aqua fortis

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's...Somethings.

It's that time of year when I start thinking I ought to formulate some New Year's Resolutions. The problem is, I have trouble wording them just right. I don't want them to be so prosaic that they're merely goals rather than resolutions--e.g., it would be sort of a letdown to say that I resolve to finish revising my novel manuscript for The Latte Rebellion, since I plan to do that anyway and have for months. It's really not even a goal anymore, just an item on the to-do list.

Likewise, I don't want to make any unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky resolutions, like resolving that 2009 is the year that I'm going to land a literary agent and/or a book contract. It's a recipe for disappointment, since that's not something I really have full control over. I guess the aim is to land somewhere in between, with something that I can see as more than simply a goal but something to reach for, to strive for, that IS achievable.

I also tend to feel like a New Year's Resolution should have something to do with self-improvement, in a broad sense. Now, I'm looking at my post from last year about the subject and evidently I was all about the "sensible" goals. My main focus was on the laundry, and not letting baskets of clean laundry languish unfolded until the following weekend, when I needed the baskets for the new loads of dirty laundry. I was relatively successful in this, with only a few lapses--I've generally managed to get the clean laundry folded within a few days of having done it. Not too bad. However, my semi-secret ongoing resolution to lose five pounds (believe me, these are unimportant pounds, but still) remains unattained despite a few years of attempting it. I would still like to lose the five pounds, but there is a caveat--if I do not lose the pounds but convert them straight to solid muscle, that is also acceptable.

Clearly, I still need to think about this resolution thing, but I do already have one entry on the list: I resolve to make another valiant attempt at semi-regular meditation. I need all the non-pharmaceutical anxiety/depression reduction methods I can possibly incorporate into my life. So that's a big one. I'd also like to get back to drawing more regularly, which I evidently need to do judging by the quality of my work at the figure drawing session we attended last night. The writing resolutions I'll save for the other blog, maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ow. Yum. Argh. Sigh.

The above title is the approximate sound of the inside of my head today. My back hurts from cleaning the house, but we ate some awesome food; also, my mom and stepdad are staying with us for a visit and the house is therefore a bit more action-packed than usual. I did manage to kick back a little over the past few days and play a video game--something completely and entirely and wonderfully unproductive. Sometimes it's difficult to begrudge myself the down time, but I really do need it, as proven by past episodes of hives that won't go away and other such fun stuff.

Anyway, speaking of begrudging, I haven't seemed to be able to justify the blogging time lately (except for the writing blog). It's been a very busy month, and I've been mentally and physically exhausted. A New Year's resolution for me is to do more quality blogging. If quality blogging means that I have to set a regular day and time and stick to it, then so be it. One part of that resolution is to ponder the desired purpose of this blog, and how best to achieve that. Right now, I just post whatever whenever, without much regard for structure/subject matter or potential interest level. And I suspect that the latter could be improved by addressing the former. So, we'll see.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gluttony: My Favorite Deadly Sin

...though I'm also quite fond of Sloth and Lust. Anyway, I'm trying to give some love to my poor neglected blog here, so I've decided to post our menu for tomorrow's Thanksgiving dinner. It's just the two of us, plus Rob's mom and dad, so (believe it or not) we're trying to keep it relatively simple. ("Relatively" being the operative word, of course.) Rob's parents are bringing the wine, the bread, and the pumpkin cheesecake. We're making:

  • Roast goose (which we've done a couple of times before in past years)--allegedly free-range--with bread stuffing, to which I'm adding water chestnuts and apple.
  • Gravy. Of course.
  • Mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized leeks and butter (this is sort of an experiment)
  • Green salad.
  • Brown rice mixed with wild rice.

I'm very excited, though I'm still attempting to thaw the goose, which is sitting in water in the sink. The goose requires day-before prepping--you have to dip it in boiling water for 1 minute to dry and tighten the skin and then let it sit in the fridge for a day. I realized earlier that I already passed the 24-hours-ahead mark for that, but oh well. I don't think a few hours will be critical in this case. I need to wait for Rob, though, who is a lot less grossed out by raw poultry than I am. I don't know what's worse--the moist and flabby texture, or the grease it leaves on my hands. Still, it's worth it for the sheer gluttony which we will gratefully exercise upon this meal's consumption.

And, of course, there's the thankfulness. That's there. I just hate sounding sentimental.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Behind on Life.

Ever feel like you're falling behind on life? That's me, right now. I just managed to post something on the YA blog and realized that was only the tip of the iceberg as far as blogging is concerned--I've been neglecting this one, my Welsh blog, and the reviews blog, mostly through the flimsiest of excuses. Too much work? Ah, c'mon. That's never stopped me before.

I do have too much work, though. I'm caught in another downward spiral of inferiority feelings and self-recrimination for a) failing to publish any fiction this year, b) failing to garner enough paid work to feel like I'm contributing adequately to the household, c) actually losing some paid work for various reasons, and d) still managing to have way too much on my plate to reasonably accomplish in the time available to me. How does this happen??!!?

Anyway, wallowing makes me even less likely to blog, as does the fact that at any given moment I'm actually either working or attempting to force relaxation upon myself by reading or watching TV (and I'm usually not able to do these very well when I'm worrying about what I'm not getting done). But for you, my wonderful and loyal posse of readers (all five of you), I will stop wallowing. I will get to work. And when I finish working, I will blog you into oblivion. (Whatever that means.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

NaNoWriMo Lives!

Just a quick note to say onward and upward! I added a NaNoWriMo widget to my sidebar so everybody in the world (well, all five who read my blog) can keep track of how far behind I'm slipping. I made an okay start, but I'm definitely about a day and a half behind where I ought to be in terms of average daily word count.

Today's not going to help, either, as it's Election Day and we're planning to hold a small party with a few friends. The party will involve a drinking game--we shall toast in celebration for each blue state won. Since this could incapacitate or even cripple the majority of humans if we were taking shots of hard alcohol, we decided we're going to take shots of sake instead. So before too long, I have to go procure said sake (after carefully calculating ounces required per person and so forth).

I still need to post about Halloween, too--as can reasonably be expected, I successfully added another entry to my list of confusing costumes, thus continuing what is evidently a personal tradition now. It's not intentional, I assure you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Write, Write, Write

It's been a surprisingly productive writing month for me. I got a short-notice writing assignment for the Mills Quarterly, which turned out quite well considering the brief time frame (I had about 2 weeks to do it, which included going after some quotes from multiple parties).

Then, on Monday afternoon I finished the first draft of YA novel #4. I was hoping to finish it a little sooner, but really, the important thing is that I finished it before the end of the month--for next month is National Novel Writing Month, and I plan to use it to get novel #5 underway. This time I'm thinking about a dystopian piece, with a slightly older teen narrator--18 or so. I want to do a story with a male narrator, but I'm also considering two narrators that switch back and forth. I don't know yet. I'm also not sure what the circumstances of the dystopian setting will be--climate change, radical governmental shift, alteration of social structure as we know it, etc. I'm not sure how far in the future this will take place, nor am I certain even of the ultimate point of the story (other than the obvious cautionary aspects of any dystopian fantasy). But I'm pondering...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Links R Us.

In the absence of actually having anything to say at the moment (seeing as it's late at night and my brain has stopped working for the day), why not enjoy these links?

Firstly--and this is part of the reason my brain's not working--I found this rather useful page, complete with amusing photographs, upon trying to get a song out of my head. The song? Hall and Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True." Why? Saturday Night Live's Election Special. (It starts about a third of the way through the clip.) Now, it's not that the skit wasn't funny, or that I don't like the song (or at least enjoy it for its cheese value); it's that the shit kept me awake at night. This happens to me occasionally--an "earworm," as they call it, will annoy me while I'm attempting to sleep. I likes me my sleep, so this is extremely irritating.

Anyway, via Twitter, I think it was Elimare who drew my attention to James Gunn's PG Porn starring the cute Nathan Fillion. As it states on the site: "How many times have you been watching a great porn film – you're really enjoying the story, the acting, the cinematography – when, all of the sudden, they ruin everything with PEOPLE HAVING SEX? A bunch of times, right?" Uh, right. Anyway, watch the "Nailing Your Wife" video. Highly amusing.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Wasting Time

Holy Jebus, there are some nasty mixed drinks out there.

So, I'm looking up mixed drinks that I can make with Bacardi 151, because we happen to have some in the house. Also, we ran out of wine and beer and I'm too lazy to go to the store right now. And look! I found "30+ appetizing drink recipes." Only I find this assessment somewhat disingenuous when I find out that a Jamaican Ass-Kicker is Bacardi 151 mixed with Jolt cola.

Other interesting libations: Parappa the Drunk Rappa, which, besides bringing back memories of a really frickin' old video game, also made me want to vomit just reading it; Dick in the Dirt, which sort of made me feel icky even before reading what it was; and The Shanaynay, which, despite the catchy name, sounds pretty ghetto. I mean, seriously, lemonade powder?

I'm either going to have to go with the old standby of rum and Coke, though all we have is Diet Coke Plus, and moreover I don't really like cola; or I'm going to have to stop being such a wuss and just gulp it down; or I'm going to have to check for something more appealing in the really high-up liquor cabinet. (That's the other thing: the Bacardi 151 is within my easy reach.) Or I could just not be such a booze hound. That would work, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


It almost didn't begin at all.

