Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Batcave's Secret Passage

Last time, on Deviant Dispatches...

A young woman on the move. An apartment hungry for bat-like affection. And possibly a secret passage...

And now, the stunning conclusion.

The Batcave is pretty cool. Thanks to some incredible sidekicks (a.k.a. moving helpers), we already have a passable living room and bathroom. The bedroom's even in tolerable shape, and the kitchen was assembled enough for Spousal Unit to make some gourmet spaghetti last night. There is little to no highway traffic noise, the neighbors have been friendly, and the only loss in the move was a bottle of cayenne pepper sauce whose head wasn't screwed on very tightly. (It went on a murderous rage, dousing everything in its path with spicy vengeance. Luckily, it was in a plastic bag and no one was hurt in the assault.)

This place will be awesome once I get used to it. But the one thing I cannot and will not tolerate is the basement. I will never go down there alone. Here I am, unable to go down there to snap a picture in the name of this blog, because its terror is so terrific.

The basement door is at the bottom of a doomed stairway. We need a key to get in; we don't need one for the front door, but for some reason, heaven forbid anyone sneak in and pay for a load of laundry. The ceilings are about a foot too low, and everything is the same shade of dark grey concrete (minus the unusual and suspicious stains here and there). Support poles - painted a sickly yellow - appear less than five feet from each other, and there are twists and turns despite the open cavern of evil at the main entrance.

The laundry room itself is a puddle of normalcy in the midst of a freak tornado. The brightly painted walls and recently updated machines do not fool me; I know a scene from a serial killer movie awaits me in the other room. And possibly a serial killer. Maybe even basement-dwelling bats.

Batcave, this is not what I had in mind when I asked for a secret passageway.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Letter to the Batcave


Dear Batcave,

You have no idea how excited I am to become a superhero.

Spousal Unit named both of the other places we've lived in (The Stick and The Pork Rind, respectively - and that was after we became vegetarians). His tendency was to think of a ridiculous name as quickly as he could, so that the name would be second nature and I wouldn't have a chance at naming it something cool.

I'm telling the truth here, Batcave: for the last year, I've lived in a place called The Pork Rind. I can't wait to live someplace less meaty.

Here are my hopes for you, Batcave. I hope you'll provide a quiet environment with little highway noise. I hope you'll allow us to regulate the heat, so that we can be as cool as we want in summer and in winter (really - I like the heat on low in winter). I hope that our new neighbors will hate drama and, therefore, will spend less time standing out in the yard and screaming at 2 a.m.

I hope you'll defend my laundry in the basement, send soothing breezes through the kitchen when it's warm, have soundproof walls, and help me come into my own as a superhero.

I'm not expecting you to do it all for me, just by nature of being the Batcave. I know I've got to grow my own wings. But if you know of any radioactive spiders in my new neighborhood (preferably non-poisonous), be sure to give them appropriate directions.

Also, a secret compartment or two might be nice. And a cape.

An occupant who just wants a butler named Alfred,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Holy Crap I'm Tired. And Weird.

I'm weird most of the time. Packing makes me even more so. See if you can guess the origins for the weird phrases I added to these boxes - I hope you'll get them all, but if not, click the link below the picture for their original source.

(Apologies for the brief blog - last night was one of the deeper, more freakish levels of hell, in which the warm outdoor temperatures combined with our frantic packing for a sweaty 80-degree apartment. And we have no way of controlling the heat. Which meant opening the windows, for no draft at all and lots of highway noise all night. So I'm running on empty this morning. I don't even care that some of these pictures are sideways. Have an extra cuppa coffee for me, y'all.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Alternate Drinkware Realities of DOOM

Progress is being made toward our move. I can prove it.


The thing is, despite the huge number of boxes and furniture lining the walls, waiting for someone to pick it up and say, "I will love it and squeeze it and name it George," I still feel like we're behind.

