Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The News in Brief

and Thong, and Tighty Wighty, and Bikini, and...

I'm the Vice-Pres of the Atheist, Agnostic, and Secular Society. We're holding elections tonight for a new Pres. (I don't want to be it. I don't have time to do the job I've got.) Mostly my concern is that the one person who's being doing all the work for the last 18 months will have to continue to do all the work, and when he graduates there won't be a society any more. We need to start spreading some responsibility around or the club will die, which would be a huge shame.

I'm seeing a chiropractor. Although the ruptured disk is as healed as it will ever be, my pelvis is apparently out of alignment. This is causing me to put 15 more pounds of pressure on my right foot than on my left when I stand. Such misalignment puts a twist in my spine that will make reinjury more likely, so I'm having it sorted. Which is good. I guess. I'm a bit skeptical of chiropractors. They're not doctors. I worry that it's all just so much snake oil. Any thoughts?

I can't afford the chiropractor. I earn about 100 pounds a week. This is my only regular income. I could earn more, but I don't have time to take on a third job. My rent is 78 pounds a week. I have the remaining 22 to live off and buy things like food, books, and pay for rowing expenses. The chiropractor costs 50 pounds a week, plus 12 pounds a week in bus fares to get there (his office is in a different city). Ow. I'm afraid this will hurt my wallet more than it will help my back.

Went to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Colston Hall last night. They were amazing. Rich, soulful, powerful, and even a bit camp at times. At one point a bunch of women jumped up on stage and started hugging the guys! There is not enough music in my life right now. It was wonderful to sit there with their round, full harmonies filling my ears. I needed that.

Our Roving Reporter spotted the Pirate this weekend down at the Bristol boat house on the Avon near Bath. He was helping his stiff, sore, pathetic, degenerate, dejected girlfriend lift her scull out of the water. Later, our source informs us, he took her to his gym to get a proper workout in, since her water session was too painful for her back and she returned after doing a paltry 3k. At the gym he spotted her while she did an upper body weights circuit and helped her stretch afterwards. Later that evening (according to our snoop) he spend nearly an hour giving her a full-body deep muscle massage with lots of beramot-scented oil and a rolling pin.

Daisy the Wonderbeagle passed away last week. She had to be put down owing to excessive feebleness and inability to hold her pee. She leaves behind 4 grieving bipeds and numerous friends and admirers. She was 15 1/2.

Your position is shaky right now, but that is temporary. You will find a way out, as you always do. In love, you are coming to a crux. Soon you will know for certain where you stand, one way or the other.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pushin' up the Daisies

Mom and dad had to have the Easer Beagle put down this week. She was almost 15 1/2 years old. Ripe old age. She was diagnosed with Cushing's Disease when she was 8 and given 3 months to live, so we think she did pretty good. She was happy and bouncy and healthy for most of her life, and only really started to slow down a lot in the last 2 years. By last week she was too weak to walk to the back door to go out for a pee.

I'm too bummed to write much about her right now, so I'll just put up some photos.

The Easter Beagle sunning herself amongst the pansies.

Curled up in bed, waiting for mom to wake up so she can go for a walk in the park and check her p-mail.

Looking cute and knowing it, blast her.

The Belly Beagle in her preferred habitat -- dozing on dad's corpulence.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I went on a pub crawl last night with the Atheist, Agnoistic, and Secular Society. The theme was "myths and legends." I went as Eve. That's Elrond's ho on the left about to do something lurid.

How d'y' like them fig leaves!

I did have an apple earlier in the evening, but I ate before this pic was taken. Sorry.

Monday, October 15, 2007

today i saw...

a blinding blue flashing kingfisher skimming along the river, looking for breakfast

a horse who's tail was a single, 4-foot-long dreadlock

pansies growing from teapots on the roof of a narrowboat

a bicycle locked to a fence directly under a sign that read "do not lock bicycles to the fence"

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What's the difference...

...between France and a teabag?

A teabag stays in the cup longer!!!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Total Hydraulic Failure

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow.


OMG the pain. I started training in earnest again this week for rowing. I am officially back in action. YAY!!! After a summer of core stability exercises, pilates, and cycling 50-100 miles a week to visit the Pirate, my heart and legs are in pretty good shape but the rest of me needs serious work.

It began Monday morning with boxing. I love boxing. But I'd forgotten how much you use your abs, lats, and lower back to stabilize yourself while you're punching away. Ow the first.

Tuesday was 3x15 mins on the erg, r18-20, best split we could pull and record the meters at the end. This is not a significantly strenuous workout. As erg workouts go it's maybe half as hard as what we would consider a really really really good workout, but by the third set I was in splinters. Ow the second.

