25 July 2005

Departure and Ji'e'toh

Well, I'm off tomorrow. I'm going to Colorado with my mom and my grandma. I'll have a few days to wander with them, then Bataan's taiji camp, through Rocky Mountain Tai Ch'i, begins. My mom and grandma will probably hang out in Akron (their hometown) while my legs get tortured.

As part of preparations, I emptied the pictures out of my camera, and thought I'd post this one. It's not Ji'e'toh at her best, as she's annoyed with me for playing with the camera instead of petting her, but oh well. If you look closely, you'll notice that she only has one of her long canines. The other got infected and was removed on July 1.

But I'll be gone for about a week, and it's unlikely I'll have internet access during that time. Possible, but unlikely. So this may be my last post for a while. Camp begins Friday evening (the 29th) and goes through Wednesday noon (the 3d). Presumably, then, I'll be back on Thursday the 4th. However, given my mom's preferred rate of travel, this is far from certain.

Addendum: Just got back from loading up most of the stuff...and all I can say is "WOMEN!" We have less room because I need to take a sleeping bag and tent to taiji camp. So I packed as lightly as I could manage. My mom is still taking THREE suitcases. I've got 9 days worth of clothes, a few books, a small pillow, and a blanket all in one medium-sized duffel bag. What does she need three suitcases for, especially when we're already short on space? Agh. (And I consider myself a female rather than a woman, btw :-D) Oh, she also has a clothing bag to keep her clothes from wrinkling. *shakes her head in disgust*

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Strange Puppies

More weird dreams... This time about a 'mysterious' breed of dog. A male puppy has gone missing; I'm part of a group hired to find it. These particular dogs don't get very large...my best description would be a cross between a dachsund and a chihuahua, but it mottled dark brown fur. Anyway, this quickly turns from a missing dog case to an investigation of the nature of these dogs. There's a pivotal moment of realization which now makes no sense... We were walking up a cobblestoned hill, looking at the three shops which sell these puppies. And suddenly I knew (because these were the ONLY places where these puppies were sold) that something was odd about them. Since there was no train of logic in the dream, I'll just explain what was odd:

The females are born in 'coin purses', with a coin. They are also born head first. The males are born backwards. As it turns out, the males are never very healthy. In fact, they're not even necessary for reproduction. The coins are the key, somehow. (Feeding the females coins makes them reproduce? I don't know. I'm not sure I want to know). Anyway, in the last part, we've gone to see the Patrician (apparently we're in Ankh Morpork) and of course he'd known all along what was going on. My partner has acquired one of these puppies and is crying her eyes out, afraid it will die. The Patrician gently explains that since (a) it's female (b) it was born head first and with a coin, the puppy will be fine. At any rate, we deduce that the male puppy we were looking for was most likely too sick to survive.

I had a vague sense that some of the males did all right... but a lot of them turned out sickly. *shrugs*

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24 July 2005

Disorganized Chaos

Okay, last night we played D&D. Oh, and Spencer actually remembered to call me and tell me this ;-D. The plan was to start around 20:00 so that we wouldn't be up so late this time. I've come to the conclusion that for every small child involved, a minimum of twenty minutes needs to be added to the plan. Also, Avis (with a long A) didn't get off work until 8:45, but he had given permission for us to start the game without him. Well, that didn't happen. Between April and Neil watching Phantom of the Opera, Spencer and...agh...now I can't think of her name. I'll call her Claire (the apartment belonged to her and Avis). Anyway, she and Spencer were making fajitas. I watched them put in a variety of ingredients that are poisonous to me and was grateful I'd eaten earlier.

I don't think we started playing until 21:30 or 22:00. By that time, the children had been put to bed. I'm not complaining about the time, as I had plenty of opportunity to catch up with Kim and Spence. But every so often I just laughed to myself, watching the chaos around me. We had three married couples, two with toddlers, and one with an infant. Micah and I were the only singletons. Scott from last time didn't make it (no clue why; no one even mentioned him). Between "David, no! Give that back to Nissa!" "Nissa! Stay back next to mommy!" and conversations along the lines of "Honey? Where did you put X?"
"I haven't seen X."
"Yes you did. It was at Y."
"You told me to get stuff from Z!"
...It was a wonder we managed to play at all...

So, the game. We were attacked by giant snakes that we could hear but not see. I used animal empathy to find out (1) they were feeling threatened and territorial, (2) there were two of them. Then I was essentially useless, as all my attacks missed. Still, I claimed one set of fangs at the end as trophies. Spencer/Dirkenkil opened the next door, activating an arrow trap that narrowly missed him, and discovering maybe 8 drow. Despite me shooting Avis in the arm, we took all the drow out. Dirkenkil opened the next door. There were two bugbears. I managed to hit one of these in the neck. Claire got the same one in the neck. So it was dead. I think Dirkenkil got the other one. Then Dirkenkill opened another door and found a hydra. I wasn't much help here... "I use animal empathy" and roll a natural 1 = everything goes wrong. "Oh, the poor thing is lonely and wants a friend!" Luckily Claire is also a druid, and her animal empathy roll was 18. "No... this thing hates everything alive and is very hungry." Nothing I did after that had much effect, but we eventually took the hydra down, at which point Neil (the DM), called it quits. He was pale, sweating, and looking rather ill. From the sounds of it, he felt worse.