We packed up the car, bought beer and snacks at the grocery store and tucked them safely in coolers, and drove an hour and a half to Rancho Cordova. That part went as planned.

At Rossmoor Bar, the landing point, we met up with David, our kayaking guitar-virtuoso friend, and parked our car. Then Rob and I piled ourselves and the food into David's Jeep, which was already loaded with our inflatable raft, paddles, life vests, and David's kayak on the roof. On to Upper Sunrise (I think) where we kicked in the four-wheel drive and parked on the gravel road next to the river. There were only a few other people parked there, unlike at the height of the summer. We unloaded everything onto the riverbank, and unrolled the raft, only to realize that we had failed to pack the raft plugs. Plugs are these handy items that allow you to effectively inflate the raft and keep it from deflating.

Feeling like jackasses, we drove about eight minutes back out of the park to the raft and kayak store, which, luckily for us, was open on a Sunday. We bought plugs. We drove back into the park (hooray for all-day passes) and pulled up to our chosen spot yet again, passing deer and wild turkeys as we meandered along the road.

This time, the launch was a go. We took turns spraying on sunblock and inflating the raft with the battery-powered pump, and then tossed the three small coolers into the back. David was sporting a new life vest, helmet, and kayak, because he received $1000 of kayak store credit for saving a guy's life earlier in the summer. Meanwhile, we were sporting the nifty Intex boat that we got brand new on eBay a couple of summers ago. And off we went.

The weather was beautiful: in the 80s and sunny, hardly a cloud to be seen. The water level was a bit low, and the water itself a bit cold, as usual--that happens when it's mountain runoff. In midsummer heat, it's refreshing. Late summer...well, we didn't do any swimming this time. Mostly we floated slowly downriver, drinking beer and eating cold fried chicken, bananas, and pita chips. David tested out his new kayak. We all tested it out a little--my first time in a kayak. I went in a lot of circles. It turns out you don't have to paddle very hard in a kayak compared to a raft.

Not that we paddled much in the raft; a bit more than usual because the current was very slow, and we had to be a little more careful to avoid rocks because of the lower water level. At times I felt like a gondolier, poling the boat with the paddle, the river was so shallow in spots. We saw minnows, crayfish, herons, egrets (which, as it turns out, make horrible noises), vultures, and a dead salmon. Earlier in the summer, we saw otters.

We stopped at our usual "play spot" for a rest, and skipped stones. Now my arm hurts. No professional stone-skipper am I. I can usually get at least two bounces, though; sometimes up to four.

Between the three of us, we managed to polish off a 12-pack of Heineken Light (the choice of canned beer at the store was limited, and they don't allow glass on the river any more) and two tallboys of Sapporo in about 3 and a half hours. The problem is, we're of the philosophy that "we brought all that beer with us; now we HAVE to finish it!" It's like a challenge, or some bizarre beer-related guilt trip.

And so went our last (probably) rafting trip of this year. I just hope we remember to hose all the fried chicken crumbs out of the bottom of the boat before we pack it away for next summer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh no, I'm in the B-52s!

Oh. Wait. Scratch that. I'm a B-52.

What military aircraft are you?

B-52 Stratofortress

You're a B-52. You are old and wise, and you absolutely love destruction. You believe in the principle of "peace through deterrence" and aren`t afraid to throw your weight around.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

Kudos to Liz B for one of the strangest quizzes I've ever taken. I think my results may have been affected by the fact that I said fascism was the most effective form of government (given the choice between communism, fascism, and "pure" democracy). Dude, it's an honest answer - they didn't ask what was the BEST form of government, or the most noble. You gotta admit, when you oppress an entire population and bend them to your will, it's pretty damn effective.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Facebook Follies

Let me say this right now: I am not one of those people who will add people to my Facebook friends list willy-nilly. I don't ask every person on my friends' friend lists, and I generally only accept friend invitations if I actually know you--that is, if we've worked together, or we've been friends at some point in the past or present, or if I've communicated with you regularly in some capacity. Since this includes a rather wide range of people, including my online and blogging friends, I have a decent-sized friends list.

However: even if we have something in common such as going to school together or having friends in common, I might not add a person on that basis alone. And I surely am not going to add someone whom I remember but didn't actually like.

This is what happened to me this past week. I get a friend request from somebody whose name seems vaguely familiar. We don't have any friends in common, but out of curiosity I click on their profile. It turns out, yes, the person went to my high school, as I was starting to suspect. Then, the more I thought about it, I realized that yes, I did recognize the person's name, and, what's more, I couldn't stand 'em.

In fact, the one extended conversation I even remember having with this person was a rather confrontational one about religious beliefs. As I recall, they were the ones to bring the topic up in the first place, in an argumentative fashion. Since I generally follow the attitude that religion and politics are no-nos in polite conversation--and did even in high school, though I was more willing to debate politics at that point--this was clearly not a situation I was happy to be in. From what I remember, this person started asking me about my religious beliefs. I told them, well, I'm kinda sorta Catholic (which was true at the time). The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Teenage Zealot: Oh. Catholics aren't really Christian. They don't even believe in the Bible.
Me: Yeah, they do--they just don't always take the Bible literally.
TZ: Well, they should take the Bible literally. Anyway, it doesn't matter, since you're all going to go to hell anyway.
Me (having entirely lost patience): Well, half my family is Muslim and Islam says that Christians are all going to hell, so I guess I'll see you there.

Oh snap. Admittedly that's a pretty weak retort, but it was all I could come up with on the spur of the moment at the age of, I think, fifteen. Witty comebacks have never been my specialty, despite reading all the Mad Magazine Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.

So, yeah. Needless to say, I did not accept this person's friend request. Getting the request in the first place was a sort of WTF moment, unless they just don't remember who I am and...are maybe adding people willy-nilly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's About Time, Eh?

Yep, I finally put up some new blog graphics. I don't quite want to say I "redesigned" the blog, since all I did was replace the preset template graphics with my own (taken from a segment of a painting I did a while ago, which I then fiddled with in Photoshop). But it has a new look, put it that way. Not new enough to have to change all the text colors--I didn't have THAT much time on my hands.

Wanna know why I didn't have that time? Because I signed up for Twitter. Hooray for yet another goofy time-wasting activity! Hooray for yet more bombardment of the interwebs with my daily trivialities! MY MANY YAWN-INDUCING MINUTIAE WILL BE THE DOWNFALL OF SOCIETY! BWAHAHAHAHA!!! PREPARE TO BE BORED! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

By the way, if you want to read any of the yawn-inducing minutiae, I put a widget in the sidebar. Why am I so unproductive today? One reason is I'm unmotivated and bummed because I lost a design client a few days ago--evidently it just wasn't working out and I wasn't giving Client X what they wanted, though I was a) doing exactly what they asked for and b) doing it for a much lower price than I normally charge. Oh well. So I decided I should spend time on non-work-related activity, though I did put up a few book reviews, which I guess is technically work-related.

Oh. I'm also bummed because I gained five pounds for no apparent reason, and they haven't gone away yet. I'm hoping it's five pounds of muscle, but in case it's not, I'm going to go hop on the exercise bike now. Okay. Now I'm considering worst-case scenarios and hoping I don't have a five-pound tapeworm.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

12 Movie Meme, Part II: The Final Meltdown

You've no doubt noticed from Part I of this movie meme that my taste tends toward the pedestrian rather than the intellectual, the mainstream more than the obscure; though I like to think I don't gravitate towards complete garbage. Anyway, a film buff I ain't. In fact, there are tons of great movies I haven't seen yet. The problem with a) not having a clearly defined day job and b) doing creative work is that it tends to suck up all of your time and attention, which doesn't leave a lot of room for stuff like movies. (Of course, somehow I find time to watch way too much TV, but that's because you can arguably--if not very effectively--work at the same time.)

Anyway, here's Part II--from the real to the surreal.

Day Seven: Blatantly Propagandistic but Inconveniently True Documentaries

Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) This is really just one of those movies that everyone should see, whether you hate Michael Moore or not. I happen to enjoy his work, especially when taken with a grain of salt and a sense of ironic humor. It's always very revealing to see how various people react to him in his movies. We had a rather profound experience watching this one--it was one of the select few movies that we went to see in the theater, and we saw it on Independence Day. It was not a huge audience, but the people who were there were profoundly moved, sometimes to tears.
Super Size Me (2004) Disgusting, disturbing and hilarious. Watch Morgan Spurlock eat fast food, get fat, appall his doctors, alienate his girlfriend, and lose his sex drive, after 30 days of eating fast food. Truly epic.

Day Eight: Eccentric Historical Characters Day

Amadeus (1984) This one freaked me out a little when I was a kid--I'd never envisioned the time period of powdered wigs and frilly dresses as also containing rampant sexual innuendo and frequent farting. All that aside, it's a fairly striking movie about one of my favorite classical composers (though Immortal Beloved, with the fabulous Gary Oldman, is also great). AND it contains Jeffrey Jones, the evil principal from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Go figure.
Topsy-Turvy (1999) A strange fact about my childhood is that I really liked Gilbert and Sullivan. We're talking about when I was six or seven years old. I'd come back from school and stay at my grandfather's house until my mom got off work. My grandfather had this huge set of LPs with highlights from all of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas, and I would sit there listening to them, following along with the lyrics. To this day, I know a lot of the songs by heart from HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, my two favorites. The movie focuses on their production of The Mikado, which I actually saw in person once.

