I realized with a start that today was the last day of 2009, Dec 31, and not just Day T-4 to the next milestone. Crunch time is... interesting. Not since university finals have I been so disassociated from the calendar.

But we did manage to grab some Christmas cheer; I attended the Dickens Faire with my airship crew:

More pix here, thanks to someone who's a much more dedicated photographer than I am. The uniforms are Laughing Moon #110 (Ladies 1890's Sporting Costumes With Leggings) with some military surplus belts and hats. I made them all (go me!) and it's definitely the most comfortable Victorian costume I've ever worn. A talented friend is working on custom belt buckles and cap pins, so if we're able to attend any other Steampunk events we'll look even better.* Miss Havisham even gave us a £5 bank draft and a dead mouse, we looked so good.**

And we went up to Cow-Town to see friends and fambly, and completely missed the horribly cold weather, and had a great time until we had to try to get back to the U.S. after the Crotch Bomber had struck. That was moderately hellish but it could have been a lot worse so I can't really complain too much. At least passengers are still allowed to wear pants, and we got home on the same day we'd planned to.

And now we have to go over to our friends' place for a party. You heard it right, we are not staying at home and being anti-social this year for New Year's! Amazing!

*And there will be four of us too!

** Charles Dickens? Great Expectations? Read a book!

So if you are eagerly anticipating the game I'm working on (and you should, it's gonna be good*), you should go here, scroll down and look at the "We Want to Know" section at the bottom right, and vote. I'd prefer you vote for Star Trek Online, of course, but do what you want. I won't mind. At all.

* Seriously, very good game. Pretty too. That trailer? That's all in game footage, and I don't think it even shows the ground combat.

(We didn't really change our names to Chrysler. That's just a song.)

But over U.S. Thanksgiving we went to the East Coast to see my folks and introduce R:tAG to the Smithsonian, or at least parts of the Smithsonian and other museums*, which count among my favourite places in the world. We stayed in a rental condo** in Alexandria and took the Metro into D.C. which was very convenient.

It turns out R:tAG is pretty proficient at finding his way around Washington, thanks to Fallout 3. Here he is looking for mirelurks in the Metro:

The weather was rainy but we were mostly inside anyway.

This was lava. Some geologist scooped some up with a hammer and let it harden. Note the scorched handle. Geologists are crazy.

This is the Hall of Ocean Life. There's a right whale hanging from the ceiling towards the back; I thought I also remembered a blue whale when I was a sprog but maybe it's having a rest. The Natural History museum attendance seems to be benefiting from that movie; anything that gets people into the museum, I suppose (I took this picture just at closing time; the place was actually packed all day)

No pictures from the National Gallery because they were twitchy about that. But we saw a really interesting exhibit about Spanish parade armour, as well as a lot of famous paintings and sculptures, of course. It really is better to see them in the flesh, so to speak.

And then we went back to my parents' place for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat, and a bit of a rest from walking.

So it was a good trip, though about an hour after we got back to work I was thinking "Man, I need a vacation." Back to the long days and long work weeks. Le sigh.

* The Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery and very briefly the Freer Gallery just to see the Peacock Room.

** One of those old row houses with the floor space of a two bedroom apartment. But it was quite historic and comfortable and the kitchen was nice.

I like working with artists. I like going to lunch with artists. They draw all the time, and sometimes what they draw is extra awesome.*

I have a bigger post about going to the East Coast for (American) Thanksgiving, which was very fun, but I do not have the time right now to write it. Soon!

* Yes,I got a lot of hair cut off. I think I look like Severus Snape now but people have kindly told me that I don't. Much.

Wow. If somebody proposed the events of the 97th Grey Cup as a movie plot, I suspect it would be rejected for implausability.

I have never before seen defeat so comprehensively snatched from the jaws of victory. See you in 25 years, I guess.

A picture-heavy post. It was a pretty good workplace Hallowe'en.

My office-mate* does not like creepy contact lenses. At all. He didn't know this picture was being taken; I wish actually we had a picture of a few seconds later, when he turned around. That was funny. I was Zombie Jane Austen, by the way, and I owe Cenobyte bigtime for showing me how damn awesome creepy contact lenses can be. Totally worth it.

And there were punkins:

My favourites were the Borg punkin (Cucurbita of Borg!), the skelly-punkin, and the Rorschach punkin. The Borg punkin actually had a little light-and-fog show that was pretty awesome.

