Friday Favorite Things About Moving

I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the past few weeks complaining about the various and sundry irritations of moving. But there’s things I love, too.

Getting rid of accumulated useless crap is pretty awesome.

Rediscovering treasures that were hidden away for lack of space, such as Michael Smith-Sardior’s Fragile Pair:


I actually did have room for this one, I just hadn’t had a frame. Now I do. Very happy about that.

Owning a microwave with a sensor cook function has been teh awesome. I’m all about microwaves that allow you to push a button and walk away, without wondering if you gave it too much or too little time.

Having everything sparkling clean is a definite plus. My little decorative items look brilliant and new, having been scrubbed to within a quarter-inch of their lives.

I very much enjoy decorating new spaces. There are always idiosyncratic nooks and crannies that scream with possibility.

There’s all the yummy extra wall space for bookshelves. Lots and lots of bookshelves. And Barnes and Noble’s only five minutes away now, so I shall be needing that space.

And, best of all: no more roommate. I iz happee! So is the cat, who is rediscovering the joys of having the entire place to herself.

So yes, we’re doing rather well. Tomorrow will be even better. The new curtains got here. No more evil yellow hurty thing peeking in through my bedroom windows when I’m trying to sleep. Woot!

Over to you, my darlings. When it comes to moving, I’m sure you have plenty of loves and hates. Feel free to share. And I promise we shall never have so lame a Friday Favorite again.

Friday Favorite WTF Moments o’ the Week

This week’s Friday Favorite shall be a quickie, since I’ve already deluged you poor people with a veritable flood of other stuff. I’ll just share with you my utter favorite moment reading Political Animal this week:

Quote of the Day: “No one should face financial ruin because of a mishap with a fork and an avocado.” (Click the link; it’ll make sense.)

It really will. And yes, it’ll still be funny afterwards.

Here’s a little something extra for my mathematically inclined readers:


I think math teachers should use this one to demonstrate the real-world applicability of equations. They’re useful for a lot more than science. They can also make heads explode in your cell phone company’s accounts receivables department. What’s not to love?

Friday Favorite Wine

Since Bush left office, I haven’t quite been tempted to drink myself into oblivion every day. Nice change, that. But I still have a fondness for good wine. One of the more exciting aspects of moving into a place of my own is getting a nice wine rack put up, wherein bottles of my favorites can be attractively displayed. Until, of course, I drink them.

It’s Friday. Time to unwind with a nice glass o’ something tasty. Here are a few of my favorite varieties:

Riesling

I first came across Riesling in a Time magazine article, which I paid attention to only because I was needing a fancy-sounding wine for a scene. At the time, I was still in tequila mode. Wine and I had not yet become friends. But the bottles were pretty, and it sounded nice.

A few years later, I finally got around to trying some. Oh, delight! Rieslings vary quite a bit between regions, and I’ve made friends with many. From my own state of Washington, you can get a nice, crisp, slightly dry Riesling that still contains a big fruity punch. If you want something a little more guttural, where else would you go but Germany? But my absolute utter favorite Riesling comes from Australia. Sweet, lush, robust stuff that bounds around on the tongue like good Aussie slang. You can barely taste the alcohol in it, which means you can get into considerable trouble. And that’s exactly how I like my wine!

Beaujolais

Not a huge red wine fan, actually – tannins and I don’t get along. But when I first moved to Washington, I found a wee little bottle of Petit Beaujolais at Cost Plus that just begged me to bring it home. It sounds so friendly. Cheerful, even. So I snatched it up, and promptly discovered the most delightful red wine I’ve ever had. It’s a bright ruby red without the tannins. Woot!

I have a bottle of Pierre Chermette Beaujolais 2007 sitting here unopened as we speak. I got it at my favorite local wine shop on the afternoon they poured all Beaujolais for their Friday tasting. I’ll tell you something. It’s damned difficult to pick favorites when they’re all divine. But this one’s something special, and if you get a chance, get a bottle.

Shiraz

I know, I know – I said I’m not a red wine person, and that’s generally true. But Shiraz is awesome. So is Syrah, and you know why? It’s because they’re the same thing. It’s a grape with dual identities!

