dreaminghope: (Paisley Hat)
I've been having trouble with my kiting skills. Part of getting my novice paragliding license is being able to keep my wing in the air for at least three minutes while ground handling, but that requires some skills that don't come naturally to me, such as hand-eye coordination. I enjoy my attempts, but I do tend to just pull the wing up, have it drop down, sort the lines back out, and then start again.

We couldn't fly on Sunday, but the weather was good for kiting so Russ, Craig, and I went to Vanier Park. As I was struggling with my layout, I thought about something on my harness that I'd noticed before: the carabiners that are the attachment points for my wing to my harness face in different directions. They'd always been that way: one facing inwards and the other outwards. Russ' carabiners both face inwards. Now, since much of steering in paragliding is done by weight shifting - in essence, is done with the hips through the carabiners - it occurred to me that the subtle difference in the shape of one side of the carabiner versus the other might be giving me a slight disadvantage, which I definitely don't need. I had evidence in that it was my right carabiner that was backwards and the right side of my wing is always the side that's falling.

Russ helped me flip the right carabiner, and I pulled up again. This time, the wing came up perfectly straight and parked above my head, steady for about thirty seconds coming down. It was probably the best pull-up I'd ever had.

Unfortunately, the wind got wild very shortly after and I didn't have much time to test my new set-up, so I'm not sure yet if that was luck, an actual fix to an actual problem, or a magic feather. I'm eager to get out again soon to find out!

Themes

May. 23rd, 2011 09:32 pm
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
Every year, the Gathering for Life membership votes on a theme for the next year's event. Every year, someone suggests "no theme" to allow it emerge naturally during the event. I always vote for "no theme", but it never wins. Still, unexpected motifs do always come up throughout the weekend, and this time was no exception.

It was a different event than in the past: colder and wetter due to the new date; smaller due to the price increase and date change; changed in more subtle ways due to our return to our original event location. The Gathering was intimate feeling - softer and more mellow - but incredibly inspired and inspiring.

Despite the small membership - only a third of the previous event - there were four skyclad rituals by three different groups on the schedule, in addition to several other rituals and a full itinerary of workshops. Every person except one, who was already known to be coming on Saturday, was on site before 7 PM on Friday. The turnout at the closing ritual in particular was the best we've probably every had, in proportion to the membership. Everyone just seemed so present and so grateful to be at the Gathering together.

The primary theme for my Gathering this year was "sharing". So many people were opening their hearts and giving generously of themselves. People gave up sleep to tend the sacred fire. Every time something needed to be done - from setting up a tent to chopping fire wood to moving a picnic table - people stepped up to do it with pleasure. People offered up their amazing talents: the Bardic was short but packed with amazing singing and music; the workshops were informative and interesting; the rituals were well crafted; the merchant area was tiny but full of beautiful things, mostly handmade. People were offering healing and their other skills freely. When it came to pack up and clean up the site, everyone pitched in and it was done quickly and easily. And all around, all weekend, people were thanking each other for sharing.

The generosity of the members of this community is not new, but this year, it seemed to be present in each and every person and in the community as a whole in a way I've never felt before. There have been Gatherings that have been more energetic, more powerful, more sexual, but I don't think I've ever experienced one more full of grace.

My secondary Gathering theme this year seemed to be "tell Melissa how great she is". I got so many compliments about the two rituals I ran. One woman gave me a little gift to thank me for leading her first skyclad ritual. Several people made a special effort to come up and talk to me about my themes and even ask for copies of the text. I also gave a bunch of Tarot readings and got great feedback about them as well. I even got compliments on my clothing!

I still have so much to process and I have some new ideas that need to be recorded before they fade away, but first, I need a lot of sleep. And I need to do a lot of laundry.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
I wear a little gold pentacle necklace - a gift from Russ for our first Christmas together - every day from the moment I get out of the shower until I go to bed, taking it off during the day only to work out. I have worn this necklace this way for over thirteen years now. I knew that I checked for its presence several times a day: just before getting on and off buses, just before leaving home or work, and in the bathroom. Those checks stem from the day that the chain broke unexpectedly and I didn't notice right away. I was lucky that day; the pendent and chain got caught inside my shirt. But now I check for my pendent before doing anything where I wouldn't be able to find it again if it broke.

What I didn't realize is that I touch that necklace through my shirt about four times an hour besides those checks. I am realizing that today because this morning, in my chaotic rush to get to the gym before work, I forgot to put my necklace on. Even though I realized this when I got out of the gym, I've still been checking and having a micro-moment of panic before I remember why it isn't there. Finally, I had to stick a safety pin to my shirt about where the pendent would normally be. Now I diddle a safety pin every 15 minutes, but I'm feeling much less anxious.
dreaminghope: (Flying)
The season is really getting started now. Friday evening was kiting, Saturday morning was slope soaring, Saturday afternoon was kiting, Sunday morning was slope soaring, and Sunday afternoon was... first flights! All weekend, Russ and I, and sometimes Craig, were with the new batch of P1 and P2 students for iParaglide. This weekend, they were doing their first training sessions and their first flights ever.

