pixie's stina

Star Wars Celebration, Day Five

We woke up on Monday morning a little sad, knowing it was the last day. And with purpose. We had to fit everything we’d acquired over the last four days into our bags. Fortunately, we’d brought a half-empty suitcase, and we’d flown Southwest, so checking bags would not be a problem later. Over the course of the last few days, most of our purchases were clothes. Several tee shirts, my new jacket, my new dress, Graham’s new mask, some patches, a stuffed loth wolf, and a lot of posters. But we got everything to fit without too much of a problem, and we were ready for our last day of Celebration.

I got dressed in my new jacket, an Ahsoka tee shirt I bought at the Celebration store earlier in the week, and the Ahsoka leggings I adore from Her Universe . I also threw on a tiara because dammit, these are all Disney princesses now. And my Docs, because they’re damned comfortable.

Graham wore his Sithlords tee shirt that he got from a company here in Houston during the Star Wars Art Show last year with jeans.

Our flight wasn’t until late, but we knew we were going to have to come back to Wicker Park for our stuff, so we were on an abbreviated schedule.

We got to the arena at about 10:00 for the Phantom Menace panel. Graham and I are not the biggest fans of the Phantom Menace, but we got in through the lottery, and we figured it’d be interesting. The panel was split into three parts. The first part was dedicated to the technical components for the Phantom Menace, and at the time, the achievements were pretty remarkable. Tons of technology that we use all the time now was developed so they could make that movie. The four behind-the-scenes artists gave us a great view of how the movie was made and produced.

Next, the Dark side. Ian McDiarmid and Ray Park came on stage and talked about their participation in the movie. They were both charming and in light of recent revelations about both of their characters, intriguing. One thing I thought interesting is that after ROTJ, McDiarmid pestered Lucas about “maybe not dead?” and Lucas was adamant that the Emperor was dead. That was nearly 30 years go, so who knows how much that holds, but it was something interesting to bring up. I’ve never seen Park sit still for that long, but he still exuded pent up energy. One of the things I forgot to mention about the Clone Wars panel from the day before was that Filoni explained that for the Maul fights in the upcoming episodes, they put Park in a motion capture suit. I cannot WAIT to see that.

The light side was composed of Ahmed Best and Anthony Daniels. Like Tran a few days before, Best got a standing ovation and as much support from each individual person in that arena as they could muster. Best had well documented depression following the backlash against Jar-Jar, and to see him welcomed with such love was a joy. Graham and I slipped out after their introductions, in part to avoid the crowd at security when the panel let out, and in part because I wanted to go to a book signing.

I fell in love with Claudia Gray’s writing when I picked up Lost Stars a few years ago. She has just a lovely way of putting forth the galaxy with a unique voice. She’s quickly become one of the fandom’s most beloved writers, and I was upset when the official schedule came out and she was listed as only being available for 30 minutes in the middle of the Clone Wars panel. But when we got to the Del Ray booth the first day, they explained that the authors would be signing every day. I’d missed her most of the other days, so I was determined to catch her on the last day. I’d bought her new book the day before, and when I got to the line, it wasn’t that bad. Everyone was still paying attention to the Phantom Menace panel. Graham went off to find some last minute things, and I spent some lovely time chatting with the people around me. Claudia Gray was a joy and I was overjoyed to be able to tell her how much I admire her writing.

Graham and I went back over to the fan club area to say goodbye to Kareem and to trade with the various groups. We spent nearly 20 minutes chatting with the Pride Squadron, and got a few patches and buttons as everyone was trying to get rid of their swag.

Next was Graham’s turn in the book line for an autograph and chat with Alexander Freed, and while he was doing that I went to the Chewy booth to get presents for Fusilli and Celosa, who had been vacationing with their grandparents at the ranch. I also was looking for other random presents for people.

When Graham and I were reunited, we went to a vendor that I’d been watching since the first day. He had a particularly nice Ahsoka print that really called to me. And finally, with only five left of the run, I went ahead and bought it.

Our shopping done, we checked the time, and headed to a corner of the convention we’d not seen before: Rancho Obi-Wan, which is the home to a massive Star Wars collection. They brought out just a fraction of the items they have, but it was impressive nonetheless. Then, we headed back to the arena across the street for the closing ceremony.

The closing ceremony was nice and full of warm and fuzzies. Warwick Davis was hosting, and it was essentially a recap of what we’d seen over the previous five days. At the end, they announced that the next Celebration would be next year in Anaheim, though the dates are not yet set.

We went back across the street for one last look through and a picture under a tie fighter, and then we headed to the train to begin our journey home. Everything fit, the airport was full of Star Wars fans, and the TSA line wasn’t too bad considering how many times we’d had to go through security in the last five days at Celebration. We settled into our seats and were home by midnight.

pixie's stina

Star Wars Celebration, Day Four

On Sunday, I woke with a gasp. I looked at Graham, smiled, and said, “We’ve been married seven years today!” He grinned and kissed me. I kissed him back.It was a perfect anniversary.

He went and got us coffee while I lingered in bed for a moment or two. He came back with chai and the news that it was snowing!

I thought about my wardrobe and stayed in bed an extra few minutes.

Today, I was gender-bending Lando. I have this awesome wrap top cape thing from Elhoffer Designs (though the top appears no longer to be on their website). And I wore black leggings with my tall black boots. I threw a jewel on my face and made my makeup as femme as I could, because I figured a Lady Lando would be dolled up as much as possible. Under my cape, I wore a cami, and for the purposes of travel to and from, I decided to wear a long sleeved shirt under the cape that I’d take off once I got to the convention center.

Graham was debuting his own cosplay. He’s always been a fan of the guys on the side, but fighting the good fight. When he was a kid he loved the rank and file rebel troopers on the Tantive IV, the guys in the trenches on Hoth, the scouting group on Endor (now known to include Rex!!). His current favorite Star Wars movie is Rogue One, and he sort of fell in love with the anarchist Partisans that follow Saw Guerra and put pillowcases over blind Force sensitive captives, just in case. So he developed a costume to emulate the look and feel of one of the Partisans without specifying which one in particular. He found an awesome sweater thing on Amazon, an ammo pouch also on Amazon, his tall black boots, some black yoga pants, some goggles from Burning Man, and some greasepaint. At the convention a few days before, we found this awesome mask that completed the look.

So my Lady Lando was accompanied by essentially the Rebel version of Antifa. I fell in love with him all over again and would have married him right on the spot had we not done so seven years previously.

Citing the snow(!), we decided to Uber to the convention on Sunday rather than take the train like we had the previous days. The train itself would have been fine, but the waits at the stations would have been, er, challenging.

We rolled in at around 10:30, giving me time to go to my tattoo artist for a check on the wound and a bandage change. (These new bandages are pretty cool. Look like saran wrap, but adhesive and breathable. And eliminates the need to constantly add lotion all the time.) The tattoo looked great!

Graham secured us spots to watch the livestream of the Mandalorian panel at the Star Wars Show stage, and pretty much most of the convention stopped what we were doing in order to hang on every word. Man, I can’t wait for that show to start. David Filloni is just an outstanding showrunner, and to be paired with Jon Faverau makes me really excited. The cast seemed really into what they were doing, terribly excited to be there, especially Pedro Pascal. Filloni told a story about the random guys at ILM who were so excited that they started building props and developing shots in their garages. And there was another great story about not having enough stormtrooper armor for one particular scene at the studio, so Filloni called the 501st and got plenty of stormtroopers to show up without even knowing what it was they were doing there. Now they all can say they were in a Star Wars show. The cast said the 501st were DAMNED professional. The livestream cut out before we could see the exclusive footage. But we were pretty happy with what we got to see.