* He is a Talented UI Artist, so he is sensitive. This is him, drawring.

Time for what's become the monthly wrap-up, I suppose. It's not fair that I grumble about people not updating their blogs when I am just as guilty.

R:tAG's parents had their 50th anniversary party, and we of course went up for that. We arrived just in time to participate in the first major snow of the season; we exited the airport to horizontal sleet. Luckily things calmed down enough that the drive to the Anniversary Town was fine.

All but one of the original wedding party were at the head table, pictured above and decorated with a lovely korovai. The celebration was really nice; R:tAG even met some cousins that he didn't even know about (his parents both come from large families) and of course we got to see lots of family again. The Ukrainian genetics are strong; the family resemblances were striking. R:tAG's oldest nephew kept getting mistaken for R:tAG, I kept mistaking one of R:tAG's uncles for his dad.*

So it was an impressive event and once again I was danced under the table by people twice my age. I wanna learn the Schottische.

The anniversary party was in the hall of a large church; I saw this on the grounds and had to take a picture.

In case of spiritual emergencies, break glass.**

And in more recent news... well, work. Lots of work. We wanted to go to the San Francisco Opera Costume Sale but by all accounts there was a five hour line just to get in, and then a two to three hour line at the checkout. Eesh. We got to see Cori during her brief visit to the area, which was very nice. We're having the work Hallowe'en party tomorrow, and maybe there will be another blog entry if the costumes and punkins are impressive enough.*** I'm going as Zombie Jane Austen, because I'm still in the undead Regency mood. Thanks, Suz!

* In my defense, only twice, and only from across a room, and I wasn't the only one. We were joking that it was a good thing we pinned a corsage on R:tAG's dad, so that we could tell him and his brother apart.

** I assume the protective cover is a winter installation, but it still struck me funny. Cryo-angel!

*** A couple years ago, one of the pumpkin carving entries was "Meat Urchin"... a smallish pumpkin covered in hotdogs stuck endwise to the pumpkin on skewers. It was rather horrifying. Many of the other pumpkins involved LEDs and robotics. Game studio employees get weird when it comes to punkin carving.

Strings - Fantastic movie. See it. Thanks, Tall Guy!

9 - Not to be confused with District 9, which I did for a long time, much to the bewilderment of those to whom I was speaking. It's an interesting contrast to Strings, because while Strings let me have the (to me) supremely satisfying experience of saying "I wonder why that's... oh... oh right, of course things would be that way!", 9 did the opposite. The more I thought about it, the more I was going "Wait a minute, how is that even... why would..." There's also the whole CGI versus "real" thing, and I'm glad people are still experimenting with the real. At the risk of sounding like those audiophile snobs who only ever listen to vinyl on tube amps... I like the real stuff better.

Scribblenauts - Really quite fun. I can't believe I didn't think of this. For the record, it doesn't work (you get the Starite but it's inert. Though if you throw it at a muskox you will anger the beast and it will trample you).

STOnline - Got a good response at PAX. I was very pleased to hear that the space UI isn't as impenetrable as I'd thought.* Friends and Family is going gratifyingly well for what is basically an alpha test... it's good to see that we try and improve on the past. Champions learned a lot from CoX, STO is learning a lot from Champions. Onwards and upwards!

Art You Can Eat
- Just cool. I think the last one's my favourite. Again, setting up the real thing and taking pictures of it is (to me) more viscerally satisfying than if the whole thing were Photoshopped.

* I'm having to adjust my design principles slightly; having someone say "it was hard at first, but I figured it out eventually" usually triggers a redesign in "grownup" UIs. In games, having someone say this can be a good thing. Which is sort of ironic; people usually have to learn to use a UI for work, yet those UIs tend to be underdesigned (to say the least) exactly because the user doesn't usually have a choice. People will adapt to just about anything. Games, which are entirely discretionary, have to have UI that carefully steers between hand-holding (insulting) and impossible (why bother?) and tries to hit the sweet spot of overcoming-an-achievable-challenge and giving a sense of accomplishment. It's a challenge.

We're safe back now from the Pride, Prejudice and Zombie event of the year. It was a veritable hoot and a perfect celebration of the union of two charming and... distinctive people.

