Rider jumps without irons

I found this video while noodling around on YouTube. This young woman manages not only to ride through an epic bucking fit, but then to finish the course without stirrups. I love how at the end you get to see the bucking in slo-mo; that horse catches some serious air. Well ridden!

What universe are you living in?

A recent Dressage Today Viewpoint column by Cindy Sydnor left me absolutely apalled. I had sort of forgotten about it, but this month's letters column was devoted to reader responses to the column (all negative), so I guess I wasn't the only one who thought it was awful.

Sydnor's column is entitled "Own a Better Horse." She wastes no time in appearing both arrogant and clueless! I guess she thinks all of us riding dressage have limitless disposable income and bomb around on any old horse we find lying around because . . . why? We're masochists? We're unaware of the existence of fancy warmbloods?

The first few paragraphs aren't so bad. She talks about making sure your horse's conformation allows him to do the level of dressage you're asking for. Fine (and, duh). She talks about how sometimes an extremely well-trained non-warmblood might lose to a less well-trained but fancy warmblood. I think all of us would say that's too bad, but it's a fact of life. And I don't personally care about winning the class when I compete; I just care about my score. I think that's true of many amateurs. From a fair judge, you can get a great score on almost any horse if he's well-trained. And lots of amateurs don't even care about competing.

Then comes her first claim that provoked a little rage: "When riding a better quality horse, you actually do become a better rider." Huh? Since when? I've seen so many amateurs who have bought fancy, extravagant warmbloods, and then find they can't even sit the trot. How does being overhorsed make you a better rider? I learned the most from riding a little off-the-track spazzy thoroughbred mare. She was never going to be competitive, but her gift was that you could only sit her trot when she gave you her back. If you didn't have it and tried to sit, she'd take off. But when you had her back, wow. She had the loveliest trot with a killer extension. And nobody would ever call her a high-quality dressage horse. Riding a well-trained horse will definitely make you a better rider; riding a high-quality horse doesn't guarantee a single thing.

Then she claims you can't get a competitive dressage horse for $5000. Baloney. What level of competition are we talking about? The Olympics? Then she tells you to take out a loan for your horse. Using what collateral? What if you already have a car loan and a mortgage? Her next claim is that "most people drive cars costing $25,000 to $30,000." Um, most people? Yeah, sure.

She goes on to reassure us that "You can get a very good horse for between $20,000 and $50,000." This is where I burst a blood vessel. I absolutely detest rich people who write about these amounts of money as if they're nothing.

So, this month the letters section was devoted to responses to the column. All the responses were negative, but I'm guessing they only published the more diplomatically-worded ones. Anyway, Sydnor wrote a response. Selected highlights: "No one ever bought me an expensive warmblood. I have bought all the horses I have ever owned except for the three that have been given to me" (emphasis mine). You've had a horse given to you not once, not twice, but three times? Do you think this happens to most people?

Then she claims what she meant by her original column was "try to ride better horses, regardless of the price." Then what was up with her claim that you need a minimum of $20K to get a decent horse? She also claims in the followup that the breed doesn't matter, although in the original column she specifically said most breeds besides warmbloods aren't worth wasting your time on.

She closes with "I just purchased a mare in October for which I took out a loan. I sold my car and bought a reliable Chevy Aveo." Note she doesn't say a used Aveo; it seems to me she would have made a point of having bought used, if that were actually the case. A new Aveo runs $10,000, minimum. To Sydnor, that's trading down.

Damn Kids - Geroff my Lawn

What IS it with young people these days? I've got these shiftless drug-using neighbours who seem to have several teenage children hanging around the house at all times. I think most of them live there, but possibly not all.

A strong whiff of BC homegrown permeates the atmosphere around their house at certain times. My daughter and I were selling Girl Guide cookies one day and the (presumably) dad of these kids tore up in a junker car as we passed his driveway, opened the door (accompanied by a cloud of smoke and a riff of Robert Plant), staggered over to us and genially demanded four boxes of cookies, digging a stained hand into a stained pocket and breathing alcohol fumes all over me.

The kids amuse themselves by breaking into people's sheds and trying all the parked cars for unlocked doors. If they find one, they rummage through the door pockets, pilfer a few CDs and - oddly - Canadian Tire money. If there's change available, they may or may not swipe it. I suspect it was they who overturned the Postes Canada Post distribution box at the corner of the street a few months ago. At any given time you can see them scrambling over fences, slouching through people's yards on their way to the woods behind the houses, or maybe tearing along the road on a really whiney electric skateboard of some kind.

I was going to write some wry, amused observations about the youth of the world going to hell in a handbasket, but then I found this:

The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behaviour and dress.

-Peter the Hermit, 1247 AD

And this:

The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders... They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and are tyrants over their teachers.

-Attributed to Socrates, 470-399 BC

So I guess it's not going to change anytime soon, eh? Although I'd be quite happy to have children who cross their legs, and even gobble dainties, as long as they aren't smoking crack in the woods. Y'know?

Somewhere in my Youth.....or Childhood.

I dunno guys. I, like Maria von Trapp "must have done something good". I received two packages in the mail. One was from Anna in the Chicago area, and one was from Uncle Dave.

Something possessed Anna to send me an entire skein of Lorna's Laces "Helen's Lace" and to send it in a cardboard box by USPS Priority Post. Not only the beautiful yarn, but twenty quid for shipping - what on earth?! My dear Anna, I simply cannot accept all this generosity. Well, I can, but I'll have to reciprocate. I have kept your address and will put together some tokens of my gratitude as time allows.

These colours are so intense - like berries and flowers.

And Dave, you rascal - not one, not two, but THREE new DVD adaptations to watch? It's too much! I don't deserve it. No, really - I don't. I am salivating over the cover of "Turn of the Screw" which is one of my all-time favourite creepy books: right up there with Girl in a Swing. I had no idea it was THAT version of TotS, and am fairly hopping with anticipation of being able to start it tomorrow. Middlemarch will follow quickly, and The Old Curiosity Shop will bring up the rear. I sent Mr. HalfSoledBoots out for popcorn and iced tea mix, so all I need is to pick up a package of Cherry Blasters on my way home from knitting tomorrow, and I am All Set.

