Thursday, May 31, 2007


The people at Making Light are warped sick frightening individuals, which is why they've been able to keep the site lively and entertaining even when their hosts are away. They've formulated some useful theorems, too, such as the one about how any work of science fiction (or any fiction, really) is improved by the addition of dinosaurs and sodomy, and that anyone who uses the term "you people" in an online discussion is an unredeemable troll. There's a pretty solid group of regulars who post, many of them pros in the SF publishing field, and the sheer level of erudition that happens in the comments thread is intimidating. I usually watch from the sidelines and pick up things like truffle recipes and coqz heaumez.

John M. Ford, known to his friends as Mike, was one of my favorite contributors, especially when he was posting off-the-cuff poetry to leave readers slackjawed and often howling with glee. Check out his sonnet on entropy, which is a solid emotional kick in the gut, much as "110 Stories" was, and then cleanse your palate with "Harry of Five Points," where he managed to write gangster-and-moll slang in neat iambic pentameter AND bastardized French and to hit all the major plot points of the first few scenes of "Henry V." I figured, when he died last year, that there was no justice in the world and that the days of found poetic joy on Making Light were over.

I am glad to be wrong on the second count. Look upon their works, ye lolcats, and despair.

LOLcat for the Makers
John Dunbar (c. 1500)

I that in heill wes and gladnes
Am trublit now with great sicknes
My sicklie stait is no surprise:

Death sovran is of all the tubez,
Of rich, of poor, of l33t, of n00bz;
No mortal shal escaip his eyis:

Al flesh is dust; we are but bones;
Baith knight and maid he freely pwns;
Against his glanse brooks no disguyse;

He draws al to his dark bucket;
Whoe'er ye be, ye're surely f***kit;
The Walrus wil not sympathise;

Our base are al belong to Death
And have done since our natal breath
(This point I'd like to emphasise):

Sunday, May 27, 2007

O hai, I updating ur argentina posts

Yay! I am chock with thrill. As regular readers may or may not recall, someone on this blog (*cough*) was dumb enough to get her camera trashed not long after she arrived in the Argentine region of P------. And against all laws of karma, one of the women who was on the trip (and who is still in that region, for which she is to be envied, because oh my God the DC summer humidity, it's HERE) has gotten in touch and sent along a generous serving of photos from the trekking we did in the mountains near the Chilean border. F'rinstance, below, there's this one of me, Britling whose name I don't remember, and Sophie, who swore after this trip that she was never ever going camping ever again. (Best quote: "FUCK the bloody view, I just want to get off this goddamned mountain.") We're all wearing as many of our own clothes as possible, as well as ponchos provided for the trek, and we're well fortified with hot wine--mulled was the idea, boiled the reality--lots of asado and chocolate, mate, and a blazing fire. We are also still freezing our nadgers off.

Lots more photos are available on Gel's gallery, here (for the trek in the Andes) and here (life at the estancia). I don't want to post all of them at once, but I particularly like this one of half our guide team looking cheerful and vampiric. Standing travelogue line: "It was when our otherwise impeccably mannered guide turned out to be a member of the ghastly undead that I realized that this trip would not be the beer-and-skittles expedition we had all discussed in the comfort of the club."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I call upon the power of anerable

The blue heeler owned by the guy we rode with in Arizona had recently had puppies, so the house was surrounded by an electrostatic haze of round-bellied lolloping little yippers. Is it possible to be cuter than this? God, I hope not. The human mind can only take so much.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Post-show wrap-up

The show this weekend was hella fun. Doc and I were in six events, which sounds like a lot, but only two (Western horsemanship and trail) were competitions; the other four were demonstrations. Not-so-secretly, they were also recruiting tools for the Western program, as we figured that if we got the crowd all psyched up, some of them might register for spots in the classes.