Truth is, we're probably not. Last night, Spousal Unit and I counted out Q-tips and underwear, t-shirts and hair ties. Various bathroom monkeys jumped into boxes, and some beloved Packers gear followed - a treat to be discovered once victory is complete.

But there's still the kitchen. And the closet.

Hopefully, they won't be so bad. We've already packed certain extraneous items, and the diabolical closet plan is to just throw everything in a giant box and hope they don't all need ironing in the end.

My biggest nightmare right now would be to start packing kitchen gear and discover a 20-piece set of wine glasses that haven't been packed yet, and still need to be lovingly wrapped and carefully stowed. Luckily, our kitchen is so tiny that unless an alternate reality opens under the sink, that's not likely to happen.

My second-biggest nightmare is that it will be 31 degrees the day of the move, and all 13 of our plants will die.

(Oh crap. I didn't realize I had that many. ... I'd better go buy another.)

So far, I am still sleeping well. We'll see how long that lasts.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Squashed Dreams

Over the weekend, I spent an incredible amount of time with my youngest sister. We had tea, took pictures, visited a really lame pumpkin patch, and ate way too much ice cream.

I say the pumpkin patch was lame only out of what may be a spoiled sense of what a pumpkin patch should be. When I think of such a thing, my mind is filled with the smell of cider, the glory of corn mazes, and the childlike rapture in a simple hay wagon ride. (Mostly influenced by the horses. Because, holy crap, horses.) A pumpkin patch is a place to revel in all things fall, eat overpriced apple cobbler and pumpkin bars, and breathe in the wonderful smell of dead nature.

The pumpkin patch we visited only had pumpkins.

Lamest. Cauldron. Ever.

Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. There were many varieties of squash in all shapes and sizes. There was also some local honey, chewed up and spat out by bees in my own backyard. But that was pretty much where the fun ended.

I love pumpkins. But I love apple cider, too. I also hate disappointment, and lame things.

One good thing came out of our visit, at least: silly pictures.

And my sister's senior pictures turned out pretty well, too.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Downtown Splendor

Downtown Madison is one of the prettiest parts of the city. Sure, State Street itself has moments when it's full of drunks and panhandlers, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find another downtown in a city of this size that is regularly so clean. And looks so nice at sunset. (If you know of another, please share with me.)

It's been two weeks at my new job, and I already miss working downtown - a tiny bit. I have to say that overall, it's pretty nice to not deal with downtown traffic. Wait, I'm dealing with the beltline now. Crap.

Anyway. The capitol looks gorgeous at any time of day.

Have a marvelous weekend - I'm off to enjoy a photo shoot and the mustard museum with my sister. But not both at once.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

25 Things Before 29

The coming year will provide many things for me. The Mayan apocalypse may or may not be among them; personally, I'm rooting in favor of the four horsemen deciding they're just not up to destroying the world this year, and would rather stay in Valhalla and comb their ridiculous green-tentacled beards. I like where my life is going, and I'd like it to get there - wherever there may happen to be.

It's that time of year when I like to at least pretend I have some control over my life and make wise and ridiculous goals as I gallop off into the sunset of another anniversary. Here's what I'm hoping to accomplish in the next year. The first six are uncompleted items from last year - ones that I still hope to check off my list.

1. Take a creative class - painting, writing, etc.

2. Bake something extra-difficult. Then make other people eat it. Because I'm evil.

3. Get a bike - if not for myself, for Spousal Unit.

4. Volunteer somewhere - like a children's museum or an animal shelter.

5. Take Spousal Unit to Mall of America, as he's never been there.

6. Read a book about quantum physics.

7. Finish the end of the novel, by the end of the year, so that I have a complete draft to rip to pieces, rearrange, and rewrite.

8. Check off steps 1 through 6 of my revision checklist. (Not as big a goal as it seems - I'm already halfway toward most of them.)