At some point in the previous day, we managed to get a feature of the app working and made a reservation to go to the Celebration Store at 12:30. I had been there two days prior, but Graham hadn’t been in and he wanted to see if there were any other items he wanted. There was a screen printing area, and while he was waiting to get a tee shirt printed, the people in the shop announced a brand new tee shirt for The Rise of Skywalker had just been released. I happened to be standing at exactly the right place, and so I was the very first person to get one. Graham and I swapped places in line so he could get one too. Apparently, they’d only printed 1300, and they were out of them pretty quickly.

I left Graham at the shop to wait for his shirt to print to try to make it into a panel, but it was full by the time I got there, and I took a little time coming back. Once we were reunited, we wandered to the far corner of the convention floor to check out all of the fan groups. There are so many, with so many different interests. I talked to one of the Mandolorian Mercs about what it takes to join in. We had pictures taken with a variety of backdrops the groups had brought it. We gave stickers to any kids we saw. I found another woman wearing the same top I was.

And then we realized we were close to the time to get to the Clone Wars panel. We didn’t look at the location, and almost went to the wrong place. The panel was across the street (through what I am told was not a blizzard but entailed a lot of snow and wind so I’m not entirely clear on the difference) in the big basketball arena. We sat near the press area. And the place was almost full. There were so many people excited about the return of the Clone Wars. For a lot of fans, it was their gateway into Star Wars. There was sooooo much costuming from that part of the franchise. Ahsoka was EVERYWHERE. The cast was just overjoyed to have another chance to be on the show, and it was clear that they all love working together. Filloni was as cagy as ever, but he did show us some amazing clips and gave us some of the development sketches from the show. We were buzzing with excitement to see how everything would wrap up, knowing that this was an amazing gift to get. How often is a tv show revived in order to properly wrap it up? We were given a poster of a still from the teaser trailer, and while standing in line, I swapped one of our posters for someone’s excess Mandolorian poster. Excellent trade.

Back at the main floor, having survived going through the blizzard again, we wandered some more, taking everything in. Every now and then we'd see the snow outside, and it added a little more magic to the event. Something different, something mysterious. The Hoth cosplayers were overjoyed.

Finally, we went to our last panel of the day. We misread the description and probably would have walked out had it not been a very public departure. The panel was about COLLECTING original props and costumes, not about displaying and talking about original props and costumes. There was an interesting story about someone having an original Stormtrooper helmet, but otherwise, we probably could have filled our time better

Afterwards, we Ubered home. We had plans to eat at a restaurant near the apartment, but it was closed. So we went to the restaurant on the other side of our apartment. And we had an excellent anniversary.

pixie's stina

Star Wars Celebration, Day Three

The big panel on Saturday was for the new theme park in the Disney parks. For whatever reason, Graham and I were sort of more interested in learning about that if and when we go to the park than at Celebration. So we took a little more time getting organized on Saturday morning. Graham got some chai and coffee at a nearby donut shop, and we took some time getting dressed.

Today was our couple cosplay day. We’d actually been planning this costume for a few months when I was hit with inspiration reading something or another. We were Generation-X-Wing fighter pilots. And we totally went there. We bought orange jumpsuits and then altered them to fit a 90s grunge aesthetic. Graham cut off the sleeves and the pant legs to the knees. I cut my shorts much shorter and hemmed them. I had a white tank top made with the rebel logo and the words “Rebel Grrrl” written on it. I found a motorcycle helmet and decaled it. Graham chose a skater helmet instead. I made flight straps out of grey webbing. For mine, I put grommets every few inches. Graham put hooks on his. I found a pair of old Doc Martens on ebay with plaid lining. Graham found his combat boots. I threw on orange tights and then black fishnets over them. Graham tied a flannel around his waist. I kept the top of my jumpsuit hanging behind my back. I went thick with eyeliner and a dark red lipstick. Graham wore an orange stocking cap with the rebel logo. We looked awesome. The only thing missing was the awesome vintage skateboard we had found, but Graham and I decided that it was more a pain in the ass to bring with us. It’ll come to Comicpalooza.

And of course, it happened to be the day we spent the most time apart.

When we got to Celebration, Graham got in a line for something at the Amazon booth, and I went over to the tattoo pavilion to check on an artist’s availability that I had seen the first day. I’d more or less decided to get a tattoo while at Celebration on Friday. I knew I wanted the Starbird Rebel logo from Rebels in a stylized version. I finally settled on my ribcage. And I had talked to an artist on Thursday that seemed to meet my needs and had a portfolio that I liked.

When I got there, though, I noticed that she was in the middle of a pretty big project that would take some time before she could talk to me, so I looked around a little more. And I found this awesome Starbird that looked even better than the one the artist had I had been talking to had made. The artist was taking walk-ups, and the project he was working on just then was very small. Within 30 minutes, I was on a table getting my tattoo on my left ribcage by a guy wearing a Hutt Slayer (fka Slave Leia) cosplay. It was pretty awesome. The tattoo has watercolor effect in pink and purple, and I am so very much in love with it.

Graham met up with me having had some adventures of his own while I was being tattooed (I made sure to tell him about it via text as it was happening). And we made our way over to the Rebels panel. Due to some awesome pre-planning on our part, we had reserved seats ahead of time, and we were able to pretty much waltz into the panel without having to wait in line at all. The panel was packed, and I was pretty happy about how close we were.

Given I had just gotten a tattoo from the show, I am pretty invested in Rebels. It was a pretty awesome panel because it was the first time I got to see David Filoni, who I think is one of the best Star Wars producers and storytellers out there. Since Rebels is complete, they were able to cover quite a bit territory about the show without giving anything away. The cast had great anecdotes, and clearly enjoyed working together. Filoni is an evil genius who enjoys torturing everyone, including his cast. He keeps EVERYTHING close to the chest and the whole Celebration, everyone was making fun of his “trust tree” where no one is told anything. This panel was a love-fest, and it was clear that Rebels is a beloved, beloved part of the canon now. When the panel was over, we all got a Rebels poster based off of the painting that Sabine made at the end of the series.

Graham actually left the panel a little early to go across the street for the Jedi Fallen Order game preview. He said it was pretty amazing. I went over to the vendors to get a poster tube after the Rebels panel was over, and I was able to see things like the Running of the Hoods  and absorb more of the convention. Around the time that Graham’s panel was getting out, I wandered towards the main entry to wait for him. He got delayed due to the line for the poster/x-box time/pin set swag after the panel, so I got us some hotdogs and spent 20 minutes being charmed to death by an 11 month old fan from the Czech Republic who was delighted to play with the inflatable light saber I gave her. Graham spent his time in line giving stickers to everyone there.

We reunited for a bit, taking more pictures in, wandering around some more. The final panel of the mural was revealed today, so we went to admire it.

Graham and I were parted again pretty quickly. I went to the Sisters of the Force panel that put several of the women of the Star Wars family on stage together, while Graham went to a writing workshop. We both wanted to go to both, but such is the fate of conventions.

The Sisters of the Force panel was wonderful. I was on the floor of the arena, and the place was pretty full. The panelists were just lovely people with wonderful stories. There were tears and laughter and great stories. Having been a part of this fandom for such a long time, it is such a joy to have so many women involved now. Once upon a time, there was just one. And while she’s a bad-ass and my hero and the best damned princess in this or any other galaxy, she was the only one. There are so many more now, so very many more. And they are beloved. There were so many Ahsokas. So many Sabines. Heras. Holdos. Reys. Ventresses. Padmes. It’s just wonderful, and sometimes we need a love fest like this.

Graham and I reunited shortly after the panel. We made a final sweep through the convention floor, making sure to get a photo or two by the X-Wing, and then we made our way back toward Wicker Park. Our friend Sam was having a birthday party that night, and we wanted to get home and get ready for it. We met up with Jason, our host, and he graciously gave us a lift to the party. It was awesome because we got to chat quite a bit with him on the way there and back.

