Date Archives February 2014

It’s alive! IT’S ALIIIIIIVE!

As a person who is constantly seeking validation and small forms of immortality, I couldn’t help but enter the Frankendie contest, which had people compete to have their likeness in their game, either as a mad scientist or as a monster. They already had a few solid mad scientist entries, so I felt like monsterdom was where I could shine. Not to mention, if you’ve ever had to deal with me early in the morning, I’m really more monster than human anyway. I could have assembled a new costume, but since they didn’t prohibit using an old one, I decided that my swamp witch costume with a new name would do nicely. And since it wasn’t based on merit, but was instead a giant popularity contest, I proceeded to bug the shit out of my friends and asked them to annoy their friends and so on and so forth. One day I’d take a commanding lead, the next I’d be behind, and it came down to the wire with me asking for votes something like every hour the final day of the contest. I’m surprised that I wasn’t unfriended in droves. The important thing is, I won.

What did I win? My costumed likeness is in the game, along with my copy (Can I put that on my resume?), two copies of the game, an illustration of myself, and an enormous t-shirt declaring me the property of the Mad Scientist’s Guild.

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My only quibble is that I’m still about 30 years out from orthopedic shoes, but other than that I’m stoked!

 

Interacting with Giraffes

This past summer, I visited the Woodland Park Zoo for the first time. It’s a good zoo: the animals have plenty of room, look healthy, and even better, they offer animal interaction where you can feed elephants and giraffes.  I love getting close to animals and seeing the texture of their skin, feel the whooshes of their breath, watch their eyelashes flutter, their lips quiver toward a treat. I am in awe of their presence, their majesty. I love the noises they make, from the Jurassic Park screech of a Japanese crane to the rumble of a tiger. I love seeing the sun glint off their fur, watching their muscles rippling under their skin, and acclimating my eyes to the nocturnal areas to watch a bat spread its wings.

I know you’re not supposed to like zoos if you profess to love animals. Or circuses. Or basically any animal-based entertainment. And I do understand that. I don’t want animals to be tortured for my entertainment, and there are examples of all of these things that show that some humans are incredibly cruel, or stupid, or both. But I also believe that it’s possible for zoos to be run well, for the animals to be treated with exemplary care, and for the displays themselves to be educational and spark a desire in humans to love and protect the animals and habitats we otherwise so readily destroy. That the physical reality of the animal can forge a connection that a photograph in a book or on a screen cannot.

I was, and remain, deeply upset about the killing of Marius the giraffe in the Copenhagen Zoo. He was still a baby and was yet deemed ‘surplus’ and as such was slaughtered and fed to the lions. He wasn’t so extraneous when he was still small and could bring in tourist money, but now that he was older and no longer a draw, suddenly his dismemberment could be “an educational experience”. If the role of zoos is to protect these animals, it makes no sense to kill one and call it education. The zoo claims that they needed to kill him to combat inbreeding, but a simple castration could have solved that issue and he could have lived a long and healthy life. Other zoos offered to take him in. Private buyers offered to take him off of the Copenhagen Zoo’s hands. But instead of protecting his life, they made a glorified sideshow out of his death.

I realized that as I came across these photos, I couldn’t just post them now in light of Marius’ needless death without commenting on my participation in giraffe tourism. I’m trying to be more vigilant about which businesses get my dollars when animals are involved. Sometimes I make the right choices, and sometimes I make wrong ones; I hope I make the right choices more often than not.


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One of the first places we visited in the zoo was the insect area, a place which I find both fascinating and repellent. I’m often simultaneously filled with the urge to go “ooooh” and “ewww” at the same time, finding myself flailing when I feel something imaginary skitter over my neck and practically moaning in despair when I see that they keep one of their spiders out in the open, saying that she “has no reason to go anywhere”. Oh yeah? Someday she might find a reason. Someday when I’m near the exhibit. I don’t want to be involved in any sort of spider-related incident.

IMG_1276I don’t know how going into a little hole in the wall makes you a dung beetle, but I’ll go with it. It’s definitely better than “Here, be a dung beetle and roll around this giant turd!”

