable magnet for strange little old men. I cannot think of a way to parlay this into anything useful, but it does appear to be my superpower.

Gung hay fat choi! I can’t believe it’s the Year of the Rat already… I’m still writing “Pig” on all my cheques. We’re doing the New Year Treasure Hunt again, and I am quite looking forwards to it. Last year we ended up in 33rd place (not bad for hundreds of teams and our first try!)

So we went and had a lovely afternoon tea*, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco which is an amazing and elegant place. The tea was in the “Garden Court” which I expect could stand up to the Ritz or Claridge’s in London, and moved into the “Pied Piper” pub where we admired the original Maxfield Parrish over the bar. The costumes were fantastic and I have a brain-ful of ideas now. I especially liked the driving costume with goggles that one lady had (you can sort of see her behind me in the picture below). I am a fool for a goggle.

And there is a picture of us both here. R:tAG borrowed a monocle from a friend who also likes vintage clothes, and he looked quite dashing.

The dress was the most “real” thing I’ve ever sewn… by real I mean like clothing rather than like a costume. It was tedious but not difficult, except for the back closure. Which was really my fault anyway.***

I’ve been worried about my crazydar malfunctioning, and I was relieved to find that it is miscalibrated but is not completely inoperative when we were stopped by a little old man outside the pub who initially was just complimenting us on our costumes, youth and good health** but then found out I had an engineering background. He got a light in his eye, and I thought to myself “This will be either perpetual motion or Velikovsky” and sure enough, he wanted to know if I could help him with a design for an engine he had that would run on the “free energy of the universe.”

What is it about certain memes that attract certain minds (or is it vice versa?) I’m beginning to think that just like individual bodies are physically susceptible to some things (allergies, etc.) individual minds are likewise susceptible. There are generally gullible people, who just have a weak mental immune system I guess, but then there seems to be a correlation between specific ideas and specific personalities. The perpetual motion inventor, the crazy cat lady… you can almost tell by looking what their particular meme-infection is going to be.

Anyway, we politely disengaged ourselves from the little old man and wished him luck, but if you hear of a perpetual-motion solution to the world's energy problems soon, you heard it here first.

* Not High Tea, unfortunately, as I was feeling quite peckish. But they had lovely little finger sammiches of smoked duck and salmon and pear+Stilton (yum!) and cucumber, and scones, and little dainties, and about six different kinds of tea, and it was very good.

** And who doesn’t like to listen to that?

*** The pattern said to use hooks and eyes, placed alternately for strength (like, the first set would have the hook on the right, the set below would have the hook on the left, etc.). I had a devil of a time getting them to line up so I just used snaps. Mistake. Snaps are great for holding flaps together when there’s no stress, but between the close fit of the bodice and my wide shoulders, every time I moved my hand above my waist or further than 20cm from my body, I’d hear the “plink, plink, plink” of snaps popping open. I put in a few hasty hooks and eyes, so my modesty was not compromised, but I still had to ask R:tAG to re-snap me every 20 minutes or so. He took to whispering “Grrr! Hulk smash puny Edwardians!” which gave me the giggles and usually caused more snap casualties.

Work has taken a turn for the sucky. I didn’t get home much before 9:30 PM on any night last week, mainly because some mouth-breathing fellaheen in Cairo took a backhoe to a major fiberoptic trunk or something and knocked out computer communication between us and our Bangalore office. Lo, the wonders of a global economy. And R:tAG got a promotion, which is marvelous and exciting of course, but which has also meant longer hours for him.

So we’ve eaten fast food for almost every meal for a week, and I feel like the Coles’ Notes version of Supersize Me. * The fridge contains nothing but beer and a couple of condiment bottles. And here it is, Monday again, with no foreseeable change in that situation.


So next weekend, assuming we both don’t die of scurvy or pellagra or beriberi or something, we’re going to the Gilded Age Tea, which means a new dress for me and a really big hat, whee! This is how I’ve been spending the spare minutes that I have. Pix to follow, and by the way the dress dummy is turning out to be a valuable tool in the sewing room especially since I appear to be constitutionally incapable of following directions as written.** I might have to make another one but taking more care and using proper materials.