Day Nine: Alliterating Anglo-Indian Heritage Day

East Is East (1999) There aren't very many movies specifically about Pakistanis, and this one hit really close to home because of the theme of a Pakistani father who immigrated to London and married an English woman. When his children get to a certain age, he decides he's going to go all traditional and arrange some marriages...and is sorely disappointed to find that his children consider themselves British. This one made me laugh AND cry, sometimes at the same time. Om Puri puts on an incredible performance (a similar, but much more depressing, movie in which he plays a key role is My Son the Fanatic).
Bhaji on the Beach (1993) A touching movie about generational differences among the women of an Anglo-Indian family, by the director of Bend It Like Beckham--which is arguably my favorite of her movies, but is less...uh...educational, I suppose, and more fun. It really was a toss-up, but I would have felt like a dork putting Bend It Like Beckham on this list. Even though it made me cry. I almost never cry at movies, just on principle.

Day Ten: The Labyrinth of the Human Mind. WooOOOooo!

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) This is one of the most incredible movies I've seen lately, both emotionally and visually stunning. I'm a sucker for surreal and disturbing symbolism, apparently.
Being John Malkovich (1999) John Cusack and Catherine Keener are excellent in this movie. It's just such a bizarre, surreal idea - finding a portal that leads into John Malkovich's head, and then deciding to turn that into a moneymaking venture. Plus, after Pan's Labyrinth you really need a bit of an upper.

Day Eleven: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Est Magnifique!

Delicatessen (1991) I love just about everything Jeunet does, and this is one of his lesser-known movies but it's no less bizarre and hilarious. Again, it's got that dystopian fantasy feel that I like, and that surreal aesthetic that I also like, plus a liberal dose of humor and the best sex scene ever made.
Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001) I know everyone's seen this one by now, but it's one of my favorite movies. The music is fantastic, Audrey Tautou is adorable, and the story is good and quirky and very French. Dominique Pinon, who is in many of Jeunet's movies, has a funny minor role.

Day Twelve: Always End on a Laugh
Also known as "Unexpectedly Interesting Use of Musical Enhancements Day," since I have the soundtrack to both of these.

Office Space (1999) This Mike Judge movie is one of my favorite comedies, possibly because I spent a fair amount of time working in offices. It's got an all-star cast of not really huge but really funny comedic actors, like Diedrich Bader, Stephen Root, and John C. McGinley (of curret Scrubs fame)--the only really "famous" person in it is Jennifer Aniston, and she is not the focus of the movie. There's also the gangsta-style fax machine execution and the fact that this movie popularized the term "pieces of flair."
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Not everyone liked this Wes Anderson/Bill Murray movie--and yes, it was a bit bizarre. But I guess that's what I liked about it. I love Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett was amazing, and it's got possibly my favorite movie soundtrack ever - Seu Jorge doing acoustic-guitar, Brazilian-style covers of David Bowie songs (here's an example).

So yeah, I'm finally done. It's Meme-tacular!

I'm supposed to tag 5 people now. I really hate doing that. Please don't feel obligated to respond. But here you go: Gurrier, Neil, Seren, Writegrrrl, and Chloe, you're on.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

12 Movie Meme, Part I (aka How to Drive Sarah Nuts in Three Short Days)

I've officially been tagged by Ordovicius for the 12 Movies Meme. Aside from wondering what Lazy Eye Theatre has against Diablo Cody (I liked Juno! Although it didn't make my list, as you'll see...) I found this to be an intriguing, and soon afterward, aggravating, meme. Not unlike the "good mix tape" analogy offered at the original site, this is the sort of thing that will slowly drive me nuts as I change my mind, tweak the list, rack my brain, shuffle things around, etc.

So, bear in mind that this list is in no way definitive of my movie taste and in fact leaves out quite a few movies that I really, really like and/or consider to be important. Also, bear in mind that, like Taliesin meets the vampires, I totally cheated--if he gets to posit a vampire room and a non-vampire room, then I hereby present you with


That's right! Bow down before my cheatiness! ...Also my indecisiveness. Because this is so long, I'm breaking it up over two posts.

Day One: Inexplicable Childhood Obsessions Day
The Phantom Tollbooth (1970) There are two movies which I was obsessed with as a child--we're talking age 8 and below--and this is one of them. I drove my parents nuts asking them to rent this one and #2 below over and over and over. So I think they must have played some key formative role in my personality, no? Er...maybe? Anyway, The Phantom Tollbooth is a great satirical book, too, by Norton Juster.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) This was the other movie I was obsessed with as a kid. I still have a VHS copy. It features a very young Angela Lansbury, an absolutely hysterical scene with David Tomlinson playing soccer with cartoon animals, and suits of armor coming to life and fighting Nazis. What's there not to like? Okay, maybe this is why I'm so weird. Oh. Also, evidently it was directed by my husband.

Day Two: 1980s Dan-Ackroyd-Related Comedies Day

The Blues Brothers (1980) Do I really need to explain why this movie is on my list? Let's just say that every time Rob and I are driving around and we see a police car somebody has to say "We got rollers." I also like this one: "How much for your women? How much for the little girl?" More great quotes here. This movie also has an excellent Carrie Fisher appearance and some fantastic guest musicians.
Ghost Busters (1984) Cheesy theme song aside (though I did enjoy it at the time--gimme a break, I was seven), this is another hilarious movie. It may be worth your time just to see Sigourney Weaver floating in mid-demon-land intoning "I am the Gatekeeper. Are you the Keymaster?" Bill Murray and Rick Moranis also have great roles in this one.

Day Three: Gratuitous Inescapable Teenage Angst Extravaganza

Better Off Dead (1985) In my defense, this one isn't even a John Hughes movie. Although poor Savage Steve Holland seem to have since been relegated to directing inoffensive pubescent-children's programming...Anyway, this lesser-known John Cusack movie is funnier and somewhat less overtly derogatory of Asians than other 80s teen movies (remember Sixteen Candles and Long Duk Dong? I rest my case...). It also inspired an episode of South Park--the one with the ski montage.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) No, you really couldn't escape without a John Hughes movie. This one's always been my favorite, although I did enjoy The Breakfast Club, National Lampoon's Vacation, and Weird Science. Matthew Broderick is perfect, Alan Ruck as his buddy Cameron is genius, there just is no better evil principal, and then there's Ben Stein: "Bueller...Bueller..."

Day Four: Lesser-Known Hayao Miyazaki Movie Day

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind / Kaze no tani no Naushika (1984) Not only is this a really cool sci-fi story (adapted from Miyazaki's original manga series) but it's also got a strong female protagonist as the hero--something you see in most of Miyazaki's movies. The voice casting on the English dub is also quite good and features Uma Thurman and Patrick Stewart.
Porco Rosso / Kurenai no buta (1992) This is actually more of a love-during-wartime story--the only sci-fi/fantasy aspect is the fact that the guy has been cursed with a pig's head. A bit different for a Miyazaki movie.

Day Five: Bow Down Before Terry Gilliam and Acknowledge His Awesomeness!

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) I remember watching this one at my uncle's house not too long after it came out, and flipping out at how great and surreal and unlike anything else it was. I didn't see it again until many years later, but I enjoyed it just as much--if not more--than the first time. Excellent role for Eric Idle, a surprise visit from (or to) Robin Williams' giant head, and a very young and rather naked Uma Thurman.
Brazil (1985) - European Version Excuse me, but anything I was about to say has just been driven out by the blowing of my mind due to the fact that I just found out Tom Stoppard co-wrote this movie and I had no idea. In any case, it's really hard to describe this movie but it's a bizarre dystopian fantasy of a future ruled by bureaucracy. Fabulous Jonathan Pryce performance. The European cut makes a lot more sense than the American version.

Day Six: Futuristic Techno-Fantasy Day

Akira (1988) This is just a great anime action sci-fi thriller with some outstanding artwork, particularly in the scenery of Neo-Tokyo. Great creepy hi-tech atmosphere and particularly influential for cyberpunk fans. Also, the story is rather interesting philosophically.
Blade Runner - Director's Cut (1982) Too many things I like about this movie to list them all. Great casting, amazing artistic vision, the book it's based on is excellent (if significantly different from the movie)... I even still loved it after dissecting it to bits in a college Rhetoric class I particularly hated.

Part Two to come tomorrow, hopefully...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Breaking New Musical Ground

I had a couple of new musical experiences the past two weeks while I was away. The first was at our friends Peter and Chloe's house. One of the many awesome renovations to their place was an entertainment room in the basement, complete with huge projection screen, comfy couches, and...Rock Band on Xbox. That's right, I was a Rock Band virgin, and I am no longer. I tried guitar, drums, and vocals. (Bass is Rob's territory. :)) Not that any of the instruments truly resemble their real-life counterparts, but it was fun. In the past, I've discovered that I'm pretty good at fighting games because I have a talent for button-mashing; now, it turns out I'm pretty decent at Rock Band because I can button-mash in rhythm. Woo! Actually, the drums are cool because it's sort of like a tiny set of electronic drums--and you even sit on a stool and use your foot to work the bass drum pedal. It's quite a workout.