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23 July 2005

Frogs & Feet

I have more pictures from Stanley... I got distracted trying to find all the flowers and forgot about posting anymore, so I figure I'll do some of the better ones a few at a time. This is of the live frog I saw (along with my feet and new generic Birkenstocks). I saw two other dead ones... I don't know what killed them, but I have to wonder if some kids caught them and kept them out of the water too long. They were quite a ways inland (for frogs, anyway). One of them was right on the trail, so I took a moment to bury him to the side.
Anyway, the next picture is a close-up of the same frog. I caught him for a little bit, but because I didn't want to hurt him, he wriggled free quite easily and then crawled up on shore to rest. (If you're on a slow connection, the full pictures might take a while to load... I didn't think to crop them down before uploading them)

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Milk...it makes a body crazy

Okay... no more cow's milk products for me for a VERY long time. I had a Thai iced tea on Thursday at noon. My head felt strange all day. Yesterday was somewhat better, but my mood did odd things. Today I'm still having weird mood effects from it. It's annoying, because if I don't watch it, I start thinking the emotions are real.

Thai iced tea is made from the Thai rose plant and sweetened, condensed milk. I've had the Thai rose tea separately, and it has roughly the same effect on me as chocolate. That is, I get a bit hyper and super-happy for a bit, but it wears off relatively quickly. Products made from cow's milk have always made me a bit obsessive compulsive... I think the problem with Thai-iced tea is that it's condensed milk. So it's super-concentrated. So instead of just making me slightly obsessive about things for a few hours, it messed with my head something awful.

Most of the time, I use goat's milk, and that doesn't have as much of an effect on me. When I haven't had it for a while, I notice a slight tenedency of obsessive-compulsiveness after having it, but when I have it semi-regularly, it doesn't bother me. So far as I can tell, there really isn't that much difference between cow's milk and goat's milk, chemically, so it doesn't make sense that one's effects are so much stronger than the other's.

I tried to find out more on the web... The closest thing I could find is a book called "Milk: The Deadly Poison," which claims that no humans should ever drink cow's milk. Since the author doesn't seem to consider alternate milk sources (like goat), it wasn't particularly useful. Also, I get suspicious when people claim that a single substance is responsible for all the health woes of modern society. I figure that everything is problematic for SOME people, but not for ALL people. :-)

(Currently I'm attempting to use chocolate to ameliorate the mood issues... Trick is not to get myself readdicted. :p)

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21 July 2005

At the park

Well, I walked over to Alameda Park for taiji today and found a nice shady spot. While I was practicing triangular/fire breathing (Inhale for 7, hold for 7, exhale for 7), I heard footsteps nearby and opened my eyes. Someone said "Hi, Amy!" I looked up and recognized Travis. He's a fellow taiji player. He was one of Melissa's helpers in the class where I first learned taiji. Fairly tall, muscular, curly black hair, round button nose, and nearly always has a sparkle in his eye. Anyway, he sat down and we talked for a bit. I haven's seen him for several months, since he stopped coming to intermediate taiji last spring. He liked the mat that I use for warm-ups. It's made of sweet grass, woven together on a nylon frame, and rolls up into a fairly compact package for easy carry. "Ten bucks. Pier 1 Imports," I told him. He nodded and said he might have to get one. Then he stood and headed off for wherever he'd been going in the first place.

So I continued with warmups. One of the warmups I do is a series of downward dog and upward dog (yoga back stretches). In upward dog, there's a muscle in my back that is almost always tense. Today I brought my attention to it and imagined that it was a literal knot, like a shoelace, and imagined gently pulling one of the strings to undo the knot. There was another knot under it, so I mentally undid that as well...and the muscle actually relaxed! That's a visualization I need to remember! I did another repeat (down dog to upward dog) and it had tensed up again, but not as bad as before, and the same visualization got it to relax again. I was pleased.

After working through the three forms that I know, I sat to read some of Mantak Chia's "Chi Massage" book. So far, I've only worked on massaging the hands, but it feels surprisingly good. In the middle, my cell phone rang. My mom said "There you are!" and invited me to lunch, which is probably where I'm headed next.

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Dreaming of Dragons

I only remember one scene of dreaming from last night, but it is quite odd. I was driving on a dirt road in an old boat of a car. It was red, and had the sort of cloth exterior around the rear window. The area around the dirt road looked a lot like Mesa Verde: dry desert, sparse plant life. Then for some reason I'm not in the car anymore; I'm running outside, trying to catch up with it. Another car comes around us at full speed. I take my remote, and steer the car into a parking area, still running to catch up (why I didn't use the remote to just make it stop, I don't know). Then I get to the parking area, and instead of the car, there's this little buggy. It's sort of a cross between an old mining car and a motorcycle sidecar. I pick it up and carry it down the dirt road a ways further, across a stream, and up a hill. There's a large crowd of people on the hill, dressed rather formally for an outing in the desert. Out of the corner of my eye, I see something big jump up into the air, and realize that there are a dozen or more komodo dragons on the hill, wandering in and amongst the people. Mostly they're ignoring the people. Presumably it was a komodo dragon that jumped...but unless there was a trampoline involved, I don't think real komodos could jump that high. Anyway, about that time I woke up long enough to think, "That's weird," and went back to sleep.

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20 July 2005

New heights of idiocy

Well, today I saw someone riding a bike and talking on a cell phone. This in itself seems to be a bad idea, since both hands are sometimes needed to control the handlebars and, unlike in a car, if she just drops the thing it will likely smash on the concrete.

But wait, it gets better!
She was on Meadowbrook Lane, a very narrow, winding road. If people park on either side of the street, there's only enough room for one car to get through at a time. It's a two-way road. Also, there are no sidewalks. Most residents tend to park their cars halfway onto the curb so that traffic can get by, but not all of them do.

And that's still not all!
The main road through the area (Hiline) is currently closed due to construction. Meadowbrook is the nearest detour. So it's getting about fifty times as much traffic as usual. Well, ten times as much anyway.

So what do we have?
A biker who is not paying attention and has one hand trapped away from the handlebars riding unconcernedly down a winding, narrow, heavily traversed road. Sounds like a future candidate for the Darwin Awards.

