Monday, December 31, 2007

Resolved: More Blogging. Maybe.

I've actually been thinking seriously about New Year's resolutions this year because I came up with a really good one--one that will mean the breaking of a really stupid habit that I should never have allowed to take over my life in the first place. And it's completely realistic and achievable.

Here's what it is: at some point, I got into the habit of taking my clean laundry out of the dryer, putting it into the clothes basket, and then stuffing all the clean clothes baskets (unfolded) into our bedroom closet, where they would remain, getting rummaged through on a daily basis for shirts and socks and the like, until the following weekend, when I would need the baskets for the new week's dirty laundry, which in the meantime had been piling up on the floor in a corner of the bedroom. Then, and only then, would I fold the previous week's clean clothes and sort the dirty laundry.

I know, I know. Didn't my mother teach me anything? She did. Then I disregarded it, apparently.

So, I thought it would make a great resolution to change this habit back to what it ought to be, namely, reincorporate the folding of laundry immediately upon removal from the dryer. This would also benefit me in the sense that I try to avoid ironing clothes--folding them right away would prevent some unnecessary ironing. Plus there would be clothes baskets available for the tidier storage of dirty laundry during the week, and I wouldn't have to bury my arms up to the shoulder in the basket of clean laundry looking for that one matching sock.

I started on this resolution yesterday, actually. Yay! My other resolution is that I will finally tidy up my office the way I've been meaning to for about the past year. I will have to do this anyway when my office changes rooms into the newly remodeled part of the house, so conditions are conducive to the fulfillment of this resolution as well.

I'm all about the realistic and achievable goals this year. Usually I'm the opposite--unrealistic aims that I don't necessarily even have control over. Let us call this year the Year of Sensible Goals.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Move-In Day

So, our etching press has officially been moved into our newly built studio space. Technically it's not the first piece of furniture to christen the room--the utility sink has already taken up residence, showing up soon after the linoleum floor was installed. But the etching press is definitely the significant feature of the room, at this point, due to its size and extreme weight.

However, we're also probably going to get a truly ginormous lithography press, which is currently sitting around at Rob's work not being used. MJC no longer has a printmaking department, so we've been bequeathed this giant 3' x 7' litho press as well as several lithography stones and other associated equipment. I'm actually really excited--I took a lithography class when I was at the San Francisco Art Institute and it was quite possibly the worst class I've ever taken (thanks to the professor), so I'd like to try my hand again in the privacy of my own damn studio.

Of course, by the time you put an etching press, a litho press, some shelving and some worktables into a 500-square-foot space, you've used up quite a bit of it...and it was definitely a tough decision to take the litho press. However, the cost of moving and recalibrating it would be nothing compared to the $12,000-and-up price tag for buying a new one, so we think we should probably take this opportunity...

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Most Amazing Link I Have Seen in Months

Thanks to Fuse #8 (and Neil Gaiman), my eyes have now been opened to the phenomenon that is Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz. Unfortunately you can't give this amazing item as a Christmas present, as it is currently out of stock. However, it may comfort you to know that people who viewed Tuscan Whole Milk on Amazon also viewed Uranium Ore, Fresh Whole Rabbit, and Summer's Eve Anti-Itch Gel. And you ain't seen nothin' till you've seen the lyrical paean, modeled after Kubla Khan, singing the praises of Tuscan Milk in the Customer Reviews section. And if poetry's not your bag, there are 975 other reviews that might be more to your liking, such as:

"For those of you foolish enough not to know the joys of a plastic pitcher of Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz: I thoroughly pity your wretched state."
"This whole milk is smooth and milky in consistency. Not at all gritty, chalky or sandy. An excellent purchase."

Oh, and for the love of God, don't forget to click on the Customer Images. Seriously, this could entertain you for hours. If you're really bored.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's Oh So Quiet (shhh....shhh....)

Yup, it's quiet around here. It's because I don't have any spare seconds in my day. Any seconds that appear to free up are quickly submerged under the massive crippling anxiety that I'm not going to be able to get everything done that needs to be done in the next few days.

Ya know, if it weren't for me, there would be no holidays celebrated in our house. More later, I promise. I also promise to improve my negative attitude. Just kidding.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Too Much TV

From a commercial I just saw while watching "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" on ABC Family: "She's holding him hostage...but he's stealing her heart." The movie? "Holiday in Handcuffs," starring Melissa Joan Hart (aka Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and Mario Lopez (aka Slater from Saved by the Bell). Yes, it really exists and I am not making this up.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Venice and Other Distractions...Part I

I've been wanting to post for a while, but ever since we've been back, the shit has hit the fan in terms of work, getting caught up, household construction, family fun time, etc. My back currently aches from helping Rob grout tile in the new bathroom in the addition (I was the water-bucket hauler--and I seriously tested the limits of my upper-body strength with each load, of which there were at least 15). But I finally feel like I've made some progress work-wise and can therefore justify some blogging time. Oh--did I mention the 25+ (and growing) pile of books sitting on my office floor waiting to be read and judged? I'm having this horrible fear that I'm not going to agree with what anyone else likes. So far, of the 9 titles posted to the short list, only one is also on my personal list of favorites. Granted, I haven't yet read a lot of the titles people have posted, so I can't actually say I won't agree once I get there. Anyway. Here are some impressions of our Italy trip, in no particular order:

  • Bridges. Venice struck me for its myriad of little footbridges just as much as for its canals. Wooden footbridges, concrete footbridges, footbridges with wheelchair ramps in the tourist area near San Marco, footbridges with no ramps that we had to haul extremely heavy luggage up and over, young parents hauling their kids' strollers up and down footbridge steps, tourists taking pictures of the most insignificant of canals from the tops of the bridges. The Ponte dei Pugni, or Bridge of Fists, where young noblemen used to fight and throw each other off into the canal, marked with footprints set in the concrete where combatants are supposed to start off. The Ponte Accademia, a wooden lattice arching over the Grand Canal and affording almost unreal, Disneyland-like views of the cityscape.
  • Roman stuff. I love going to see Roman historical sites, just as I like going to see ruined castles. What can I say? I like wandering around the remains of history. Verona was a fantastic (and unplanned) surprise in that regard--for one thing, they have the third-largest Roman arena complete with gates where the gladiators and beasts used to be released. And it's still in use today for operas and performances. There was also a Roman amphitheatre and a reconstructed bridge over the river. I'm always amazed by how the Romans really built to last.
  • Not quite enough alone time. This was but a minor note of dissatisfaction, but traveling with the in-laws didn't quite give Rob and I enough time on our own. His parents aren't experienced overseas travelers--China was their first trip abroad, and that was an almost completely guided event with pre-set daily itineraries and tour guides for each city. For Italy--Rob and I were the tour guides. We set the itinerary, except for one guided tour we took in Milan. And Venice is a little confusing to get around at first, so they were content to let us take the lead and just kind of follow along. Which was fine...but resulted in only about half a day that we actually had to ourselves. Not as much of a romantic trip as you'd expect from Venice.
  • Da Vinci's The Last Supper. It's in terrible shape. I'm glad we saw it (it's in Milan, and that's why we bought the guided tour--it was the only way we were able to get tickets to see it). You go in through what is essentially a series of airlocks, keeping the room climate-controlled, and enter the former refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and there it is on one wall of the rectangular room. It was much bigger than I'd pictured (sort of like the Mona Lisa tends to be smaller than people imagine) and parts of it are what I'd call nearly obliterated by time and wear and overly-zealous restorations of the past. I'm glad we saw it before it fades even more, because it really is an incredible masterwork of its time.
  • The Euro. The dollar. GAAAAH! We are po' now.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Back Just in Time...

...to be totally behind on work and also have to prepare for Thanksgiving. Oh well. It was worth it. In between bouts of cleaning the house, I'm trying to upload our pictures to Flickr, and I've done about half as of this moment. For once, I took most of them.

View of the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge

Usually Rob likes to be the photographer, but this time he was the backpack beast of burden and map-reader. Well, we took turns reading the map, but he was definitely the official carrier of items. Rob's mom was in a car accident just five days before we left for the trip, and her wrists were still really sore (possibly mildly sprained), so we all helped out with carrying bags, etc.

More soon! Must get back to vacuuming, sweeping, tidying, and food prep. We're going to have duck, lamb, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls. Fumi and Tricia are bringing appetizers, and my mom and stepdad are bringing pies. It's going to be a ridiculous amount of food, plus our house is still in crazy construction mode, but it should be fun...provided I can get everything ready in time.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Arrivederci

I'm really just allowing myself a few minutes here, as I take a break from getting everything ready for our trip--we're leaving this evening and staying the night near the San Francisco airport, since our flight leaves tomorrow morning at 8:40 a.m. It doesn't arrive in Venice until Friday shortly after 10 a.m., after two stops (not ideal, but cheap). The last few days we've been arranging for friends to take care of our cats and bring in our mail, making sure all our last-minute work is done (and trust me, there was some major last-minute work), and packing.