I really do like driving (or even being a passenger while someone else is driving) across the prairies. I miss being able to see all of the sky. I don't know if the GPS display is visible in the picture, but it's basically a blank white rectangle (the landscape) bisected by a vertical purple line (the road). Between Calgary and Saskatoon it stays that way for about 500 km. As you can see, except for colour it's an exact representation:

We unfortunately didn't get to spend as much time in either Calgary or Saskatoon as we could have wished; we have too many other commitments coming up so it was rather a whirlwind tour and mostly taken up by The Wedding. But we did manage to see quite a few people we've been missing, and we really appreciate the friends who hosted us in both cities.

It was exciting to see so many wedding guests throw themselves into the the Regency theme, the zombie theme, or both. I am the World's Most Neglectful Photographer even with an iPhone, so I'm glad R:tAG got some good pictures.* You can apparently see more on this "Facebook" thingy.

Favourite quotes:

(Zombie dabbing at his eye) "I always lose flesh at weddings"

(Father of the groom beginning his toast to the couple) "Aoooohhh! Uhhh, aaaaooorrrooo uuunnnh!"

"I love Regency. If you insult someone all you have to do is nod afterwards, and it's OK"

(at the Tim Horton's in Kindersley, from a stranger) "That hand dryer in the washroom is so weak it's like having a mouse fart on you." (stay classy, Saskatchewan)

* Pattern sources: My dress, bodiced petticoat and reticule from La Mode Bagatelle. The dress is the View D bodice without the mock drop front bit, View C sleeves (the longer ones) and skirt. The pattern is spendy but you can make a complete customized Regency wardrobe from it. I'm wearing white ballet slippers. R:tAG's jacket and trousers are from Butterick B3648 and his vest is from Butterick B3721 (View B with an added stand-up collar). His shirt is from J. Peterman's because it was on sale for $25 and that's cheaper and easier than me sewing it. His neckcloth is just a triangle of cotton, 55" at the base, 11" high, and his shoes are split sole jazz shoes.

All planned Regency items complete.* I didn't finish the spencer, but that's probably OK 'cause you don't wear those indoors anyhow.

I like making bonnets. I regret that one cannot support oneself as a milliner these days, or at least I couldn't. Mind you, that bonnet did take me about 8 hours to make but a lot of that was trial and error and bad language because I seem to be incapable of following instructions as given.** But I was clever and made the permanent bits of the bonnet in a neutral dark beige. The blue ribbons and trimmings are detachable, so as I expand my Regency wardrobe I can re-trim the bonnet to match.

Sunday was odd; I woke up early full of jittery energy. My first thought was that I was dying. But I'm still alive, and I managed to get a lot done. Including buying art. Fantastic art. This kind of art that when you see it you think "I will regret forever not making this part of my environment."

It's from a series called "Millennium Birds" by a pair of artists whose names I forget and I don't have the info with me. It's fantastic. It's got so much detail, and all the found objects just mesh so nicely, and it just makes me so happy every time I see it. There are a couple of more pictures here.

It's my 10th anniversary present to us, and a celebration of Champions Online going live and doing pretty well, and just a commemoration of being happy.

* Aw, crap, I forgot I still have to hem R:tAG's neckcloth. OK, 99.9% complete.

** And have good ideas at the point when it's almost-but-not-quite too late to implement them. For example, the brim of the base hat I used was too wide; it stuck up like a satellite dish when the hat was on. So I ripped off the three outer rounds of straw braid, but I did that after I'd cut the hat up, so the force of the ripping also ripped apart several other seams that oughtn't to have been ripped (this was not a quality hat) so I had to fix them, which meant undoing other seams and gluings.

Also, I used organdy as a lining instead of nice drapy lace, because I had some lying around. But it's a lot poofier, so wrangling that into the hat took some doing. I ended up cutting it into a sort of shallow tombstone shape because it didn't want to gather without a fight. Organdy is the soccer hooligan of fabric.

(ever have a verse that gets stuck in your head and won't leave? The title is the first bit of one that I'm giving involuntary brainspace to right now...)

But as R:tAG put it:

Yay us! If you were at our wedding, do you feel old yet?

Regency trousers are done, vest is in the works*, shoes are ordered, my hat and reticule are still on deck. Prognosis for achieving full costumed status: favourable.