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More odd dreams

Well, I seem to be on a dream kick lately. Actually, that usually means my sleep cycle is just a bit off so that I'm still in dream mode when the alarm goes off. These were not nearly as coherent as the mini-movie of last time. I'm not even sure about order, so I'll just present scenes.

  • Kim is talking to a nearly hairless guy who seems to be her new husband. She shows me a picture of them sitting in front of the fireplace in the house they're renovating. I look around the room and currently there is no room in front of the fireplace to sit. Anyway, either Kim's gone reverse Aiel ;-), or Spencer went into the witness protection program and had some major surgical work done. In the picture where they're in front of the fireplace, the guy has fuzzy brown hair and a mustache and is wearing large, round sunglasses.
  • Restaurant. My order arrives, and I neglected to tell them not to bring bread. For some reason, it came with three or four loaves of white bread (still in glass pans), and a full pan of cornbread. So I started distributing the bread to the rest of the large group, scattered at various tables around the room. I remember that my dinner came in a paper sack with the cornbread, and that I was going to have to wash the gluten off of it, but I don't remember what it was actually supposed to be.
  • I've climbed out of a window and am attempting to navigate around the upper story of a house on the rain gutter. I reach a place where I remember it broke before and I had fixed it with a twist tie. A very weak twist tie. So of course it breaks again and I'm clambering for anything to grab onto so I don't fall. Relative time seemed to take long enough that I should have fallen, but I've had time go slow on my in real life in those situations. So I'm back, safe on the ledge, and now I've made it to an easier part. There's a sort of balcony I can rest my feet on as I work my way across to the ladder. The ladder...is very odd. It looks like it's old and rickety, of old dry wood. Yet I step onto a rung, and it's like an escalator for a ladder. I just have to step onto the 'correct' step of the main ladder. Of course I miss, and have to adjust a bit. Then I climb down and see someone that (in the dream) I recognize. Thin weasely guy with a mustache and a 19th century haircut. Either he's wearing a huge fur coat or I am. Anyway, he runs off, and I know that he's gone to tell everyone the Huns are invading again. Apparently the ladder is of Hun manufacture, and this guy assumes that only Huns climb it. I remember running after him, and that's about it. I think the restaurant scene might actually have come after this, but I'm not sure.
  • I'm talking to my dad about something. I think I said something about guns. Suddenly there's a rifle in his hand and he's showing me how to use it. By the time the alarm goes off, the rifle has turned into a rope.

End of random dream scenes

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18 July 2005

Strange Day

Okay, got up this morning, it was actually cold, so I had hot chocolate rather than walking to a park to practice taiji. I went over to my parent's house to hunt for yard sales (they get the newspaper; I don't), nada. Apparently everyone waits until the weekend. My shoe receptacle is about to die and I would like to get a nicer replacement without spending an arm and a leg. Or even a toenail. Well, no go on yardsales, so I wandered over to TJ Maxx. There's a pretty purple sweater that's 90% cotton that I may look for later on, but I wasn't in a clothes-buying mood. I wandered to the back, to the furniture, on the off-chance that they might have something I could use as a shoe receptacle. There was nothing I wanted.

Then I headed into Pier 1 Imports. I didn't even try to look for a shoe receptacle there; everything's expensive. Then I found a comfy wicker chair. Reasonable price (as much as the ugly folding chair that Shopko has; comfy, but ugly). However, it was white. I'm not into white furniture. Saleswoman wandered over, showed me a chair in natural color (deep brown) that was on clearance. Some of the wicker was slightly damaged, so it was half-price. It was larger and comfier than the other one, and I'd been wanting a comfy chair for my bedroom, so I got it and a denim cushion (stuffed with polyester :P). Then it occurred to me that it probably wouldn't fit in my car. Called my dad. The pickup still has the camper on it, so it was no better. Mom was in the shower. So we bungeed and tied it into my trunk and I drove home very carefully and deposited the chair in my room.

I chatted with Jeremiah for a while. Then I was restless and walked over to Alameda Park. I'd made it through my basic taiji warmups when I remembered it was Monday, and that we try to meet at Reed Gym for taiji on Mondays. So I walked back, got in the car and took off. It was 16:00. We generally start at 16:00. Construction detour on 15th didn't help any...but I got there, and Melissa and I practiced. I haven't heard from Richard. I hope Laura (his daughter) did well in her fencing tournament. I got home, did a bit of reading, a small amount of cleaning, then mom called and we went over to my grandma's house. I cooked myself some eggs (realizing that I hadn't actually had a real meal all day), and we played pinochle.

First game ended. My mom announced that Grandma had 1000 points. I said, "So Grandma won?" and was immediately set upon with "Gee, she sounds disappointed." I wasn't. I was asking for information. "You're projecting," I told them, somewhere between confused and annoyed. They insisted that, no, they weren't projecting: I'd really sounded disappointed. It was my turn to shuffle. Several semi-nasty comments were directed my way, so I decided to shuffle until someone had something positive to say. I shuffled. And shuffled. And shuffled. And shuffled. Eventually my mom made an incredibly snide remark, so I explained to her that a positive comment would end the shuffling. And continued to shuffle. This seemed to mystify her. Grandma finally managed, "Boy, she sure does shuffle the cards well!" It wasn't what I'd had in mind (I'd have settled for a pleasant comment about the weather; anything that wasn't rude, sarcastic, or snide), but it was enough. I stopped shuffling, let Mom cut, and dealt the cards.

I was starting to get upset, and wasn't really sure why. Annoyed made sense, upset didn't. At some point during the second game, I tried an exercise that's in the book Don loaned me: projecting an energy field out from the solar plexus that surrounds and protects you. Suddenly the upset was gone and I could think clearly. They had been projecting. Too bloody literally. Without me echoing it back at them, the mood lightened considerably and I actually enjoyed what was left of the game. And won. And made bloody sure not to sound like I gave a damn.

