Also Have Some Art

I must say, I cannot take credit for the linework: that was my Katie.  But I did do the colors... they're going to be part of a Spiderman mock-cover that's going to be a wedding gift for people we don't actually know.

Moochos Smoochos, I'm sure

Tiny and Adorable is a GO!
We do not know these people, but they're getting married.  Yay them!

And now it's so past my bedtime...

Second Generation Geek

I can't remember whether or not I've mentioned this on here before (the lack of tags suggests not) but I am a second-generation geek.  Demand ye evidence?  Know this, then: my parents were avid readers of fantasy and sci-fi; they bought a personal computer the nanosecond they were able to; they were fans of both the original and Star Trek and Star Wars; and by golly, they played first-edition D&D.

Now that you're aware of this, you will not, perhaps, be so shocked to discover that I, too, get my Role Play on (and have since I was about fifteen or so...  ah, Vampire...)  I  haven't been part of a game in about two years, but now that I'm back with my fellow nerds we're starting up a new one (set in Victorian London, no less), and I'm so stoked.  As such I've been character building, and I thought that I might toss that up here, seeing as how there's been a certain dearth of fiction, lately... so here you go, my cross-dresser's story in her/his own words...


I should have been born a boy. As first-born, it was my duty to be male, and therefore an heir- but I wasn't one, so I couldn't be the other. I was a carroty-girl, not even a beauty they might marry off, although my parents never seemed to hold that against me. Mother would say, "The blessed Virgin gives more wisely than we can understand," and kiss my freckled forehead. My little brother was born four years after me, and he came out dark and lovely like our Mother's people, so perhaps she was rewarded for her faith. Or perhaps not- she died two years later, and once she did Father disappeared.

Well no, not disappeared, not like he has now. But he stopped being around so much, save in letters. My brother and I were left to the nursemaid, and then the governess, and really to whichever of the help did not shoo us away. Father would come around about once or twice a year, and oh what lovely times those were! We fair worshipped him, and how could we not? A tall man, with hair more fiery than mine has turned out, very handsome, and always with gifts for us. But his eyes were haunted, and each time he returned home, it seemed less and less as though he belonged there with us, or even with the living.

My brother and I grew, as children do, and he remained dark and lovely- but also delicate. Some less charitable folk might say sickly. He’s an elegant young man, my brother, with far nicer manners than my own- he’s more suited to a life of books and ledgers, whereas I was made for a life under the sun and atop the waves.

Our lands are on an island in Galway County, tou see, and I’ve been on fishing and merchant vessels almost as long as I’ve been walking. Been chased off ‘em a fair deal, as well, but eventually the men gave up. Hard to say “no” to the Lord and Master’s daughter, isn’t it? Especially when she takes such a genuine interest, and has the skill to match. As such, I’m a fair hand with a boat, and I know quality goods from bad. And, truth be told, I can hold my own in a dockyard brawl- maybe not win ‘em all, but I made more than one ship’s boy think twice before coming back for more. My form might not be much for attracting a husband, but it serves me well enough for those things I’m actually interested in.

But Father. The last time we had word from him was nigh on three years ago- he sent us a small packet, “in case you should ever have need of my Club,” his letter said. The packet held two items- the first a letter of introduction to Blacks in London, and the second this strange medallion you see here. The first time I held it in my palm I swear it felt hot as a live coal- I almost dropped it! But then the moment passed, and my brother felt nothing out of the ordinary, so I put it from my mind.

We put the items away, but when a year passed, and no further word arrived, we began to worry. After two years we decided something must be done- thanks to our fleet of ships our lands managed to escape the worst of the Great Famine, but things were not comfortable by any means- and funds are dwindling. And so, after a bit of arguing, it was agreed that I’d assume my brother’s identity and travel to London to see if I couldn’t unearth what had become of Father. At which point my brother pointed out that my manners were not all they might be for a lady going to London, let alone a Lord, and so he spent six torturous months teaching me how to bow properly, amongst other things.


