Thursday, July 31, 2008

Birthday Bowling Bash

Made it through another one! None of the pictures of us bowling came out all that well, other than a hilarious one of Professor E. which I can't post because I think she might murder me. So you'll have to settle for this.

The shirt, which was a gift from Rat Girl and Designing Woman, says "Hello, my name is NINJA." Just in case you couldn't tell...

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Short Quiz

Q: Why did it rain last night?

A. Because I left my car window down.
B. Because I left the lawnmower out.
C. Because I just watered the garden.
D. All of the above.

Write your answer on a white 3 x 5 index card in black or blue-black ink, and deposit it in the nearest storm drain for your chance to win a fabulous no-prize. Thanks for playing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

No, I Don't--So Stop Fucking Asking

The song "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" has been stuck in my brain on infinite loop for 3 days now. It becomes particularly noticeable when I am trying to figure out, for the 18th time, why Google Maps has given me completely different directions to the San Jose Ramada Limited than it did the last time I asked it. I've been doing a lot of driving in the Super PT-mobile--from Sausalito to SJ, from SJ to San Fran and back, from SJ to Monterey and Back, from SJ to Berkeley and back. Each time I have asked Google for clarification, the directions on how to get from the 101 to the Ramada differ. As a result, I have gotten turned around and lost EVERY DAMN TIME I come back to the hotel. Screw google. I'm on my own with the Avis map from here on out.

The reason I've been hoofing it all over the Bay is partly the fault of work, and partly the fault of She Who Bakes. I haven't seen her in over 3 years, so we've had a lot to catch up on. On Wednesday, she had me meet her at a very chic diner-turned-chef's-paradise called Canteen. They have assigned seating times--everyone gets seated at 7:30, orders from a choice of 4 starters, 4 entrees, and 4 desserts, and then they serve everyone simultaneously. Very elegant--and it's in a converted diner with a rusty old clock on the wall, chrome-edged counter, and vinyl booths. Things were off to a chaotic start, as due to the aforementioned fact that Palo Alto was on fire my allowing 1.5 hours to get into the city from SJ went from generous to holy crap I'm not going to make it. I got to the door of the place at EXACTLY 7:30, panting and red-faced. But soon calmed down, and we had a fantastic dinner. (Tomato/basil soup, pork schnitzel with paprika sauce, celery, and a poached egg, and glazed peaches with fresh ginger.) Last night I drove out to She Who Bakes' place in Berkeley, where we had a great pizza and she presented me with cookies from her own hands. I'm putting miles on the car, but it's all in the service of great food.

PSA Addendum: Karen was kind enough to link us to the Is California On Fire? website, which will answer that question for you on an up-to-the-minute basis. Apparently that service is provided by the same folks who bring you the answer to the burning question, Is Barack Obama a Muslim?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cruisin' the Bay

Having a great time in CA; how could it not be great with a neon blue PT Cruiser at my command? Thank you, Avis!

However, I have noticed a distinct downside to California, namely that it is apparently ALWAYS ON FIRE. Driving from San Jose into SF last night I was trapped in a traffic snarl resulting from not one, but TWO brush fires rolling clouds of smoke across the 101. For someone from the midwest, where roadside fires are primarily caused by exploding cars, this is unprecedented. I'm off to Monterey today, and no doubt it will be on fire too. Fortunately they have crack squads of sea lion first responders to take care of these things...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm Still Preoccupied...With 1985...

So last night I had a co-worker over to watch Ladyhawke, which is still hands-down my favorite sword and sorcery movie ever. There is nothing I do not like about this movie. And that includes the now-very-80's-sounding synthesizer-driven soundtrack. I love it. I love that kind of music in a fantasy movie--it's a fantasy, dammit! If I wanted to hear a fake medieval soundtrack, I'd go watch Excalibur again. (No, the Carmina Burana isn't real medieval music. Not that I don't like the Carmina, mind you--but real medieval music isn't nearly that stirring. I might have to watch Excalibur again anyway... I love that bit where you can totally see the film crew guy running across the background while Lancelot and Guenevere are doing it. Wait, what was I talking about again? Oh, yeah.)

So yes, I love heavily electrified music in my fantasy movies. The guitar solos totally make that movie. I don't think it sounds dated or goofy at all. And I'm firmly convinced my own life would be vastly improved with the addition of a looped soundtrack from the Alan Parsons Project. (Or Blue Oyster Cult. One or the other.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Great Bookpile Disaster of '08

Many of you who've visited my happy home know that I have a pretty massive bookshelf in the living room. (OK, whoever just said, "Where? I couldn't see it for all the piles of crap lying around!" can just shut the hell up.) It's floor to ceiling, and crammed full with books on the topics of history, more history, art, religion, science, travel... and history. It's where non-fiction books go. Some of you might also know that I have a bookshelf next to the fish tank in the office. It's where I keep huge-ass hardback books--my Complete Shakespeare is here, and my Lewis Carroll anthology--as well as graphic novels and antiquarian books. What 99.9% of you have never encountered is the Fiction Pile in the Back Closet.