I've always had a tendency to 'echo' people's emotions. When they're positive emotions, this is good. Not when they're negative. I need to remember to thank Don for that book.

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17 July 2005

A romantic comedy you'll never see in theaters.

I don't usually dream in movies, but last night I did. It was a new romantic comedy starring Tom Cruise. It starts off in a college classroom. The professor asks a question, something like "What does it mean if a man says he is doomed?"
A male joker answers, "He hired me to act as his lawyer?"
A female answers something like, "Female problems."

Cut to Tom Cruise. He's after Brooke Shields' character. But he doesn't mind having some 'fun' along the way. In particular, he's stringing along an old ex-flame (who would not be cast in Hollywood as she was in my dream: a bit dumpy and overweight), but he's also 'playing the field.'

There's a random scene in the middle that makes no real sense. A woman is hiding in the woods, desperate. She somehow comes to my taiji instructor's, Don's, house (not in the woods in real-life), and starts picking strawberries and raspberries desperately. She's starved. Don tells her to take as much as she needs. (Meanwhile, inside we have a new student. A Frenchman who insists on doing his style of warm-ups.) If this bears any connection to the rest, presumably she's a woman wronged by ol' Tom.

Anyway, I seem to have fastforwarded a bit when Tom comes back. He's about to bed his old flame (They seem to be on a pile of gunny sacks for this), when, of course, Brooke Shields walks in at exactly the wrong moment. Tom leaps off of the old flame (clothes on, btw), and starts yammering that it's not what it looks like, it's a scene for a play or a movie, or something. Of course the old flame is furious. So's Brooke. They both storm out.

Cut to the end. Brooke and the old flame are together in a room, glaring at each other. They begin beating each other with anything close to hand (one item was a pole from a theater; the ones that hold the ropes to keep you from entering too soon). After beating the heck out of each other, they're best friends for life. (I think this scene was in the same classroom where the movie started)

The End

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16 July 2005

Lappula redowskii

Sigh. Out of focus. But pretty anyway. This is Western Stickseed. The flowers on this look a lot like forget-me-not. Nothing too interesting on this one... Its seeds have lots of burs on them, and tend to stick to things (socks, pants, fur, etc.), hencet the name "Stickseed."

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Penstemon acuminatus var. latebracteatus

Not Foxglove... Another penstemon?
This has been growing along the roadside a lot this year. From a distance, I thought it might be Foxglove, but when I got closer I could tell it was actually another penstemon, and I think I've finally found which one: Sand Penstemon.

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Cleome Serrulata (or a close relative)

Also called Spider-Flower and Rocky Mountain Bee-Plant. This picture is from the desert maybe 20 miles outside of Arco. I have a picture ofthe same flower (or a near-identical relative) taken below Bridalveil Falls. Hmm... "Spiderflower is said to have saved Navajos from starvation several times." Though apparently they smell bad until they're cooked.

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Delphinium bicolor

Beautiful, Blue and Poisonous: Low Larkspur
Contains diterpenoid alkaloids including ajacine and delphinine. Hmm... "Teas and alcohol made from the seeds have been used for many years to kill lice and to cure scabies."

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Linanthus nuttallii

Starry White. Nuttall's Linanthus, or Nuttall's Desert Trumpets. This was in the flat area below Bridalveil Falls. I can't find much more information on it, though the book in which I found it (Idaho Mountain Wildflowers) says that it is "unaccountably missing from many wild flower books."

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Potentilla gracillis

Cinquefoil? Yellow Strawberry?
Okay, I'm pretty sure this is a cinquefoil of some sort. My best guess would be "Five Finger Cinquefoil" aka Potentilla gracilis, but the pictures of P. gracillia have much narrower leaves than the one I found. (Addendum: another book says that there is a great deal of variety in this species, so much so that there are dozens of subspecies, so I think this is in fact five-finger cinquefoil)

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Penstemon fruticosus

Found growing by Lady Face Falls. Right next to edge of the 'canyon'. This is also known as Shrubby Penstemon. Hmm... Looks like the leaves and flowers can be used as a sort of spice to flavor other foods (specifically mentions wild onions and roots of arrow-leaved balsamroot).

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Dodecatheon pulchellum (possibly D. jeffreyi)

Also known as Pretty Shooting Star or Few-Flowered Shooting Star.
Cool thing about this one is that it's backwards. The petals grow away from the center rather than up and around it. This is the one that was growing in a marshy area with no land (though most years it would have been a dry sandbar), so I had to clamber into five inches of water to get the picture.

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Linum lewisii

Pretty and blue, this is most likely Lewis's Wild Flax. Pretty neat little plant. You get oil from the seeds (and the seeds are sometimes added to baked goods, but should never be eaten raw), and you get fibers from the stems that can be made into thread/rope, etc. Also, you can boil flax-seed to produce a 'binder' that helps baked goods stick together (especially baked goods that contain no gluten :-D)

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Penstemon lyallii (I think)

Definitely a Penstemon, and I'm pretty sure it's Lyall's penstemon. I tend to think of it as "wild snapdragon," since it looks a lot like a snapdragon. No clue if there's any actual relation, though. I got this picture when my mom pulled off the road to let some impatient drivers get by us.

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Alturas Lake

Alturas Lake
Beautiful waters. Still makes me sneeze.

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14 July 2005

Stanley Lake

I got back from my big family camping trip yesterday evening. I'll try to hit the highlights here. If I ever find the cord that allows my camera to communicate with the computer, I'll probably post some pictures as well.