(And in case you were wondering, yes: having the father's club be "Blacks" is my little hat-tip to the Aubrey/Maturin books)


An Open Letter to Delta, Whom I Hate

In response to the laughable question, "How can we help?" on Delta's complaint form:

"You know what?  You can't help.  Or perhaps I should say, you WON'T help.  You never have in the past, and I don't know why you even bother to use that term on your website, or anywhere else in your literature.  Nor do I understand your insistence on using the phrase “customer care”, when it’s so obvious you DON’T.  I chose to stop VOLUNTARILY flying Delta over three years ago, in large part because of how bad your “customer service” had become (also because at least 25% of the time- and I’m being GENEROUS- you seem to be incapable of getting a flight to any given destination on schedule) but there are times when I, or my family members, MUST fly, and Delta is unfortunately the only option.  Such is the current scenario, wherein my husband, who had to go to the east coast for work, is currently stuck in Columbus, Georgia.  Now don't get me wrong- I understand that it's not your fault Atlanta closed due to weather.  I get that.  What I do NOT get is why, even though his flight was diverted and landed in Columbus FIRST, the other two flights that arrived AFTER him were gotten out of there before him (his flight is still trapped there, over three hours later).  Even more than that, I don't understand why you had over 100 people milling around the airport (with only ONE agent) for OVER AN HOUR before ANY sort of announcement was made.  Furthermore, I don't understand why, when a Delta agent FINALLY called my husband back after an hour, the man told him that his system was "locked up" and then HUNG UP ON HIM.  Weather happens, and you have no control over it- but the fact that you tolerate such unprofessional and callous behavior amongst your employees is INEXCUSABLE.

Would you like to hear more?

I expressed my displeasure via a post on FaceBook, and a friend responded by sharing her most recent experience (also from today).  She was flying in to New York from Tennessee: her travel time should have been three hours, according to her tickets, but it turned into eight.  First they sat on the runway for a long, inexplicable while, only to find out there was electric generator failure. So they taxied back to the tarmac and deplaned, waited on another plane, and once it arrived proceeded to wait on the crew. Finally she had the pleasure of circling three turbulent holding patterns.  Again- we understand that mechanical failures aren't REALLY your fault.  But the way you treat passengers while they wait IS.

Another story that was shared with me today was about Delta shafting my 70+ year old grandparents.  I did not hear this from them, of course; they’re too old school to complain about that sort of thing.  I heard this from my mother, who related to me that AFTER she had paid for FIRST CLASS TICKETS for her parents, you guys decided to bump them off their flight, and then pressure them to take coach seats on another flight.  The agent told them that if they took the coach then they'd be reimbursed the difference in price, and since my mother was the one who had paid they went ahead and took the coach seats (the promise of reimbursement is the ONLY reason they even mentioned this heinous treatment to my mother).  Well after three months of your "help", my mother finally gave up trying to get her money back.  And you know what?  It's not even about the money.  It's about the fact that you bullied a pair of senior citizens (one of whom is a WAR VETERAN, if that means anything to you) because YOU overbooked a flight, and then refused to take responsibility for it.  I guess it’s good to know that not even paying more can make you care about your customers.  At least you’re egalitarian in your abuse.

If you want to be the great company you USED to be twenty or more years ago, you need to re-evaluate the kinds of people you let work for you.  These bullies, cowards, and unfeeling louts are representing your brand, and they're doing it poorly.  People HATE your company.  The phrase “I’ve been Delta’d” is commonly understood amongst my social set to mean “I’ve been screwed over.”  Go ahead and google "I hate Delta" or "Delta sucks" or "Delta is evil".  Go on, do it- see how many hits you get.  Why?  Not because of weather delays, I assure you.  It's because of the way your employees are allowed treat people.  Maybe you should take some lessons from SouthWest or Chick-fil-A, two companies I NEVER hesitate to do business with: they treat people not just well but RIGHT.  They have their share of mistakes and delays as well, but they actually APOLOGIZE, and try to MAKE IT RIGHT.  They treat people like PEOPLE, and not like dumb sheep to be herded from one location to the next with kicks and scorn.  It's called taking responsibility for (and pride in) what you do, and maybe it's about time Delta remembered how to do that.

