Sunday, April 30, 2006

I saw dead people.

Yesterday was the day. Hulk's parents came down from Up North and we all went to see the Body Worlds 2 exhibit at the natural history museum here in Denver.

I think the best word to describe the exhibit is "Wow."

Just wow. I really didn't know what to expect, other than to see the soccer player guy like they show in all the promotional advertisements, and hoo boy, were my expectations blown out of the water. It was simply amazing. And not only did we get to see the dead people, we got to see cross sections of brains, organs, and body cavities (the grossest one was a cross section of a woman with severe constipation. Ew!). One of the interesting things was that they showed organs and organ systems in various states of disease and dysfunction. We saw normal lungs, smokers lungs (ugh), and coal miners' lungs (double ugh). We saw normal kidneys and a kidney with polycystic disease (ugh!). And we saw all kinds of cross sections with various kinds of tumors. I got a little sad when I saw the cross section of metastic melanoma (a friend died of metastic melanoma a couple of years ago, only a few weeks after being diagnosed).

The best parts were the bodies in various stages of dissection, most of which were named and put into interesting positions (soccer player, baseball player, ice skaters, ballet dancer, skateboarder, diver, gymnast). Each of these was in a different state of dissection, showing different muscles, nerves, organs, and other parts, depending on the position. Seeing the ballet dancer in an arabesque en pointe was just phenomenal. I don't have to wonder what a ballet dancer looks like on the inside anymore, or what the muscles look like as they expand and contract to hold a dancer in position. The posed bodies in different ranges of motion weren't just cool to look at. It was obvious someone had taken ages to position them just right - and they looked like works of art. They were beautiful and graceful and just amazing.

There were a couple of disturbing aspects as well. Most of the bodies had the belly buttons still attached, and the skin with eyebrows, and breasts with nipples and penises and testicles. It's one thing to look at a body with no skin and no hair that's separated somewhat into its component parts. It's another to see the parts that make us look really HUMAN still attached. Each of these bodies, each of the cross sections, each of the disembodied organs, was once a person. A breathing, thinking, feeling person who lived and loved and laughed and felt pain and cried. My brain kept doing this thing where it would switch between seeing the bodies as muscles, sinews, ligaments, bones, organs - and seeing them as once-living people. I couldn't do both at once.

The most disturbing thing to me showed a cross section of a very thin man (120 pounds at death) and an obese man (300 pounds at death, though they didn't say how tall he had been) side by side. The fat layer on the obese man was just thoroughly disgusting, especially the second cross section that was just taken from his side, that showed belly fat, a tiny bit of hip bone, a tiny bit of leg muscle, and more fat. Fat, fat fat. Ugh. I wonder how many people walked by that display with an increased desire to exercise, eat well, and not end up like that man. Because I sure did.

There was a sectioned-off area with fetuses in various states of development (all, we were assured by the signs, having died of natural causes etc. (no aborted fetuses, no sir!)) and a woman who was 5 months pregnant at death. This was both interesting and weird, especially since the woman had "smokers lungs" and had died of lung cancer (willing her body to science before she died, knowing she would die before the fetus came to term). It was definitely cool to see the difference between an 8-week embryo and a 24-week fetus - and it was kind of scary to know that there are babies born extremely prematurely that are living now at 23 and 24 weeks. How can it even be possible? They are soooo tiny and look soooo underdeveloped.

Perhaps the most amazing body was called "Exploded man." Every component part (except bones) of Exploded man was there, suspended from a wire, in the place it would be in the body - but separated from the other parts so one could see all the parts individually and how they related to the other parts. I know I'm not explaning this very well - but there were hundreds of parts, all suspended from wires, and the whole looked very much like an exploded man. There was also "drawer man" - who had various parts kind of cut and pulled out as though a drawer to allow you to see what was underneath/inside. The Hulk, his mom, and I all inspected the "orthopedic man" with all the different replacement parts - a pacemaker, artificial hip, artificial vertebrae, a metal jaw, metal pins in the legs and arms, and a titanium knee - because Hulk's dad has a titanium knee. It was really cool to see what his knee looks like on the inside.

I was very pleased to see that everyone was respectful and interested in the exhibit. Kids of all ages were in attendance and could have made lots of crude jokes and been disrespectful - but none of them were. I saw teenagers taking keen interests in the diseased organs and admiring the grace and beauty of the variously posed bodies. It was obvious that there were people who were bothered by the exhibit, or at least some of it, because they were sitting along the sides of the room, away from all the bodies and organs and cross sections, patiently waiting for their people to finish so they could leave. I understood their feelings. In a way, it was deeply disturbing to be in a room full of people flayed open for inspection, as respectful as the exhibit was.