9. Write at least 200 words a day for the novel, starting November 1. I'm totally serious about this thing.

10. At least prepare a letter and the first chapter to go out to a publisher.

11. Get a kitty.

12. Go to Germany again. Or somewhere else awesome - I'm not picky.
13. Mod Podge/paint a bookshelf.

14. Go to Aztalan with Spousal Unit.

15. Knit socks for myself.

16. Save a predetermined amount of money.

17. Visit three Madison museums - the first on my list is the Mustard Museum.

18. Finish all of the quilt squares and sew them together. (This doesn't mean finishing it, as it will still need a border.)

19. Continue to exercise regularly. 

20. Reach a point where I do not expect to experience physical pain on a daily basis. I've given PT a shot; next up is massage and a chiropractor.

21. Continue to see the shrink.

22. Get my tattoo. This includes figuring out exactly where I want it, and how much of it I want to get at once.

23. Go to a concert. I don't care what kind - indie, jazz, classical, Irish - but it has to be live, and it has to be more than just one person making musical noise in a room I happen to inhabit. I miss live music.

24. Try to make music of my own again - as in, practice and become somewhat proficient again. I will pick between mandolin, piano, and flute.

25. Research hunting, and possibly go hunting - I'm thinking turkeys, or maybe fishing. More on this idea to come - if nothing else, I want to go to an archery range.

The year to come will, in some ways, be a continuation of last year - lots of novel work and self-improvement. In some ways, it will be kind of weird. I've come to expect that of my life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

25 Things - A Recap

Another year has come and gone for me, birthday-wise. (Though it hardly feels like it - I think I'm in emotional shut-down mode for the new job and upcoming move.) I've tried to do 25 things before this birthday happened. Some of those goals were met; some, I had no reason not to meet, but they fell by the wayside. Here's the recap of the last year:

1. Take a creative class - painting, writing, etc. - Not completed. I'm hoping it will happen this year, now that I have a regular schedule I can adhere to. Still not sure what kind of class, but it will be full of creating.

2. Take kendo lessons, at least one class - Accomplished, and I was surprised by how much I was not interested in it.

3. Start sewing afghan squares together (this is the third year that damn afghan is on my list...) - Accomplished. The afghan is now 7x5 squares, and I've almost finished making all the squares. Awesome.

4. Make another shawl for myself, in a fiber I don't have a shawl of yet (cotton is a possibility - preferably a cape-like shawl) - Did it - a black shawl in cotton. See above post.

5. Make sushi - I did, and it was delicious. I've done it several times since then, too, and I'd like to try dessert sushi next - with fruit!

6. Freakin' exercise regularly, in some way - I'm doing this now! Physical therapy has finally paid off enough that I'm able to run several times a week. Now the issue is with building my endurance from scratch. Not fun - I can hardly run three minutes at a time.

7. Have a tea party in our new apartment, when we get one - Had one with friend Kaelin and sister Laura - complete with cookies.

8. Make or trade for all of the Christmas presents I give - I more or less accomplished this. I bought one or two items (at local stores) due to lack of time. I'll call it a win.

9. Focus on poetry again (reading and writing) - I didn't give the poetry a go so much as poetic writing, through the myths for my novel. I bought plenty of poetry, but rather than reading it, it just collected dust.

10. Publish a poem/short story - Nope. Never even attempted it.

11. Get my own tea set - Yes. It's gorgeous, and gets used at least once a week. I love a weekend morning with a tea pot.

12. Cook/bake something unusual that takes extra effort - perhaps a souffle? - Never baked anything that I thought qualified for this. Maybe I'll make the Guinness cupcakes this year...

13. Complete a crossword puzzle on my own (I'm really bad at those) - Did it! Or close enough. And I haven't done one since then.