We're just about ready to go, though--all I have to do is wash a sinkful of dishes, set out a few days' worth of food and water for the cats, and arrange for some kind of dinner-like food for us to eat on the road. The plan is for Rob's parents to come to pick me up at home at around 6:30, then we load our stuff into their car and go pick up Rob at work (he's letting his evening class go at 7:00). From there, we drive to SF.

I'm...inexpressibly excited about this trip. We have been exhausted. Grumpy. Overworked. On top of it, I sneeze all the time because of construction dust, and I'm starting to suspect I'd rather not live in Modesto, but that's a whole separate can of worms. In any case, a break is much needed. When we arrive in Venice, we'll still have the better part of a day open, so once we check into our hotel, we'll spend some time walking around and seeing the sights in a leisurely manner.

Saturday's still up for grabs, but Sunday and Monday we're checking out the Biennale, which ends on the 21st and is our main reason for going. Tuesday we're taking a day trip to Milan, and we'll have our one guided tour, which was the only way we could get tickets to see Da Vinci's Last Supper. Wednesday we'll walk around Venice some more. Thursday we're taking a day trip to Ravenna to check out the Byzantine-era mosaics. And then we leave on that Friday. Just over a week--it's really not that long and I know it'll fly past, but hey--we'll take lots of pictures and (this is important) eat a lot of excellent food. In fact, we'll try to take pictures of some of the food...I'm starting to feel a little delinquent in my contributions to the "I Ate This" photo pool on Flickr.

I might post a quick hello from Italy--we'll have the laptop--but if not, back in a little over a week!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

I knew I would get this shot because Zelda cannot resist poking her little nose everywhere--toilet bowls, water glasses, up my nose...

 

 

Here also is the Halloween Costume That Never Was. That is, the costume that never was seen besides by children requesting treats. And now the entire internet (or the non-representative sample who are reading this). I'm no ordinary soccer player. I'm Red Devil Scum. (Lest you doubt that Manchester United are so popularly hated in the U.K., just type "Man U Scum" into Google.) Nobody will get it, but oh well. It's not like we did anything particularly exciting for Halloween this year anyway. We went to the Bridge School Benefit on Saturday, which was cool, and then today (the actual day of Halloween) Rob is teaching and I'm working (-ish) on the computer. So maybe I'll save this for another year, eh?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Weekly Words of...Something.

I haven't been good at blogging here lately. I've been incredibly swamped with all sorts of little things, and preparing for our trip to Venice (we leave a week from tomorrow--aargh! and yay!). I did write up a nice little feature about an illustrator on the YA blog, so that's something.

The truth is, I've been feeling a little blah, and I tend to blog less when I'm depressed. In no way do I see this blog as my online journal or my virtual confessional, my intimate thoughts separated from the world by the metaphorical wooden latticework barrier of my computer. Or something. No, I have Dr. Yoda for that. So I tend to just temporarily disappear for a little while in order to more effectively brood. So, sorry about that. That's what I've been doing.

I think vacation will be good. I get kind of sick of Mo-Town from time to time, and I've definitely been overworked and overstressed. Of course, in order to take the vacation guilt-free in the first place, I will need to stress myself out more by finishing several projects before I leave, but it will be worth it.

There's also the little issue of National Novel Writing Month, which starts the day after tomorrow. I definitely want to attempt it, but I don't see where the time's going to come from. I'm sure I won't make it to 50K without some sort of miracle. I do have an idea and a page or so of notes, so I'm not without a plan, but see, it's not the planning part that I'm worried about. It's the 8 days in Italy, the 500 other things I have to do this week, the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner and hosting of parents, and the lovable but aggravating little cat who demands my attention by misbehaving every ten minutes or so. Well, I'll find a spare minute or two somewhere, and I'll probably get at least several chapters into a new project, which will be good....and hopefully they won't want to talk to me on NPR again.

Don't Go ThereOh, by the way, if you're on my Flickr contact list you can check out some pictures from the Renaissance Faire that we went to a couple of weekends ago, including several of me having fun at the reptile petting zoo and this snake (at left) deciding I was a nice place to hang out. I also got to try archery, which I'd been wanting to do for a while. How many opportunities do you get to try out a bow and arrow for three bucks? (Well, three bones not counting the exorbitant admission ticket.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Free Rice, No Free Time

On our YA writing blog, TadMack posted about a great site called FreeRice, where you're quizzed on vocabulary words, and for every word you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the U.N. World Food Program. It's addictive, believe me.

Not that I needed something else to suck up my time. I already had to kiss half of yesterday goodbye thanks to the World's Suckiest Jury Summons. Yes, the good ol' jury summons. Only this was no ordinary summons. This was a summons to the United States District Court, Eastern District of California. Which is in Fresno. Which is 90 miles away. Let me list the suck-tastic aspects of this civic duty in all their glory:

  • Did I mention it's in Fresno, and 90 miles away?
  • I had to report to the jury room at 8 a.m. yesterday morning. When I left the house, it was still dark. I resent that greatly.
  • When you get summoned to the district court, you are evidently on call for 30 days, unless you get appointed to a trial. So if you report in but aren't picked, you don't just get excused for the year.
  • I was not picked, therefore I'm still on call. And this was supposed to be one of their shortest cases ever, at a mere four days in length.

So, yeah. The only good thing is you get $45 bucks a day plus mileage, even if you show up and aren't picked to be on a jury. (Sadly, that's probably more than I make on an average day.) Anyway, I show up around eight with my bag full of stuff to do, reading material, lunch, etc. Turns out I barely cracked a book, because once the lady welcomed the group of about 35 rather disgruntled people to the jury room, we were shown a movie about the jury selection procedure which lasted about 10 minutes. Then, after a break, everyone was ushered to the courtroom so they could interview potential jurors--the voir dire (see, I learned something from the filmstrip. Yay.).

This case was not going to be interesting. I won't lie. An insurance company, which had paid out several tens of thousands of dollars to an insured party after a house fire, was in turn suing an electronics company to recoup the money, alleging the fire was due to a faulty electronic device attached to the swimming pool (the heater? I can't remember. It was too boring). The attorney for the defense even asked jurors (not in so many words, but pretty nearly) whether they could watch four days of testimony on the subject without getting completely bored out of their skulls.

Anyway, the judge called up about 20 people to the jury box. I was not among them. He proceeded to give a summary of the case and ask a whole array of questions to determine whether people might be excused from serving due to various issues, conflict of interest, etc. It was sort of interesting to watch a few people try to weasel out of jury duty. For instance, one guy said, "Uh, I can't be around people. They give me anxiety." The judge was not buying this, so he told the guy he could have a week's deferment but to be excused he would need to provide a doctor's note. Then there was the woman who claimed that due to blood clots in her legs she couldn't sit for more than an hour at a time.

Unfortunately, I couldn't read during this part either--I felt compelled to pay attention because the judge said if he needed to call up any replacement jurors to the jury box, he would ask them if they would have answered yes to any of the questions already asked of all the other jurors. And there were assloads of questions. In the end, though, only eight jurors were required, so everyone else was sent home and instructed to call the hotline on Wednesday. ARGH.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Youth of Today

Sometimes the things that Rob's students write in their art appreciation essays are highly amusing. Today, I was copying the latest batch of paragraphs into a document onto my flash drive so I can grade them on the laptop. Last week's unit was about prints and printmaking, and the question asked about the work of Thomas Kinkade (or, more accurately, the sweatshop of Thomas Kinkade--I've actually met someone once whose life's ambition was to work in his sweatshop). The question asks, are the works offered for sale original prints or reproductions? One of the students' paragraphs began by essentially saying "yes, these works of art are original prints or reproductions."

Yes, the reading comprehension in his classes could be better.

Actually, though, my favorite sentence comes from earlier in the semester, in an essay asking about the Degenerate Art show put on by the Nazis: "Since freedom and rights were limited, people were probably afraid to speak their minds in respect to loosing [sic] their lives and what not." Yes, they probably were. And what not. God, I love that "and what not." It just kills me. In fact, it was a pretty good essay but I couldn't stop laughing about "losing their lives and what not."

I know I shouldn't mock people. But grading these paragraphs can be awfully mind-numbing, especially when there are 60+ of them. I need a little fun now and then.

Okay. Now it's time to make another attempt at writing the story I mentioned in the last post, a sort-of-sci-fi piece for this magazine issue. While swimming laps today I had an idea about how to structure it, and add a conflict (which is key). But I need to make some notes first and also re-read what I wrote last night to make sure it doesn't totally suck.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Turn That Frown Upside Down!

Yeah, I know. I've not been the best at blogging here lately. It occurred to me today that one reason for this is my conflicted feelings about what to post. I feel lame putting up posts like the one below, where I'm all "look at what I did lately." Conversely, I also constantly worry about being a downer. I don't want to continually complain and whine, unless I'm trying to be funny. The other problem is that I usually have these great ideas about blog posts while I'm driving around in the car, and then I forget about them the second I get back into the house. Grr.