After we finished, we went to lunch and we all ate way more than we should. And then we went for ice cream, which I almost never eat - but somehow, I wanted to. And I wanted to stand and move and feel myself alive. Later on I thought about it and realized that my feelings were probably similar to those of people who leave a funeral and then have a lot of sex - to prove life. We are alive and we move and we have all of those component parts that we saw on all those people in Body Worlds 2 - but they are all working, functioning, and living bodies with skin and hair and moles and wrinkles and stretch marks are all still more beautiful than the dead people we saw yesterday. Because we're alive, and are not in stasis for all time, kicking a soccer ball or balancing on a toe, with our bodies flayed for the world to see. The exhibit was amazingly cool, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone interested - but it left me with the feeling of wanting to move and live and eat and have sex and all those other things that those people whose bodies we so admired can never do again.

Friday, April 28, 2006

My Person

It was right around this time 5 years ago that the Hulk and I started IMing once in a while, after a thread on That Message Board about people's messenger handles. I went to Toronto for a long weekend of debauchery and he didn't even tell me until a week after we got back that he'd had a birthday while I was gone. He just didn't think it was that big a deal.

I think birthdays are big deals, and I have lots of presents for him to open when I get home from work today. I will also make him a fabulous cake and do lots of other things that I won't detail here to spare people's sensibilities. Needless to say, I think he will have a fabulous birthday.

Happy birthday DGS. I love you very much.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

April in Colorado = Schizophrenia

Saturday was in the 70s and sunny.

Sunday morning was in the 70s and sunny. Sunday afternoon was a bit overcast. By 5:30 there was a 20-minute long hailstorm that had hail ranging from marble-size to gumball-size. It was the biggest hail I've ever seen. And loud! It was so loud, I thought the stray ones might break the windows.

Sunday night it rained and yesterday it rained. Then the rain turned to snow. It snowed for most of the afternoon and evening and there was still snow on the rooftops, grass, and new tree leaves when I woke up this morning. It was also cold as fuck.

It's a good thing I waxed my legs Sunday afternoon, so I could wear skirts to work this week, and spent part of last week switching out all my winter stuff for summer stuff, isn't it?

Monday, April 24, 2006


The first time I ever saw capoeira was on the street in Berkeley, I think maybe during the "How Berkeley Can You Be" parade/day/thingy. I remember how fluid, dynamic, and fun it looked, and thought that someday I should try it. I also saw a roda at Burning Man in 2001 in the center camp one day. The images of the people playing, with dread locks, in their underwear or less, sweaty and dusty, still stand out in my mind. Capoeira is a beautiful cross between a dance, a martial art, and acrobatics combined with a rhythmic music that just speaks to me.

One of our friends is a capoeirista (a practitioner, or player, of capoeira), and we found out that her school's batizado was open to the public this weekend. To a capoerista, a batizado is a Really Big Deal. So on Saturday we headed down to the downtown YMCA (my gym), paid our $10, and spent four hours watching mestres (masters), profesores (teachers), and students play music (drums, tambourines, blocks, bells, and berimbaus), display artistry, acrobatics, cunning, skill, martial art, and dance in the roda, and totally kick ass.

The batizado (baptism) is the ceremony in which students progress from one corded belt to the next, and in which newer students get their first belt. This batizado included players from all over the US, all of whom are a part of the United Capoeira Association. Some highlights included special appearances by highly respected mestres, including the guy who basically brought capoeira to the US. The very first student to vie for her belt (after all the kickass demonstration stuff by the higher-ranking players) faced off against this guy. Here's this 8 year old girl demonstrating her knowledge of capoeira moves being tested by this 50-something or 60-something guy who's like the father of capoeira in the US. I don't know if she understood how cool that was, but I bet she will when she's older.

We saw about 30 students of all ages receive their first belts, and a varying number receive higher belts. The higher the belt, the more people tested you in the roda, and the harder it was to evade all the tricks that come with playing capoeira at higher levels. We saw some people that were really good receiving their first belt (green), and some that were still at a very basic level.

The cool thing about capoeira is that the terminology really makes sense - you play capoeira, and that's really what we saw - people smiling, laughing, having a great time. It's about discipline and control, of course, but there is also quite an emphasis on cooperation, fun, and sharing the experience with the other players - particularly the music, which involves the voice as well as instruments, and the students surrounding the roda sang along with those playing the instruments. It was also a chance for friends who live in different places to come together and get to play with one another. And it was a chance for us, the audience, to get to see some really amazing things.