While I don't read a whole lot of fiction these days, I do own a hell of a lot of it that's accumulated over the years. This store of mostly mass-market sized paperbacks can be divided into two categories: Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Everything Else. When I lived in Chicago, I had a little wood bookshelf that I'd built myself which was where the SF/F lived, and Other Fiction was at my parents' in storage. The little bookshelf got full, so I got another very little bookshelf to handle the overage, and that was fine. Then I moved, and moved again, and eventually my parents, unreasonable beasts that they are, asked if I might consider taking some of my books back into my own custody. So I had two little bookshelves of SF/F, and a cardboard box of Other. The cardboard box sat on the floor of the passthrough between my bedroom and bathroom for several years, until I tried to move it and it broke, sending a cascade of fiction onto the floor. A normal person would have seen this as a sign from god to build another damn bookshelf and get on with it. I saw it as a sign that god didn't want me to use the pass-through anymore, stacked the books loosely around on the floor, quietly shut both doors and began venturing to the bathroom the long way around.

Meanwhile, somewhere in here, the SF/F collection was growing--through no fault of my own, people keep giving me books!--and then one of the cats jumped up on the small bookshelf and then launched themselves to a windowsill, knocking the shelf over and sending books flying in all directions. Hm, I thought, this is a good opportunity to reorganize that shelf and fit in some of the additional books I've had sitting around... I'll just put them in the passthrough with the other fiction until I have time to do that.

I don't think I really need to spell this out for you here. This little closet-space was knee-deep in slightly musty, randomly-sorted paperbacks for over a year, and I was cheerfully and successfully ignoring the whole mess. THEN. Then, as is my wont, I suddenly decided I needed to find a particular book. (Peter S. Beagle's The Rhinoceros Who Quoted Nietzsche. But that's beside the point.) I opened the closet door, avalanches of books slid everywhere, and I was keenly reminded that I am a horrible, unforgivably lazy slob as I kicked my way through the seething mass of paper, dust, cat hair, and guilt. (I didn't even find that damn Beagle book. But that's beside the point.)

I took a vow that I would not rest until I had at least restored the sci-fi to its original home in the two small bookshelves, neatly alphabetized and dusted. I culled through the heap, removing books I'd never really wanted to read in the first place, duplicate copies of things I'd acquired who knows how, and finally had it winnowed down to the point where I could fit it perfectly on the two little shelves, just like the days of yore, and began to impose order.

AdamsAlexanderAnthonyBeagleBradburyBrinBurroughsBullCardCarroll(Jonathan not Lewis) ChestertonClarkeCrispinDickEddingsGibson (and more Gibson, and more Gibson) HandHeinleinHowardHughartKressLeGuinLewisLovecraft (where on earth did I get all these Lovecraft paperbacks with the ugly-ass covers?) McCaffreyMcCrumbMcKinleyMillerMoonMoorcockMorrowPratchettPullmanRobinsonRowling (British "adult"covers only, I happily chucked my ugly American copy of "Sorceror's Stone" into the bag to go to halfprice) StephensonTepperTolkienVarleyWangerinWellsWilliamsWillis and....and... DAMN YOU TO HELL ROGER ZELAZNY, I ONLY OWN ONE OF YOUR FREAKIN' BOOKS AND THE SHELF IS #@%$£¢ FULL!!!!

I swear, if Lord of Light hadn't been a gift from an ex-boyfriend I'd have chucked it right out the window then and there. I'm crabby when I'm optimizing.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Up, Down, and All Around

So yes, I'm back from my vacation over the pond and have had several days to recover. My stress levels peaked about 24 hours before departure (which is pretty typical for me, really) and by the time I left I was in full-on "oh well fuck it, if I forgot something then the hell with it" mode. So naturally, I forgot my toothbrush. The one thing you really, REALLY want to have on the plane after 12 hours in transit. Pleh.

As to where I went, Charles, it's almost a question of where didn't I went? I got into London early morning on Sunday and fumbled my way from Gatwick to Charleton; I was visiting my friend L., who needed to be at work in North Wales Monday-Tuesday. So Sunday we went to Leeds and then returned to watch Dr. Who with her husband, J. Then up to Wales for 2 days, during which she worked like a stevedore and I pottered around looking at castles (Beaumaris and Caernarfon) and the scenery around Snowdon. Then Wednesday it was down to the south of England--L. is originally from Sussex, so we meandered down there to visit her mom, went to Arundel Castle Thursday, back up to London Friday for some sightseeing and beer drinkin'. Then away back home again. L. was an utter trooper the entire week and figured out the morass of travelling by rail in Britain. It used to be so easy! When I was there 10 years ago, on my stopover en route to Kenya, I bopped around on cheap day returns out of London without external assistance for nearly a week; it was so easy an American could do it. But now the system's privatized, the different rail systems don't all play well with one another, and "cheap" is no longer an operative word. A particularly egregious moment--to get from Worthing to London/Charleton via London Bridge, I got a ticket for £19.50. Over at the next window, L. requested a ticket from Worthing to London Bridge, since she had a commuter travel card that would allow her to go London Bridge to Charleton. Her ticket was £22. Luckily she overheard my transaction before the sale was completed: "Wait, I'm going 4 stops fewer than she is, and her ticket is £2.50 less???" The cashier squinted at his screen for a few minutes, tapped at some keys, and then said, sheepishly, "Yes." "Right, one ticket for Charleton, please."

Overall it was a fantastic time. The weather was great, I took hundreds of photos of castles and ruins and L.'s garden; although a day did not go by where I did not spend at least an hour on a train of some description, even that was a blast and I couldn't have asked for better.