Anna and Dave, thank you. Thank you so very much for your generosity. I could cry - in fact I feel some happy sniffles and a watery smile coming on this minute. I am undone and can only hiccough convulsively into my hanky.

Dr. Pierce's Pleasant Pellets

About four blocks from my house there's a really cool old barn with an original turn-of-the-(last)-century advertisement.

It turns out Dr. Pierce was the most famous patent-medicine peddler of all time. In addition to hawking his Pleasant Pellets, he sold a million bottles of Dr. Pierce's Smart Weed. I wonder what was in that? My research indicates that his elixirs also usually contained opium.

I also turned up the following New York Times "article" from 1894:

[The pellets help with] "a multitude of distressing diseases, such as headaches, indigestion, biliousness, skin diseases, boils, carbuncles, piles, fevers and maladies too numerous to mention. If people would pay more attention to properly regulating the action of their bowels, they would have less frequent occasion to call for their doctors' services to subdue attacks of dangerous diseases. . . . Dr. Pierce prides himself on having been first to introduce a Little Liver Pill to the American people. Many have imitated them, but none have approached his Pleasant Pellets in excellence. . . . To relieve distress from over-eating, nothing equals them. They are tiny, sugar-coated, anti-bilious granules, scarcely larger than mustard seeds. Every child wants them."

It seems like Dr. Pierce was a little mixed up about the liver and the bowels. Or maybe he thought they were the same thing?

Ebay and Childhood Trauma

A friend's blog post about finding a long-lost cookbook on Ebay (for making clown cakes) made me think of my own recent long-lost finds on Ebay. I was the absolute weeniest child when it came to scary movies. Now I love them, but until the age of fourteen or so, I really should have been kept away from the horror oeuvre.

When I was five years old, my best friend had a slumber party, during which we watched what I remembered as the most horrifying movie ever made (actually, it was an hour-long TV show, but in the throes of utter terror, it seemed to go on forever). People were stranded on an island with a mud monster. Two scenes stuck in my memory: 1) The monster reaches his arm into the cabin, and the people shut the door, cutting the monster's hand off. The hand falls into some spilled salt and catches on fire. 2) To kill the monster, the people trip him so he falls into the ocean, where the salt makes him catch on fire.

Beginning in the late 90s, I began searching the internets for "The Mud Monster," even though I was pretty sure that wasn't what the show was actually called. A few years ago, I started getting some hits -- other people my age who were completely traumatized by the show, too. I found out the show was actually a failed series called "The World Beyond." And, finally, I found the episode with the mud monster on Ebay! Starring JoBeth Williams! And, OK, it's not very scary, but I see why my five-year-old self freaked out.

The hand-cutting-off scene and the tripping scene were exactly as I remembered them. Even funnier, there was a scene where the people discover the monster has destroyed their boat, and they accidentally drop their last bag of salt (their only hope!) into the bay, and that image of the bag of salt dropping down through the water created the strongest flashback to the utter despair I felt watching that moment as a child.

Even more recently I went on the hunt for a children's series that aired on Nickelodeon in the early 80s. The time slot on Nick was called "The Third Eye," and they played children's sci-fi series. The one I remember was called "Under the Mountain." Twins Rachel and Theo must save the world from a race of slimy brown tentacle creatures called the Wilberforces. Scenes that stuck with me: 1) Rachel and Theo each have a small white stone that is some sort of weapon. During the final attack, it's imperative they don't drop their stone for any reason, but Theo does, casting doubt on the weapon's effectiveness. 2) Cousin Ricky waits for Rachel and Theo offshore in a small boat, while the slimy Wilberforces mill about on the beach. Ricky thinks he's safe, because the Wilberforces are only interested in the twins, but suddenly they attack his boat from below, dragging it and Ricky down with their brown tentacles. You see dead Ricky floating face-down along the shore.

Ricky's harrowing, violent death was really not appropriate for children, IMO. It scared the crap out me. I just bought the series on Ebay and rewatched it, and again, it's not all that scary, but again, I see why my ten-year-old self was impressed. One thing that really surprised me: it's a New Zealand series, and the kids have the thickest Kiwi accents. How come I didn't remember that?

Did work in hand with Willow this afternoon and got a most excellent collected trot with some almost passage-y moments. Kept that feeling for fifteen minutes under saddle and called it a day. Good girl!

The Illustrated Version

I have no illustrations for you, but I will tell you about an illustrated book and verbally illustrate things of note in my life today.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
I just read a book my Dad recommended and lent me. I figured, "I'm going on vacation, I'll bring a book." It turned out to be a very sad one and was definitely in contrast with the otherwise jubilant mood and tropical clime of the Costa Rica honeymoon.

My Dad first told me about "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer because in it there are a few pages with copy editing marks printed on them that look handwritten. The marks are actually in red ink! This book is amazingly printed, because besides that passage, there are photos, pages of "typewritten" text that are overtyped several times until you can't read them, and some pages written solely in numerical code. It's a pretty cool book.

My Dad is an avid reader and he flies for business a few times a week, so he is always picking up books at the airport. So this was one of those, and he lent it to me a while ago, so I was glad to have some time to finally read it. It's 368 pages, but it's a very quick read, and as I mentioned, some of the pages are illustrative anyway. While reading it, I realized how much I miss reading! As a news copy editor, I read for work every day. But it's been a very long time since I read a piece of fiction for pleasure. This book really did have me laughing and crying. I was so engrossed, I stayed up half the night the night before we left Costa Rica to finish it. At the end, I was sobbing; Neil, being the great guy that he is, woke up to listen to me tell him what happened at the end (spoiler, I know). He reminded me that one of the reviewers had described the book as "Heartbreaking." I guess I thought they were kidding. I would highly recommend this book, but it's not quite the honeymoon read. Actually, if I'd read it at any other time, I'd probably have been far more depressed. So I recommend it for a honeymoon. Or any other time where you can counter your reading with happiness.