One of the things that struck me at the batizado was how thin and in shape everyone was. It made me feel totally out of shape to see these thin, strong people do amazing things with their bodies. A woman (maybe late 20s?) sitting nearby me dressed to play was there with her husband, a profesore of a school in the area where I grew up in Northern California. She was nursing a 4-month old baby and looked like she'd never even been pregnant. I found out that it was her second kid; she also has a 3-year old. She told me that she had played capoeira up until a week before the 4-month-old was born and had gotten her current belt while pregnant. Now that's dedication - and she wasn't the only one there with a similar story. I saw two other players (one a teacher) who were nursing moms, and to look at them you would never have guessed that they'd even given birth. I guess it speaks to how dedicated you have to be to play capoeira, that you continue to play while pregnant and bounce right back after having your kid.

Capoeira has an interesting history and is beautiful and exciting to watch, particularly when the participants are highly skilled and moving at almost lightning speed intermixed with those typical slow, deliberate, almost impossible to do handstands and headstands and such. We both had a lot of fun watching the show. And when we have a car again I'm definitely looking into joining the same school where my friend plays capoeira.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Katee Sackhoff, you are teh hott

Can I just say how refreshing it is to see an actress on a kickass TV show who is built like ME and does not have toothpicks for limbs, no butt, and a boob job? Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica (aka Starbuck), you rock my world and you kick ass.

Seriously. If you watch the show and you see the parts where she doesn't have a lot of clothes on? She LOOKS LIKE ME. Not in the face, but in the body, with the arm/back muscles and the same girly shape I am and everything. And she is drop dead hott.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


My friend Joey and I have had a long and interesting friend-history. The story starts when I was 15 and went to the sweet 16 birthday party of a wealthyish classmate (The Other Emily). She'd invited everyone in the class, all her relatives around her age, and some of their friends. At the party I met this guy who was friends with Other Emily's cousin. Since he was from another town, he only knew the cousin and only peripherally knew Other Emily. I think we started talking when he and the cousin were sucking helium from balloons and lauging like only 15 year old boys can.

The party was kind of like a dance, only with less parental supervision, and I totally danced slow with this guy. I thought he was really cute and gave him my number.

A month later he called me. I still have the piece of paper where my sister took the message with his name and phone number. He told me later that he liked both me and one of my classmates who was also at the party and it took him a month to decide which one he liked better. I think that was actually a lie, looking back on it, because he's catholic and she's mormon and she wouldn't have ever gone out with him.

Anyhow, we started "dating," if you can call hitching rides with parents to hang out and taking the bus to one another's town on the weekends dating. We talked on the phone a lot and wrote letters and I really liked him a lot. But being 15 and in two different towns with no good transportation put a strain on the relationship, and we broke up a couple of months later.

Aside: Joey had a thing for my Oldest Friend, who went to junior high with him. I didn't know that until a while after we became friends. Later, Oldest Friend went to Joey's prom with him, and this other friend of ours took him to her prom, and I took him to my senior prom, all in the same spring. I have this picture frame with the little pictures from each of the proms and the fourth rectangle of the frame says "Joey's prom dates."

After we broke up, Joey and I became friends. And I don't just mean high school hi how are ya friends, I mean really good, really close friends. We talked a lot, having long grown-up philosopical conversations about evolution and morality and I learned how to be friends with someone who had totally different ideas about the world than I did (religous! Catholic! Republican!) and he drove up and visited with me and my family in his silver 1960 crazyass van after he got his license, and we wrote letters back and forth every week or so, complete with scribbled pen drawings of a mouse named Hot Cheese. We made each other mix tapes. Joey saw me through several failed relationships and crushes, and I dealt with it when his first really serious girlfriend turned out to be a psycho hose beast and forbid him from talking with any of his female friends for like 6 months, of whom he had many. We all loved Joey; he was crazy, doing stunts on his bikes and roller blades and hotwiring a cherry picker with his friends and videotaping it. One time he told me about a napalm-making experiment. One time he told me how to ruin the paint job on a car of someone you don't like (cut letter shapes out of bologna to spell whatever you want the car to say, and put the bologna on the car in the night. By morning, when the person finds the bologna and peels it off, it will have eaten the paint underneath, and the car says "Poo head" on it or whatever. Ha!) He'd tell me about his latest insane plan or exploit like maybe the time he put a shopping cart on the train tracks or the time he was shooting paint balls at passing cars and accidently hit his parents coming home early. I'd just shake my head and laugh, because it was Joey.

We'd all go to the beach, a big group of 8 or 10 of us, in his big silver van that was always breaking down. Or we'd run around Healdsburg in the middle of the night, making teenage mischief. He helped me make a video project for school my senior year and it was one of the most fun days of my life. I'd always bring him a birthday cake on his birthday, and one time his autistic little brother ate the whole thing when we were in his bedroom working on a video.

I took him to my senior prom as my best friend, and he was, and we totally made out that night and then the next week he got back together with the psycho hose beast. And then I went to college.