It's also hard for me to blog about what I've been doing lately because it's usually pretty boring. Like today, I got up around 8:45. I ate breakfast while playing with Zelda, the kitten (many of my meals are now multitasking events--she's quite insistent and annoying...and fortunately very cute). I checked and answered some e-mail. I went to the gym for about an hour and a half, and did my usual treadmill/machines/swimming combo (not at the same time). I stopped at the store on the way home and picked up some lunch for Rob and I (Tuesday he doesn't teach, but has afternoon meetings). I ate lunch, did a large sinkful of dishes, took a shower. I spent some time reading one of the nominated titles for the Cybils Award in Sci-Fi/Fantasy, another multitasking kitten event. I started writing a new short story, got a few pages in, and had to stop temporarily after realizing I had no idea what the plot is going to be. I worked on some images for our website redesign-in-progress. Oh, and I wasted at least half an hour doing a name-that-tune style music quiz on Facebook.

Actually, that doesn't sound too bad. Today was pretty uneventful--I was taking it easy because I felt run down and blah yesterday and wasn't sure if I was coming down with something. Unfortunately, I also have Art Appreciation essays to grade later this week, a different short story to revise, and some freelance stuff to type up. Plus did I mention we have 40 nominees so far in Sci-Fi/Fantasy to read? Of course, that's the fun part. Read a bunch of YA novels, you say? Yup, that's a no-brainer. I'm trying to decide if I want to--or will be able to--do National Novel Writing Month this year, too. It's coming up. We'll be in Italy for just over a week of November, though, so I'd really have to be on the ball for it. I'm not optimistic about the likelihood of finishing this time, though...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sllloooooowwwwww.

Apparently it's been a slow blogging week for me. I did, however, put up that nifty widget thingy, also known as a blidget, on the left-hand sidebar, with all the latest posts from the YA blog I contribute to. Speaking of which, I'm also involved in the Cybil Awards (Children's and YA Bloggers' Literary Awards) again this year, this time as an organizer for the Graphic Novels category and a nominating panelist for Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Nominations opened today, so if there are any children's or YA books published this year that you particularly loved, cruise by the Cybils blog and leave your nomination in the comments.

Cracked Wheat BreadNow for the "I made this! Lookit me!" section...The picture of the bread I baked last week, which I promised to post for DaviMack. It was my first time trying cracked wheat bread--or indeed, any yeast bread other than plain French or plain wheat--and I have to say it went well. It helped that I bought new wheat flour of the King Arthur variety, though I did have some decision-making trouble at the store when I found they had about five different kinds of King Arthur, including organic. However, I went for the all-natural non-organic since the price-to-poundage ratio was much better. And two more loaves are rising even as we speak. Rising slowly, though--is it because of the cracked wheat?

And here's another "lookit what I did" thingy--I'm inordinately proud of my latest poster for the Prospect Theater. I've finally managed to get a little more done on our website, too, specifically adding the footer (which I forgot to do before) and adding the Imp Press page. Once the addition to our house is done, we'll actually be able to get said press up and running again, which will be nice.

In other news...you can now officially pre-order my friend TadMack's book on Amazon now. Whee!....I had a nice long birthday chat with my half-sister in Australia last night (her birthday) and found out something I hadn't heard on U.S. news (big surprise) about the APEC summit...And, last but not least, I seem to be wasting--er, spending an awful lot of time on Facebook lately. Maybe that's why I've been failing to blog. I've been busy playing that stupid Pirates game and throwing sheep at people and what-not.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Rare Digression into Ethnicity

So I'm making a salad, drinking wine, and watching the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour on Comedy Central, and the Special Guest/Emcee Dean Obeidallah starts talking about how he never used to worry much about his ethnicity (Arab-American, with an Italian mother) before 9/11. And I realized how true that is. I never used to be stressed out about being Pakistani-American. At least, I was only stressed out about it for personal reasons, not political or social reasons. But since 9/11, and especially since the whole "Bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan" thing...well, I'm not so much worried for myself, but I worry about my family--my dad and my uncle, especially, who have made the U.S. their home and have been citizens since I was a small child. Whenever I hear about some poor Sikh or Hindu getting beaten or killed out of ignorance, I worry about my family members who actually are Muslim.

Shit, I worry about myself for having written the words "Muslim," "Pakistan," and "Bin Laden" in this blog post. The Department of Homeland Security is probably going to subscribe to my blog now. They will be bored to tears. I'm probably already on their watch list for being on MoveOn.org's mailing list. I've certainly had my baggage unnecessarily searched at airports.

But usually I don't worry for myself. Mostly, I can pass. I've even had people of Arab descent ask if I'm a Spanish-speaker. Pakistani people tend to have Pakistani-radar, but lately I guess I look more ethnically ambiguous. I guess, after all, I'm only half. I don't practice Islam, and I rarely wear traditional dress. Tonight it also occurred to me that I changed my last name to Rob's during the summer of 2001. I haven't been a Baig--my name hasn't sounded overtly Pakistani--since before 9/11. It's only my middle name that still has ethnic connotations. (Incidentally, I'm only a Sarah because that's all my parents could agree on. I was close to being a Stella or a Nasreen.) I guess I've probably escaped a lot more airport searches as a Stevenson.

Okay. Enough with the rant. I blame it on the wine.

Yawning, Slouching, Hiding...Day of Hermitude?

Today is just one of those days when I feel super lethargic and don't want to do anything productive at all. I've been pretty good at accomplishing nonproductivity so far today. I've even talked myself out of going to the gym, when Monday is usually one of my prime gym days. At first I tried to convince myself to go using guilt inducement--i.e., asking myself "Do you want to become fat/lazy/unhealthy? No? Well, there's one easy way to avoid that..." But it all came down to not being in the mood to deal with other people today and just wanting to nurture my introverted self. I was going to hop on our exercise bike instead, book propped on the little ledge, but then I realized that our exercise bike--along with most of the stuff in our back bedroom--is currently crammed in unruly piles draped with old bedsheets because the workmen doing construction on our house (more pictures soon) need to work with the air ducts back there.

So, there went exercising. I didn't really feel like it anyway. Maybe tomorrow. Today...I'll go run a couple of errands that I can't escape from (one of them involves depositing a freelance paycheck, so that's not so bad), get some work done, and make a Manhattan clam chowder, thus making use of an organic bell pepper and organic red potatoes that we got in our vegetable box this past week. I thought about corn chowder, but I think that the green bell pepper would be too overpowering in a corn chowder. We also have a Hatch (aka Anaheim) green chile and a handful of banana peppers--those might be good in a corn chowder, but I may just end up roasting the banana peppers and putting them in sandwiches again.

In the meantime, enjoy some cheesy Indian music videos. Tunak Tunak by the incomparable Daler Mehndi is one of my longtime favorites, even though my dad (who I guess understands Punjabi) said the lyrics are really stupid. I found a subtitled version and my dad is right, but still. It's a catchy song. And how can you beat the cheese-tacular special effects? You can't. However, even more scary is this one that my friend Jay sent me. It's not even good. Only in the sense that it's so bad it's good, but I mean, I've seen a lot of Bollywood musical numbers, and these dancers are not particularly in sync with one another. Plus, usually you can get some idea of what's going on in the film from the music video, but this one was just perplexing. And I think it must win an award for Most Costume Changes in a Single Scene.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Coolest Boots Ever

Coolest boot ever--but way too high a heelIf you know me pretty well, you probably know that I hate shopping. With a passion, usually. Our clothes get holes in them and then I go shopping. However, if you know me really well, you may also know that I harbor a secret love of shoes, such that I actually kind of like shopping for them. Not so much that I have a huge shoe collection or anything. But I do love cute shoes. And today, when I was at the MJM shoe outlet looking for some kind of waterproof hiking boots, I found these pseudo-Victorian beauties. Please note the size. This is what usually makes it a little more difficult for me to find shoes, especially at the outlet. But these were MY SIZE.

Me wearing the coolest boot everHowever, please also note how freakin' high the heel is. For me, that's unwearable. I barely have an excuse to wear dressy shoes as it is. So I settled for just trying it on and taking a picture and sniffling to myself because they were only $60 and fit perfectly. Apparently Victorian-looking boots (but with a handy zipper) are coming back into style (or were in style six months ago or whatever ends up in the shoe outlet), because they also had the low-top kind. Still with a horrendously high heel, though. I realize this would bring me from just over 5' 1" to, like, 5' 5", but appealing as that is, comfort is premium. As comfortable as these seemed trying them on, I'm not used to heels that high. I'd be in agony. Looking great, but in agony. I won't go there.