Here are some random amusing links:

Pencil Sculptures
Cool Stencils
Deja Vu All Over Again
Cloverfield in 15 Minutes
Beautiful Dirigible
My Next Knitting Project
The Perils of Pantorexia (this is "pants" in the British sense, not the North American one)
I Need This Hat
Little Savages

* Though strangely, the healthiest thing I ate was an Asian grilled chicken salad from MacDonald’s.

** I already knew this about knitting, but it turns out it's true of sewing also, which means I’m doing a lot of experimentation by draping, and that’s much, much easier on a dress dummy if one is not unnaturally bendy. Which I am not.

We went to Bodyworlds 2 this weekend at the Tech Museum; even though it’s been here since September 27th, we kept putting it off until (typically) we realized “Holy crap! It’s only here for another week!” Apparently many others also felt the same way, because in spite of the extended hours * there was a line around the block to get in. We luckily arrived at a good time (when the line was only starting to go ‘round the block) and only had to wait for about an hour, but the show was worth it. Really, really fascinating stuff.

In case you haven’t heard about it or are too lazy to click the link, the show is plastinated bodies. It’s a fantastic fusion of art and science; all the bodies are arranged like sculptures but all illustrating various medical and/or anatomical things. It was very easy to get fascinated by how all the muscles and organs look, and fit together**, and then your focus would be caught by an untrimmed toenail or a bit of body hair, and the fact that these were once real live people would leap to the forefront of your realization once again. The display included a really respectful display about donating one’s body to medical research, and why people do it. So yeah, staring at corpses was the highlight of our weekend. How about you?

Speaking of death, I just found out that George MacDonald Fraser died on January 2nd. He was one of my favourite authors, and I highly, highly, recommend all his books. The Pyrates is in my personal Top Ten Books Of All Time list, and if you know how much I read you know how fierce the competition is. The Flashman series is the only reason I know anything about Victorian history, and the McAuslan trilogy still makes me laugh out loud at every reading, and Mr. American still has the only paragraph I’ve even encountered that actually made me jump in fright when I read it. Rest in peace, Mr. Fraser.

* Eight AM to midnight; apparently there are a few Tzmisce on the board of directors.

** I was just reading about someone who couldn’t sleep at night unless he convinced himself that he had no internal organs at all; that if cut in half, the inside of his body would resemble a potato.

If you saw the news about the Apocalyptic! Torrential! Downpour! around here, don’t worry, we’re fine. The winds were pretty high* and there was rain and because that doesn’t happen very often here, some of the wimpier trees blew over. We don’t live in an isolated area (for this exact reason**) so really it was just another rainstorm for us.*** And as me mum always says, you don’t have to shovel rain.

I got the dress dummy finished over the weekend, using these instructions but I think I got the wrong kind of paper tape and the form ended up looking like a badly-interred mummy. So I put a layer of clear packing tape around it to hold down all the curling-up paper edges, and stuffed it with old bubble wrap and newspaper because the paper tape shell didn’t seem stiff enough. So it’s sort of a ghetto-meets-the-post office effort, but I figure it will do well enough for me to see if I really use the thing. I have to put it on a wider base and adjust the height slightly; right now it’s about a centimeter taller than I am.****

Here it is displaying my (finished! Yay!) Victorian polonaise.

I think I will take a few inches off the arms of the dummy; I wrapped my arms almost to the elbow (thinking that it would be easier to remove any excess later than to try and add extra) and I had my arms slightly out from my sides during the wrapping, and that rather distorts the clothes on it. I also may try to figure out some sort of cover for it, out of a thin jersey knit, just to hide the worst of the taping effort. There’s a 2” PVC pipe frame inside (made with a T-joint) for stability and the arms, neck and bottom are scrap cardboard. So it’s a pretty cheap effort but I think it will be useful for hemming if nothing else. And keeping in the hallway to startle people. Heh.

(title song lyrics are here, by the way. I couldn't find any lyrics about dummies in my head so I had to turn to Google.)