But you know what?  You probably stopped reading this about seven hundred words ago, and I'll probably just get a form letter response saying, "Delta apologizes for you unfortunate experience.  We hope to see you soon!" and that will be the end of it.  If there's still a human being reading this, prove me wrong.  Prove to me that Delta hires more than just bullies, thugs, and sociopaths.  Prove to me that SOMEONE in this company actually gives a damn at how much they’re hated.  I dare you."

EDIT: I got my auto-reply telling me they try to respond within seven business days.  We'll see.


Portland Twice in as Many Days- Oh My!

And for excellent reasons both times.

Last night I headed down to meet up with an old and dear friend of mine, Zachary.  We caught up on the past few years, ate delicious corn, and best of all I got to meet his long-term lady, whom I liked so well that honestly, I probably spent more time chatting with her than with him.  This is something of a trend with my exes... I have one old flame in particular who married a girl so excellent that I am always hard-pressed not to steal her for pure-girlie-madness times... not that I love him any less but damn that man married a rad chick.

Anyway hanging out with them last night was just so exactly what I needed to sort of regain my chill.  I'd worked myself up into a near frothing-rage during the workday, and it was good to be with people who reminded me that it's just not worth it to to let that sort of thing affect you so much.

This afternoon, however, I ventured down for an entirely different sort of stress-relief: my bike was finally ready!  And so I re-visted Seven Corners, and Corey helped me get everything adjusted Just So.  In fact he is so awesome he helped me (and by 'helped' I mean did it without any sort of interference from me) put it on the new roof rack:

Blue on Blue!

After it was up there I sort of squinted at it and said,

"Huh.  I guess that's going to be a lot more wind resistance than a surf board," to which he replied,

"Yeah- and a lot taller.  So be careful if you go through the Burger King drive through or whatever- I can't tell you how many bikes we've had to repair because people forget and go racing into their parking structure!"

Which, of course, made me totally paranoid about for the first few miles of my drive home, until the Rational part of my brain pointed out that even with the bike on top my profile was still lower than the 18-wheelers next to me on the freeway, so if they could make it through an underpass, so could I.

(Oh Rationality!  So nice to see you again, however briefly...)

Once I got home I immediately took her out for a spin, and discovered that there is a really lovely biking/hiking path not half a mile down the road from the apartment (the opposite direction of work, which is why I'd never seen it before).  All in all I did about four miles, and it was just so much fun!  Especially since I didn't feel like I had to clutch at the handlebars to make certain the wheel stayed attached...

Back home again

I'm definitely looking forward to tomorrow: the morning's commute should be really excellent.  Not to mention the fact that Nathan comes home in the evening...


Walkthroughs, Round II

Oh man.  Just... oh man.

I was scheduled to do two walkthroughs today.  The first was sort of a whim on my and Nathan's part: an old house (gorgeous bones) that had been converted into three apartments.  We thought we'd check it out just to see how feasible it might be to convert it back into one big beautiful home.  The second was a house in a neighborhood that we love, and from the outside (and description/online pics) looked like exactly what we were hoping for.  It was in foreclosure, which meant that it was reasonably priced, but I was also freaked out that it might sell before we even got a chance to take a look.  Nathan's in Ohio this week, which meant he wasn't available for the walkthrough, but we discussed it carefully ahead of time and decided that so long as this house was live-able, we were willing to do any work that needed doing to bring it up to speed, and I should go ahead and start the process.

Now, several people expressed some (mildly insulting, if I'm being honest) shock over our plan.  "Well of course you can't make any decisions without him seeing it!" about sums it up.  (Nathan's response when I relayed these reactions: "Why?  You're not an idiot."  Great stars, I love that man.)  I feel like this may be another one of those military-brat culture things; both Nathan and I witnessed our parents making major decisions (such as buying a house) without the other one being physically present.  When you're military that's just the way it is some times.  You talk about it ahead of time to make sure you're on the same page, but my goodness- if you can't trust your spouse with a decision like that, how can you trust them enough to be married to them?

