inasmuch as it concerns Mirabile Dictu:
When the Universe brings wonders and spectacles to class for Show And Tell. I can't say I always approve.
adulting like a boss (is the exception not the rule)
What I really want to do with tonight's blog post is celebrate finally having completed a workday checklist from bottom to top. All my writing tasks, done, plus a few more household tasks besides. It's been a very long time since I managed that feat. Me and time management haven't been good friends. But today I wrote myself out a schedule, complete with target times for beginning and ending each task, and I kept to that schedule, by golly. Story revision at 10:00, come hell or high water; when the clock says ten, I gotta drop whatever I'm doing and get to it. Come 1:00 PM, as long as I've actually submitted a piece somewhere, I've putzed around enough with whatever I'm putzing around with under the rubric of Submission Procedures. Put it down. Put a bookmark in it for tomorrow. Go pay the bills that are due. Freewriting's scheduled for 3:00 PM, and if I'm not finished eating lunch when 3:00 PM rolls around, then fine, I'll shovel the last bites down my gullet in between sentences.
I got it all done, on time and according to schedule. And that despite waking up late after too little sleep then having derby practice in the evening.
Except crowing about that doesn't feel very grown-up. Crowing about it means admitting that this basic adult task of getting my shit done each day has routinely been beyond me. That rather stands as evidence that I don't adult so good, right? Which is embarrassing to admit. Basically, I feel like a high-schooler bragging to her classmates about having successfully used the toilet. In my mind's eye, I see them looking at me funny and saying, "That was kinda TMI, girlfriend," and "Yes, most of us manage that several times a day without comment. Should we be worried about you?"
On the other hand, after days and days and days of late night efforts just to get to eight-five percent; of reaching the end of my ability to even sit upright three hours after travel team practice and at last resigning myself, with mingled relief and shame, to a larger failure than the failure I'd already resigned myself to; of pushing through exhaustion while chanting "Do a little if you can't do a lot, do a little--seriously, just this little bit more, OK?" ...it feels really good to come home from derby and think, "All I have left to do is a blog post, and I don't even have to do that if I don't want to. Everything else, all the hard stuff, is done."
Besides, it's worthwhile to look at the failures, and look at the successes, and look at the differences in my process between the two, and say, "All right, if I want more successes, this is what works."
What works: Getting up on time, more or less. Doing my morning pages immediately, more or less. Not even opening the computer until after morning pages are done. And using that time on the page to scan my day ahead for obstacles, to slot each task awaiting me into precisely delineated windows of time. Then following the plan as much as possible to the letter. Where deviations occur, taking notes. I've made two new columns in my daily time-sheet: "Plan" and "Outcome." Pretty self-explanatory. I fill in the "Plan" column at the beginning of the day, then, as each task is completed, I write my observations about how well I stuck to the plan in the "Outcome" column. Having to actually type out "started freewriting a few minutes late because I wanted to finish up the lunch dishes" or, heavens forfend, "Half an hour late to story revision because I couldn't pull myself away from Merge Dragons, probably because I know story revision is going to be difficult" forces a concrete sense of accountability. And it adds to the data. More data is good! More data about how I function, how I screw up, and how I succeed means a better chance of success next time around.
So, hell with it. I'll admit to my tendency to fail at being an adult. I'll put it right out there, so y'all can see how huge it is that today I actually completed my workday checklist. Go me.
ok so here's the story of last week, ready set go
Last week was weird and sad and traumatic and horrible and uplifting and heartwarming and I'm going to try to tell the story of it now. I told it piece by piece in a private forum where I felt a little freer to just blurt as shit happened, but I didn't have the wherewithal to do A Real Blog Post about it until now. Honestly, I'm not sure I really have that wherewithal tonight, but now's better than later because everything gets harder with procrastination.
So. A story.
Sunday June 10th began like any other Sunday in the life of a Boulder County Bombers Travel Team member. We had practice from 10 AM to 1 PM. It was a long, slow, exhausting practice because we were in the tail end of a heat wave and the barn we practice in has no air conditioning beyond the two industrial-sized box fans at either end of the track. The coaches gave us long breaks, urged us to drink water, and passed around ice packs to hug to our chests or smack on our foreheads. But even though we took it slow, we worked hard. It was our last Sunday practice before a big away game scheduled for Saturday the 16th in Pittsburgh, a sanctioned bout that would make or break our hopes for a berth at the North America West Continental Cup. The main topic was "second pass defense." The opposing team's jammer just got out of the pack with Lead Jammer status; how do you keep them scoring as few points as possible? Answer: You get them off the track and you run them back. Repeatedly. Here's how you're gonna do it...