But, yeah, I did find the hiking boots. Timberland, black, nice, only $40. Blah blah blah. I want my Victorian boots!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Does Not Compute

This is actually a shout-out to all of those fabulous folks who, out of the kindness of their hearts, create incredible open-source software packed into neat little executables that even relative dinks like me can use. I mean, I've been using Mozilla Firefox as my browser for quite a long time now, and I have not had one single problem with spyware. I also have been using the GIMP for a few years now, since I was only recently able to afford Adobe software. And even since getting Photoshop, I still use the GIMP for a lot of stuff. For one thing, it doesn't take five hundred years to open the program (my computer dates back to December 2002).

Then, this past weekend, Microsoft Office basically imploded on me. I borrowed the academic version of the 2003 software from my mom, successfully loaded it onto Rob's laptop, then tried to load it onto my desktop but it had reached the maximum number of installs (two!!) and so it said I couldn't activate the software. SO, I uninstalled it. But in the process of uninstalling the new software, it did NOT return my old versions of the software. So I did a system restore. My shortcuts came back, but I still couldn't open any of the programs. Moreover, I couldn't reload them because I had given those CDs back to my mom. Plus I'd probably just encounter the same "does not compute" refusal to activate the software if I tried reinstalling those.

So, I decided to try something I've been wanting to try for quite some time but just didn't have a real reason to--installing OpenOffice. And you know what? So far, it rocks. It was going to be a total disaster work-wise if I couldn't, for instance, open any of my Word documents. I mean, I'm a WRITER. So now I can access all of my files; hooray! And then I had to install Mozilla Thunderbird so I could access my Outlook e-mail--I had to go through a rather convoluted (but successful) process to retrieve my settings, address book, and e-mail archives. But I have to say, it's all worked out fine so far. I was going to be particularly annoyed if I had to e-mail everyone to get their addresses again.

So, thank you, open-source gurus. You've saved my butt yet again.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Downward Spiral

So we went to a rather surprising concert last night. Surprising, because the part of the show I thought would depress me was actually really good, while the part I was expecting to really rock was incredibly depressing.

The concert was Alice in Chains (sans the late Lane Staley, of course) opening for Velvet Revolver (which, if you don't know them, is essentially the instrumental part of Guns 'N' Roses plus Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame as the lead singer). I was thinking that it would be kind of sad seeing Alice in Chains, since I never got to see them with Lane Staley, and he had such a distinct voice that it's hard to imagine anyone taking his spot. Well, as it turned out, their current singer, William Duvall, was really very good, once I got past my initial "oh no, he looks like Lenny Kravitz" reaction. So that part of the show turned out to be dynamite, especially their concluding rendition of "Rooster" (which, sadly, remains as topical as ever).

The tragic part of the show turned out to be Velvet Revolver, specifically the lead singer, Scott Weiland. I've seen him perform with Stone Temple Pilots three times or so and he's really put on dynamic shows--in fact, I wasn't a huge fan of STP but was turned around by seeing them perform live. Unfortunately, Weiland is one of these guys who is always in and out of rehab and, this time, I seriously think he might be on the way down, never to emerge. I really think he's going to die. He looked skeletal and had lost a lot of muscle mass; the band went on really late due to "technical difficulties" which I'm almost positive meant they had to scrape him up off the floor and dump a bucket of water over his head or give him a shot of adrenaline or something. He looked and acted pretty messed up, and his singing voice was thin and lacked the richness it had in previous performances. It was depressing as hell. I couldn't help wondering to myself if, for instance, this kind of thing happened to Jim Morrison before he died (not that Weiland is quite at Jim Morrison level, but just in the sense of being a tragic drug-addicted frontman). We actually had to leave early because it was too hard to watch.

Oh, well. Very sad.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Be It Ever So Humble...

Addition and new back porchThis is a rear view (i.e., from the backyard) of our household construction project, which will ultimately comprise an additional small bedroom, a bathroom, and an art studio. Rob likes to call it Stevenson South. I will attempt to post a few more pictures here as things take shape. As you can see, we're also getting a small covered patio out of it. It's very exciting, although it is evidently true when they say (good old "they") that if your relationship can survive a major construction project on the house, it can survive anything. There has been much noise and general aggravation in the Stevenson residence. There's nothing like being awakened at 7 a.m. by infernally loud banging on the roof to put you in a fabulous mood, or having to answer the door in your pajamas to greet the plumbers you didn't know were showing up. Et cetera.

Anyway, I also posted the rest of the New York pictures, including the ones from the crappy disposable camera. I had to retouch those a little in Photoshop, but they actually came out okay.

Sigh. I can hear Rob stomping around. My mom and stepdad are coming up for a weekend visit and evidently Rob thought they were showing up tomorrow evening instead of tomorrow morning, so now there is extra stress in the air. Sigh sigh sigh. And me not getting even half of what I hoped to done this week in terms of work, due in part to house cleaning and also to feeling yucky on Wednesday. Can't say I feel a lot better right at this moment, but at least I don't have quite the same headache. Yet.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Flickr Fiction and Other Examples of My Brilliance

Yes, that was sarcasm. But there is new Flickr Fiction, and if you click here, you can go to my Ficktion page on Ning and read about the Chained Seven.

I had this realization today, which is that I spend an awful lot of time thinking self-deprecating thoughts--lots of boo-hooing about how I suck at this or that, or I said some lame thing and now somebody hates me, and so forth. And I'm just really no good at the whole Positive Thinking thing. If I even approach the idea of Positive Thinking, it either makes me nauseated or it makes me boo-hoo even more.

What I am good at, though--at least relatively so--is denial. So it occurred to me that what I really ought to be practicing, instead of Positive Thinking, is Constructive Denial. Every time I start thinking those nasty little negative thoughts, I need to just pretend they don't exist and then think about something else, preferably something useful, like work, or writing, or blogging (ha). It's good old-fashioned distraction, is what it is. But if I'm distracted long enough to do something productive, then I will probably feel good about it. And then the negative thoughts will flee for a while. I think this could work.

This is apropos of nothing, but I'm spending some time on Facebook lately. It's a total waste of time but it's actually sort of fun. I'm in no danger of joining MySpace at any point, and even LinkedIn seems a little pointless in retrospect, but Facebook has goofy fun stuff, and I've found some totally random people from my past on there. (That makes me sound like I have a mysterious past, which is misleading. I found some former classmates and co-workers, is all I mean.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Ya Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em...

Sorry. Gratuitous Kenny Rogers. I'll never do it again.

Last night we were invited to a Labor Day Poker Party that ended up being surprisingly fun. The buy-in was only $10 (unless you lost, went out of the game, and chose to buy back in again), and the winnings were split such that the third-place winner would get his/her $10 back, the second-place winner would get $20, and the first-place winner would get everything else. So the system was acceptable. Not that I really have anything to judge it against, since the last time I played poker was probably penny-ante Five Card Draw with my mom when I was a teenager. Well, I may have played video poker once or twice at an Indian casino shortly after my 18th birthday, but frankly, that's a long time ago now, too.

Anyway, I wasn't sure if I was even going to want to stay at the party very long, since the only people we knew were the host; his girlfriend, our friend Kathleen, who works at the college as a librarian; one other faculty person; and then Rob had gone to high school with one of the host's friends. Plus it turned out that some totally random other person at the party had taken Color & Design from Rob when he first started teaching in town. But basically, it was an unfamiliar group of people.

Luckily, there were only about 12 people there total, which meant it was fairly low-pressure; and most of them turned out to be pretty cool. Plus Rob and I totally swept up. Rob got third place, and then I ended up splitting the rest of the pot with the other remaining person, since we were both tired and both had about the same number of chips. So we ended up with a $40 net profit on the evening. I actually felt a little guilty. I guess I'm not really a gambler at heart, but I did enjoy learning how to play Texas Hold 'Em.

Things got a little extra entertaining when one guy, evidently trying to sound macho, for some reason decided to brag about his sex prowess and loudly mentioned (in reference to his girlfriend, who was right there), "Yeah, I fucked her twice today before we even got here." Then, in response to an awkward silence and some comments along the lines of how maybe it wasn't entirely appropriate to refer to nailing his girlfriend right in front of her in the third person, I seem to remember him repeating the comment, then digging himself deeper somehow (I think I was trying not to listen because it was too painful). Then, a little later in the evening the guy got too stoned and had to go home--thereby possibly saving himself from himself, and putting an early end to his poker night. Ironically, if he'd stayed, he could have been splitting those first-place earnings with me, since it was his stand-in who ended up sharing the winner's pot. Ah, the perils of too much weed and beer.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay...

I guess I'm about 80 miles shy of any kind of dock of the Bay, but I am wasting time. I had the best of intentions and various interesting ideas for blogging over the past few days, but just couldn't make time to post...I did write a rather lengthy entry for Finding Wonderland as part of Under the Radar Recommendations week--a week (roughly) of blog posts about overlooked or underappreciated children's and YA books. And I just realized today is Thursday, which means I should be working on a cartoon for Toon Thursday but maybe I should use Under Radar week as an excuse to go on hiatus for today, since I haven't actually done a cartoon yet. I always seem to find myself doing them on Thursday evenings, so that it's barely still Thursday by the time I post them.