Anyway I was fortunate in that Papa Trout was willing to come along with me and keep an eye peeled for any major structural warning signs (and give me a ballpark of how much it would take to get the houses to where we'd want them), so it wasn't like I was going in completely blind.  It's a fine thing having a contractor on your side, I tell you what.  Actually, strike that- it's a fine thing to have good friends in general.

We got to the three-unit and Papa Trout saw what they were asking and started laughing.  "That's about $30-$40k more than they should be!" he said, and began to point things out to me (the need for a new roof, the need for a new porch, etc).  He agreed with us that it has lovely bones, though, and although it would take a lot of work to get it back to a single-family dwelling it might be worth it.  But then, as we were walking in the front yard we discovered something that no website will tell you about.

A man called out to us from across the alleyway, and we turned to see him shamble closer.

"I live here," he said, and my heart sank.  Not because he was living there (we knew there was one tenant still in residence) but because he was obviously mentally disabled.   He proceeded to tell us, "This is my home and I'm never leaving.  I love it here."

That, my friends, is a headache I don't know that I care to deal with.  And it makes me so grateful that he showed up when he did, because what seller in their right mind is going to reveal an issue like that?  "Oh yes, well, there's a disabled person living upstairs and it's probably going to take a state-eviction to get him out.  But look at the yard!"

So it was on to the next house, the one we were so excited about.  We walked in and I immediately realized that, like an unwary online-dater, I had been lured in by carefully angled photographs.  I won't go into all the problems with this house (Papa Trout went down to the basement, where he began laughing hysterically and yelled at me not even to bother coming down) but let's just say this: I might be willing to pay $10k for that house.  If I was feeling generous.

Long story short, it's not in livable condition, and since that was the one thing Nathan and I required (such a little thing!) it has been firmly crossed off the list.  (Unless they drop it to the afore-mentioned $10k, because then we can buy it outright and continue to live in our apartment while renovations are made.  Do you hear me, Universe?)

I guess this is the part where the glamor of House Hunting begins to wear off, and I start to come to terms with the fact that mostly it's a lot of work for very little payout- well, until you find The One, of course.  It makes me grateful that we're not under any sort of time constraint (one of the things civilian life does actually have over military) so we can wait for a house that really sings to us- and doesn't have a ceiling in danger of collapse.


The Days Are Just Packed

Well stripe my posterior and call me Apis: it's been that busy around here, lately.

Yesterday we finally made good on all the bicycle research we've been doing, and headed into Seven Corners Cycles down in Portland.  There we met Corey, a particularly friendly chap who ordered our bikes for us and then sent us over to see his friend Mike at Rack Attack so that we could outfit our car to actually carry the bikes once they come in.  Nathan had an enjoyable hour or so putting those together (the man does love gear) while I sat in here and put more hours into... a secret project that is Coming Soon.  In capitals, people.  We are not messing around here.  But it's taking up an enormous amount of my time (at least it feels like it has)...  hopefully it will turn out to be worth it.

The other kind of research we've been doing a lot of lately is related to houses and the purchasing thereof.  So today we made good on that, and went out with our realtor, who is every bit as excellent as his recommendation.  We saw four houses, and all of them were good.  One of them we've eliminated because we both felt positive-neutral about it, which isn't enough to justify spending that much money on a place (plus it was further out than we wanted to be).  There is one house (Yellow House) that Nathan is super excited about, but I'm feeling a little more reserved.  Perhaps part of that has to do with the filthy condition of the interior: I do not know how people live that way.  They must be renters, because surely no one would treat a home they owned like that... surely not...  But the nice thing about filth is that it's relatively easy and cheap to fix: we just have to be willing to scrub (and rip out some carpet, but we would have done that, anyway).  The bones of the house really are nice- I'm just skeptical about the bathroom situation.  We'll see....