The wind was a bit wild on Saturday morning for their first hill training, so Russ, Craig, and I ended up packing our wings up and spending the morning helping the first-timers. When the wind is higher and is cross to the hill, there's a lot more work involved in setting up and keeping everyone safe. I spent my morning running around, cheerfully ordering people around ("Mind that tip! Pull the brakes! Step back! Step forward!") and cheering people on as they made their attempts. This became a bit of an issue when I got home (late) to run a Beltane ritual that was also the rehearsal for the Gathering's main ritual and ended up bossing all my friends around too. Luckily, they took it well ("You ordering us around is kind of hot, actually...").

Sunday morning's wind was lovely: laminar and just the right speed. I helped with set-ups a lot again, but also did four of my own practice launches. I'm still building my confidence, so Russ called the commands* for me twice, Dion did it once, and the last one I did it all on my own.

At about 4 that afternoon, the whole class was on the mountain launch at Mt. Woodside. There were seven people with our school doing their first flights, plus me doing my twelfth. Russ opted to do the driving instead, as his knee was bugging him, and he took some video and photos too.

I was the last of the class to launch, so I got to watch every one of the first flights. They were a remarkable group: every single launch went smoothly (no aborts) and we cheered each other on. One student sang a bit of an aria for us when he was at 3000 feet. Even though we were mostly strangers to each other before the weekend began, there was a great sense of support and camaraderie. Dion, the senior instructor, sets a good learning environment: he is very energetic and motivating and gets everything going fast until each student steps up for their first mountain launch. At that moment, he slows everything down, triple-checks everything, and calmly inspires the student. You can hear him a little bit in the following video of my launch:

Shaking off the cobwebs on Vimeo.


Sixteen seconds from ground to air. It wasn't a perfect launch, but it was a good one - quite possibly my best yet. You can see that I bring my wing up evenly, I stay low to keep the wing loaded, I keep my arms up to let the wing fly at its best, I turn my head to look at each wing tip to check that it's in the correct position, and I keep my legs pumping the whole time to reach launch speed. Solid. Next up: doing it on the mountain without anyone else calling for me.

My wing and I turn beautifully together. The Icaro Instinct tends to turn quite flat anyway (doesn't lose a lot of altitude with each turn), and I have gotten pretty good at weight shifting, which means smoother turns than pulling more brake. I remember how nervous I was to weight-shift on my first flight: even if you know that you are safely strapped in, leaning way over to one side feels very weird until you've done it a couple of times. You can see a bit of me weight-shifting and turning in this video (please excuse the music; I woke to the chorus of this song on Monday morning and couldn't resist using it to cover up the wind noises that dominated in both video clips):

Flying on Beltane on Vimeo.


On the LZ, one of the apprentice instructors, Degas, was doing the landing coaching. I am getting closer to not needing a coach, but it was still very reassuring to have a voice on the radio reminding me of every step. I was anticipating each movement, so I was able to respond very quickly. During the debriefing, he said: "It was like having a radio control paraglider: as soon as I would say something, she was doing it." I got a high-five from Dion for keeping my feet during my landing (I used to stop moving my legs so instead of walking off the momentum of the landing, I'd fall to my knees a lot).

Overall, a fantastic weekend of shaking off the winter dust and getting my body and head back into flying. Hopefully both Russ and I will be flying again this coming weekend.

* The launch commands: Ready? 3-2-1-tension - release and stabilize - load and run.
dreaminghope: (Flying)
I got to the landing zone yesterday and realized that I had forgotten to bring sunscreen. When we got home almost twelve hours later, Russ took one look at my face and started humming "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer".

By the end of last year's flying season, we were prepared. We had a cooler and reusable ice packs and Advil and bandaids and sunscreen and hats and extra clothing and bug spray and wet wipes and napkins and a variety of foods in a picnic bag with silverware and plates, all pre-packed and ready to toss in the car at 6 AM. The off-season has made us a bit lazy, however, and this weekend's paragliding activities had us scrambling just to make sure we had the basics: water and charged radios.

This weekend was a three-part adventure. Friday morning, we went to the park for slope soaring as a warm-up. Russ, Craig, and I arrived at about 7 AM and got almost 2 hours of practice in. I had my first reverse launch as well as a good forward launch. Russ and Craig both got some good airtime. Russ got about twenty feet off the ground a couple of times - very difficult in a park.

Friday afternoon, we were off to a different park for kiting. This year's new crop of students were there too, but I didn't get to chat with them much, as I was working hard. Kiting hasn't quite clicked for me yet, but with a lot of Russ' help, I got the wing up and briefly stabilized a couple of times. Since Russ is interested in becoming an apprentice instructor for iParaglide, this was good practice for him and very helpful for me.