We attended the RiffTrax Live event here in San Jose last Thursday and it was very funny. Perhaps not the best thing to attend with a friend who is suffering from a double hernia** though. I was also thinking of what they could have done to make it feel more like a live distributed event... this is a cool thing to do and it's odd that it just still felt like we were watching a taped live performance, if that makes sense.

So of course I started thinking about the U of C HCI lab and their Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) projects because they had some really neat ideas (even years and years ago when I was in academia) on how to make people who are geographically separated feel like they are still working together. So now I'm thinking of designs to make people in ~200 theatres feel like they are having a shared experience, without that becoming the main event. Like Walt Whitman nothing good will come of it,*** but it's a neat problem.

Oh, and here are some random links. It's been a while since I've done random links:

Otter Half

ZooBorns - As good as Cute Overload but without the tooth-gratingly twee text.
Cute Kitten - Hi, Bne!
A Handy Flowchart

Hm. A picture-heavy link list, I notice. Maybe I've used all my words.

ETA: Yep, I'd used all my words before I mentioned that Terry and Dancin' Cicada Jen paid us an all-too-short visit last week. It was great, though it was such short notice... only six weeks!**** We just hung out and talked, really, but we also found this good Ethiopian place. Ethiopian bread is like eating sour J-cloths... but in a really good way. Yum.

* With the caveat that the collar modification is still unimplemented. And that rayon brocade is a slippery bitch goddess.

** Not a figure of speech, alas. Poor guy.

*** Hi, Cenobyte!

**** The sarcasm hand sign is up.

Coat: complete! I am happy that R:tAG is a perfect Butterick XL. I can follow any kind of correct instruction, but making diagnostic alterations* apart from a bigger or smaller hem is beyond me.

I was very happy with the pattern; Butterick 3648. It's not actually Regency, more early Victorian (note the waist seam, the square transition between the body of the coat and the tails, and the curved bottom of the tails) but the pattern was cheap, the right size**, clearly written, makes a well-designed piece of clothing, and was quickly and easily acquired. I should have made the collar facing velvet, really, but I couldn't find any in a matching green or brown and didn't have time to experiment with dye. So it's only the buttonholes/buttons to do on that. Yay!

I also made the muslin of the trousers (which, thank goodness, also require no alteration) and I think I've figured out a collar for the vest.

And I got the stuff to make a bonnet and reticule for me, so we'll see is there's time. August is just speeding by!

* i.e. saying "Oh, the horizontal wrinkles mean it's too tight here, so I need to change the seam/shape in this way..."

** Men's Regency costume patterns are not that easy to come by. The only other one I found has a reputation of running very small (and R:tAG is just barely within its upper size range), and also has reported other errors. As I said, I'm not that proficient a tailor to overcome these obstacles on a tight timeline.

I am falling behind in my sewing. The trouble with most costumes is that one needs the proper underpinnings to get the right look... the term "foundation garment" is completely accurate, in an architectural sense. So my Regency dress meant a bodiced petticoat* first. And then the dress fabric I chose (an embroidered cotton voile) was so sheer that I had to do handsewn buttonholes. And then there was the whole "inside out French seam" incident and the "drawstring casing on the outside" incident, of which I will not speak except to say that I think I have an inner ear disorder.

But at last, the dress is done!

It's hanging before its final hemming right now, and I have to see if it will fit on my tailor dummy. I really hope it does, because it makes hemming so much easier, but the "Regency silhouette" involves rearranging squishy bits which is impossible with my packing-tape dummy. The really hard-core costumers make different dummies while wearing different undergarments... one with an Elizabethan/Tudor corset, one Regency, one Victorian, etc.. I'm not that obsessed and/or blessed with storage space.

It has to be R:tAG's coat next, because in a pinch he can wear modern trousers and I can't make the vest until I see how the coat fits, because I'm altering his Victorian vest pattern to have a higher collar.** So then we'll see if I have time to make the cute spencer for myself. At least I don't have to have a hat, though a reticule would be nice. And shoes. I have to find shoes.

All this, and ten hour days at work! Whee!

* Which combines a chemise, corset and petticoat thus saving a few steps at least.

** I hope I'll just have to add a stand-up collar piece, but I also need to check the length to make sure it peeps out below the coat's waist in a stylish fashion.

Two posts in as many days?!!!??? Madness!

But I couldn't not share these items,* for the sake of the world. H.P. Lovecraft apparently wrote documentaries. Save yourselves!