It was starting to get cold that night, so our time outside by the fire at the party was a little more curtailed than it would have been had the weather been a little kinder. We got home soon before it started snowing.

pixie's stina

Star Wars Celebration, Day Two

Having slept nine hours, Graham and I got up fairly early on Friday morning, totally invigorated. We checked the Facebook group for Celebration, and there were already fans in line for the Episode IX panel and had been there for hours. Apparently the staff was handing out Happy Meals to them.

Traditionally, the big panels have been almost impossible to get into without putting in serious work. People would literally camp out for days to get into specific panels. Fourteen to 24 hour waits were not unheard of. Graham and I kind of assumed we'd never actually be able to get into one because we're not really the types to be willing to stand in those sorts of lines.

But for a variety of reasons, that was not going to be possible this year. The city of Chicago would not permit lines longer than four hours or overnight camping. The weather was not going to cooperate. The larger panels were in a separate arena across the street from the main convention hall.

So the convention implemented a lottery system, where attendees could, through their badges, select the panels they wanted to attend. The lottery system also worked for some of the toy exclusives (Funko, Hasbro and Lego, I think). We threw our lots in for the Episode IX, the Mandolorian, and the Phantom Menace Anniversary panels. (There was another panel for Galaxy's Edge, the new theme park, but we figured we'd just go one day instead.) The arena held about 7000 people, and there were two overflow rooms in the convention center that probably accommodated another 3000. I think that per day there were about 35,000 people at the convention. The odds were not necessarily great, but they weren't terrible either. And on Tuesday morning, we found out that we had gotten into both the Episode IX panel and the Phantom Menace panel. We were overjoyed.

So I got dressed in my Empire poster dress with Han Solo leggings, tall black boots and a long sleeveless vest/hoodie, and Graham wore his Obi-Wan sweater, and we were in line at the arena by about 8:45ish. The line was moving, but it still took us about ten minutes to get through. Everyone in line got a black beenie with just the numerals IX on it. Since it was a little chilly, it was a very welcome piece of swag. We could have waited for a Happy Meal, but it was cold, and we were too excited to go in to wait for any longer.

We got into the building, and we found our section and then some seats by about 9:30. The arena was buzzing, but it wasn't yet packed. I got us some breakfast at one of the concessions (soft pretzels), and we took in the crowd and the ambiance.

The warm up team was having fun with the crowd, and at one point, they pulled out four or five girls wearing stormtrooper attire and brought them on stage. Then, he brought another woman on stage and introduced the girls to Samantha Alleyne, who was the very first female stormtrooper in The Force Awakens and has been a stormtrooper in the subsequent four movies that they've made, including this one. She told a story of a young fan coming to her once to thank her, because her brother and his friend told her she couldn't be a stormtrooper because she was a girl. The little girl pointed out that Samantha was a girl and she was a stormtrooper and the boys had to concede the point. One day ALL the boys will concede the point.

Finally, with the arena full, and the energy practically visible, the lights dimmed and out came Stephen Colbert! What a welcome surprise! I never thought I'd ever been chanting "Stephen! Stephen! Stephen!" much less in this context, but here I was, chanting along. He was a perfect host for this event, with a very well documented geek cred and passionate about the subject matter.

JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy were the first guests brought on stage. Colbert did what he could to elicit some sort of idea about what the movie would entail. They remained pretty cagy, but they did talk a little about the kismet of finding footage from the Last Jedi with Carrie Fisher that worked organically into the storyline. They said CGI and recasting was entirely off the table, but working with the footage they had was really awesome. They also talked about, and this would come up later on the Mandolorian panel, the importance of using practical effects and real locations as much as possible to give a sense of grounding to the movie.

Next, Anthony Daniels and R2D2 came on stage, and I legitimately started crying when I saw R2. 3P0 has been in every single movie, and Daniels can still fit in the costume. They flashed an image of him with his costume pieces from three separate trilogies, and it was remarkable of the changes and similarities. Daniels was charming and gracious

Billy Dee Williams was next up. The crowd went wild. I think his casting had been confirmed before, but this was undeniable. Abrams and Kennedy talked about how in awe they were of him when he came back to the set, and he told Stephen Colbert that Lando had never left him after all of these years.

The rest of the cast came on stage next, to much fanfare. There’s a new character, named Janna, played by newcomer Naomi Ackie. She was very silent about the part, but they did flash an image of her character on the screen. I took a photo and immediately posted it on to social media. She talked about getting the role and having to be silent about it.

The cast was clearly pretty close, and Colbert talked to them individually and as a group. They’d often defer to Abrams and Kennedy if there were any questions that got too close to the plot, and images kept flashing of stills from the movie. I captured as many as I could with my camera.

The very best part of the cast interviews was when Stephen turned to Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose. Last year, she had to remove herself from social media due to fan bullying after The Last Jedi. But when Stephen Colbert mentioned her name, the crowd went insane and she got a standing ovation that took a few minutes to calm down. And then she started misting up, so we started misting up and cheering all over again. It took awhile for everyone to compose themselves.

Then, we got a treat of a new droid being introduced for the very first time! He’s even smaller than BB8, and terribly adorable. Named D-O, he sort of had a look of the Pixar lamp in droid form. JJ Abrams reminded us that we all met BB8 at Celebration right before The Force Awakens came out, and he also said that like with BB8, Celebration was the deadline that the builders had to finish the prototype.

Finally, the moment we’d all been waiting for arrived, and JJ Abrams announced the teaser trailer. You could have heard a pin drop in that arena. 14,000 eyes were glued to the screen. I grabbed Graham’s hand. We gripped tight during that opening sequence with the waiting and centering and voiceover and sand and speed and tie fighter and calm and the light saber and the run. And then when Rey did the flip, we cheered like mad people. The rest of the trailer, with Leia’s theme playing and all of the new information to absorb was almost a blur. I don’t think any of us blinked, though we cheered when we saw Lando, and we sniffed when we saw Leia. And then Luke spoke again, and then that laugh. And then the name was revealed. And everyone just went insane.

The lights came back on, and Ian McDiarmid was standing on stage. It took a minute for the crowd to compose itself with the shock and excitement of the trailer, and then with McDiarmid on stage. He was just smirking. And then he turned on the Emperor, and said, “Roll it again.” And the lights dimmed and the crowd went insane again, and we went through it all over again, with just a little more information than we had before.

It was an emotionally exhausting hour that was just amazing to be part of. The crowd was still buzzing when we were leaving to get out of the arena and across the street to the convention center. We were absorbing and talking about what it all meant and just totally excited about what we had just seen.

After getting to the convention center, I noticed that the line to get into the official store was a fraction of what it had been yesterday. I had heard that the system crashed at some point yesterday and that was a big factor in the massive line then. I figured what the hell, and got in. Graham had a panel he wanted to see around the same time, and we figured we’d be through our respective tasks about the same time. Once Graham left, I called Jose to tell him to watch the trailer, as it was already online. I watched it a few more times.

My estimation of the line was not great, and I ended up in it for about two hours. I made friends along the way, but it probably wasn’t my best move in terms of time management. Finally, I got into the store (right as Graham was getting out of the panel), and found some tee shirts and other items I wanted, and texted Graham that I’d soon be out. The system crashed again, and the line I thought would be similar to a Saturday checking out at Trader Joe’s took another 25 minutes.

When we were reunited, Graham told me about the panel (on military stuff) and took me down to this awesome room he found full of fan-made droids. There were dozens of them, and most were functional to some degree or another. Everyone in the room had a blast taking pictures with the droids, including me. I have a massive love for R2, and there were dozens of variations of his theme.

We went back to the main room, hearing too late that most of the cast had gone over to the stage there for more informal interviews on the Star Wars Show stage. But there was so much more than there had been the day before, so we spent some time exploring, getting photographs, talking to people, including this awesome guy from Toronto who Graham is now talking with about maybe developing a Jedi Yoga class with. We probably spent close to a half-hour talking with him.