I applied to the JET program and was granted an interview at the Japanese Embassy last week, which went well. JET is the Japan Exchange Teaching program where you -- surprise -- teach English to kids in Japan. So we'll see if I am offered a position. I applied in December, right before I got my dream job as a copy editor at Gannett, and I was really hoping Neil and I could "jet" off to Japan, but of course, with The Bomb job, now I'm not sure. But it'll be good to have the option.

Crazily enough, I was offered a job with (edited). I had to go through a health clearance and yesterday I finished the top secret security clearance request (yesss!), which was a PAIN to fill out ("Please list every place you've lived/worked/gone to school/talked to anyone for the past 10 years with no gaps"). I guess it will take them who-knows-how-long to interrogate the people I listed as references, and then I'll get my first overseas assignment. Um, are you wondering where the bridge is between me working as a copy editor in VA and me moving out of the country to work (edited)? Me, too.

AeroGardens, Ant Farms and Aquariums
Basically, I just want to grow things. Neil really wants an AeroGarden (shh, I ordered him one tonight!) to grow salad greens, since he is mostly a raw foodist. I want an ant farm and an aquarium because I'm a carnivore. Or so I can watch little animals live their lives in a captivity I've imposed upon them. I've had both of the latter before, and I think they're really fascinating! Even when the ants mysteriously begin to die en masse and the fish occasionally commit suicide on the filter. I think they would be a nice touch and conversation piece in our little studio apt. Because, you know, Neil and I are running out of things to talk about.

p.s. those bastards! A quick update on the UFO situation: If you try to view the updated Washington Post link I posted on 2/5 , you will get a page saying "We are unable to locate the page you requested. The page may have moved or may no longer be available. You may also want to try our search to locate news and information on washingtonpost.com. We at the Post seek to aid the government in hiding the truth." OK, everything but the last sentence. What kind of journalists are they over there?!

Ballroom dancing for the first time in four years

I recently made a new friend here--a friend of the male persuasion who likes ballroom dancing! This type of male is actually on the endangered species list. Last night we went to a ballroom mixer for the first time. I had to dig around to find my ballroom shoes; they were still in a box.

The mixer was at a lovely old ballroom on the U of O campus. $6 to get in, two lessons (rumba and merengue), and then two hours of open dancing. My new friend is a pretty good dancer! We had success with rumba, merengue, swing, waltz, and fox trot. I was happy to find that latin hip action, sway and counter-sway, and rise and fall all came back to me. Just like riding a bike. Although I must admit that I'm exhausted and sore today.

By the way, all you fellow dressage ladies: take some ballroom! Two major things carry over to your riding: independent balance, and the mechanics of lead and follow. In ballroom, the lady follows the man's lead (feminism doesn't apply, so get over it). You quickly find that when you're dancing with a gentleman who's a "strong" lead (strong as in, clear and direct, not as in shoving you around the floor), that gentleman will make you look good even if you're a mediocre dancer. On the other hand, dancing with a poor lead is really frustrating. It's impossible to tell what they want you to do.

How does this apply to dressage? Well, in dressage the rider is the lead. If you're a strong lead for your horse (clear and direct), you'll have a happy horse. If you're a poor lead, how is the poor animal supposed to know what you want? Take some ballroom, dance with some poor leads, and you'll gain a whole lot of empathy for your dressage partner.

Finally, a video of me and Willow

My friend and fellow dressage nut Ted visited from Texas a couple weeks ago. He graciously agreed to freeze his fingers off and capture a video of me and Willow. I hadn't been on her in a couple days, so she was rather full of herself, and to add to the fun there was lots of activity in the arena, and Willow is still somewhat intimidated by other horses under saddle (funny, 'cause she's the biggest social butterfly in other situations. When I lead her down the aisle she'd like very much to chat with every horse that sticks his head out of his stall). Anyway, I'm really pleased with how she looks in this greatest hits compilation.

I forwarded the video to my beloved former clinicians, Wolfgang and Suzanne. Suzanne gave me some great advice -- basically that it's time to start to carefully bring Willow up in front. Half halts, half halts, half halts! I'm always afraid of artificially elevating the horse's neck and head, so that will very much be on my mind. Thursday night I shortened the reins a bit and chose several points around the arena where I would always half halt and send her forward. Happily, the ride went really well, and I felt the beginnings of a more powerful connection. Shoulder in and travers got easier, too. Thanks, Suzanne!

Back to the night that Ted taped me. Willow was a little tense, but I thought I had worked her through most of it. Ted is an experienced rider, so I let him get on. Well, that didn't go so well. Apparently Willow was still harboring some tension, because she bolted and dumped him. I felt horrible! Luckily, Ted was fine and good-humored about the unplanned dismount. Here's a still from the video: Ted on the ground, and Willow saying "I am SO outta here!" (Lesson learned: Don't take anything for granted with a six-year-old. They'll always surprise you!)

I'm only on Number Four?


I have a dream vacation. Want to know what it is?

I would bring the following things:
-a needle gauge/ruler
-a notepad
-a laptop equipped with only a word processor
-peanut butter, bread, Mini Wheats and milk, a dozen eggs and some cheddar, and a tin of tea

I would knit, sleep, walk out in the middle of a night of pouring rain, write my Novel, cry rivers of tears, and BE ALONE.

Is that too much to ask?

Didn't think so.

PURA VIDA: We're back y somos casados!

My Spanish is a little rusty, but we're back and we're married! Neil and I celebrated our 1 week anniversary yesterday and returned from Costa Rica today. We have had so much fun!! The wedding was awesome and beautiful and perfect. I have only seen a few pictures and I am so excited to get the ones from Neil's cousin, our wedding photographer. The tea party and open house were really fun and I am just so happy to have had so many people we love share in this event.

I am so grateful to all of our friends and family who worked so hard to make everything perfect. Oscar acceptance speech, I know, but I really can't express how wonderful, helpful and supportive everyone was.

If you have someone you love spending time with and they are of the opposite sex, I highly recommend marrying them!! Hanging out with Neil 24/7 has seriously been the most fun I've had in my life. Maybe this is why they call any timespan of euphoria before reality sets in the "honeymoon period," eh? But I think things will be cool down the road as well.