The front room was immaculate compared with the rest of the house.  Also there was a stupid dog yapping at our ankles the entire time, which did not help my perception of the house, I'm sure.

Nathan's next favorite house (70s House) is one that I feel much more excited about, even though there isn't a basement.  But again- it's further out than we wanted to be, and definitely needs a new roof.  But the interior- oh my!  The people who built (or possibly remodeled) this place understood the importance of light, so it feels a lot bigger than its actual square-footage.  And the master bath... is pretty great.

The kitchen made me squee with happiness- especially that hand-painted backsplash.

The other house that I sort of love (Dutch House) is lower on Nathan's list, and I can definitely understand why- it would take more work to become what I envision it as (namely having a huge master bedroom suite on the top floor- currently there are two bedrooms and a sitting area- no bathroom).  Plus the kitchen is kind of non-existent, which is a real minus.  But when I walk into the house it makes me happy- and its proximity to uptown is a real plus.

Upstairs sitting room, flanked by two bedrooms.

So there you go- three great houses, all with their shares of pluses and minuses- plus I'm sure we'll go see more, eventually.  That's the nice thing about not being in a hurry to move (and being a staunch fatalist): you can take your time and see what else is out there.

And now?  Now I get back to work on some logos I've been designing for people.


Somehow I Thought It Would Be More Complicated Than This

We have a realtor.

What a strange sentence to type... but there it is, hanging around up at the top of this page; we have a realtor.

Considering the amount of bother and thought that has gone into taking this step, it was almost... insultingly easy to do.  I contacted someone who came highly recommended, got a response, laid out our situation/desires... and now we have a realtor.  Weeeeiiiiirrrd.  He said he'll start sending us links in the morning (my heavens, I feel a bone-deep shudder of pity when I imagine how our parents did this in the ancient pre-internets days of yore), and we'll get this ball rolling.  Well, right after I go get us pre-approved for some monies (also online- thefutureisnowanditistotallyawesome).  I'm feeling a sort of steely determination about the whole thing, but also a sense of amusement at how Nathan, almost literally overnight, has suddenly become Majorly Stoked about buying a house.  He is like, way more excited than I am.  Which is not to say I'm not excited, but my excitement is tempered, I think, by the emotional attachment I've formed to my "someday I'm buying a house!" fund that's been growing (and shrinking and growing again thank you stock market) for the past twelve years or so.  Even though this money has always been earmarked for a down payment on a house, it seems almost... sacrilegious to actually do anything with it (although I did take out a bit once to pay off my car in a hurry).  I've always been better at saving money than spending it.  Emotionally, I mean.

There is also a part of me (and I'm sure this is quite common for first-time home-buyers) that keeps looking over my shoulder, waiting for someone with aviator glasses and a badge to show up and say, "Excuse me, Miss, but you are in no way adult enough to be taking this very Adult Step."  I'm trying to remember if I felt like this about getting married...  I don't think I did.  But then, I've always found the idea of sharing a mortgage with someone a much more terrifying commitment than just marrying them.

Where will the adult madness end? cries Interior Me.  What's next?  Babies??

Well, maybe.  They are less scary than mortgages...


More Blathering About Bikes

(Sorry guys, but you know how I am when I get a new Interest.)

First of all, today was a day of Great Achievement.  Why is that, you ask?  Because I finally made it all the way up the friggin' hill outside my place without having to get off and walk.  I almost wasn't heavy enough to make the pedals keep going near the top, but I was and I did.  So go me.  I definitely was feeling pretty bad ass about that.

Second of all, I've discovered that being whistled at while on a bike is even more flattering than being whistled at while running.  Possibly because more of me is covered up, and thus I can pretend their admiration is for the steely determination in my eyes as I struggle to get my bike going again from a complete stop at an intersection (oh how I dream of gears).

