Sunday, July 31, 2011

Soon Now ... WorldCon!

My DH, the girl and I are all sick. Being the last holdout (I really thought I might skip this one) I of course am getting worse about the time that they're getting better. I don't feel too sorry for myself. So far it hasn't been that bad, plus I wasn't ill all winter and spring, so I guess it was about my turn. If these things take turns. Who knows.

The real news, though, is that I'm going to Worldcon in Reno. I've never been to a Worldcon. I've been to a few different ones, namely Norwescon, OryCon, Radcon, Potlatch and a few others, but I have a feeling that this one will be different. First of all, I've heard of all of the GOHs (Guests of Honor) including the musical special guests. That's pretty rare for a con for me. Also, I idolized one of the GOHs since mid-high school. That would be the incredible Boris Vallejo. I greedily absorbed news about him the same way normal people today follow the dramas of rock and movie stars, complete with commentary about artistic choices and yes, I blush to admit, even a bit of his romantic life (to be precise, rumors thereof--there was no Snopes back then to confirm or deny urban myths.) But mainly it was about his art.

My interest in collecting his books, scanning new books at the bookstores searching for his latest covers, buying posters and calendars waned over the years, but the admiration never flagged, so I'm excited to see what's been going on this past decade or two that I've been utterly ignorant of. I'm sure he's grown and changed, as artists tend to do, just as I've watched in awe as the core skills I coveted now carry through with even greater refinement.

Some of you might have caught that 'decade or two' and may be wondering just how old this guy is. Well, for your info he's been amazing the world with his work for a looooong time, well before I became aware of him. In fact, his career began before I was born. His entire family, including his wife, are all creatively talented. It's pointless to be jealous of him, though now (and correct me if I'm misusing the slang) I can say his art is sick and mean what I really mean--that it's beauty is beyond what I can describe in non-slangy terms without using terribly purple prose.

Will I walk up and say hi, or ask for his autograph? Heck no! Well, maybe, if I don't actually have to say anything. He's one of the few people that can easily turn me into a stammering idiot, so I won't even try to speak if I bring one of his books with me to sign. I'll just put a post-it note with my name spelled correctly and hope for the best. I think I'd have a better chance of saying hi to Johnny Depp than I would to Mr. Vallejo. It would probably come out mmmgggnnn-eep-myfriendwasyurbiggestfan-er,I mean metoo, ImeanIwas except I lost track and I don't have all your books or anything-- and then I would have to hide for the whole rest of the con to avoid the possibility of making eye contact with him thereby reliving that awful awkward moment.

I like the post-it plan. Let's go with that. I might even dare to put a smiley face on it.

I'll probably go through a dozen post-it notes before I make a smiley face worthy of him. Argh!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Being Weird

Every once in a while I'm reminded that I have a weird brain.  I've had a couple of reminders recently.

A group of young adults who'd just gone through a survival course were on their last leg where they had to survive on their own without adult supervision.  The party was attacked by a bear.  Four were seriously injured, including one person who had a punctured lung and bite marks in his skull.  The other six managed to escape without injury.  They turned on their emergency beacon at 9:30pm, and were picked up about 3am.  They used their recent skills to perform life-saving first aid, including dealing with the punctured lung.  No one died.  My first thought was, wow, that's an amazing survival school--they really taught them some serious skills!  I think most people will react with how irresponsible the instructors were to leave them alone out there without proper protection.  I expect the school will be sued and will fold as a result.  sigh

Today I had one of those moments when I couldn't wait until the end of my shift, and as often happens when I wish the time would fly by, I reminded myself that I wouldn't want to rush through the last hour of my life.  If anything, I would hope that the hour went by long and slow and among loved friends and family so that I could be with them and hold them until the hour stretched into infinite.  So why the hell would I want to rush this hour?  I made the most of it.  Yes, I was at work, but we have great customers and a great team and I tried to enjoy my time at work as much as I could before I clocked out.  On my way out the door, I wished my coworkers a good night, and that I looked forward to seeing them on Friday.

I don't mind being weird.  And I bet there are other weirdos out there just like me, so maybe I'm not all that weird.  I wonder how many offbeat ideas are out there that people never voice, because they're afraid that everyone will think they're stupid or morbid or naive ...?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thunder, Lightning and Yum

I woke up early this morning to lightning and thunder.  I love thunderstorms, but I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to see a flash except through my eyelids.  I still got to listen to pounding rain and the thunder, and listen I did for probably far too long.  

So I was groggy woman at work all day today.  (Totally worth it, btw.)  