Me and my wing, momentarily in perfect balance:


Saturday morning, we were off to the mountain. It was a bit of a different day, where the new apprentice instructors-to-be were learning how to be landing instructors by taking turns pretending to be the student and being the landing coach on radio. Russ and three other people were doing the training. They got three or four flights in each. Unfortunately, I am not completely self-landing - a requirement for playing a student in case the instruction goes wonky - so I didn't get to fly, but I learned a lot watching all the landings. In addition to our group, there were probably a couple of dozen other wings in the air at any one time and several people landed near us, so we got to meet some more experienced pilots.

Russ guides fellow pilot Degas into landing:


To be a landing coach you have to be able to accurately judge where the glider is in relationship to the edges of the field and how high they are. You also have to figure out how fast they'll come down doing certain manoeuvres, so you can get them to where they need to be when they touch down. I can't imagine doing it myself, but all of the apprentice instructors were doing great by the end of the day. I think the next step is landing actual students under the supervision of an experienced landing coach, and they all seemed ready to do it. Weather permitting, some might be doing it as soon as next weekend.

Weather permitting, I'll be flying next weekend!

Spending the day on the landing zone also gave me an opportunity to watch a lot of gliders in the air. Many people, including Russ, were getting lift off the ridge and catching thermals. It is very beautiful and peaceful to watch.

We had a really nice view of a very experienced local pilot showing off some superior gliding skills:

Local pilot shows paragliders how to glide on Vimeo.

dreaminghope: (Cherry Blossom)
Though the car's thermostat read 2 degrees Celsius this morning, the first signs of Spring provided us with some hope that warmer weather is on the way. On a short walk through my neighbourhood, I saw my very first cherry blossoms of the year:



Another sign of Spring around here:



Those are Russ and I's paragliding wings draped across kitchen chairs set on either side of our bed (our bedroom being the easiest room to shut the cats out of - cats and wings don't mix).

We finally went kiting again this weekend! They were short sessions: a couple of hours on Friday evening and a couple more hours today. The wind wasn't perfect either time and the ground was saturated from a winter's worth of rain, but it gave us a taste of what we've been craving. It was a chance to remember how to put everything on, how to sort out our lines, how to line up with the wind. Though my ability to keep my wing up in the air is still pretty limited, I had a couple of pretty successful forward and reverse launches, which felt really good. It was well worth getting the wings a bit damp and muddy.

Spring is coming!
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
With no more preparation than an hour to read over the manual online and doing a couple of practice tests, I'm allowed to drive a car on the public roads with everyone else (as long as I have a driver over the age of 25 in the car with me and a red "L" stuck to the back of the car).

They let 16 year olds do this‽

I'm scheduled for a driving course starting next Saturday. It starts with 18 hours of classroom time over three weekends. My road lessons will start after that. On a friend's recommendation, I'm registered with a driving school that is supposed to be very good with anxious drivers, and the staff on the phone seemed really nice. Just what I need, mostly...

Because really nice instructors cause me a whole new kind of anxiety. If they are too nice and too understanding, I may cry.

In an effort to get any panic attacks, hyperventilating, or crying out of the way, Russ and I took his car down to some very quiet streets in the nearby industrial park this afternoon. I got behind the wheel for the first time ever and did a bit of very slow, very stilted driving. Russ was great: patient and encouraging. He gently pushed me so I did try a few more things than I had expected to, like reversing a bit and making a couple of turns. I think I reached a top speed of 20 kilometers an hour.

It was, on the surface, remarkably unremarkable. I didn't hit anything. The few other cars on the road passed me without issue. There were no hysterics, though I got a little teary a couple of times. I don't think Russ even noticed, but it may be that he has become somewhat accustomed to my random nervous crying over the years and wisely ignored my watery eyes.

I should be feeling better about the whole thing, given that it went well, but I'm feeling very unsettled. Up until today, the plan to learn to drive was theoretical. Now it's starting to sink in just how much there is to learn. Giving myself this one little practical experience will give me something to visualize. That's probably a step up from my preparation so far: practicing shoulder-checking while walking down the sidewalk.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
It was with some disappointment that I heard last week that Yann Martel has given up his book project.

I assume that most non-Canadians (and probably a lot of Canadians too) wouldn't heard about this odd little one-sided book club. Yann Martel is a pretty famous Canadian author who wrote Life of Pi*, among other things. In 2007, Yann was in the visitor gallery of the House of Commons to witness the official celebration of fifty years of the Canada Council for the Arts. There was a short speech by the Minister for Canadian Heritage... and that was it. As Yann says: "Fifty years of building Canada's dazzling and varied culture, done with in less than five minutes."

Reportedly, our prime minster, Stephen Harper, did not even look up during this brief speech. His Conservative government treats the arts as optional add-ons to the serious business of life; mere entertainment that should only be funded in the most minimum of ways. Yann was embarrassed to see that the politicians could not manage even a good semblance of caring on the anniversary of the Canada Council.

As a direct result of that day, Yann started What is Stephen Harper Reading?. Every two weeks, he mailed Stephen Harper a book with an inscription. The books are incredibly varied, include poetry, classics from all around the world, Canadian novels, and even kids books (Where the Wild Things Are). I believe almost any reader can probably find one book on the list that they've read, or at least one they'd want to read. Each book came with a letter explaining why he chose it.