Exhausted and invigorated, we headed back to Wicker Park at around seven, and Graham found a nice Italian restaurant for dinner. Wicker Park is active and vibrant and has the nicest Walgreens the world has ever seen. (Seriously, it’s in an old bank building and it’s three floors of amazing.) We came home and hit the hay ready for the next day.

pixie's stina

Star Wars Celebration Chicago, Day One

Obviously, I'm a Star Wars fan. I've been a Star Wars fan ever since I can remember, probably starting in 1979 or 1980, when my family first got a VCR. It was the first movie we rented, and we rented it so often that it was more cost effective to go ahead and buy it. Jose and I knew every single word of dialogue, and we used to play Star Wars all the time. I remember going to the theater for every release since 1980. It's always been important to me.

And fortunately, I met and married someone who loves Star Wars as much as I do.

I can't remember the first time I heard about Celebration. It was quite some time ago, but it wasn't until maybe 2015 or so that I started paying attention enough to think I'd try to go. Last time around, Graham and I talked about it, but we never got our act together, so we watched it on the livestream vowing that one day we would go.

But anyhow, it's been a goal since 2017. We didn't buy tickets when they went on sale last summer. With years of burn events in our past, we knew that the resale market would probably be robust. But we didn't actually pull the trigger until late March, when Graham found a ridiculously low fare to Chicago for $150 each roundtrip.

So we found tickets (without a markup) and our outstandingly awesome friend Jason offered us a place to stay in his house in Wicker Park. And on Thursday, at an absurdly early hour of the morning, we were on our way.

We essentially just dropped off our stuff after we landed (30 minutes early!), grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed straight to the convention center via the train. I was wearing my droid leggings, my droid satin jacket, my "may the force be with you" tee shirt, and my Rey boots. Graham was wearing his "Death Star Communications" soccer jersey. We looked the part. As would become a custom, we ran into another Celebration attendee on the train (recognized by her Rey boots), and we chatted on the way there. Doors were to open at 1:00, and I think we arrived at about 12:30, so our wait wasn't very long at all. We continued to chat with our new friend while waiting, and as soon as the doors opened, there was a rush.

I had an agenda. I'd deliberately packed with the idea of buying a jacket at Her Universe that had been announced right before the convention started.  I knew on the map where the booth was, so I made a beeline for it. At 1:15, I found the booth, but it took me another five minutes to find the end of the line. I got in it, and I told Graham to explore while I waited.

This was an awesome strategy, as it gave us both an opportunity to take things in at our own pace. I let the convention assemble around me as the line moved slowly ahead. After taking a hard pass on the 8 hour wait on the Celebration Store, Graham went out to get a lay of the land, coming back every ten to 15 minutes to check in on me and tell me what he saw. The line I was standing in was on a main thoroughfare, so I got tons of people watching in, and I chatted with those around me too.

I think it took an hour to get to the front, but it was totally worth it. I got the jacket I wanted, and it was even more awesome than I thought it would be. I also got a dress that I had my eye on. Graham got a tee shirt.

And then we were free to walk around. We didn't know it, but it was a lot less crowded than most of the other days, and not all of the booths were set up yet. But we got a good sense of things. We admired the mural that had been painted for the event. We checked out the art cars and ships and model areas that had been set up. We wandered over to the tattoo area to check out the artists. And as luck would have it, we ran into Cori on the convention floor on the first day. We sort of assumed that she would be so busy we'd never see her. But we got to hang out for a half second before she had to move on.

One of the last minute purchases I made before we left was a pack of a dozen inflatable light sabers to give to kids. Next time we'll bring ten times that amount, because it was so much fun giving them out. We also bought 200 stickers on Amazon to give out. The kids really loved those too.

Graham and I checked out the diorama, which has become a Celebration tradition. A massive model of an iconic scene from Star Wars is built by the community for the duration of the event. This time around, it was the Battle of Scarif from Rogue One.

We left a little early, tired as hell from the travel and stimulation, but really excited about what we saw. Pizza from around the corner, and we were in bed fast asleep by ten.

Relampago ocean

Viva Zapata

Zapata Solis

January 21, 2002-June 13, 2017

The first strike against Z was Chispa.  Chispa was the beloved family puli who lived with us from 1989 until she died in late 2001.  She was an amazing soul who ruled our household with an iron paw.  Everyone adored her, and my mother especially doted on her.  We used to joke, not without some seriousness, that Olivia got into Stanford because of Chispa: one of her essays for admission was about Chispa.  My own senior high school yearbook picture featured Chispa. So did Jose's.  There was no way that anyone could live up to the myth of Chispa.

And so, when the call came into the breeder about a puppy, that there was only a boy available was met with a little disappointment.  But still. Puppy!!

And Z came a little late.  He was about 14 weeks old, and all of his siblings had already been gone a few weeks by the time he came to us. He had an umbilical hernia repair surgery before coming to us, and he needed a little time to recuperate.  His was the "Z" litter from his breeder, and it didn't take us too long to come up with Zapata, the infamous Mexican revolutionary who preferred to die on his feet than live on his knees.  Perhaps revolutionary was a bit tooooo close

His arrival was joyous. Everyone came to my parent's house to meet this little ball of fluff.

I was a little anxious about it, because Relampago, then nine years old, historically had not been fond of other dogs except for Chispa and Holden.  I wans't sure at all how he'd handle a puppy.  But Relampago LOVED Zapata from the moment he met him.  They played together and loved each other, and Relampago's reaction to Zapata was the main reason I started looking for a second puli a year later. When my parents went out of town, Zapata would come to stay at my house.

Very early, Zapata proved to be a bit of trouble. My parents live on the sixth floor of their apartment building, with massive balconies.  On one of the first weeks of Zapata's residence, he chased something (and with Zapata who knew what his mind was seeing) to the railing, and he went through the railing.   Fortunately, there was a ledge on the other side, but Claudia had to very carefully retrieve the puppy from a suicide attempt.  He and subsequent small puppies weren't allowed on the balcony unsupervised after that.

Since Zapata lived in an apartment, an important part of his day was his walk.  He would pester everyone as soon as breakfast was over to get moving and get the business of walking going.   My parents live not too far from Hermann Park, and Zapata and my mother would take epically long walks through the park.  And Zapata LOVED to jump on every bench and retaning wall and curb and anything else to jump on that he could find.  He lived for his walks.

He also loved the ranch, chasing and runnng around with Holden and Relampago, and later, Crianza. Once running around in circles like crazy people, when visitor dogs came to hang out.  Once hysterically leading the charge against a Chinese Crested.

My mom, being a responsible pet owner, put Zapata in training classes as soon as she could.  He was a very well behaved puppy dog. He would wait for commands before releasing from a sit, and he was generally very good on his leash.  Except when he wasn't.  He had triggers.  Lots and lots of triggers.  He didn't like other dogs.  He didn't like most people. He would bark at the sun.  He barked at shiny objects.  He barked at bicycles.  He began to nip at people.  The trainers suggested other, more experienced trainers. At one point, Zapata was in a class with some of the "worst" dogs in Houston.  Eventually, the trainers recommended that he be evaluated by a behavioralist.  And that's how my mother and Zapata ended up being evaluated at Texas A&M and left with a fifty page report and a prescription for Zoloft.

