Strictly Ink Is Strictly Awesome

eBay is a dangerous place, denizens. A wonderful, dangerous place. It feeds my need for collectibles. It never judges me for my nerdy passions. It remembers what I like most and makes awesome recommendations based on what makes me squee.

It also introduces me to things that I never knew existed, and in doing so, makes me wonder how I ever lived without them.

Okay, that’s an infamous Loba HyperboleTM. However, eBay did show me a new dimension to trading cards to which I was previously clueless. It’s been a while since I dabbled in this particular collector subgenre, so imagine my delight to discover “sketch cards.”

Maybe it’s because the concept of trading cards has become a bit quaint and silly (yes, I’m fully aware that “normies” would argue that they have always been silly). Whatever the reason, I have noticed a few snazzy concepts that have been introduced to genre card series that have helped keep these as viable collectibles. The two standouts that I already knew about were limited edition autograph cards and costume cards, which contain pieces of fabric cut from costumes worn in genre shows like Star Trek, Xena, et al.

These are both creative concepts, even if they didn’t really reach me on any particular level. I’m a bit old for autograph collecting (unless it’s Keith Birdsong…or the autograph accompanies latex body parts), and the only costume prop I actively lust after is a Dr. Crusher lab coat. And I don’t want a scrap from it. I want the whole enchilada.

The sketch card concept that I just learned about, however, is one that I think is utterly brilliant. The trading card companies design a shell template that identifies the card as being part of a particular set, but they leave the bulk of the front side nothing but white space. They then disseminate copies of this shell to various genre-related artists and pretty much say, “Show us what you can do in this space that’s somehow related to our [show, cartoon, comic book, etc.].”

What you end up with is a pint-sized original drawing that gives a unique take, not only on the trading card concept but also on a genre favorite. Like this card, part of Strictly Ink’s CSI sketch card series:

Loba's protective pawprints of approval added for effect...

This sketch card of Sara Sidle was done by artist Rowena Pagarigan. I love everything about this card: the still visible pencil guide marks; the rough, cartoonish coloring; the random details like the surfer-esque beaded necklace and the pensive eyebrow arch. It’s quirky and one-of-a-kind. Just like Sara Sidle 😀

Does this mean that I’m going to start collecting trading cards again? Nah. But do I think this is a wonderful idea? Absolutely.

Now if you’ll excuse me…I still have some lunch time left. I’m going to go stare at my sketch card a little more…

Bajoran Down!

As some of you might have heard, we had a bit of a rumble in our area today. Okay, so not so much a “bit.” It was enough that my work building jiggled like a Jell-O mold for the better part of a minute. Fun for Jell-O. Not so fun for brick, steel, and glass, I can assure you. To be on the safe side, building maintenance evacuated us to the streets, where we stood about like disconnected drones for 20 minutes, holding our cell phones skyward, as though bringing our gizmo gods that much closer to their mother signal would somehow miraculously make them work. Then we went back in and carried on with our day.

No harm, no foul.

Until I got home. And found the body.

Poor Colonel Kira. Apparently, things rattled enough in our house that she took a tumble from my action figure shelf, her weapon nearly lost to the detritus of the shredder basket. I have to admit, I had a bit of a CSI moment when I pulled out my digital camera and started to “photo-document the scene.” I felt like I needed those numbered evidence markers to lay out, or at the very least some latex gloves.

And then there was Xena…

Rather than flipping over the edge and following Kira, she slipped backward…into Captain Picard’s crotch. While Dr. Crusher watched. Not the wisest decision made by the Warrior Princess, to be sure. She does, however, have many skills. Perhaps eluding a territorial CMO with a hypo full of poison is one them. Or maybe she’s convinced Batwoman to have her back. I doubt Ro would come to her rescue; she looks quite apathetic to the whole thing.

And there you go. Obviously, all is once more stable in the lair (or as stable as possible for me). I’m geeking as normal. Maybe even hyper-geeking: I would like to point out that in one short post, I have mentioned Trek, CSI, Xena, and Batwoman. All I need to do is point out that you can see Wonder Woman’s shield in the corner of the Xena pic and Starbuck’s flight helmet near Xena’s feet and I’m set with most of my major fandoms.

Xena’s not the only one with many skills…

Twelve Acres

There’s a short story, written by Leo Tolstoy, that poses the question, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” It’s a wonderful bit of writing, and one that I reference often in response to the troubling cupidity of the human race.

I must say that visiting Alcatraz during my trip to San Francisco last year caused me to re-examine my feelings toward this question. How much land does a man need? I suppose 12 acres is satisfactory in certain contexts. When it’s all you’re allowed while society revels in an unbounded existence right before your eyes, but so frustratingly out of reach? Twelve acres might as well be 12 inches.

This fact hit me the moment I stepped onto “The Rock” and turned to watch the boat that had brought us begin to pull away from the dock. For the duration of my visit, there was no way off this island beyond the one that was slowly moving back across the mile-and-a-half chasm of frigid water that separates Alcatraz from the main land. True, the boat returned on a regular schedule and, unlike the former “residents” of the island, I was free to leave during any passenger transfer I wished.

