Monday, June 30, 2008

"A library is just a genteel black hole that can read"

The evidence suggests that L-space governs really good used bookstores as well. Whenever we visit Seesterperson, I wheedle a trip over to her town's bookstore, which combines the virtues of a widely varied stock, an eccentrically organized system, and a comprehensive computerized inventory: you can poke around the shelves for hours, waiting for luck or inspiration or your credit limit to strike, or you can go straight to the counter and have your prey bagged and tagged in a matter of minutes. I generally take a combination approach, bolting back to the front to ask for coordinates on anything particular that comes to mind as I stroll, collecting whatever it is (muahahaha, half-price Sapolsky books, you are mine) and then picking back up in that general area, meandering along, head turned sideways in that enquiring-Scops-owl posture so ideal for cruising the stacks. Doing this back-and-forth routine for things in the general history and sciences section has the added benefit of a quads workout, since those shelves are filed on the second floor (ground floor: sociology, children's books, comics, trade fiction in paperback; basement, hardcovers and vintage; interstitial areas, literary biographies). Should I ever go a-missing, this will be the absolute first place to check.

Doin' my part for Joss

Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The warm fuzzies, the big explosions

Give whoever made this ad for Discovery a simply enormous pile of dollars, because hot damn is it well done. The guy singing at the 39-second mark was originally my favorite, for the little grin he gets, but then there's the Mythbusters and THEN there's Stephen Hawking. So kudos on building up the level of star power and being an excellent example of how to do a commercial for a big sprawling pile of products under a single brand name.

As part of my zenly austerity campaign and attempt not to spend excess of time sitting couchbound, I don't have cable, so this ad had flown beneath my personal radar until this morning. To paraphrase Tim Cahill, it's not a problem when you miss a joke, but you feel a little left out when it shoots past without even waving, and at the risk of sounding a skosh one-note, that's what this morning's xkcd felt like. Once you've seen the video, though, further fangirlish swoonin' must ensue, as must frantic back-clicking through the strip's archives to solve some mysteries: (a) Who is that masked man? (b) What's in that wriggling package? (c) What's he doing on that roller coaster? and (d) What the hell is up with the hamster-ball fixation?

The world is making an unpromising few days up to me in compensatory weird lately, a trend of which I whole-heartedly approve. In getting contact info for someone I met at last night's F&F entertainment (an hour of assembling meal bags, then an hour of ladling cold bean soup into individual tupperwares, all while fetchingly clad in hairnet, plastic apron, and latex gloves and watched over by eagle-eyed, short-tempered chefs only slightly less cute than Gordon Ramsay), I encountered the term "laminar flames," which led to a web search on Navier-Stokes equations. Fire engineering: yet another kick-ass field of which I am 100% as-the-driven-snow-pure ignorant. I love the whole world, and all its craziness.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A day without a night

A week without a horse. Sniff! What with Pat being unavailable this week and Western suspended for the duration (dressage at least is usually in the shady indoors; Western in the outdoor rings plus DC's muggy haze is no fun), I have not been in the saddle in over a week. It begins to get worrisome. On the plus side, free Thursdays mean I can get over to a Food and Friends session or two, aka the most fun you can have while wearing a hairnet.

In apology for the lack of "and then we did a half-pass drill!" updates, herewith some Cappi photos from last week. Most of them aren't action shots, because dim light and no flash means slow shutter speed, which in turn means that all movements are ghostly and you cannot see the full horror of my heel position. Short Achilles tendons are not a rider's friends.

Not my typical leg position. Someone else does canter work; we observe. Cappi stretches out his back and I stretch out my legs. Breeches: most unflattering pants ever? Discuss. Secondary topic: awesomeness of half-chaps.

Toward the end of class, Cappi will go on the bit for a while. I lean forward too much when he does so, at least if this photo is typical. He looks very cute, though.

"You. With the camera. Make with the treats." Poor Cappi, forced to endure the horrors of grooming and modelposing while his supper sits unguarded.

[Thanks to 4mastjack for the pictures. Someday we'll do a session outside in the sun in decent weather...but that day is not this summer.]

