Thursday, May 31, 2012

Watch This: The Secret of the Kells

Let's get something straight:  You need to see this film.

The storyline follows Brendan, a young boy growing up in the Abbey of Kells, under the supervision of his uncle, Abbot Cellach.  The good Abbot is obsessed with building and fortifying a wall around the abbey that will save Kells from the Viking invaders, and he has ordered Brendan to stay within the abbey's confines. 

Along comes Brother Aidan of Iona and his cat, Pangur Ban.  Aidan has brought the illuminated text-in-progress, the Book of Iona, and apprentices Brendan, who must sneak out of the abbey to collect the materials to make the colorful inks.  In the surrounding forest, Brendan befriends Aisling and battles a metaphysical sea serpent, Crom Cruach, neither of whom should exist by 8th century Christian standards (or today's, for that matter).

The storyline, good as it is, almost pales in comparison to the richness of the animation.  It's stylistic interpretation of traditional Irish art and the frequent juxtaposition of three dimensional and two dimensional animation is simply stunning.  In case you didn't get enough out of the trailer to see what I mean:

Via  (I know.  It's blurry.  Use your imagination.)

If I hadn't been mesmerised by the artistry, the imagery would have gotten me for sure.  There are all kind of wonderful references to Irish mythology, from Pangur Ban and Aisling (names), Crom Cruach (the way he is depicted as the very embodiment of Irish art, with all his integral Celtic knots), and of course, the Book of Kells itself.  For an animated film to be cerebral on that level is in itself a lovely thing.

I would not recommend it for young children.  Besides a lot of the history and art and literary references going right over their heads, the Vikings are seriously scary...


Go.  Watch it.  And prepare to be transfixed.

Wikipedia film page
Wikipedia historical Book of Kells page (Worth a read just on its own.)

(True:  The real Book of Kells is housed in Trinity College in Dublin.  I went to Dublin once, but I arrived late in the evening and left early in the morning for a bus tour, and only got to see things that were both outside and well-lit.  Which gives me an excuse to go back someday.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hops in the Right Direction: Hot!

I live in a third floor walkup.  It's a beautiful old brick building, but for all its charm, it does lack some amenities.  (Like outlets, but that's for another post.)  Like central air.  I have a single window unit that works very, very hard to keep my apartment a cool, breezy 75-78 degrees.  This is a safe enough temperature for Prada, but it is decidedly warm for a girl in a thick fur coat. 

Luckily, there are a lot of ways to keep a girl cool.

For myself, my favorite way to stay cool is to eat copious amount of ice cream.  Ice cream made especially for dogs is available at some boutique-style pet stores, but it's very important for tripods to maintain a healthy weight and for their owners to maintain a healthy pocketbook.  Prada is perfectly happy with a simple ice cube.  She hates the sound it makes when it clinks against the side of a bowl or dish, so I lay out a towel first.  This has the added bonus of being mentally stimulating:  she's challenged to either chase the ice cube as it slips away from her or to hold it still (no mean feat with just one front paw).  Sometimes, for a treat, I mix a bit of low-sodium chicken broth with the water before freezing.

Prada is not a fan of Kongs, but I have heard of some dogs who really enjoy one frozen with peanut butter and treats or kibble mixed in.  Once again, it's important to watch your dog's weight.  The reason peanut butter tastes so good is that it has a lot of fats and oils.

Cooling mats are another option.  Most I've seen work by evaporation--that is, you soak the mat, wring it out, and voila!  You have a big mess.  Some you can hang to dry for about an hour to dry the outside.  Still, these may present a problem for dogs who, like Prada, prefer to stick to the carpet, thank you very much.  I did see a mat once (I want to say it was at that store in the mall that also sells high-tech calf massagers, you know the one.  Can't think of the name...) that was filled with a gel that absorbed the dog's body heat without the use of water or refrigeration, but the nylon casing was very slick, and would not have been Prada-approved. 

