Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Barrages of applause

It's about time that there was some good news for Terry Pratchett—excuse me, Sir Terry Pratchett—on this, the eve of the Year of the Pensive Hare.

I very much want to post one of my squintillion favorite Richard Wilbur poems here, but considering the lack of written permission from the publisher blah blah blah, I'll just link to "Year's End" here. It's beautiful and dark, and it reminds me of the late and much lamented Johnny Cunningham, who once summed up the "dank spirit of a proper Celtic holiday season" in his inimitable brogue: "Ye're born en pein. Ya live en feir. Ya die aloone. [beat] Mairy Christmas."

Happy New Year to all, drive carefully, eat a lot, drink in moderation (champagne hangovers are vicious unforgiving things), and I'll hope to see everyone when the calendar has flipped.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dear Santa

Lordy me, it's easy to develop expensive tastes. Gobi the wonder pony and Pat's sumptuous luxury of a dressage saddle would not fit in my stocking, but the easily $20K I could drop on them would. As ponies go, Gobi is a dream: beautifully trained, responsive, well muscled, and polite, not to mention plain cute. His one foible is a taste for licking people's hands, which is a welcome change from Lear's habit of gnawing on all and sundry. And oh, that saddle. It's a poor craftsman who blames her tools, and that goes double for horsemanship, but damn. Damn. Anyway, with those two advantages I should've done really super-bien, but mostly it was just okay. Last week, one of the new guys rode Gobi and basically racked the hell out of him [ETA, for clarity: put so much strain on the horse's mouth that the horse threw up his head and hollowed his back in an attempt to avoid the bit; no nadgers were harmed in the telling of this story]; in my attempts not to do likewise, I overcompensated the other way and used too loose a rein. But we did some good yields and lovely canter work, enough for the covetise to further consume my soul. La Mère and Seesterperson came out to freeze their butts on the ring benches and critique my form. Or really, La Mère gave post-class comments; Seesterperson settled for chirping, "Inside leg to outside rein! More with the outside rein! Inside leg!" Well, she does have the basics right.

In standard holiday news, procrastinatory ways ahoy! I was all a-scramble to assemble Pat's Christmas present, so rather than filling a stocking with heater packs and carrots, I crammed the goodies in a holiday loofah mitt with "Naughty" on the scrubby side and "Nice" on the suave one. Cheesy as can be, but it was (a) all that was left in the CVS Christmas aisle and (b) sufficient as a bag of holding. That feeling of panic means it's the holidays, right?

With January 7 creeping ever closer, I already owe shout-outs to several great gift-givers: 5starjoe for his annual holiday compilation (which did not include "Mr. Misteltoe," so I don't have to slit my wrists in festive reds and ichory greens), 4mastjack for a signed print of one of my favorite xkcd strips, Iosif for the adorably wack merino-and-possum gloves, and Teal for a panda purse I would never have bought but which made me fall over laughing. Back in the fall, Gee-Clef and I went in together on a stained-glass tree frog for Teal, who is both crafty and fond of things batrachian (batrachial? batrachiose?). She got Gee-Clef a book of fiery ethnic recipes, he being the poor soul who can never convince restaurants to bring sufficient pain, and some duct tape bandages; he liked those but was a little nonplused by the Chinese cicada kite I got him in honor of his new hang-gliding certs and overall computer wiz-dom ("It's not a feature," I explained. "It's a bug," he responded, nodding). Why is gift-giving always so angstful? Why can't it always be easy-peasy?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Well, I woke up today, and the world seemed a restless place

For those not celebrating on January 7, best wishes for a happy Christmas Eve, a happy third night of Hannukah, and a joyous return of the sun. Y'all otter know you're loved.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In the bleak midwinter

It's horse time once again. It hasn't been terribly cold since I got back from the west coast (earwormed almost fatally by the Magnetic Fields' "Come Back from San Francisco"), though compared with the city by the Bay DC is all asphalt and gloom, but the relative warmth means not having horses wired up and popping around.