The first event was Western horsemanship, which is designed to rate both rider and performance. Doc always runs hot at first, and since he hadn't been ridden at more than a walk all morning, the lope shared certain qualities with the cavalry charge. We placed third, which was fine, and the judge gave me clear comments on why we had gotten that spot, so I was relatively satisfied with it. Doc did his best; I did mine; fiat.

The Powers That Be decided not to risk losing the crowd by running back to another ring for the trail competition, so we stayed in the big ring and did all the demo events first. Teacherwoman explained each event, but more to the point, she was firm with the crowd about the inadvisability of golf-clapping at Western events, and encouraged the crowd to do a lot of hooting and shrieking. (A small boy came up to Doc as we were waiting between events and said, "Do you know what I was yelling when he was going? 'What's up DOC!' Because like Bugs Bunny!" He was puzzled, though, when I hollered for Sterling, and asked his teacher, in a tone of some distress, "Why did that lady just say OW?") Doc and I basically blew it on the reining; he was so keyed up by the whooping and hollering and speed that all the bits that involved stopping ended up being washes. He did beautifully on the spins, though, and the crowd was enthusiastic. Part of the appeal was probably the novelty; Doc so rarely gets to show off his speed and power, and he's got a rep as a sweetheart, so seeing him all flashy and fast and obviously wired up tickled the regulars and the fan club.

Following the speedy deployment of the ring crew, it was time for pole-bending, an event in which the competitors run up a line of slalom poles, run back by weaving through the poles, spin, weave back up the line, and then bolt down the opposite side. It's a timed event, with penalties for missing or knocking over poles, and it favors small flexible horses. not small or flexible. But we missed only one pole and managed not to slam me into any of them (I have a smokin' bruise on one arm from doing that in class), so again, I was happy enough. Teacherwoman took one of the barn's spookiest QH's through the course perfectly, to general delight: Okie looked shell-shocked, but by God he got his ass through the poles and back as though he had been doing it for years. Teacherwoman can ride.

The third event, cloverleaf barrels, is another one that favors the wee and bendy, but if I had done a better job setting up for the first barrel, we would've done perfectly. As it was, we nailed it for the second and third barrels, at least in the sense of getting around cleanly and fairly fast, and Doc flattened himself out for a flat bolt to the exit, as is the approved rodeo style. Our time was more than double the standard for professional competition. Yow.

The final demo event was versatility, a timed combination of pretty much everything that had gone before: a line of poles to slalom, two barrels for a figure-8, and a low jump. By that point Doc was so damn hot that it was a struggle to keep him on course, but we managed it fine and he did a perfect jump over the crossbars. I was impressed by the teenager who rode Okie through the course; he thought hard about shying from the jump, but she easily pressed him into it. Lots of hollering for that.

After all that excitement, the trail course was a bit of a comedown. Trail courses are combinations of obstacles designed to test how a horse will handle things you might encounter on the trail: flapping jackets, things to step over or through or around, stuff to pick up and carry. This one involved dismounting to pick up a purse, remounting with it in hand (at this point, the course discriminates against people with tall horses, oh me achin' hip), and riding over to put the purse down on the rail; crossing a curving array of poles decorated with fake greenery; grabbing a rain jacket off a pole and rubbing it over the horse before hanging it back up; riding through an L-shaped chute and then backing through it; and finally riding over a tarp. Doc didn't back too well (or I didn't cue him correctly), but he just sniffed at the tarp and sighed with boredom at the coat, so we got third.

Last year I went home with a first and a fourth, but I honestly feel happier with the results this year. The riders who beat us did a better job, but both Doc and I tried to do our best, and we enjoyed it; last year, Outlaw pretty nearly threw me on the trail course when he spooked at the tarp and the jacket, and he did switch into a flat gallop during the horsemanship event, eventually trying to fling himself at jumps that were still set up in the ring. Exciting? Yes. Fun? Less so.