I went home after practice and napped hard for most of the rest of the daylight hours. So did John. Eventually we both got up. He left for the night. I found enough energy to scrounge a bite to eat and settle into a session of Spiral Knights. The Shroud of Apocrea event was on, and I wanted to farm enough Apocrean Sigils to eventually craft all three special weapons. I was this close to being able to turn my Silent Nightblade into an Obsidian Edge!
Around about 10:00 or 10:30 PM, I was in the middle of meticulously clearing the Grasping Plateau when John texted me. "Have you seen the news on Facebook about the barn?"
The first thought, the very first thought that jumped into my head was, "Oh, shit, did it burn down?"
So on the Grasping Plateau you get stalked by a big unkillable beastie known as the Apocrean Harvester. When it catches you with its many hands, it zaps you 'til you're dead. You avoid it by using the "dash" action, which makes it lose track of you for a short while. I started hitting the keyboard shortcut for "dash" a lot so I could check Facebook without getting dead.
I found the Facebook post. I saw the pictures of flames pouring out both the barn aisle and the track area. I thought about the sportcourt we'd just bought. I realized I'd left all my gear at the barn, including my skates with the Bont boots that had come in only the month before. No one could say yet how much league or individual property was damaged, not even after the fire was put out and the building was shown to be still standing.
Eventually I gave up and shut down Spiral Knights because I couldn't even. I shut it down and curled up on the sofa and cried for a little while.
Then I put all my Habitica damage on hold, used a stempo so that my 4thewords streak wouldn't be broken, and began a dedicated reread of all the Diana Wynne Jones novels in the house just to give my brain somewhere else to live other than in the horrible, horrible world I was suddenly inhabiting in which the only certainty was that my derby world just went up in flames and all that was left was to find out how extensive the damage was.
I kept waking up through the night wondering why there was pain lodged in my mind, then remembering why, then having to read some more to in order to forget again sufficiently to fall back asleep.
The next morning--Oh, good Gods, I had to get the Volt to its regular check-up appointment and I had to do something about the Saturn completely failing to start yesterday and now there was the barn. OK. One thing at a time. The Volt went to its appointment. John and I and Avedan had breakfast. Avedan helped distract us with pictures from her trip to Iceland, paying special attention to the baby sheep. The distractions helped, but there was only so much distraction that was possible when John's cell phone screen caught my eye and, without meaning to, I read the text he'd just received from a teammate: "Everything's been destroyed." I put my head down on the table next to my biscuits and gravy and tried not to scream.
As soon as we'd reclaimed the Volt from the garage, we went up to the barn to see for ourselves.
Thanks to our teammates who'd already been there that morning, the first thing we saw was a neat line of the burnt and melted remains of skates. I could barely look. I've been told since then that one of those pairs was probably mine, and I could probably salvage the plates; a couple of my teammates did and skated on them in Pittsburgh. I wish I'd looked more closely; we haven't been allowed back since. But at the time it was too much.
Inside, everything was black with soot. Where gear had been packed away or set out to dry Sunday afternoon, there were heaps of... gunk. You could kind of make out a toe-stop here, a wheel there. Where my own gear had been, I found the remains of one boot and its insole melted to the floor. I poked around looking for my tools--they were metal, they should have survived--but nothing else recognizable was there.
The team benches, repurposed pews discarded by the church group next door back when we practiced on Weaver Park Road, were still standing. Their upholstery was destroyed, but the wood was still solid. So were the penalty benches that our head NSO, Spectre, had lovingly crafted for us. He'd also made a big rolling box to store a bunch of officials' supplies neatly in drawers and on shelves, and it still existed too. Someone had pulled it outside into the clean air. Its contents would turn out later to have sustained smoke damage, but the laptop and projector stored inside, nestled in foam, would boot up just fine as though nothing had happened.
During that walk-through, I became fascinated with what the fire had claimed and what it had left untouched. It had utterly destroyed the sportcourt we'd just bought, yet underneath the subfloor we'd all sweated and labored over at the end of 2016 looked untouched. (There is some question as to how much damage the plywood floor took from being doused with fire hoses. We have yet to really determine how viable it actually is. I remain cautiously optimistic simply because the subfloor is of a "floating" design; the plywood wouldn't have been sitting in the water for any length of time, and between the fire and the heat wave it probably dried quickly. But we will see.) The paper lanterns decorating the rafters were lying on the floor like globes of magma, their paper darkened to a rust color and yet still paper. How does paper not just go up in a flash in those conditions? The laundry basket full of helmet covers for pivots and jammers, as well as mesh pinnies for creating black-and-white team color distinctions in a hurry, was a weird egg-shape in the center of the track where the basket had melted around its contents. We cracked the egg open to find a surprising amount of undamaged helmet covers inside: enough for each of our home teams to skate in come the round robin tournament on June 23rd, and certainly enough black and gold to bring to Pittsburgh. They were singed and melted in places, but we wore them in Pittsburgh.