Several of these companies, however, also make cooling collars or bandanas, and this is something I am considering.  This one uses either a gel insert or an ice pack--both options worry me.  If an ice pack gets too cold, how is the dog to get away from it?  A gel pack could potentially be torn and eaten.  Non-toxic though it is, Prada's stomach is a sensitive thing.  Proper dog food sometimes makes her puke--chemicals are a no-go for us.  These bandanas use water and seem a better option--at least it would be a smaller mess than that made by an entire mat directly on the carpet.  (I haven't used either product, so no guarantees, of course.)  Vests and belly wraps are available with a bit of searching--I won't be considering these as most seem to require a second front leg for a good fit.

If you're travelling with your pet, you might consider a small air conditioner that attaches directly to your dog's crate--a safer alternative to cracking the windows.  If the summer gets too, too hot, and my window unit can't keep up, I might look into one of these for at home as a more economical option than a second window unit AC.

Tails, Inc., a media group supporting pet rescue and adoption (and whose email newsletter I actually look forward to receiving), recently reviewed the Hydro Bone, a chew toy that can be filled with water and frozen (or not) to keep your dog occupied, hydrated, and cool.  The company actually has a whole line of hydrating toys that might be worth checking out if your dog is a chewer.

The most important thing, of course, is to provide lots of cool, clean water, and shade if your dog is outside. 

What do you do to keep your dog cool in the hot summer months?  Anything I missed?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Which You Discover I am a Huge Pervy McPerverson.

I woke up one morning several years ago with this poem sprung fully-formed from my head.  I call it, "Ode to a Hot Guy."  Any hot guy, really.  Alexander Skarsgard, maybe, or that dude who plays Thor.  Mmm, beardy buffness.  Anyway, since I know my readers have such fine literary sensibilities, I figured I'd share.  (Hi, Mom!  Go away, Mom!  No, you can stay, but you should probably redirect Dad before he has a heart attack.)  So, without further ado:

Ode to a Hot Guy

I wish that I were cotton.
I'd be your tighty-whiteys and be with you all the time.
I'd always be
in your pants.

I wish I were elastic.
You'd (ahem) bend me and you'd stretch me
with the friction
of your pants.

I wish I were a fly.
Maybe on your undies, or even just the wall.
I'd get to see you
in no pants.

Yeah, that'd do just fine.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Round Up!

It's another long holiday weekend, y'all.  It's a time of honoring those who have fought and fallen for the brats we're grilling and the margaritas we're swilling, often with our families.

All.  Weekend.  Long.

Now, this isn't a problem for me, because my family is awesome (Hi, Family!), but I understand that some of you might need something to help distract you from the gene-sharers surrounding you, and I'm pretty sure it's illegal to mail tequila shots.  So, here are some links, pictures, and general things I find interesting to keep those of you unlucky enough to not be related to me occupied.


I was fortunate enough to find Crimes Against Hugh's Manatees through Oh Noa.  Noa is unfailingly awesome in her suggestions of funny blogs, and right now, my brain power is so diminished that a tumblr/comic is about as much as I can handle.  Especially when it's as funny CAHM.  Read them both.  Laugh much.

I have no idea why I've waited several weeks to post this video, but it is awesome.  Also, this is about the level of drama that my life actually is right now.  (I know, I hardly ever complain here.  But besides the Jumper, the Dumper, and the Bumper, my freezer has broken and a contractor who goes by the name "Soup" called me, "pretty.  Kind of plain, but pretty.  Ish."  All in the last month.  I think I'm going to become a lesbian.  At least women are willing to be fake-nice.  Or maybe I'll become a hermit.  I'll let you know.)


Have you guys seen this video?  Ashleigh and her dog Pudsey are pretty darn talented, not to mention super cute.

Text From Dog.  Read it and don't laugh.  I dare you.

Happy Memorial Day!

(True:  My grandfather, John Gardner, served in the Air Force and was stationed in the South Pacific during World War II.  I'll be remembering him this weekend, but my gratitude goes out to all the people in the armed forces and their families.  God bless.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NOT the "Bee's Knees"

Bees.  They are assholes. 