Poor Neil is sick right now, though. All the traveling got to him and he is feeling feverish and achy. He went to sleep early and I am unpacking boxes since I didn't finish moving in before we went to Costa Rica. I am not sure what to do to take care of him! He says he is fine, he just needs to sleep. I forced him to drink a lot of water earlier. My first test as a wife, I think. Hopefully he will be fine.

Costa Rica was really cool. It felt like a mix of places I've been: Mexico, Hawaii, the Bahamas. And something I can't quite put my finger on, too. It was cool speaking Spanish; like I said, I'm rusty. The food was good and the weather was beautiful. I saw a sloth! I will add pics to this post later, I hope. I think sloths are adorable. Neil thought it was disgusting. Apparently there were beetle/cockroach-like bugs crawling in and out of its fur. All I saw were flies landing on it, which wasn't that gross, but Neil saw the other bugs, so he was repulsed. I've always thought sloths were so cute so I'm glad I didn't see the bugs. I'm not really into monkeys, though, so it was OK we didn't see any. We did see a lot of cool, colorful birds and butterflies. There were tons of streams, rivers and waterfalls, too; way more than in Hawaii. The variety of flowers in Costa Rica is impressive, and there were so many beautiful, lush, jungle areas. We stayed in these really awesome beach bungalows that were surrounded by jungle and flowers. I love nature sounds, so it was cool to hear the bugs and frogs at night.

It was a really great trip and a great, relaxing start to our life together!

p.s. We saw HULK HOGAN in the Miami airport today!! I had a crush on him when I was 5, so I got a little starry-eyed. Neil almost had to take the Hulkster out to assert his superiority!

O Solo Nervoso Mio

Thanks for all the good wishes, everyone - last night was.......well, pretty good for a first solo. The dancing was a bloody doddle compared to the stress of maintaining an acceptable facial expression. I kept shrieking at myself (mentally) "Smile! For the love of sheep, SMILE!!" followed in a few moments by "GOOD LORD woman this is what is called a GRIMACE, RELAX YOUR FACE!"

So basically I spent four and a half minutes alternating between a Scantily-Clad Undertaker and Maniac Stepford Harem Girl.

But the dance itself was flawless. I wowed them with my swirling veil and my skilled rhythmic zilling. No photos, I'm afraid - it was all I could do to get the assistant to figure out how to put my CD on, never mind actually work my video camera. But I'll be dancing with my troupe next weekend (on TV this time) so I may record that for your viewing pleasure.

Postes Canada Post came by the other day, and dropped off a V-E-R-Y interesting package. Here it is.

Lest you missed it, let me draw your attention to the return address:

Oh Em Gee!! Oh Em Gee!!

Here's where I say a huge THANK YOU to Mairi Macleod for writing "Value: 25 GBP" on the customs form, instead of "Value: 115 GBP", resulting in my having to pay $7.43 duty instead of $20.

And if you want to know how much $240 gets you at Virtual Yarns, take a gander.

It doesn't look like much, but.......well okay, actually it's not much. But hey - this is some quality wool. And all this wool PLUS a couple of hundred hours of my time EQUALS a pretty wrap! So if I paid a dollar an hour to knit this I am TOTALLY WINNING! Basically it's costing me nothing! Yay!

Dear Mr. Buhler: thank you for all the time you spent teaching me remedial math. I'm sure you're happy with how it all turned out. Affectionately, Shannon

I'll be swatching this baby as soon as I get some WIPs out of the way. I have promised myself to finish off the Log Cabin Blanket and the Marina Piccola socks before I start Rheingold. (I'm not talking to the lace right now, by the way. I have threatened to send her to my riding-crop-owning friend* for a bit of spankin' if she doesn't start behaving soon. So far she has responded to that just as she responded to my tears and cajoling - with stony silence. We'll see how stony she is WHEN SHE'S GOT A FEW RED WELTS ON HER BEHIND, YES YOU HEARD ME BEYOTCH, YOUR TIME IS A'COMIN.)

On that happy note, I'll bid you all a fond adieu. I'll be back tomorrow (or possibly Friday) with another addition to my ongoing meme.

* I'm sure you're all interested to find out which of my friends owns a riding crop (although I'm betting it's more than just one) but I will be coy about identifying her....though she should feel free to identify herself, should she wish it.
Edit: Thanks Annalea - I forgot to link to Rheingold.

Dum Dum Tek Ka

Tonight is the Middle Eastern cooking class, with Shan as the floor show. Wish me tips.

Photo from www.heavyhips.net.

Wonderfully Out of Context

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots
Volume 2, Number 2

My Uncle Dave (find him in the sidebar under Rellies - he's "Actively Avuncular") tagged me to do this "nearest book" thing where you find the closest book, turn to page 123, and post the fifth through eighth sentences. I'm going to do this, as ever, my way.

Nearest Book of Any Description - Charlotte's Web
"A rat can creep out late at night and have a feast. In the horse barn you will find oats that the trotters and pacers have spilled. In the trampled grass of the infield you will find old discarded lunch boxes containing the foul remains of peanut butter sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, cracker crumbs, bits of doughnuts, and particles of cheese. In the hard-packed dirt of the midway, after the glaring lights are out and the people have gone home to bed, you will find a veritable treasure of popcorn fragments, frozen custard dribblings, candied apples abandoned by tired children, sugar fluff crystals, salted almonds, popsicles, partially gnawed ice cream cones, and the wooden sticks of lollypops."

Who's hungry?

Nearest Grownup Book - Household Counts: Canadian Households and Families in 1901
(Page 123 is a map: I had to go to page 153.)

Another way of representing the differences in the social environment between the new world and Europe is to compare how many young people were participating in life-cycle service. Although it was common in eighteenth-century Europe, historians have noted that the tradition of young people leaving home to work for a succession of employers in their teenage years generally declined in the modern era. Hajnal and Berkner both note the prevalence of young servants in western European populations and suggest that between 30 and 40 per cent of males and females at ages 15 to 19 were servants in the eighteenth century. Laslett and Kussmaul have stressed its importance in eighteenth-century England as well.

Who's bored?