What I'd rather start working on, though, is...well, it's twofold: Firstly, I want to start taking a final look at my current novel-in-progress, The Latte Rebellion, and add a few visual elements that need to go with the text (there are a couple of cartoons and faux web pages that go at the beginnings of chapters). Once that's done--and once I feel like I can actually call the whole thing DONE--it'll be time to send out proposals. I'm excited about that. I feel like this manuscript is a lot more marketable, and just plain better (and, frankly, I would hope that I've improved over time...).

Secondly, I want to continue the redesign of our website, which will look nothing like either the alleged "new" design that's currently on the front page, or the old one. That first page was created when I was experimenting with Adobe Illustrator, but unfortunately, Illustrator still baffles me, and I decided I don't like that design anyway, so I'm working on a new one. The plan is to have pop-up windows with my art and design samples instead of cluttering the main web page with a bunch of images or a thumbnail gallery. I'm still debating how exactly to do that, so I might have to go look at other people's websites and steal some ideas...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Smack My Ass and Call Me Judy

I don't have a huge amount to say today, and in fact I wasn't going to post anything, except that I was randomly browsing blogs and blog links and found this. Imagine my surprise to find out I'm a finalist in not only one, but TWO categories for the Welsh Blog Awards 2007--Best Welsh American Blog and Best Welsh Learner Blog. (This, of course, is for my Welsh-language blog, Castell Tywod--that's "sand castle" for those not Welsh-literate). I remember hearing about the Welsh Blog Awards some time ago--I think I was e-mailed a notice letting me know I could nominate people--and then I promptly forgot all about it (as often happens when I get e-mailed things that aren't work-related. And sometimes things that ARE work-related). Next thing I know, it's August and I'm looking at a link someone sent to a mailing list I subscribe to, linking to the post about the final round, and I'm browsing the list thinking, jeez, I don't feel right about voting in the final round since I haven't been very good about reading other people's blogs lately and I haven't heard of half of the finalists, and then I get halfway down the post and go "errrrrr?"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

From New York to...New Modesto.

Inside the MoMAI finally uploaded some of our photos from NYC to Flickr. There are more pictures from the New York trip on a disposable camera (our digital one was acting up) which I have yet to take in to be developed, but when I do, rest assured I will upload those, too. That set has pictures of Albany and the Hudson River, and a few photos from the Welsh course. I have no idea what the quality will be like. They all looked like crap through the viewfinder. Seriously. And I can't really take credit for these digital ones, since Rob took the majority of them, while I was a slacker with the disposable and didn't take any in NYC.

The trip was amazing, though. I enjoyed Albany and the Welsh course, and met some really cool new people as well as seeing the course "regulars." I got to step down as Board President, which is so awesome I lack words to describe it adequately. I'm still on the Board, doing committee stuff and advising the new Prez, but I'm happy not to feel like I'm the spokesperson for the group. I dreaded giving administrative announcements every morning at the plenary session, I disliked being the focus of innumerable questions and having to be nice to everyone all the time, and I really disliked having to preside over the daily lunchtime Board meetings. Nope, I've known for quite some time that management is not for me.

On an unrelated note, I just got back from a party at the house of one of Rob's co-workers, and now I've totally seen how the other half of Modesto lives. Now, the "other half" is actually divided into two quarters--one quarter that's the sort of old-money, old Craftsman or Victorian or fakie-Tudor houses set; and the other quarter that's the nouveau-riche, gated community, McMansion set. It was the latter we were introduced to tonight, and believe me, I had no idea that we had a gated community in Modesto that has a man-made lake in it.

There is a lighted fountain in the middle of said lake, and all the houses with lakefront property seem to come with their own little paddle-boats, including the house we were visiting. Every place was immaculately landscaped, and when we were in the backyard looking out at the fountain in the miniature lake, and the fancy, box-like houses all around, it didn't feel like we were in Modesto. The weird part to me was that it didn't feel like anywhere. It just felt like generic upscale-tract-house-land. I can't imagine one would feel like they were part of their town, their community, living in a sterile place like that. Even the gated community in SoCal where my dad lives (a place I really hate) has some character and some actual nature in it. This place ("Sundance Lake," I think) was like a designer community. There was something twilight-zone-like about it--the perfect houses, the perfectly landscaped yards, the perfectly trendy olive-green-painted walls and glossy wood floors and curving backyard terraces leading down to the lake.

I found myself wondering if I would even want a place like that if somebody offered it to me for free. At first, I thought, yeah, of course, who wouldn't take it? And then I thought, God, no, I could never live in a place like this. And then just now I thought, of course I'd say yes, so I could turn around and sell it and buy a really cool house with some history and character. Possibly in the UK. (Yeah, I've been daydreaming about that again.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nothing to say but it's okay...

I really ought to post something more substantial (and I sincerely intend to do so before long) as I've been absent for so long, but I'm feeling a little rebellious about that. Too many "have to do" and "supposed to do" items. In the meantime, though, I have pictures and stuff for you to look at. None of our New York photos are up yet, but you can look at pictures of this year's Welsh course (both official and unofficial--and more of the unofficial here).

I was also recently interviewed about my blogging habits for a fabulous book blog called Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. That was definitely interesting, as I don't think I've been interviewed for any purpose other than one or two nerdy things in high school. (A memorable mis-quote in my senior yearbook: "I don't study hard, I just study smart." I did not say it like that, I swear.) Anyway, Jules and Eisha over at 7-Imp did a great job of making me sound much more fascinating than I actually am; also, don't miss the excellent interview with my co-blogger TadMack.

More soon.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Who: Me. What: Apple. Size: Big.

Yup, I'm going to the Welsh course in Albany for a week, leaving today, and then Rob will join me and we'll take the train down to NYC for a few days, mainly to see art museums, though we're also going to eat cool food and see Spamalot from really far away.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gurgle

Good God, I am drowning. Too much work. I once again have realized why I don't like to manage people in any way, or even depend on others for the flow of information--because you can't actually rely on a lot of people to do things in a timely or thorough fashion, or even assume that they know what they're supposed to be doing even if you told them several times. I'm not talking about any one particular situation--in fact, I'm thinking about two particular situations at the moment--but my inner control freak is really coming out. And the problem ends up being that I can't leave it alone if someone has done something that isn't complete, for instance, because I feel like (I know, really) that the greater responsibility lies with me and the result reflects on me, and so I ultimately do a lot of the work myself. And that means I spend way too much time on things that shouldn't be taking up that much time.

At least one of those projects is going on hiatus for a bit. The other...I'm scaling back my level of responsibility in about a month's time. I really only like to be responsible for my own productivity. Grr.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Post-4th Hangover

Sad to say, my hangover is from parental visitation, not from alcohol--yet the effects are rather similar in that I had to sleep it off for a couple of hours today. And this was a visit from the less stressful set of parents. Still, my mom can be a little high-energy (okay, a LOT) and so visits tend to exhaust me. I won't go into detail. It'll just make me tired all over again.

Of course, my dad inflicted his own unique form of stress on me this week, too, via telephone. I'm never sure whether he says these things to be motivational (however misguidedly), or if he's trying to shame me into reconsidering my career path. Anyway, he told me about the son of a family friend, a guy my age who I used to play with when we were kids (incidentally also the product of a very similar mixed marriage, only he's half Afghani). I get occasional updates about this guy from my dad--he got his MD and is working for the military; he's working in Afghanistan for Doctors Without Borders, etc. etc. Anyway, now he's apparently going back to school to get a second master's in public health or something. I mean, great for him and all, but is my dad trying to tell me something? He did spend an awful lot of time lecturing me when I was a kid about becoming a doctor, lawyer, scientist, or engineer. I'm probably the black sheep of that side of the family.

On another topic, here, finally, is the promised JPEG of my latest poster for the Prospect Theater. Rob did the little drawing of Shakespeare, as well as the sketch of the skull which I then experimented with in Photoshop.

Also, here is a scan of a very interesting piece of misdirected mail we got. It belongs to a neighbor around the corner who is evidently on the aged side of life. I used to think Sunset was an old-person's magazine when I was a kid, mainly because my grandfather got it, but now I actually like Sunset, and after seeing this magazine cover, I realize that THIS, people, is truly an Old Person's Magazine. In case you can't read the tiny print on the scan, it says "The magazine that brings back more good times." Good Lord.

And, oh yeah--I've been crazy hella busy. No rest for Sarah. Not much blogging, either.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Time Has Been Consumed in Great Quantities.

Zelda, our new kitten (as of last month), is taking up a surprising amount of time--she's got an insane energy level (as kittens tend to) and needs a lot of attention or else she goes nuts and literally bounces off walls and other surfaces. She likes to be underfoot, as in under your actual feet. Or racing across the top of the piano, which is a big no-no that results in the scary voice saying "NO! BAD KITTY!", or occasionally the time-out room. But she's very, very sweet and very cute.