Joey did visit me at college my freshman year. He loved coming to Berkeley, and we'd always find something fun going on. When I came home for breaks he was always at my house visiting with me and my family and teasing my sisters. My sophomore year, I found out that Joey had started dating my middle sister, four years younger than he was, and it totally freaked me out. I mean, he was my best friend. And he was going out with my little sister! It was too weird. Our friendship got really strained after that, and it wasn't until about a year after they broke up that we really became good friends again. I found out later that Joey was in love with Lissa but realized that he couldn't make things work with her because they were in different life stages (he was 20, she was 16), and he was Catholic and conservative and she, like me, was not. I think he pined for her for years, just like he pined for Oldest Friend.

And then I broke up with my college boyfriend, and I was home visiting, and we went to the movies and smuggled in some rum and drank a gigantic movie coke full of rum and we got so wasted and we totally made out. And we might have done more, but we were both too tired and drunk.

The last few years, since I graduated college and moved to Denver, Joey's been busy finishing school and now is working constantly to save money to go back to get another bachelor's degree and teaching credential. I've seen him a couple of times in the last 3 or 4 years when I go home and he isn't sick or working on his (still usually broken) van. The Hulk got to meet him last new year's, the friend I have been talking about since Hulk and I got together.

Two weeks ago Joey called me to say happy belated birthday and to tell me he's been putting all his old videos on DVD. Today, I got a package in the mail with the DVD of the movie we made together in high school set to the Rancid song I'd picked, plus a cd with the same songs on it as his favorite mix tape that I made him. The cover of the DVD had a drawing of Hot Cheese. It made me smile. I can't wait to get home this evening to watch the movie and listen to the tape and think about my friend Joey, who I am glad to know.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Birthday Monkey!

My dearest Monkey,

May you have the most fabulous of birthdays. Three cubed has been pretty good so far for me; I hope it is for you!

*does happy Monkey birthday dance, throws confetti*

Love and hugs,

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Holy Flurking Schmidt!

So we've been thinking about moving for oh, say, about 6 months or so. We knew we couldn't do it in the fall (I was too busy with work and then we were going to China) and we didn't really find anything that looked interesting available in the winter. But the last couple of weeks we've begun looking in earnest, mostly at craigslist - because everything good comes from craigslist, right?

It's not like we have to move or anything. We've been in the same place since I moved to Denver over 3 years ago, and they've never raised the rent or anything, and it's only 3 blocks from my work, so it's a pretty sweet deal. But living in one place for so long has gotten me antsy and anxious for change, and there are a few things that we decided we absolutely must have in any new place. We need 2 bedrooms, a gas stove/oven, a bigger kitchen (one big enough for us both to cook in at the same time), and my number one issue - a yard we can work in (grow a garden, play in the dirt, etc.). We'd also prefer offstreet parking available, a good amount of storage space, and a washer and dryer. Our current place is pretty good for what we pay, size-wise, but it's got a tiny kitchen and a tiny bathroom and we just want a bigger place. And I hate sharing two expensive washers and two dryers with 23 other apartments.

Last week we looked at a 2-bedroom upper flat in a duplex in the neighborhood near the University of Denver - it's kind of a ways from where we live now, but it's a good neighboorhood. They wanted a lot more for the place than we really wanted to pay, and nothing much about it made us say to ourselves "Hey! This is it! This is where we want to live!" So we moved on.

Today, we went to look at the inside of a flat in a Victorian in our neighborhood. I saw the listing on Craigslist on Thursday and emailed about it. The woman told me that we could walk around the outside and that they'd show the inside of it to us this weekend. We made an appointment for this afternoon, and walked around the outside of the place on Thursday evening on our way home from the grocery store. Hulk's comment was "The inside will have to be really something for me to be truly interested" and I agreed, because I was concerned about the amount of light the place got. The apartment we're in now is on the second floor and has east and south windows, so gets lots of light. With the amount of plants we have, and for my mental health, we need light inside.

Today we got to see the inside. It has every single thing we wanted - 2 bedrooms, a washer and dryer, a big kitchen, a yard (front and back) to play in and improve, plenty of storage space, a gas stove, and offstreet parking. It's the first floor of an 1895ish Victorian and has some interesting architectural details - high ceilings, original hardwoods in the entry way and living room, hidey-hole closets, 1950s era pulls on the cabinets in the kitchen, with a huge backyard area that could use all kinds of TLC - but isn't bad as-is, either. There's plenty of room for me to grow vegetables and herbs.

It isn't as light inside as our current place. The main bedroom will certainly be a lot darker than I'd prefer (It has a big window that faces south that's five feet from the big Victorian next door), but the laundry room, kitchen, entry way, and living room will get a good amount of light. We stayed nearly two hours poking around the place, asking questions of the landlords, and meeting the upstairs tenants. As we were walking through the place, and the longer we stayed, I found myself fantasizing about what furniture could go where, and what could go on the walls, and whether there might be hardwoods under the carpet in the bedrooms.