Nearest Book Belonging to ME: The Penelopiad
I had a whole run of dreams that night, dreams that have not been recorded, for I never told them to a living soul. In one, Odysseus was having his head bashed in and his brains eaten by the Cyclops; in another, he was leaping into the water from his ship and swiming towards the Sirens, who were singing with ravishing sweetness, just like my maids, but were already stretching out their birds' claws to tear him apart; in yet another, he was making love with a beautiful goddess, and enjoying it very much. Then the goddess turned into Helen; she was looking at me over the bare shoulder of my husband with a malicious little smirk. This last was such a nightmare that it woke me up, and I prayed that it was a false dream sent from the cave of Morpheus through the gate of ivory, not a true one sent through the gate of horn.

Hm. Good one Maggie.

Nearest Book I'm Actually READING: The Odyssey of Homer
These things the famous singer sang for them, but Odysseus, taking in his ponderous hands the great mantle dyed in sea-purple, drew it over his head and veiled his fine features, shamed for tears running down his face before the Phaiakians; and every time the divine singer would pause in his singing, he would take the mantle away from his head, and wipe the tears off, and taking up a two-handled goblet would pour a libation to the gods, but every time he began again, and the greatest of the Phaiakians would urge him to sing, since they joyed in his stories, Odysseus would cover his head again, and make lamentation. There, shedding tears, he went unnoticed by all the others, but Alkinoos alone understood what he did and noticed, since he was sitting next him and heard him groaning heavily. At once he spoke aloud to the oar-loving Phaiakians: 'Hear me, you leaders of the Phaiakians and men of counsel. By this time we have filled our desire for the equal feasting and for the lyre, which is the companion to the generous feast.'

I give Homer props for adjective use. And if you've always wanted to try a classical epic but aren't sure which one to tackle, pick this one. (The Lattimore translation is excellent - see link.)

Book that is Nearest to my Heart: The Hounds of the Morrigan
"But we'd never get it. She'd kill us first."
"Kill us?" said Brigit. She looked around wide-eyed at the idea of anyone even thinking such a thing.

The most wonderful book EVER and EVERYONE should read it.

Book that is Second Nearest to my Heart: A Traveller in Time
"You know who she is?"
I shook my head, not venturing to guess.
"Her blessed Majesty, Mary Queen of Scotland," said he, "My beloved and sacred queen. One day she will be Queen of England, on her rightful throne, and the true religion will come back, and all will be well on earth as in heaven."

I'm getting a bad feeling about this....


Isn't it amazing what you can say in four sentences? Especially if you punctuate effectively.

Maybe you've noticed.


I have a thing for vampires. Ever since I was a fairly young child I was both drawn to and terrified of them. I remember devouring everything I could find to read about the mythology and mystique of the vampire, then lying in bed in the dark paralysed with fear, repeating in a whisper, "They can't come in unless you invite them." The intimacy of the bite, the thrill of fear, the power of the biter and the powerlessness of the bitten.....all of these things haunted my daydreams - and my nightmares - for years. I suppose it was all part of a young girl's (ahem) awakening, now that I read this paragraph over. (Sorry, Mum. I realise it's possible you'd rather not know that.)

I didn't really notice my vamp obsession until lately, when I was scouring the DVD bins at London Drugs for a copy of Underworld and Underworld Evolution. The movies weren't there, so I stalked over to the Aud-Vid desk and commanded the pimply lackey to order the set. They arrived in short order - four hours of Kate Beckinsale with blue-black hair and fangs. I felt the thrill of victory. I cackled a mad gleeful laugh. Back at home, I lovingly put the DVDs onto the shelf that holds my favourite movies, sat back and read the titles over: Underworld. Underworld Evolution. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Chosen Collection. Angel: the Series. Bram Stoker's Dracula.


Listen, Bambi: Actions have Consequences.

I forgot to show you guys the socks I cast on instead of fixing my lace mistake (which is currently in the corner having a time out). I went for the Marina Piccola socks again - hoping to break the Sockapalooooza hex.

This counts towards stash reduction - and frugality, too. I got the yarn from Shelley at Fun Knits, when the Group was over there for the afternoon last year. Judy Maclean, the Sweatermaker dyer, had given several tangled skeins of merino/nylon sock yarn to Shelley. These skeins had apparently become partially unbound in the dyeing process and were a snarled mess. Judy told Shelley that if anybody wanted to go to the trouble of untangling the yarn, they could have it for free.

OF COURSE I took it. I spent two days untangling my skein and winding it into a beautiful, perfectly symmetrical, centre-pull ball. After having given away my first, aqua-coloured pair of Marina Piccolas, I was determined to have some of my own, and these are them. They. Those. here they are.

Again, I'm happy with this pattern: it's easy to memorise. I also like how the colour is knitting up. I'm getting about 10 stitches to the inch, magic-looping on 2.5 mm Addi Turbos.

Oh yeah: and progress on the log cabin afghan. It's now too big to take with me anywhere, so growth has slowed considerably. It's about 4.5 feet across at the moment.

It isn't easy to get good pictures these days, by the way. It's so dark here....I went out to take some garden photos and the camera saw fit to use the flash. Outside. At 10.30 AM.

Anyway, I was poking around looking for signs of spring. And I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but white-tail deer don't like crocus. Or bamboo. And yet?

Exhibit A

There were 100 crocus bulbs in here, evenly distributed and all about 1.5" high. It's hard to tell in this photo, but the deer have pawed (or pulled with their teeth) half the bulbs out and cropped the tops off of the remaining shoots.

Exhibit B

My poor bamboo. THE NERVE. What do they think they are, freakin' pandas?

Luckily, I am a member of a superior race. These opposable thumbs come in really handy for delicate work, and taxidermy requires some dexterity.

Exhibit C

Just kidding.

Sheltered? maybe.

My sister used to torture the neighbour's kitten, Mighty, by dressing him up and strapping him into her doll buggy. Apparently her cruel sadistic streak has only been repressed, not eliminated.

This is the story of ten of the most awkward minutes of my life.