Wednesday morning was more boxing. (Notice that up to this point it's only been one training session a day. That's light. Normally we do two. This is to ease us back.) Whee!

Wednesday afternoon was a water training session. I cycled to the boathouse (50 min reasonably quick ride), did 12k on the water in a double scull at UT2, and cycled home again. (That's a total of 4 hours of exercise in one day, amigos.) When I left for the boathouse on the glorious, sunny, amber autumn afternoon that was yesterday the pain of boxing still hadn't caught up to me yet. It's a bit like drinking beer before liquer; the absorbtion rates are different and it all hits you at the same time. You know how you feel when you drink a few pints of lager and then move on to the tequila? Yeah, that kind of trainwreck. Ow the third.

By the time I got home I couldn't bend over. Not because I was so stiff, but because the muscles in my lower back were so fatiuged and exhausted that if I started to bend to, say, pick up a cup from the coffee table, I coudn't stop myself mid-bend and I just went all the way down to the floor. And then found myself unable to stand up straight again without using my arms to "walk" up a wall or piece of furniture. Pirate described it as "total hydraulic failure," and that's exactly what it was. By the third time it happened he was doing "robot death" sound-effects -- you know the kind.

I decided I should probably take today off.

In preparation for the 2k erg test I have to do tomorrow evening. Stay tuned for "Ow the Fourth."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Meet the Pirates

UPDATE: the post is finished!
(Sorry it took so long. I've been working full-time and trying to get a million and one beginning-of-semester things like financial aid and stuff sorted out. It's been kind of crazy. But I have a lot more to tell you so after this hopefully i'll be posting a bit more regularly. Thanks for your patience.)


Meet the Pirates.

This is where I tell you all about my parents' visit and how the meeting between them and Pirate's parents went. It was all terribly exciting. Nervewracking, but exciting. I'm also going to post a million photos because I was feeling artistic that weekend and because the batteries in my camera refused to die.

My parents arrived on Friday morning. (Not last Friday, the one before that.) It's nigh on impossible to sleep on trans-A flights so they were exhausted when they landed, but were determined to fight their way through the day without napping so they could adjust to the new time zone. I know that's the best way to do it, but bloody hell it sucks.

We got them settled into the flat they rented and immediately left again, got on a train, and went to Bath. Mom has always wanted to see it and it's a World Heritage Site blah blah blah.

First stop: Bath Abbey

This is the best tomb I have ever seen. The husband is seen gazing mournfully upon the body of his still wife. I like this because it's both sad and tender, and also very original. It's the only tomb I've ever seen where one of the effigies is carved in a life pose, rather than a dead state. Sadly, the husband died many years after his wife and was buried elsewhere, despite his original intention when he had the tomb created. *sniff*

This a lovely side altar in one of the chapel of the abbey. Stunning. Almost enough to make me want to convert back. (Almost.)

The organ of the abbey, as see from the quire. Note the pretty reflection of light off the brass candle holder. That's art, that is. The organ was stunning, and we got to hear the organist at his craft as he rehearsed for a concert that was to take place the following day.

From there we went next door to the Roman Baths, which were amazing. They were far more extinsive than I'd imagined, and there was a great deal still in tact. What wasn't in tact was skillfully represented with simple wood carvings or CGI images to aid the imagination. The whole thing was really really well done; one of the best museum/historical sites I've ever visited. I'd certainly never seen anything that old before. Made the medieval stuff seem nearly modern by comparison. Oh, and there was this cool actor who dressed like a Roman priest and said incantations and stuff. I took a photo of his feet. And the audio tour was done by Bill Bryson, which rocked.

The head of Minerva. Just as creepy today as it was 2000 years ago.

The drain. Still working. The baths are Britains only natural hot spring, and the water that continuously bubbles up from the ground has to go somehwere. This is where it goes. Just as creepy today as it was 2000 years ago.

The feet of the priest. Just as smelly as they were 2000 years ago.

After the baths it was time for dinner. Pirate met us at the restaurant and we had a delightful meal. Which was good because by that time mom was walked off her feet and was starting to get testy. Follwing dinner the four of went to see The Importance of Being Earnest at the Theatre Royal starring Penelope Keith. (Fucking hell could I possibly squeeze in any more links???)

The ceiling of the Theatre Royal. You see what I mean about artsy?
Ha! Take that, Annie Rhiannon!

The play was light and entertaining, as Oscar Wilde should be, (and frankly we were so tired we didn't have the mental capacity for anything heavier than O.W.) and afterward Pirate and I walked the parental units back to the train station, but them on the train to Temple Meads, and went back to the Pirate's house for a good night sleep. It was our only chance that whole weekend for a shag and we completely crapped out. We're getting old.