After the first 20 minutes, I'd made up my mind - and so had Hulk. We're going to move!

The rent is a lot more than we're paying now, but they pay for all utilities except electricity. Currently, we have to pay all individual utilities, plus a share of the building utility expenses. Plus, we pay $50 a month for a parking space that is included in the rent of the new place. Ultimately, the new rent will be only $200 more a month, all those things considered. It is a few blocks east and a block north of where we live now, so my morning commute will be a 15 minute walk instead of an 8 minute walk - and Hulk will have to leave a little earlier to get to school. But it's on a much-less trafficked street, in a mostly owner-occupied block, and it's not near any liquor stores or bars or other establishments that might cause a lot of noise and foot traffic.

Man, I'm so excited to have a big change like this. I've been feeling so stagnant, and we've stayed in our current place so long out of inertia and convenience. It's time for a change. I can't wait.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Barenaked Leghair

I'm thoroughly convinced that the recent regrettable "fashion" trend of wearing a dress with jeans underneath (and not even a really short dress, which I could excuse, but a dress that perhaps could have a hemline at the knee) is because all these celebrities just don't feel like shaving their legs.

I can relate. For reasons still unexplained, I have extremely sensitive skin on my legs, to the point where I just can't shave them unless there aren't really any hairs there. It HURTS for me to shave my legs. (I tried for years and years, and got to the point where I was using a new blade every time, shaving only once a week, using expensive organic unchemically shaving lotion, having to wait two days to put lotion on my legs to avoid razor burn, and it just got to be too much). And it must be something that runs in my family, because my little sister has the same problem.

Gloriously, a few years ago I discovered something new.Instead of shaving my legs, I wax them and then shave the few hairs the wax didn't get. So instead of having 5 days of painful razor burn before my leg skin has recovered enough to be shaved again, and having more pain (and faster stubble) any time I got goose bumps, I have about an hour or two of redness and then smooth, unpainful legs. Waxing means that I get two good weeks of smooth legs before the hairs reappear unwelcome to brush against the insides of my pants. But then I have to wait another week or two for the hairs to get long enough to wax again- so I endure that time with unsightly and uncomfortable hairy legs. Luckily, my leg hair isn't that dark - it's more that I don't like the way the hairs FEEL. They poke into my pants and they poke into my legs when they touch each other and they poke into the Hulk's legs. Bleah. I wish I could afford laser hair removal or electrolysis and never have to worry about the damn legs being all hairy again.

It's an issue now because it's finally gotten warm outside and I want to wear my skirts and my shorts and not have to feel all self-conscious about my Sasquatch-like lower extremities. In a month or so my legs will be tan enough that the hairs will hardly show at all between waxing, but right now I'm at my palest, since that skin hasn't seen the sun since last October.

I might have been raised in a hippie-like fashion, and I might have neo-hippie tendencies, but I have no interest in growing out my leg hair. Bleah. The Hulk doesn't seem to care one way or another how long I let the hair on my legs get - so it's not pressure from him - it's that I just don't like that two week wait between wax jobs. If I had a million dollars, I'd kill all those damn hair follicles. And buy you a green dress (but not a real green dress, that's cruel).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Exciting news from the gym front

On Friday last week I didn't work out because my gym was installing all new cardio equipment. I was so excited to try out the new stuff (and apparently there are more new things coming, but they couldn't do it all at once).

I've now tried the elliptical without arm swinging action, the elliptical with arm swinging action, and the recumbent bike. Here are my reviews:

Elliptical without arm swinging action:
Pros: silent, higher off the ground, easy-to-read display
Cons: 2-inch-high lip around the outsides of the feet things. This is bad because it forces my feet to be in a smaller area on the feet things and my hips don't like it.
Verdict: The older ones were better (for me, anyway)

Elliptical with arm swinging action:
Pros: silent, higher off the ground, easy to read display, handles are bigger around and easier to grasp, display area is better designed to hold water, cd man, and magazines/books
Cons: The lip thing is there too, but the arm swinging ellipticals have a bit of a different motion and my hips didn't mind so much.
Verdict: New = good

Recumbent bike:
Pros: exactly like the old bikes, but with slightly cushier seats (and better pedal straps)
Cons: None
Verdict: Slightly improved version over the old ones

There are also new treadmills, regular stationary bikes (with cushy seats!), and rowing machines, and the gym is supposed to get new stair climbers (that I never use, because I hate stair climbers) and some kind of crazy cardio step/treadmill machine for which they had a prototype 6 months ago and I actually liked it. I'm looking forward to those.