One night, while I was in university, my friend Diane and I were walking back to my place from the club where we had gone dancing. She wanted to stop at 7/11 for a cup of coffee, but had a lit cigarette which she wasn't allowed to bring inside. She handed it to me and said "here, hold this". I stood there outside the 7/11 while she bought her coffee at 2.45 AM, holding a lit cigarette like it was a stick of dynamite. I tried to look natural - you know, like it wasn't my FIRST TIME holding a cigarette at the age of 21 - but was fascinated by the ominous death-stick in my fingers. After a few minutes, when I was growing increasingly worried about the glowing red ring creeping ever closer to my hand, a kid about 15 approached and asked if he could bum a cigarette. I looked up in surprise and said automatically, "I don't smoke."

He looked at the cigarette in my hand. Looked up at me. Said "F*ck you, lady."

Half a Loaf.

The first order of business was to write another book review, seeing as how it's been several weeks since I posted one. Now that's done, I need to address some of the comments from last week.

Firstly, Anna, I feel that as far as Lorna's Laces go, beggars shouldn't be choosers. That said, I have only ever tried the Shepherd Sock, and haven't even petted any other types of Lorna's Laces. I do like lace knitting, though, and have heard good things about the Helen's Lace. If you are TRULY SERIOUS about sending me some, I can only thank you happily and dash away furtive tears of joy. I love red, pink, blue, green, grey and purple.

Secondly, yes I belly dance. It's great fun and very affirming from a feminist perspective. It's not easy to get over stage fright, but I wouldn't like to think I had given up an interesting and enriching life experience just because I was worried that people would laugh at me. I've been mocked many times in my life, and have come to the conclusion that people will do it even (maybe especially) if you're fully clothed, sitting in the corner quietly, and trying not to be noticed. So you might as well put body glitter on, don a sparkly costume, slide cymbals on your fingers, and jump up on the stage.

Thirdly, I have been tagged for another meme. I've come to a more mature perspective on memes, and no longer feel that they are necessarily Of The Devil. Therefore, I give you seven more things, courtesy of Annalea, who tagged me. But I will stretch the meme out over the next few posts because I can only think of one, right now. Surely by tomorrow some more will come to me.

1. I have this recurring fantasy where I hide in the library until they lock it for the night, and I spend all night in there drifting through the stacks, lying on the floor reading random bits of random books, and nobody bothers me. It gets dark and maybe it rains (our library has a leaky roof right over the children's section) and I eventually end up in the occult section, freaking myself out with spooky books like you'd find in the Sunnydale High library. Flashes of blinding lightning illuminate the towering stacks like angular, monochromatic gargoyles.

How's that?

"By all accounts I'm a likeable fellow."

Erudite Mondays at HalfSoled Boots

Volume 2, Number 1

The Weekend Man
Richard B. Wright

After reading Clara Callan several years ago, I was dead impressed with Richard B Wright. So when I saw this title while browsing shelves in the library, I had to pick it up.

The thing you have to know about Richard B. Wright is, he is a truly Canadian author. This means that not only his subject matter and setting, but his voice, sense of humor, and perspective are keenly northern. As with other Canadian writers, it also means that the picturesque and the ridiculous are mixed in equal parts with the bleak and despairing - just as the protagonist and the antagonist are the same person.
The truth is that I am not a success because I cannot think straight for days on end, bemused as I am by the weird trance of this life and the invisible passage of time.
Wes Wakeham works in a publishing house. He's separated from his wife, and struggles with what he calls the nostalgies - the desire to live in either the past or the future. His dreams of better days incapacitate him. They subvert his ability - even his will - to be a driving force in his own life.
She's a big deep-bosomed woman with a face that should appear in this day and age on packages of frozen pies to attest to their home-baked goodness.
The reflections of the glorious contented past or the glittering champagne-coloured future are portrayed in a strange and specific way - the events of the book are impossible to date. They all occur in the few days just before a Christmas, but the year is never mentioned. At different times I thought it was set in the 1980's, the late 1960's, the 1990's, and the '50s. It's an effective way of temporally displacing the reader in order to manufacture sympathy with -- and, conversely, distance from -- the narrator.
No doubt she's wearing a smart tweedy suit and her long brown hair will be piled neatly under a simple hat. She's probably drawing on leather gloves at this moment and looking a bit like Joanne Woodward in one of those scenes where Joanne is trying to get rid of some creep so she can rush off to meet Paul Newman on the steps of the Natural History Museum.

Wes is a weird dude. He's severely emotionally distant from everyone around him, and has an unnervingly amoral approach to life. He's mild-mannered and apathetic, and sinks himself into fantasy constantly. I was not sure which he most reminded me of - Bartleby the Scrivener or Walter Mitty.

Before retiring I stood in front of the dresser mirror and tried on Bert's Shriner's fez; an elaborate headpiece, royal purple in colour with a silver tassel and a gold crescent moon and three small starts on the front. It came down over my eyes and made me look like some sly rascal from the streets of old Baghdad.

Flashes of the profound come thick and fast in this book. Written in the first person, it is a mild series of observances about the performance of daily life as the narrator sees it pass in front of him. There are many characters that enter and exit the stage before him, and his descriptions of them are hilarious, quick-witted, misguided, sobering.

She looks good today; blonde and sleek and heavy breasted in a starched blouse and a grey skirt which nicely covers her fine big bottom. Mrs. Bruner looks like James Mason's mistress in some movie about the fall of Berlin. I dare say she has climbed an Alp or two in her day wearing those heavy walking boots and short leather pants, singing songs of the Fatherland.
I found myself very often wishing for a change in narrative perspective - searching the pages for insight into the truth about how others actually saw this man.

And so we watch each other, though his look is turning into a glare. He probably thinks I am a homosexual. He doubtless would like to get out of his Chrysler, pull open my door and smash me right in the mouth. Perhaps even give me a kick in the scrotum as I lie on the pavement. I cannot tell the Moustache that all I am doing is searching his face for something to go on; some clue that will help me understand how he does all this without blowing his brains out some Monday morning about ten minutes past seven.
The book is so funny - I started laughing out loud at around page 3, and continued to the last chapter. It won't be universally appealing: I know enough about my taste in books to know that. My mother, for one, would hate this book - primarily because she would hate the narrator, just as she loathed Holden Caulfield. I find myself alternately in sympathy and in exasperation, understanding his perspective on life even as I am wishing he would suck it up and get on with things.