The other new musical experience I had was at the Welsh course: I was drafted to be the piano accompanist on one of the pieces sung by the choir (Myfanwy). They had to be really hard up to do that, since I hadn't practiced in six months or so. How did this come about? Well, the person who is often our accompanist wasn't able to make it this year. Someone came forward to try, but wasn't comfortable playing with the group or in front of a crowd (oddly enough, that exact thing happened to me on one of my first Welsh courses).

So, I ended up playing the easier song, and another of our Board members (who happens to be a professional musician, just not on the piano) played the harder song, thereby dividing the labor. It was a VERY EASY song or I would never have agreed. I slipped in as many extra practices as I could, and decided that I'd be happy if I were able to play it through at the noson lawen (talent night) with three or fewer mistakes and no stopping due to freak-outs.

I managed to succeed, with only a couple of mistakes. However, it was one of the most terrifying experiences (anxiety-wise) I've ever had. TERRIFYING. It turns out it's very difficult to play the piano when your hands are shaking from fear. I'm far less frightened of speaking in front of a crowd than I am of playing music. But then, I spend a lot more time talking than I do playing the piano. I'm in much better practice. Plus, I had to play WITH a group of people who were singing, and it was therefore imperative that I mess up as little as possible.

The difficult part was following the choir director--looking up from the music often enough to make sure I was in time with his direction, without totally screwing up in the process. I was also thrown off by the fact that there was a little bit of sound delay--it took a teensy bit of time for the choir's voices up on the stage to reach me where I was sitting at the piano. So I constantly felt like I was ahead of the singers, even though I was relatively in time with the choir director. That alone almost caused a freak-out.

But I learned a lot. I learned that Sarah should avoid being an accompanist.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yeah, I Still Exist.

Interior of Roseman BridgeI've never had a particular need or desire to see the actual bridges of Madison County (in Iowa)--not having any interest in either movie or book--but that's where I found myself last week. The Welsh course often finds itself in odd locations (like, in this case, Indianola, Iowa) due to the need for affordable facilities and willing organizers. Iowa's not so bad--in fact, my grandfather was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, though it doesn't speak well for the place that he ran away to join the Navy when he was 17.

Anyway, as the plane descended towards the Des Moines Airport, I could see the remnants of floodwaters marring the landscape; but Indianola, 15 or so miles south, didn't seem to be part of the affected area. The Welsh course itself went well. My class was excellent, and the mid-week field trip to the bridges, though not particularly exciting, afforded a few nice photo ops. Also, I'm STILL NOT PRESIDENT. Yay!

Rob and I both had a great time in Seattle attending Beth and Mark's wedding, and visiting with Peter and Chloe, friends of ours with whom we shared a house after college. Peter officiated the wedding, and I have to was VERY DIFFICULT to not giggle. (Sorry, Peter.) After knowing him for so long, it was just too hard. Having said that, he did a beautiful job. But still...let's just say when you've seen someone say and do the things that Peter has, it can be hard to picture him presiding over the solemn ceremony of matrimony. When you're talking about someone who once caused another housemate (upon extreme videogame-related frustration) to yell "Die, Peter, die!"...Anyway.

It's always weird to come home after a long way away, and it's always a bit strange to come back after the Welsh course because I feel like I'm living in a different world for that one short week. I'd actually really like to try a one-week intensive course in Wales sometime, though I'm not sure I can either a) afford it or b) figure out the practicalities vis-a-vis Rob. (When the Welsh course was in Wales in 2000, Rob spent the day while I was in class hiking around and seeing a bunch of scenery which I subsequently did not get to see. That was kinda bunk.)

I'm glad to be back, though. Besides the obvious stuff, one thing I really missed was GOOD FOOD. Dorm food in Central Iowa is not good. I was also disappointed by the ironic lack of tasty corn. We only got corn a few times, and of those times, twice it was canned corn, and the other two times, the corn was horribly overcooked and mushy. I guess I'll stick with my California corn. And California leeks...and tomatoes...and cling peaches...and callaloo...and Yukon gold potatoes...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Tiny Rant

Okay, I know this isn't a real blog entry...I'll get to that later.

I just needed to have a teeny-tiny rant about EMBEDDING FILES INTO WORD DOCUMENTS. That rant is: FOR GOD'S SAKE, DON'T DO IT. If you're sending me graphics, send me the original graphics files, pleeeeaaaaazzzzeeee. Same goes for sound files. ESPECIALLY sound files, which I can't cut and paste out of the .doc and into an empty Photoshop file.

That is all. For now.

Oh yeah...I'm almost done with this site. Don't laugh. I does what the customers wants.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Head Above Water...Just Barely

I've been doing a lot of work on the Guys Lit Wire website, and that finally tapered off; but now I'm trying to finish up a site that's giving me some trouble because the clients want a very colorful design and I'm trying to keep it somewhat reasonable to my sensibilities (draft here). I'm rather proud of the image gallery, though...

I also had a flurry of potential new jobs (if two can be counted as a flurry), both of which did not pan out, but then I got an article assignment for a local magazine that's affiliated with the Stockton Record newspaper. I feel like it's fairly high-profile, and they've been great about communicating with me compared to the Modesto Bee and all the times I tried unsuccessfully to submit queries to them.

Anyway, there's that, and the poster design for the next play, and a bachelorette party this weekend in Portland, OR, and somehow Rob and I got comp tickets to this fundraising dinner for History San Jose on Thursday night, and my mom is coming up on Monday for a night, and I think we're supposed to go rafting on Sunday afternoon literally right after I get off the plane coming back from Portland. What the hell happened this week?? Did I mention that article above is due on Wednesday? How does this happen?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Test post - pay no attention

Yes, I'm still messing around with this crap. It's not as fun as it looks like.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hangin' on the Telephone

I may have mentioned this before. I'm pretty sure I have, since I have an existing tag called "I Hate the Phone." But yeah, I hate the phone. Specifically, I really hate making phone calls. My feelings about making phone calls vary, but they range from mild annoyance to sheer terror.

I had one of the (thankfully rare) sheer terror moments today. I have to admit, I worked myself up into it over a period of a few days. Here's the story: I responded to a notice on my grad school's alumni e-mail list--a fellow alum was looking for an editor to tidy up a novel manuscript for a friend. She was moving out of the area, and he was looking for someone who could help with grammar, syntax, and formatting, since English is not his first language (he's Italian) and he's also elderly (in his 80s).

I thought it sounded like an interesting project--a semi-autobiographical WWII novel called I Due Villaggi that's already been published in Italian. I called the alumna and she was very nice and encouraged me to give him a call. She said the guy is very sweet but a bit hard of hearing and difficult to understand over the phone due to his accent, so he'd probably want to meet in person to talk about it. He lives in Oakland. Fine. Whatever. I can go to Oakland.

But then the anxiety started. At first it was just the usual mild stress at having to make a phone call to a stranger about a job. Not that big a deal. As a freelancer, I have to do that periodically, and I find it stressful, but...working is good. Then I kept thinking and ruminating about the fact that he's in his 80s, and hard of hearing, and possibly difficult to understand; and I started having these horrible visions of not being able to make myself understood if I called, or not being able to understand anything he said, or having my brain freeze up and not being able to communicate clearly.

Normally, when I have to make a phone call and I'm anxious about it, I have to just eventually decide to DO it--and by the time I hit that "dial" button it's too late to NOT do it, if that makes sense. At that point I just have to suck it up and get it over with. But if I've managed to get myself overly anxious about it, I start to feel like the worst possible scenario I can think of will in fact pan out, or at the very least, my brain will implode. Today, I could hardly manage to convince myself to make that call. ONE phone call to a person I don't know for a job that I want, okay. TWO phone calls to people I don't know, one of whom might not understand me and I might not understand them--well, that's just panic-inducing.

Part of me almost would have preferred to call the alumna back and tell her I couldn't do the job after all, but the other part of me realized how utterly ridiculous that would be. I did manage to make the call. It took me a few hours to work up to it, and some considerable self-bribery with coffee and a long reading break and the promise of having gotten it over with.

As it turned out, I could understand the guy just fine 98% of the time. I mean, my mom taught college-aged ESL students for 15-plus years. I'm used to deciphering accents. Hell, a good portion of my family and stepfamily are from different countries and have accents. Evidently, in my anxiety, I had forgotten these important facts. Also, he seemed to be able to hear me OK, for someone in his 80s, for cripes' sake. I'm still anxious because I'm supposed to call him back in a couple of days to arrange an in-person meeting, but for some reason that stresses me out less than a phone call. Go figure.

"It's about 300 pages," he said, when we were talking about the project. "Does that scare you?" "No," I said, laughing. And no, it doesn't--it doesn't scare me nearly as much as having had to make that stupid phone call.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Be Aggressive, B-E Aggressive...

B-E, A-G-G, R-E-S-S-I-V-E. (Name that band...) I had this weird idea tonight. Granted, I drank wine and stuff. But anyway. I was thinking about an art project. A completely honest art project in which I pull no punches about anything I'm thinking, have thought, or have done.