IMG_1277I’ve caught about 1,000 of these in Animal Crossing.

IMG_1280  This picture is poor even by my standards but I love that little fuzzy Japanese crane baby.

IMG_1288What does the fox say? “I’m pretty tired of your shit, guys.”

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IMG_1305I’m actually pretty certain that there’s a similar photo of me with a carrot or a hot dog out there somewhere.

Sometime after lunch, our group split up–most everyone wanted to see the educational display of a bear going after a picnic basket’s contents because they were pretty sure it was going to be total carnage (you know, in an educational fashion), but I felt strongly that if I didn’t feed an elephant a leafy branch when given the opportunity that I might die. We knew that the animal interactions were an extra fee, but we didn’t know that this extra fee was cash only, resulting in a scramble through the park, looking for an ATM.

It was totally worth it. Aaagh just looking at these pictures makes me want to give this elephant forehead kisses (I am not suited to survival in the wild, being cared for by a nanny society has worked out in my favor) but I had to settle for feeding it a shoot from a what was essentially a magic wand for elephant treats.

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IMG_1316Accio Treato!

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After we waited in line to meet the elephant, we waited in line to meet and feed some giraffes, because this zoo understands the importance of feeding a hungry giraffe, unlike the Racine Zoo. They allow you to feed the giraffes directly from your hand, but warn you that as much as you might like to pet them, they do not want to be petted. It took an extraordinary amount of willpower on my part to not attempt to touch a giraffe, but I managed to follow instructions, unlike one of the kids in our group. He had initially impressed the zookeeper with his knowledge and questions, but tried to feed the giraffe with one hand and pet it with the other on the side the zookeeper couldn’t see. I did find it immensely gratifying to watch the giraffe’s head snap back and have her give the kid a look like “You, sir, have violated our feeding agreement and I am extraordinarily disappointed in you,” mainly because that look was not directed at me.

 

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We also made certain to take some time to see the baby sloth bears, and we were rewarded with sloth bear roughhousing. Of course, I can’t see two adolescents fighting without immediately thinking of Arrested Development, so I give you BOYFIGHTS: Sloth Bears.

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Nom or Vom: El Taco Terrible

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We all know that Taco Bell isn’t Mexican food. I don’t think anyone who eats at Taco Bell wants it to be Mexican food, they want it to coat their stomachs in a hurl-resistant grease coating to keep your favorite bar’s well swill from revisiting your mouth on its way to the sewer system.  Or at least that’s the reason I would go to Taco Bell, which makes their addition of breakfast items suspect to me. Who’s going out and getting hammered first thing in the morning? It’s really more of a hazy buzz time of day, which is why mimosas and brunch exist.

So anyway, now there’s going to be a waffle taco at Taco Bell: a waffle stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheese, and a sausage patty (or bacon), served with syrup. Other than the shape, I don’t really see what makes this taco-like–you could assemble your own waffle taco at literally any breakfast place. So I guess the wild card here is that it’s from Taco Bell. Can you start your day off with Taco Bell? Should you start your day off with Taco Bell? Will you start your day off with Taco Bell? These are the important questions.

Pros: All the breakfast foods you love in convenient handheld form.

Cons: Rolling the dice on birthing a toilet-shattering abomination later in the day because you ate at Taco Bell. Somehow even less Mexican than regular Taco Bell food–put some chiles in the eggs or the cheese or make it a cumin-flavored waffle or something! If you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t like the food on their plate to touch, this one is going to be a problem for you.

 

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A hike to Blue Lake

In late October, we got a collective bug up our butts to take a hike before it was too late in the season. As an intrepid last minute planner and avid indoorswoman, I did an internet search for “fall hike Washington” and found a description of Blue Lake, which sounded lovely. “Imagine a short and easy hike to a beautiful, deep blue lake. Add in views of several stunning North Cascade peaks. Then ring the lake electric yellow of larches. Sound good? If so, definitely add this hike to your October larch march.” Sound good? It sounded great. Of course, when we arrived, we were completely and utterly unprepared for it to be the frozen pass of Mount Caradhras. I swear, you could almost hear Saruman laughing at us from on high. But damn it, we were there to hike, and we were going to hike, adverse weather conditions or no adverse weather conditions. bluelakehike1

