What’s in the bag?

One of the sexist stereotypes about women is that their purses contain everything short of the kitchen sink. I can’t support that. I’ve known women who walk out of their home without anymore more than their keys and their debit card. I’ve also known women who can’t conceive of leaving their houses without a sack big enough to carry a corgi full of random stuff.

And then there’s my backpack.

I often feel self conscious about bringing my backpack with me everywhere I go because a) I know so many people who don’t need to bring half their household items with them when they go out and b) I grew up with the above sexist attitude surrounding me and constantly worried how men would judge me.

I’m slightly less concerned with point “b” these days, but it still colors my self doubt. But one thing is certain: Any time I leave home without my backpack I end up wishing I had it with me. As inconvenient and slightly embarrassing as it’s presence can be, it does hold a lot of useful things.

This whole thing was sparked by a simple question I saw somewhere in my social media stream: what do you have in your backpack?
In mine I currently have:

  • Two notebooks. One is nearly full and I hate running out of paper in mid sentence. Once I switch over to the new notebook I’ll file the filled one away on my bookshelf.
  • My tablet. I use this primarily to read books. It doesn’t have a data plan and only works through wifi. Its case folds into a stand that allows me to read while eating. I was always warned that if I ate while eating I would always want to eat while reading. I’ve found the opposite to be true. If I’m eating alone it’s impossible for me to eat without something to read.
  • One large-ish cotton napkin, tucked into the bottom. It serves as backup for the handkerchief I keep in my pocket. It also serves as backup napkin. Mostly, however, I’ve kept one in the bottom of my backpack to absorb any accidental spills I have in there. It has served me well in the past to protect my tablet and my notebook(s).
  • Spare keys. My backpack has a key ring attached to the inside of one of the pockets. It detaches with one of those ubiquitous backpack clips. It also means I always have an extra set of house keys available. I’ve kept it in my backpack ever since that one day I actually managed to lose a set of keys somewhere between work and home. A friend had to drive in from out of town to let me into my home. Now I have the spare set and a friend within walking distance with another extra set.
  • Flashlight. This has helped me effect motorcycle and car repairs in the middle of the night. It also allows me to walk down my back alley at night without tripping in the many, MANY pot holes we have back there. I have no idea why our alley is unlit, but it’s like a post apocalyptic landscape back there.
  • My multi-tool. I have a Leatherman that folds out into a large pair of pliers, among a dozen or so other tools. It has served me really well for years. I should get a replacement, though, as a couple of the tools are damaged or missing. But I’ve used it so often I always keep it with me. It was particularly handy when I worked in shipping.
  • Assorted pens. Mostly bic. I try to keep one good pen in my shirt pocket at all time, but I sometimes forget. Or sometimes that pen will run dry. Or go missing. So I keep a handful of backups in the backpack.
  • Pencil, eraser, and sharpener. This is for gaming. You do a lot of erasing and re-writing in gaming.
  • My glass case with my glasses. Ever since I lost my most treasured pair of glasses out of my coat pocket I have become much more mindful of keeping my current set in something less open. Man I miss those glasses. The frames were such a perfect fit, and I wore them for so long, that my temples gradually wore away the enamel on the inside of the arms.
  • Small pack of “get out of hell” cards. I give them out to people who’re having a bad day. Sometimes I’ll leave them in random locations for people to find.
  • One pencil case that does not contain any pens or pencils. Instead it contains a number of small, useful items that would get lost in the backpack if I didn’t keep them in the pencil case. In it I have:
    • Antihistamines and Dristan. I’m allergic to, well, life in general. These keep me breathing.
    • Assorted bandaids. I’m clumsy.
    • Eyeglass cleaning fluid
    • Lip balm

Other things I might have depending on my mood:

  • Pipe, tobacco, lighter, and cleaning implements
  • Thermos of water
  • A random selection of food
  • Dice
  • Laptop and various attachments

I’m hard on my backpacks. The one I currently have is only about three years old and the straps are starting to come detached at the shoulder. I’ll probably have to invest in another one soon.

So, yeah… if it’s a given stereotype that women keep massive bags full of stuff on their person, then I guess I’m just one of the girls. Otherwise I’m a nerd turtle who keeps half his house on his back in case he needs it.

Too much of a good thing?

TV exec on Arrow: “Y’know what, kids really like this archery thing. Let’s add more archers to the show.”
 
TV exec on Flash: “Y’know what, kids really like this speedster thing. Lets add more speedsters to the show.”
 
TV exec on Supergirl: “Y’know what, kids really like this Super thing. Let’s add more Supers to the show.”
 
Can someone please fire this guy already?

Godzilla as it was meant to be: rubbery

Went to a movie tonight. Since I was already planning on heading to the theater I decided to make a night of it and treat myself. Eau Claire has a somewhat limited food court, but it does include a Taco Time. Every once in a while I get a craving for a good meat and bean burrito and Taco Time can satisfy. Besides, their Tater Tots are crack with hot sauce.