Shiraz is a little more tannin-y than Beaujolais, but let’s just think of it as boisterous rather than bitter. It really does have that bounding, devil-may-care, loudmouth feel to it. All wines have personality. While Riesling’s laid-back, and Beaujolais is cheerful, Shiraz is a prankster. It’s spicy and adventurous, but not quite overbearing. If Shiraz were a friend, it would be the type of friend you grab when you want to go explore brave new worlds.

It’s also a damned fine cooking wine, if you want a good red that’ll give a beef stirfry an extra kick.

Inama Soave

When I was a kid, I used to wonder what it would be like to drink flowers. You wonder this sort of thing when you enjoy faerie stories, as I did. There was talk of nectar and sugared violets and such things, but the “nectar” you got at the grocery store was pretty much pear juice, and the one experience I had with candied flowers wasn’t all that special. Oh, and FYI – rosewater’s not for drinking, at least not when it comes out of the bathroom vanity.

I gave up on finding flowers. And all those wines they claimed had a floral bouquet – yeah, right.

Until this one.

It’s like drinking a gardenia. Or maybe honeysuckle. Little bit of iris. Seriously. If you’ve ever wondered what the most enchanting flower garden you’ve ever seen would taste like distilled, my darlings, this is it.

Italians are genius.

It’s the best white wine I’ve ever had. And what’s even better is, when it’s been open for a few days, it doesn’t get that bitter, icky old-wine taste. Oh, no. It tastes like tequila.

Perfecto!

No post on wine would be complete without a shout-out to my absolute favorite wine shop in the world, Pike & Western Wine Shop. If you’re ever in Seattle on a Friday afternoon, they do free tastings from 3-6 pm, and believe me – they will do right by you.

Friday Favorite Comics


Tomorrow night, it will become clear to you why I’m taking this opportunity to celebrate comic books. And no, it’s not because Watchmen came out. Although I am, in fact, rather excited about that.

Truth is, I’m a comic book lover. And I freely admit I used to be the kind of snob who thought they had no redeeming value whatsoever. That was before my Professional Layabout, Justin, snookered, hoodwinked, and otherwise got me addicted by nefarious means.

He started where I’m going to start. It’s the only way to turn a sneer into a swoon, really.

Sandman

My best friend Garrett tried his best, but being 3,000 miles away, he couldn’t break through my skepticism by shoving Preludes and Nocturnes into my reluctant hands with the command, “Read it!” Justin performed this service. Shortly thereafter, he accompanied me on my quest to a variety of Phoenix bookstores as I purchased the entire (then) 10-volume run.

It’s that good.

Listen. It’s the only comic that won the World Fantasy Award – and threw the literati into turmoil because how the fuck could a comic possibly win prestigious awards? But when your main characters are Endless; when Dream is a grim, dark storyweaver and Death a cute, perky Gothic chick; when your themes are myths and your storylines cover the span of human history, let’s just say that your comics kick their novels’ ass.

Trying to describe this comic is like trying to explain the complexity and richness of a vintage wine. It’s like trying to evoke the awe-inspiring beauty of a Hubble Space Telescope image by using a language that contains no word for color or cosmos. I can’t tell you why “Take my hand” is the most heart-wrenching sentence in the English language because of this series. I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to come across Marco Polo in the desert, or how delightful it is visiting Baghdad in its glory days. But if you read it, you’ll experience these things, and also wonder what really happened to inspire Shakespeare.

Sandman’s the most beautiful, lyrical, thought-provoking, and life-changing thing I’ve ever read. Ever. Topping even Lord of the Rings. If you haven’t partaken yet, go do so. Now’s good. I’ll wait.

Wasn’t that wonderful? Well, I’ve got more, although we’re out of the myths and into mayhem.

Transmetropolitan

If you’ve ever wondered what Hunter S. Thompson would be like were he transported into a dystopian science fiction future, you can stop wondering. Spider Jerusalem would actually kick Hunter’s ass, and can out-do him in the drugs-and-debauchery department any day of the week, but you’ll get the idea.