Atlantic Herring Is Going Wild

Huge Blob of Arctic Goo - It's a shuggoth, people!

* There's nothing I don't like about double negatives!

Not much of real interest, but I'm making a conscientious effort to update more often. I guess it's Twitter envy or something.

Since we have a Regency wedding to look forwards to, I've been immersing myself a bit; re-reading Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights*, and Persuasion, and looking around for inspiration for my dress. R:tAG, as always, amiably agreed to dress up too** so I've got a fair bit of sewing to do.*** I need to figure out the dress that I will be most likely to use again; unfortunately the archtypical "nice" dress of the time was white, and I don't want to look like I'm competing with the bride, of course.

Speaking of costumes (nice segue, eh?) we are very probably not going to GenCon this year. It is too close to the release date for R:tAG's game, and my game is not going to be featured at all at GenCon (its big marketing début is going to be PAX, which ironically is the same weekend as the aforementioned Regency wedding. Admire the multi-layered segue!) so we won't be going for work, and there are too many other events in the fall for which we must husband (wife?) our personal resources.

On the weekend, we went up to The City to see Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine, which was a cabaret-style show of lounge covers of songs that one would not expect to hear in that style. I think my personal favourite was the theme song for "The Greatest American Hero." I cannot believe that I have brain cells devoted to remembering that song. The opening band was Project Pimento and I can now say I've seen a lounge theramin band. They were surprisingly good.

And the next day, a friend was in town from England and (because we never do anything interesting unless its under the spur of out-of-town visitors) we took him to Hakone Gardens which we've been meaning to visit for ages. Although the day was a bit too hot, and the season for most of the flowers has passed, the gardens are still very nice and I'm glad we finally went. Feeding carp is fun.

* It's been a long time since I read this, but man! It's not a romance at all, is it? It's a horror story. And I don't mean the bit with the ghost at the beginning. Catherine and Heathcliff are terrifying.

** Not the Father Christmas outfit. Don't encourage him.

*** Though in a pinch he can wear his ~1860 frock coat. What's 50 years more or less?

Happy Canada Day. I am waving the flag.

Literally, because it creates a slight breeze. The AC in our office is completely out. It's about 95F in here. I no think good.

Brain needs cold.

Free popsicles are supplied by management in attempt to avoid heat stroke epidemic. I am considering stuffing one up each nostril to cool my brain off.

Bad idea?

It was hot over the weekend. Miserably hot. So hot that I couldn't tell if I had a fever or not*. The official temperature was 103F (40C) but I'm pretty sure it was hotter in our house.

But we went to a Canada Day celebration, the regular Digital Moose Lounge one at Huddart Park and because it was up in the hills and in the big trees, the heat wasn't so bad. The bottomless beer took the edge off quite nicely too, though it was still hot enough that buying the specially imported Canadian chocolate bars ended up being an adventure in creative eating.**

And on Sunday, it being too hot to create anything big or requiring counting, I made a new friend. Literally:

It's hard to get an idea of scale from that picture, isn't it? The abdomen fits nicely in my hand, anyway. I didn't make up the pattern; it's from Amigurumi Knits which is my current favourite book.***

This weekend is a long one, I think, and I am happy. Work has been fairly high pressure. We start the "friends and family" test of our game in a couple of weeks so there's a lot of work to do. If you're interested in participating, by the way, drop me a line.**** It'll be a pre-alpha test... as the executive producer says, we're just opening it to people on whom we can count to go "Oh, it's a very nice game, dear!" and forgive us much.

* I think I did, because I also had a sore throat and that feeling like your sinuses have been packed with Tabasco-flavoured PlayDoh. But along with the heat there was an air quality warning, so everything might have actually been external.

** Best option; bite just the corner off the package and squeeze the contents into your mouth. Pretending you're an astronaut is optional.

*** Come on, a knitted anglerfish with optional parasitic male? This is the best knitting pattern book ever.

**** Knowing a) how to do that and b) what game I'm working on is part of the "friends and family" validation. Otherwise, sorry, beta will be soon!

OK, so it's May already...

Aw, crap.

Um, so we had some birthdays in there, and stuff happened, and the weather was lovely. And we worked a lot. There. I now have the perfect generic blog post.

Oh, all right, more details. Carl and MacChick got married in a lovely ceremony, and there were many out of town guests that it was lovely to see again (and some in-town guests too; we don't socialize as often as we ought).

