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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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
Read all about it!Collapse )

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.



More stuff for 2015 hunt.  

51    IMAGE. Death's funeral. - Jessica Mary Hicks39 POINTS

52    IMAGE. You've been hired to design the cover of National Geographic's next issue, "Discovering The Padalecki." Do a drawing, painting or digitally created image (you may photoshop existing images for this item) of the new tropical species that has been discovered, much by accident, by workers building an inland dam.31 POINTS

53    IMAGE. There are roughly only 150 Sommeliers on the planet who have received the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and are accordingly classified as "Master Sommeliers." Get a picture of you with a current Master Sommelier sipping pure kale (or cabbage) juice from a wine glass. Caption the image with "NAME OF SOMMELIER, renowned Master Sommelier says the official drink of Gishwhes is.." And then finish the caption with the sommelier's review of the juice.71 POINTS

More behind the cut!Collapse )

123  VIDEO. Let's see an impressive post office conga line composed entirely of postal workers.39 POINTS

124  IMAGE. Get a coffee shop to create and run a drink special for Gishwhes and have it advertised on their menu board. - Anna Buffalo29 POINTS

125  IMAGE. Using food found in your refrigerator or pantry, recreate a national landmark. You may not use gummi bears.44 POINTS



I'm entererd into a scavenger hunt this week. I have seven days (along with my team of 15 people from all around the world that I've never met) to come up with some of these items. (These are the first 50, livejournal thinks the list is too long so my next four posts will be the rest of the list, under cuts.) I'm terribly excited about this.

If anyone sees something that they want to help me with, let me know!

1 IMAGE. Beautifully recreate one of these painting optical illusions or another one you find on the Internet using real bodies and/or props: http://www.thedesignwork.com/65-amazing-optical-illusion-pictures/54 POINTS
2 IMAGE or VIDEO. Do the one thing that you think, if everyone did it, would change the world for the better overnight. Caption the image or video with what you're doing.29 POINTS

3 IMAGE. Kick back in a hammock that's suspended from trees on opposite banks of a river. (Make sure it's a safe section of a river to be suspended over.)71 POINTS

4 VIDEO. Get 10 of your friends to stand on a field or lawn. Strap inflated balloons to 5 of your friends' stomachs. The other 5 friends must pop these balloons using only the impact and weight of their bellies or their bums (they can't use hands, feet, mouths, or anything sharp).71 POINTS

5 VIDEO. FELICIA DAY ITEM. Do a dramatic reading of your grade-school report card.22 POINTS

6 VIDEO. Design and operate electric or gas-powered "knee and elbow scooters." When you wear them, they must glide you down the street on your knees and elbows only. The device must be at least four separate pieces - not one or two platforms that you're lying on. You must wear a helmet or your item won't be accepted.118 POINTS

7 VIDEO. (Time lapse this down to 20 seconds.) Go to the top of a building and communicate with 4 other people on the rooftops of 4 other buildings using flags and the Flag Semaphore system as a mode of communication. The first person must spell out "GISHWHES". The second must spell out "MAKES" and the next must spell out "ME" and then the fourth must finish the sentence with whatever they wish. Subtitle each one on the video.63 POINTS

8 VIDEO. (Time lapse this down to 20 seconds.) You and a friend must build and launch two dueling paper airplanes using only your mouths to build and launch them.50 POINTS

9 IMAGE. A drawing, painting or digital image (no photoshopping of existing images) of Misha and the Queen as 1950 pin-up BFF girls.72 POINTS

10 VIDEO. Find someone you love and butter them up; literally, cover them in butter and then give them a big hug. - Carianne Steinman56 POINTS

11 VIDEO. Have at least 5 police officers with connected hands do a repeating breakdance wave in a ring and set it to a breakin' beat.34 POINTS

12 VIDEO or IMAGE. Show us what Supernatural will look like at the start of Season 50. -Sara and Caitlyn Cacador63 POINTS

13 VIDEO. (Video may be up to 20 seconds) Design and build a voice recognition device or robot stationed next to a toilet that flushes it when prompted by the voice command, "Crowley." We must see you speak for 10 seconds prior to saying "Crowley" (you can say whatever you wish for this 10 seconds) but only see the flushing when "Crowley" is uttered. We must see the speaker's face, the flushing mechanism and the toilet bowl in the video framing the entire time.84 POINTS

14 IMAGE. Glaciers are melting - so act accordingly. Pose at a major glacier wearing a swimsuit with floaties (automatic double the points if it's on the Khumbu Glacier at Everest Basecamp). Caption your image with "It's melting" (and then the glacier you're at). Don't cheat with where it's at. I've been to them all.83 POINTS

15 VIDEO. (Video may be up to 45 seconds.) Have an elderly relative take you back to an important location from their childhood and have them recount a memory of that spot. For example, they could take you back to the street corner where they learned to ride a bike and tell you about that day.68 POINTS

16 IMAGE. Create a beautiful tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy. - Annie K.29 POINTS

17 IMAGE. The 2015 gishwhes mascot Dinomite asks you to pick a number between 1 and 1000, asks you 10 questions with yes/no answers, and then guesses the number. What were the 10 questions?19 POINTS

18 IMAGE. Have at least 3 people in a domestic or office setting, completely camouflaged to match their background.52 POINTS

19 IMAGE. Have a tea party with a special needs child or pediatric cancer patient dressed as a character from "Alice in Wonderland."46 POINTS

20 IMAGE. Here's your hint: T11fJ-bSWI0. (Don't submit anything unless you solve the puzzle or you will be docked points.)43 POINTS

21 VIDEO. Get your local weatherhuman to do their weather report dressed as a superhero in drag.112 POINTS

22 IMAGE. Schools, hospitals, and prisons are notoriously dismal places that are in desperate need of art to brighten them up. Get permission from one of these places to create a giant Gishwhes-themed (mascots, items from the past, kindness, etc.) wall mural.83 POINTS

23 IMAGE. Tour a wastewater/sewage treatment factory dressed in formal attire with an accompanying violinist or flutist.82 POINTS

24 VIDEO. DAVID LAVERY ITEM. (Video may be up to 20 seconds.) NASA is an acronym for "National Aeronautics and Space Administration." Help celebrate that first "A" by creating the largest paper airplane you can make. It must be constructed SOLELY of paper and adhesive, and it must fly. For you to submit, it must have at least a 2 meter wingspan (but we expect much larger) and it must fly for at least 15 yards on level ground. Remember, PAPER and ADHESIVE only.115 POINTS