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tuned to a dead channel

William Gibson was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame this weekend. Took 'em bloody long enough. My generation is full of post-teen boys and girls whose minds were permanently warped by Neuromancer's opening line, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel," and the subsequent razor-edged sadness that mixed Tom Waits melancholy with violence and a lashing of the 80s' fascination with all things Nippon. He'd written short fiction before that, but Neuromancer caught the moment when computers were starting to be imagined as glistening machines of possibility rather than slide rules in, at best, awkward android bodies, and he took it into the dystopian world with nothing but a faint pang. The oceans were screwed and the people wore plastic, but most of us wanted to visit that future and know those beautiful dysfunctional places.

I owe Gibson bigtime for introducing me to Joseph Cornell's work, but more for adding a gloss of slick strangeness to my adolescent mental landscape. These days the Sprawl seems like a wistful dream, in the face of warming seas and CO2 emissions, and his books' scope has narrowed too. But damn can that man write.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Th'impervious horror of a leeward shore

4mastjack was kind enough to come out to the barn on Wednesday to take some shots of the dressage class. The ring tends to be a bit dim, and out of concern for possible unplanned spaz attacks I'd asked him not to use flash, so not many of the shots came out. A few did, though, and I will post them so that everyone can peer at Cappi and decide whether he lives up to my hype of him. I'm not posting them yet, because I'm a lazy layabout and it has been A Week.

Dressage did go quite well, though, and one of the joys of the summer session is that most classes have been suspended, making it easier to get the horses we want and to run over on time without anyone tapping hooves impatiently at the gate. Cappi, mane neatly trimmed by the first week's teen campers, was his usual excellent self. We tried a new exercise, walking and then trotting an equilateral triangle, the tricks being to keep a straight line on each side and to make the 60-degree turns as crisply as possible. Cappi seems to love precision pivot work; after the first round, he took to enthusiastically bunching himself up and spinning almost entirely on his haunches at each corner, then trotting a perfect line to the next point. Sterling, who shared our space, was having more trouble mastering the concept, and if it were possible for horses to look smug, Cappi did. "Neener neener, a Morgan can do what an Arabian cannot." Who can blame him? In looking through the photos, I saw that we really for sure don't match in terms of body size—my legs trail down his sides practically far enough to touch his knees—but Pat agrees that we make a good match in an "Odd Couple" sort of way.

The week ended on a positive note, too. Our office has recently implemented a summer swingtime policy, so every other week half of us get to go home at noon on Fridays, work permitting. That last clause is the bugger, and I still have not entirely managed to take full advantage of the extra time, so ideal for slackin' and nappin' and general back-kickin'. But yesterday Ginsey and I were able to get out by about 2:30, and after long sober thought about how to best spend the precious gift of time, we headed for Lauriol Plaza and the huge vortex of their margarita machines. If there is a better way to spend a summer afternoon than sitting in the shade and sipping on high-octane boozy drinks, I want it hunted down and shot.

[ETA: "Mongol"! Starring some guys with hot cheekbones, a bazillion and two horses, and the entire mobile population of Kazakhstan. Y'all, just...DAMN.]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision

Well, the first two, anyway. The local media has lost its head completely over this whole election business and George Takei finally getting to marry his partner (aw) and our latest belt of storms and blah blah blah newscakes. That's the only possible explanation for their utter failure to put the release of Firefox 3 above the fold today. Hail the victorious browser!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Regrets, I've had a few