That's not the only reason I've been on hiatus. There was last week's Summer Blog Blast Tour, which meant interviews with authors posted every day at our writing blog. It was really the prep work which took a lot of time--gathering the supplementary information and links, and formatting everything.

I've also had a fair amount of other work--another poster for the Prospect Theater, which I'll post as soon as I make a little graphic of it; a website for my in-laws' law firm (warning: may not look right in IE 6 or below--still tweaking code); essays to grade for Rob's art appreciation classes (he has three this summer, paying for our new AC); planning for the Welsh conference (yup, still President) and a writing conference in LA where I'm going to be part of a panel of bloggers; neglecting my ongoing research job which is actually one of the few of these tasks which actually pays money; and revising my damn novel, which is taking a lot longer than I was hoping. I wanted it to be revised and a proposal out of the house by June 16th. Now I'm just hoping I can get it out before I leave for the Welsh conference on July 21st. I'm very anxious to get this book in front of somebody while it's still somewhat fresh and topical. And I will probably be taking another freelance job--this one's a paid one, yay--doing some sort of editing work and possibly press releases for the State Theatre, an independent art-house theater here in Modesto.

This past weekend was relatively eventful because we attended PR2, aka Pig Roast 2: Pig on a Spit, Goat in a Pit (the official slogan). This year we were involved with the planning committee, which consisted mainly of periodic smaller-scale beer-drinking parties to discuss Pig Roast activities and logistics. It also meant showing up at our friend Brian's ranch house the night before PR2 to help test out the bocce ball court, which was set up in the almond orchard out back, set up lights for the bocce ball court (consisting of half Christmas lights and half tiki torches), and season and spit the pig. My role mainly involved taking some very graphic pictures of a pig carcass being strapped to a huge metal pipe with hose clamps. (Will post some of said pictures soon--not for the squeamish!)

So, yes, as the slogan indicates, this year there was also pit-roasted goat as well as the roast pig. The goat was roasted off-site, however, at one of the planner's parents' place. It involved some elaborate setup involving putting the goat in the fire pit, covering it with banana leaves and sealing it up with mud and cooking it overnight, though I'm sure I'm missing a few steps there. Both roasts were very tasty, and there were an array of pot-luck salads and desserts as well as freshly made sweet potato fries.

Brian's place is the perfect spot for a pig roast, since he lives out in Hughson on a ranchette surrounded on two sides by an almond orchard and on the third side by a tomato field. Hughson is about fifteen minutes' drive out into the country from our house. You drive southeast-ish from our house, past the Modesto airport (now offering 4 undoubtedly tiny flights a day to LAX and 5 flights a day to SFO) and into Ceres (which Rob will assure you is a shithole). Go left on Hatch, and drive for about ten miles straight into the country alongside the irrigation canal, past the orchards, past the sign advertising horses for sale, past the sign advertising chicks and bunnies for sale, past more orchards, past the Gurdwara Sahib Sikh Temple (lots of Sikh farmers out here), past some oddly incongruous McMansion tract housing, and then make a right into some more orchards and you're just about there.

It's kind of weird to live so close to "the country." On the other hand, our weekly organic CSA boxes rock big-time. This past week we got four varieties of beans (French Filet, purple, wax, and green), cherry tomatoes, summer squash, white nectarines, a cantaloupe, and two ears of corn. Bad-ass, I tell you.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Summer Blog Blast Tour Is Not Here!

Greetings! If you've come to my site looking for the Summer Blog Blast Tour of interviews with children's and YA authors, that was unfortunately due to an accidental misprint! This is my personal blog, but you can find interviews with Gene Yang, Ysabeau Wilce, Svetlana Chmakova, Kazu Kabuishi, Chris Crutcher, Julie Anne Peters, and Justina Chen Headley at Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog, which I contribute to along with TadMack.

For a full schedule of interviews on the blog tour, with locations and dates, please visit Chasing Ray. David Brin, Mitali Perkins, Holly Black, Jordan Sonnenblick...the list of authors is amazing, and the interviews promise to be fantastic. Colleen at Chasing Ray is the genius (and the workhorse) behind the project, and the other bloggers are really the cream of the crop as far as sites that focus on children's and young adult literature. For more info on the tour, click here.

And for those wondering what the hell I've been doing (and why I haven't been blogging about it) the past couple of weeks...well, see above. Plus, I promise an update soon. Swear to God.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Flickr Fiction's New Home; Modesto Madness

So, of course the Berkeley student who stole the Nobel Prize medal out of the Lawrence Hall of Science is from Modesto. Of course. In other news from today's Modesto Bee, a young man died of autoerotic asphyxiation, and the city prepares for Graffiti Summer. Incidentally, a friend of ours was stabbed in the leg at Graffiti Summer when she was 16, which apparently prompted a downplaying of the festivities for a few years. Yes, Rob and I moved to a very strange place.

We Flickr Fiction-ites now have a new group home on Ning for your convenience - bookmark the site for easy reference and viewing of everyone's writings. My contribution for this week is called "At the Top" and starts thusly:

"Huffin' and puffin' and blowin' your house down," Scott Mason said, grabbing a protruding part of the rock with his right hand and pulling himself up to the top of the boulder with sheer brute strength...

Visit our "Ficktion" page for more.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Occupado

This week is crazy. Here's one post I wrote about it on the YA Writing blog. There's just been so much going on. I have photos I want to post--namely, giant organic vegetables from our CSA subscription (including a leek as long as my arm) and the new kitten, Zelda (who is little and black). Zelda's been taking up a bit of time because she was ill with a respiratory infection when we got her last week from the animal shelter. So there was some medication and a vet visit last week. Now that she's doing better, she's spazzing out all over the house. I swear, that kitten can play for eight hours a day. She and Roxie are starting to get along fairly well now, though, which is a relief, since the first few days Roxie was hissing and actually growling at her. But they've been playing and napping together, and as long as Zelda keeps her distance most of the time, they seem fine.

But I have this wedding on Saturday that I'm a bridesmaid for, and a huge rehearsal barbecue tomorrow, so until Sunday I'm pretty booked. So no substantial blog posts until next week...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Rosemary for Remembrance

Daria fingered the long, rustling grasses, picking through them for roots, herbs, and healing plants, head down, intent. Watching from a few feet away, Ink scratched the itchy spot on her head, digging her nails deep underneath the dark cowlick at the back.

"Don't scratch. If you scratch, I'll have to spread the rosemary paste on your scalp again. You won't like it." Daria's voice was stern and matter-of-fact; she didn't quite look up. "How a foundling like you who's been living in the forest managed to make a den for the night with poison ivy for a pillow, I will never know. And you nearly a woman."

Ink didn't reply. Ink rarely spoke. There hadn't been a need, when she'd been living alone, and that had been two years now. She was out of the habit. Even now that she'd been a full springtime with Daria, she still hardly said a word. But that seemed to suit Daria, who didn't appear to expect answers.

Ink's blood mother had expected answers. When she didn't get them, she would reach for her walking-stick.

That seemed a lifetime ago, now. Ink looked up; the sun warmed her face from a sky studded with tiny puffy clouds. She let a tiny smile stretch the corners of her mouth.

"Don't dawdle," Daria said. She straightened for a moment, hand on her lower back, and pointed to a stand of brilliant pink flowers several feet away, under a gnarled oak tree. "Over there--I need foxglove."

Ladyslipper, Ink said to herself, trying not to forget the names she'd given things while she'd lived in the forest. Names the plants themselves had seemed to tell her, but she wasn't about to tell Daria that. Not yet. She walked slowly to the patch of foxglove and began gathering the flowered stalks in a bundle. She had walked nearly all the way around the tree before she noticed what had been growing in the shelter of the tall foxglove.

She let out a small cry. Whitecaps! They had been her favorite--such a treat to find them when she'd been eating nothing but sun-dried old apples, boiled tubers, and bitter walnuts for weeks. The tiny mushrooms, just boiled in her battered tin cup with water from the stream and the little onions she called teardrops...it reminded her of nights spent alone huddled by her small fire, but also of her mother before...before Maisy...

The girl known as Ink swallowed hard against the ache in her chest. She gently plucked the small handful of whitecaps and cradled them in her free hand, the bundle of foxglove sandwiched carelessly under her left arm. She walked quickly back to Daria where she squatted, plucking catmint leaves for tea. Ink stopped beside her and held out her hand.

"How did you...?" Daria trailed off, and the lines around her face softened for a moment. She pulled Ink to her chest with bony arms, letting the tears wet the front of her linen shirt.