25 IMAGE or VIDEO. The corporate world needs to loosen up. Relocate a full playground swing set to a corporate plaza. Bonus points if it's being used by workers in suits.108 POINTS

26 IMAGE. ITEM WRITTEN BY JUSTIN GUARINI: Find Justin Guarini (legally) and strike this exact pose with him:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/cb/From-justin-to-kelly.jpg97 POINTS

27 VIDEO. (Video may be up to 20 seconds.) Everyone likes drive-thrus and "Jeopardy." Combine them by going through a drive thru and making the employee guess your order by describing the items to them with the "answer."43 POINTS

28 IMAGE. Blow us away with your amazing cosplay as a famous inanimate object.58 POINTS

29 IMAGE. Show us your idea of love. Caption the image if you wish.41 POINTS

30 IMAGE. Support our troops. More than 10% of veterans that return from war suffer post traumatic stress syndrome. Tweet or post on FB or Instagram an image of you next to an armed serviceman, with you holding up a sign with a positive message or a message of kindness or gratitude to them and soldiers worldwide. Submit the screen cap of your post.49 POINTS
31 IMAGE. At the time I'm writing this, the price of crude oil is $48 per barrel. A barrel of oil is 42 gallons. So presumably for about $1.14, you should be able to get a gallon of crude oil. Let's see you handing $1.14 (or your country's currency equivalent) to an employee of an oil refinery, oil transportation or oil extraction company while they hand you one gallon of crude oil.28 POINTS

32 IMAGE. Write a thank you letter to a teacher or mentor from your past that you never sufficiently thanked. Mail it. You may submit an image of the letter, or if you wish it to remain private, submit an image of you mailing it. But you must mail it or bad karma will be rained down upon your toothbrush.24 POINTS

33 IMAGE. http://bit.ly/1Io5DL6. You will be docked points if you upload an image without solving the puzzle.30 POINTS

34 IMAGE. How do you do it? Everyone on your team has such beautiful mustaches? Do you have some sort of hair growth cream you slather on or pills you all take? Let's see a grid photo of everyone on your team that features your mustaches prominently.89 POINTS

35 IMAGE or VIDEO. Design a device that would allow a five ounce swallow to carry a one pound coconut. - Kristi Hollenbeck46 POINTS

36 IMAGE. Create a cocktail dress or tux out of flowers (you can use foliage, but at least 50% needs to be flowers). Photograph yourself in a contrasting "greenless" urban setting. - Olivia Desianti56 POINTS

37 VIDEO. It's another boring trapeze teleconference. Business attire required.79 POINTS

38 IMAGE. Time for the first annual (and possibly last ever) gishwhes Road Trip! See the map at the link below. Grab a friend and visit at least 9 (the more the merrier) of the points on the map. Have a passing tourist take a picture of you and your friend at each landmark (no selfies). Make sure we can see the landmark of each spot as part of the picture. You MUST REPLICATE the same pose for each photo and the pose you pick MUST be one that will make your tourist photographers laugh. Edit all images into a grid and submit as one image. It must be the same two people in the same pose and the same wardrobe at each location - http://fb-2.shareably.net/perfect-road-trip-map/?utm_source=ads_gt_fb_share&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=science111 POINTS

39 VIDEO. Somewhere, there is a robot that can break a Guinness World Record. Find it or create it and film it. (Note: This video can be as long as is required to show evidence of breaking the record. You do not need Guinness confirmation during the Hunt that the record is broken, but you do need to apply for the record and really break it. You will need to email proof to support@gishwhes.com that your record was approved by Guinness after the Hunt. DO NOT SUBMIT IF YOU DO NOT BREAK THE RECORD OR YOU WILL BE DOCKED POINTS.)148 POINTS

40 IMAGE. They say, "A dog is a man's best friend," but they are sexist. Dogs can be women's best friends too. To prove it, make one entirely out of feminine hygiene products. The dog must be at least 40 centimeters tall. (See how international we are? Look at these units!)38 POINTS

41 IMAGE. The cats are coming! Prepare your dog for battle. Outfit him or her with armory, weaponry, cutting edge laser gear - whatever it takes to create a canine of mass destruction.43 POINTS

42 IMAGE. You've just received an invitation to the annual Color Me Pretty Construction Paper Gala. Design and wear an elegant gown consisting of only construction paper. You must be posed with a antique or hotrod car/motorcycle (that will take you to the Gala, of course) or in front of the Gala itself which takes place in the most stunning public building of your city.41 POINTS

43 VIDEO. Use aerial footage to capture you and 40 or more of your friends in a field or open space, milling about aimlessly and then, all at once, quickly aggregating to spell either "GISHWHES", "KALE" or something more inspired with your bodies.69 POINTS

44 IMAGE. Let's see a portrait of Robert Downey, Jr. or Ironman made entirely of salt and pepper. Tweet it to him (@robertdowneyjr) with @gishwhes in the tweet. SUBMIT a link to the image to us, NOT a link to an image of the tweet - but you must tweet it to him for your image to count.51 POINTS

45 IMAGE. Take a photo of you posing with Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. In the photo, they are giving the "thumbs up" sign while you are giving the "thumbs down" sign. You cannot photoshop an image of you and an image of one of them together. You must be standing next to the real individual.248 POINTS

46 IMAGE. Congratulations! You've won a one-way trip to colonize Mars! Unfortunately, you can't bring a checked bag and your carry on must not exceed 10kg. Lay out everything you would pack on your bed in an orderly manner. You will live off of Martian dust mite dung; so don't worry about snacks unless it's a comfort food you can't live without.19 POINTS

47 VIDEO. Stop hiding your true talent. The world deserves to see it. Without using special effects or trick editing, make a person disappear.26 POINTS

48 IMAGE. Take your mom, dad or other family member that you don't give enough attention to (based on what they've done for you over the years, or perhaps, what you've done to them) to lunch or dinner. Both of you must be cosplaying established or newly invented comic book heroes. If you've created new heroes, caption the image with their names.61 POINTS

49 VIDEO. It's time to get some fresh air. Take your (at least) 3 pet robots out for a walk. You, of course, should be wearing your homemade Robot Leader Helmet.81 POINTS

50 VIDEO. Your friend loves cake, so being a good friend, you offer to take them out for cake at a nice restaurant. Alas, you discover when you arrive at the restaurant, that your friend has recently undergone medical treatments that prevents them from moving their arms, so you will have to feed them. Unfortunately, light is harmful to your eyes so you must be blindfolded. While blindfolded, stand behind your seated friend in a fancy restaurant and put your arms under their armpits and feed them cake with your hands. Trust us. This is going to work out beautifully.50 POINTS


A pox on both your houses

I blame an outbreak of herpes zoster on my poor math skills.