The next day was Meet The Pirates Day.

I was bricking it. Mr. and Mrs. Pirate and lovely, lovely, wonderful, warm and welcoming people. They're also fairly religious and conservative. "Gosh!" is what passes for strong language in the Pirate household. If there was a BitchParent-PirateParent dictionary, an entry might look something like this:

What the goddamn fucking hell is going on here?!?!?! "gosh."

Yeah. Also my father is Hometown's most vocal atheist and loves to go on diatribes about how Christians are ruining western civilization. If he lit into one of his rants it would spell disaster. On top of all that he kept threatening to say to Mr. Pirate (in jest) "What exaclty do you plan to do about your son debauching my daughter??" I told this to the Pirate, who thought it was hysterically funny. The worst thing my mom was likely to do was accidently say "fuck" in every sentence, which is normal in our house. This wouldn 't have been too bad since I'm pretty sure Mr. and Mrs. Pirate have never heard the word "fuck" before, and would have dismissed it as a charming American colloquialism.

The Pirates had the idea that we'd all go off and visit Berkeley Castle.

Now, I love castles in general. I'll cheerfully wander around ruined ones, poking my head into all the drippy crevaces and stumbling down the decaying stairs, and enjoy them as much as the more in-tact specimins. But even I have to admit that Berkely Castly is exceptionally spectacular. It's been inhabited continously by the same family for over 900 years, and they're still there. *choke!*

So Friday night after the theatre Pirate phoned his parents, who were staying at a hotel on the north side of town, to work out details of meeting up the following day. Mrs. Pirate (gee I hope I get to use that name some day!) wanted to meet at 10 am. My parents were jet-lagged, had been up for something like 76 hours straight at that point, and were on the verge of standing unconsciousness. Once they fell asleep they were unlikey to wake up before 5 pm the following day. I managed to pusurade Mrs. Pirate to push back the meeting to 11 am and prayed my parents would be able to peel themselves off the mattress in time.

Pirate and I walked mom and dad from the theatre in Bath to the train station, put them on a train to Bristol, gave them my cell phone so they could reach us if there was a problem, and crossed our fingers they could manage getting a taxi from the station to their rented flat in an english-speaking country without difficulties. They managed it, somehow.

I went home with the Pirate.

The following morning: P-Day.

We got the Aston out of the garridge and drove into Bristol to collect my parents. Really, there are few things better than a ride in a shining car on a shining day. (Being driven by your own Pirate in shining armor. or shining Aston, as the case may be.) Mom and dad weren't expecting The Big Car (as it is now known), and were delighted to have a ride, even though the back seat is barely an afterthought. The car may be huge, the but the back seat only accounts for about 1.7% of the body length.

We headed north to Meet the Pirates.

They were standing in the parking lot of their hotel, so eager were they to meet my family. Bless them, they couldn't bear to be seated in the hotel lounge like normal people for a minute longer. They, of course, recognized the car instantly. If only it had a cool horn, like the General Lee, only one that plays Rule Brittania instead of Dixie...

cue the hugging.

oh my was there hugging. Mr. Pirate, true to form, got me into a vice-grip that would have made a bear's eyes bug, smashed his lips against my cheek for like, an hour or somehting, and wouldn't let me go until Pirate pointed out that my fingernails were going blue and that I might perhaps like some more oxygen.

cue the gift-giving.

Everyone had brought "just a little something" for everyone else. mom and dad brought cherry preserve from Michigan (cherry capital of the world) and a mug from the FSM, the theatre company mom runs. Pirates brought lancashire cheese for mom and a DVD of British naval aircraft for dad. So that was all nice and friendly, wasn't it?

Then off to the castle!

Mom and I jumped in the Pirates' Jag and dad got back in the Pirate's Aston (you have to look at the clever use of singular and plural possessive apostrophes to figure out what's really going on in that sentence) and headed off. And I have to say...

Berkeley Castle is fucking amazing. I won't bore you with all the history of the castle since I know you're far more interested in me and my exciting life, but do take a look at their website. It's a cool fucking castle.

The last bloom on the Magnolia tree.
That's the Pirate and his dad over there on the left.

Mr. and Mrs. Bitch in the castle gardens.

A window of the still-occupied part of the castle. Someone's a bird-lover! (Isn't this great? A 15th century castle and someone's gone and stuck bird feeders all over it. How cool is that! I guess when you live in a 15th c castle you can do pretty much whatever the fuck you want, because your cool rating is already off the scale.)