I myself just drift along, hoping that the daily passage will deliver up a few painless diversions. Most of the time, however, I am quietly gritting my teeth and just holding on.
Keep an eye out for Richard B. Wright, if you are the type to appreciate the pain, the numbness, the conflict and the humor of the everyday.

What, you're still here?

Feast or famine, eh?

I've been busy with a few things. I'd like to say it was all productive, but in reality I've been drying my eyeballs out staring at the Ravelry forums. Fora. I tell you what - people sure do get worked up. I joined the BID - Big Issues Debate forum - and you could just sit there all day watching the hissy fits. Some of the threads are interesting, many are simply virtual Molotov cocktails that get tossed into an already hot crowd.

But it hasn't all been "Are you in favour of same-sex marriage?" and "I feel Creationism should be taught in public school science classes". I've been doing some ACTUAL things as well.

My friend recently opened a gourmet food store, and she is offering a Middle Eastern cooking class this month. She asked me if I would come and dance at it.

Belly dancing. By myself.

At first I figured I'd decline, but I decided life is short and realistically, any kind of bellydancing looks good to people - objectively, I'll probably get more admiration than derision. So I'm going to go for it. (Ack!)

My daughter took a picture of me practicing.

And I got the loveliest surprise the other day. A USPS priority box from a (mostly) non-commenting, non-blogging Reader, CHOCK FULL of beautiful and yummy things. Look!

See how happy it made my daughters. (Though you can only see one of them in this picture.)

Thank you so much, Anna from Chicago - and to your question (and I quote) "Maybe you'd like some Lorna's Laces? They're from Chicago. Let me know!", an extreme "Will you marry me?"

After all - it's legal.

T-7 Days And Counting

Sooooo ONE WEEK UNTIL I GET MARRIED! For those of you who have been waiting for me to bust out with the gory details of wedding planning ad nauseam, I will do my best RIGHT NOW!

I am SO EXCITED to get married! Neil is awesome!!!! He is seriously the most amazing person I've ever met. Let me just say some things about him:

He is smart -- he is very intellectual and logical, and knows more about politics than anyone I know except my Uncle Dale (chair of the BYU-H Poli Sci dept.!)
He is creative -- he has SO MANY ideas for awesome design and architecture
He is kind
He is the most giving person I know
He is the most giving person most people who know him know
He is an Eagle Scout! Which is very impressive to me
He is Christlike in his actions
He is a great dancer -- he break dances like no white boy I know
He is super-fit, flexible and gymnastic -- I've seen him do flips, the splits 3 ways, walk on his hands, and various gymnastic moves incorporated into his break dancing. He's lifted weights every week for the past few years and he has an Excel spreadsheet to prove it, because
He is organized -- although his room resembles a disaster area, he cleans/organizes it nearly every day.
He always helps, supports and encourages me -- he gets excited about anything I'm interested in and he helps me to make my life easier: like getting me books and accessories to learn guitar, encouraging my desire to take ballet, getting me Shade shirts so I don't fret over what to wear, getting me bobby pins and hair ties because I can never find any, getting me Sterilite containers to organize my stuff in my house and car, encouraging and facilitating my travel to see friends with his flight benefits, getting me laundry bags because I had to use the laundromat, getting me a PDA phone because I wanted to be more organized, getting me foods I mentioned wanting to try, encouraging me to follow my career dreams, etc. etc. etc.!
He is a great yoga instructor!
He is a great masseuse
He is very good with money
He has great style
He is good at cutting, dyeing and doing hair
He is FUN!!!! He always plans fun things for the two of us to do, and he often orchestrates fun things for groups of us to do -- and he always tries to include and invite everyone
He is so sweet and romantic! From randomly giving me unique flowers, to box seats for two to a ballet at the Kennedy Center, to finishing a marathon with me, to last weekend helping me pack all my crap into a U-Haul and move to our new house, to the engagement-day trifecta: fly fishing lessons at dawn, a 4-hr. horseback ride through the mountains with lunch, and a hike to a peak overlooking the Shenandoah valley, where he proposed!
He is the most easygoing, happy-go-lucky person I've ever met
He is serious when he needs to be and is very practical
I could say so many more things -- this is what love does to people :)

The whole getting married thing sounds both crazy and pretty cool. The icing on the proverbial cake is that loads of people we love are coming out to celebrate! Neil's family is pouring in from Arizona, and his family here in VA will all be there. My grandparents from Utah are coming out, and -- treat of all treats -- my grandpa, a sealer, got permission from the First Presidency to perform our sealing in the Washington D.C. temple!!!! My aunt Linda and my cousin's wife, Stephanie, and her chubby little baby, Ambrose, are coming out from Hawaii!! My very good friends Cavan and Scott are coming from Iowa! One of my dearest friends, Linsi, is coming from Ohio! I am so excited to see all of these people!

We have been churning out batches and batches of announcements/invites. I have a very kind friend at the Arlington post office who has been hand-canceling ALL of our invites so they don't get torn up in the machines, and to give them a "personal touch." So, when you see that round date stamp over the postage stamp, you have Gary to thank.

I think the food is pretty much covered. My Dad has been filling up his freezer with gumbo he's made, which is quite a sacrifice, because between traveling the country and the world every week for business, I don't think my Dad has had spare time since the '70s. So I know it is a huge deal for him to MAKE the time to do this. Neil's family got together with us to make 300+ specially iced sugar cookies!! I hope you like green and orange :)

I have a dress I absolutely LOVE and am excited to wear! It is so pretty! As soon as the wedding is over, I will post pics of it. I am not letting Neil see it before the sealing. I am such a girl! Yes, that was a sexist comment. But really, there is something to be said about getting sucked into all of this wedding-day expectations/traditions propaganda, or, as Neil puts it, "it's not your fault -- you've been brainwashed for the past 27 years of your life to want the whole princess wedding-day thing." He's joking, but there is truth in jest.