14. Get a bike - Not yet. Perhaps this year.

15. Get my orange skirt, so I have a skirt rainbow at last - I got two orange skirts, and I'm even wearing one today!

16. Volunteer somewhere - maybe the children's museum - Nope. I should get on this.

17. Take Spousal Unit to Mall of America, as he's never been there - Nope.

18. Read The Reader in German - Doing it now. I'll count this one as completed.

19. Move into our apartment that we don't have yet, on or before December 1 - Yep. And now we're moving out of it.

20. Buy a mattress. You know, for sleeping. Beause we don't have one. - Done.

21. Have regular date nights with Spousal Unit again. Even if it's just going for a walk. - Accomplished. We don't really call them date nights, but we are spending a lot of time together, and it feels date-ish.

22. Finish a second draft of my novel. Maybe a third. - Finished the second! Working on the third.

23. Apply for that writing program I'm interested in - Nope. I got too intimidated by the number of people who apply for the program. And it turns out, I can make good progress on my novel without being in class.

24. Read a book about quantum physics. Just for funsies. - Never got to it, but I still have the list of suggestions.

25. Continue to write my blog. (o hai, i are doin it nao) - Accomplished! I see no point on the horizon at which I would stop writing it.

Overall, I accomplished 17 of my 25 goals for the year. Not bad, as some of them were kind of a big deal. Several of the uncompleted ones will carry over, like trying to get published and baking something awesome.

I also accomplished a lot of things not on this list, like getting a job in my field, finding many free pieces of great furniture, and doing some actual novel research. It's been a good year - here's to an even better one on the horizon.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Captain's Log: Supplemental

I'm pretty burned out from my first week working full time in half a year. I considered just leaving you a  picture today.

But you deserve better than that.

Cornflower Blue has a lovely tutorial for turning a free piece of furniture into an awesome one.

I don't have an iPhone, but this Captain's Log app is pretty sweet. Trekkies, engage your grocery list!

Rurouni Kenshin is my favorite anime (minus Kaoru's whining, of course), and a live-action movie has been made. They say it's practically perfect in every way. Too bad it's not coming to the U.S. anytime soon. I vote that we start a petition for it.

Lots of people have seen these already, but I can't get over them: gorgeous pictures submitted for the National Geographic photography contest.

This is my favorite, but try out the tiger as your desktop background.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ostracism of Office Geekery

When I start a new job (or anyone, I imagine), I worry far too much about the first impression I make on new coworkers. This week has been no exception.

Something like clothing style is perfectly acceptable to change on the first day, I think. On Monday, I wore dress pants, dress shoes, and a business-casual sweater (whatever the hell that means), so that I could properly gauge the office dress code. Since then, I've worn skirts every day - my personal style is dressy enough for my new place of employment, thankfully.

But then there's the problem of my geekitude.

It's not so much that I want to hide my geeky, unusual nature from people - the side of me that's a Trekkie and a Star Warsian, who loves apocalyptic sci fi and plays fantasy football. (Poorly this season, but I'm still playing.) All of that stuff is rather bizarre for an office woman to partake of, according to popular thought and general office culture. I know from experience that if I let my nerdiness barf out all over a new office coworker before I can tell what kind of person they are, I'm likely to get strange looks and be, thereafter, avoided like some strange creature what came from the deep.

In other words, it's a waiting game: you show me your cards, and I'll show you mine. ...But not until you show me yours.

Of course, not all of it is fear of ostracism; part of it is just shyness. It usually takes at least three or four months for me to be comfortable in a new job, and then a few months after that is when I start making friends. It can make for a lonely breaking-in period, but it's also more comfortable for me while I adjust to a new environment.

As I write this, I realize that hiding my true personality in a new environment like this is largely necessity. I have to get along with these people, and new places are scary. Best to keep floating for a while and get used to the water, rather than doing the flips off the diving board that come so naturally to me.

But part of this is kind of sad, and a little ridiculous. My coworkers all seem very nice so far; who's to say that if I suddenly spew geek all over, they won't react likewise? In one way, my behavior assumes they're judgmental - and I don't want to be that person.

They already know I'm writing a novel about zombies. If that hasn't made them look at me sideways, nothing will.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Books I Bought

Sunday was my last day at the bookstore, which meant several things.