We didn't go to KublaCon or BayCon, which was poor form on our parts but long weekends are damn few and far between here.

We went on a Vampire Walking Tour of San Francisco with Wode which was very entertaining, and we also (finally!) went to the Ferry Building and got lots of good stuff to eat.

I crocheted a darkmantle for R:tAG for a birthday present. Unfortunately it tried to eat his head, 'cause that's what darkmantles do best:

And Carl and MacChick and I went to Maker Faire which was even bigger than last year and included a new food and agricultural section and now I really want to do vermicomposting. And the steampunk mobile home was there again, and the motorized cupcakes and the Diet-Coke-And-Mentos guys and big robotic statue things on fire, wheee! R:tAG had to work, booooo!

And then my car battery died all dead, and nearly stranded R:tAG, and when I took it to the mechanic to make sure that's all that was wrong of course they found all the other maintenance items that I haven't really been keeping up with, and the timing belt needs replacing, and the tires are almost bald, and so that's going to be spendy. Still, cheaper than buying a new car plus I can remain debt-free.

And that's all I can think of and my RCS checkout's almost done, and I've got a ton of work to do on the Star Trek space controls (my job is letting people fly spaceships... whee!) so I'll try and update in a more timely fashion in the future.

I think the best commentary on swine flu is here (or maybe here), though I found this article about the Canadian National Microbiology Lab interesting too. It's nice to hear about emergency procedures that work.

I mainly just wanted to have a post for April on the blog; missing a whole month just seems unacceptable. Work is fine; making games is very interesting not least because of the work environment. This is typical:

He's been moving around the building, and you never know where he'll turn up.

Oh, and we went to Disneyland last weekend, to celebrate Macchick's impending nuptials.* I hadn't been since 1991, and things have definitely expanded. There's a whole 'nother park beside Disney now, which contains among other things careful reconstructions of bits of Northern California.** What has not expanded is my capacity for roller coasters, unfortunately (the opposite, in fact) so I was feeling rather wobbly by the end of the day. But there were lots of non-nausea-inducing activities also.***

I rather liked this street; the end of it is a clever facade.

And we had a fantastic brunch at a sort of secret restaurant because Macchick's sister's friend's parents (I think?) were members and gave us access. And we went on all the old favourites like the Haunted House and Pirates of the Caribbean and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and a bunch of new stuff too. The fireworks that night were cancelled due to high winds (boo!) but that was the only blot on the day.

Good Movies We've Seen

Bad Movies We've Seen
  • Pineapple Express (Don't bother. Just don't)
Bad Movies That We're Looking Forwards To Seeing Because Of the Riff Trax

* Saying "nuptials" in a creepy old man voice was a running joke of the weekend.

** Which was odd. They have mini-replica of Cannery Row, except it's the restored version of Cannery Row minus the tourist tat. So it's a reproduction of something that never actually existed, which made my head hurt.

*** Like the Muppet Show! You could sit in a theater and be part of the Muppet Show! Squee!

No excuse of malfunctioning phone lines this time, just the odd antisocial malaise that seemed to come with being unemployed, for me at least. I got a lot done, though not as much as I could have/should have.*

I am employed now, though, yay, in a fairly recession-proof industry. Yep, R:tAG and I are now, efficiently enough, laboring side by side in the same salt mine. The interview was amusing; I have never before had my interviewer say, seriously, “We’re just a bit worried that you don’t play enough games.” The UI design challenges of a game, especially an MMO, are intriguingly different from those of a control system application. I’m having to think again. Ow.

The other problem with such a long pause is all the little gems that I thought at the time “I really ought to remember to blog about this” are of course lost in the mists. Here are the few that survived:

The movie Bon Cop Bad Cop is worth watching, I think, in a black-comedy kind of way.

Watchmen was a really reasonable adaptation of the graphic novel. About the only things I didn’t much like were Bubastis (why bother?) and ::clears throat nervously:: the soundtrack. Not that I didn’t like each song (I don’t really need to get the movie soundtrack because I own the majority of the songs already). I just didn’t think the soundtrack did what a soundtrack should; I thought it competed with the movie instead of supporting it.**

There was an exhibit at the De Young Museum where local florists used a work of art as an inspiration for a floral display. It was really fantastic. Some floral arrangements were amazing copies, some were more “inspired by”, but it was very interesting. More photos are here.

was a pleasure.