This year, terrifying experiences in Argentina and lots of practice with El Doctor have made me a more confident rider, and part of the confidence is knowing that you can screw up and still come out happy. Nobody bleeding? Call it a win. Call it a blue ribbon. Call it a real good day.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mm, the yummiest emotion

May I commend the World Bank employees for their sense of humor. According to the Washington Post, they greeted the news of Wolfowitz's departure with a rousing chorus of "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." In a similar spirit, John Scalzi has the appropriate recipe: Schadenfreude Pie. Enjoy it in good health, and remember that more than a small slice will fill you with regret.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lloyd Alexander, 1924-2007

"I confess to a certain number of regrets and misgivings,” he said, “which could not possibly interest you, so I shall not burden you with them. On the other hand, here is something I am sure will interest you. And burden you, too, for the matter of that.”

Lloyd Alexander, author of the Chronicles of Prydain, the Westmark Trilogy, and a number of other fantasy works for children, has died of cancer at the age of 83. It is his version of the Horned King who came to mind when I first read the G.K. Chesterton quote about fairy tales telling us not that monsters exist, but that they can be beaten. I vividly remember reading the Chronicles, battered paperback copies from the local branch of the county library, some with the Disney covers and some with the rather grimmer paintings of the Cauldron Born menacing Taran, when I was around 10 years old. I also remember not realizing how deeply involved I was until the last page of The High King, when Alexander pulls the camera back and talks about the characters fading into history, then into myth, until people argued over whether Eilonwy and Taran and Gurgi and the rest had ever even existed. I stared at that page for a long time, thinking about how real the characters had been and oozing tears, and I wondered whether growing up was worth the trouble.

Thanks forever to Mr. Alexander, and may he find himself "in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Eurovision 2007

It's never easy to pick the Eurovision winner. Will it be this writhing chanteuse in two strips of gauze, or that freaky-themed group of unnaturally tan boys from Norway? Lordi can't enter every year, lest we face the arockalypse.

But I do b'lieve I've found my favorite for 2007. (Edited to add a caveat: Dracula is "dangerous like Tupac." Don't say you weren't warned.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Everything looks beautiful

I sing the open market electric today, because my ticket to New York cost $20. Competition from the mysterious Chinatown bus system (where do they pick you up? where do they stop? will you be allowed to pay only once? answers hazy and variable) has evidently forced Greyhound/Peter Pan to match rates, and that's a good thing. Also excellent, and almost balancing out the DC bus station's inexcusable lack of coffee, was that the bus VCR rebelled at the thought of having to show a Robin Williams family comedy, so I was spared the bowdlerized "RV" and was able to catch some sleep on the way up.

The reason for the trip, of course, was to see Seesterperson in her team's first official bout. She was understandably nervous but said that she was focusing on her two goals: not puking, and not being obviously the worst person on the team. Everyone in her cheering section was pleased to see that she managed both of those, and the fact that the team won was icing on the cake. I was with one of her college friends and one of his acting friends, both of whom were good company and who cheered mightily for Seesterperson and the teams (we golf-clapped for the opposition, except that at the end we whooped for them too, because they skated their asses off even though they were severely short of players). College friend was completely thrilled with the event, swearing that it was like NASCAR except understandable and performed by tough chicks in miniskirts and/or short shorts, developments he favored. He's got a pretty good write-up of it, too.

Saturday morning I crassly abandoned Seesterperson and took the bus into the city to meet up with Serial Karma, who trekked allll the way in from Brooklyn just so that we could have brunch and I could realize that I forgot the picture of the hot tangoing guys I bought her in Buenos Aires. D'oh. We wandered around Chelsea/Hell's Kitchen for a bit and found a street table at Marseille, a French-Moroccan place that provided (a) excellent strange cocktails, (b) a phenomenal merguez-egg scramble with creme fraiche, and (c) a view of someone who might or might not have been Larry David across the street. I am surprisingly good at spotting people I know in New York and usually bad at spotting the famous, so kudos to her for being a sharp eye. She's also looking awesome and had gotten some catcalls on the way in. She gave high marks to the guy who simply said, "You're beautiful," because simple and sincere is best when you're complimenting a stranger. Take note, y'all.