In other news, my fitlinxx thingy emailed me last week and told me that in March I lifted 178,800 pounds/22.3 African Elephants and I burned 14,771 calories or 40.4 ice cream sundaes. So I suppose that's pretty good. April hasn't been as productive as March, but now that it's getting warmer my appetite has diminished significantly and I'm naturally eating less, so I don't feel the need to kill myself in the gym.

Did you hear that, QIR? I'm not killing myself in the gym this month!

Monday, April 10, 2006

This is why everyone in America is fat.

Today, I almost got hit by two different cars in the same crosswalk, one after another.

It was double plus unfun. For whatever reason, drivers driving through that particular intersection tend to be exceedingly oblivious to pedestrians in that particular crosswalk - and it's only drivers turning left into the crosswalk (it's an intersection of two one-way streets). I hate crossing that intersection and I have to do it twice every day on my way to and from work - and in the last 3 years I can't even count how many times someone has come *this close* to hitting me, hitting another pedestrian, hitting a dog, etc. I am RIGHT IN FRONT OF PEOPLE who are turning left, and I MAKE EYE CONTACT, so I know they see me, and they STILL turn and almost hit me sometimes. One time I was across the street and I saw someone get hit in this intersection, and he flew like 20 feet. I can't imagine how wonderful it felt to be that guy. I had my phone out immediately to call 911 but there happened to be a police officer right there to take care of it.

This isn't the only superdangerous intersection in Denver, or even in downtown Denver. There's one intersection where there's a protected left turn AT THE SAME TIME AS the walk signal, so the drivers who are trying to turn left get really pissy and honk and swear at you as you try to cross the street while they're trying to turn left. I'm not even counting the intersection where the Hulk got hit by a truck turning right into the crosswalk while he was walking - luckily, the truck was at a dead stop and accelerating, so the driver didn't have time to be going very fast before he hit him. Though from what I could tell, being hit by a truck at any speed isn't a particularly pleasant experience.

I've been a pedestrian for far, far longer than I've been a driver (only had my license for just over a year and a half now, and yes, it was nearly 10 years later than most people get theirs). I've seen drivers do so many shitty things to pedestrians and bicyclists. One of the worst was when this big semi pulled all the way through the crosswalk before stopping and a whole bunch of people who were trying to cross the street had to walk out into traffic they couldn't even see coming because the semi was in the way, including a woman with a baby stroller.

I think that people spend too much time in their cars, in their own little worlds inside those metal boxes. Those metal boxes get you from point a to point b, sure, but many people spend more time in their cars than they do with their children or loved ones in a given day. Americans seem to have this great love affair with their cars, one that completely ignores all others who might be trying to use the same road. I almost got hit a couple of months ago by someone hauling ass through one of the alleys to a street and if I hadn't heard him (like, if I'd had headphones on or been deaf or something) I wouldn't have known he was going to hurtle across the sidewalk right in front of me and into the street at a much higher-than-safe speed. And what if I had been walking a dog or pushing a stroller?

Drivers drive along in their own little worlds. It's way too easy to get used to only paying attention to what other cars are doing, and that only sometimes, and completely ignore things like traffic laws that are IN FAVOR of pedestrians. Pedestrians are not surrounded by metal death boxes; therefore, in pretty much all circumstances, they have the right-of-way. But do people actually LOOK for pedestrians coming the other way before they pull out in the direction they want to go? What ever happened to looking left, right, left, or whatever it was? I think people forget; it's too easy to forget what it's like to walk places if you never walk anywhere.

If I were queen of the world, every 5 years or so I would make everyone who wants a driver's license have to go without a car for a week. Maybe that would make people actually realize that hey, the roads and sidewalks are used by walkers, runners, bicycles, people with babies, people with small children, people with pets, skateboarders, roller bladers - you name it. And none of these people have metal death cages around them. Plus, it wouldn't hurt people to get some damn exercise - and maybe people would be less likely to design suburban areas to be so unfriendly to pedestrians. Last week we were walking through a neighborhood and came upon a 6-block stretch that didn't even have a sidewalk on one side of the street - and that was in urban Denver! I've been through many a suburb where there wasn't a sidewalk on either side, so you either walked in the road or you drove.