When I was in 8th grade, we were in a pre-algebra class taught by the middles school math teacher, Sister Teresa.  (I think it was Sister Teresa. There were a few Sister Teresas in my elementary and middle school, and it was sometimes hard to remember which one was which. At any rate, she as was a nun, and she seemed to know her math stuff.)  I'd been in catholic school for pretty much my entire primary education, so nuns were old hat to me at this point. She was a good teacher, and she figured out that there were a few of us in the class that were ahead of everyone else.  After maybe a month of watching us, she pulled the four or five of us aside and created lessons deeper into algrebra for us.  We met in the same classroom as the rest of our class, but we were given different assignments further along in the textbook.  Intead of pre-algebra, we were learning algebra, and we were doing well.

At some point in the middle of the school year, Sister Teresa disappeared from the classroom.  Shingles, we were told.  It was a horrible, terrible, painful disease.  She couldn't possibly come back.

The rest of the school year was a succession of math teachers who never lasted more than a few weeks.  The group that I was learning algebra with mustered on, using the teacher's manual as a guide. We told our successive teachers what we were doing, and as these people had no idea, they just let us teach ourselves.

In the meantime, I took the placement exams, did the interview, and otherwise kicked ass to get into St. John's for high school. It was a huge achievement. I think they only let in seven or eight kids that year, and none of the kids from my school were going.  As far as I understood it, I knew algebra, but my group of advanced math students had only scratched the surface.

Fortunately, the placement exam at St. John's caught the lapses in my previous education.   The summer between eighth and ninth grade, I spent taking algebra again. And my counselors recommended that I not take too much math when I first got to St. John 's because it would overwhelm me.  So I ended up on a track that didn't include Calculus at all in my high school career.  This it turns out, went on to screw up a few things, including my physics class.  I was a straight A physics student, until we got to accelleration, where it's SOOO much easier if you know calculus. Same for a lot of price theory in microeconomics in college.

By the time I got to college, I was terrfiied of math, and I convinced myself that I wasn't very good at it. It wasn't until I totally fell in love with statistics that I got my confidence up again on things math.  I put a lot of the blame of this on that Shingles outbreak on my 8th grade math teacher.   I sort of developed a terror of shingles. I mean, it took my teacher out for the whole school year! It must be terrible.

Going back even further, in 1983, when I was ten years old, I caught the chicken pox.  It was going around that same catholic school, and I brought it home and gave it to all of my siblings. We spent a week in itchy misery and went on our merry ways.

Fast forward to sometime last week when a rash appeared on my shoulder. Given how much yoga I do and the location of the rash, I thought it was some sort of dermatitus caused by sweat, soap, and the rubbing of an ill placed bra strap.  When it didn't go away after a few days, I thought that maybe it was an allergic reaction to a suppliement that I was taking.  But it was localized to the top of my shoulder, and it was growing.  I was sick on Friday, sleeping from 9:00 p.m. until 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.  And it got to the point that anything on it hurt.

So I yesterday, I consulted Dr. Google, looking for rashes that looked like mine; the second I got the shingles hit, I knew what was up.  I called my dad for consultation, who was useless. ("It's usually on the torso, and it's usually pretty painful.")  And then I got a second opinion from my godfather, who is an infectious disease specialist. The second he saw my rash, he wrote me a prescription for the anti-virals.

It's shingles.  But I'm not out. It's a right pain in the ass (or shoulder, as the case may be), and it's definitely not something to treat lightly, but it's not worth runing a math career over.    

Shake, shake, shake!

So Graham's dj career has been moving forward nationally and internationally.  Tour in England in 2013, invitation to Vancouver a year ago.  Trips to the midwest and West Coast on the books for the summer.   Last year, he djed a fundraiser for a Burning Man project with two other djs, and the dance floor was pretty full the entire time.  It was a great crowd and the music was just awesome.   The theme of that particular party was Speakeasy, and for Graham and Electroswing, it was just perfect.  It was one of the best sets I've ever heard Graham put together, and I still play it fairly regularly.

Based off of that performance, a friend ask him to dj the latter part of his birthday party in late October, with about 600 people in attendance. The band was a Prince cover band, so Electroswing wasn't exactly the music to play, but Graham had something else in mind he wanted to show off: Ghetto funk.  He had to work that night at his regular gig at Prohibition, and the schedule was pretty tight.   The band didn't get off stage until nearly 1:00, and Graham didn't start until nearly 1:30.  Fortunately, it was the day daylight savings came back, so Graham had an extra hour in there to get us moving.

It was an off the hook, insane set.  We danced for hours it seemed, and every song was just perfectly meshed with the one before. He built us up and tore us down. He got down and dirty and nasty and we loved it loved it loved it.  We danced and danced and danced.  Even after his set was over, he plugged into the house system and popped on a prerecorded set so we could keep on dancing if we wanted to.  It was an insanely awesome set, and we were still riding the high of it (and maybe something else) when we got home at 6:00 a.m. We were riding the high of it days later.

We go to this party every year. We go to Flipside every year. And maybe we go to two or three other dance-all-night sort of things in the course of the year. But our days of dancing all night are over, and if Graham's out past two a.m, it's because he's on the decks.  But coming off of the high of the set, we started thinking about other dancing opportunities that didn't involve a full day of recovery.

When Graham had been in England the year before, a brand new idea was just taking off in London: Morning Gloryville. Some of the djs that Graham met in England said that the vibe at these morning dance parties was just awesome.  And over the course of the year, the idea started to take off in other cities.  Another version of it started in New York, called Daybreaker.  The basic idea is a dance party in the early morning, mid-week.  Before work, maybe after the kids are dropped off at school.  Maybe that's the one day a week that you're a little late.  Instead of alcohol and/or drugs, juice and coffee bars.  Instead of flashing lights, the sun comes up.  Instead of going to the gym, get a workout shaking your tail feathers to rocking djs.

We started talking about it for a month or two.  We were brainstorming places it might work, or at least what our requirements for a place would be: natural light, fairly far from residential neighborhoods so as not to piss off anyone with the music at 6:00 a.m., a central, easy-to-find location that's not too far from either work or home. I came up with a name for a party if we have one in Houston: Wake 'n' Shake. We talked about it with some friends and people who we thought might want to get involved.  We got some interest.