The back end of the barn, where the fire hadn't reached, was just as blackened, the sportcourt just as crisped and curling, but more items there were intact. Everyone was "overjoyed" to know that our plyo boxes--the wooden crates we did box jumps and depth jumps on as part of our off-skates conditioning--had survived the flyer with just a coating of soot. (I did a depth jump off one of them, just to stick my finger in Fate's eye.) The rolling whiteboard that John considered the bane of his existence--it had always managed to be in his way when he went looking for drill supplies--survived the fire too. John considered that a personal offense. He rolled it into the center of the floor and took a picture of it, to cuss it out more effectively on Facebook.
Possibly the greatest source of hope after the apparent survival of the subfloor was the seemingly untouched state of our old sportcourt, or "Old Blue" as we'd taken to calling it. When we bought the new one, we tried to sell the old one off. No one nibbled. We wound up storing it in stacks on pallets at the back of the barn aisle. Again, because the fire had been mostly at the front of the building, Old Blue, seemed to have escaped completely unscathed. We hope, with a cautious hope, to skate on it again.
There was this ball of duct tape we'd been growing since the 2016 season. Every time a skater had to use duct tape to keep their gear fastened--it happens a lot as the velcro fastenings weaken--they'd take the tape off after practice and add it to the ball. The thing had gotten to about two feet in diameter at least. Someone took a picture of it after the fire, looking like a two-foot-wide cinder, and posted it on Facebook with the caption RIP DUCT TAPE BALL. Several league members commented along the lines of, "Just put some duct tape on it, it'll be fine."
Anyway, I could go on, much in the same way I could have wandered around the burned-out barn for hours oscillating between despair and scientific fascination, but that would serve no good purpose. Let's move on to the happy stuff.
The happy stuff starts here:
And then it continues:
Impromptu Fire Damage Fundraiser for Boulder County Bombers hosted by 300 Suns Brewing
And continues, and continues, and continues. The retweets/reposts/reblogs of the fundraisers across the worldwide derby community. The neighbor leagues starting impromptu fundraisers of their own. The deep discounts on replacement gear from local sponsors. The outright donations of gear by people known to us and not so known. Neighbor leagues inviting us to their practices, discounting their drop-in fees for us.
I was able to replace all my gear in time to skate Saturday in Pittsburgh. We won both our games, and the sanctioned game between the BCB All Stars and Steel City's "Steel Hurtin'" was very very close. It was the best kind of smart, strategic chess-on-wheels you could hope for. I said to John later that it was like a wizard's duel: "I'll be a mouse and hide from you." "I'll be a hawk and stoop on you." "I'll be a Boeing 747 and suck you into my jets." "I'll be a ground-to-air missile and blow you out of the sky." It was a game of each team adapting to the other's strategy as the other's strategy changed to adapt to theirs.
Steel City and their fans were absolute sweethearts in every way. The announcers repeated the story of our barn burning all night long, sending oodles of people to our merchandise table to buy shirts and drop cash in the donation jar. They sold $1 "shout-outs" as an additional fundraiser. (The skate shop that had a table set up at the bout donated a bunch of wheels!) And that's on top of just being a fantastic host league in the usual way, showing us all the hospitality and love that is the best of derby community on the track and off.
Even deeper than the need to win a game, was the simple need to play a game. To know at a gut level that despite losing our practice space (temporarily or permanently remains to be seen), we're still going to play. As our captains said during the pre-bout team meeting, "We lost a building, but we didn't lose our home. Whenever we're strong, smart, and together on the track, we are home." So we made our home in the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena for the night. We made derby happen. We're gonna make derby happen, no matter what.
Or, to put it another way, the real winner Saturday night was Team Derby.
And here we are now. This is back-to-normal week. Last week was full of mourning, post-crisis logistics, and pre-travel preparations, all of them affecting each other--I mean, when you suddenly have to replace all your gear, even if you're fortunate as I was to be able to do so without financial hardship, it's pretty much your whole day; and then there's everything else the week brought me, like late library books to return and hardware to pick up at McGuckin and no second car to do it with because of no time or energy to deal with the non-starting Saturn. Well, today I got some writing done. I also got a much-needed post-bout massage and I distributed flyers to ten different locations in support of the home team round robin tournament. And I got this blog post done.
And I installed a new battery in the Saturn all by myself, and the car started up again, first try.
One way or another, things are going to be OK.
"So, uh, who wants some cake?"
- Feeding The Beast
- Friday Fictionettes
- Mapping Territories
- Mirabile Dictu
- Political Maunderings
- Selling My Soul
- The Beast That Rolls
- Yahoo! Yeehah! Woopie!