Left Pocatello about 8:00. Amazingly, I only had to run back to my house once; I'd forgotten to grab peanut butter and jelly. Stopped for lunch in Challis. The restaurant there has nothing I can eat, so I had peanut butter and jelly and wandered around while my parents ate. Arrived at Stanley Lake around 14:00 and set up camp. For me, that meant putting up my tent and inflating the kayak and the float tube. The kayak was easy; we have a great foot pump and it takes almost no time. The float tube was a nightmare. When the old tire pump broke, Dad replaced it with a foot pump. A tiny foot pump. It took 1200 pumps on the bloody thing to get the float tube blown up, more than 20 minutes! The kayak took maybe 10, and it's bigger. I hate that pump. Anyway... It was cold and rainy on Sunday, so we didn't do much beyond getting things set up. Well, I hiked down the outlet a ways, but that was about it.

Monday morning was cold. I had barely begun doing some taiji warm-ups when my mom decided it was time to make breakfast. She seems to be afraid to try and mix up the gluten-free pancake mix on her own. I have yet to figure out why, since the instructions are right on the package and she's seen me do it several dozen times. Dad took off fishing after breakfast. I waited until it was a bit warmer and took the kayak out on the lake. Now that's what I call freedom: by myself on the water, surrounded by the sky above, only the depth of water to limit my progress. I went directly across to the other side of the lake. There are no camping spaces there, just an old trail that I suspect was made by elk. I didn't get out over there; I just followed that shoreline. Eventually I found where my dad was fishing. I found out he hadn't caught any and moved on.

As I got closer to the far 'corner' of the lake, I noticed something odd. Most years, there is a sandbar that goes most of the way across, leaving maybe a fifty foot gap and creating a mini-pond off of the main lake. This year, most of the sandbar was under water. The mini-pond was part of the main lake for a change. I saw a great blue heron wading in the marshy grasses over there, and tried to get close enough to get a better look. He didn't like that idea and took off, but I did find a feather he'd left behind. Gorgeus blue-grey, in perfect condition. I continued paddling around the lake's new extension, and came across some wildflowers I hadn't seen before. There was no land to speak of, but there were places where the water was only five inches deep. At one of these, I jumped out, secured the boat, and managed to get a decent picture of the flower (picture and name when I find the camera cord...).

I paddled around a bit more, decided I was hungry, and headed back for lunch. After lunch I took the float tube out. Since I don't wear waders with it, there's no way I'm taking it out in the morning. The water in Stanley Lake is fed by snow-run-off. It's probably around 40 degrees in the summer, maybe 45-50 by the end of August. The wind was coming up (as it always does in the afternoon), and it wasn't quite warm enough for me to deal with the splashes of cold water down my back, so I didn't stay out long. After I got out, I started waiting for the hives on my legs to appear. No, I'm not allergic to anything in the water. I'm allergic to the cold water touching my skin. It's called Cold Uriticaria. I have a comparatively mild case of it. I get hives and red bumps after prolonged exposure to cold. I've heard of some people who can't reach into the refrigerator without protection, and whose lips turn blue if they eat ice cream. My case is mild enough that I mostly find it amusing, now that I know what causes it. Last year the water was quite a bit warmer than usual, and I was almost disappointed not to get any hives...

That evening, I wandered further down the outlet. Usually, I can follow a trail that goes right next to the stream, but the water was so high this year that I would have been walking through mud and water. So I took a trail that was further inland. Eventually it leads to another campground around a small pond, full of lilies and grasses. I followed the trail around the pond, and down a ways, eventually coming to the dam. Stanley is a natural lake, so I'm not sure why the dam is there. It's a concrete wall that cuts across the outlet, maybe thirty feet across. It makes a nice waterfall, and is a convenient way to cross the stream without getting too wet, but I have no clue why it's there. All I can find on the web is 'fish barrier', so maybe it was supposed to trap more fish in the lake for people to catch. *shrugs*

This time people were fishing on the dam, so I didn't try to cross it. Their dog barked an excited warning/hello until her masters called her back. Then she came out again, not barking, circled me, and licked my hand. She followed me for a bit as I wandered further downstream, but eventually returned to her family. I wandered further past the dam than in previous years, but the trail began to get harder to find and I didn't fancy getting lost. So I headed back. When I made it back around the lily pond, another big black dog barked a challenge. For a moment I wondered if I was in trouble, as he was rather close and quite large, but when he came close, he also licked my hand. Then he stood in the middle of the path, blocking the way. I told him he should go back to his family, and eventually he did. I think by not being scared off, and just waiting calmly to see what the dogs would do, I passed some sort of dominance test. I'm not really sure though.

On Tuesday, I had decided I was going to hike in the morning. My dad didn't seem enthused, so I told him he could go fishing and I would hike. For some reason, he changed his mind after breakfast and decided to go with me. We hiked up to Bridalveil Falls. It's five miles from the trailhead, but the trailhead was probably half a mile from the camp. The most interesting thing about the first two miles is the wildflowers in the meadows. Otherwise it's flat, flat, flat gravel. Then the good part starts. The trail starts going up and up and up. I suspect the trail was once an old quarry road. There are bits of stone alongside that look like they might have been 'cut' from larger ones. The first time I hiked that path, I kept picking up pretty stones and putting them in my pockets. Let's just say that's not a good thing to do with loose shorts and no belt... ;-)

Maybe halfway up, there's a tiny stream that goes across the trail, small enough to step across. We caught up with a large group there, also headed for Bridalveil Falls, and beyond. They were planning to climb up beside the falls to some lakes that lay above it and invited us to join them. My dad said a hasty 'no.' While I wouldn't mind climbing past the falls sometime, I would rather do it with a smaller group. It doesn't seem like wilderness in a group of twenty or thirty people. Anyway, we turned off to go to Ladyface falls a bit further up, and that group got a long ways ahead of us. Well, I went to Ladyface Falls. Dad rested. To get a view of the falls, you have to clamber down some rocks and boulders, and my dad doesn't like heights much.