In the meantime, I started a 40 Days of Yoga project in January at Big Power Yoga. It's a very intense, very accountability driven project. You're requried to practice yoga six days a week for six weeks. You're also required to attend a group meeting once a week that focuses on tools that you use outside your asana practice.  In addition, there's a three day cleanse during Week 4. And there's a mindful eating portion.  At the end of each week, the studio checked to see if participants met their attendance obligations for the week, and if so, we were allowed to move on to the next week.   About 800 people started the 40 days, and I think there were about 350 that finished. I hadn't done serious yoga since 2007, and I knew that this was a way to get me back into it seriously, because my "oh, I'll go tomorrow" method wasn't working at all.

In one of the group meetings, a guy in the meeting talked a little about djing.  I talked a little about Burning Man.  After the meeting was over, we found each other. He, it turns out, is a Burner. We talked about Burning Man, and then went into the "do-you-know" game.  And over the course of the conversation, we discovered that he was one of the other djs that Graham had spun with at the fundraiser in August. I very casually asked if he was interested in a morning dance party idea, and he immediately said he had a location for something like that in mind.  By the time Graham picked me up, I had his contact information. By the end of the week, he and Graham were in communication and actually working on the project.

In mid-February, Graham and I went to Taos for a week. We had no agenda (aside from my having to do yoga once a day, but Shree Yoga is an absolutely fantastic studio).  We cooked and walked around town and went to the mountain and played with the dogs. I don't think we turned on the TV once.  And we talked.  For both of us, the trip was cleansing and inspiring, and we both came back from it full of energy and new ideas and motivation.  It was one of the best vacations we'd ever been on.

In March, Graham joined the yoga studio, and he also caught the yoga bug.  And in that time he and John had determined a date and finalized the location.  They found another DJ who was as excited about the idea as they were. And the project started coming together.  They launched the facebook page in late March, and the invitation to the party in early April. Graham did an interview with an awesome organization called We Play Everywhere to help promote the event.  And most of the people we've talked to about the idea are pretty excited.

The event is slated to run from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m on Wednesday May 6. Boomtown Coffee is on board to provide caffine, and E-dub-a-licoius is a go for food. They're finalizing the juice vendor, but it's going to be really good too.   The location is very close to downtown, and has an awesome feature that will really highlight the event.  Graham aka The Grahamaphone, John Tran aka DJ Kung Fu Pimp, and JD Notic will be on the decks.

One of the things that Graham was asked during the interveiw last week was whether he'd ever been to one of these before.  He said no.  And the interveiwer was delighted.  There aren't any rules or expectations to something so very brand new.  We have no idea how many people will show up, though 100 or so have said so on Facebook and we've heard that a lot of others have heard about the event and have expressed interest.  We have no idea what the population will be. Houston is a very diverse city. Who is going to come to this?  We imagine that some people will come early and leave early because they have to go to work. Some people will come later, because really 6:30 is really early.  Some people will be late for work. Some people might bring their kids. People may wear workout gear or what they're wearing to work or decide to dress in costume and be silly.  What we absolutely know is that the people who come will be interested in trying something new. Because the likelihood is that not many people here in Houston have been to one of these either.  So we can create our own and bring awesome energy and make this an amazing event that grows off of the participants in it.  We know that people in this city get up early and work out. Why not have the workout be a dance? 

Baby all I need is a shot in the arm

Last night, my brother-in-law and I, much to the relief of our spouses, went to see Wilco together.  Matthew is as big of a Wilco fan as I am, and being from Chicago, he's had more opportunity to see them. Graham--who has been dragged to many a Wilco show with me by default--had to work, and Claudia has passing familiarity with Wilco, but said it'd be much better if just Matthew and I went.   The show was awesome, and we had an excellent time.

At some point in the evening, Jeff Tweedy said that exactly ten years ago they'd played in the exact same room, though I think it was named after a different corporate entity. I did some mental calculations and realized I'd been to that show too!

So I went to the ever helpful setlist.fm to help me figure out which shows I've been too.

April 23, 2015: Houston, Texas, Bayou Music Center.  This was last night's show, and it was the second date of the 20th anniversary tour.  Since Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer were working on a side project for most of last year, there wasn't much new material, but with 20 years of work, there's a lot to choose from.  They played with arrangements and had a fantastic time. Art of Almost was an early standout.   Nels Cline just flat out owns Handshake Drugs, but Jeff proved he's no slouch with At Least That's What She Said. My favorite Jesus, Etc. was of course played (and sung along by pretty much the whole crowd), as was Heavy Metal Drummer.  For the final encore, the entire band huddled in the middle of the stage unplugged. Mics were brought close to the instruments, and the crowd reacted to the intimacy of the presentation really, really well. But for being so stripped down, it was a lot of fun too.  Nels Cline and Pat Sansone dueled lap steel guitar against banjo for most of Hoodoo Voodoo.  All in all, it was an awesome show, and it's outstanding that my sister married someone with such impeccable musical tastes.

October 11, 2013: Austin, Texas, Stubbs Bar-B-Q.  This was a pre-ACL show, and Graham had a gig on sixth street the same night.  A friend of Graham's from high school lives in Austin and she volunteers for an organization that cleans up and recycles after concerts. So they get to go to shows for free AND they get in early for prime locations.  It had been raining all day, but right as the show was supposed to start, the rain started to dissapate.  Graham dropped me off at the venue and introduced me to his friend, and then he went off to set up for his own show. I went to maybe the best Wilco show I've ever seen.  The crowd was all me and Matthews: knew every song, loved everthing there is to love about Wilco, totally into it.  I got the impression the band was totally into it too. They played 33 songs that night, and it lasted for hours.  After helping to clean up (which took all of ten minutes), I walked back to my car, changed, and then went to Graham's gig totally high from the Wilco show.

May 6, 2011: Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater (which is the same venue as Bayou Music Center).  This was the show we went to six days after our accident.  It was the first time since the accident that I smiled.  This is what I wrote to the band afterwards through their website:

I don't know if this sort of letter gets to the band or not, but I wanted to thank them profusely for the show on Friday night in Houston, Texas.
I was in a pretty horrible car accident on Saturday, April 30.  I was hit on the side, and car rolled over two and a half times on the freeway.  After the accident was over, I was banged up, my fiance was banged up and my dog was missing.  Fortunately, miraculously, she somehow managed to escape the car unscathed and was returned to us about ten minutes after the accident.