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The hike itself was fairly easy, even in the snow. There were only a few patches where the path was muddy or icy; the worst bit was when it got icy and there was a steep drop-off to one side, so we made sure to go slow and cling to the wall so as not to have our corpses become a warning for others. I mean, yes, I live my life as a warning to others, and I imagine my death will do the same, I’m just not ready for it yet. Ostensibly, it’s called Blue Lake for the color of the lake. I can’t verify this, as the lake was frozen over on our trip. Next time I go, it will have to be in August/September so as to see for myself.

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Since we found ourselves with a lot of unexpected snow, the only proper way to deal with it was to make snow angels. I may have had a numb butt for the rest of the day, but it was totally worth it.

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IMG_1424One of these things is lying. I’m not sure which.

On the hike back to the car, it started to snow, so we redoubled our efforts to get back faster, as we didn’t have chains for the car. It was fall, it’s frankly a miracle that we had hats and gloves. It was definitely a beautiful hike, just not the hike we were expecting. Damn you, Saruman!

 

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A NSFW Art Extravaganza

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You’d better not be in my ass groove!

I started bringing new furniture home practically the second we closed on the house. I was able to justify this by telling myself that anything that I moved in, I wouldn’t have to move out for the foreseeable future, unlike apartment living, where I was practically guaranteed to have to trudge it someplace new after a couple of years. There are a number of items of furniture I lust over in my soul at Fabulous and Baroque, one notable example of which is the Queen Anne’s Revenge Chaise. If I won the lottery, I would would re-poor myself in a week’s time with Fabulous and Baroque’s furniture. Since I have not won the lottery and won’t win the lottery since I don’t play the lottery, I have been trying to scratch this itch with furniture found on Craigslist.

It wasn’t long before I found a couch that was listed as being from the late 1800s with ‘minor’ upholstery damage. When I went and saw it in person, I realized that the damage was a little more severe, but since I didn’t intend on keeping the gold brocade anyway, I figured it was no big deal and loaded it up in the uhaul.

beforesideLook at those rusty nailheads!

 

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I took this photo immediately after we brought it into the house, before we returned the uhaul. Jason voiced his concern about Napoleon ripping out more stuffing since his stuffed toys have an average lifespan of about a minute and a half. I countered that the couch didn’t have a squeaker, so it would be fine.

We came home to carnage. Stuffing was everywhere, and he’d built himself a fine nest, all the way down into the hay that the rest of the couch was stuffed with. Hay. Hay and…matches?

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It was about this point that I realized I’d gotten in way over my head with this couch, that the entirety of my reupholstering experience consisted of some benches I’d purchased for a penny and a half-assed job on an IKEA couch that didn’t have long for the world anyway. You can’t just slap some monster fur over hay and matches and ripped-up matted wool and call it a day. I’d go in and look at it, get intimidated, and leave the room again. I’d prod at it, trying to figure out how exactly I would get the fabric up and under the wood pieces, get overwhelmed, and walk away. Eventually, I threw a dropcloth over it and pretended it acted as some sort of invisibility cloak, masking my incompetence.

Napoleon did not forget about the joyful time he had ripping out couch guts, and I found him lounging on my failure more often than not.

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I’d wanted to have the couch done for our wedding as the group was getting ready in the house and thus photographs would be taken on/around the couch, but with all the flipping projects I planned for myself before the wedding, including some house renovations, there was simply no way I was going to get it done, so I settled for ‘artistically’ draping a blanket over the damage, like a surgeon taping a band aid over some festering sore. When everyone’s family was over at my house for the rehearsal dinner, everyone who moved the blanket to see what was underneath grimaced like the hay, matches, and matted wool had physically hurt them. You shouldn’t pull back the curtain if you don’t want to see tiny, hay-stuffed Oz. That one’s on you guys, not me. I tried to protect you from the horrible truth.

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I think Napoleon only ever left the couch to eat and pee.