Onward and upward, then downward and across Stanley Lake Creek on rickety logs, and upward some more, we came to a large flat area below Bridalveil Falls. I would have liked to try and get closer, but Dad adamantly refused. At this point, I was full of energy and all for hiking another three miles to some other set of lakes... Just as well I didn't. The way back is mostly easier, as it's mostly downhill. So long as you place your feet, rather than falling on them, downhill is also easier on the legs. When we got to the flat, my enthusiasm began to give out. When we got to the gravelled section of trail, my feet began to hurt. By the time we made it back to camp, I was exhausted and practically ripped my shoes off. I bolted down some lunch, and rested for a while. We had gone eleven miles in about 3.5 hours. Considering all the ups and downs, and that we rested and took side paths, that was a darn good time. Better than we'd ever made before. However, my fondest thought was of soaking my feet in the lake so I took the float tube out again.

That evening, I mostly took it easy. After eating dinner, dad built a fire to use up all the wood we'd brought with us. I hung around the fire, reading, playing my flute... I was the last one to leave the hearth and collapse into my sleeping bag.

I woke up still exhausted, but managed to pull myself out of the sleeping bag. I'm still not sure if I had a slight cold, or if it was a combination of overexertion and allergies, but I felt lousy. I felt better after doing some taiji warmups, even better after breakfast, and took the kayak out for one last spin round the lake. For once, my parents didn't argue with me about it; usually they insist that we have to get packed and going, so I can't possibly take the kayak out on the last day. Maybe they finally figured out that they spent as much time arguing with me about it as it would have taken me to go out on the lake anyway. This time I followed a trail of seaweed, nearly all the way across the lake. There was a fifty foot section where I couldn't see any of the leafy plants growing out of the bottom (though the bottom of the lake was still visible), but otherwise it was practically a solid highway. Then I followed the opposite shore down to the swamp/former mini-pond and made a diagonal journey back to camp, thence to carry the kayak up and deflate her.

My parents had accomplished very little while I was gone. Apparently Dad couldn't put anything away until he put my paddles away. Which makes no sense whatsoever since the paddles could have sat on top of everything else. But we got everything packed up, and headed out around 11:00. We stopped off at Redfish and Alturas Lakes, briefly. Redfish is too commercialized for my tastes, though it's pretty. Alturas always makes me sneeze. We camped there for one miserable night several years ago. I sneezed the whole time. Then we were back on the road and headed toward Ketchum, where my parents always eat lunch. The restaurant has nothing I can eat, so I always go over to the Chapter One bookstore across the street. It's got an awesome selection of eclectic books, and is connected to an organic foods market. This time, most of the books that interested me were nearly identical to ones I already had. I did get a translation of Epictetus (a Stoic Greek philosopher). As I left, I noticed another bookstore a block over, so I wandered over to it. It was a nightmare. Shelves everywhere and nary a place to step. When I eventually found the section I was looking for (inside the downstairs restroom), I was too fed up even to look closely at it. Then I saw my mom at the top of the stairs. She and Dad had gotten done eating sooner than I had anticipated, and she'd lucked out in seeing me wander into the nightmare bookstore.

Then we were homeward bound again. I drove from the gas station at Carey to Pocatello. My dad felt compelled to point out that the wind could blow the camper around... Considering that the wind has less effect on a pickup loaded with a camper than it does on my little Echo, the warning was insulting. It wasn't meant to be, but it was. We got home, released Ji'e'toh from the house (my grandma had beenc checking on her every day), transferred my stuff to my car, and I headed home, grateful that I had leftovers in the freezer to call dinner. And that was that. More details (hopefully) when I post pictures.

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09 July 2005

Camping Preparation

Well, I put off baking the bread until the last minute... At least, the last minute if I'd like it to be cool enough to be put into a bag tomorrow. It should be done in about ten minutes. I also baked some banana muffins, mainly because I had three bananas that were too brown to eat. Next up? Packing! When do we leave? Tomorrow at 8:00! Actually, the longer I wait to bake the bread, the less likely it will go bad while camping. However, clothes generally don't go stale when stored in a duffel bag, so I have no real excuse there.

I've been using Bette Hagman's 'Featherlight Rice Bread' recipe, only I've been substituting some of the featherlight rice flour with sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, qunioa, any-interesting-flour-on-hand... Tonight I used sorghum and buckwheat. The sorghum tends to make it moister. The buckwheat gives it a richer flavor. Oh, I've also been using rice protein instead of dry milk powder. (Note: buckwheat is not related to wheat, despite the name. It's in the rhubarb family)

So...now I need to mix up some hot cocoa mix, pack my duffel bag, talk myself out of including every nature guidebook that I own, oh, and, hopefully, get some sleep. Most store-bought cocoa mixes have mono and diglycerides in them. Usually made from corn, but can be made from wheat. What are they for? No clue. I think they're for annoying the gluten-intolerant, just like the evil barley-malt and rice-pilaf people.

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Dungeons and Dragons and Drows, Oh My!

I played my first game of D&D last night. Not much happened, to be honest. I was unconscious in a side room for most of the game. Then a gnome got the door open, searched me for anything useful, and woke me up. Then I (groggily) followed the group as they opened another door and found five drow waiting for them. Five well-armed drow. Spencer (the dwarf; must remember to write down character names) was in the lead. His first volley took the arm off of one of them. Then our wizard (real name Scott, character...?) shot one of them dead and managed to pin it to the armless one. My shots all missed (found my stuff in a sideroom). The gnome got one in the elbow (no major damage)... I remember that the dwarf cleaved the last one neatly in three. Well, neatly apart from the blood spurting everywhere. That was the last room on that level, and it was midnight about then, so we called it quits. It is likely that we'll meet again next weekend.