The following week was surreal. We ached all over, we were baffled on how we all managed to survive, and we had to deal with the day to day crap associated with losing your car and dealing with insurance companies and the police.

On Friday, though, we got to go to the show.  My fiance said that he hadn't seen me smile since the accident.  And not only did I smile, I danced and sang and yelled and, to the extent my neck injury would let me, I bounced around a lot.  I was joyful for the first time in a week, and I didn't once think about he sound of metal hitting metal, or the feeling having no control at all as my car rolled over and over, or the horror of thinking that my sweet puppy dog had been killed or severely injured in the crash and there was nothing I could do about it.

We left a little early, because we're still tender, and being jostled by a departing crowd would have probably hurt. But I wanted to stay and absorb the music for hours and hours and hours.

So thank you. Thank you very much for putting on such a wonderful show, and for making me so happy.

It was something I needed very badly.

Whoever gets their fan mail wrote me back within hours:

Hi Christina

wow... we are all so relieved that you, your fiance and puppy are alright!  That was great you were still able to attend the Wilco show.... it means alot to the band that they can make folks happy and forget about their troubles.

we wish you both a speedy recovery

It was my most needed Wilco show.

March 7, 2008: Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater. This was the first Wilco show I ever took Graham too.  He'd just moved to Houston, and we were in the early part of our relationship. It was the first show of any kind that we'd been too together. Graham had been to the venue as a stagehand back in another life, so he was familiar with the venue.  He'd been a big Uncle Tupelo fan, and he respected Jeff Tweedy but confessed he was bigger Son Volt fan than Wilco. I maintain that there can be enough love in the world for both.  The opener was John Doe, who was outstanding and set a great tone for the night.  This show was deep into the Wilco tour, so Tweedy's voice was shot when he was talking, but he managed to keep it together when he was singing.  It was great.  A few months later, we saw Son Volt at the Continental Club.

September 16, 2007: Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival.  I didn't know it at the time, but this was the last ACL I went to.  I'd met Graham less than three weeks before, and I was still riding the high of my first Burning Man.  I was technically doing ACL by myself that year, but some friends found me and I spent more time at their house than I did the festival.  I did make sure to go to the Wilco set though. This is what I said about it at the time:

They gave Wilco an hour and 15 minutes when they usually give an hour. It was awesome. I know I say that every time I hear them, but dammit...I'm not the only one. Look at This blog report of the taping of their Austin City Limits television show set the night before. It's the little things with them. Like Tweedy going acoustic for "I am going to break your heart." And the big things, like the amazing guitar solos that seemed to just take over the world. And the craziness around him with drums and guitar and other noise while Jeff sings softly and calmly to the lyrics of "Via Chicago." The set was pretty heavy with Sky Blue Sky, but as always, they played a lot from various albums. I've heard "Walken" so many times live now, it surprises me it's only been released on Sky Blue Sky. I actually was sort of surprised that "The Late Greats" wasn't played because I've heard it so many times live now... I don't really know how to express how much I love hearing this band, especially with Nels Cline at guitar now. It's possibly my perfect band. I was standing there, singing along with thousands of other die hard Wilco fan and I was perfectly happy. I could have just gone to this show and I would have been fine with my ACL experience.

It was a great end to my ACL years, and hopefully we'll go back sooner or later.

October 13, 2006, San Antonio, Texas, Sunset Station. This was also a very needed show.  I'd spent the summer recovering from a bad breakup, and I was just then coming out of my shell.  One of the things I'd done in my recovery was determine that I would start doing things because I wanted to rather than because I was expected to. I really wanted to go see Wilco, and this was the closest show on their current tour. (It was the closest for a lot of Wilco fans: Austin and Dallas got skipped that tour too, so there were a lot of out-of-towners who made the trek to San Antonio that day.)   I got off of work at 5:00 and drove three and a half hours by myself to San Antonio to go to the show. It was great.  I bonded with other Wilco fans; I got close enough to the stage so I could see everything perfectly; and I had an excellent time.  At this show, after a summer of sadness, I gave myself permission to be happy.

By the time of "Shot in the Arm," I was fully into the show and singing along and dancing and totally into the whole experience. I found myself, from time to time, grinning like an idiot. You know there are moments in your life where you actually acknowledge that you're feeling very happy? This show was a series of those moments.

It was a good thing for me.

September 25, 2005, Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival This was a weird ACL, in that it was immediately after the Hurricane Rita evacuation, and I was meeting my new boyfriend there. There were a lot of logistical problems with a) getting out of Houston (we rocked that), b) meeting up with my boyfriend (there was a lot of flight changing), and c) dealing with the dust at ACL itself (there was no grass that year to hold it down, and there was tons and tons of wind). Nevertheless, we prevailed and saw all three days of the show AND focused on Wilco's set on the last day.  It was the last set we saw that day after a pretty incredible day of music (including Bob Mould's first live performance in YEARS).

April 23, 2005, Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater. Ten years ago!  I went to this show by myself and had a BLAST.  Since I was alone, I could wiggle my way closer to the front. The show was plagued early on with technical difficulties, but the energy was awesome.  I ran into three friends from three different parts of my world that night, and we all were riding Wilco highs.

The Wilco show on Saturday night was one of the best concert events I've ever been to. From the moment that they took the stage until the house lights came on, I was riveted. The whole set was tight, despite some major technical difficulties with amps and guitars. They covered a lot of material in the two hours that they played, covering all five albums. What I thought was amazing was that I saw them at ACL in September, and this show was completely different than that set. Contrast to Modest Mouse, who had a nearly identical set in February as their ACL set.

This is probably the show where I transitioned from generally liked their music to true fan.

September 19, 2004, Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival.  This was my first Wilco show and my second ACL.  I'd gone to ACL that year meeting up with a bunch of lawyers from my lawyer board as well as Claudia, and there was a lot of complicated scheduling that ensued.  I had all of Wilco's catalog on CD at that point, but I'd never seen them live before.  I was, as I described, mellow but intense.

And so, a decade plus of going to Wilco shows, and I'm not at all sick of them in the slightest.  Last night's show was outstanding, and I love that the band and its fans have such an awesome rapport.  I was reading a review yeterday of a Hozier show at the same venue a few nights before (and another from about a month ago, I didn't know Hozier liked Houston so much). The reviewer lamented that in our ADHD society, audiences, especially in Houston, don't have the capacity to shut the fuck up and listen to the music. This was not the same crowd.  Obviously, Hozier doesn't have the 20 plus years to develop a loyal, music dorky fan base that Wilco has, but I didn't feel the notorious bad, unengaged crowd that Houston has apparently become famous for.  We were on the balcony, and while I saw a few LED screens every now and then, most people were focused more on the show than on their devices.  At most, people were sending out quick media updates or grabing a picture and then putting their phones away.