After the honeymoon, one day I’d decided I’d had enough of being defeated by a couch and started to pull off the brocade, which was so old and fragile that some of it literally disintegrated in my fingers. I don’t even want to know what I inhaled over the course of reupholstering it, because I only occasionally remember to wear protective headgear. After I got the fabric on the back off, what had been puzzling me for months became clear. Of course I couldn’t see how it all went together with the fabric in place. The fabric on the back and sides was nailed on last, after the front and the cushion had already been upholstered and fitted in. Once I saw that the back had been upholstered and then screwed to the frame, it was just a matter of taking things out in the reverse order of the way they’d been fitted in.

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backI’d done that giant ouija board in the background of this picture earlier in the month, because somehow a coffee table sized ouija board was more pressing. It may or may not get its own post in the future.

 I’m bad at taking photos in the middle of a project like this, because once I get going, I get so thoroughly engrossed that I don’t even think to pause and photograph the process. Basically, I took the old fabric off as carefully as I could, so I could use it to make a template for the new fabric. I then sewed the pieces together with a sewing machine, stapled on one side and stretched the fabric as much as it could stretch before stapling the other side. This keeps the material from sagging/wrinkling over time. The seat of the couch was redone with a LOT of upholstery foam, which makes it significantly more comfortable and somewhat less flammable than being stuffed with matches. The sides and the back were nailed on with decorative smoked crystal nails, and when it was all said and done, it looked like this:

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Originally, I planned to silver leaf the wood, but now I’m glad I didn’t, the original wood is so pretty that I think it would have been a shame to cover it up, and the brown tones give it a warmth that helps keep the living room inviting. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than it was, and it’s sufficiently scratched my itch for a more ornate couch at a sixth of the cost of a new one. I think I’d ultimately like it more with a matte fabric instead of this shiny faux ostrich, but with a dog in the house, an easy-clean surface rules over them all. I’m sure at some point (years down the line, not any time soon) I’ll have to tackle it again and we’ll see if my technique can be improved.

 

No talking like a grizzled 1890s prospector…consarn it!

In Oregon, there is a mine where the general public can prospect for the state’s official gemstone, the Oregon Sunstone. Although a number of stones from other places are called sunstones, Oregon claims it is the only proven location where you can find red labradorite, a plagioclase feldspar. These stones have an optical effect when turned due to reflections of the red copper inclusions inside.

Although we haven’t been able to make it down to Spectrum Mine ourselves for free (or fee, in the more ore-rich areas) digging, we were able to order a bucket of ore to the house and play prospector in the backyard.

To separate the sunstones from the crap, we used a grocery basket that we temporarily liberated from (and later returned to) a nearby Fred Meyer. We used the highly scientific method of pouring a bunch of ore in the basket, wetting it, swishing it around, and picking through it for bits that glimmered in the sun, alternating between who did the wetting/swishing and who did the picking since we only had one basket.

 

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We actually got a surprising amount of sunstones in our bucket of ore, the photo below shows only a small handful of the stones we found. We haven’t really done anything with them yet, they’re just sitting in a bowl in the gallery o’ minerals in our living room, but eventually we’re going to try and rock tumble a few of them to see how pretty they are when polished. If it’s awesomely pretty, we may end up making a trip to Spectrum Mines ourselves to dig out more. Thanks in advance for the baskets, Fred Meyer.

 

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I’m sick of being so healthy!

I loathe all of the motivational fitness posters that keep popping up on Pinterest. They’re smug, condescending, and designed to make you feel like there’s yet another metric in life in which you’re failing.

Fuck those things. I’m working on losing weight, because I know carrying all of this extra poundage isn’t good for my long-term health, and it’s a long, arduous process that isn’t made easier by sarcasm and derision. I decided that a few of them needed responses.

 

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It followed me home, can I keep it?

I have a thing about scouring Craigslist for furniture and then experimenting on it. I can’t stop. I won’t stop. I am on temporary hiatus, owing to not having access to a working car during hours when Jason is not supervising me. It’s harder to go out and collect things and “forget” to tell him about them when he’s right there, looking suspiciously over my shoulder as I’m dialing the phone number of yet another Craigslist weirdo.