Reading Transmet is an utter mindfuck. Sandman is enlightenment through dreamscapes: this is enlightenment through hard drugs. Spider is the greatest journalist ever to grace the pages of fiction. He will do anything for truth. Including setting his bowel distruptor to “prolapse.”

He has filthy assistants as well. They are the only women who’ve ever made me proud to possess an attack uterus.

If I ever become a journalist meself, you have only Warren Ellis’s Transmet to blame. If you appreciate good science fiction and merciless social commentary, you must read it. As before, now’s good.

Back? You look a little shaken. Perhaps something a little lighter, then, but we’d better bring you down easy.

Hitman

Only Garth Ennis make something so wrong seem so right. He’s the kind of writer who can make the clubbing death of a baby seal hysterically funny. In his defense, it was a zombie baby seal, and Tommy Monaghan felt badly afterward.

Tommy, you see, is a hit man, but not any hit man – he only kills super-powered beings. Did your strange experiment go horribly awry and unleash mutated monstrosities upon Gotham? Call Tommy. And then hope like hell things don’t go even more horribly awry.

He’s had a gun in Batman’s mouth. He’s talked Superman out of a depression. He’s subjected Green Lantern to humilation. He’s teamed up with Catwoman. He’s the kind of hard-hitting, slick-talking Irish boy who can turn any ho-hum adventure into a trip down the rabbit hole.

This is one of the funniest comics ever written. Go on, you need a good laugh. Again, waiting.

Ribs aching properly? Excellent. Because now I’m going to slam you with the serious shit.

Rising Stars

J. Michael Staczynski, bitches. That’s all I’ve got to say.

All right, so I’ve got more to say than that, but c’mon, seriously – how much more do you need than the man who created Babylon 5 wrote a comic series? A passing comet gives a select few people around the world superpowers. That would be a big ol’ yawn in most other hands, but Neil Gaiman respects Straczynski for good reason. In Straczynski’s hands, the exhausted old tropes become epic.

It’s not just about the superpowers, or the adventures. This comic explores the dark side. It delves into burden, temptation, and humanity. This is what Neil Gaiman would’ve written if he hadn’t been busy with archetypes.

There’s a beautiful
scene that will never leave me. I believe it was Ravenshadow, talking to Lauren, when she was about to destroy a lot of people by way of teaching Israel a lesson: “Selah, Laurel. Pause and consider.” I can’t remember the speech word-for-word, but it was one of the most poignant I’ve ever read.

Go enjoy it.

All right, you ready for some more kick-arse superheroes-as-you’ve-never-seen-‘em stuff? I thought as much.

Stormwatch and The Authority

Start with Stormwatch, of course, because that’s where it began. But The Authority is where Jenny Sparks really started kicking ass and taking names.

If I had to describe this in one phrase, it would be: “Fed-up superheroes.” Jenny Sparks said it best when she said, “Don’t play silly buggers with me, sonny. I’m not in the mood.” The Authority is a group of betrayed superhumans who don’t play nice. Not in a world this fucked up. No, they have the power to change things, and they’re not hamstringing that power by subordinating themselves. They’re The Authority. Let no one forget it.

You may have been hankering for a strong female lead in comics, although after the run I just set you on, I’m not sure why – everything but Hitman and Transmet has kick-ass leading ladies, and the supporting females in those last two certainly aren’t delicate. But outside of the Endless, you’ll never find a stronger female lead than Jenny Sparks.

If you wanted gay superheroes, The Authority’s got those, too. In fact, I do believe the first gay kiss in a mainstream comic was shared in these very pages.

You know what to do. Go, etc.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to delve into the rest of the excellence that’s out there. Comics grew up a long damned time ago. If you haven’t been expanding your mind by stuffing as many as possible into your cerebrum, you’ve been seriously deprived.

As for the already-geeks, favorites in comments, por favor. I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about.

Friday Favorite Childhood Cartoons

My supervisor has taken to announcing his lunch break with cartoons. Since we’re roughly the same age, our tastes coincide. It’s sad that the highlight of my work day is seeing what cartoon he’s hyping next, but at work, you must take whatever nuggets of joy you can find.

He’s reminded me of those halcyon days of childhood, when I used to drag my arse out of bed at five or six a.m. just so I wouldn’t miss my favorite show. Take a trip down Memory Lane with me, why don’t you.