If you are reading this, and you drive a car - at all, ever - think about this the next time you are driving that car. Are you paying attention to all the people who are using the roads and sidewalks? Or just the other cars? How badly would you feel if you turned right without looking both ways and hit someone in the crosswalk? How much more badly would you feel if you hit a dog on a leash or a baby in a stroller? Driving your car is awesome, and lets you do all kinds of shit, but, as Uncle Ben (of Spiderman fame) would say, with great power comes great responsibility. Don't be that asshole. In a pedestrian vs car scenario, car always wins - even if driver of car loses. Taking that extra few seconds to let a pedestrian cross the street keeps everyone that much safer and happier, and you can make up that extra few seconds by, like, running the next light when it's yellow or something.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Why my sister will never be a supermodel

That skunk post got me thinking about my upbringing and the area where we grew up and stuff. It wasn't really a farm or anything; just a cabin with a fence around the yard in the middle of someone's cattle ranch (beef, not milk). I ran around barefoot and picked figs, blackberries, oranges, and apples from our neighbor's orchard and the wild bushes that grew everywhere. We had a huge garden (tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, etc.) with an apricot and a walnut tree that both produced massive amounts of fruit.

We had chickens for a while but they got picked off by coyotes and possums one by one until the only one we had left had learned to flap up into a tree to roost at night. My favorite chick was named Lucky, but he grew up to be a mean rooster. We had goats before I was born but the male goat (Vinnie) pinned my very pregnant mom against a fence when she was home alone and my mom got so freaked out (because if you were 8 months pregnant and a big billy goat pinned you against a fence with his horns, wouldn't you be?) that they got rid of him. There was a forest nearby and a field full of cow patties where I rode my bike and a hill that you could climb and a tire swing and a rope swing and a jungle gym and a really awesome view.

Only one of our neighbors was within walking distance. He was flamingly gay and used to mow his orchard bare-assed nekkid except for big steel-toed boots.

This one time, we had a bunch of strawberries that my mom wanted to give to another of the neighbors, so we hopped in the car and drove down the road to their house. I think I was six and my sister was 3ish. While my mom visited with the neighbor, my sister and I played outside with their dogs.

One of the dogs' favorite games was fetch, but did they like to fetch regular dog toys? No, they liked to fetch cow bones. So I was throwing these big heavy cow leg bones for one of the dogs and my arm started to get tired. During one throw the bone slipped out of my hand and fell behind my back..

...smack into my little sister's forehead, who happened to be standing Right Behind me and I didn't even know it. She started screaming, and my mom ran out of the house and started screaming, and they brought my sister into the house and wiped up her face and it was a really bad cut. So they had to drive down the mountain and all the way to Healdsburg to the emergency room because of course it was a Sunday and the pediatrician's office wasn't open. I was so scared that I had killed my sister. It was a total accident! When she came home she had a line of stitches on her forehead and a rubber exam glove blown up like a balloon with a smiley face drawn on it, and she'd totally gotten an ice cream cone (I could tell from the drips all over her shirt). I was so jealous.

It turned out that her stitches SHOULD have been done by a plastic surgeon instead of an intern, because when her stitches came out she had a big scar that my mom covered for years with bangs. The scar is still there, though it's faded over the last 20 years.

Now, my sister is beautiful. Drop-dead, totally gorgeous, with perfect white straight teeth (and she never needed braces), clear, glowy skin, lustrous hair, great bone structure in her face, and a thin frame with good muscle tone. If I hadn't given her a big-ole scar (and, I suppose, if she were 5'10 instead of 5'4) she totally could have been a model. She's never held the scar against me, but I've always wondered whether she hates me for giving her the one flaw on her perfect face.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

My transformation is nearly complete

My boyfriend is a big nerd. OK, we all know this. His nerdliness manifests in things like gaming, science fiction/fantasy, and comic books. I'm already a scifi/fantasy nerd, but before I met him I wasn't particularly interested in gaming or comics.

He doesn't game so much anymore, but when he was doing it regularly I did try it out a couple of times (wasn't really into it). I think my experiences were clouded by the circumstances, and had there been a better game master, using a better system, I might have been more interested. So I suppose there's still time. We both like playing board-type games, and QIR has turned us on to several outside of the milton bradley/parker brothers classics; we're fans of several of the Rio Bravo games like Carcasonne, San Juan, and Settlers of Catan.

But it still took me a while to warm up to the idea of comics/comic books as a storytelling medium. I'm so much more of a verbal person than a visual one when it comes to stories, and I've tended to get impatient when reading the few comic books I'd read before we met. But drawing and reading comics are two really important things to him, and over the years I've slowly grown used to the idea of storytelling through primarily visual means. I think I really started to warm up to it when he was working on this comic that didn't have any words in it at all - and it was really good, and I couldn't wait to see the next page.

Anyhow, over the last several months I've read a comic rendering of George RR Martin's short story "The Hedge Knight," I've read Audrey Nieffeneger's new work without words (The Three Incestuous Sisters), and I've worked my way through Jeff Smith's entire Bone series. Last fall, I read Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage over a couple of weeks while eating my morning cereal.