Sadly, even though I got there before six, Taco Time was already closed. I wound up settling for, and being immensely disappointed by, some Chinese food. It was barely sauced jerky with rice so old and dry it had returned to it’s original crunchy form. As I gagged my way through my meal I noted some others in the food court area.

It wasn’t hard to pick out the Godzilla crowd. Most of us don’t come out into the open air much. Luckily the film was timed such that the sun was already down. As I moved on to the theater the density of the geek intensified. It’s been a long time since I’d immersed myself that deep in the geek.

I got my ticket and popcorn and picked a seat somewhere near the middle towards the back. As I waited for others to arrive a couple of fellows sat down behind me, evidently winded from the long climb up the inactive escalator. Honestly, why have an escalator in a mall if you’re just going to shut it off?

It quickly became apparent as the fellows wheezed and bellowed behind me that at least one of them had some seriously horrible breath. I don’t know what he’s suffering from, whether it be half a mouthful of rotting teeth or a literal Hellmouth opening in his esophagus, but it put me off my popcorn for most of the evening.

Luckily for me when James arrived he picked his own seat and texted his location. I used that as a convenient excuse to retreat from the noxious green cloud.

The movie… the movie was, as James pointed out, about 90% bureaucracy and 10% rubber suit guy kicking chunks of a fairly decently modeled Tokyo around. Some of the light effects were impressive, but not much different from special effects of the seventies.

The movie was bad in a way that made me wish we were watching it in someone’s living room where sarcastic comments would have been welcome.

The particular quirk of this Godzilla movie was the discovery that it evolved and mutated on the spot. It went through four different iterations before settling on it’s final form.

It's first form doesn't have forelegs and it just shoves it's way around the floor.

It’s first form doesn’t have forelegs and it just shoves it’s way around the floor.

The first form reminded me of a cat caught in a sandal, but scales and an expressionless fish head.

Other noteworthy rules of the movie:
1) In Japan it’s important to weigh your future political aspirations while making decisions about a giant monster laying waste to your city. You don’t want to close off future avenues of advancement.
2) American daughters, particularly those born in Japan and raised in the US, have almost incomprehensible accents, bad enough that I was thankful for the subtitles during the English speaking parts as well.
3) If you REALLY want to blow something up, call an American. Then complain bitterly when those same Americans insist that the next stage from aerial bombardment is, clearly, the largest nuclear weapon they can get ready in 24 hours.

Leaving the theater I realized I had downed all my drink but ate less than a third of my popcorn. It’s official. I’m old. There was a time, not long ago, where I ran the risk of finishing my popcorn off before the opening credits were done.

Riding to sleep

I took a long ride tonight. I’ve been wanting to take the bike out for a ride for a very long time. I never have any real reason for riding it and never have the money to indulge in any real travel. But today I hit a wall and I needed to get out.

I first rode to Chinook. Why? Because it gave me a single, simple goal and allowed me to use a couple of “fast” roads to take the bike up to speed. I parked at the very top of the parking cluster and stopped in at the food court. Treating myself to a cheap meal I relaxed and finished a book I’d been reading. “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline. It’s a fascinating little book juxtaposing the life of an orphan in the 1930s with the life of an orphan in the aughts. Vivian was orphaned in New York in 1929 and bounced between a few homes of increasing misery before lucking out with a couple who owned a general goods store. Molly is orphaned in the 2000s and bounces from foster home to foster home before encountering Vivian.

It says something about me that, in the last few pages of the book, as the storyline becomes more and more positive, I kept waiting for the Bad News Hammer to fall. But everything ended up okay, families were reunited, and everything was a super duper happy ending.

I'm sorry everything worked out so well.

I’m sorry everything worked out so well.

Which kind of disappointed me, and cheapened the struggles. Everything up until that point had been painfully realistic, with loss and achievement fairly evenly matched. When things went truly horrid I had the sense that the characters would seize on a chance that would turn their fortunes around, and they did. And when things were going smooth and easy I expected the characters to hit some other terrible snag, someone might die or a home would be lost, and they would have to persevere. And they did.

But the super happy fun time ending kind of… fizzled the whole experience. It was just the kind of thing where I expect some producer was sitting off to one side and said “can we guarantee a happy ending?” lest the funding run out.

Other than the ending the book is very well written and thoroughly researched. I strongly recommend it, particularly if you’re looking for something with a Disney ending.

Having finished my book I returned to my bike and suited up for a full speed run. I quickly decided to make a long trip home. The sun was down and the twilight was just perfect. I took Glenmore to Deerfoot to Stoney to Crowchild. The whole ride home took me about 45 minutes and made me realize that, were I to suddenly be rich, I would need to ease myself back into long distance riding. My ass was decidedly sore by the end of it and my thigh muscles were shaky.

Still, if I were to be suddenly rich I could also afford some riding pegs and a better seat. Both problems solved.

The ride was good for my soul. The wind howling past my helmet and the thrum of the engine between my legs. The smell of the wild grass beside the road, and the firm grip of the tires through each turn. All of it was exactly what I needed.