  • That I live in some kind of power sink where the electricity spooks and goes out whenever an angel sneezes. Today, the storms passed over, the clouds blew away, the sun came back...and click, darkness was on the face of the waters.
  • That I did not have my camera with me this weekend, when DC's Pride Week celebrations collided with Project Anonymous' pirate-themed protests, leading to some seriously double-plus good people-watching here in the city khakis built.
  • That it did not occur to me, as I made this recipe, that I could use amaretto instead of almond extract. The latter have I none, the former I think everyone over the age of 18 is required to have a nearly-full bottle of gathering dust somewhere in their living space. In fairness, however, oh man are those muffins delicious even without the touch of cyanate.
  • That my jaunt to our northern neighbor coincides both with the Canadian dollar knocking the humble U.S. greenback below the parity line AND with Quebec City's 400th anniversary. Poor planning. But the outfitters promise lake-fresh trout and long canters on the beach (totes a pickup line on some sites), wonderful comforts to the spirit. (Also, you can ask for a "Canadian breed" horse, a critter of whose existence I was not aware. They sound Morgany, though, so what's not to like?)
  • That I left Fire from Heaven in G-Clef's car yesterday, in my haste to get the five people's worth of Burmese food and Jamaican ice cream we'd gotten for dinner into the house before the smell drove everyone mad. The Herodotus is good but needs to go by in smaller bites, not hour-long stretches. A moot point, should the power not come back soon. Cf point the first.

Friday, June 13, 2008

I'm sorry, could you repeat that?

"So my neighbor comes out of his house in his underwear, carrying a chainsaw."

The first few minutes of dressage class are usually dedicated to girth adjustments, tweaks to stirrup length, and general checking-out of the horses' moods and stiffness. It's a good time for people to talk about changes to the schedule, injuries they're dealing with, fun things that happened over the weekend, and general gossip. This week, Pat won the prize, possibly unto the ages of ages amen, for her story about the gardening adventures of her next-door neighbor, a retired government employee with a florid and flourishing case of paranoid schizophrenia. His dominant fantasia involves elaborate government conspiracy, which is not an uncommon manifestation of mental illness in DC. (Someday, however, I write up my cross-town ride with the Craziest Cabbie in Washington, who both sincerely believed that he was the pharaoh and had the city's map and zone system down cold, a surreal combination that more than once made me wonder how much it would hurt to tuck-and-roll out of a moving vehicle.) One of his defenses is apparently to leave all his clothes inside the house, where the transmitters will be fooled, and to wander the lawn in his smalls. This time he accessorized with a chainsaw and headed for the property line. What with the half-naked delusional man heading in her direction avec power tool, Pat called the cops, whose response was, "Well, ma'am, there's no law against carrying a chainsaw and wearing just underwear. He's not a danger to himself or others." Wouldn't that sound great in court? Wacky Neighbor proceeded to lop off all the branches on one side of the trees at the edgy of his lawn, bordering Pat's, and retreat indoors. Further updates as we et cetera.

Everything after that was anticlimactic. I had appealed to the horse list to add Cappi to the class, on the grounds that he hadn't been out and that my toes would leave furrows in the ring if I rode 12.2-hand Nutmeg (Laura having been taken by the shortest girl in our class, although Laura's so big in the girth that even I feel like I'm doing the splits on her—what the hell, small woman?). WIKTORY: Cappi was mine. We tried leg-yields while walking a diagonal, which was tricker for me than for him, because he doesn't overthink, and did some pretty canter work. We didn't do so well with turns on the forehand, but we made up for it by getting a nice long reach-for-the-bit extension at the walk and jog, and himself won points for giving me a very gentle nuzzle after I dismounted. Sure he is the great horse of the world.

Simon the Western Wondah has finally been put into a hackamore, to general relief. The dentist who checked him out said that because he'd apparently never had his teeth floated, he had worn ulcers into his mouth where the sharp edges of his molars cut into the membranes. Simon seems puzzled by the new arrangement; he knows that after saddling and de-haltering there's bridling, but now it happens without him having to open his mouth? What is this? We're hoping that the hackamore and remedial dentistry will help him relax and become more responsive. Unfortunately, the bad habits of evasion he learned from the past ouches have lasted, and he spent a lot of our solo work trying to duck over to join the other ponies. After I spent a few rounds of loping sideways and trying to get his head up (take the cursing as read), MkII advised us to try circles at the walk with a very short inside rein and a crop in the outside hand. That worked for the short term, but really what Simon needs now is long-term work with the softer bridle so that he learns not to anticipate pain that will not come.

And now, off to find a cell phone. If anyone ever finds the dimension of lost ball-point pens, take a detour on your way back and figure out where all my bloody phones end up, would you?