Thundercats. Hands-down favorite cartoon evah. I wanted to be Cheetara when I grew up. Everything about this cartoon was awesome, from the characters to the stories to the theme music. Not to mention the logo – whoever designed it was a sheer genius.

There’s been talk of a movie in the works. I generally despise live-action – I’m a purist that way – but a fan put together a trailer, and damn if it doesn’t look spectacular. I hope the producers are paying attention. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

They should just hire this guy to do the film. Seriously.


He-Man. Okay, fine, yes, I’ll admit it – She-Ra, too.

But I thought that He-Man had a much better transformation. There’s no competition between “I have the power!” and “I am She-ra!” But She-Ra kicked He-Man’s ass as far as stunts went. She almost inspired me to become a gymnast.

But Battlecat kicks Swift Wind‘s ass. Sorry to say. I like unicorns a lot, mind you, but that character was lame.

Almost as lame as He-Man’s hairdo. Almost.

Transformers. Oh, yeah. Oh, hell yeah. One of the greatest shows of all time, that was. Although reality never quite matched up to the fantasy – I spent a good portion of my childhood lamenting that my Transformers action figures couldn’t transform as fast as in the show, and they didn’t make that awesome Transformer noise. I loved that sound!

Optimus Prime was my hero and role-model. He showed that kindness and compassion didn’t make you a weak sister. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried like a baby when he died.

Never saw the movie. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Sometimes, you just have to keep the original enshrined in your mind, whole and complete, perfect in itself. Complete with cheesy 80s electronic music.

You’re probably getting the idea that I was a total tomboy as a kid. Yepper. Oh, I had my girlie moments, but for the most part, I watched the boys’ cartoons and played with boys’ toys, and fuck that froufy shit. Didn’t watch Care Bears or Rainbow Brite. Didn’t sigh over the sparkly fairy fantasies. But there were a couple cartoons in my pantheon that weren’t all about rivets and battle.

Scooby-Doo. You knew that was coming, right? I mean, is there anyone who doesn’t love Scooby-Doo? This one ran every afternoon after school, and I’d get pissed if the bus was late. It didn’t matter how many times I’d seen an episode – I never wanted to miss a minute. I of course wanted a dog just like Scooby. And I became known as the Scooby-Dooby-Doo girl at school because I’d sing the theme song on the swings.

The show may have inspired my brief flirtation with the idea of becoming a detective, too.

Shaggy is the official mascot of me and my best friend. We used to hang out with a guy who thought he was Fred – liked to get us into crazy situations in a spirit of investigative adventure. We were always pulling a Shaggy on him: “That’s a great plan, Fred. There’s just one problem – I ain’t doing it.” Shaggy taught me the value of just saying no. Ironic, eh?


And, of course, the Smurfs. I don’t really want to talk about it. But I’ll admit that this is the show that dragged my sorry arse out of bed so early on Saturday mornings.

Besides. Without the Smurfs, we wouldn’t have had this awesomely wrong exchange in Twisted Toyfare Theatre #12 (paraphrasing from memory):

Mego Spidey: “Are you really the only girl?”

Smurfette: “Yeah. And for twenty bucks, I’ll be your only girl, too.”

So wrong it’s right.

Weigh in, my darlings. What cartoons kept you glued to the tube as kiddies?

Friday Favorite Physics Cats

Two of my great loves: physics and cats. Thanks to the intertoobz, I can indulge them all at once.

This was my opinion of biology once. Then I discovered molecular biology, got to know evolutionary theory better, and realized there wasn’t anything “soft” about it at all…

This is a frequent experience at Casa de Dana. I do believe my cat has several wormholes scattered throughout the apartment – either that, or she’s discovered how to use Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Nothing else explains why she can pop so suddenly out of nowhere.


String theory: exciting, elegant, and damned cute!


Every cat seems to have a touch of Schrödinger’s Cat in them.


Cats sometimes do seem to defy the laws of physics. A friend and I once tried to clean off her coal-dust covered kitty by dropping it in the wading pool. I’d never seen an animal go from a vertical fall to a horizontal flee without any intermediate stages before – and this cat didn’t even ruffle the water. They prove the impossible possible every day.