(Note:  I should probably warn you that I group any striped, stinging insect, including wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets, under the umbrella term "bees."  Mostly because I can't be bothered to learn the difference between them.)

I'm sure the asshole business isn't news to anyone, but it still needs to be said.  I've had some interesting experiences with them, myself.

There was the time, for example, that kid-me was fetching a sleeping bag from the camper.  I often slept in there in the warmer months (because I was eleven and deeply uncool), so the sleeping bag was not rolled.  This was a lucky thing, because since the last time I had overnighted there, a nest of angry bees had taken up residence in the open vent. 

They weren't pleased with having their space invaded, and they swarmed the bee-jeezus (sorry, I couldn't help myself) out of me.  Being particularly quick-thinking when fueled by adrenaline and sheer terror, I tossed the sleeping bag over my head burka-style and escaped with just three stings.

A more amusing (to me) time was when a bee started chasing my dad, and he ran all around the yard yelping and swatting at it.  It's the one kind of creepy-crawly that my manly-man dad cannot handle.  (Hi, Dad!)

Or that time my model friend--Yes, I do have a model friend.  No, I will not give you her number.  Creep.--took a swig out of a can of Pepsi wherein a bee reposed.  As it turns out, "bee-stung lips" is not a beauty phrase to be taken literally.

But mostly, I hate bees because they live in my shower.

I am totally judging this guy.  Also his sweatpants.  Via

(True:  "The bee's knees" orginally meant something small and insignificant, way back in the late 1700s.  I know that because I read it here.)

(Update:  Also relevant?  This.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Picture Is a Euphamism

I've always been a keen (if not particularly talented) horseback rider.  Growing up, my family had a very naughty pony whose favorite activities included taking the bit between her teeth and then smearing your leg on the fence while running perpendicular to the direction of her body. 

All new riders should learn on a pony like Star.  It'd have the advantage of culling the easily frightened, and teach the rest that yes, you do have a 800 pound plus animal under you who may be harder-headed than even you.  They would also learn the most important lesson in riding:

Sometimes, it's just you, the quadruped, and almost certain death. 

Sometimes, though, it just hurts like hell.

My first job, as I have mentioned here, was at a summer camp.  Being a mostly useless sort, I assisted in the arts and crafts department and in the stables. 

I wasn't certified to teach English riding (and I certainly didn't have the talent to seek certification), which meant my role was pretty much limited to cleaning tack (a good day) or hauling poop (most days).  One lucky day, though, a group of campers was going on a trail ride, and being particularly short-staffed that afternoon, I was invited to go along for the ride (pun!) to help supervise the girls.

The horses were to the last, hard-mouthed, old, and very accustomed to the camp lifestyle--that is, they knew that all they ever had to do was follow the horse in front of them, nose-to-horsebutt.  These horses had no setting but "autopilot."

Cue the startled rabbit.  It ran away and lived happily ever after.  I, however, didn't think I was going to live that long.  My horse, a brown paint whose name I don't remember but was probably something like "Bear" or "Jerry" skittered in a little half-jump.  Because we hadn't gone faster than a very, very slow nose-to-horsebutt shuffle/walk, I was sitting pretty relaxed and not paying very much attention.

I was not unseated.  That probably would have been better.  Instead, as I started to fly over the horse's neck, I gripped with my legs and returned my weight onto the beast--but not the saddle.  No, I had flown over the pommel and landed hard the neck.  Which, if you don't know, is angular.  You might even say sharp.

Or you could just say, "Oh god, kill me now..."


(True:  This is one of the many reasons I don't like to think of rabbits as being a pet-type animal...)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sitting Pretty

Prada is a people-pleaser.  Getting attention is pretty much her favorite thing ever, so she tries really hard to behave in spite of all the interesting distractions all around her.  In the end, I can only expect so much.  She's a dog, and sometimes appropriate dog behavior is not people-polite.

Like barking.  Prada isn't a yapper, but she will bark once as someone leaves or enters their apartment just to make sure I know there is movement on the perimeter, but not to worry, she is on guard.  Of course, she only does this when I am sleeping or in the bathroom getting ready in the morning. 