Repo: A Genetic Opera
was extraordinarily disturbing and fascinating. Brazil meets Sweeny Todd with a dash of Sin City?

* All costumes are not complete, all minis are not painted. On the other hand, a lot of knitting is knat.

** For me, on a lot of levels. First level was the simple distraction of “Ooh, I like this song,” followed by “So this is supposed to be an alternate timeline but events were still similar enough for this band to write this song?” followed by “I wonder if they subtly changed the song to reflect the alternate timeline?” followed by “If they didn’t, why did they pick this song?” followed by “Oh, what just happened?”

Well, sorry for the hiatus. For once it’s not exactly my fault; our landline and internet were down for four days five days almost a week and while we still had our iPhones, they are not so good for composing long stretches of text.* But today the nice technician dug up a flowerbed and fixed the problem, so we are connected again.

The endless rain may have been a factor in the line failure, but I still cannot be unhappy about it because it has been so dry for so long here. Apparently, though, all this rain still isn’t helping reservoir levels because it’s all soaking into the parched ground. Oh well, it’s better than not having the rain.

Being incommunicado like that was especially inconvenient for me because I am once again jobless. The startup I was working for is now an enddown. But to be honest, I’m enjoying being able to catch up on some completely non-computer related commissions** and since we have no debts, no dependants and no expensive addictions*** I can take some time off. I’m just irritated that this didn’t happen when we had visitors; I could have spent a lovely time with them. Ah well.

And I am still managing to amuse myself, of course. Stitches West was last Friday and I bought a bit of yarn. A little bit. Hardly anything, really. And the next day R:tAG had to go to WonderCon so I went up and joined him and wandered around the dealer floor a bit and met a Surprise Guest:

Hee! Adam Baldwin actually looks younger and thinner in person than he did as Jayne, which isn’t usually how these things work but he seems like a really nice guy, and was very kind to fans.

And then we went to see Video Games Live because we’d missed it at GenCon last year, and it was excellent. The Fox Theater is a beautiful old building, too, and they stock Hendrick’s Gin at the bar, so I heartily endorse it.

* Plus some websites don’t work so well with the mobile flavour of Safari.

** Costuming and mini-painting.

*** I keep telling myself that yarn is relatively cheap. You know, compared to heroin.

And… breathe. No more visitors for a while. I fear the snarky comments of my Wii Fit trainer; eating, drinking and watching movies with real friends somehow took priority over strength training and yoga with an imaginary friend.

We did do the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt* and though our team performed better than last year we didn’t get in the top five this year. We also didn’t get a team name prize, much to our disappointment**. But we all had a lot of fun, and didn’t get rained on that night (amazing!). The promised “beautiful weather in February” did not materialize, though; it was pretty much overcast and damp all the time. It still is. Still, it beats -40.

And the Ferlak and I got to go see elephant seals at Año Nuevo Park.*** Here are some pictures. It was raining off and on, but it was still pretty cool. I only had the mediocre cell phone camera so the pics of the seals are not as impressive as they should be. The big bulls are about 5,000 pounds and can move surprisingly fast. They are also loud.

And a kind gentleman took a picture of us, all sneaky-like:

After the seal pups are weaned, they are called “weaners”. Really! They stay on the beach until they’ve grown enough to swim; for a while they are so fat that if they do get into the water they just bob up and down like buoys. And the mortality rate for pups is really high, about 90% over three years, so sometimes a pup can feed from multiple mothers who have lost their own pups. Seal milk is something like 55% fat (like triple-cream Brie) so these multiple-feeding pups get almost spherical and are called “super-weaners”. That made me unreasonably happy**** but we didn’t get to see any super-weaners, alas.

Oh, and the post title comes from a song about the elephant seals of Año Nuevo.

* R:tAG didn’t; he lounged in coffee shops and watched the parade.

** “The Man From U.N.G.U.L.A.T.E (United Network of Grass-eating Udder-bearing Livestock And Taurine Enforcement)”

*** Not Ano Nuevo. The tilde is crucial.

**** And it also made me think of Bob the Kitten, who was the feline equivalent.

Wow, lots of snow in London. When I was living in Brighton circa 1993 it snowed only about 1” (very unusual) and the place shut down. My flatmates and I stayed home, made snacks, and watched from our fifth floor window as drivers unfamiliar with the physics of ice slid around the corner of our square and smacked into the iron railings around the centre. Good times, good times.