Anyone else would have understandably given up, but I almost think that Zapata's issues drew the people that loved him closer.  Part of it was that we had to keep an eagle eye on him.  While walks at the park were a joy, they were also a minefield, especially during the summer when there were lots of kids that wanted to dart up and pet the rasta dog.  Part of it was that his quirks were just weird.  He had a vendetta against the antenna on the roof at the ranch. Sometimes the sun pisssed him off.  Firetrucks were intolerable.  He'd stand for minutes in front of the gong and bark at it.   When he was let out at the ranch, he'd hightail it at full speed barking his fool head off towards the cattle guard, and he'd bark until he was satisfied that the demons were repelled.  And he'd trot back to the house as if nothing weird had happened. He loved to patrol the dock at the ranch and bark at his own echo. Claudia used to talk about there being two Zapatas battling for control in his mind, one Zapata and the other Emilliano and you never knew which one had prevailed.

My family got to know Zapata's quirks.  He had a muzzle for times when people came over.  He also wore a sign at bigger parties advising against petting him.  Because he and Relampago and later Crianza, Celosa, and Fusilli looked a lot like him to the untrained eye, mistakes would understandably be made about who someone was interacting with.

He was a beautiful puli.  His cords always looked good and full, though he was a pain in the ass to groom. He hated baths, and I remember fighting him for nearly an hour in Taos in the tub.  He also didn't like having his cords separated, which is something puli owners have to do from time to time to keep the cords from clumping. He'd snap at you if you did too much, and the only time I was ever injured by Zapata was when I was taking something out of his fur.  My mother and I would tag team him for trimming or cord separating or otherwise keeping him tidy.  And unfortunately, no matter what his bathing situation, he always had a bad odor that none of the other pulis ever had.  Every solution under the sun was tried, but there was just some Zapata smell that just wouldn't go away.

His grooming issues made it so he often looked ridiculous because someone hacked at his cords without paying attention to styling in an effort to get it over and done with OR it got out of control and too long.  Once, my parents rushed him to the vet because he couldn't walk.  They thought he was paralized. Turned out that he got his foot caught in one of his cords and it was immobilized. He got a haircut after that.

Zapata was a weirdo in pretty much everything.  His walks, for example. He'd start them by getting behind my mother and following her legs. It was the strangest thing to watch. I think it's part of the herding instinct, but he'd weave back and forth, following each leg as she walked. A few minutes into the walk, he'd move out from behind her and come next to her.  And early in life he was banned from going down on the elevator, so he took the fire stairs down every morning.  He didn't like to take food directly from someone's hand, but he was ok with it if it was on a fork or spoon.  When he lay on the floor, he'd shove his paws under the rug in front of him.  He demanded a glass of ice water every night when my parents had their cocktails and would only drink out of a bowl if absolutely necessary.

But for all of his quirks, Zapata loved his family.  He and Jose had an amazing bond, and I was one of his closest friends. When Chicken joined us in 2007, Zapata was right behind Relampago in the Chicken Fan Club. (Crianza hated Chicken; she was resentful from the second she laid eyes on the corgi.)  Relampago at that point was 13 years old, and he could just admire, but Zapata played and played with the corgi puppy and every time Chicken and Olivia came to visit, he'd take on Chicken entertainment duties.    Relampago's departure and Celosa's arrival in 2008 were changes, but he accommodated them with aplomb.

The first time Graham ever came to visit, Zapata was staying with me. I warned Graham about Zapata's quirks, and as we opened the door, Zapata barrelled past us and went running down the street. Graham dropped everything and hightailed it after Zaptata, catching him before he got to the busy street. Z took a bite out of Graham, and ever since, everything between them was cool, though Graham always opted to sleep in the den when Zapata stayed over because Z kept kicking him out of bed.

The only one he didn't really like was Fusilli.  Fusilli was fascinated with him as a puppy, but Zapata wanted nothing to do with him.  Zapata was 11 when we got Fusilli, and maybe he was just over catching up with a youngster.   In 2014, they got into a pretty bad fight and after that we kept them separated.

I don't know if apartment living was the best in the world for him, but he loved the ranch.  It was worth the pain in the ass to haul him there every weekend. Zapata hated both 18 wheelers and round hay bales, and there are a lot of both in car rides through Texas, so drives with him were, er, loud.  And at the ranch, he could explore and run and be himself to his heart's content. It was unlikely that he'd run into any dogs or people that could cause trobule.  And he could explore. And bark at cows.   He loved to take off and run around. It never seemed to bother him that he'd pick up  tons of debris and sticks and bald cyprus leaves and burrs and pods.

And he could run and play.  He taught Celosa how to chase cows. And he would wrestle with whoever was around. He patrolled the area around the house, but sometimes he'd go further, and we'd have to go out and look for him, sometimes in a car or the mule.

One of my most favorite Zaptata moments was the day after our wedding.  He was, of course, in the ceremony, but he left the reception afterwards and hung out in peace at another house.  The next day, the house was still full of people.  And at some point someone noticed that Zapata was missing.  A search party formed. My dad mounted the mule and began to look for him out and about.  All of his usual haunts were no good.  Panic started to rise.  And then in a more thorough search, I found him in my parents' closet.  He decided that no one was going to bug him there, and for the next five years, he was often found in closets if things got too overwhelming.

Zapata was just full of personality and quirks and stuff to talk about.  We would all ask about him when we hadn't seen him in awhile, and we were super careful with him.  He loved intently but very sparingly.  His weirdoness made him that more special to us, and his fan club was small but devoted.

He went to Taos a dozen times or so with my parents, and he always had stories to tell afterwards.  He and Relampago had a blast in 2003 there when I brought them back bones from the farmer's market. And again in 2006, when I went with them and Crianza to nurse a broken heart.   Once, he lost his ham bone outside when it snowed, and he spent hours looking for it.  The yard there was big with birds to chase.  We lived in a not-unreasonable fear that one day he'd find the skunks there.

Over the last few years, it became clear that Zapata was hitting is dotage. At first it was just little things.  He would have trouble staying oriented, and his eyesight and hearing started to deteriorate.  Then his disdain and disinterest for Fusilli turned into fear because it was clear he could no longer defend himself or get away.  He started losing weight, and he started sleeping a lot.   At some point, he could no longer manage the stairs and elaborate blockades started to be built to prevent him from getting places.   Last fall, he was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in his mouth, and he started to recover some of his appetite and start moving around again.   But over the last few months, he'd get stuck.  Under chairs or in corners. And he wouldn't be able to get out again.  He was to the point he couldn't be left alone, and last week, it was clear that the Zapata we loved so much was gone.

As a family, we went to the vet's office last week.  He ate as much cheese and pupperoni as he wanted.  He gave everyone a hug.  And it was time to say goodbye.  The vet walked in, a woman we'd never met before. She spoke with a Spanish accent and called Zapata Commandante.  "You know what Zapata means?"  "Of course!  Emilliano Zapata. Commondante."   We talked about how he was always a revolutionary, and she said her minor was in Latin American Revolutions. She was the perfect person to help him across, and she said "Run free in Chiapas" when he died.

We held a wake for him over margaritas and we couldn't run out of stories about this amazing little soul who had been part of our lives for 15 years.

I will miss you, my friend.  You gave my mother so much of yourself, and you loved her with devotion.  You were never easy, but you made loving not a chore at all.

home improvement

Adventures in home renovation: The Great Bathroom Remodel

It starts with the washer dryer. When I bought the house, the washer and dryer was in one of the bedrooms, just against a wall without any partitions. It was weird, and it's probably why I got such a good deal on the house. It was always something I wanted to change.  In early 2003, I ripped out a cabinet in the kitchen and installed a washer/dryer combo in that space, getting rid of the old top loaders.

In early 2006, I discovered that something was leaking in my kitchen, and later discovered that it was the washer/dryer. In may, I bought 170 square feet of blue porcelain tile for roughly $150 to put down in the kitchen, but real life got in the way, and I didn't get around to it. It's been sitting in my potting shed for six years.

That discovery, though, did start my mind down the rabbit hole of thinking about totally remodeling the kitchen and expanding the house to accommodate a master suite. The idea percolated in various formats over the years.