Here’s a piece from the 70s that had clearly already been subjected to the whims of someone like me:

 

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The white and lime green zigzag is cute-ish and only a year or two out of date, but it doesn’t go with my decor and even if it did, the finish was rough and pimply, so it had to go. I sanded the crap out of it (though not enough to get rid of the half-assed chevron) and sprayed it glossy black. You can still see the ghost of zigzags past on the top, but that’s fine as I had other plans for it.

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I took the giant builder mirror we’d pulled out of the bathroom and shattered it, which took more effort and blows with a hammer than you might think. A lot more.

 

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After that was done, I arranged mirror pieces on the top of the end table like a mosaic until they were the shape/density I wanted, and glued them down with mosaic glue.

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When the glue was dry, I used black mosaic grout to fill in the gaps between the mirror pieces. This was by far the messiest part, the grout had separated and shot black goo all over the place when I opened the container, and this goo stained every surface it touched. What I’m saying is, it was pleasant. The grout itself was a consistency that didn’t want to spread very well, and though it was supposed to be completely dry in a few hours, it took days. Days in which I poked and prodded at it, wondering if it would ever actually set.

Eventually, I was able to scrape all of the extra crap off of the top and clean the mirrors, and now it lives happily in my upstairs. It could probably use another grouting to be perfectly level, so I wouldn’t run your tongue over it or anything just in case of a sharp edge lurking somewhere, but it works well enough for my purposes! Maybe when I forget how infuriating that grout was, I’ll give it another crack to make it perfectly smooth.

 

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I found….a penny! Could this be the best day of my life?

 

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I have been collecting pressed pennies for as long as I can remember. Literally any time there is an opportunity for a coin-based souvenir, I have either gotten it myself or wrested it out of the hands of someone else.  They all hang out in a bowl in the house, and like a great big weirdo, I scoop them up in my hands and let them jingle through my fingers. I would swim in them, Scrooge McDuck style, if it was possible.

The day we went to the Kennedy Space Center, there were two separate coin-based souvenir opportunities: one pressed penny, and one silver coin with the NASA logo. I needed both, and stripped the necessary change to acquire them out of Jason’s pockets. This ended up costing me significantly more than the value of the coin.

Unlike Washington State, where there are only a few toll roads and they’re mostly avoidable, Florida has tolls everywhere. It seems like there’s a tollbooth every twenty feet on the highway, and as people who rarely carry cash, we were completely unprepared. Luckily, we had some cash on hand when we arrived at the airport, and the booths we went to were staffed with people who could give us change. Unfortunately, on our way back from the Kennedy Space Center, our GPS lagged at a critical juncture, and I ended up merging from one highway to another going in the opposite direction of the one we wanted to travel. Normally, this isn’t a problem; you just drive to the next exit, turn around, and merge on in the opposite direction. In Florida, this was a problem, because on this particular highway, the exits (and entrances!) were tolled, too. Umanned tolls, accepting only change.

Change that I had used in the acquisition of pressed pennies.

Shit shit shit.

We scrounged through the car, through my purse, through all of our pockets, and we were exactly one penny short. I shit you not. I didn’t know what to do at this point, except I saw a video camera monitoring the scene, so I made a show of pulling a dollar out of my wallet, showing it to the camera, getting out of the car, and very conspicuously jamming it in the door of the tollbooth (because I didn’t want to break the change counting machine and get into MORE trouble). Then I got back into the car and proceeded to exit because I didn’t know what else I could do. As our car pulled out, a flipping SIREN went off and a camera took our picture as I cringed and cried out a Darth Vader style “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”

Then it was a matter of driving around and finding a business that would give us change so we could merge back on to the highway in the correct direction, which took longer than you might think.

Before we went back to Florida, I stopped at a bank and picked up an entire roll of quarters. This time, the toll roads wouldn’t accept cash, period, only a sunpass, which of course, being tourists in a rental car, we didn’t have. Seriously, Florida? In order to get to our destination in South Beach, we ended up having to take a pass only toll road, so I’m not sure exactly how they deal with violators, but as a repeat offender, they probably have a warrant out for The Tollway Terror. We’re the most infamous duo since Bonnie and Clyde.