- 739 wds. long
I had happy news of my own to share tonight, and I still do, but the news out of Alabama right now takes, um, all 40 cakes. I mean. I just. I--
(be right back.)
*Running footsteps diminishing in volume*
*Inarticulate screaming from several rooms away*
*Running footsteps getting louder until--*
OK. OK, thanks. Sorry. I'm back. I just--aaaaugh! Look. I didn't want to be glued to the hour-by-hour election results today. (For one thing, I had a cake of my own to bake.) Thanks to roller derby practice, I couldn't glue myself to the screen. So I went to practice and derby, as per usual, ate all my extraneous brain-power. (It also gave me what feel like lovely shoulder bruises which I will be very disappointed in if they don't color up by tomorrow.)
And then I came home, and I looked at my phone, and there was a text, and the text said, "Thank. Whatever Gods. That be." Or something like that.
I wrote back, "Are you telling me the good guys won?"
And the response was "YES." Just that. Just one word, and I started hyperventilating.
Y'all. Y'all! It happened. All the combined efforts of every allied organization to get out the vote--they got out the Gods damned vote! Postcards to Voters volunteers mailed a handwritten postcard to every registered Democrat household in Alabama. (I wrote 55 of them!). And what the NAACP did was huge. (Seriously. Read this twitter thread detailing their efforts. The opposition shooting themselves in their feet at every opportunity didn't hurt, but that's not a thing you can count on. GOTV! IT WORKS!
OK. OK! So. Much shadowed by this, and that's a fine thing, but: I do have happy news of my own. I have been given the go-ahead to announce that one of my September 2014 Friday Fictionettes, "What Dreams May Hatch," will appear at the podcast Toasted Cake in April of 2018. All the happy dance! This will be my second time getting to hear Tina read one of my works (here's the first). She does a beautiful job. I'm very much looking forward to it, and so, I think, should you.
tangled mess here i come
- 7,664 wds. long
This 4thewords experiment has been wholly successful. Three days after registering, I am done with blog backfill, I'm ahead of schedule on this week's fictionette, and I'm starting to glimpse some small hope of actually reaching 50K words on the novel by the end of November.
My work habits have improved, too. I have barely touched my usual procrastination enablers all week. In fact, today, I didn't play Two Dots or Dots & Co. at all, and when I tried to get caught up on the blogs I usually spend too much time reading, it was with a feeling of reluctance. Like, I didn't want to, but I felt like I ought to. As though staying caught up on the current comment threads was some sort of obligation.
I am enjoying writing more than I am enjoying the things I tend to do when I'm avoiding writing. It's magical.
I confess, I did not get 1800 words in last night. I was tired and only got 1600. Got only another 1600 today. Not so bad, really. Running in place beats falling farther behind. Still, starting tomorrow, I hope to get on a 3500-per-day track. I've rearranged my timesheet template to indicate that I should work one novel-writing session during the morning shift and one during the afternoon.
It's not going to be that hard to come up with the words, not if I keep doing what I did today. Here's what I did today. Ready? It's so stupid. In the flashback I spent today's session writing, I got the plot totally wrong.
See, I'd already decided ages ago on the details surrounding Michael Fischer's family. His little brother died in infancy; his parents broke up over it. That's not the part I got wrong. The part I got wrong was forgetting that the whole reason Michael jumped at the opportunity to take a foreign internship and get the hell ouf of there was, his parents were getting back together and he didn't want to be within miles of the inevitable drama. OK but so except during today's writing I got distracted by a last-minute inspiration and hared right off into an alternate universe where something entirely else happened. And I didn't realize that's what I'd done until I'd logged my word count, packed up my computer, and headed off to scrimmage.
Oh crap, I realized, I'm going to have to write a lot of that scene over again. And I'll want to somehow synthesize the initial backstory with the new inspiration, figure out how much of what I came up with today is bunk and how much actually improves on the original plan. Which is hard and has me sort of running around in mental circles trying to keep track of everything.
It's NaNoWriMo. I'm not going to erase anything. I'm after word count! Keep today's work, write the scene again tomorrow, hell, write it five more times, it all counts! Only, I was also after a vaguely organized first draft rather than a tangled mess that will be a nightmare come time to edit. At this point, I think the tangled mess is the most likely outcome.
Alas, such things happen in November.
a brief note on the gamification of gamifications
So here's my minor epiphany for the day: It is possible to check off all my Habitica Daily items, thus technically accomplishing "a perfect day," and still feel like I didn't really get anything done. This probably means I need to add more items to my Dailies. There is probably a middle ground between gaming the system and sabotaging one's own chances of success, but I haven't found it yet.