Not directly related, but amusing... Spencer found some interesting battle songs. :-D
Silly Songs

Let's Go Pike a Knight! (to the tune of Let's Go Fly a Kite!) is one of the more amusing ones. It's under "reenactment songs". I'm a Viking would be more amusing if they'd kept the contradictory spirit of the original (O Susanna)

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08 July 2005

New background


Whaddaya know. I managed to make this into my new background on the first try! I didn't care for the standard background on this template. I think the woodgrain looks much nicer. :-)

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Movies and Silliness

Last night, I went over to Kim and Spence's. We'd decided last week that Thursday would be a good movie night. I grabbed two movies that I hadn't seen (as suggestions), and we wound up watching Chicago. I had borrowed it from my mom a year ago and never gotten around to watching it. I doubt she even remembers it's gone; she's got a huge stack of DVD's that she's never watched. Thankfully she seems to be off her kick of buying five more every week.

Chicago. It was an enjoyable musical. It's not one that I'm eager to own for myself, but it was fun. The best parts were the court-case analogies. Like the trial lawyer is suddenly presented with a surprise witness and does a 'tap dance.' A literal tap dance since this is a musical, but you get the idea. Sad thing is that whenever a high-paid lawyer gets involved, the court case does tend to turn into a circus. I did make one non-court observation. The skimpier the outfit the background dancers wore, the less appealing they seemed. No clue if a male would agree... After the scene was over, I didn't think to ask.

Also last night I got invited into Kim and Spence's D&D group. I was somewhat irritated that they hadn't thought to invite me, oh, several months ago... Apparently Spencer got in trouble for inviting someone in without clearing it with the DM beforehand. We set up my character last night, but not much else. Anyway, I'm a chaotic neutral half-elf Druid. Snippets of conversation:
"Chaotic neutral really fits a Druid."
"Hey, chaotic neutral really fits Qalmlea."
Anyway, they have a NPC pigeon who is currently tied up in a bar, and they're expecting to go on a mission to rescue it at some point. I will try to explain. Two of the characters (Kim's and Micah's) speak the bird language. They gave the pigeon some gold coins and sent it to the bar to get some chocolate milk. The bartender, who likely did not speak bird language, took the gold, tied the pigeon up, and hung it from the ceiling, where it has become a tourist attraction. The pigeon's name is Bartholomew. Oh, yeah, I'm supposed to scan in the Druid spells and make myself a copy so I have some clue what I can do... First, I will need to, say, connect the scanner to the computer. *sighs*

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06 July 2005

Chance meetings

Well, I wandered downtown this afternoon, planning to stop off at the Walrus and Carpenter to sell some of my old books and possibly purchase some new ones. As I entered the underpass, I saw the encouraging sign: Road Closed Ahead. My first thought was construction, but actually they had the streets blocked off for a classic car event (The Great Race, I think it was called). So I meandered through and parked on a side street near the W&C. Well, no go. The proprietor was out enjoying the festivities. However, I was out there anyway, so I just wandered around for a while.

I'm not particularly into old cars, though there were some very nice ones. I was more interested in a mini Native American festival two streets over from where I'd parked. They were drumming and chanting and dancing. The costumes were beautiful. There was one girl in blue with red trim, and many feather accessories. Another was in white... it looked like it might have been buckskin. For her sake, I hope it wasn't. It was hot out there. Two males had beaded vests and large feather tails. I think they were supposed to represent turkey tails, but I don't know for sure.

As if it wasn't strange enough to wander into a fascinating event with no prior knowledge of it, I also came across Kim, Spence, David, and Kim's mom (Belle, I think her name is). Kim and I were both more into the Native American dances, while Spencer seemed to be more interested in the cars. David was too tired to care much about any of it (he's not quite two). After they left (Kim: "I want to see this, and then we can go!" Me: "You've said that several times already, haven't you?" Kim: "Uh, yeah..."), there was a brief sampling of Native American flute. These looked to be high school age kids, and all had made their own flutes. None of them played anything very long, but it was quite nice to listen to what they did play.

I wandered a bit more, and found a really cool building with incredibly boring businesses inside...then I decided I was thirsty and didn't feel like paying two bucks for a tiny bottle of dihydrogen monoxide. So I wandered back to my car. All in all, it was an interesting excursion.

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05 July 2005

Thomas Stokes

Well, I met with Thomas Stokes today. He's the guy with the Native American flute booth at the Nook and Cranny. We met at Alameda Park. I'm enough of a paranoiac about meeting someone I've only spoken with on the internet that I had a very sharp knife in my pocket, that proved completely unnecessary. Thomas is quite a nice guy.

He gave me some useful tips, and told me some things I was already doing right. I knew how to cover the holes in the flute, for one thing, and I had good vibrato. I do not have very good finger dexterity (yet), or good control over transitions between notes. But the coolest thing was the drone. No, not from the Borg or Lawyer collectives ;-). A drone is a dual-flute. It looks like someone took two flutes and spliced them together, but only one side has any finger holes. The sound is awesome! I want one... Apparently there are also three- and four-chambered flutes, but Thomas doesn't have any. Yet.

We actually talked a lot about non-flute stuff. Turns out that he has done a little taiji (probably Yang long form, not the Cheng Man Ching form that I know), and has gone to some SCA activities. He told me a story that I think I'd heard before, from a friend of the other participant. Seems Thomas does some live-blade sword sparring and he came to Alameda Park once during SCA fighter practice. An SCA-er asked to see his sword, and Thomas obliged. The SCA-er also brought out his own 'real' sword (as opposed to the practice ones generally used in SCA sparring). Well, a cop happened by at the wrong moment, and told Thomas and the SCA-er that they couldn't have live blades in the park, and that they had to leave and not come back. Did I mention that Thomas used to work for the FBI? He wanted to know which city ordinance the cop was using to throw them out, and, by the way, had he called the judge for a restraining order to keep them out of the park. The cop was not amused (probably because Thomas knew the law better than he did). So Thomas and the SCA-er stowed their swords in their cars, drove around the block, and came back to the park from the opposite side. (Pam or Kim probably knows who the SCA-er was, because I know I've heard the story before)

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Independence Day

So yesterday was the fourth of July. Usually it's a holiday I look forward to, since it's not often that I'm encouraged to set things on fire. This year I was dreading it, because it would mean spending time with my mom and dad together, pretending to ignore each other. Thus I was quite relieved when Kim and Spence invited me to watch fireworks at Kim's parent's house. They have a balcony that affords a wonderful view of the fairground fireworks.