Venus HumAnd now, having had very poor sleep for the past two or three days (I’m honestly not sure how long it’s been) I feel I might actually be able to sleep by midnight tonight. I’m tempted to go to bed now, but I fear that would turn into just an hour nap and I’d be wide awake at midnight.

I’m going to put a few minutes into playing Halo instead. The original game is so familiar it’s practically like playing solitaire. In the meantime I’ve found Venus Hum’s last album and have been absorbing it as I write. So pretty.

3 hours of stalking while I can’t sleep

I find myself unable to sleep again tonight, consumed by fear and doubt, convinced of my imminent demise. Far too upset to sleep I got dressed (in yesterday’s clothes, no point in dirtying another set) and turned to the internet and Radio Paradise.

Radio Paradise is, more often than not, an excellent choice when I’m upset. It seems to know just exactly when I’m at my worst and hits me with a surprise favorite that perks me up. This morning it was Blue Man Group’s “I Feel Love” featuring Venus Hum. The song has many detractors in the Radio Paradise community. You can rate the tunes and comment on them, and they have a graph displaying the distribution of all the ratings from one to ten. “I Feel Love” (featuring Venus Hum) is rated at a 6.7 despite my sincere “9” rating. The distribution shows a lot of ones and twos and threes. There are people out there who clearly dislike the tune.

But I love it. Headphones are best, as with all my favorite tunes. And with all my favorite tunes the music takes me to a place of daydreams.

Tonight I had the urge to share the tune, even though I knew there’d be a lot of my own friends who simply wouldn’t “get it”. That’s the way it is with all my favorite tunes. They’re my favorites for reasons that don’t work for other people.

Digging through Youtube I found a recording of their live performance. I also found an official video, but for once the live version was better. I posted it and then proceeded to trip down the rabbit hole. I had no idea that “Venus Hum” was a band name, I’d always assumed it was the singer’s name. Youtube had a couple of suggestions for Venus Hum and I checked them out. Good music, and I wanted more.

I was cautious in my search, however. I know the “Feel Love” tune is old, I’ve had it for many years myself, and the video date was some time back in 2006. Doing a search on the band I found they’d formed in 1999. Typical. So much of my favorite stuff comes from the nineties and aughts. The wikipedia entry didn’t mention anything about the band, but it did say their last album release was in 2009. That depressed me a bit. Any band that hasn’t published something in over five years is generally defunct by default.

Then I let myself explore a bit of obsession with their singer, Anette Strean. In the BMG video she did not look anything like my imagination, but watching her on stage, and in Venus Hum’s other videos, I found her face incredibly familiar, and very appealing.

Something about the lips and the smile... and the glasses.

Something about the lips and the smile… and the glasses.

I cannot for the life of me figure out where I’ve seen her face before, but I swear I have. Not Anette Strean’s actual face, because I’ve never met her, but someone. My brain kept skipping on a loop of “she looks almost exactly like…” with that aching lack of conclusion. There was a strong connection somewhere up in my synapses but they refused to resolve in any one person.

Perhaps it’s connecting to some dream amalgam. My dreams, the good ones at least, present me with favorable people who, upon waking dissection, turn out to be an amalgam of multiple people. The women in my dreams especially, combining all the best qualities of my past friends, family, and lovers. Any adversaries in my dreams rarely need more than one person to create a suitable villain, but the nice ones are always very complex.

The face Annette presents has a feel like that, along with an old “high school crush” kind of attachment. So it’s quite possible the person she reminds me of is just someone I’ve forgotten, but it feels like it’s someone I would never forget.

With the obsession of a newborn stalker I did some searches on her. The Venus Hum website looks like it hasn’t updated since the release of their last album in 2009. I was briefly excited to discover she had a twitter account but was then crushed that she hadn’t posted since 2010. I regained the excitement when I found her facebook page. The latest update was from May but at least it was from this year. Reading her last post I find that she’s talking about how May is Mental Awareness Month and she talks a bit about her struggles with Bipolar disorder. She talks about how the diagnosis was both freeing and crushing. Crushing because it labeled her as broken (my paraphrasing) and freeing because at least she now had a point from which she could work and move forward.

I read of her struggles and looked at the photos she has of her family, her husband, and her daughter. I confess to feeling a bit uncomfortable seeing so much of her life without actually knowing her, but I reassured myself a bit with the knowledge that her facebook account was a personal one and what I was seeing was the few bits she made public. Which made me feel good because a surprisingly big part of me wanted to believe she was still posting tons of updates to her friends and family. I wanted to know she was still … existing.

And I’d really like to remember whom it is she reminds me so strongly of. Because it feels like that person might be important. Really important.

But that could just be my imagination building up a connection that isn’t even there. I’m feeling crazy enough as it is these days.

Be well, Annette Strean. I sincerely hope you’re going to make more music and I would love to hear it some day. Please continue to exist out there in the real world.