Lear decided that going into the ring in full kit meant that I was dying to play tug-of-war, nip-tag, and chasing games. Most of that I handled by staying still, holding the reins firmly, and tactfully reminding him that trying to bite meant getting stung ("Oh my tender noseparts!"), but not until Pat took him in hand could I get him to stand long enough to get on his back. At which point, one small spook notwithstanding, he directed most of that wacky energy into doing good work. He's not the horse of my heart, but he's hella educational. He also tossed his head at just the wrong moment when I was slipping on his martingale, so the metal ring on the breast section flew out and smacked me under the jaw. Good thing his aim was off, or I'd be all week explaining that no, it isn't a hickey, it's a bruise, and no, I don't need a safe place to stay.

Next week, we'll be riding on Christmas Eve, and as an early present I may get to ride the prettiest horse on the roster, a privately owned seal-point TB named Gobi. His owner events, and Gobi's in wonderful training, but it looks like you've got to have very soft hands to bring him onto the bit. Lear rewards softness sometimes, or maybe it's just that I don't always give him softness (nobody else in the class has ridden him in the last six months, so it's hard to compare how I've done), and fingers crossed that I don't confuse Gobi with good intentions badly performed. Of course, if we do work well together, it'll be tempting to jump the fence and head for the hills with him. You see the dilemma.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mas fottergrafs

I'm still going through the pile of photos from California, but bit by bit I'm getting them posted to my Flickr page, so if the mood strikes you can click over to the San Francisco set and browse at leisure.

Now, if you really want to engage the old envy circuits before the holidays proper get under way, skip my pics and go straight to Iosif's New Zealand sets. He and I managed to get a flight back from San Francisco together, so for much of the flight he regaled me with Kiwi stories and photos of his adventures. As we touched down in DC, I heard him sigh, "I want to go back." Lawsy me, I can't think why.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Proj on

William Gibson's short story "Skinner's Room," which later grew into Virtual Light and thence the entire Bridge Trilogy, is an interview between a Japanese sociologist and an old man who lives in the thriving illegal community that's colonized the Golden Gate Bridge after the much-feared Big One destabilizes it too much for traffic. The scientist, crouching in a room built out of plywood lashed to the top of one of the towers, asks what it was like to be there the night squatters swarmed the fences and claimed the bridge. Skinner, the old man, tells him about the crazy energy, the way he remembers the shoes of the man ahead of him, the roar of joy as people met up and danced on the tarmac, "they were singing, hymns and shit," and the impromptu decision to keep climbing, to scale the pylons and cables and go up as far as nerve would allow. The scientist asks him, "How did you feel?" but the old man just blinks at the question. "What did you do then?" the Japanese man prompts. And the old man says, "I saw the city."

The Japanese Tea Garden is almost empty on weekdays.

The local cuisine is intriguing.

Even the most directionally challenged can figure out the city's grid.

Hot diggety, are these good truffles.

The deity is in the details.

There is a carousel right next to the conference center.

And I really really love that the city puts up with people like me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I aten't ded

But I am having far, far too much fun trying to walk off a metric ton of deem sum on San Francisco's sadistic hills to have made time for a full write-up. Suffice it to say that now I see how people can ignore the earthquake risk; this city is Borgesian in its beautiful dreamy strangeness (and that's without the contact highs). Walk and eat, photograph and shop, walk and eat some more, that's the order of the day. Sometimes we break it up by eating and then walking, shopping and then shooting.

If anyone is heading out thisaways soon, don't miss the chance to go to Christopher Elbow for the hot chocolate. Yes, it's $4.50 a cup, which seems kind of astronomical, but the soi disant whipped cream is actually creme fraiche drizzled over the froth on top of the cup, and the flavors in the Chinese five-spice or Venezuelan fiery cocoa will last you at least half an hour of stoned-out sippin' joy. I'm not sure but what this might be the sovereign specific for reconciling everyone to their fellow man.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Where Sam Clemens got his start

"I've met a lot of kings, and emperors and heads of state in my time, Joshua. I've met them all. And you know something? I think I liked you best."

Off to the Bay. Y'all be good, now.