They also had a barbecue. I ate a steak. I don't particularly like steak. It tastes like dead cow. Perhaps beef marinated in a nice Thai peanuts sauce would taste all right, served with lots of vegetables and some rice. Better yet, change the beef to chicken. The really strange thing was that Kim's dad kept apologizing for my steak being so small...and it was a larger portion of meat than I usually eat at a meal. This seemed to thoroughly confuse both Kim's parents. I was offered another steak or a Bratwurst several more times.

Also last night I finally met Kim's friend Micah (whom I had heard a lot about). Very nice kid. He looks a lot like Legolas...just add some brown to the skin and hair, and reshape Legolas's nose, and you'd have someone who looks a lot like Micah. He comes pretty close to being gorgeous, in fact. He doesn't quite have the attitude or the voice to pull off being 'gorgeous' (plus he's ten years younger than I am), but he comes close.

After the big fireworks show, we went over to Kim and Spence's house to have our own, private show. I was Prometheus. I like being Prometheus. :-D The wind kept trying to snuff out the lighter I was using, but I got 'em all lit. Random bits of advice: (1) Avoid firework chickens. They're lame. (2) Firework tanks, though, are quite entertaining.

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04 July 2005

New comic discovery...

This isn't the main page for the comic... It's a page of songs that the mutant gerbils like to sing. Or something. Any comic with evil gerbils who sing palindromic songs gets my vote!

***Addendum: Also the only comic I've ever run across with its own paperdoll cutouts for all the major characters... :-D

***Addaddendum: Mell reminds me of me! (at least, me if I had access to grenades, machine guns, and mutant gerbils)

Now let's see if I've figured out how to get links into the text...
Narbon Math v. Biology

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People are strange

I was walking to the park this morning, and a pickup drove by. Someone inside actually gave me a wolf-whistle. It was very odd. *looks in the mirror* I really don't look like someone who merits a wolf-whistle. The windows were too dark for me to see the ages of those inside, but I would guess they were teenagers who would whistle at anything that appeared vaguely female.

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03 July 2005


Icon, try 2
Well, I seem to have been successful in making this my icon... It started out as a black and white image that I found on a Celtic database. I tweaked the colors until I wound up with something I liked. I don't know how long I'll keep it as my icon, but for now it works. *shrug*

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02 July 2005

Ha! It wasn't just tension in the shoulders!

I've been struggling in push-hands for a while, with a very simple motion. With my arm out in a bang (basically, relaxed and open in front of my center), a two-handed push often leaves me feeling like I have no room to deflect it. Part of the problem is tension in my shoulder (it only takes a miniscule amount to have a major impact). But I was convinced there was something else, and today Don diagnosed it. Part of the problem was that the one pushing me (today it was Richard) was refusing to follow my deflection, and I felt trapped. Well, it turns out that there's a simple solution. If I continue to turn WITHOUT tensing my arm, and my attacker does not turn with me, it sets me up for a beautiful counter-push. No force at all needed. :-D

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01 July 2005

Morning Practice

Ah, I love practicing taiji outdoors... It's more challenging, in some respects, because the ground is uneven. In taiji, you never want to "fall" onto a foot; you want to place the foot, no weight, then transfer the weight. Why? Because you never know when there might be a hole, or a land mine, or a thorn... (There's a story about a taiji master who felt the land mine as he started to place his foot, and pulled it away without setting the land mine off. No clue if it's true) Also, there are places where you need to spin on the ball or heel of the foot, and they tend to dig into the grass and dirt.

Today I didn't have the park completely to myself. When I got there, a guy had brought his four dogs. One of them (the smallest, about knee-high) kept barking at me and rushing me. I pretty much ignored it. The guy called out that it wouldn't bite, but I could tell that much from its bark. The next larger dog (that I could swear was white, but the guy called it 'Cinnamon') was mildly interested in me. The others completely ignored me. Shortly after I got there, the guy took his pack down to the other end of the park, and they left me alone after that. I think the little one (Teddy) would have just kept barking and barking if they hadn't moved.

The past few times I've practiced, I've tried to work on focusing on the last three inches of the sword. On a real taiji sword, only the last three inches of the blade are sharpened. Why? I don't know for sure, but I do know that there is a fine line between a sword sharp enough to do damage and a sword so weak that it snaps. By having only the last three inches sharpened, the rest of the sword can be thicker and stronger, useful for blocking. I wonder how well a swordbreaker works on a taiji sword... Anyway, back to practice. It is very challenging to maintain focus on the end of the blade all through the sword form. There are places where I find it incredibly difficult to stay balanced with my attention on the sword (one-legged stances, big step-arounds...), and there are places where the tip gets out of my field of vision (which probably means I'm doing something wrong). When the focus is really there, though, I feel a difference in the form. It...flows better, feels like it could actually be effective in a fight. Maybe I'll ask Don for tips on balancing while focusing on the tip...

One more for Tales of the Sword: As I was walking back from the park, I saw a juvenile cat. It wasn't scared of me, so I knelt down to pet it. A guy came out of the nearest house and gave me kind of a funny look. I said, "Good morning!" and got a puzzled sort of hello. "This your cat?" It was. It took me a moment to figure out he was giving me weird looks because of the wooden sword strapped to my back. I'm so used to carrying it around that I forget that other people think it's odd. :-D

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