And she knows barking is on the list of things she's not supposed to do inside, so she always hurries to correct her mistake.  By the time I've untangled myself from the sheets or spat out my toothpaste and poked my head out the bathroom door to peer through the closet (my apartment set-up is a bit unique), she's already in a pert and perfect sit, grinning at me.  And how can I scold her then*?

See mama?  I'm good, I swear it!

The sneak.

(True:  *I can't.  As far as a dog is concerned, if you scold them, you are scolding them for doing whatever it is they are doing at that exact moment.  And I mean, look at her.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Third Time's the Charm, Right? Right???

Last week was the Trifecta of Awful:  The Jumper, The Dumper, and The Bumper.  I was taking care of the last this morning.  I had gotten rear-ended by a motorcyclist Friday morning, but fortunately no one was hurt.  I did, however, get a good-sized dent in the hatch and lots of scratches in the bumper.  My insurance company has a corporate office and an affiliated repair shop not too far from here, and that's where I headed this morning.

My appointment was scheduled for 7:30.  I remembered this at about 7:05, as I stood in the shower.  I also remembered that I didn't have directions for how to get there.  And that I haven't arranged for Internet in the week since I've been back in my own apartment.  It was already 7:35 by the time I called my mom (Hi, Mom!) to ask her to MapQuest the directions for me.

Because I was already late, of course I got lost.  (Go big or go home, I always say.  And I had a better idea of how to get back on track to where I was going than how to get home again.)  I finally got there at quarter to nine.  Fortunately, people in the insurance industry know that if you're there, you're already having a crap day, and so Insurance Man Jason was really nice about it.  A few minutes later, I had the rental car and was ready to go.

I just needed to get one box leftover from my recent abrupt move out of my car.  Then I ran back in the office and handed over my keys.

Oh, and I needed my lunch, too.  Back to the office I go, re-collect my keys, get the lunch from my car, and hand them back in again.

Crap, what about my phone charger?

Screw it.  Aaaand that's pretty much my new mantra.

(True:  I have help at work again!  I may actually be able to post semi-regularly--woohoo!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Possum Face! (Or Not.)

You guys.  Today is the first day in more than three weeks that someone didn't find my blog by searching for some variant of "possum face."  Which makes me wonder whether people are searching for other, really ugly people, or whether they just think possum faces are particularly fascinating.  Maybe some marsupial fetishist is out there, collecting photos for their pin-up calendar.

Sadly, though, most phrases bringing people to this site still have to do with weird porn.  It makes me a little uncomfortable to think some of these people might be staying and browsing.  Meh, it's not porn, but I guess it'll do...?

I always imagine these people in really ugly sweaters.

I am so creeped out right now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Even When My Eyes Are Closed

Please be forewarned:  This post is graphic and ugly.  If you're looking to get your happy on, go here instead.  No joke.

Friday night was going to be a good night.  Another week of twelve hour work days was over, and it was my first free weekend in longer than I cared to remember.  I had tickets to see The Avengers with The Squeeze later in the evening, but with a couple of hours to wait, I decided to splurge on a new book and a sub from the shop where The Squeeze works.  Not wanting to deal with street parking, I parked in the garage around the block from both the bookstore and the sub shop--the first hour is always free.

I grabbed a book and checked out just as the clerks were ready to close, and then headed over to the sub shop.  I chatted a moment with The Squeeze and his coworkers, got my sandwich, and left.  Next to the building is a well-traveled, well-lit alley that leads to the parking garage and the entrance closest to where I had parked. 

As I turned the corner of that alley, I saw three people and a pile of clothes.  I live in an artsy-fartsy neighborhood, so my first thought was that it was some kind of guerilla art.  After all, the three people seemed placed very carefully around the pile.  My next thought was that they were tourists.  We get plenty of them; you see people with luggage all over the place, especially on the weekends. 

I was going to have to walk past them to get to the garage entrance, and I sort of felt like I was going to be in the way of whatever it was they were doing.