In other news, the view from the NCAR Mesa Trail was particularly lovely this morning. (Did you know there is a small science museum inside NCAR? I did not know that. It is fascinating.)
the great and hyperlocal outdoors
I've many times sung excited praises of our great new indoors. But the great outdoors in our neighborhood is worth a mention.
First, have I mentioned that we get deer? This first photo is the sight that greeted me when I headed out the door Saturday morning. I saw the tips of the deer's antlers over the half-wall, but it wasn't until I emerged out onto the sidewalk that I realized it wasn't some bush or shrub I'd somehow never noticed before. "Oh, my," is what came out of my mouth. Then I ran back inside and got John. He came out, took one look, and said, "Oh, my." "That's what I said," I said.
John's the one who took the photo. All credit where credit is due.
I'm not sure I've seen a buck in the city with such thick antlers. That and the grizzled look to its face makes me think he's an older animal than I usually see in town. And he just lay there on the lawn, chillin', while neighbors emerged onto the sidewalks and upper walkways to gawk. He didn't get up and leave until the garbage truck thundered into the cul-de-sac. Even then I'd be hesitant to describe his exit as "scared away." It was more like, "What the heck is this noisy thing? What a nuisance! I'm out."
John also took the second photo, which shows off our front patio.
All the first floor units in our building have what I suppose are "privacy walls," based on their apparent purpose being to be shielding the front room's window from the casual glances of passersby. This creates an enclosure which I've referred to as the "front patio" despite that being an overly optimistic description. The space gets perhaps a little sun in the morning; otherwise, it's dim and empty and a little dire. Or at least it was. We were determined to turn it into somewhere pleasant to be.
So we hung up our hanging spaths there on the preexisting hooks that bracketed the window. Then I installed some supports on the privacy wall and hung up some more plants, being careful to choose ones that might flower despite getting very little direct sunlight. (The begonias appear to be doing well. The impatiens in the rectangular box are less enthusiastic, but I hope they'll come around.) And at last, yesterday, we acquired patio furniture.
Now I have an outdoor office!
And these have been our weekend adventures in the great and hyperlocal outdoors.
three happy things and one late thing
Let's concentrate on the positive. We got the piano tuned today! And the piano bench is sort of fixed, enough to sit on at least; Monday I hope to have it fixed in a more permanent fashion. So I sat down and played the piano today for the first time since we moved. Since months before we moved, in fact.
In the piano bench, which I emptied out in order to fix the piano bench, there's a heap of sheet music that belonged, I think, to one of my aunts. I suspect they were handed down to her from a previous generation. There is a Victor Herbert songbook with pieces whose copyrights range from MCMVI to MCMXXXIII. Victor Herbert died in MCMXXIV, which is the copyright date on a couple of the songs in the book.) I played through one of them--as best I can, that is, which is to say slowly and with many pauses to figure out the next chord. It was pretty dang melodramatic. I think it was supposed to be a cheerful song, though.
In other cheerful news, we have a hummingbird. Or multiple hummingbirds, I don't know. They jingle-buzz around the building, on both sides, and you can often catch sight of one zipping from tree to tree. I hung a feeder outside my office window in hopes of having hummingbirds visit me while I write, but almost a week went by and they didn't find it. Then, today, a hummingbird buzzed our patio window--just flew right into the balcony space and hovered meaningfully in front of the sliding glass door. "All right, already," I said, and moved the feeder from the office window to the patio. And now we have a new friend.
Back when we lived in Oregon, we had a hummingbird feeder outside the kitchen window. We weren't always vigilant about keeping it full, but the hummingbirds were not shy about telling us it had run dry. They'd start buzzing every other window of the house, upstairs and down, hovering outside the glass and going vvvrrrreeeee! in a pointed kind of way. I think today's visitor was doing something like that.
I brought a pair of cheap field glasses to the bedside so I could get a closer look next time the hummer came in for a sip (which it did about once every 20 minutes for the rest of the afternoon), but I haven't quite identified the species. It's got a gray-or-green body, a white-or-light-gray chest, and a reddish throat, which could be one of several species that WhatBird.com suggests for Colorado. My best guess is a male broad-tailed hummingbird. I suppose it could also be a calliope, but I didn't notice that striping/striation pattern in the red/maroon throat of my visitor. (WhatBird.com does not suggest the ruby-throated hummingbird this far west.)
One more happy thought: Roller derby tomorrow! Our first home bout of the season--at least, this will be the first competitive event we're hosting in 2015. The January event was a mix-up tournament. Tomorrow's will feature actual rated-and-ranked teams. I'll be skating with the Bombshells against the visiting team from Pueblo in the first bout of the evening--that'll start at 6:00 PM, with the frontman for Big Head Todd and the Monsters as the celebrity whistleblower starting the first jam for us. Right after that, our All Stars will take on Denver Roller Derby's Bruising Altitude.