A wedding quilt

So about two years ago, I went to the Fresh Arts gala. It was at the Winter Street studios, and there was a bridal theme to the event. I wore a bridesmaid's dress that I'd spattered in all sorts of fun colors, and it was all and all an excellent time.

My sister Claudia was there, and after the party was over, she asked me for a ride to the next event. Since Graham was dealing with his DJing equipment, I said sure thing, hop in!  Claudia and a guy named Matthew started walking with me to the car.  I'd met Matthew several years before at a New Year's Eve party at Claudia's house, and we'd been facebook friends for years. But I didn't know him well.  After I dropped them off at a bar, Matthew thanked me profusely, and I smiled at Claudia

Fast forward 18 months, and Claudia and Matthew eloped in Nicaragua.  I'd known, of course, and I'd even suggested that country as a possible place when Matthew started looking. And I was over the moon.  In the intervening time, Claudia and Matthew became Claudia and Matthew.  Everyone who saw them together said "wow, this makes so much sense."  They'd known each other for years, but 2013 seemed to be the right time for them to connect.  By the time they got married, they had been living together for awhile, and D'arcy was as much Claudia's dog as he was Matthew's.  My family adored Matthew, and he got along with every single one of us individually.  I'd never in my life seen Claudia so comfortable, and I was overjoyed that she'd found Matthew.

So I wanted to make them something special for their wedding.  Given their elopement, I didn't have any real time constraints, though I wanted to get it to them within the year. I thought about it for awhile, and then I decided that I was going to have a ton of time to myself in Taos over a week in the summer, and I could make them a quilt.  I'd had so much fun the previous year making a quilt there that I could do the same this year.

In 2013, I'd gone to the quilt show with Olivia and my mom, and I found some lovely fabrics from Africa at a store called Akonye Kena.  These fabrics were from Uganda and they were hand dyed. They had these lovely, rich colors, and I just fell in love with them.  The fabrics came in four tone families: Sunrise - Spring  light tones; Rainy - Summer bright tones; Dry - Autumn/Fall earthy tones; and Sunset - Winter rich tones. I ended up buying two jelly rolls, which had one strip of each of the 40 fabrics, and two yards of the sunset purple fabric.  This fabric felt more like linen than the quilting fabric you usually find in stores, and when I bought it, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

It was solid instead of printed, but I thought that it was perfect for Claudia and Matthew.  In part because Claudia is a very solid person, with few prints in her wardrobe or home.  And that it was from Africa had another nice connection for them. Claudia minored in African studies in college, and Matthew spent part of his childhood in Liberia.  They went to Morrocco their first Christmas together. While neither had a particular connection to Uganda, I thought they'd like the reference.

As for the pattern, I fell in love with this Simply Woven pattern at the Moda Bake shop.  I liked how busy and intricate it was, and I thought it was something that I could do.  It was also scalable, and I could make a slightly bigger quilt for two people to get under. Also, there's a running joke in the family that Matthew likes shapes.  He is an engineering professor and spends a vast amount of time studying the shape of things.  I thought that all of the shapes in this particular quilt would make him pretty happy.

My only real issue was that I didn't have enough fabric.  I needed at least two more jelly rolls, and I thought I needed more of the purple.  I got in touch with Akonye Kena to order the fabric, but they were out of the purple.  I sent pictures of what I had and a description of what I wanted to do, and they sent me an amazing blue instead.  The blue was kismet. One of the highlights of Claudia and Matthew's trip to Morocco was to Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh, which is owned by Yves St. Laurent.  This particular color blue is very prominent throughout the garden, and it's a striking, memorable color.  That I was able to reference the same color in the quilt was awesome, AND it turned out that the Akoyne Kena fabrics are on a 58" bolt, so I had enough purple.  I could use the blue on the back.

sunset blue751px-Marrakech_Majorelle_Garden_2011

I set off to Taos ready to make my quilt.  This one was much, much more ambitious than the one I made before.  I had tons of cutting and ironing and arranging to do before I could even start. And I also had to think through how much of each color I wanted to highlight.


I spent most of my time in Taos working on the quilt. I did read a little, and I cooked. I went to the farmer's market. The puppies and I took long walks every day.  We went to the mountain one day. I took a spa day another. But most of the time was spent working on the quilt.  While I was working on it, I used a playlist that Claudia had made for some party or another, and it was very random, but very Claudia: Lots of Leonard Cohen. Lots of Nina Simone. Lots of Los Super Seven. Some Tina Turner. Some Pixies. Some Springsteen. The Faint. Cafe Tacuva.

I also thought a lot about my Tia Ana.  A lot of my sewing notions had come from her: after she'd died, her family gave most of her sewing stuff to Olivia. It was way too much for one person, so Olivia gave half of it to me.  Ana was the reason we have Taos.  She'd lived there from 1986 to 1999, and we spent most of the 90s coming up to visit her.

And so I sewed.


If you go to the quilt's album on Flickr, you'll get a better step-by-step rendering of how it was put together.  Suffice to say, I had to sew, then press, then cut, then repeat. Over and over and over again, until I had 56 12.5" squares.  It was challenging in that I hadn't done this in a year, and some of the strips were not quite 2.5" wide.  But I made due and remembered that the quilt should be like their marriage, beautiful as a whole but with imperfections and flaws and wrinkles throughout.  I'm so happy to report that I was able to do all of that in the week that I was in Taos.

When I got back to Houston, I went straight to my parents' house, because I knew there was a big surface I could use to assemble the pieces like a puzzle.


I put them all together, and my quilt top was done less than a month after I started it.


I took some time off to think about how to do the back.  I love, love, loved the blue, but I also wanted something more interesting than the solid color.  I did a search on pinterest for "pieced quilt backs" for inspriation, and thought abut it for a long while. I had a whole jelly roll left over, and I had some of the purple and a few assorted strips. Ultimately, I decided to sew all of the jelly roll strips together side by side in ascending tone of color from darker to lighter, and then I cut those into an 8 inch wide, long long strip.  I sewed all of this over a few episodes of Outlander, and it turned out pretty good.