***

This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user dis cover y. I think this was probably influenced by the little potted herbs I just put on the kitchen counter this week. Check the usual suspects for more Flickr Fiction: The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, TadMack, Neil, Valsha, and Mari.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Fun Never Stops

Where have I been, and what the hell have I been doing? Not blogging, that's for sure. I did a little blogging on the YA writing site, including a few cartoons that are finally getting noticed and commented on, but other than that, it's been a little quiet in aquafortis-land. I do plan to post this past week's Flickr Fiction today or tomorrow (late, I know, but what can I do?). And why, you ask, am I suffering from chronic absenteeism? Okay. Here's some of the stuff that's been going on this past week and what I've learned as a result:

  • Sewing is not one of my inborn talents. I've been spending many long hours helping my friend Jay sew costumes for the bridesmaids and groomsmen for her wedding later this month. And I do have a sewing machine, and I was very excited to use it, except it turns out my skills are quite rudimentary, and evidently when I'm sewing I have the attention span of a monkey on crack, so I tend to do idiotic things and then have to take stuff apart again with the seam ripper. Hopefully I'm capable of a small project like this tea cozy, which I'm making for a friend in need...see next item.
  • Shotgun weddings do not necessarily involve buns in the oven. A friend of mine whom I've known since elementary school was scheduled to be married in June, and I was going to be a bridesmaid for that, too. But two weeks ago, I got a phone call from her and found out she's been diagnosed with a fairly aggressive form of breast cancer. So she decided to reschedule her wedding for April 29th (last Friday) so that she and her now-husband could enjoy a little married time together before she started treatment. It was actually a gorgeous wedding, and all of us bridesmaids were able to come (though our dresses weren't ready--we all wore plain black dresses). About 60 or 70 guests made it, too. She went off on a honeymoon for a few days, and when she got back, decided on neoadjuvant therapy. It starts this week. My plan is to send her a care package that will include the tea cozy and other tea stuff. If you know Cindy and you're reading this, shhh! Don't tell!
  • Buying plant matter is time-consuming. We're finally landscaping the front corner of our property, which has of late become an after-dark gathering spot for neighborhood teenagers smoking pot, who then leave beverage containers and sometimes even school folders in the empty planter box. We'd prefer our property to be less friendly to such random gatherings (though we'd like to stop short of actually shaking our fists in a cantankerous manner while yelling "lousy kids!"). So we're taking out most of the masonry so that they don't have a nice ledge to sit on (the masonry was ugly anyway), just leaving a border, and then we're putting in a bunch more Japanese boxwood shrubs with a couple of mini-rose trees in the middle. We're also putting another tree in the front yard, a purple-leafed plum with the rather bizarre name of "Krauter Vesuvius." Thus completes the final part of our quest to shade all the front windows, which get hot afternoon sun in the summer. But shopping for like 20 shrubs and a tree takes a while.
  • The Modesto nightlife is not as scary as I had feared. Friday night I had a little ladies' get-together as a belated 30th birthday celebration (missed you, B-dog and C-dog!). Five of us started the evening at 1505, where we listened to a more-than-halfway-decent cover band and enjoyed a few mixed drinks while getting better acquainted (not everybody knew one another). We also got a round of free drinks mixed in showy style when they found out it was my birthday. Very classy--a nice little place. Then we went on to Crocodiles, where Kathleen joined us for some dancing into the wee hours.
    Highlights: DJ with a mullet. Getting asked to dance by guys clearly over 40 (and refusing). Fumi and I getting chatted up by a slightly creepy guy while we were attempting to kill a last drink at the bar, and Fumi responding by saying "I'm sorry, we're having a moment here." Aforementioned DJ not having "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order when I requested it (I don't understand how that's even possible). Dancing to "My Humps" and "Stayin' Alive." Me stubbornly sitting out "Back in Black." Some five-foot-tall guy repeatedly attempting to breakdance. Bar had Malibu rum and every kind of Schnapps or Pucker imaginable, but no Stoli Vanilla. Vodka gimlets that seemed to consist mainly of vodka, ice and a lime slice. Blinking lights in the floor, numerous ferns, and about twenty disco balls.
  • You never know what might happen at a pig roast. We went to another pig roast planning party for PR2 last night. I did not drink a single beer (Friday night I had about 7 drinks and managed not to puke, so I wasn't going to push my luck. I was still recovering from residual feelings of yuck and headache.). I did eat some delicious carne asada tacos with homemade tortillas, though. Anyway, evidently there is now going to be bocce ball at the pig roast, and super soaker fights in the orchard behind Brian's house. These computer graphics faculty are an interesting bunch...
  • Fresh vegetables rock. We finally enrolled in our local CSA program, through Rancho Piccolo at Silveira Farms, and got our first organic vegetable box on Thursday. It had romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, fava beans, cilantro, carrots, a lone cucumber, a few beets (with greens), chard, two teeny rutabagas, radishes, arugula, and a truly monstrous leek. And this is a half share.
  • Our cat needs exercise. Thus our plan to get another kitten so that Roxie doesn't spend all day lazing around and failing to lose weight. We don't want her to be a diabetic cat later. Anyway, they were supposed to have an adoption event all weekend at PetSmart, but for some lame reason, this morning's event did not involve cats, only dogs. They did not tell me this over the phone. They only had a small selection of cats, only one of them a kitten, so we decided to try other options tomorrow. The only things we got out of the trip to PetSmart were a business card for a pet rescue center and dog crap on my shoe. Hooray.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Changeling

I don't know why I was in that part of town. I mean, I know how I got there, but why I was wandering around...I could have called a taxi, should have. But it's too late now.

The snow keeps falling on my bare arms, speckling them with tiny melted water droplets; little freezing spots that chill me to the bone. I keep walking, even though it was walking that got me into this...mess. This—I don't want to think about it.

Jeff asked me to go to the party, and like a stupid jilted girlfriend who hadn't quite made it out of denial yet, I said I'd go, even though I'd never heard of these friends of his before, or their club, the Sliver. All I could think about was seeing him again, making him realize that he missed me and had made a mistake.

But I was the one who made a mistake. And I'm paying for it now. The snow changed to rain, surprisingly warm but falling thickly now, in sheets. My thin sleeveless shirt is soaked in moments. I can't see in front of me, so I reach out, even though I'm afraid of what I might touch.

When I got to the club, I waited in the line of giggling, shrieking, tarted-up underage college girls and scornfully silent, black-lipsticked androgynous goths for forty-five minutes, adjusting my silver-beaded spaghetti straps so they were artfully haphazard, touching up my makeup in a tiny hand mirror. I finally made it to the door, flashed my ID at the bouncer, and slipped into the dark interior, thronged with sweaty, shouting bodies. I looked around. There was a painfully loud industrial band at the opposite end of the warehouse-like space, with the requisite mosh pit swirling at the base of the stage.

Spotting Jeff at the bar--of course--I picked my way through the crowd, trying to touch people as little as possible, recoiling when I felt someone's sweat land on me from the nearby dance floor. I brushed it off my forearm and wiped my hand on my ripped jeans.

Of course, now I wish I hadn't worn those jeans, holes torn in deliberate patterns, held together with a web of safety pins. The wind, cold again, cuts right through every hole, and the swirling brown leaves stick to my still-wet skin and start to disintegrate into crumbly pieces. I can see skeletal trees around me, and find myself imagining how nice it would be to see, for instance, the warm glow of that Narnia lamppost, or even the guttering streetlight of the dank neighborhood I somehow left behind.

When I got to Jeff, I'm sure you can guess what I saw. I should have known, too, but I'd fooled myself into thinking otherwise. He and his new flavor of the month didn't even see me, they were so busy sticking their tongues down each other's throats. I turned and fled. I'm not even sure how I got outside, how I made it through the crowd that had gotten thicker even than before, dancing elbows narrowly missing my rib cage and booted or spike-heeled feet stomping dangerously near my thin canvas Chuck Taylors.

But somehow I made it out. I walked faster, and then I was trotting, past humped mounds of blankets where derelicts slept. Tears streamed down my face. I had no idea where I was going, just as long as it was far away from him. I passed a shadowed doorway, and was almost past when I felt my wrist grabbed in an iron grip, yanking me to a stop. The hand was almost painfully slender, the forearms moon-pale and crisscrossed with faint blue traceries of veins. I felt bile in the back of my throat. I didn't want to look too closely, didn't want to encourage this drug-addicted nut job or desperate prostitute or whatever she was to hurt me.

"You can have my money," I said. "I don't care." At that moment, I didn't. The tears were still drying on my stinging cheeks. "I just want to be…God. Anywhere but here," I finished, pathetically. I made a halfhearted attempt to free my arm, but it was like pulling against a manacle.

"Then I'll give you what you want," the figure said, in a hoarse, dry voice. And suddenly she, or it, had released me, and I stumbled forward, and here I was. Instead of looming brick and concrete walls, vague dark tree-shapes. Instead of an unusually balmy spring night, by turns wind, snow, rain, leaves, choking humidity. I keep moving, hoping I'll stumble back into reality, out of this—whatever this is. Whoever the figure was, I don't know what they did to me. They did manage to steal my bracelet, the cheesy ID bracelet I've had ever since I can remember, the kind that's supposed to be impossible to remove. I feel strangely bare without it, even though it's worthless.

I keep moving, half-walking, half-running. I don't know what else to do.