He published all these letters on his website, along with all the responses he received. Over almost four years, he (and a few others with him) sent 100 books to Stephen Harper. This elicited exactly seven responses, all from the prime minister's office and none from Stephen himself. On the website, the vast majority of the letters are followed by a sad little "Pending..." in the reply section.

Besides following the website, I also bought Yann's first 55 letters in book format (which he also mailed to the prime minister) and intend to buy the second edition when/if it comes out with the last 45 letters.

I was taken with Yann's project for several reasons. First, I am in favour of arts funding. Second, I am in favour of creative protests. Third, I love reading other people's personal correspondences and diaries, and there are aspects of both in these letters. And, finally, I like reading about books. I will happily read descriptions of books I never intend to read (just as I love movie previews, even for movies I would never watch).

I love the 100th/last letter. It is perfectly artsy, a bit academic, and just a little snarky**. I'm still contemplating his comments about being tired of using books as political bullets and grenades.

I hope he gets a personal response to this last letter. Perhaps I have old fashioned manners, but the lack of a single thank you note from the recipient of all these wonderful gifts offends me. But besides that, I am genuinely curious as to what Stephen Harper would say in response to the final comment Yann makes on this whole project:

We've become slaves to our work and have forgotten that it's in moments of leisure and stillness, when we're free from working with a hoe or at a keyboard, that we can contemplate life and become fully ourselves. We work, work, work, but what mark do we leave, what point do we make? People who are too beholden to work become like erasers: as they move forward, they leave in their wake no trace of themselves. And so that has been the point of my fruitless book-gifting to you: to raise my voice against Canada becoming a nation of erasers.

Yann Martel, should you stumble across this for some reason and feel the need to start mailing books again, I will gladly provide my address and I promise to read every book. Also, I write very nice thank you notes.

* Random side story about either the psychology of readers or the nature of marketing: I saw Yann Martel read at the Writers and Readers Festival. In the discussion after, Yann mentioned people often say of "Life of Pi" that "I know it is highly commercial, but I enjoyed it". This amazes and confuses him because there's no way that novel, with all its symbolism and heavy themes like religion, etc., could possibly be considered to a commercial piece of writing. He considers it something of a bizarre miracle that it became a bestseller. I think there's a bit of something like (warning: TV Tropes link) It's Popular, Now it Sucks going on.

** "One hundred is a nice round number and a good number to end on. (The number of times you personally have written back to me is also a nice round number, by the way: 0. That's zero, naught, nada, zilch.)"

Fridge fun

Feb. 9th, 2011 09:18 pm
dreaminghope: (Giggle)
Russ is putting the rice on to cook for dinner and I'm ranting about my gym.

I interrupt myself: "Toby, Pete, Stephanie?" I point at the names written on the white board we usually use for a grocery list.

"Oh, those are the kids next door; I finally got the other two's names. I put Toby's name on there so I'd remember why the other two names are there. That other guy moved out and Pete replaced him. He has big glasses and like, hair. And Stephanie's the girl... and I'm glad to finally have her name, 'cause I never wanted to say 'hey, I know we've lived next to each other for years, but what's your name?', you know?"

"Now we just need to get the names of the couple on the other side of the garden again. I feel so bad that I keep forgetting."

"I think one of them is Dave. Probably the guy."

"Probably."

Russ starts pulling vegetables out of the fridge for the stirfry. He turns to me holding a paper bag.

"These are mushrooms," he declares with great certainty and authority.

Of course, by that he meant: "I found these delicious mushrooms in the crisper, but before I add them to the stirfry, I feel that I should inquire as to whether or not you have another meal planned for this week that would require these particular fungi."

All I could do was laugh and keep saying "these are mushrooms", "these are mushrooms", "these are mushrooms".

And my gym-related anger was nicely disrupted. But I'm still probably going to change gyms.
dreaminghope: (Default)
Part one is here: About digital reading: eReaders.

Reality checks:

eBooks don't cost less than paper books (yet). Early adopters have been willing to pay full price for digital books (or they've gone with pirated books). However, as more publishers and stores come online and more people buy eReaders, I hope that will change. Also, you can get a lot of special deals and discounts through the email lists for online eBook stores (I seem to get the best offers through Kobo, though they are partially owned by Chapters-Indigo, which isn't my favourite business to support).

Canadians (and other countries) get the short-end of the stick. Not all books are licensed in digital formats in all countries. I find some books aren't available to download in Canada. So far, it hasn't applied to any books I really want, so I haven't attempted any of the ways to hide your location.

Sometimes eBooks aren't well formatted. Sometimes when eBooks are made, a couple of words here and there will get smooshed together (likethis) or there are other minor formatting issues. I did find one annoying problem recently. My copy of Terry Pratchett's Night Watch appears to have all the footnotes at the beginning of the book, one per page for about twelve pages before the story starts. I intend to complain to the publisher about that one.