Who can resist a kitteh that imitates Einstein? Not me. And I’ll bet I’m not alone here.

Friday Favorite Graph

Wow. Look whose stock is rising – and whose is sinking:


That’s right. All of the foot-stomping, fist-pounding, screaming, crying, lying, and hysterical fits are sending Congressional Cons’ popularity plunging while their self-esteem rises. Poor babies. I do hope there’ll be enough of them left after the next election for mutual back-patting.

I imagine the numbers will sink even further when Americans realize Cons are doing everything they can to guarantee jobs won’t come back:

According to MSNBC’s John Yang, all indications are that Judd Gregg didn’t even tell the White House that he had decided to withdraw his name from consideration for the cabinet before announcing it publicly.

Gregg also released his statement just as President Obama was about to speak at the Caterpillar plant in Peoria, Illinois. (Caterpillar has said that as soon as the stimulus is signed into law, it can begin rehiring laid-off workers.) [emphasis gleefully added]

All this strongly suggests that Gregg’s move was calculated partisan politics, and it underscores this fundamental truth of modern politics: the Republican Party can not, and will not, put partisan politics aside for the good of the country.

If the above graph is any indication, the American electorate is starting to realize that.

This is actually wonderful, uplifting news for me. It means that more of my fellow Americans can see through a Con job than I expected. We’re making progress.

Maybe by the time Darwin turns 225, I’ll have another graph to applaud rather than mourn.

Forgot Friday Favorites Again, Didn’t I?

Heh heh heh whoops.

Look, I have an excuse. I was busy figuring out how to put a red ribbon on the White House. Everything else just kinda goes out the window when I’m busy figuring out how to use Photoshop Elements and debating whether or not to bust out the Wacom Tablet.

To fill in the void, here’s Friday’s Favorite Quote, which just about knocked me on the floor laughing:

From John Cole after watching Joe The Plumber, Michelle Malkin and Instapundit on PJTV:

I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.

You’ve got that right.

Friday Favorite Fun With Earthquakes

So no shit, here I was beavering away at the blogging, and all of a sudden I notice the house is juddering and the cat’s sitting bolt-upright acting like the world’s coming apart. The shaking lasted nearly a minute. It wasn’t the kind of thing that would make a Californian blink, but to this Arizona girl, it was a little intense – and exciting.

Had to be an earthquake. The only other thing that could cause the house to start dancing would be an explosion, and while I had the headphones on, I didn’t have the music on that loud.

The cat is currently sitting by my chair pretending she never panicked, nuh-uh, not even a little bit.

The sensation of an earthquake’s hard to describe – it’s like being on a rollercoaster that’s rapidly weaving side-to-side. The power of it is astonishing. My gliding rocking chair didn’t know what to do – it was trying to go in all directions at once, which added something of a washing-machine-from-hell element to the whole experience. You can feel it in your whole body. Bizarre.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network just reported it:


Magnitude 4.6 is about what I expected. According to the Nevada Seismological Lab, the approximate energy of this thing was somewhere between a small nuclear weapon and a decent-sized tornado. Nice!

Now let’s check out its intensity. I’m going to have to guess here, but this fits the bill:

IV. Most people indoors feel movement. Hanging objects swing. Dishes, windows, and doors rattle. The earthquake feels like a heavy truck hitting the walls. A few people outdoors may feel movement. Parked cars rock.

The blinds were swaying. The walls were vibrating. But crap didn’t fall down, so yup, I’d say we’ve got ourselves a IV.

Not that I’m a geologist or even particularly good at reading maps, but it looks like this one hit right on the Seattle Fault:



The Seattle Fault is a zone of multiple shallow east-west thrust faults that cross the Puget Sound Lowland and through Seattle, in the US State of Washington, in the vicinity of Interstate 90. First suspected from mapping of gravitational anomalies in 1965 [1] and an uplifted marine terrace at Restoration Point (foreground in picture), its existence was definitely established by a set of five reports published in Science in 1992. These reports looked at the timing of abrupt uplift and subsidence around Restoration Point and Alki Point (right side of picture), [2] tsunami deposits on Puget Sound, [3] turbidity in lake paleosediments, [4] rock avalanches, [5] and multiple landslides around Lake Washington, [6], and determined that all these happened about 1100 years ago (between A.D. 900-930 [7] ), and most likely due to an earthquake of magnitude 7 or greater on the Seattle Fault.