While we were in California, His Nerdliness found a used copy of Craig Thompson's "Blankets" and got all excited about it (though couldn't understand why someone would sell it). He told me about how much he thought I'd like it. It's been sitting in our apartment for over a week now. Last night I picked it up, just to see what all the fuss was about, and except for when I was making and eating dinner (and watching The Aristocrats on DVD - my favorite joke teller was the mime, though I thought the guy who was telling the joke to his toddler that wasn't Andy Richter was really funny, too, and most of them made me laugh at least once), I didn't put it down. I read all 500+ pages in just a couple of hours, and it was BEAUTIFUL. Absolutely stunning. It's basically an autobiography including parts from his childhood and adolescence, and his experience of his first relationship. I loved how he was able to convey the emotions of his childhood and teenage self primarily in his artwork. It reminded me of things from my teenage years, and the character of himself reminded me of one of my high school pen pals. Feelings and emotions from some of my own high school experiences came back to me and made the experience of the book that much richer.

To sum up: "Blankets" by Craig Thompson? Good. Read it. Also, I should probably go out and buy myself a D20 or two, because if the comic books have gotten to me, it's only a matter of time before I'm a half-elf warrior with a +5 in shape shifting ability or something.

The skunk: A tale of woe, with comeuppance.

I was just reading Amalah's blog about the scary geese and that got me to thinking about various scary animal stories. Growing up in the middle of nowhere like I did on a cattle ranch meant that I had a lot of close encounters with a variety of wildlife during my formative years. I remember being stung on the neck by a wasp at age 3. I was chased by cows more than a few times; I stepped on bees at least 5 times (it'll happen when you walk everywhere outside barefoot, and yes, my parents let me walk barefoot everywhere. It was the country in the middle of nowhere!) There was a rattlesnake in our house once and once there was some kind of snake in the washing machine. I had a tick embed in my neck from which I still have a scar. Probably the most unpleasant wildlife experience for me personally was when my college boyfriend and I drove out to Lake Sonoma and hiked into a secluded area and totally did it on the ground and then we got back in the car to drive home, and I felt a really sharp pain in my boob. I scratched it. It happened again. I said "What the hell IS that?" and lifted up my shirt only to find that a tick was trying to burrow into soft boob flesh. I screamed a little and grabbed the tick and threw it out the window.

But that's nothing compared to what happened to my mom. See, my mom has never been one for running, and she's prone to ankle injuries. One time she had sprained her ankle a little so it was swollen, and she was wearing flip flops to incorporate the ace bandage. It was summer time. This skunk had been coming into the yard and eating dog food, and my mom wasn't very happy about it, so she put some dog food in a big rubbermaid trash can on its side and propped the lid against it with just a small amount of space for a skunk to squeeze through. Sure enough, she went outside at noon one day and the skunk was in the can, eating the dog food.

(You might guess at this point that a skunk looking for food at noon is a somewhat unusual occurence, since skunks are primarily nocturnal, and your guess would be right because it's not normal for a skunk to be wandering around in broad daylight, particularly where there are also people. It's indicative of a diseased animal, particularly one with rabies.)

My mom put the lid on the can, turned it right side up, made us go in the house, and started hauling it out of the yard and across the field that was in front of our house. On the other side of the field were some trees, and my mom figured that that was where the skunk lived. So she hauled that thing about a quarter of a mile wearing flip flops with a sprained ankle, set the can on the ground and took the lid off.

Was the skunk scared? Did it run into the forest? No, of course not. It turned around and charged my mom.

My sister and I were watching this whole thing out the window, and we started to laugh.

My mom got frightened. as you do when you're charged by a skunk, and started to run away, with a sprained ankle, wearing flip flops. Here is my adult-sized mom being chased by this little black skunk across the field, and she's screeching and totally freaked out and sort of half-limping because of the ankle thing. My sister and I are laughing hysterically. My mom makes it into the yard and into the house and slams the door, and then she yells at us for laughing at her.

The skunk takes his sweet time wandering around the yard, looking for more dog food.

The next day my mom determines it's OK for us to go out in the yard because we haven't seen the skunk all morning. We play as usual and my mom runs a load of laundry. A while later she puts it in the dryer and we leave the house to run some errands.

When we come home, my mom goes out to get the laundry and notices a really awful smell. Like, really, really awful, the smell of burned hair and charred meat and just acrid odor. It's a nasty smell. When my dad gets home, my mom charges him with determining and getting rid of the source of the smell that's coming from the greenhouse where the washer and dryer are. My dad searches around for a while and finally finds the source of the foul odor. Mister skunk had decided to crawl into the exhaust pipe for the dryer, and either he was taking a nap or he was stuck, and my mom had run a load of clothes through while he was in the pipe and cooked him.

It took a few weeks before the smell was completely gone.