I had my "bridal portraits" done by Neil's cousin, a professional photographer. I haven't seen them yet, but I'm sure they'll be good. She is also going to shoot the day-of, which should be exciting! Neil is quite averse to having his picture taken, but he is conceding to at least mostly candid ones. I have been advised that I do, or will, hold all the cards here and can make this man bend to my will, but I fail to either recognize my power or enforce it. But I will. Come on, a little manipulation never hurt anyone! ;)

Flowers are still up in the air. We need them for the open house. I am slightly concerned about these.

I am having a tea party!!! Neil's aunt planned it for me, and it should be fun. Especially because Neil and his "peeps" are going to go climb a rock wall. haha. That's not supposed to make any sense. But the tea party should be fun! It's an all-girl wedding celebration extravaganza. I hope I get to wear a giant bow on my head. In fact, I think I will arrive with a giant bow on my head. It just sounds ultra, over-the-top feminine and festive! The thing I love about all of this is, anything goes! I am the bride!! As Cartman said, "I do what I want!" Please keep that out of context.

We are going to Costa Rica!! We are going to a volcano, hot springs, jungle, zip wire, and the beach!! Mostly I care about the beach. A girl needs a tan!

Basically, the next week+ is going to be THE BOMB. I would even go as far to say that it will be a weeklong bombfest.

I hope Neil break dances at some point during these festivities. I have never seen him do a backflip. Many moons ago when I asked him to, he jokingly said he didn't want to lay all his cards on the table; he was saving the backflip for our honeymoon. I'll hold him to that.


OK, sorry Stephanie and anyone else hoping I will bury this nonsense with a more interesting and normal post :)

Taralyn, thanks for the heads up on the gov't trying to hide the truth!! OK, this is really interesting to me, especially as a working journalist, that the article I linked previously is NOWHERE TO BE FOUND on the Washington Post Web site -- in fact, a search only brings up lame Post blog entries about the event. HOWEVER, it does bring up a follow-up article that is QUITE intriguing!!


The military changed their story about the UFO sightings! They initially said none of their aircraft was in the area of the sightings, and now they are saying, "Oh, yeah, OH, you mean THOSE F-16s! Silly us, we WERE flying them, that's probably what you saw, not UFOs!" Um, maybe it's just me, but I think the Air Force probably keeps SOME sort of record of where they are operating multi-million dollar aircraft. I don't think they somehow "just realized" they were flying them in the area. I think they are lying!!!!!

And yes, I'm crazy.

"Seriously. NOT!! NOW!!!"

Welcome to the End of the World. We hope you've enjoyed your stay.

It probably doesn't look bad to you, but I'll have you know this is my third attempt to fix this mistake. If I can't do it soon, it'll be frog time - and tinking four 370-stitch rounds is a prospect that daunts even me.

Thrift is Better than an Annuity

I found out about Wardrobe Refashion 2008 from Mel at Pipe Dreams and Purling Plans. It's a simple idea for reducing my consumerism and environmental impact: recycle, renovate, repair and create my wardrobe this year, without buying new clothes.

I will be spending today on the mending/finishing basket. One day won't cut it.......uh, especially if I stop to blog about it......but at least it's a start. And, if you've ever wondered how exactly you're supposed to patch a pair of jeans, wonder no longer.

You'll need medium or heavyweight fusible interfacing, scrap fabric (preferably the same fibre content as your garment, and pre-shrunk), an iron, pins or Stitch Witchery (fusible adhesive webbing), a sharp needle and thread. Once you have these things around, by the way, you won't need to buy them for a long time. Just get a half meter of both interfacing and quilting cotton - it'll last you quite a while and only cost a few dollars. If you prefer a heavier fabric, such as denim, you can skip the interfacing stage altogether. You can also cut patches out of worn out clothing - choose the less-worn bits, of course.

Fusible interfacing and quilting cotton.

Step One - Create a Patch.

Fuse a section of interfacing onto the back of the fabric, making sure it's on-grain, if you're using a woven interfacing.

Cut out your desired shape from the now-interfaced fabric (I used a sheep cookie cutter and an extra-fine Sharpie).

You can use any shape, keeping in mind that one with lots of points, such as a star, will start to show wear around the edges very quickly.

Now you have a patch - or, I suppose, you could always buy one from a fabric store. But it won't be nearly as interesting or satisfying, I'd wager.

Step Two - Baste the Patch.

You need to hold your patch in place while you sew it on. There are two ways to do this: you can use pins (and caution while sewing) or you can use fusible webbing. My mum calls this stuff "Stitch Witchery", which I think was a brand name back in the day. It comes in a roll from which you can snip off bits of the length you need.

Position the patch where you'd like it, with the Stitch Witchery underneath, completely covered by the patch - you don't want this stuff stuck to the soleplate of your iron.

Fusible web on the bottom - patch on the top.

Press, without steam and for a fairly long time. Use the appropriate setting for the fabric you're patching. The heat has to get right through the double-thickness of the patch, so test it by lifting up on the patch a little bit to see whether it's fused. It doesn't have to be solid as a rock - you're just trying to keep the thing in place while you hand-stitch it.

Fusing the patch to the jeans.

Or you could do it the old-fashioned way.

Step Three - Sew the Patch.

Hand-sewing is getting to be a lost art, as everyone knows. If you're not in the habit of mending, darning, reattaching buttons, and so on, you might have to practice a bit before you really get the hang of it.

For today's patches I used blanket stitch. I like the look of it on this patch fabric.

Working from LEFT to RIGHT, (though I hold my fabric so as to make it TOP to BOTTOM) bring needle out at point A (outer edge). Insert at point B (adjusting spacing as desired - I spaced mine about a millimeter apart), then with thread below the needle, come out at point C directly below. Repeat, noting that point C now becomes point A for the following stitch. Make sure your spaces are even - unless you want them uneven.

Taking the stitch - note thread is below needle tip (also note I did this one right to left - don't let it bring you down).

Drawing the loop smaller.

Pulling the thread tight, ready to take another stitch.

Here are a pair of finished patches on Charlotte's favourite jeans. These hearts had to be a bit on the big side, which brings me to my final note: Patch 'em as soon as they need it. Apparently it's true that a stitch in time saves nine.