I dragged myself through with memories of that storm, and of our first garden soup--cream of zucchini.  Here's the recipe for the curious:

4 cups of water (ish--I don't usually measure.)
3 cubes of chicken bullion (or slightly dilute chicken broth of your own.)
1 medium or 2 small zucchinis, sliced
1/2 of a small onion
1/4-1/2 cup of heavy cream

In a small sauce pan, gently brown seasoned zucchini and onion (I like a wee bit of salt, pepper and dill) in a dab of butter.  Don't use too much butter here, you'll use more later.  When the zucchini starts getting golden edges, add the water and bullion (or broth.)  Add seasonings if you like, but be careful with salt as the bullion is usually plenty salty.  Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, in another small sauce pan, melt about 3 tablespoons of butter and add about 3 tablespoons of flour to it.  Brown the flour until it smells warm and toasty (as opposed to the raw scent it initially has) and is lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Add the cream and quickly stir until it's uniform and pretty thick.  Add the soup to the flour/butter mixture and stir.  You may need to use a whisk to get lumps out, but as long as this operation happens off the burner you should be okay.  Place the combined mixture back on the heat and gently warm until it's barely begun to boil again.  Add seasonings if necessary.  You can run it through a blender or strain it if you like, but I like the tender chunks of zucchini as they are.
Great garnishes:  sour cream, chopped tomato, fresh parsley, fresh ground pepper.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Remodeling the House of Pee Pee

Remodeling is always rough, whether you do it yourself or get a contractor.  And I've got to quit fooling myself.  The "oh, I'll just paint the upstairs and put in laminate floors" is a remodel.  

Because doing work like this is never 'just' anything.

So I got myself a crew of hapless teenagers (no, really, we'd love to help! they cried when I told them that they couldn't come spend the night because there's too much work to do.  Bet they're not coming back any time soon) and we painted the ceiling.  So far so good.  Then I started pulling stuff off the walls, filling in holes, moving furniture, you know the routine.

And I thought (this was perhaps my second mistake, the first being that I should start do this as a DIY project in the first place) since I'm moving all this heavy furniture anyway, why move it again when I have to rip up the carpet?  Besides, I'll just have a little peek at the dining room floor and see why it's a little higher than the rest of the floor.

And it was wood.  Not nice, no, not anymore anyway.  So I thought (argh) that I'll just pull up the dining room rug before I put the gigantic table back, and we'll still be in livable space.

I had forgotten something important.

We have six cats.  At one point, before all these six cats, we had a geriatric cat who decided that the far corner in the dining room was actually a cat box.  I'd cleaned up as best I could back there after she passed away (RIP, China kitty) and I figured the scent would have faded.  And it had.  When I pulled up the carpet there, the pad underneath was stained, but it didn't reek.

I'd forgotten, though, that the people before us had all kinds of dogs and cats.

And the wood floors under the pad were, well, odiferous.

I didn't notice at first.  No, it wasn't until I got the idea of first sweeping and mopping and then scrubbing the floor against the back wall that it became eye-wateringly clear.


Stay tuned for the continuing story when, after Kami sprays with first enzyme cleaner and then bleach, she says to no one in particular, "does the smell in here just keep getting worse and worse, or do I just have really bad BO?"

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Hide and Seek" Wins 3rd in the Long Short Story Contest

It feels so wildly inappropriate to post this now, but at the same time ... the story is a story about grief and anger and loss and the mysteries of death and life--some coincidences don't feel like coincidences, you know?

I'm very honored to have won third place in Wayne Long's Long Short Story Contest.  You can view "Hide and Seek" for free through the link on the contest page or on his blog.  Check out the website, and if you get a chance, take advantage of a free offer good until July 25th, 2011.  Read Wayne's blog for more details about the free offer.

There are so many wonderful short stories out there, and I think it's worthwhile to look for them.  Yes, I love looking at YouTube videos of kittens too, but there's some amazing content out there that isn't visual.  Some folks have picked up on it, while others have yet to discover the incredible wealth of quality writing now available on the internet.  Learn, discover, and enjoy!

And let me know what you think.  Don't worry about hurting my feelings.  Sure, it's possible to do that, but it comes with the territory.  Besides, it would be dumb and narrow-minded and crazy to insist that everyone like everything ever written ... and that's what would be required for writers to never hear a bad word about any of their writing.  I believe in the power and beauty of individual preferences and opinions, even when they're opposite of mine.  Maybe especially.  They help define my place in the universe.  How would I know I preferred fresh fruit if I'd never tasted preserves or artificial flavoring?

Share the wealth and explore the diversity.  There's plenty of fun for everyone.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Stretch My Arms and Reach This Far

My great aunt passed away.

There's so much I want to say, and all of it feels inadequate.  More than most people, my Teta Maria was a complicated woman with a rich history.  I didn't expect to lose her so soon.  She'd had health problems for a while, most recently an amputation, but she seemed to be doing well ....