I suddenly realized it wasn't just a pile of clothes or luggage.  There was a person in there, all crumpled in on himself.  His legs were folded under him like he'd collapsed in the middle of a prayer.  The rest of him had sort of settled between his knees.  His brown plaid golf hat had fallen a few feet away, leaving his thin, white hair messy and uncovered.  His iPhone still balanced precariously in his back pocket.

The two people on either side of him--men--were both on the phone with 911.  The woman, who had stationed herself in front and to the side was very studiously not looking.  I wanted to be able to do that, too--not look. 

"I didn't see anything," she told me.  "I just heard a thump."

Another woman approached.  I think she'd been there a while, but I hadn't noticed her.  It didn't matter, faces were all a blur anyway.  "I think he's just really drunk," she said.  No one else seemed to agree with her, but then, not a one of us had actually seen anything.

Couples dressed for dinner and groups of excited, chittering teenagers downtown for the movie kept passing by on their way to or from the garage.  Each suddenly fell silent and hurried past.  Whispers buzzed, "jumped."

Workers from some of the nearby restaurants appeared, hoping to help.  One of the phone-calling men had apparently said the pile of clothes was still alive, but that was several minutes ago.  Eons ago.  He certainly didn't look alive.  How could he be?  No one believed it.

Some idiot in a minivan drove down the alley.  The brown hat was crushed under a tire.

Finally, the paramedics arrived, with their muted lights and muffled sirens.  There were a lot of them in the ambulance, maybe five.  Or maybe there were fewer, but they were moving so fast, it was hard to tell.  They approached the pile of clothes, reached out.  After a moment, one of them pulled the pile up by his armpits and the pile turned into a man, but not a real one.  He looked like a puppet, all dangling limbs and no resistance and cottonball hair.  His shoes dragged loose on his ankles.

I turned away.

I didn't stay.  The paramedics had no interest in the four of us who were there first.  And what would I have to tell the police when they came?  I didn't see anything.  I didn't hear anything.  Thank god.  (Or I saw and heard too little or too much, oh god, but still nothing useful.)  I went home.  I ate my sandwich.  I went to the movie I'd purchased tickets for.  Because what else was I going to do? 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Very Bad Day

I am having one.





But not that bad, I guess.  Somehow, I've always found that thinking of my blessings doesn't help a bad day as much as thinking of how absolutely FUBAR someone else's day has been. 

 My mom must be so proud.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This Is Supposed To Be My Grown-Up Job (Not Adult Job).

WARNING:  This post is work-related and utterly inappropriate.  If you have virgin eyes or any amount of decency, you'll probably want to pretend this post isn't here.

I work in the electrical industry, specifically commercial lighting.  Yesterday, I quoted a pendant light fixture with this option:  "Tripod with Decorative Balls." 

That describes how the fixture is hung.

(True:  Another mounting option for that same fixture is a single aircraft cable, part number 1SAC.  This is seriously freaking me out.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Shoes: A Long-Term Relationship

The Squeeze recently got new shoes.

This is a BIG DEAL.

You see, The Squeeze had a pair a long time ago that he really, really liked.  So he wore them every day until the soles were falling off and they looked liked something that might have died on the side of the road.  Eventually, he was prevailed upon to acquire new shoes.  He looked and he looked and he looked, and finally, he found the exact same pair and bought those.  Those he wore until the front of the sole flapped off the shoe like a sad, thirsty dog's tongue, and the heel entirely fell off.  You could say by this point, he definitely had a "type."

But this new pair?  They're the same shoe (of course) but in a different color.  They're dark grey and orange instead of medium grey and orange.  Once they arrived--The Squeeze's feet are too big to get shoes in a store--he had to ease himself into the idea of actually wearing them. 

First they sat in their packaging by the door for about a day.  Then the outer packaging was removed and they waited patiently in their box by the bench where shoes are put on feet.  Finally, quietly and without a fuss*, the old shoes were gone and the new shoes met their solemates.

I just love a story with a happy ending, don't you?

*No, it wasn't me.

(True:  I am going to have some making up to do for this post.  Hey, Squeeze, wanna see The Avengers with me this weekend?)