When Graham moved in, he sort of latched on to it too. We took, relatively early on in our relationship, into going to Open Houses around the neighborhood to see what people did to their houses. Every time we talked about the idea of moving, we came to the conclusion that an addition would work better. It was also something that we thought would work with our mortgage. We developed over that time several designs on what to do with our house, and after talking to my brother about it, we came up with one that we're pretty settled on. We did think about going for a foreclosed home or two, but we never had enough cash on hand to move forward on those. And we started working on things around our house (read: RIP: disco fireplace").

In the meantime, we finally got rid of the washer/dryer combo in 2008, using that area of the kitchen for recycling, and we bought a stack-able washer and dryer that ended up exactly where the first ones were: in the den.  Albeit a little taller and taking up a little less space than when I bought the place in 2002.   In 2010, we got a new dishwasher. And in 2011, we got a new refrigerator.   And then the kitchen remodel extravaganza, and a windows upgrade. But we still have a two bedroom, one bathroom house.  Now with a more funky layout due to closing off a door during the kitchen renovation.

This is what our house currently looks like.

current configuration.jpg

In 2014, we made the move to plan for a bigger expansion than the kitchen renovation. We got a home equity loan.  We hired an architect. We went through edits and revisions and lots of money to come up with a plan that was simple and in keeping with the house, but also gave us a little more space and could expand the family.  We would add on a separate building that connected through the kitchen. This building would have a media room with a work space for Graham, a bathroom, and a nice utility room downstairs and a master suite upstairs.  We would preserve a good hunk of the back yard and have plenty of green space.  We would go from a two bedroom one bathroom 1052 square foot house to a three bedroom two and a half bathroom 1900 square foot house.

And then we started looking for contractors. First, the Memorial flood took all the small contractors in the summer of 2015, so we waited until the fall to start looking.  And the bids were over. Way over. One guy didn't even bother to give us a number other than "we can't do it for what you're budgeting."  One group really wanted to do it, and they managed to shave a good $40K off of their $80k over budget bid. But it was still too much over budget to be comfortable.

So we put everything on hold.

And then the bathroom started falling apart. First, little chips in the linoleum on the floor. We'd tape them down or otherwise pretend they weren't there. Then tile beginning to pop out of the wall in the shower.  The guts of the toilet having to be replaced.

And we started talking about what to do with the current house.

The plan was always to convert the two existing bedrooms into a more user friendly configuration, but we thought that would happen in the later stages of construction.  But what if we started with the smaller project that would still radically transform the house?

We started soliciting bids from bath contractors.

One massive outfit came by and took a look and gave suggestions and a price and we said, we like your design but we think we can do better.

So we interviewed more and found a guy we really like.

So on Saturday, Mikey and his crew are coming to our house to rip out our bathroom, and they'll spend the next few weeks turning our house into this:

bathroom reno configuration.jpg

I think if you click the image, you'll get a bigger picture with better detail.  The washer and dryer are moving to the closet. The sink is moving to where the door to the den used to be. We are converting the armoire I use for dresses into the linen cabinet / laundry hamper.  The entry to the bathroom and the bedroom will be through the dining room. My closet will be sacrificed for the greater good (the greater good!) and I'll get a PAX system from IKEA in the bedroom.  Every single room of the house will be changed in some way with this renovation.

We bought blue mosaic tile for around the tub and toilet. We bought white 12 inch tile for the floor. We bought a sink and medicine cabinet from IKEA.  We bought barn door hardware for the bathroom door. We went to an architectural salvage place for doors for the bedroom and bathroom (the bathroom door has a mirror inlayed). We bought a rainfall showerhead for the tub.


And we've moved shit. Almost all of the art is off the walls. Two pieces of furniture in the bedroom are gone, and we've moved things around in there.  Bookshelves have moved out of the dining room. The bathroom is almost bare. All that is left to clean out is the closet, which I'll do tonight.

We're getting a MUCH more functional house out of this.  The bedroom will feel more private, but it will also be easier to get to. The color scheme in there will also work better when we put in the closet system and paint a piece of furniture.  The den will get all of the bookshelves, and because the door is gone, we'll have more wall space to work with.  It will also feel more cohesive and cozy when we are able to get the TV moved and the design scheme isn't "work around the washer and dryer".   The living room will feel more open without the bookshelves lining the center wall.  Art will be a little more dispersed.

It's a huge project and a huge upheaval.

I'm moving to my parents house for the duration of this, and Graham and the dogs are moving to the ranch. We were told three weeks or so when they gave us the bid, but who knows?  Graham will be coming into town from time to time to teach yoga and see what's going on.  We're hoping that everything will be done by Christmas or the New Year.

It's not the addition that we were hoping to have done by now, but it's a MAJOR undertaking and one that I think will make our home into something we're really excited about, even though it's still only one bathroom.  And we'll get to the rest later on down the line.

too much


GISHWHES is over, and I can now share everything that happened over the last week or so.

This year, I was a team leader, Team Gigsville, to be exact. It was made up mainly of people who were from my camp at Burning Man and the people they recruited.  The biggest bulk was from Austin, but there were some from other parts of the country as well.  I was the only GISHWHES vet in the group, and I think we worked really well together. Everyone was extraordinarily creative and put a lot of effort into the week. We had one no-show, but other than that everyone contributed something.  At the end of the week, we had submitted 127 of the 178 items on the list to scavange.
So to start on Sunday night, I said to Graham, "Let's go to Walmart." and he said, "We're going to get arrested, aren't we?" "Of course not!" I marched for the pool noodles. Graham rolled his eyes for the first, but certainly not the last, time of G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S.

So I wandered the aisles awhile, and I found a tin water dispenser, and some car floor mats. I was looking for the trash can lids to make a shield, when I passed the bathroom fixtures aisle and found a toilet lid. Graham rolled his eyes, sighed, and followed me to the ladies lingerie section, where I donned my armor and handed Graham my phone.

He took a few shots, and then instructed me to hold the toilet lid higher. I couldn't see very well because my "helmet" kept falling over my eyes.

And this is what the item number #69--Dress up in armor from items you find in a big box store and, using a pool noodle or tube of gift wrap, defend the perimeter of the ladies’ undergarments department.--looks like.

A good hunk of Sunday, I spent online looking for an inexpensive way to acquire a hundred or so "Botts Dots", which are those white or yellow or orange or red reflective dots on the highway that sometimes designate lanes or that you're about to drive off the highway. They're supposed to be inexpensive, and I suppose in the realm of multimillion dollar high construction projects they are. But for my purposes without a connection in TXDOT, the real thing wasn't going to happen.

So at lunch on Monday, I went to Academy for my substitute. And since hunting season starts soon, they were on sale! A box of 135 for $10.
I went home that night and there was plenty of daylight left to be able to put the project together and get a photograph before it needed to be reflective. I had several left over in case any of the clay pigeons broke, and they turned out to be the perfect substitute for visual purposes, though they wouldn't hold up very long if a car actually drove over them. Only two neighbors asked what was going on. I explained that I was doing a photography project.

The hardest part was getting good photos. The message was long, and I couldn't get the whole thing in a picture. So I put together the first of many G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. collages.
And item number 84--“Death 2 Normalcy”, written in “Highway Braille” (Botts Dots) on a city street. The message must be at least 20 feet long.--looks like this:

My next project was my most ambitious, and it took several days of construction. I debated with my teammates about the interpretation of the G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. item--#109 Make a sock monkey hat from orphaned socks.

Ultimately, I decided to go with the less obvious interpretation and decided to make a hat out of sock monkeys I made out of orphaned socks. My teammates pointed out that the sock monkeys should be wearing sock monkey hats. We started calling it the Inception Sock Monkey hat.

So most of Monday and Tuesday nights were spent making sock monkeys and then hats for the sock monkeys.