***

This week's piece was inspired by the Blue Nile by Flickr user hanna.bi. I'm interested in exploring this one further and seeing where it goes...though I really have no idea what comes next, as usual. Check the usual suspects for more Flickr Fiction: The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, TadMack, Neil, Valsha, and Mari.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cause for Celebration

I'm sorry, no Flickr Fiction yet this week. Possibly tomorrow. In the meantime, click the picture for my latest desktop publishing endeavor. I've spent much of today working on the program for the play, which opens this coming Friday--plugging in cast bios, ads, and the like, and messing with the fonts. I feel like that's what takes up a lot of the time for me...that and figuring out how to do really easy things that, for some reason, I don't know how to do. On the other hand, in working on this poster I learned something very useful--how to apply a spot color and then merge it into the existing RGB color channels. (The background image on the poster came from a fairly small black-and-white image of an antique postcard. I colorized it, which was somewhat time-consuming, but the results are pretty cool.)

Besides sitting at the computer, today was a pretty relaxing day. I actually had a strong Bay Area Moment in the middle of the day. This was because 1) it was cold and rainy, and 2) we tried a relatively new Chinese restaurant in Modesto which actually serves dim sum. The dim sum was awesome, too. At least, it was Bay Area quality, which is amazing for this area. When we walked in at about 12:30 the place was full of Asian customers; always a good sign.

Rob and I agreed it was probably the most Asian people we'd seen in any given place in Modesto at the same time. The reason for this is probably that the rest of the Chinese restaurants here are pretty inauthentic, serving Americanized Chinese food. That's not to say the food isn't tasty, but it sure isn't authentic. (Although I have to say, China Gate does a killer General's Chicken.)

So, Monday night I'm going to a reading at Barnes & Noble in Oakland. I discovered, purely by accident, that someone I was friends with at Cal as an undergrad is currently on a book tour. I was reading my Cody's Books e-mail newsletter a few weeks ago, looking at the upcoming readings, and I saw a name I recognized and thought, geez, I used to know an Annie Choi. So I did some Googling and sure enough, it was the same person. Annie was a friend from Stebbins Hall, but I only lived there a semester before I got burned out on the whole roommate thing (I'd been in the dorms for two years before that) and got my own apartment. We lost touch after graduation, but she was a good friend during a particularly tough time, and is just a really cool person in general, so I was excited to get back in touch with her. Very serendipitous!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Par-tay Time.

our fat cat

I've spent so much time out of the house over the past couple days that I'm hiding inside today, lurking in front of the computer and taking occasional breaks to do chores. In the past two days I've been to a Passover Seder dinner party, a baby shower, and a Pig Roast Planning Party. Seriously.

Friday Rob and I went to the City to bring back Fumi's cat Clio, who we've been cat-sitting for the past four months or so while Fumi was out of the country. I believe we fattened her (the cat) up by at least two pounds, but she's still no match for our big burly cat (above). While in SF with Fumi, we had sushi and ramen for lunch at Hotei, then went to the DeYoung Museum for a while before heading to Fumi's boyfriend Rohan's house in Berkeley for the Passover Seder dinner party. His housemates hold twice-monthly potlucks and other random events celebrating all manner of holidays and what-not. There were about 25 or 30 people there, and the organizers had made photocopied packets of information about various Passover traditions, foods, songs, prayers, etc. and were reading it aloud as a group when we arrived.

Needless to say, it was very educational for us, as non-Jewish persons (though I should add the probably most of the group was not Jewish). I wasn't entirely comfortable because I knew a total of about two people there, besides Rob. But most people were pretty friendly, and the wine was freely flowing.

Saturday I went to a baby shower for my sister-in-law, who's expecting her second boy-child toward the end of next month. I really hate baby showers, or any showers, really. Girly parties are not my thing. I was also dreading it because at her last baby shower I got asked obnoxious questions about when I was going to have children. However, this was a much smaller affair and lacking in the nosy relatives department, which was fine with me. Nobody asked me the question, which was a little disappointing as my planned answer was to say "before I'm 67."

Then, in the evening, we went to a Pig Roast Planning Party. Last summer, a co-worker of Rob's who teaches computer graphics hosted a pig roast at his house, which is on the outskirts of town surrounded by orchards and stuff. It was pretty awesome. They roasted a very large pig on a spit, had other food and drink, and 50-plus people came and partied on into the evening. The logo on the invitations was a graphic of a pig nose engulfed in flames.

So Rob, who is a friend of the host, Brian, got in on the planning process this year. Apparently this involves one or more "planning parties" that include large amounts of booze, some barbecue, and maybe 20 minutes of deciding who's going to be responsible for what (e.g., who's going to obtain the pig, when the roast will be held, who's going to help set up the roasting apparatus, etc.). This year there may also be a roasted goat, as well as toasted marshmallow peeps-on-a-stick, though everyone had had at least a few drinks when that last idea was floated. Ah, good times...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Far From Home

I was sure that nobody could see him but me.

The first time was in the square at lunch, Russell Square. I was still trying to find work then, waiting for the temp agency to call me with some kind of office job, anything. I was not going back to California, not for all the money in the world. I'd already told the Registrar's office that I wasn't signing up for classes in the fall.

Anyway, I'd been to the little market across the street from the Tube station and bought a cheese salad sandwich, a Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate bar, and a bottled water. As I sat there, wishing I had a cell phone so that I didn't have to rely on the front desk of the dormitory to take my messages, I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned.

There was a man standing there, sort of indeterminate older middle age, hair both balding and graying, wearing a tan raincoat and Converse high-tops. He was looking right at me. But the people walking around him didn't seem to notice him. It wasn't like he was somehow not there; it was just that they walked around him without even noticing they were taking a one-foot detour to the left or right. The slight breeze that provided some relief from the hot June day, ruffling my hair around, did nothing to budge his coat. It was like the wind, too, was compelled to go around him.

But I thought about all that later. At the time, all I could do was sit there, my sandwich halfway to my mouth. I couldn't break his stare for a long moment. I didn't know what he was staring at me for. It creeped me out, and after a while I looked around, hoping there was a policeman or somebody authoritative, though I wasn't sure what I'd tell them. All I saw were people having lunch on the benches and under the trees, or hurrying back to work along the paths that criss-crossed the square.

When I looked back at where he'd been standing, over by one of the flower beds, he was gone.

After that day, I started to see him everywhere. On Baker Street the following Monday, when I went for an interview at yet another temp agency. In the British Museum a few days later, standing next to one of the donation boxes in the rotunda, and then, when I was looking at the Rosetta Stone, next to one of the obelisks on the other side of the gallery. Always looking at me. Never coming nearer.

Then, after a few weeks of fruitless daily phone calls to three different temp agencies, I got a job, in the front office of an elementary school a few blocks from Westminster Abbey. That was when everything changed.

***

This week's piece was inspired by o by Flickr user eyeblink. I'll admit it; I don't know what happens next. This is sort of an alternate-history version of the summer when I was 19 and working in London. (Obviously I did go back to school in the fall...and there was no strange man in a raincoat lurking about. Not that I noticed, anyway.) Check the usual suspects for more Flickr Fiction: The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, TadMack, Neil, Valsha, and Mari.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Flickr Fiction: Close Calls

"I'll do it, I swear!" She shook the bottle of pills at him, a strange gleam in her eyes reflecting from the sun weakly filtering in through the kitchen window. Her voice was so raw and rough it made his own throat constrict.

Anyway, he didn't know what to say. It wasn't like she hadn't done this before.

Yelling back was what she wanted, some twisted confirmation of her own low self-image that, perversely, made her feel calmer, vindicated. Soothing, placating tones only provoked rage, only increased the likelihood of the cap coming off the little plastic safety canister.

He didn't want to go through it all again—the ambulance with sirens screaming, the emergency room with its odor of fear and blood, her sleeping face the color of ashes on the white pillow. He hated hospitals. They were full of serious bad vibes.

But he'd never tried silence. In their two years together, it had somehow not occurred to him. It was so easy to talk; not as easy to stop talking and hear.

The silence was involuntary this time. His throat simply would not function. Usually, his first instinct was to turn to those meaningless platitudes that rolled so easily off the tongue. He clung to them himself like a daily regimen: It's just a bad mood. Sleep on it; you'll both feel better in the morning. She doesn't really mean it. It's a cry for help.

But the quiet was like a fog that rolled over both of them, muffling the screaming, the rattling pills, the shuffling of his feet.

"Say something," he barely heard her whisper, and then she put the pill bottle down and bent forward, arms hugging her stomach, resting her forehead on the cool tile counter.

***

This week's piece was inspired by Day 53 - Soma by Flickr user Miss Emily goes bananas. I seem to only write angst-ridden pieces these days; sorry. I'll try to be more amusing next time. Check the usual suspects for more Flickr Fiction: The Gurrier, Isobel, Elimare, Chris, TadMack, Neil, Valsha, and Mari.