For instance, if I was preoccupied with, say, the Walnut House era when we lived in Berkeley, partied a lot, grew not-entirely-legal plants, threw insane parties, etc. then I would have to tell those stories. Or if I were feeling resentful about art school and wanted to complain about certain professors, or if I were feeling philosophical about life or political about issues, I'd have to be honest about that. This sort of follows in line with an art project idea I had that would be entirely immersive, in a way--a taxonomy of ME. A taxono-ME. It would be online and free-form and would contain writing and artwork (both digital and non-digital).

Or maybe I'm just being ambitious (and/or tipsy). But I really have an idea that I need to do a project that's really ambitious. Really BIG. I don't know. I'm still thinking about this.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In the News

A couple we vaguely know--friends of Rob's sister and her husband--were recently featured in the Home section of the Chron. The article's mostly about their home decor, but my favorite part was this:

The couple is house-hunting, hoping for more space and a garden. Not to mention, Wong Jackson said, her condo neighbors tend to be students who "all still think I'm going to Cal as an undergrad and ask me what my major is!" Clearly, it's time to move on.

I have to say...I've owned a house with a garden for the past six years and people still frequently ask me if I'm a student. Heh. Anyway, the article reminded me that we will never be featured anywhere for our home decor because we still haven't put any pictures on the walls. I am not kidding. It's a long, stupid story. If you know us well enough, you'll know that Rob has a weird thing about putting too much visual clutter in the environment.

The other problem is, evidently anything we hang on the walls in here requires drywall anchors, and I'm waiting on Rob to show me how to attach the drywall anchors so that I can put stuff up. Theoretically, I'd also like his input on where to hang stuff, but it's been six years and there are very few non-utilitarian items on the walls: 1) a sushi clock we bought in Japan; 2) a love spoon we bought in Wales; 3) a bulletin board in my office (which is partially utilitarian as it is). But I do wish I could at least put up my signed Edward Gorey lithograph, and maybe a few of the framed etchings from Rob's late grandmother's antique store.

Rob was mentioned (albeit obliquely and namelessly) in the local rag in an article about a building fiasco at the college where he works. Evidently, however, he's been relegated to the role of disgruntled employee by Mr. Anonymous Concerned Taxpayer With No Actual Knowledge of College Politics.

By the way, in this opinion piece, where it says "Some students and faculty wanted to preserve the quad at MJC, so President Richard Rose and a college committee chose a location just north of the Art Building," for "some students and faculty" read "One stubborn administrator with zero concern for the health, safety, noise, or other hazards created by slapping up a building right next to Art." For "We believe the student services center needs to go on the main campus, the one that people think of first when they think of MJC," read "We evidently are not concerned enough about the tax dollars we've already spent on the huge, empty, waiting-to-be-built-upon open spaces still available on the newer West Campus."

Art Therapy

I just wanted to drop in and proudly note that I spent a good few hours working in the studio tonight, and it felt GREAT. I made a VERY SMALL amount of progress on the painting I'm working on, but I'm still excited about it, which is good. It's weird working in acrylic again, but it's reassuringly fast--if I wanted to go back out there now, an hour later, it would be plenty dry enough to work on, though I have every intention of putting on comfy clothes, brushing my teeth, and lying in bed with a good book (Doomsday Book by Connie Willis) before falling asleep.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Change in the Daily Routine

So, time was, not too long past, I was all excited about this service called Blogarithm, that would e-mail a daily digest of all my subscribed blog updates straight to my inbox. It was convenient, although it was getting a bit daunting, to be able to peruse the digest at my leisure. I was starting to think about switching to Google Reader just because it's easier to mark things as read, to look through some blogs but not others, etc. And I'm already a Google whore in terms of my use of other Google products, so it seemed only natural.

This past week, when Blogarithm was bought out by RSSFWD, I realized that the time to switch to Google Reader had come. How did I know this? By the fact that my daily digest started looking like crap. Sorry, RSSFWD, but it's just not working out. You cannot send me a digest in which every single link is in a numbered footnote at the bottom of the message. No, no, no.

So today marks the official completion of the changeover, complete with an enormous number of new subscriptions--especially to kidlitosphere blogs that I hadn't quite gotten around to subscribing to before. I hope to be able to spend my blog-reading time more effectively now. It was a source of frustration, let me tell you.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Way-Back Machine, Part II

There's nothing like feedback to inspire a writer to new least, that's what you hope. Generally, I find new lows, but in this case--after hearing back from a former schoolmate in response to my post about Groter School--I'm motivated to write about Groter: Year Two. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember the classmate who contacted me, but I was only 6 or 7 years old at the time. Plus, judging from the angry, jagged crayon strokes of my coloring, I wasn't very happy and probably wanted to block it out. Anyway, without further ado, some memories from Groter: Year Two.

  • I was six when I moved to the older kids' classroom at Groter School. We were taught by Mrs. Groter the Younger, of the short, iron-gray hair and nasally voice, and occasionally by Mrs. Groter the Elder, who I understood to be her mother (though I could be wrong). The Elder was much nicer, as I recall. The Younger was the one who would announce over the intercom every time someone's parent arrived to pick them up, "Sarah to go home....Michelle to go home..." Parents would pull up in the circular driveway in front of the school and wait for their kids to come out. On one memorable occasion I was sent home early because I had measle-like red spots all over my face, though I didn't feel sick. In retrospect, I assume I was having a reaction to a vaccination.
  • As Anonymous noted below, there were some interesting characters in the class. I remember a brother and sister, Miriam and Simeon. I remember an older kid, maybe 12 or possibly 13, who wore Pink Floyd t-shirts. At that age, I had only the vaguest idea of who or what Pink Floyd was, and so when I saw this guy wear a t-shirt that read "Pink Floyd...The Wall," I assumed that "to Pink Floyd" was some kind of verb, and this dude was advocating that one should literally Pink Floyd the wall. I also had a friend named Michelle, who was perhaps the only person from that school whom I ever saw outside of class.
  • There were also some kids who misbehaved. At Groter School, evidently it was still okay to use outdated methods of punishment that would no doubt be construed as abuse these days, unless perhaps you are a vengeful nun. For instance, there was Shayna, a girl in my class who talked a lot. One day, for talking too much during class, the teacher washed her mouth out with soap in front of everyone. Even worse was a kid named Travis. I don't remember exactly what he did that was so bad, but I do remember that he had his bare bottom spanked with a ruler in front of the entire class. I also remember that I closed my eyes when it happened. I sure didn't want to watch him get his bare butt spanked.
  • Disciplinary methods were not the only antiquated part of the Groter classroom. There were also some rather unique choices made in terms of curriculum. For instance, I recall the main form of reading instruction was via the McGuffey Readers. As someone who learned to read when I was two, needless to say, this bored the shit out of me. I remember getting to do some independent reading in a library-like room off the main classroom--i.e., reading ahead to the later McGuffeys. Ironically, while the reading instruction was too easy for me, the math instruction turned out to be the opposite. I recall being forced to do long division, which was completely ridiculous at six years old. For me, anyway. One thing I did like were the weekly (?) German lessons, taught by a nice lady who would come in and teach us easy stuff like please and thank-you and numbers and songs. I remember one song to this day: "Ich bin ein musikante/und komme aus Schwabenland! (Wir sind die musikante und kommen aus Schwabenland!) Ich kann spielen (wir konnen spielen) aus ein trompete (aus ein trompete! Da-da-da-da da-da-da-da da-da-da-da-da-da."
  • Another song taught to us, this one by Mrs. Groter: "We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria....We are marching to Pretoria...Pretoria, hurrah!" Why? You might well ask.
  • Random memories: there was a purple-inked ditto machine in an office behind the classroom. I remember getting to use it (supervised, of course) on one memorable occasion. Oh, those purple-inked ditto pages, and that characteristic smell. Another random memory: kids who were extra good, or had accomplished something (I can't quite remember what) were invited to a "luncheon" in the library room situated at one side of the classroom. I don't recall if these were weekly or monthly, but I do remember some kind of taco salad.
  • I remember learning about pneumatic tubes at Groter. I THINK--though it's possible this was a dream--that one day we set up little office "cubicles" under our desks and used cardboard tubes as pneumatic tubes to send notes back and forth. It seems weird and implausible, but no more so than any of the other stuff I remember.
  • I remember one morning we were practicing writing letters, and I wrote a letter of apology to my mom. Earlier that morning I had decided I was going to run away from home, and I'd dutifully packed a bag with some toys and some leftover breakfast in a baggie. I went to my mom and said, "I'm running away." I think my mom said, "Okay, well, why don't we go to school first, and then when you get back you can think about running away." I argued briefly and then she explained something about truant officers roaming the neighborhood looking for delinquent children, and I was scared straight. Later, in class, I wrote a letter beginning, "Dear Mom, I'm sorry I denyed [sic] you this morning."

I think that about exhausts my memories of that bizarre time at Groter. I'm just blown away that somebody else out there remembers it, too. It seems too strange to be true sometimes.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Fun Never Stops

I don't want to go into detail at this moment, but I had an overdose of family fun time this weekend. I enjoyed going to my cousin's college graduation, but awkward after-parties at which both sets of divorced and re-married parents are present (MY divorced and re-married parents, I mean), plus various step-relatives I haven't seen or gone out of my way to contact since I moved out of the house for college 15 years ago, plus a few extra-special family friends I haven't seen since my age was in single digits...well, let's just say I spent most of the evening nervously fidgeting and trying to appear normal.