I have some wonderful pictures of her while she recovered in the hospital from her surgery.  I'd ordered the girl's graduation photos and had planned to send them to her, along with our most recent family photos (and pictures of the animals--she was always a fan, especially of cats.)  For a while I was angry that they hadn't arrived in time for me to send her a photo album (she didn't use computers,) and then I realized it didn't matter.  After we die we miss so much, but what we miss isn't important so much as what we do, and what we experience in our lives.  She didn't miss the birth of my children, and she got to spend time with them.  She didn't miss my childhood or my sister's--in fact she got to experience a lot more of that than most great-aunts do.  She traveled the world.  She did charity work alongside Shirley Temple Black, and went to state functions in Europe.  She survived a war, and married an amazing and complicated man who I adored and who I still miss very much.  And people loved her.

Her life was too short, but longer than many.  We stretch our arms as far as we can, but they only reach so far ....  I'll miss her, and my children won't really know what they're missing without her in their lives, but that's the way time works.  It goes forward with or without us, and we can't go back.  I'm blessed that I got to spend time with her during her span.

I hope you're safe with Strejda and everyone you've loved who has gone on ahead on the Long Road, my Teta.  Your angel baby loves and misses you so much.  She wishes she could hug and kiss you again, and show you how wonderful life is in part because you were in her life.

Blessed be.  May we meet again.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

D*#% Ink!

I ran out of ink--the same ink I always run out of--and so I had to change the cartridge.  I'm already annoyed because I can't use my new laser printer because the toner cartridge ran out and the new toner cartridge is giving me error messages.  I'm additionally annoyed because I like buying ink in bulk so that I save, but the only bulk ink I can find at my favorite savings store sells one of each kind of ink jet ink cartridge instead of sensibly offering two (or three, please!) of the ink I'm always running out of.

And then!

And then I start trying to pry the ink out of the nuclear-bomb-proof packaging without damaging the cartridge, and I have to fight the impulse to tear at it with my teeth like a wild animal out of frustration.  The way the edges and the extruded parts where the ink sits interplay make scissors almost useless, knives dangerous to use, and argh!! My teeth aren't working!!

The scissors finally do it for me, after prying and some ineffectual cutting and forcing blade against seams, and I extract my cartridge.

My nerves, however, are frayed to bits.

And the worst part?

On the front, images of smiling, happy people are mocking me.

But maybe that's not the worst part after all.  You see, I only managed to open one area, which gave me access to two cartridges (one of which I don't need, of course.)  When I next run out of ink, most likely I'll have to open the other area to get to the cartridge I need.

Expletives don't cover it.  I just have to put it away and not look at it anymore, or I'll do something rash like write an angry letter.  


I bet they're punishing me for trying to save money.

Argh times infinite.  Poopyheaded packaging designers ...

Sunday, July 03, 2011

More Work Means No Time to be Bad, Right?

My DH and I found a great deal on just the kind of flooring we wanted, so we bit the bullet and got it. Now I've got thirty (30) boxes of flooring sitting in my living room. And you know, it looks kinda intimidating.

I remember this feeling. This is the same feeling I got when I bought I don't remember how many boxes of various kinds of tile, tiling equipment, backboard, grout, grout sealant, a new toilet seal, paint, a new cabinet and sink and faucet, a new medicine cabinet, and completely redid a bathroom for the first time. I may have even changed the light. It's been a while.

I remember ripping out the floor and old tile with glee, stripping off the old wallpaper with slightly less glee because it didn't want to come off nicely, pulling out the toilet and then looking at the mess and thinking OMG what have I done.

I'm sure I'll have a similar feeling after we take out the old carpet and pad. Not only will it be dusty and stink to high heaven (I remember this from when I had a contractor put in laminate floor downstairs) but then I'm sure we'll discover something. And the something will require more work than anticipated. I figure that something that ought to take about a week will end up getting finished, oh, just in time for Yule if I'm lucky.

About the time that we start really moving on it, though, I know the excitement will carry us beyond the exhaustion to a spectacular finish. I remember that too, when I rented the tile cutter for the finish work and got it all done in two days. Not only did I see that the light at the end of the tunnel was not in fact a train, but at that point the project was so close to being finished that it really, really looked awesome.

I have a few tricks ready in case we need them, like varnishing over pet stains so that the scent is sealed in, and painting the walls the color I want before the floor goes in because after, when you've got a new shiny floor you don't want to scrub off all those little pinpoint speckles that rain down, and you don't want to leave the walls the way they are because all that perfection on the ground really makes the marks on the walls and stains on the ceiling stand out ...

I'm tired already, and we haven't even started yet. Wish us luck!!