We are also, if you recall, right by a subduction zone, where the Juan de Fuca Plate slides under the North American Plate, and causes things like earthquakes and Mt. St. Helens. It could also cause tsunamis, which is going to delight my stepmother. She, after all, is relatively convinced that moving up here means I’m going to get sucked into the sea.

Maybe I should be worried about that. I’ve moved to one of the most geologically active areas in the United States. I could easily end up an eye-witness to a devastating earthquake or catastrophic volcanic eruption. Tsunamis are definitely on the list of potential fun. That’s too close for comfort for my stepmother, and used to be for me.

But damn it, after getting over the shock of realizing I was in a really-real earthquake, I’m grinning from ear to ear. This shit’s exciting. It’s a delight to be here where the earth’s reforming itself beneath my very feet. It’s one thing to read about it, quite another to live it. Now I understand why geologists look like kids at Christmas when they get to go into the caldera of an active volcano.

So there ye go. My first fun with earthquakes (that teensy tiny tremor several months ago doesn’t really count – it wasn’t even a kiddie ride). I never thought in a million zillion years I’d say this, but I’m almost hoping for an aftershock.

Friday Favorite Melancholy


You’re probably thinking Dana’s gone right round the bend. How could anyone have a favorite melancholy?

If you love a particular sad song, or somber poem, or tragic story, you’re as guilty as I am. I wouldn’t say we enjoy wallowing in misery, but sometimes it’s nice to soak in some sorrow. Some of the most beautiful things I know arise from desolation.

What brought melancholy to mind during this, one of the happiest weeks of my life? Well, in the few hours I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been organizing the disaster otherwise known as My Documents. My computer is full of fragments, things that caught my attention, things that informed a story I was writing or gripped me by both shoulders and demanded I pay attention. One of those things is a paragraph from Emyr Humphreys’s beautiful book The Taliesin Tradition, where he described the essence of Ieuan Brydydd Hir’s I Lys Ifor Hael, and said everything that needed to be said about the loss of a world:

The fact of a defeat, with the pain unassuaged by the passage of time, gives a cutting edge beyond romantic melancholy. Brambles cover the ruins of splendour, the halls of song are the haunts of the owl, and the qualities of generous noblemen and a whole way of life are less than stones in the sand.

I think that’s why we’re attracted to ruins. Each one contains a story. Each one reminds us that nothing lasts forever. We’re fascinated, sometimes elevated and sometimes humbled by the knowledge that this is all that is left of people who, like us, had hopes and passions and ordinary lives.

Berl Katznelson, one of Israel’s founders, used a wall as his example of impermanence:


You see this strong wall? Although it understands nothing, it too will disintegrate, it too will split. Disintegration has a logic of its own.

You never really think of disintegration being something logical, but Berl’s statement made me see it a different way. And it’s strangely comforting. It’s the senseless that we really have trouble with. Things that follow a logical progression can be accomodated, dealt with, even when they can’t be overcome.

And for a writer, it’s good to hear Lao Tzu remind us that words sometimes have a power that outlasts the merely physical:


The very bones of those you talk about have turned to dust. All that remains of them is their words.

The wall splits. A way of life is less than stones in sand. But the words live on. And they can mean just as much now as they did thousands of years ago. Think of Philoctetes, who was no more immune to pain and loneliness than we are, for all that he was a legend:


You jutting broken crags, to you I raise my cry-
There is no one else I can speak to.

I love that line. It reminds me that we’re never truly alone. When all else fails, a mountain can be your best friend.

Adversity brings out the worst in us, sometimes, but it can also bring out the best. Those moments of doubt and loss, suffering and melancholy, they’ve inspired us to create some of our greatest philosophies, works of art and literature that enthralled generations, and taught us how to be human. Every life should include a generous measure of happiness, but don’t knock the melancholy. It can lift you up as easily as bring you down.