Finally, I figured out how I wanted to attach the jelly roll stripe to the blue, and I got to sewing the very last bit together.  I ended up loving the back as much as I love the front.

I have a bottom-of-the line Singer sewing machine. If I could quilt a project this big on my machine (which I think is doubtful), it would take me YEARS to get it done.   I spent a few weeks looking at the various maker spaces around town to see if anyone had a long arm machine.  No luck.  I called around, and I found out that the closest quilt shop to me, Tea Time Quilting, has a person who will do long arm quilting for a reasonable fee.  In early December, I took the quilt and the back to her, and I asked her to quilt the project for me.

Last week, she called to tell me that it was done, and Saturday, January 24, I picked it up.  I spent Friday and Saturday and Sunday working on binding the quilt, the very last step, and on Sunday, right before the Superbowl, I gave it to Claudia and Matthew. They both cried. And they lived happily ever after.

IMG_2630 IMG_2633IMG_2631


Day three!

So if you do a 90 minute yoga class one day, the next day's 60 minute yoga class is infinitely better.   Here's hoping that tomorrow's 60 minute class is that much better.

I haven't actually done yoga before Monday in about 10 months.  I had a really awesome practice for a week in New Mexico about 18 months ago, and I decided that I wanted to do more yoga. But that's around the time that I hit a rut, and I didn't really do all that much pretty much worth noting at all.  

Last spring, I checked out the studio I am using now, and I really liked it.  But it's taken me this long to get motivated enough to use it.

When I heard about the 40 days thing, I knew that it was the type of motivation I needed to get going again.  It's structured, it's goal oriented, and it offers no real excuses given that the studio's first class is at 5:15 in the morning and the last one is at 10:00 at night and there are a good 8 to 10 every day in between. It's also less than a mile for my house.  I tried to do it last October, but it had already started.

Signing up was easy.  And the studio has a nice phone app that makes scheduling classes very easy.  We all signed up for teams last week, and a facebook page was set up for our team to support each other and share advice.  There was a conference call on Sunday to go over everything, and we started on Monday.

We're supposed to go to one class a day Monday through Saturday, taking Sunday off.  We're also supposed to meditate every day, starting with 5 minutes the first week and moving up to 30 by the last.  I am using a phone app for that.  We're also supposed to be considering mindful eating, which I'm glad to be back on. And we're supposed to go to a weekly meeting, which I'll do tomoror or Saturday.  There's also a book we're supposed to read. I bought it, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

I'm pretty ok with most of this.  I am not as woo woo as some people, but I certainly don't have a problem with it.

The yoga itself is a vinyasa flow, in a heated but not hot room. The studios are huge, and one of the rooms theoretically can fit 100 people. I'm not sure if I've ever been in it with that many, but a lot of people use this studio.

The only real issue is parking, but when I got there this morning, I didn't have a problem.  I think that most morning people go to the 5:00 or 6:15 class. I go to the 7:00 which is too late for a lot of people, but too early for the people who don't have work committments.  At any rate, that's the main class I've been going to.

I'm supposed to be journaling anyways

I'm doing a 40 days of yoga thing right now, and there's a journaling component. I have been doing some of it on a paper journal I bought for the exercise, but what the hell.  I saw that there was some sort of effort to get back to livejournal by a bunch of friends, and this seems a nice serendipidy.

At any rate, today was day two of yoga, and i'm already in pain.  I know that the pain is good pain, but it's been awhile since I've taken on something like this.  The last time was a barre bootcamp in late 2011.  I have to get up early tomorrow for a class, having finished one less than 12 hours prior. But that's the way my schedule works these days.

I like the classes, and there's a lot of support from my particular yoga studio. Facebook groups, e-mails, a very supportive community within the practice. And I know that since I have so much yoga ahead of me, I can always throw myself into child's pose for a few minutes during every class and no one will think poorly of me.

In other stuff, we're still in the design portion of the house addition. We met with the architect last week, and we're getting closer and closer to a design that will be eventually sent to the city for permiting.  We may wait a little before we start construction, though, because the price of oil dropping means that there've been a lot of layoffs in Houston latley.  And the crazy busy construction boom that's been going on without end in sight over the last five years or so may finally be slowing down.  We may be able to get some decent pricing on some of the construction.

Work is work, and I'm sort of in a state of shock that I've been at the same place for nearly 13 years.  It seems like I just moved back to Houston. But it also seems like I've been here forever.  

Fusilli is still showing, but we may pull him back from that. It's something we need to figure out sooner or later. I like the puli community quite a bit, both locally and globally online.  It's been a really nice support system, and Fusilli and I have bonded quite considerably with the conformation work.  This isn't to say that Celosa and I haven't bonded, but he's very into it in a way she would never be.

At any rate, I have an early morning yoga class to get to.   

Ice Bucket Challenge

In 1992, four or five days after the Rodney King riots in South Central Los Angeles, my friends and I went to South Central to help clean up.  We'd all tried to protest when the verdict was handed out, but we were easily dispersed when the Claremont riot police showed up after our attempt to take over Foothill, which was the closest major road to our college.  Desperate to do SOMETHING we spent a day knee deep in muck and burned out buildings, sweeping streets and otherwise trying to do what we could to help in a situation that was pretty helpless. There were still national guardsmen on the street, and we got turned away more than once by people in military uniforms with machine guns.

After we came back to our dorms, exhausted, dirty, and totally disenchanted with how little we could help when we really, really wanted to, a massive, massive water gun/balloon/any-other-way-of-hurling-water-at-each-other-fight broke out.  Dozens of us were drenched to the skin, and we had a complete blast doing it.

I think the nation is doing the same thing in the wake of Furgeson and Gaza and Syria and Iraq and just all of the fucked upedness of the last week or so, and the Ice Bucket Challenge is the US equivalent to a bunch of college kids throwing water on each other in an attempt to be lighthearted and fun and forget about how awful the rest of the world is and that there's not much we can do about it.

Spring Finals Mix 1996

I've been listening to the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Volume One this morning.  It really is awesome.

Like everyone who grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s, I made tapes as well.