Oh. Let's not forget that my dad was extra-grumpy due to having had knee surgery a month ago and being in some pain. It also meant he couldn't be up and about and ordering people around to the extent that he normally does, which probably made him even more of a grouch (and I unfortunately had to watch him being unnecessarily bossy to my other cousin--the older sister of the one who graduated). Even more awkward? He didn't bother to hide it, either. So of course all of the friends of the graduating cousin noticed and thought (rather astutely) that he was being a complete jerk.

Oh. Also my brains had been roasted in the sun for two days in a row and I was nursing a few sunburned spots. I sorely wished I had been nursing a good stiff drink, but this was an alcohol-free party.

The high point of the weekend was going to San Diego for the day on Friday. I visited a friend from high school and college who recently had twin girls--they were four months old and very cute, and it was great to see my friend again after a couple of years. Then we went with my mom and stepdad to the San Diego Zoo, which is always pretty fabulous. At least there was one non-stressful day this weekend.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Valley Life

Saturday, I decided to take a drive out to a local farm and apiary I'd heard about, Beekman and Beekman, in order to buy some honey wine for Mother's Day gifts. I found out about it rather fortuitously, by editing an article about their upcoming Lavender Days Festival for the local tourism newsletter.

The honey gift shop and tasting room ended up being farther away than I thought. On MapQuest it looked like it was fairly close to our friend Brian's house, which is a ranchette in the area (and home of the annual Pig Roast). However, it turned out to be a few miles further out into the country. I got to drive out past the town of Ceres, through orchards, past a brand-new allegedly "green" and energy-efficient housing development, past nut processing plants, past the La Favorita radio station office, to the charming farmhouse where the honey wine gift shop was.

The lady inside invited me to taste four types of honey: sage, alfalfa, orange blossom, and buckwheat. The buckwheat honey was the most intensely flavorful. I kind of thought they should use those teeny ice cream sampling spoons for the honey tasting, but they only offered toothpicks for dipping. I personally could have used a teaspoon, but that's just me...

Then the lady carded me for the three bottles of honey wine I bought. I showed her my ID and she exclaimed in surprise at how much older I was than I looked. "So you're what," she said, "about 40?" Evidently 2008 - 1977 is not 31, as I'd previously thought. I gently corrected her.

I decided to try a different route back home, thinking the honey place might be closer to the freeway, possibly a slightly faster journey than country roads, even though I can jam at about 55 or 60 out there (and will get tailgated if I don't). I take a little scenic orchard drive for a few miles, relying on my sense of direction to locate the freeway. I take the exit that leads me through Ceres again on the way home--our house isn't that close to the freeway, so you can take any one of 3 exits and be roughly equidistant.

I passed the Modesto airport on the way back to my house (featuring a handful of flights per day to LAX and SFO! Costing a mere gajillion dollars! Probably.). There was a slight traffic jam, and I looked up to see a little biplane doing very unruly loop-the-loops in the air. Whoever was piloting the thing needed some practice. I kept thinking "Oh, shit! He's goin' down!" And then the plane would gradually pull up and go looping around again.

Anyway, this is a nice season in the Central Valley. (Not to mention we got garlic scapes in the CSA box last week--I'd never seen those before. Photo to come.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Websites, Booze, and Strange Conversations

I cannot seem to find time to post. It's terrible. I did update the image gallery on my website with three new design samples, one new painting (well, not new, but new to the website), and one new illustration. Yay! If I say so myself, the last two posters I designed ROCK BIG-TIME. At least, I was pleased with myself.

I will be back with a real post. I'm starting to see the light at the end of the non-blogging tunnel. Really.

Here's a short conversation for you in the meantime. Please note that my blood was rapidly being replaced by vodka gimlets at the time.

Scene: A very loud dance club/bar in Modesto of the 21-and-over variety that's really more like 30-and-over.

Me (to man of indeterminate ethnicity dancing with my friend): Excuse me, if you don't mind me asking, what's your ethnicity?

Man: I'm Persian.

Me: Ah, I see. I only ask because I'm half-Pakistani myself. I thought you looked, maybe...

Some half-coherent shouted conversation ensues about the state of our respective countries of family origin.

Man: My country, it is very troubled right now. That's why I live here.

Me: (Nodding in agreement)

Man: Plus, the drugs are much better here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Exterminate! Exterminate!

I just spent ten minutes on the phone with a freaky robotic voice from Blue Cross (my insurance provider) asking me various questions about the effectiveness of my current therapist situation. I've had to take very short phone surveys from robot voices before, but not for TEN MINUTES. Nor did previous robot voices ever actually RESPOND to my answers other than a standard "thank you" or (in the case of the prescription refill robot at my pharmacy) a confirmation of my last name.

For instance, the Blue Cross phone robot asked me to tell her/it the effectiveness of my visits to my therapist by stating "no improvement, some improvement, much improvement." When I said "some improvement," the robot voice said, "that's great!" I found this profoundly disturbing. I wonder if I'd said "no improvement," it would have said "sorry to hear that." Plus I kept trying to psych out the robot because I was suspicious whether my insurance company is trying to weasel out of paying for my therapist visits by tricking me into saying I no longer need them. A robot! I was trying to PSYCH OUT A PHONE ROBOT! Something is seriously wrong.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tuning In To Say...

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the planet. Not yet, anyway, though various and sundry forces seem to be attempting to conspire to make me do so. But I WILL BLOG! Today all you get is a LINK, but trust me, it's a good one. It comes courtesy of TadMack and will remind you of the bad old days of portrait photography (still alive and well in some places, I assure you). Speaking of portrait photography, there is a picture of me and my dad that horrifies Rob every time we go to my dad's house for a visit, because in the photo it's just so obvious that I was just crying my eyes out. I can't remember exactly why I was so upset, but I think it was some combination of not wanting to visit my dad in the first place + not wanting to go get some stupid Sears photo taken + not wanting to be forced to wear a traditional Pakistani outfit + being eight-ish years old.

Anyway, speaking of childhood trauma, I do fully intend to finish that story (started below) about Groter School and my fun and fabulous second year there. Mouths washed out with soap! Bare bottoms spanked with rulers in front of the class! (Neither of those inflicted on me personally, thank God.) Woefully old-fashioned reading material! Random German songs! Pink Floyd! You'll just have to wait to hear the stories.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Way-Back Machine

Today, I'm not going to blog about all the stuff I've been doing lately, mainly because it's mostly work and not that interesting--some graphic design/DTP, grading art appreciation essays, giving bookmaking demonstrations in one of Rob's classes, etc. etc. Oh. I celebrated my birthday, too. That was fun. I got a new video game for the DS from Rob, which I don't currently have time to play, and some other little goodies from friends and family.

No, today, for some reason, I found myself thinking back to elementary school--specifically, a rather odd school in Ontario (California) I attended from about age 5 to age 7 called Groter School. I Googled it and didn't immediately find anything at all pertaining to the place, so I'm thinking maybe I'm preserving it for posterity here. My mom sent me to Groter School because, evidently, at the time it was the only school in the area that could accommodate gifted kids. We lived in the Rancho Cucamonga area, which wasn't very densely populated at the time.

So my mom finds Groter, which was a relatively nontraditional school. Now, by "nontraditional" what I really mean is "so traditional it's become nontraditional by modern standards." (This will make more sense as I continue the story.) Groter was ungraded, and set up along the lines of a one-room schoolhouse, only there were really two rooms. There was a building with a classroom or two for the younger kids (about K through 2 or 3) and then a separate building with one classroom for all the older kids (3rd through 6th grades, approximately).

The first year I was there, I was in the back building with the littler kids. The two buildings were separated by a rather small courtyard in which various hazardously cramped games of soccer and volleyball were played. There was also a grassy field in back, but I remember the courtyard more because of a couple of memorable ball-in-the-face incidents, one of which resulted in a bloody nose and the other resulting in one of my loose teeth getting knocked out. I seriously did not play soccer for years after that.

That was the second year, though. I don't remember too much from the first year in that back building. One memory I have is of a teacher who would come in periodically (once a week? maybe less often?) to teach us "improvisation." This was basically modern dance for kindergartners. All I remember is, I really liked it because it involved a lot of romping around on the floor, and the teacher was this African-American guy wearing a unitard. The second memory I have of being in the little kids' class was having a rather dictatorial teacher insisting that everybody color with "short, even strokes" (inside the lines, of course--that goes without saying). I clearly recall making a conscious decision to color with long, uneven strokes but trying to do it so well that she'd never know the difference. In retrospect, I ask myself, what's the point?

She also wouldn't let me go to the bathroom one day, and I remember having to pee in my pants as a result. I remember frantically checking and re-checking the orange plastic seat of my chair and hoping I wasn't wetting it. Of course, I then got reprimanded for peeing my pants. It doesn't surprise me, when I look at the technique in some of the pictures I colored at the time, that I seemed to be very angry.