Aaand in a little less than a week Doc and I are supposed to do a reining demo for the barn's amateur show. This will not be rodeo quality by any stretch of the imagination, because we can't do sliding stops, the boy is a little too old to be perfectly supple, and I'm not much of a trainer, but we should get to show off rollbacks and spins and, most fun of all, flying lead changes, which Doc seems to adore showing off. I will not be nervous. I won't. I...shit.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Smoke 'em while you've got 'em

I've heard the jokes about Minneapolis having two seasons, road repair and snow removal (or is it road removal and snow repair?), and sometimes in despair I think the same thing about the DC area. Granted, our roads rarely seem to actually get better, but the weather does go from being raw and nasty to ghastly humid and hot, and the bits in between are easy to forget. But finally, FINALLY, May is getting it together.

I took advantage of the gorgeous weather last night to work Doc out on the trails. There not being much to do in Texas, I had watched a lot of RFD TV, which is great when it's showing horsemanship programs and either boring or actively irritating when it's showing tractor episodes or country music, respectively. (Anyone who ever wondered about the special hell? It's Branson, Missouri. Now straighten up and live right.) One of the horse guys, Clinton Anderson and His Teeth, did a special on using trail obstacles like trees and rocks to give your horse a chance to practice outside the ring, and what with the weather being gorgeous, Doc and I spent about 20 minutes doing slalom courses and figure eights around the beeches and working on side passes to get around pebbles. He remains very suspicious of the deer, which is a pity because they are surprisingly persistent for creatures that project such a sense that they might run off at any minute. "Aaaany minute now, just give us timorous beasties the excuse," they seem to say, and yet they're still there a minute later, chewing their cud and startling the horses. Doc wanted to keep an eye on them, but we moved farther into the woods and he relaxed. We stopped and backed and went forward and sideways and wound through the trees, and he handled all of it with his usual calm.

The thing is, Doc is what they call bombproof. He is unflappable; he is basically flap-free. This is great for the barn, which can put the therapeutic riding kids and the little beginner kindergarteners and terrified adults (he's a big lad) on him, and at most he will sigh and reach to rub his nose on a nearby post. That keeps him working, but it also means that he rarely gets to do anything interesting under saddle. Getting him into Western classes, though, we found that he loves to run, with a great leaping canter that's less rocking horse and a lot more ship in the high seas. Put another horse next to him at that speed, and by God you'd better be ready for the gallop. He also gets a kick out of jumping, pricking his ears up and stretching forward if you so much as point him at a crossbar. So we did both of those, kicking up great amounts of dust and flying over low jumps for a little while, and I probably had a big stupid grin on my face for most of it. We finished up with another stroll past the still-suspect deer and through the gloaming. I don't know what he thinks about our work together, but I can't get enough of it.

In other news, the Goo is now filled with gravitas, and I for one had the hangover to prove it.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

I reckon yeh might've been sleck

Ah, the famous "apologies for lack of updates post" finally strikes mah blog. I plead the extraordinary slowness of (a) life and (b) internet down in rural Texas.

La Mere and I made our way back to Austin early on Wednesday. W
e got up at o-dark-thirty so as to have time to stop in for Berdoll's pecans outside of town and to revisit the Tamale House. This time we actually tried the breakfast tacos, which are 85 cents and so full of greasy awesome that it's almost impossible to describe. The eggs are cooked in pork fat, in skillets that are seasoned with at least five years of the stuff, and the bacon is in thick-cut country-style bits; the tortillas are fresh and warm, and in general I would love to know why these things haven't taken over the country. The masses deserve breakfast tacos!

To make up for the lack of substance, I offer a photo of recent entertainment in Arizona, on what turned out to be a very bad day for the calves. Could've been worse, guys; at least Danny leaves your oysters alone. Can you find the editor, the public health advocate, the cabinetmaker, and the dentist in this picture?