* One bridge was closed completely, and a few more closed to heavy truck traffic, because the gusts were strong enough to push a semi around)

** A friend of ours who lives way up in the hills was stranded in his house by a landslide on the sole access road, which sucks for him but on the other hand, he’s chosen to live way up in the hills. What do you expect?

*** Though there was lightning and thunder! Yay!

**** And slightly too big in the waist and small in the bust; it was a bit of a relief to find out that I’m not quite as cylindrical as the form makes me look.

Bonne Année, all. Wow, for having just had a holiday with absolutely no planned activities, I’m sure tired. It’s amazing how activities just expand to fill the available space. I didn’t touch a keyboard for the entire vacation* and I had a long optimistic list of stuff to get done. I think I managed two items.

This was one; my own version of the HPLHS tentacle stocking. It’s a design-on-the-needles prototype; I have a few improvements in mind for V2.

The other was finally getting my polonaise skirt done, which was two full days of Ruffle Hell. It was straightforward** but tedious. Pictures will appear when I get my dress dummy finished, which was an uncompleted item on the to-do list.

We had several lovely holiday meals, a Christmas dinner at friends’, the Hillfolk’s annual fondue treat, and a spur-of-the-moment New Year's Eve dinner at Crimson, a neighbourhood place that reminds us a bit of Calories. We decided to go out at about 6pm, and found that Crimson had reservations available for 9:15. Unhappily, they mis-estimated the time that people took lingering over dinner, and it’s a very very small place. So we had to wait outside in the cold until 10:20 before we were seated, but the heaters and free champagne took the edge off that.*** And the food was very good, and because we started so late and there were four courses, we were still eating when midnight rolled around and the restaurant (staff and customers) erupted with noisemakers and general hootin’ and hollerin’. It was rather fun, but I apologize to everyone we didn't manage to phone with New Year's greetings.

Random amusing story; I needed to stock up on allergy medicine, since our friends persist in willfully and maliciously owning cats. Chlorotriplon is not sold here (at least not as such; could someone do me a favour and tell me the real active ingredient name?) and Claritin and Alleve don’t do jack for me, so I asked the pharmacist if she knew the American equivalent.

Me: “I’m looking for an allergy medication. It’s called Chlorotriplon in Canada. Have you heard of it? It’s for a cat allergy.”
Pharmacist: “Well, it sounds like it’s X. Do you know the dosage? It comes in 4 mg, 8 mg and 16 mg.”
Me: “Um, no. I just bought it over the counter.”
Pharmacist: “Oh. You’re sure you can’t remember the dosage? Is there anyone you can phone?”
Me: “Uh… I guess I can find out. But it’s over the counter medicine, right?”
Pharmacist: “Well, yes, but I really don’t want to sell it to you if you don’t know the correct dosage.”
Me: (really confused, but thinking maybe there’s a problem with it being used in meth manufacturing or something) “Can't I just get the lowest dosage and see if that works?”
Pharmacist: “I’m really not comfortable with that.”
Me: (going for the sympathy angle) “But I’d really like to take it tonight; I’m going over to a friends’ place and they have cats and I’ll be all sneezy and miserable otherwise…”
Pharmacist: “Oh, it’s for you! I thought you said it was for your cat!”
Me: “Uh. No. For me. I’m the one that’s allergic to cats. Can cats be allergic to cats?”
Pharmacist: “It’s been a long day.”

* I did touch a game controller. R:tAG got me Beautiful Katamari, so of course I had to finish up Katamari Damacy first, and I got R:tAG Godzilla Unleashed, so we had to choose monsters and beat each other up in the ruins of San Francisco. Much fun.

** Except for the Moebius Ruffle Incident, but we will not speak of that. I had bought a ruffling foot and a rolled hem foot for my sewing machine just for this project, and they both ended up being useless. Stupid useless sewing machine feet.

*** Free champagne to drink while we were waiting, then a free bottle when we left as well as extra dessert and appetizers served with profuse apologies. It’s a good place. The chef himself kept popping out to bring more champagne and reassure us that the food was worth waiting for.


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