The last thing I remember from that first year was that we started learning Penmanship, i.e., cursive handwriting. But they insisted on calling it penmanship. It was very much like (and may indeed have been) super-traditional Palmer-style handwriting. In fact, I strongly suspect our book was a part of this series. I remember having to copy out parts of the Gettysburg Address (which, incidentally, I would have to memorize and recite the following year in the big kids' class). I did not do very well at penmanship. I mean, jeez, I was only 5 or 6. Ironically, my handwriting is very nice now, if I'm not scrawling in a hurry.

When I graduated to the big kids' class, things got crazy for different reasons. I think I'll save that for my next post. Now that I'm sitting down to think about it, I actually remember a lot. Weird. And I still can't remember stuff I did last week.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My Life in Bullet Points: Mid-March Edition

It's absolutely disgraceful, this lack of blogging. Go ahead. Excoriate away. While you're busy ripping me a new one, I'll just go through a few of my excuses--I mean reasons--for recent quietude. In other words, this is another List O' Crap I Did. In other, other words, it's an overview of my personal minutiae (as one NPR commentator described most blogs).

  • Happy Early Arbor Day! We've been planting lots of foliage. When the weather dried up a bit, we were finally able to call the concrete guys to pour the other half of our driveway and the sidewalk around the addition. We had them leave space for a planter box in one corner and a strip of dirt between us and the neighbors' driveway. We put in several Waxleaf Privet shrubs and another purple plum tree (amusingly named "Krauter Vesuvius"). We also put four rosebushes underneath the studio window to maul intruders, though right now they're only at ankle-mauling height.
  • Earning Some Dough. I'm designing a logo, flier, program, and schedule for an early childhood education conference. It's another non-profit, so I'm not making all that much, but a commission's a commission. Plus I'll likely be getting another commission in a month or two, to design a poster for a local school play. Again, tiny dribbles of income, but it's all good.
  • Rob's Work Drama. Rob had some drama at work for a couple of weeks during which he had to chastise several colleagues (including a couple of friends), give speeches, talk to the college president, and other fun activities. This was because it was approved--without consulting the art department--to build a new building on campus right in front of the art building. Moreover, it would have been right in front of the window side of the building with all the northern light. And it's the ONLY side of the building with windows. Blocking off all the light to the art classrooms? Also restricting ventilation in some very potentially fume-ridden areas? Not a great plan. Rob had to bring in da noise.
  • DOH! I also got another very disconcerting novel rejection, this one actually somewhat personalized but still not particularly informative in terms of exactly what would make the work better. I had to mope for a while and then start a seven-cartoon series on the subject.

So that's about it for the moment. The fun never stops!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Who Ya Gonna Call?

This is really a continuation of a blog post I put up over at the YA blog, answering the question of what I was doing watching the Sci-Fi channel in the middle of the day today. Well, I needed to listen to something while washing the dishes and doing a couple of other mindless tasks, but also, I've somehow acquired a guilty pleasure. Somewhere along the line, I started watching a really stupid program called Ghost Hunters. I don't watch it religiously or anything, but I've caught at least 10 episodes by now. This mostly happens when I'm washing dishes or cooking or doing something else in the kitchen, and for some reason, when nothing else appeals to me I will gravitate towards Ghost Hunters.

It's really a sort of soap opera "documentary" series about a "team" of paranormal "investigators" from The Atlantic Paranormal Society ("TAPS"!). They get dispatched by their leader, who appears to have a few more IQ points than the rest of the group, to try to prove or disprove reports of paranormal activity in houses, hotels, etc. They bring a whole array of infrared cameras and sound recording devices and flux capacitors and holy water and so forth, and then they sit up all night attempting to get recorded proof of ghosts or voices or whatever. Sometimes they even perform an "exorcism."

And I honestly don't know why I watch it. It's not particularly exciting. Of course they mostly don't find whatever ghost the homeowner was going on and on about, and when they do find something, you have to doubt the validity of their research methods. It's full of totally forced interpersonal tension--The Dude Who Never Takes Anything Seriously! The Unreliable Agent Who Might Get Fired! The New Guy! Yet still...I watch it sometimes. I try to tell myself it's because I might be interested in writing ghost stories, or historical mysteries, or some such likely excuse, but I just don't know what it is. I've never personally seen a ghost. I don't particularly believe in them. I'm not afraid of them, with the exception of the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man and his cronies. (Just kidding. Well, maybe not entirely--I was only 7 when that movie came out.) Maybe I'm just bored. Maybe there are certain brain cells I'm trying to kill off. I just don't know.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Do Not Be Afraid to Step Into the Void

The title of this post is some of the best advice--or most memorable, anyway--I ever received from a professor. My figure drawing teacher at Cal, Dewey Crumpler (a Mills MFA grad, by the way), gave this advice to a student during a critique. In this inimitable rumbling bass voice, he pointed at an area of the student's drawing and said "Do not be afraid to step into the void." At the time, I thought it was sort of funny. I still do, but I also think it's really amazing advice for a creative person. You do get sort of struck by fear, by the what-ifs, by any number of blocks that keep you from allowing yourself to produce creative work. I keep meaning to put his advice on a large banner and post in a prominent location.

Anyway, his advice came to mind again for me because this weekend I managed to step into the void a little myself. On Friday I posted a silly little vignette on Ficktion, for the first time in ages. And today I spent several hours in our new art studio, painting. It felt really good--once I got into the swing of things. I've let my drawing skills get a little rusty (or lazy) and so it took me quite a while to get my base sketch laid out on the canvas the way I wanted it. And I still have to figure out part of the composition (i.e., the entire background). But I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Hard to be sure when that will be, since time is in short supply lately, but hopefully later this week.

Oh, and I got one more article to edit for the tourism newsletter, and it's about the Modesto Nuts. I'm starting to suspect there's a theme to this issue of the newsletter. Of course, the Nuts is our local A-league baseball team, but still. Nuts.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Tienes Huevos?

So, apparently we live a scant twenty minutes' drive from the Cowboy Capital of the World. Amazing. We're sandwiched between modern civilization and a place where they hold an annual Testicle Festival. Nope, I shit you not. These are the types of things I find out by editing the Convention & Visitors Bureau newsletter, and sometimes...well, sometimes I wish I didn't know.

Although I do find the logo rather amusing, I'm distressed by the assertion that "it's a cowboy tradition, eating these all-beef nuggets." All-beef nuggets!! Marinated overnight in wine, basil and garlic, breaded and deep-fried! I think I'd almost rather go to the Chinese restaurant I saw in Albany (CA, not NY) that served chicken uteri.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Secrets, Lies, and Frozen Pizza

Yesterday, I lied to my husband.

But let me backtrack a bit.

Yesterday SUCKED ASS. The day began with my annual poking-and-prodding appointment at the OB/GYN, and went downhill from there. There was a slight reprieve while I went to the gym for about an hour and a half, like putting the bad karma in suspended animation for a while ( interesting mental image...), though the gym was not entirely without its annoyances, such as the two young women working with a (male) personal trainer on free weights and balance balls. The two girls would periodically scream with exaggerated laughter, which is irritating even when your iPod is loudly blasting "Jesus Built My Hotrod" in an attempt to drown them out.

But overall, the gym was okay. Then, my plan was to take some long-overdue recycling to the NexCycle recycling trailer that's parked in one of the shopping center parking lots. I'd spent several minutes earlier that morning sorting the plastic, glass, and cans and putting them into separate bags and toting them all out to the car. So when I pull up to the recycling trailer, the dude is sitting in his car and says he's just going to lunch and will be back in 45 minutes. This annoyed me. Who takes lunch at 1:30? (Besides me, of course, since I'd just gone to the gym.) Needless to say, I had other things to do and wasn't going to rearrange my schedule just so I could be at the recycling guy's beck and call.

So then I made a brief stop at the grocery store before heading home to eat and shower. That's when the cycle of deceit began. I had purchased a Stouffer's French Bread Pizza as a mid-afternoon lunch/snack and proceeded to put it in the toaster oven. I took a shower, put on fresh clothes, and emerged just in time for the pizza to be done. I cut the pizza into easy-to-handle segments and brought the plate out to the TV tray I had set up in the living room. Then, inches from the tray, I somehow managed to drop the plate. (I drop things a lot. I often break them, too, but not this time, since there was carpet.) Predictably, the pizza landed mostly face-down on the carpet, smearing tomato sauce on a) the couch cover which I just washed last weekend and b) the clean pants I just put on. Pretty impressive, considering this is not a very large amount of pizza we're talking about.

After screaming loudly for several minutes, I cleaned up the pizza and sauce and threw the couch cover into the washing machine (AGAIN). Then I went into the new addition where I'd last seen the Dustbuster, so I could vacuum up the snowfall of crumbs which had also accompanied the pizza disaster. But, lo and behold, when I tried to vacuum up the crumbs, the Dustbuster made that sad little descending whine that means it's running out of juice since apparently nobody bothered to recharge it in recent memory.

So I put it back on the charger, screamed again, and then proceeded to crawl into bed and take a nap. But--and here's the lie--I washed, dried, and replaced the couch cover before Rob even got home, and the Dustbuster was charged up enough to vacuum the crumbs by early evening. There's no need for him ever to know I had an embarrassing pizza accident. It's just too mortifying to even think of telling him. And I won't hear the end of it, just like the time I dropped a full cup of coffee in the hallway and it splashed everywhere so thoroughly that we were finding coffee droplet stains months later. That happened years ago and it still comes up in conversation.