Speaking of my gear-lust, I have to admit that part of me is starting to feel a little smug about my lack thereof.  (See the whole "feeling pretty bad ass" about getting up the hill portion of the entry...)  So maybe I can kind of understand the whole fixie-obsession just a wee bit.  Although I am still jumping on a new bike just as soon as I possible can, because damn I'm tired of people looking around for the source of that incessant squeaking (hint: it's me).  Hopefully that day will come very soon, as we've found a Jamis dealer that comes with a great reputation.  (Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is the bike I'm looking at.  It's not red, but hey- we can't always have everything perfect...)

Oh the Perfection of Red on Red
Anyway we finally got "Nathan's bike" back from the shop, as well, so now we're going to see about selling them.  I was thoroughly encouraged to hear the expert give me a guesstimate that perfectly matched my own, regarding fair asking price.  And with Nathan's mad photographer skillz to put them in their very best light, it shouldn't be hard to find buyers at all (although I am rather hoping to be able to sell them as a matched set because I am sentimental that way).

In other, non-bicycle-related news, I've been working on a couple of projects for a couple of friends.  I ought to be able to post the results in a day or two.  Nothing spectacularly exciting- more along the lines of Design than Art- but pleasing nonetheless.  Although I guess I did recently finish a piece of "art" that needs documenting- a random bit of embroidery done for no other reason than to amuse myself.  Maybe I'll have Nathan take a photo later tonight...

PS if you'd like to see more of my lovely vintage wheels, go check out Nate's photostream


Wishing I Could Be My Own Reader

So I'm up over 73k words, and I've got to say... I'm really, really sick of my story.  Isn't that horrible?  But I want nothing so much as to take a three-month break from it.  I've just been up to my eyeballs in these characters and their exploits for the past six or seven months and... I want to work on other stuff!  I want it to be done!  But it won't be done until I finish writing it, and if I go wandering off to chase new story seeds I won't get around to finishing it... bleh.  The truth is, I'm afraid I've ruined my own story for myself.  I'll never ever be able to read it as a reader: for the rest of eternity, no matter how much I refine it, I am certain that I will continue to see ways to make it better.  What a horrifying thought.  But I suppose it's in no way a unique one: probably most writers get sick of their projects, and rue the fact that they'll never be able to just enjoy them.   But I also suppose that makes writers awfully grateful to other writers, who kindly keep providing them with stories that they don't have to do anything to but read.

(At this particular moment I'm feeling said gratitude for Robin McKinley, specifically for The Blue Sword.)

Plus I've also swung away from the, "Hot damn I am such an excellent writer!" end of the spectrum back towards, "No one will ever willingly read this drivel!" which is certainly not helping the process.  But I'm pretty sure my upcoming break will fix that (truly, I only have about four more major tweaks that need to happen before I read through it all again- and find more tweaks- and then send it off for Round Two of Feedback).  Nothing like stepping away from something for a few months to refresh your perspective on it.


Ka-Ching! Ka-Ching!

What?  No, that's not the sound of a cash register!  Don't be silly.  It's the sound of my little vintage bike's little vintage bell!  Ka-Ching!

Today was the day I got bold and rode the bike to and from work.  I mean, to be completely honest I only rode it about halfway to work, because the first half is straight up a hill that I am not yet able to handle sans gears.  I walked the bike and tried not to sob as middle-school children whizzed past me.  Coming home was definitely easier (there's an uphill portion in that direction, as well, but the grade is much, much gentler), if only because the more I ride the less paranoid I get about... well, everything.

I really enjoyed it, and I look forward to riding too and fro on lovely (or even passable) days from here on out.  But I have to say, I'm probably going to go ahead and trade my bike in for a new one.  It kills me, because I really, truly love the aesthetic of this bike:

Outside Bad Monkey, after they'd tuned her up.

but man, it is pretty much too rickety for a Nervous Nellie like me!  And the lack of gears...  I am definitely not hipster enough for that inconvenience.  So we'll sell her (and Nate's- it would make me sublimely happy if we could sell them as the matched pair they are) and get me a less-cool-looking, but more-practical ride.

Stupid being a grown-up.