1. No more working with the occasional customer who is eager to hear about what you love to read and buys all three of your recommendations.

2. No more discount for working there.

Luckily, I took advantage of both these items while I worked the weekend. I recommended American Gods, The Illumination, and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie to the customer; I bought these for myself.

  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury - I've never read this, which is shameful for a scifi fan and a Bradbury fan. I'm reading this one first.
  • Der Vorleser by Bernhard Schlink (The Reader) - Trying to keep up my German skills. I've managed to get through the first few chapters without a dictionary, so they're doing okay. (Helps that I read the English version first.)
  • The Italian, or The Confession of the Black Penitants by Ann Radcliffe - I wrote my senior paper on this book and haven't owned a copy till now. I plan to reread this, just to see if I still think it's hilarious/creepy.
  • The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, edited by Alan Kaufman - Most of my high school Forensics pieces came from this book. "Ball and Chain Record Store" by Ellyn Maybe is my favorite.
  • Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Graham, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard - Gorgeous illustrations, wonderful accompanying story. Very wordy, but even little kids like this one because of how engaging it is. Big kids too, of course.
  • Stormdancers by Jay Kristoff (not pictured) - I think I mentioned this before. It's a lot like Spousal Unit's RPG game, Legend of the Five Rings. Bushido, flying tigers, airships, and a tough lady with a sword. I like it already, though it's hard to read something normal right after Nabokov.
I bought more than just these books (of course), but all the others are gifts. Once they're gifted, I'll mention a couple of the awesome ones here.

In other news, my first day at the new job was yesterday - so far, so good. More on that once I have multiple days under my belt.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ten Awesome Things About the Upcoming Month

I'm putting this one together as reassurance to myself, mostly. Okay, entirely. Good things are happening to me - I just need to remember that they are good and not deadly/terrifying.

1. On Monday, I start my new job. A job in the field I want to work in, doing what I've been interested in since moving back to the Dairy State.

2. This means no more new books on a daily basis, but it also means no more lifting of 40-pound boxes, no more awkward schedules, and (I'm really, really hoping) no more of retail's standby: getting screamed at during the holiday season.

3. I don't have to walk a mile and a half to work. Nor do I have to pay for parking.

4. At the end of the month, Spousal Unit and I are moving. The new area looks to have a lower crime rate, is closer to both of our jobs, and will be more compatible with leisurely walks.

5. The new apartment itself has a deck we can be selfish about (i.e. no sharing with neighbors), a bedroom we're turning into a library, and more closet space than Madonna has. (That's probably a lie. But we have lots of closets in the new place.)

6. The weather this morning has turned delightfully frigid. This means the beginning of sweater weather, and velvet skirts, and leg warmers that I haven't finished yet. I'm already excited to wear them.

7. Today, I'm making use of my employee discount for the last time. This means a mini-Christmas for me, as I'll be coming home with at least five books I've been staring at longingly for weeks on end. Among them are Sandman, Vol. 1, Der Vorleser (the German version of The Reader), and Stormdancer - Japanese steampunk featuring a lady with a sword and mythological monsters.

8. We're going to a pumpkin patch. I don't know which one, and I don't know when. But I didn't get to go last year, and now that I have weekends off, I'm determined to squeeze that in between packing books and power-washing the apartment.

9. Spousal Unit's thesis is moving along. He's excited about it, and so am I. Chances are, this means I won't get to go with to see him defend (seeing as I'm starting a new job), but if it can finally be put behind us, we'll both be thrilled. (And if I can't be there, someone better record it.)

10. Oh yeah. Somewhere in the midst of all this insanity, I'm getting older. They say that's a good thing, compared to the alternative, though I really seem to have stopped caring about the birthday itself. Here's something a bit different to celebrate: every day, I can wake up and say, "Today I'm the oldest I've ever been." That's a kind of success in itself. My mom's coming to celebrate our birthdays, which means a trip to my favorite tea shop. A moment of sanity at the end of this crazy upcoming week.