When we woke up the next morning, I made Graham take a picture of me wearing my sock monkey hat.

I almost feel like we cheated with this one. Graham and I were grocery shopping on Tuesday night, at the last second, I made him make an extra run to Whole Foods for an item.

I'm pretty sure that they wanted people to actually find and make such a thing, but it already exists here in Houston. It used to be at DiverseWorks, but at some point the Art-o-Mat (http://www.artomat.org/) moved to Whole Foods on Montrose.

G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. Item 140--A functioning vending machine that dispenses emotions and memories. Show a customer making a purchase.--was already made for me. All I had to do was make a purchase.

The Tuesday night grocery shopping trip also yielded items for anotherG.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. project. Graham and I went up and down aisles we generally don't go to, and twinkies are not stored in where I thought the obvious place would be. But along with some colored sugar, some whipped cream in a can and a bag of twizzlers, five minutes on Wednesday morning yielded item number 47--Submit two images, side-by-side. Recreate a famous, iconic photo from junk food. For example, you could submit the black and white photo of Einstein sticking out his tongue, next to another photo of your best attempt to recreate that photo using various junk foods as your paints. I hope that makes sense. For some reason it sounds confusing as I type it. But you have to somehow figure out what I mean here and then do it. Best of luck.--was created.

I give you, the twinkie-berg.  I probably should have redone it with a more delicate tower, but it was one of those things that I wanted to go back for if I had time, and
that never turned out to be the case.
During lunch on Wednesday I got some G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. items out of the way.

#119--Your pet has just released their first, much anticipated, heavy metal rock album. Show us the cover art. - Jessica Hicks


#151--Generate an application form for the job of “Director of Imagined Realities.”

#139--We’re writing an e-book and we want you to do our work for us. There’s a habit that was hard for you to change, but you changed it anyway. What is the habit, and what is your number one piece of advice for making that change? Please submit an image of one paragraph of text.

On Wednesday I also took a white bra to work with me. During a conference call, I decorated it with butterflies and a message of hope.  (A co-worker walked into my office as I was making it, but I was also on a conference call and he saw me on the phone before he saw me drawing on a bra and backed out of the room quietly.)  I put it aside thinking that I wouldn't be able to finish the item until Friday, when I had daylight for the photoshoot.

Graham was at rehearsal on Wednesday night, but he called me to tell me he was coming home much earlier than I anticipated. I quickly donned the bra, a corset, found a hat that went with the corset, and threw on some makeup.

And as he pulled up, I jumped in his car and said "drive!" He was a little flustered (especially since I was in my underwear and he had Thai and Chineese food sitting in the passenger seat). But we drove to the neighborhood park, and I did an impromptu photo shoot for Item number 168--At Hope Chest they create butterflies and transform lives http://www.myhopechest.org/ Channeling your inner Monet, pen a message of hope with colored ink on a white bra. Then, channel your inner supermodel and stage a public photo shoot of someone wearing this “support undergarment." (You may wear a shirt underneath it if you prefer and you must adhere to local laws. Please note that Gishwhes does not provide bail money.) Once completed, submit your image on the gishwhes website and also tweet to @MyHopeChest your awesome results on the final day of the game. Extra points for incorporating butterflies into the design.
It was one of my more nerve wracking items. I think even the less body conscious among us gets a little nervous about posing in your underwear in public, and more so for posting it. But this is a good cause. Saturday, I tweeted the photo.

Wednesday night I also worked with Play Dough for the first time in 35 years or so. I bought a newspaper on Monday and Tuesday, hoping for a good story.

Unfortunately, front page photos are either really boring or morbid. But the Monday morbid one had a bit of color, so I went for that one. The Monday story probably had a lot to do with one of the items from the list being pulled, since it involved two hot air balloons and a knock knock joke.

I submitted this for item #107--Did you see the startling news on the front page of the newspaper today? Of course you did. Using Photoshop, replace the front-page photo with a photo you’ve taken of a play-dough re-enactment of the original photo. Did that make sense? No? Figure it out. You are not allowed to email support for ANY clarification on this item. (What I lack in eloquence, I make up for with capriciousness.

Thursday turned out to be a frustrating day where I didn't really get all that much accomplished. We were trying to work out a complicated twitter call and response effort that didn't work out as well as we had hoped, and I struggled mightily with some toilet paper to attempt to make an origami sealaroo.  It was not my best effort in paper craft.

I took Friday off from work a) for G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. and b) because I have a day to kill before the end of the fiscal year or else I lose it.  I spent a good hunk of the morning unrolling fruit rollups and organizing them according to color and wondering how on earth kids manage to have the palate to eat that stuff.  It is very sticky.  I had to take a break, though, to get Fusilli to his annual vet appointment.

So after Fusilli went to the vet in the morning (he's fine,), I put Graham in a new jacket. I justified this because Gigsville is a bona fide club (more or less) and some of its members do ride motorcycles. There was a lot more eye rolling with this one. Which is number 57--A Hell's Angel (or other bona fide member of a known motorcycle club) in a fruit leather jacket sitting astride their bike.

We couldn't find the key to his scooter to move it into better light, and I really wish we'd been able to capture the other arm better, because it's very complete and looks less like it's all kept together with tape. But this will have to do.    My husband is an unbelievably good sport.

On Friday afternoon, Graham and I went to the Buffalo Bayou Cistern for the first time. It's very recently open to the public, and it's a very neat space that I've wanted to see for a while.

There was a G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. motive as well. Item #117--Gishwhes has conquered the Great Wall, South American waterfalls, the Champs-Élysées, and even SPACE! Help gishwhes conquer new territory— take gishwhes somewhere epic that it’s never been before.--would be perfect there, since it's pretty awesome AND it's only been open for a few months.

I overlayed the echo from the chamber on a video I made of photos from the room:

Friday night was art night. I completed a few paintings for items

#159 Zachary Levi is one of a kind. But what would be better than Zachary Levi? A pair of Zachary Levis, naturally. Paint a portrait of Zachary Levi on a pair of jeans. (The jeans may be distressed, but the depiction of Zachary should not be.) Feel free to get Zachary to model the pants.


#13 It’s a well-known fact that Pablo Picasso was a huge “Supernatural” fan. He painted portraits of Mark Sheppard, Jensen Ackles, Ruth Connell, Sam Smith, Richard Speight Jr., Matt Cohen, Jared Padalecki, Andrew Dabb, Rob Benedict, Misha Collins, Bob Singer, and many of the other cast and crew members. Sadly, until now, these great works have been lost to the world. Fortunately, your team has unearthed one of these priceless works.

I went with a Chuck portrait for the Levi painting, because I really loved Chuck, and I went with a version of Castiel from Supernatural done in the style of Picasso's Don Quixote because I like that image a lot. I tried to replicate the sun.  I'm really, really happy with the Picasso knockoff, and I may very well frame it.

Friday night I also worked with sand as my media for the first time in quite awhile. We bought a bag of sand at Southland Hardware for about $3.50, and I went to work with a loaf pan and some water. The car, my friend Dan gave me when we were in the wreck several years ago. The path is a toy we bought for Flipside. There's a puli sculpture in there as well along with a miniature of a trio of kitty cats playing under a door mat and another of a puppy dog back in the distance.

The item #85--It's summer (for those of us above the equator)! Time to go the beach! But sand castles are so dated, so gauche, so elitist, so medieval. Catch up with the times and build a sand trailer park.--was tons of fun to photograph.

Friday evening, right before it closed, I went to the Museum of Natural Science, and it turns out it's free in the last 30 minutes. I wanted to get some good video of the Foucault Pendulum, which is really awesome in theory, but can be boring through execution, especially waiting for something to happen.