I was going to put an article up on AXS.com about the event, but literally minutes before I was ready to upload the article, I got an email from AXS saying that they would no longer accept "game-related sports news or timely recaps." Argh. I was not prepared to try to turn it into some sort of "5 things to watch for" listicle at this late date, either, so I just let it go. You get this blog post instead.
$15 at the door! Doors open at 5:30! I'm assuming Georgia Boys will be there, with barbecue and mac & cheese for all. I know there will be lots of local beers and distilled spirits for the grown-ups. Come watch me skate, and then come see me at the fund raiser table during the All Stars bout (at halftime, of course; otherwise you should be watching the All Stars skate, because they are awesome) and help us keep our travel fund in the black! And speaking of the All Stars, keep your eyes on them this season. Latest WFTDA rankings put them at #33, which means this year may well be Boulder's D1 debut.
Meanwhile, it's Friday, and there is a conspicuous absence of Fictionette. I hope to get it up this weekend (where have we heard that tale before? but I really, really mean it this time. Well, Monday for sure). It was taking me longer tonight than I'd budgeted for, and it didn't seem wise to stay up late with such a big day looming over me tomorrow. So you will just have to stay tuned for tales of painted shipwrecks and sinister countdowns, I'm afraid.
bats in the belfry
I slept poorly last night, and I'm going to blame it on the bat.
Not, mind you, on the mug of strong tea I had at 9:30 because "It's too early for me to be this sleepy." Not on a session of Puzzle Pirates that went until 1:30 AM because I couldn't resist just one more battle on my way back to port from the site of the looted shipwreck. Neither of these would have been a problem once I finally turned off the lights, lay down, and actually tried to sleep. (Trying to sleep is a thing. It involves actively directing my mind in useful, sleep-promoting places, rather than lying there resentful about the way it races here and there.)
But when a bat gets into your bedroom, well, that'll do it every time.
We still have gigantic holes in our ceiling from shortly after September's storm. Bureaucratic movements towards interior repairs have been detected, but it wouldn't do to get too excited yet. Meantime, it's becoming clear that the roof is not as critter-tight as one might hope. Several days in a row the other week, we were getting bees in the house, despite the windows being closed. They'd show up on the living room window, either crawling around on the inside of the screens or lying dead in the panel track. Our suspicion was, they were getting into the roof and then exiting the roof space via the hole in our living room ceiling. This was no great feat of deduction. It was like seeing rain and suspecting it came from the sky.
That the bat came in from the roof was even more obvious. We could hear it vocalizing from the bedroom ceiling.
Have you ever heard a bat vocalize at close range? It's not a sound you're likely to forget in a hurry. One afternoon a few years ago, we came across a bat clinging to the rim of a step in the apartment stairwell. It obviously wasn't feeling at its most chipper, given that it just hung there stoically as we carefully stepped over it to get to our door. I donned some gloves and gently coaxed that poor, tired, confused thing into our largest plastic leftovers container--the big rectangular one I use for soup--and then I coaxed it back out onto a support strut in the open air parking structure, where it could safely rest until it decided to fly away. It wasn't until it was safely installed in its new location that it took a close look at me (I was taking a very close look at it) and decided it didn't like what it saw. It uttered a series of high-pitched, loud, piercing shrieks that caused me to recoil like a snake just struck at me.
That was when I realized that what I took for "these weird birds that chirp in the middle of the night during the summer" were in fact not birds at all. I've been told that this vocalization is social in nature, rather than having anything to do with their echolocation hat-trick.
Anyway, that sound started going off at 2:30 AM and I sat straight up in bed. "Sounds like a bat in distress," I said, and went to the window. From that vantage point it was clear that the sound was coming from above me, not from outside. "It's a bat in our ceiling." And lo, the elbow bend of a bat's wing briefly jutted into view.
We tried to coax it out--naively, I thought I could get it into that soup container again and take it outside--but it was having none of it. It scrambled back into the tight space between insulation and ceiling until we had no hope of seeing it, much less reaching it.
There didn't seem to be anything we could do. We tried to go back to bed. But that bat kept making noise. It chirped a little more, and then it just--scrabbled. Now, knowing that the scrabbling noise coming from the ceiling is a bat moving around is kind of comforting. It's a lot better than wondering if it's a cockroach, for instance. (Not really a Colorado problem. More of a Louisiana problem.) But it is impossible to get to sleep if part of your brain is constantly listening for it.
But I almost managed it. Right up until the bat was flying circles around our bedroom.
Bats are really, really quiet. It's the most uncanny thing. When a songbird gets into the house, it makes a hell of a lot of noise, not only with its voice but with the very motion of its wings on the air. Feathers are noisy. Furry leather, not so much. It was so contrary to my expectations as to give me the weird impression that I was watching something flying in the far distance, despite knowing it was in the same room with me. Which of course made it all the more startling when the bat's desperate attempts to find a way out brought it suddenly close to my face.