Anyway, now I'm about to do a thorough vacuuming of the living room with the giant Rainbow unit, so nobody will ever know. SHHHHH.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My Life in Brief

Too busy. Life crazy. Here's a bullet-point summary of the couple of weeks since I last posted.

  • I freaking hate politics. This lengthy discussion demonstrates why quite nicely. Self-righteous at all? Nooooooo.
  • No tenemos tiempo de estudiar español. Therefore today's test will be crap, unlike last week's. Why, again, did we think this was a good idea?
  • I did not win this contest. Then last night I had a nightmare about the novel manuscript I'd sent to the contest. Bodes not well, but I'm still going to send out another query.
  • I hate it when I e-mail to ask for writer's guidelines and nobody bothers to reply.
  • I'm eating too much and not exercising enough. Although, to my credit, both days this weekend that we went out for giant meals, we didn't really eat much for dinner. Unfortunately, one of those meals (the Chinese New Year lunch) seemed to be MSG-laden because we both got headaches. Anyway, must go to gym tomorrow.
  • Romanesco CauliflowerOrganic Romanesco cauliflower = yum, once you rinse the tiny bugs off. We had never seen or eaten one of these before, but it was good in a frittata.
  • Soccer soccer soccer soccer.

So, yeah. More coherency is promised soon.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Image Gallery Goodness

After much toil and trouble (and finding out that I couldn't export JPGs directly from PDFs and expect them to work--who knows why), I've finally got my long-awaited image gallery! YAY! Celebrate with me, because it's totally awesome! Or don't. Or, if you find a problem, you can tell me about that, too, so I can fix it.

I have to tell you, though, the weird JPG/PDF thing really threw me for a loop. I was convinced that it was a coding issue, and I'd made some strange conflicting CSS rules in my awkward lumbering monster of a style sheet, but then--after a poor night's sleep from obsessing over it--I realized that there WAS one image displaying and it was directly from a digital photo. The other two test images I'd created in Acrobat from poster PDFs and then resized in Photoshop. And, for some mysterious reason, those images did not want to display on my page. Go figure. I'm just glad I figured it out--and glad it wasn't a CSS problem. Unfortunately, it took me all morning to figure that out, as I methodically removed items one by one from my style sheet to see which one might be the problem. Then, when none were the problem I was forced to conclude it was something about the images themselves.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Oooh, the Purtiness....

YEAH! I have absolutely, definitively found the image gallery I want to set up on my personal site. It's awesome. I love it. You can set up sets of images with captions. It's simple and classy. Best of all, it's really easy to set up (or it should be, anyway). That part is important, since I'm a computer dumbass. Also, the other good thing is that it doesn't involve server-side installation, or require PHP or MySQL. Those are things I would have to actually pay for with my web hosting provider. Plus they're things I don't understand or know how to work with, which usually makes things difficult. (I say usually, because I don't really know JavaScript but I can work with it on a very basic level, like installing scripts onto my web pages and even sometimes customizing them.)

Anyway, Lokesh Dhakar--the creator of the Lightbox image gallery, is my new web page hero. He rocks. And his blog is pretty cool, too--I like the little graphics that scale larger or smaller to indicate the number of comments on a blog post. Those are nifty. I'm looking forward to implementing Lightbox on my site and finally providing the long-promised image gallery.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Productive Procrastination

We all have our little ways of putting off the stuff we have to do. And the more stuff I have to do--the more I think about my to-do list, and add items to the list, and break items down into still more items; the more I look around my house and see tiny messes everywhere--the more creative ways I find of procrastinating.

My favorite methods of procrastination, though, are the ones which I can fool myself into thinking are actually productive activity. And, in fact, they usually are, to some extent. Just not productive in the sense of finishing up work or housecleaning.

  • Exercising. There's no doubt: exercising is good for you. I hear it's been medically proven or something. I can't say I love exercising, though I do enjoy it. But I enjoy it a whole lot more when I have, say, a long list of crap I gotta do at home or on the computer, and I decide that I'm going to take a break and go to the gym for an hour or two. This works particularly well when I have something I really don't want to do, or if I'm supposed to be writing but I'm creatively bummed out. Sure, I didn't get the stuff I was supposed to do, done. I was too busy attending to my health. Uh, yeah, that's it. And sometimes, on rare occasions, I get lucky and feel energized when I'm done, and get more accomplished than I'd originally planned. Like I said, though--those are lucky days.
  • Cooking. This might be my top-favorite-number-one way to procrastinate. I mean, firstly, I love cooking. Secondly, I love eating. Thirdly, my husband loves eating. If I cook, we get to eat cool stuff. And you gotta eat, right? Right. Also, ever since we've been getting our weekly CSA box, we have more interesting vegetables to experiment with. They're practically begging me to cook them. Cooking makes me feel like I've done a whole bunch of work, plus there's that built-in reward at the end.

There are some dubiously productive ways of procrastinating, too. Like blogging. This blog entry is pure time wastage. But if I'm blogging for the YA writing blog, I feel like it's somewhat work-related. Same goes for reading. I can sit on the couch for a long-ass time with a book and tell myself I'm just doing required research. After all, I'm a writer, right? I have to keep current in my field, right? Sure.

And on that note...time to get some actual work done. Really. I mean it this time. Here I go.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Unexpected Uses for "Creative" Writing

Hey, it's me. No, really. I've been here. It's just that I've been in non-blogging mode for a few days. I haven't even logged onto Facebook for a bit--one of my newer sources of procrastination and enjoyable non-productivity. I did blog on Finding Wonderland a few times this week, including a new Toon Thursday today (in case you haven't checked it out, I do a somewhat weekly writing-related cartoon on the writing blog. click here to see the archives.).

Today I found an unexpected new use for my writing skills--a friend of ours, the contractor who helped us build our addition, needed assistance writing a letter to his insurance company disputing how they handled a claim for the leakage of his roof. Since he and his wife are both second-language English speakers, he asked Rob and I for help in writing the letter. This turned out to be a two-hour job, during which we had to quiz him about what happened when, what various inspectors said, etc. etc.

I have to admit, though--in a way it was kind of fun to write blatantly manipulative sentences like "I was further alarmed by the failure of the inspectors to adequately identify themselves as agents of the insurance company." It took way too much mental effort, but at least all those years of writing business letters as a temp finally came in handy. Hopefully our friend gets his claim settled.

Speaking of creative writing, though, insurance policies just baffle me. I remember trying to look up something in our own homeowner's insurance policy when we had a plumbing issue, and I remember thinking, "Dude, they don't cover shit!" And today, when I looked at our friend's policy (from a different company), I thought, "Dude, they don't cover shit!" It was virtually the same--a veritable morass of exclusions. It amazes me that anything is ever covered. The only reason our plumbing issue was covered was that the plumber was a cool dude and said he'd give an appropriate reason that would necessitate coverage. I would normally not think that our friend has a chance, but maybe "I believe that the inspectors made a decision about the viability of our claim before adequately assessing the damage" will help.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

From the Inland Empire to the O.C....

Jeez, seems like I never have time to blog anymore. We just got back a few hours ago from a visit to the many branches of my family tree in Southern Cal. It was actually a surprisingly good visit. We went to see an incredible, awesome movie--Juno, which I highly recommend--with my mom and stepdad, and had an amazingly chill visit with my dad, stepmom, and stepsister on Sunday, and a good visit with my aunt and uncle earlier today on our way out. We also got to visit my younger cousin in her new digs--she moved out of her parents' house a few months ago and is very excited to be in her own place (well, with a roommate). She called looking for my advice not too long ago because her dad (my uncle) didn't seem to be dealing well with her moving out; but I know he'll come around, and she's good with the parental visits--she comes over at least once a week. They only live about half an hour away.

It's hard for them, though--my uncle is a little traditional in some ways, and my cousin is a hairstylist and Starbucks barista with numerous tattoos. Not exactly what he was envisioning, I'm sure. Her younger sister is graduating with her BA this upcoming May, which makes him a little happier, but I know he's not looking forward to the empty nest. Poor Uncle.

I can't believe I had such a positive visit with my dad. Usually I'm super stressed when we go over there, and if he's in a bad mood...well, both my parents are the type of people who can affect an entire room or situation with their mood. If they're happy, everyone's relaxed or at least non-stressed. If they're not happy, then everyone feels like they're walking on eggshells. This time, my dad was in a really good mood, and showed us pictures from his latest vacation to Dubai and India (Kerala, Delhi, and Bombay), including numerous cousins and second cousins and so forth whom I've never met but are apparently incredibly successful lawyers or something.

My dad finally sold his stupid Quizno's franchise, which was a retarded idea to begin with, in my opinion, especially during his retirement, for God's sake. Now he's back to just consulting (he used to be an electronics engineer/systems analyst) and semi-retirement. So I think that's probably made him much happier, and as a result, our visit was far less awkward than usual. AND, he actually spent a fair amount of time asking me about my writing projects and apparently also listening to the answers, which is amazing. I was floored by that part. Usually he asks questions but then interrupts me when I'm halfway through the answer. So I guess he's calming down a little.

Anyhoo, I seriously need to get back to blogging regularly, and I still owe y'all pictures of the addition, with the press moved into the studio and everything. I swear, it'll be soon...