Also sprach ZaraScalzi

Because it wasn't creepy-ass idiotic enough when one of their breathless newsdroids gasped that the Obama's fist-bump the night of Barack's win was a possible "terrorist fist jab," now Fox is referring to Michelle Obama as "Obama's Baby Mama." I am so chock with disgust I cannot formulate words. Fortunately, John Scalzi makes his living at it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

One last bout of xkcd wibble

Dear Mr. Munroe,
About that girlfriending thing?
Shameless fandom,

Monday, June 9, 2008

It's not just me

Aussie girls wrangle too. Apparently our hormones don't make us ineffective ranchers. WHO KNEW.

This weekend was dedicated to the laudable goal of not dying from sweat, as DC is suffering its first summer spasm of vile heat and humidity and my body reacted by rejecting all solid food. Tools of art for survival included Vietnamese pennywort juice (sweet and intensely green—would drink again), the first Slurpee of the year, the latest Indy Jones flick (pleh), a couple of ginger drinks with friends at the Piratz barrrh, multiple iced coffees, moving at no speed exceeding a mosey save when Saturday's storm broke, getting a severe haircut, and, when all else failed, clinging limpet-like to the AC vents while playing James McMurtry's "Where'd You Hide the Body" about three billion times.

I hear that it's a dry heat in the Outback. Wonder whether they still need jillaroos.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Dear Pepco,
Thank you for returning my power so that I could have a hot shower, make my own coffee, and read today's xkcd.

Dear Mr. Munroe,
May I be your imaginary girlfriend?
Kisses and flaming torches,

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

'Membah this?

Ah, the first summer storm. So welcome, after last year's drought, so wonderful to know that we won't be a total dustbowl. All those tasty ions put everyone in a good mood. I like the first storm.

But that was yesterday, when I got caught brollyless and took shelter in that home of refugees and wayfarers, the Starbucks by the Metro, and that would've been all fine if a guy sitting next to me had not decided to lay an infinitely dreary line on me. Dude, I'm sure you meant well, but if your opener is that I look like Jamie Lee Curtis circa "True Lies," your game is epic fail. Shoo and let me read my book. No? You must keep talking? You will keep on and on asking me about my book, the paper, whether I ever just sit and watch people, am I local, did I go to school here? So apparently I must now walk home before the rain stops, amusing whatever section of the universe is tickled by tormenting anyone both umbrella-less and clad in a white shirt. Still: First storm! All is forgiven!

Today, though, SOGGYCLIPSE. Three thunderstorms in four hours, power to mi casa completely fried, I join the huddled masses at a local coffee shop, which is doing rather well out of the meteorological madness. Lacking real news, I will instead provide a link to a vid of some friends singing a song we used to do back when I was singing with the choir. I was trying to explain the conceit to a guy from Sonora—the song is about a hunter who sees a deer with silver antlers, and just as he's about to shoot it (as you would), it tells him that it knows he's about to be married and that it will, if he forebears to shoot it, come to his wedding and illuminate the party with its silver antlers. I dunno. It's ethnic. Possibly miffic. Presumably the guy accepts the offer, although the song really never makes that clear. But Sonoran guy just shook his head. "Horns at a wedding. Bad sign for the groom." That particular cross-cultural signifier doesn't seem to have crossed the River Don. Anyway, these singers do a lovely job. Urals-style music isn't for everyone, and I know to my cost that the tones can peel paint at a hundred paces. But, like good bagpiping (settle, peanut gallery, SETTLE), it can be gorgeous. Also, it dun't half take your mind off the storms. Of which there is another moving in from Ohio. To arrive at 2 AM. Farrrrrrk.

Wherever you are, huddle up and stay dry. It's crazy out there.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Answers edition

Is Barack Obama a Muslim? (H/T to IE [ETA: Who got it from 4mastjack, and this is as far down the rabbit hole as I will go with the crediting thing])

What useful life lessons can traditional music teach me? Follow-up: Da, if I don't know how to swim, what sorts of women should I avoid?

And, should the fates bestow upon me quantities of money sufficient unto the purchase and maintenance of my own horse, why should I get a mare?