I've also had a couple of books that don't work right on my reader: the default font size will be too small, but when I increase the size, the page will run off the edge of my screen. So far, it has only happened with library books, and I'm not sure if it is a weakness of eBooks in general, a problem with a certain publisher, or if my less-popular reader brand (the Pandigital Novel) is non-standard in some way.

Romance novels dominate. There's a great argument that porn has driven technological advancement, particularly in VCRs and DVDs and, of course, the Internet. I think in eReaders, romance readers are the early adopters who have driven improvements and growth in the industry. It seems that they are voracious readers who frequently buy books, which makes digital formats perfect for them. Many of the early eBook-only publishers specialize in genres, especially romance. The only problem with this is that eBook libraries are dominated by romance books, digital bookstores offer the best specials on bundles of romance novels, and if you don't read romance, it can be challenging to sort through it all to find other offerings.

Digital libraries aren't infinite. Whenever I tell someone that I'm waiting for an eBook from the public library, their first reaction is to wonder why I have to wait for a digital book. But the library does have to pay for licenses for every digital book, so there aren't infinite copies and only one person can have a copy at once. My local "Library Without Walls" serves all of British Columbia. I am 19 out of 75 on the waiting list for a book with 13 copies.

It isn't the same, but that's not always bad. A lot of people criticize eBooks for not being paper books: you can't touch them the same way, you can't shop for them the same way, you can't own them the same way. But I've discovered new authors because they were available sooner on the digital library or I stumbled across them online. I'm happy not to have paper and resources used in the making and shipping of a physical book that I then have to find a place for in my cluttered bookshelves. I'm also becoming comfortable with the idea of buying something that I can't hold in my hands, like an MP3.

Pro and con lists )

Overall, I would recommend an eReader to anyone who reads a lot, especially if they don't have a lot of space for books.
dreaminghope: (Working Zoey)
When I was a little girl – well, still a little bit little, as I lived in a town without a bookstore when I was really little-little – I used to spend all my allowance money on books. It would take me about six weeks to save up for one Baby-Sitters Club or Fabulous Five book. I was always envious of people carrying bright yellow Coles Books bags. I couldn't imagine anything better than being able to buy as many books as I wanted.

I now have a lot of bookcases layered two or even three books deep. All of the shelves on the Ikea bookcases are bowing under the weight. It has come to the point where I don't want to buy more books (except for ones by certain authors whose work I collect), due to lack of places to put them. At the same time, I still want to support writers and publishers and everyone else who helps makes books happen.

It was a year or two ago that I started exploring the possibility of eReaders. The tipping point was when I decided that I wanted to own all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, but knew that there was nowhere for me to keep 38 books without giving up some of the books I already own, and that's simply not going to happen.

After much research and internal debate, I bought an eReader back in November. It currently contains five novels I purchased (including one Discworld novel – I'm hoping to find a Canadian source for bundles of his books so I don't have to buy each one separately), all 14 of the original Wizard of Oz books (they are in the public domain), and three library books.

I carry my eReader with me in my purse. It weighs about 8 ounces and I always have a book with me. I don't get quite as much reading done in coffee shops and restaurants as I planned, however, because waitresses and people at neighbouring tables are always asking about my device. I really don't mind answering questions, but sometimes I worry that I am babbling too much information at someone who had just a casual interest, so I clam up quickly unless there are follow-up questions.

So, a summary of the stuff I learned about eReaders for anyone who wants to know )

Part two is here: About digital reading: eBooks & eReader pros & cons.

*It is my understanding that there are ways around the proprietary format, but I didn't want to mess with things like that.
dreaminghope: ("I hate everything")
Introduction

A definition of privilege by [livejournal.com profile] kate_nepveu from How to Discuss Race and Racism Without Acting Like a Complete Jerk:

"Privilege" is a term of art that means the automatic, unsought, often-unacknowledged, and unrejectable advantages that accrue to favored groups in society. People may have one kind of privilege while not receiving another. For instance, while I am not white, I am heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied, young-looking, upper-middle-class, and not overweight—all of which give me advantages over people who do not, or are not perceived to, share those characteristics. Again, since privilege is automatic and unsought, having it does not make someone A Bad Person (TM).

"Your privilege is showing" generally means something like, "you have made the unconsidered and erroneous assumption that your advantages are shared by everyone else."

What This Means to Writers

The issue of who can tell a story is huge. What happens when creative license and imagination meets real life people dealing with racism, sexism, ableism, sexualism, and other prejudices? A lot of science fiction authors were confronted with this immense issue during RaceFail 09. I highly recommend looking through some of those links, as I cannot do the topic justice in this space.

The Point of This Today

I stumbled upon a link to While a hostile relative re-writes my life: 'Who is, and is not, my family' by Leslie Feinberg on my LJ "friends of friends" page yesterday. I read it and then thought about it for more than twelve hours.