11. (Because I can add an extra one if I want.) My hour-long lunch breaks mean another chance at novel writing every day. I'm especially excited about that today because in the last two days, I've added another 1900 words to my novel. When I consider how many I wrote daily for the last NaNoWriMo I did, it's not much. But considering how my writing has improved, I'll take it gladly.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Giveaway Winner and a Sad, Sad Little Plant

Yesterday's giveaway is complete, and we have a winner.

The country I had in mind was Argentina. Ana, with her last-minute switcheroo, wins the scarf - Bolivia is the only country guessed which actually borders Argentina.

One last thing before I venture off into the wild yonder of my life: a before and after picture of my basil. See, this is the time of year when basil plants must succumb to their fate in these frigid regions; if I leave the plant for too long, it will turn black and shrivel and be completely useless.

Instead of allowing that to happen, I'm required to temporarily become a murderer.

My lovely and amazing basil, before harvesting...

...and after.

That pathetic little bag of greenery next to the pot full of sticks is the whole of my harvest. I'll be lucky to get even half a cup of pesto from that.

But such is the life of a non-farmer in the city. It's better than nothing, and I think it was worth it enough to do the same next year.

Now to see whether the plant will sprout again before it snows... I don't expect it to, but I do like experimenting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Giveaway Numbero Dieux

Hey. I said I'd do another giveaway in September, didn't I?

Yep. I did. But this scarf is much more appropriate for the current weather.

All man-made materials, this soft, 55-inch scarf is made with love, a crochet hook, and some fiery determination. To do what, I'm not sure. But hopefully some of that will rub off if you win it. It may look like it's full of holes - and actually, it is - but it's pretty warm if you wrap it around you twice.

Here's how this contest works: rather than picking a number, pick a country. The person who comes geographically closest to picking the country I have in mind will be the winner. If two people pick the same country, I will draw names out of a hat or some other round object. I've shared the country with Spousal Unit so that I can't cheat.

Happy guessing!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Banned Books Week

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

September 30 through October 6 is the 30th annual Banned Books Week, during which we Americans recognize that censorship is bad and more than just a little weird. I've worked in a bookstore for the last three BBWs, and every year I've enjoyed making an extraordinarily bizarre display featuring things like Ulysses, Beloved, and In the Night Kitchen - books that have all been banned or challenged.

But something that isn't much discussed - at least, by the American Library Association, who hosts this whole thing - is that while school districts may ban these books from the classroom and libraries may ban them from their stacks, you can still get copies of banned books. Students prohibited from reading them for class can still soak them up in other settings, and their greatest risk is that of Mom or Dad (who requested the ban in the first place) taking the book away and grounding them. In other countries, some books are actually illegal, and possessing them (let alone reading them) can get you thrown in jail or kicked out of the country.

Book banning in America is, by comparison, kind of a joke. We even have a constitutional amendment about it. But it's still censorship, which is why I like to focus on the subject. The goal is to keep our country from becoming like others - if it doesn't get better, chances are good that it could get worse.

Some of my favorite book banning stories:
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr., illust. by Eric Carle (yes, the children's book) - Banned by people in Texas who were trying to prohibit works by a Marxist author who happened to share the same name. They didn't even check to see if this book was by the Marxist or not. This is why you should at least look at the book you're banning and decide for yourself whether to throw the bear out with the bathwater.
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - Banned from being sent by U.S. mail in 1873. (Hey, we're not perfect.) Law at the time prohibited the sending of "obscene" material by mail.
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - Banned in China because animals should not talk. (From the above link.)

This week, I'm reading Lolita (pictured above) in honor of Banned Books Week. Yes, the main character's preferences make me squirm a little (okay, a lot), but Nabokov's writing is gorgeous. I think it's a book worth reading. And though it's a bit like choosing a favorite child, I'd say my favorite banned book is The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - coming out this week in movie format.

What's your favorite banned book?

More banned book lists here and here.
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