It started when I was really young, taping songs I liked off of the radio.  The beginning would always be cut off, unless the DJ announced that he or she was going to play it beforehand and I had some heads up that the song was coming.  The end may or may not be faded into another song or abruptly cut off as the DJ started talking over it.   Mostly Duran Duran got taped, but there were tons of other songs as well.  When I was really young, I generally listened to top 40 pop on whatever call letters Q-zoo had, though for some reason, I got hooked on Psychedelic Sundays on KLOL at a fairly young age. When I got older, I moved over to the hard rock on KLOL. As far as the early mixes go, there wasn't any sort of cohesion at all in the playlist selection.  The ordering was whatever order I happened to tape something.  VHS tapes were similar; a friend taped various movies off of HBO for us, and I remember one particular tape had Empire Strikes Back and the Breakfast Club on it.

Like Peter Quill, I had a walkman with my music on it.  Mine was the yellow sports version, with a "water tight" seal.  At some point, someone gave me a discman, but it wasn't as portable, because it would skip if it was moved even a fraction of an inch. I think I still have it in a box somewhere.  But that walkman, it was a workhorse.  Say what you will about Sony, they made excellent products in the 80s and 90s.*  That walkman went everywhere with me, and my dad had sharpied my name and phone number on the inside, just in case it ever went missing. It never did.

Do BMG and Columbia House exist anymore?  I'm sure I got six tapes for a penny (plus shipping and handling and a commitment to buy more and ruined credit at a tender age) dozens of times over. I remember that the "I Love Rock And Roll" tape by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was the first tape I ever bought.  But I had tons more.  And I listened to so much music.  At some point in the 80s, I started moving over to CDs, and I amassed quite a collection of music.  Again, thanks in large part to BMG and Columbia House.

When I was in college, I started making mix tapes with purpose.  They were time consuming and meticulous.  I had a boom box that was dual cassette AND CD, so I could make tapes off of tapes and CDs.  There was a lot more thought put into them than the early tapes.  I was terrified of my CDs being stolen, so I never put them in much of a carrying case.  But I could always re-make tapes.  The walkman, after being dropped dozens of times, died shortly after I came back from England in the mid 90s.  I think it made my first semester or two of law school, but there's only so much abuse a device can take.

But it was in law school that the mix tapes turned into art.  It was a procrastination tool to the extreme. Every finals, I HAD to make a mix tape.  I'd write down the songs, their times and the time left on the tape.  I'd listen to the whole thing over and over again for cohesion and flow and overall completeness. Each side of the tape had to be its own complete work, but it had to flow with the other side as well.  Relampago often helped me with these projects, since my stereo was near the floor, and I was sitting for hours there pulling music out of the CD racks and looking for the right songs.  He was as much of a music critic as Celosa is now with Graham.  I'd write down all of the songs on the label inside the cassette, and I kept most of the legal pads where I constructed the mix.   I had to finish it before finals were over, but usually, it was done well before then.  I'd usually study with the mix playing.

Most of the mixes were kept in the car for the most part, first in the Suburban, then in my Explorer.  I had a travelling case that held something like 40 or so tapes, and it sat on the floor in front of the middle console.  But sometimes I'd bring them inside to listen to.  Most of the tapes were 47 minutes a side, but some were a 60 minutes.  Some of the mixes were excellent, favorites that I still consider pretty good collections of music.  Others were more of a time and place indicator, and listening to them would instantly remind me of that period of my life and whatever was going on then. To this day, there are some songs that I automatically assume will come after others, because I heard that song ordering so many times on the mixes.

At some point in the late 90s, CD-RWs came out, and I thought about making CD mixes. They were MUCH more time consuming on the technical side, and slightly more difficult to catch for cohesion, because the song wasn't playing all the way through as the mix was made.  After the loooooooooong time it took to rip the song from a CD onto the computer, I just had to order the music in the way I thought would work, and it'd start writing. I wasn't listening throughout the selection and insertion process like I was with the tapes.  In making the tapes, I'd have an idea of where the mix was going, but sometimes it didn't work when I heard one song followed by the next.  There, I could just rewind and find another song that worked better.  With CDs, I'd have to rewrite the whole thing.  I made a few, CDs early on, but I preferred the tapes.

In late August of 1999, while I was in Washington DC for about six weeks looking for work after law school, someone broke into the Explorer and stole a pair of rollerblades that was in the back seat. And they stole all of the mix tapes.  All of them.  I still think about it every now and then.  Who steals mixtapes? They mean absolutely NOTHING to anyone but the person who made them and maybe one or two other people.  The tapes themselves aren't worth anything.  But they mean a lot to the people who owned them.  A year or so after that, someone else broke into my car and stole the stereo.  Its replacement did not have a tapedeck, because I didn't have any tapes anymore and I was unlikely to ever have them again.

Fortunately, I'm a packrat.   I still had most of the legal pads where I plotted out the mixtapes.  And I embarked on a two year project to reconstruct them onto CD.  Technology improved, though it still seemed like the ripping process was still painful.  And in about two years, mainly when I was in Berkeley, I was able to reconstruct most of them onto CD.  I even made a few mixes for CD only, mainly road trip mixes (Taos Roadtrip 2001 is a particular favorite).  The CDs, like their tape predecessors before them, lived in my car in a carrying case until the Explorer crash in 2011.  I'm not quite sure what happened to them after that.  Their track listings are backed up on my computer.

iTunes came out in the mid-00s, and in 2005, I embarked on the great CD ripping project. All of my music is digital now.  I put all of my CDs away in 2012 during the kitchen renovation, and I can't believe I'm typing that I'm vaguely considering putting them in the family garage sale we're having in a few weeks.  I consider them backups now.

All of the surviving mixes have been turned into iTunes playlists.  They've made it across three computers and are backed up on two external hard drives.  I listen to them every now and then when I'm feeling nostalgic.

I still make playlists. Most of them are for exercise, but sometimes for long drives as well.  But they seem different somehow. Dragging and dropping a piece of music into a playlist is so effortless. I don't have to worry about how much time is left.  I usually do playlists on "shuffle" so song order isn't all that important.  It's easy to skip to the next song if I don't feel like listening to whatever comes up.  There isn't generally a narrative or theme, though some of them do have that sense of time and place that the original playlists did.  I'm headed on a road trip next week, so I'm certain I'll be putting some music together for it.  And maybe, for old times sake, I'll draw out the mix making process to really make it special.  

*Side note: I still have the Dream Machine Cube (third one down on the list) next to my bed.  It keeps perfect time (unlike the HD clock radio I got a few years ago), and until I got my ipad three years ago, I used it as my alarm. Thing has been next to my bed from 1986ish to 2014.  I have no intention whatsoever of replacing it.


'stina is, surprisingly enough, a lawyer from Houston, Texas who rambles about quite a number of things.

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April 2019

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