One of the issues sticking out to me is how Catherine Ryan Hyde is using her estranged family member to bypass the issue of her privilege. By claiming her "transgender sibling", she is claiming a right to the story that would otherwise be challenged. She is claiming to have authority on this topic that she doesn't have.

It appears that the Catherine would have every reason to know that Leslie Feinberg would not want her to tell Leslie's story. Leslie writes that "... [Catherine] argued with me for hours that the story of the Tutsi people in Rwanda is hers to tell. Her statements about the peoples of Rwanda were so racist, so apologetic for colonialism and imperialism, that I informed Hyde at that time that she was no political kin to me." This suggests to me that Catherine knew, or at least could have figured out, how Leslie feels about those in more privileged conditions speaking for "The Other". Also, the two of them were completely estranged: "I restated my request for no further contact from these living biological relatives." There is no indication that Leslie's permission to be used as a marketing tool was ever sought.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is claiming that she is entitled to tell this story, which would be problematic even if she had invented the characters wholesale due to the issue of a cis-gendered author speaking for a transgendered character. But setting aside whether or not she ever should have written this novel, she was definitely not entitled to steal Leslie's right to tell the story by telling it instead, nor was she entitled to use Leslie to claim authority of her own.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
When I tell people about my little cat Zoey (pictured in icon), I always describe her as sweet but not very bright. As Russ says, the light in her eyes is coming in through a hole in the back of her head... there's no brain to speak of. When people ask about what makes her seem so dumb, I tell different stories: the time she got stuck on top of the shower curtain rod, how she gets lost in the hallway and yells for help, how she will eat the houseplants sprayed with bitter orange over and over, shaking her head and sticking out her tongue in disgust after each bite, but always going back for more. However, fall and winter brings me the best silly Zoey story.

Zoey doesn't really understand windows. The first couple of years we had her, we lived in a basement suite. The windows were quite high, the window sills were inaccessible due to bars, and the few windows she could see out of looked out on the house next door, only a meter or two away. When we moved to this house, she was agoraphobic. If you carried her into the living room, which has a giant window overlooking the street, she would panic and scramble over you to jump down and flee. She was fine walking into the living room on her own, so she was obviously reacting to the huge amount of space beyond the window.

She has since overcome her fear and spends a lot of time on the window sill. She gets very excited when leaves fall off the tree outside or when it starts to snow with big fat flakes. Without fail, she will be in someone's lap when she'll see a leaf come down. Her thinking seems to then go as follows:

Moving thing! Get it! Jump! Run! Jump!

~Bonk! Nose first into the glass.~ Huh?

Moving thing! Get it!

~Bonk! Nose first into the glass again.~ Huh?

Moving thing! Look! ~Now realizing that the glass is solid, plants front paws on window to get a better look.~

Moving thing going down! ~Jumps down and stares at wall below window.~ Where is it?

~Jumps back on to window sill.~ Moving thing! ~Jumps down and stares at wall.~ Where did it go?

~Forgets what she was doing and wanders away. Glances back at window.~

Moving thing! Jump!

~Bonk~
dreaminghope: (Flying)
Hobbies can lead you to the strangest places.

I've developed an obsession with wind. When outside, or near a window, I am always watching for indicators of velocity and direction, and watching for rotor, wind shadows, and other likely influences. It's good practice for identifying good flying conditions at launch, but right now it is all about kiting.

Russ and I have taken to criticizing the lack of patriotism in our city, as there are not nearly enough flags around to give us wind indicators. We have built up quite a good collection of links to weather websites and webcams, which leads to a lot of conversations about Jericho's weather station versus the harbour's wind report versus the Vanier Park webcam... we still haven't figured out who is the most reliable.

After much discussion about direction and velocity and which park would be the most likely to have decent conditions, we did throw the wings in the car this afternoon. Unfortunately, when we got to the park, the ground was too wet to do anything on, complete with standing water everywhere. This is the second or third time we've driven the wings around but not been able to do anything, which can be a touch discouraging but will be worth it for the day when we find a field dry enough and a day windy enough (but not too windy, and not from the wrong direction) to kite again.

I'm thinking that'll be in about May.

More para-waiting.
dreaminghope: (Bee Faerie)
Back when I was first considering buying a weaving loom, I took to randomly checking Craig's List. One day I found an ad that was about a week old for a simple loom in my price range and in my area of town. When I emailed her to see if it was still available, I found out that she actually lives only about three blocks away. The loom was still available, and she was home right then if I wanted to come over.

It turns out that my loom-selling neighbour works in fibre arts and has her home and studio in an old church. I'd often passed the church – a humble one-story white stucco building peeking over a bamboo fence – on my walks, but had never been inside. The couple had redone the floors in glowing light wood and had left the main floor as a single bright room with some translucent hanging curtains dividing off areas here and there and small carpets and throw pillows. They had only recently completed their renovations, so there were also boxes everywhere, but that just added to the cool bohemian artist look.

The artist explained that she had been planning on adding handwoven fabrics to her art, so she'd bought the loom and put it all together, but had never gotten around to using it. The loom had been carefully assembled and sanded, and she had books and weaving accessories for me as well.