There was no question of trying to get it into a plastic container. This wasn't a tired daylight bat. This was a healthy nighttime bat. It wasn't going to stop for anything. So I opened all the window screens, knelt on the living room floor, and waited. It was kind of awesome in a close encounters kind of way--I could feel the breeze from its wings on my face!--but it was also kind of sad in a trapped bird kind of way. Unlike a bird, it knew exactly where the windows were. But, like a bird, it didn't seem to realize that Here Be Out. It swooped right up to the open windows again and again only to swoop away once more. Every once in a while it alighted on a piece of wall or ceiling to rest for a second. Then it was off again, flying in clueless circles.
Finally it disappeared, not through a window but up into the hole in the living room ceiling. It found the space where the insulation had been removed from the roof awning that jutted out some four feet beyond the window, and it vanished back there completely. I heard a little more scrabbling, and then nothing. It was probably 3:30 AM by then.
I have no idea whether it escaped out whatever hole the bees have been getting into, or if it's still up there. I suppose I'll find out if it starts flying around the house again tonight.
Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll sleep right through it. Like I said, bats are super quiet when they're not shrieking at the top of their lungs. And I am going to be super tired, guaranteed.
the nerdiest nerd that ever nerded
Is me. This is why: I'm at the Lindsey Stirling concert. She come back on stage after the exceedingly cute montage of baby Lindsey video. She begins the next song. It turns out to be her Legend of Zelda medley. And I totally tear up. Not even kidding. My throat closes, my eyes prickle, and by the end of the song tears are running freely down my face and I'm burying my face in my husband's shoulder to make them stop. I'm not just a nerd, but a soppy nerd.
Also? Stirling was a whole one year old when the original NES game (in its fancy gold cartridge! and its genius new "save game" feature!) was released in the United States. How is it fair that someone who was only just getting born by the time I was ten years old gets to pull my nostalgia strings that hard? (Yes, I am being irrational. Please feel free to envision me shaking my fist at the damn kids who won't get off my lawn. I do not have a lawn, but I will rent one just so I can enact this drama.)
I was initially surprised to hear she'd be playing the 1st Bank Center. It's kinda big. I still think of her as primarily YouTube famous. I admit this puts me squarely behind the times; nevertheless, last time I saw her perform--last year--it was at the Ogden. Tiny place on Colfax. Something like that. So I thought, "Oh, good for her. She must be getting more popular."
O, hi there, understatement. I hear the 1st Bank Center actually had to rearrange the set-up when they saw how rapidly tickets were selling. They originally had the stage closer to the center of the oval, and had to push it back to open up more floor and seating, or so I'm told. And it still sold out. So I hear.
Unless I am forgetting something, this was my first time going to that venue for something other than roller derby. It's where I saw the WFTDA National Championship that got me hooked on the sport in 2011. In 2013, the Denver Roller Dolls hosted the Colorado Cup there (and my league's A-team stormed through undefeated to take home the trophy). But I'm not sure I've been there for an actual concert before.
Which means that Lindsey Stirling and I sort of have something in common. This was her first time playing there. Not only that, but--this is what she told us, several times during the show--her first time playing an arena-style venue ever. For the most part, it wasn't apparent. The lights and effects felt, I dunno, sufficiently bombastic to fill an arena. Although I did wonder about the strobes at the top of the stage; they were almost painful for where we were sitting, straight back and just right of dead center. It occurred to me they might have been angled for a much smaller venue, one where they'd be aimed safely over the heads of everyone in the house. Other than that, and possibly the lack of live-capture video screens, I would not have guessed. And who needs live-capture video? Most of the time she was silhouetted against the multiple screens she did have, which were showing bright abstract patterns and spacescapes and ice caves. I had no trouble watching her killer dance moves, despite the stage taking up about the same amount of space in my subjective view field as would my laptop screen.
So now I feel like I not only saw a wonderful concert, but I also got to be a small part of history. I was there for a landmark in the ongoing adventures of a musician I admire. Neat!
Now everyone go out and buy yourselves a copy of Shatter Me, OK? Also, this is unbelievably cool and you should watch it. Lindsey Stirling and an a capella ensemble doing pop music coverage. With backup cello. I know, right? You're welcome!
spent all evening singing about our feelings
Today started with a tiny awesome thing, and it ended with a great big awesome thing.