I asked my professional voice over-ist for help on this one. Item #50--Virtual reality interfaces are absolutely amazing. The technology is mind-blowing. Using virtual reality and augmented headsets like the Hololens and Oculus, I have stood on the surface of Mars at Jet Propulsion Laboratories and examined the undercarriage of the Mars Rover, been in the eye of a hurricane, and have been attacked by heavily-armed 19th-century militia. It’s mind-blowing. Your task is to create a virtual reality experience totally unlike any VR experience to date. This video will require a super-short, adrenalin-pumping intro-teaser, which will let the viewers know that they are about to experience VR like never before. THEN, abruptly cut to a 360-degree clip of the most mundane activity you can imagine. BORE US TO DEATH.

Saturday, I had two items on my list left to do. First, I needed to cosplay. I knew that all of the tutus I have would come in handy one day!! And Graham has a pair of superhero socks that were perfect for this.  This was a little ridiculous.

So once again, I dressed up, dragged him outside and he was principle photography for this, item #49--Cosplay a thunderstorm, in public, complete with sound effects, lighting and rain. - Karen Hutchinson

Second, I needed to find a failure. I remembered that I have a notebook full of all of my research for my job search right after law school. I wrote down every single place I could think of to find a job: names, addresses, etc. And then I kept track of the dates that I applied to make sure I didn't double up or miss something. And then, increasingly,  I attached all of the rejection letters to the respective pages for the job to keep track. There are over 200 entries in there. I don't know why I kept it. I haven't looked at it in years. It was active from 1998 to 1999 and there is not a positive thing in there.
Interestingly enough, I did find the first two pages were all of the items that my sister Olivia and I put together for a polaroid scavenger hunt when she was in high school, probably from 1996 or 1997.  I ripped out those two pages to show her later.

So it was perfect for item #115--We all have failures and regrets. Bury one of yours and provide a tombstone with copy.After that I went through the items that were unclaimed or undone on the list.  Most of my teammates were working overtime at this point, and submissions were coming in right and left. Some people would say that they weren't able to do something and release it back to the rest of us. Someone else would ask if an item had been done yet because they had a quick idea that would work. Almost always whoever had the item would give it up so it could get done.

I had avoided item #55--Gishwhes has broken 7 Guinness World Records. Let’s see how many records you can break in 10 seconds. (Hint: record=LP)--because I didn't want to break any of my records. But I came up with an idea for submission instead.  We could have had better light and it could have been shot differently, but I thought it was pretty funny.  Celosa's appearance at the end was adorable too.

Finally, I grabbed three more items on Saturday to grab as many points as possible:
#120 Beauty is on the inside. Photoshop a revised version of your reflection in a mirror. Show us a photo of you standing in front of a mirror. But the reflection we see is what you look like on the inside. Interpret this however you like with the caption on the image: “Beauty is on the inside.”


#144 Submit two images, side-by-side. They say you regress to your childhood as you get older. Show us a photo from a part your childhood you’d most like to return to, and a photo of your current progress toward that regression.


#124 Submit a screenshot. Create a website, blogpost, or in-depth social media post explaining an aspect of the elusive Miss Jean Louis’ biography.

I didn't follow the first one very closely, but I photoshopped wording on a picture I had taken earlier because I think my beauty is in my words and memories and stories. I argue that looking in to a selfie phone is looking in the mirror.

The second is of me in Mexico as a child and my constant travels there. I loved it but hadn't been since 1992 and really wanted to go back. A series of weddings and parties reintroduced me to my love of Mexico, and I went in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The last one was just fun to do.

And so G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. is done! I did a bunch of other stuff on my twitter handle (@stinapag) and participated in some group items and I did one last minute item because I happened to be at a speakeasy on Saturday night and someone happened to be wearing a zoot suit.. I had a really amazing and creative team. Everyone worked really well together and everyone did what they could to help. The creativity and whimsy and giving nature of every person was just outstanding, and I really had a great time with these weridos.

Our team submitted for about 127 or so (I didn't see the final submissions at 1:00 am when they shut down the list) of the 178 items, and if you thought some of my stuff was weird and creative, you should see the rest of the team.

A special shoutout to the spouses, offspring, and friends of the various team members. I know Graham was not the only person handed a camera and told to document something weird in public. And they did such a great job helping us out! Outstanding work!

This is the list of the items for GISHWHES 2016. The items in blue are the ones that our team submitted a video or image. Day one is always overwhelming and you think "there's no way we can do any of these" and then you find yourself doing more than the majority. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1265WSmglLZnOHnp2J8D1fmHO2pA2bCEK8wYlVaNjfsQ/edit#gid=0


Another 40 days

I'm on Day 4 of another 40 Days of Yoga.

This is my third 40 Days, and the first two were not so much of a struggle for me. I like going to yoga. I like having the set schedule.  Since this time last year I've had a very regular yoga practice, and it's not been too much of a stretch to increase it for six weeks.

We are supposed to set our intentions for the 40 Days. I had a general "keep doing what I'm doing" intention set, but I really mean that.  In the last year, I have seriously committted on working on myself and I have enjoyed the progress.  I feel more connected to the things and people around me. I feel much more in touch with my body. I love the feeling of power after a good yoga practice. And I feel like these things are coming off the mat too.

The last 40 days, I really worked on my meditation practice, and I enjoyed the ritual and the time to myself.  Since Graham is also committed to this practice, he fully understands when I take a moment for myself for meditation.  I've set up my personal meditation space in the fireplace.  We have been keeping a pile of floor pillows there for years, and the coffee table is right in front of it. It's a perfect place to take a moment to observe my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and physical space.  It's not like in Houston, Texas we use the fireplace for anything else. I fell off the meditation wagon in December, so I'm glad that the 40 days gives me an opportunity to revisit my committment.
clean up


Final bit of the list!

126  IMAGE. The setting is a candle-lit romantic dinner for two. Let's see the "spaghetti" scene from "Lady and the Tramp." Both of you must be dressed for the hot date. Super bonus points if it's in an actual nice restaurant.52 POINTS

127  IMAGE or VIDEO. Hang-glide or parachute fully dressed as one of the gishwhes mascots. - Olivia Desianti.133 POINTS

128  VIDEO. (Video may be up to 60 seconds.) "La Corte Suprema." The US Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality is an event worthy of a Broadway musical. Get two professional musical theater stars to rehearse singing the text of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion and the dissenting opinions on a stage in a large auditorium or theater. Bonus points if you have a large audience. - Inspired by Gina Cardazone103 POINTS

129  IMAGE. Locker Love. Post messages of love or support on or in lockers of students that you think might need it.27 POINTS

130  IMAGE. McDonald's makeover. What would the interior of a McDonalds look like if the franchise served only organic, free-range, fresh, seasonal, slow-cooked foods. Your image must be of the interior of an actual McDonalds, but the overhead menu and kitchen decor must reflect this new direction.146 POINTS
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210  IMAGE. Send an encouraging message to space using either crop circle-style writing or some other form of land art. The message must be at least 2 acres across. Now comes the tricky part: have your artwork photographed from space. Either from a remotely controlled satellite or by an astronaut in orbit.201 POINTS

211  IMAGE or VIDEO. All Random Acts staffers volunteer long hours. They get no pay and often get too little praise. Do something nice for a Random Acts volunteer (or for the staff of another all-volunteer organization).78 POINTS

212  IMAGE. Ride in an airplane with a giant motorboat strapped on top of it. They must be life-sized (not models) and the implementation of this item must in NO WAY endanger the lives of the pilots, passengers or people on the ground. We must see the plane flying in the air with the motorboat on top. - Written by West Collins341 POINTS

213  VIDEO. Play ping pong underwater on an actual ping pong table. Crack a raw egg open and use its yolk as your ball. Bonus points if you can backspin it off the table. - Tracy Liu108 POINTS

MAYBE I'll get 20 done.  But I'll have a damned good time doing it.