"Send me a picture of something you make with it," she said as I left.

I walked home with the loom frame on one shoulder and a plastic grocery bag stuffed with everything else in my hand and made my first scarf that afternoon. I forgot to email her a picture, but her studio was open during the next East Side Cultural Crawl and I wore one of my handwoven scarves when I visited.

***

A very elderly Chinese couple owns the house next door to us. Other neighbours have told us that they used to have a beautiful vegetable garden with lots of produce to share around, but a couple of years before we moved in, the wife had a stroke and was no longer able to maintain the yard. By the time we bought our house, their large yard was a jungle. Last year, Russ got bored of just using the little strip of unpaved dirt on our side of the fence and approached the couple's grown son about growing things in their yard. The son spoke to his parents (who speak no English at all) and they agreed to let Russ take over their garden. Russ rented a rotor tiller and spent several days getting the deeply entrenched weeds out and started planning what to grow and where to put it.

The couple doesn't get out much, so Russ really had the space to himself for the most part. One day, he is out doing some light maintenance weeding and checking on the progress of his beans, and he sees the husband sitting on the house's back steps watching him with a curious expression on his face. Russ smiles and waves and worries that the gentleman has forgotten why Russ is there or something hasn't been communicated to him. When the son comes along, Russ asks him if everything's alright. The son chats with his father in Mandarin, then turns back to Russ with a laugh: "He is just wondering why you are doing the gardening, as that is a woman's job."

***

I was walking home from an evening event. There was a man on the other side of the street, standing on the corner, and he called out something to me. It was definitely a question, but I couldn't hear him over the traffic. The light happened to change, so I crossed over to him. He was holding something I took at first to be a cigar, but when I got close enough to hear him ask if I had a light, I could see that it was a candle in his hand.

"I'm sorry; I don't have a lighter."

"Do you live nearby?" he asked, then hastily followed up: "I live just over there. See, I'm Orthodox Jewish and today's the Jewish New Year. We're not allowed to create our own fire today, but we are supposed to celebrate with many candles. Usually we would just light a candle in advance to light our other candles off of, but we all work, so we can’t leave something burning all day. You aren't Jewish, are you?"

"No, I'm not."

"Oh good, because I wouldn't want to cause another Jew to create fire today."

"Well, I think I can help you out. I live right over there, and it looks like my partner's home. He'll have a lighter."

We walked back across the street to my house. He stayed at the bottom of the front porch steps despite my welcoming gesture, so I brought Russ out to him. I just told Russ to bring a lighter and I let our neighbour explain the details.

"Oh, your house had the big electric menorah on the fence last December!" Russ exclaimed, "We loved that!"

"My name's Alexander," the neighbour stuck his hand out and Russ shook it and introduced himself. I chuckled to myself for not introducing myself sooner and stuck out my own hand. Alexander clasped his hands together and nodded to me.

"I'm sorry, but I can't shake your hand. We believe that we shouldn't touch the opposite sex. If you meet my wife, it will be the same: she will shake your hand, but not his. But I will shake Russ' hand for you too." They shook hands a second time as we all chuckled. I clasped my hands behind my back, suddenly concerned that I would feel compelled to touch him, though I am not usually inclined to casually touch strangers.

Russ pulled out his lighter, but before Alexander would light his candle, he checked that Russ isn't Jewish either. As Russ tried to get the candle burning well enough to endure the trip back across the street, Alexander told us about the previous new year: "I found another neighbour out for a walk. He didn't speak English very well, so I had to kind of mime what I needed. I don't think he really understood why I needed his help, but he lit my candle," he shrugged, "It's getting to know the neighbours."

"OK, I think we've got it going here," Russ said, "but if it goes out, just come on back. We'll be up for another hour or two at least."

"Thank you so much!" Alexander shook Russ' hand, gave me a friendly nod and shook Russ' hand again, and then we all returned to our homes. He didn't return that night, so I assume the candle stayed lit for him.
dreaminghope: (Zoey)
The earth doesn't care about new year's. If at midnight, a bird sang sweetly, or a cat stirred in its sleep, or the world seemed to hold its breath for a moment, it was coincidence only. The change in calendar doesn't mean anything to the Mother Nature, but you wouldn't think so in Vancouver today.

The day dawned with the kind of clear blue cold that the rest of Canada often sees in the winter, but that we rarely do. The air's so dry that the mountains look too close and overly real. The ground's frosted and shimmers in the sun. Everything feels clean and fresh and new.

I don't celebrate new year's eve (mostly for reasons summed up by Cracked.com). I boycott by staying home, watching DVDs, cleaning, and going to bed before midnight. I can't resist new year's day, however. I love the symbolic new start and the feeling of optimism as everyone, for a least a day, attempts to let go of bad habits and start to floss, eat better, exercise more, be better.

I drank an eggnog latté, mailed Christmas thank you notes, walked a labyrinth, made bagels, read and ate bagels, walked with Russ through the sunshine, saw a bald eagle perched on a church steeple, watched the first season of "Red Dwarf", and did some writing.