I had my 4-month dental check-up and cleaning this morning at 8:00 AM. That is not usually an awesome thing, tiny or otherwise, but today it acquired awesomeness by resulting in my best report in years. When the hygienist poky-sticked between my teeth and gums to measure the gaps, she never said "four." All the way out to the wisdom teeth, it was "three two three, three two three, two two three, three two three." And that sonic doohickey that moans over decalcification and shrieks at the sight of decay? It didn't let out a peep. It didn't even mutter. The hygienist double-checked it to make sure it was on. And the tooth-scraping didn't go on for very long either. No lie, I felt like a character in that old toothpaste commercial montage where patient after patient looks up and says, "You mean, that's it?"1
Best of all, the hygienist said that if I can maintain this level of home care, we might consider putting me back on a regular 6-month schedule. That's the first time I've heard anything of the sort since they put me on the 4-month schedule in the first place.
You know who we have to thank for this? HabitRPG. I have a daily for "Morning Oral Hygiene" (brush!) and "Evening Oral Hygiene" (floss! fluoride!), and their streak counters are at 36 and 32 respectively. That's how many days in a row that I've done them without fail.
So that was the tiny awesome thing.
I had never seen them live before. I've danced enthusiastically to their music at goth clubs and sung along in the car, so I knew I'd probably enjoy myself at the concert.
I did not consciously expect to be in active bliss for the entirety of the show.
First off, a VNV song is composed of pure joy. Even the sad songs. Every sparkling, dancing synth arpeggio is made of joy and delight and, and, and rainbow glitter, OK? Every single song. They just start running the notes up and down the keyboard like that and it sends a neurological signal straight down the spine and into ALL THE FEELS. This was a recipe for goofy, blissful grins everywhere in the audience. It wasn't just me, and it wasn't just the awesome derby gals I was there with, it was just about everyone I could see.
And as a concert, as a concert experience, which is to say not just in terms of witnessing a live performance but in terms of sharing a unique experience with the performers... well, considered that way, it was the best damn concert I've seen since the last time I saw Cowboy Mouth. There's that same conversation going on, where the performer insists on 150% from every single person in the audience, and where the audience effin' gives it, and the performer gives it right back. There's that same sense that the performer notices you, yes, you, and whether you're having a good time, and if you are, they know it, and you know they know it. There's that same banter and commentary of the performer responding to silly things in the audience. The performer is constantly performing with conscious acknowledgment that the audience is part of this shared experience, and that both us on the floor and them on the stage are aware and grateful to the other for meeting them more than halfway.
Except of course the tone is very different. In a Cowboy Mouth concert, you get this sort of loving, rabble-rousing harangue from beginning to end, where Fred alternately leads you and goads you and scolds you toward the emotional climax of the show. The the tone of the VNV show was more gentle, more wide-eyed with delight, like they were constantly and genuinely amazed at the high we were all having together. I got the feeling that they say something like "This has got to be the best show ever! You are the most amazing audience ever!" at every show on the tour, but not because it's a rote thing to say, but because the performers genuinely feel it every time.
They ended the show's second and final encore with "Perpetual," which of course I was looking forward to all night. When the DJs play that song at a goth club, it's like a call to the congregation to come together in worship, especially when you reach the last lyric line. Everyone goes super serious and emotional, and their dance style gets all interpretive-like, with grand slow-sweeping gestures and meditative looks on every face. And if it sounds like I'm poking fun, well, I'm only doing so to the extent that it's aimed at myself. That's what I do if that song finds me on the dance floor. I can't help it. It's that kind of song.
Well, throughout the song, the singer kept interrupting himself to joke at the audience, encourage us to sing along to the song's signature sparkly synth arpeggio ("I don't care what language you speak, I don't care if you know the song, everyone can sing this song! ...Within reason") , and to threaten the impromptu crowd surfers to "put him down or I will personally kick you out! Jeez. This isn't a Slayer concert!" And none of that dampened the song's usual emotional effect, not a jot. Quite the opposite: all the laughter just added to the sense that hey, we're all in this together, onwards and upwards, joyfully.
The end of the song went on and on, everyone singing together over and over again, "Let there be, let there always be, neverending light," while the lights came partway up and the band members alternately conducted the audience-choir and took video of the forest of rejoicing hands and flaming cigarette lighters and gleaming cell phones. And my feet hurt like the dickens because for the first time in ages I was wearing my stylish stomping boots with their big tall square heels, and it didn't matter, that moment could last for another hour for all I cared.
So. That was the great big awesome.
I'm not sure I could take every day beginning with tiny awesome and ending with great big awesome. But it's a very nice way to construct a day once in a while.
1I tried to find that commercial on YouTube. I failed. Granted, I didn't try that hard. Anyway, you probably know the one I'm talking about. Late '80s, I want to say. Maybe early '90s. Might have been a toothbrush commercial rather than a toothpaste commercial. Gist was, using their product was supposed to lead to less plaque and therefore less unpleasant tooth-scraping at the dentist's office. (back)