We had guests and fun the week before last. We will have guests and fun next week.

Things our just-past guests introduced to us:

  • The Fall in Blu-ray. Absodamnlutely amazing.
  • Max Raabe. I now really really like Oops, I Did It Again. Who knew that all it took was covering it in 1930’s German nightclub style?
  • Making hair falls out of scrap yarn.
  • Four player Little Big Planet.
  • An awesome salad with chicken breasts, dried cranberries, goat cheese, avocados, and sunflower seeds.
Things we introduced our just-past guests to:
  • Commentary: The Musical.
  • Blu-ray and its effect on fifty five inches of liquid crystal love (thanks, Ferlak)
  • Beautiful weather in January
Things we will be introducing our next guests to:
Things we will not be introducing our next guests to:

The weather here is perfect, and will be for the foreseeable future, apparently. 21 C, cloudless, windless. Trees are blooming early:*

And this is a pretty bad thing, actually. We’ve had almost no rain this winter, again. I heard a report of a grass fire (first one of the year) a few days ago, and this is awfully early to be having grass fires. We’ll be rationing water by April at this rate.

On the up side, it’s nice to have perfect weather for this, the first day of Visitor Season. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

* This is a “tulip magnolia," because it looks like someone wired tulips onto a magnolia. I guess it was 4:50 on a Friday at the Office of Tree Naming when they came up with that one. I took this picture on the way back from lunch. Life's tough.

Guess what one of my New Year’s resolutions wasn’t? I’ll give you a hint; it rhymes with “fegular glogging.”*

So we went back up to the frozen North for the holidays, and managed to hit the window of bearable weather. It was -33 the night we arrived, but warmed up to -16 and stayed there, and stayed pretty clear, for our whole visit. The storms in Vancouver affected us hardly at all, and all in all it was as smooth a trip as one could ask for. I don’t mind winter at all when it knows its place.

Apparently also I am “turning into an American” according to R:tAG. On landing in Edmonton, normally right after Customs they have a place where you hand your checked-and-tagged-through luggage over to be put on your domestic flight. You have to go through security again, but at least you don’t have to check your luggage again. But when we were there, that place was closed and we were faced with having to wait in the blocks-long ticket line even though we had our boarding passes, luggage was tagged, etc. So I snuck under the cattle-chute railing thingys, found an unoccupied and helpful airline employee** and asked him (nicely!) if he could just take our tagged luggage and put it on the Magic Conveyor Belt, and he could and did. But apparently the Canadian thing to do would have been to unnecessarily wait for an hour in the queue, getting overheated (-er) and grumpy(-ier), until a different employee put our tagged luggage on the Magic Conveyor Belt. WhatEVer.

Anyway, it was fantastic to see friends and family again. Coming back during the holidays is hit-or-miss; on the one hand people are more likely to be busy and/or out of town and on the other hand people From Away are more likely to be in town. So we missed seeing some people, but had the delightful surprise of seeing others (Neuba, Mr. J., Baby Quinn, Furious B***, Ty, Bne) and of course the non-surprised delight of seeing the regular residents.

And because we R SMRT, we took some extra days off so as to be able to lounge idly around the house when we returned, which was also fantastic.

R:tAG got us one of these for Christmas,**** and I’ve got little baby plants already after starting them on Dec. 29. I should take a picture, shouldn’t I? They are very cute. After the herbs are done I think I’ll try the salad mix… for just the two of us that seems like it will keep us in salads for a while, and the lettuce shouldn’t bolt or wilt or get et by slugs like it does when I try to grow it outside.

EDITED TO ADD: A picture! The two pods to the far left (mint and parsley) still have their little domes on because they were late germinators and still need a bit of protection. Go team chive, though!

* Not that I make New Year’s resolutions anyway.

** I know!

*** Plus SO, with whom I am sad I didn’t get to spend more time because she seems awesometastic.

**** I was looking around that site, and the “Accessories” section is a hoot. Or am I the only one that finds the thought of a special apron to put on while you’re “tending your Aerogarden” pretty funny? It’s a mini hydroponic system about the size of a watermelon. You might as well have special protective garments for getting a can of Coke from a vending machine.


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