We got there around noon (just as they were opening, so it's a good thing we didn't meet up any earlier after all) and took a tour. Then we had tea in the tea room (as you do) and took a wander through the gardens, the old churchyard, and the church next door. Then we went through the butterfly house, which was also awesome. And then it was 4 pm, we were all walked off our feet, our dinner reservations weren't until 7, and we all sat around scratching our butts wondering what to do next.

(My biggest worry about this day was actually that people would simply run out of things to talk about and get bored, and by 4 o'clock things started tipping dangerously in that direction. I would have been happy just to have gotten everyone together for dinner, but Mrs. and Mr. Pirate were all keen on sight-seeing, and they're just not the sort of people to whom one says 'no.')

Also, I was exhausted and on the verge of falling asleep standing up. We decided to split up again, Pirate taking me back to his house for an LLD (little lie down, aka tactical kip) and Mr. and Mrs. Pirate taking my parents to a country pub for a few drinks before dinner. We would all meet up at the restaurant later.

'Oh God,' I thought. 'We can't leave the parents alone together. I have to be there to supervise.' But no, things had been decided, and these just aren't the sort of people to whom one says 'no.'

I crashed. I curled up in the double futon where we sleep when I'm over and just crashed. I vaguely remember Pirate leaning over and kissing my forehead before going out to wash and polish the car. (It was a nice day. He's got a new toy. You do the math.) I thought i'd doze for about 20 or 30 minutes. Nope! 90 minutes later I was dead to the world and Pirate came in and said "It's time to leave for the restaurant."


Stuffed myself into my clothes and dashed out the door.

We booked reservations at The Quarryman's Arms, mine and Pirate's favourite country pub. It's a proper country pub, where people wander in on a saturday wearing tweeds and wellies, carrying a shotgun over one arm, and dragging 3 exhausted and wet labadors in tow. It's not a real pub unless there's a gun-dog under every table, compliments of the management.

They do awesome food there. I recommend the pheasant. The roast lamb is also to die for, as is the pork tenderloin with apricots and figs. And the views over the valley aren't bad either. We asked for the table by the west window, so we could watch the sunset from where we sat.

Ok, now i'm making myself hungary. But you can see why I wanted to take my parents there. It's a quintessential ENGLISH experience. And everyone had a lovely time.

Several hours, waaaaaaaay too much food, 2 bottles of (very expensive) wine and a cheerful conversation later we were all saying 'goodbye' in the parking lot and there was another round of hugging with lots of promises of communication and well-wishing. I only grimaced once during the course of the evening when Mr. Pirate raised a toast "to family" and elbowed his son in the ribs. Not too subtle, that one.

So they love me, they love my parents, everything's all good. I know what I want. I'm just waiting for the Pirate to make up his mind and crossing my fingers that in the end, he wants the same thing as me.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Why black Americans should support the gay rights movement

This is so good I'm reproducing it in its entirety. Thanks to Joe for putting it up at his place. Spread the word, mis amigos.

"Gay and lesbian rights are not "special rights" in any way. It isn't "special" to be free from discrimination – it is an ordinary, universal entitlement of citizenship. The right not to be discriminated against is a common-place claim we can expect to enjoy under our laws and our founding document, the Constitution. That many had to struggle to gain these rights makes them precious - it does not make them special, and it does not reserve them only for me or restrict them from others.

When others gain these rights, my rights are not reduced in any way. Luckily, "civil rights" are a win/win game; the more civil rights are won by others, the stronger the army defending my rights becomes. My rights are not diluted when my neighbor enjoys protection from the law – he or she becomes my ally in defending the rights we all share.

For some, comparisons between the African-American civil rights movement and the movement for gay and lesbian rights seem to diminish the long black historical struggle with all its suffering, sacrifices and endless toil. However, people of color ought to be flattered that our movement has provided so much inspiration for others, that is has been so widely imitated, and that our tactics, methods, heroines and heroes, even our songs, have been appropriated by or serve as models for others.

No parallel between movements for rights is exact. African-Americans are the only Americans were enslaved for more than two centuries, and people of color carry the badge of who we are on our faces. But we are far from the only people suffering discrimination – sadly, so do many others. They deserve the laws' protections and civil rights too.

Sexual disposition parallels race – I was born black and had no choice. I couldn't and wouldn't change if I could. Like race, our sexuality isn't a preference – it is immutable, unchangeable, and the Constitution protects us all against prejudices and discrimination based on immutable differences.

Many gays and lesbians, along with Jews, worked side by side with me in the '60s civil rights movement. Am I to now tell them "thanks" for risking life and limb helping me win my rights – but they are excluded because of a condition of their birth? That they cannot share now in the victories they helped to win? That having accepted and embraced them as partners is a common struggle, I can now turn my back on them and deny them the rights they helped me win, that I enjoy because of them?

Not a chance."

Julian Bond, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People