It was a good new day.
dreaminghope: (Confused Zoey)
Today I received an email with the subject line "Perfect Last-Minute Gifts".
dreaminghope: (Corset)
My partner, Russ, talks to people easily, and people like him. He flirts almost without meaning to in a way that is flattering without being creepy. I've teased my friends that if they are ever worried about their partner's ability to be faithful, they should always send them out with Russ: he has blocked many a single male friend from getting a phone number by accidentally out-charming them.

Russ also loves to talk up things he loves, which means that he is often selling his latest hobby or gadget to his friends and family. This and his charm makes him the perfect salesperson for Felix and Kitty, who make and sell corsets.

This weekend, Russ is in Calgary at the Taboo Show, lacing ladies into corsets and fitting gentlemen with tail coats. He packed on Thursday night: knee-high boots, vest, silk shirt, toothbrush, book, etc. As he was getting ready, I caught him trying a couple of his Celtic rings on the ring finger of his left hand. I raised an eyebrow.

"It's just easier..." he mumbled, turning a little pink when I grinned at him.

I hear some people worry that their partner will remove their wedding ring when they're out of town and try to pick someone else up. My partner wears a fake wedding ring in case he accidentally picks someone up.

Damn good thing, as he is really sexy in his black silk shirt and silver tail coat.
dreaminghope: (Baby DreamHope)
My nephew is going to be 18 months old at Christmas time, and I've already started shopping for presents. If I'm being honest, I must admit that I've already bought too many gifts, many of them too old for him. I'm collecting future gifts in boxes in the basement and I'm starting to fill shelves and a space under the bed with toys and books to share with young guests. I've already bought the entire Bunnicula series - good for eight-year-olds.

I'm buying things now because it is a good excuse to shop for toys, but also because I worry that good toys might disappear and good books might go out of print. I remember that there was a time when all the Lego available seemed to be simplistic kits: make a spaceship by clicking three pieces together; nothing else could be made of those pieces because they only fit together the one way. Now, good Lego - big boxes of loose pieces in primary colours that can be made into anything - seems to be back in style, and I want to buy a couple of pounds of it while I can. It looks like kids can start using Lego as young as three years old, so it isn't too early, really. Besides, Russ and I can play with it in the meantime... to make sure it works properly, of course.
dreaminghope: (Flying)
Dear fellow adults,

It is OK to admit you don't know something. It is even acceptable to say "I don't know" to kids.

Russ, Craig, and I take our wings to Vanier Park on sunny days to practice ground handling. It helps with launching, with recovering from problems in the air, and with flying in general. We are quite the sight in our harnesses and helmets and gloves with our big 'gliders spread out. A lot of Vancouver paragliders use this park, so the regular joggers and dog walkers are pretty much used to seeing us, but a lot of tourists and occasional visitors are seeing this kind of kiting for the first time and we get some attention. We're in a lot of strangers' vacation pictures.



(There's a longer video of Russ kiting on the same day as the video above here.)

We don't mind answering questions. If we notice someone lingering, we will often greet them and give them the opportunity to ask us what we're doing. Russ carries our teacher's business cards for people who want to know more.

My pet peeve is hearing people tell each other what we're doing when they are wrong. It is especially annoying to hear parents telling their children with great authority that we're parasailers, that we're going to fly away, that our harnesses are filled with rocks to keep us from flying away, or whatever else they've decided is true. I'm sure it must be wearying to always be answering "what's that?", "why is that?", "what are they doing?", but I notice the missed opportunities to say "I don't know, but maybe we can find out together."

I don't correct overheard errors; I just grumble to myself and get on with what I'm doing. I do love when kids watch us, though. They get the magic of what we're doing: the wonderful sound the wing makes as it snaps open and rushes up into the wind, the beauty of the wing hanging overhead. The other day, a whole group of kids were watching and every time a wing went up they went "oooo..." and every time we dropped it back down they went "oh!". Since I'm still in the beginner's stages, they ended up saying "oooo – oh! Oooo – oh!" in a cheerful chorus. One of the kids, who was maybe nine years old, wanted to try, convinced that he could do it – no problem – and his mom helped me explain to him that my wing is too big for him and would carry him away and that he'd need a helmet and gloves too – "safety first!" (Kids roll their eyes at that even at only nine, as they are, of course, invincible.)

We've been getting out to practice as often as possible, given that we're entering the rainy season in Vancouver. Last Saturday and Sunday, we went to a new park Russ found. It has good wind off the ocean and is a less busy park, so we didn't have to compete for space with other paragliders and with regular kite-flyers and with the kite trike people. I managed to keep my wing up for at least a whole minute at a time while still reversed, which was a new record for me. I'm eager to get out again as soon as possible and hope to take the next step towards keeping the wing up as long as I want to, but the weather isn't always cooperative.

In the meantime, I'm practicing my para-waiting.

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dreaminghope

February 2014

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