Still, while you’re there, you can’t help but feel the claustrophobic whisper of captivity taunting you. You feel its oppressive presence all throughout the decay and atrophy that time is inflicting upon the remaining prison structures. And when you stand atop the highest spot on the island and look across at the City by the Bay, its precipitously sloping streets teeming with the bustle of a life denied you? I am about as anti-social as is acceptable to “normal” society, but even I would be driven to the brink of sanity by such isolation.

Maximum security. Minimum privilege.

These thoughts do not mean that I have in any way forgotten that the the men who walked The Rock found their way there through felonious deeds. And, really, the only thing that differentiates Alcatraz from federal penitentiaries in operation today is that it was located on an isolated island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. I daresay, though, that if you found yourself stranded on this island for an extended length of time, watching life move on without you, feeling the damp chill of that capricious Frisco fog rolling into every corner, between every bone…I kind of think that “cruel and unusual” would take on a whole new meaning in a very short stretch of time.

Alcatraz "Library"
Loba reflects on life in a cell...
Last Meal: The final breakfast served before Alcatraz closed its doors

This final photo, of the Alcatraz lighthouse, is one of my favorites because it invokes this image in my mind:

This is the logo currently in use by the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy for Alcatraz materials and merchandise. It’s a beautiful, striking bit of illustration by Michael Schwab, who has done quite a few other, equally gorgeous illustrations for other California landmarks. You can see more of his works at the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy online store.

Harmonic Mnemonics

There’s something so mnemonic about the sounds of a summer evening. Walk outside and the air is filled with the thrum and buzz of summer cicadas and suddenly you’re a kid again, running through the sprinkler that your dad usually set up to water the tomato plants (but not on this evening), or grabbing your bike and pedaling up the road as fast as you can after the ice cream truck because the day can’t end without brain freeze from a rocket pop or a tooth-cracking attempt to bite off Buffalo Bill’s icy bubble gum nose.

For me, the sound immediately triggers memories of our annual family trips south to visit my grandparents. Even when I was too young to understand things like the soon-to-be transience of “summer vacation,” I understood that when I heard those big, loud buzzing bugs, we’d be leaving soon. My mom would spend the night before packing all our suitcases while my dad finished his work week on the evening shift. I remember the flurry of activity as she would finish the laundry and sort all our clothes and toiletries for the 2 weeks we would be gone. She’d pack snacks for the 8-hour drive that awaited us the next morning and pile the luggage and the cooler next to the door so that my dad could easily carry everything outside to pack the car.

It’s so strange that I remember all this so well…then again, it was rote for so many years. Life was never simple, but it was less complicated then, at least through the filter of my child’s eyes. There were certain things upon which I could always depend. The fact that my mom would remember to pack my favorite Mickey Mouse shirt and remind me to bring my Snoopy and my pillow for the long drive. That, no matter how much she packed, my dad would always find space for it and us in the Chevette. That, even if I fell asleep, my parents would make sure I was awake to smell the tobacco-tinged air and see the giant cigarette that stood outside the Phillip Morris plant in the heart of Richmond—markers that helped me identify how far into our drive we’d gotten and how much further we had to go.

My parents always tried to arrange our vacations so that we were at my grandparents’ house for 4th of July celebrations. Fireworks might not have been legal in their Carolina, but they were only 20 minutes away from the Carolina where fireworks were sold everywhere, be it from the roadside stand on the way to Myrtle Beach or the back of Roscoe’s truck (surely, there were many Roscoes along the way back then, right?). And back then, leniency was simply a way of life for the folks of that neck of the woods.

We’d slip over the border and load up on sparklers, bottle rockets, firecrackers (Black Cats, right, Janet?), Roman candles, ground spinners, color wheels, jumping jacks, crazy little novelty fireworks in the shape of tanks or cars—I remember one year, we found this strange little novelty with the cardboard shape of a hen on a nest sitting atop a fuse. Of course, we had to buy it, just to see what it did. That night, we went out to the dark and dusty dirt road that led to my grandparents’ house, plopped the little cardboard hen down and struck a match to her fuse. The spark and sizzle slipped quickly upward, igniting whatever was inside and suddenly the hen was shooting little balls of colored fire out of her backside!

It’s like second nature for me to fall into memories like these the minute I hear that ubiquitous cicada song every summer. I can’t help it. I’m suddenly that shy little freckle-faced kid again, watching one of my flip-flops float away on the tide after a particularly high wave swept it off my foot as my parents and I sat on my grandparents’ dock…desperately trying to eat all my Mickey Mouse ice cream before it dribbled down my forearms…taking rides in my grandfather’s motor boat all through the winding tributaries and waterways…going to the nearby zoo to see the animals, only to have the elephant sneeze all over me and my uncle’s wife…all of it floods over me in this bittersweet mélange that fills me with longing for what is no more yet joy for all that once was, and that lives on in me.

When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.

I hope you are enjoying every second of this summer, my beautiful denizens. Make memories and hold on tightly. Oh, and don’t forget the brain freeze…

Super Weekend

Hey there, denizens! Miss me? Or did you even notice that the White Wolf had wandered away? It’s okay either way. Loba comes and goes so quickly here anymore that it’s not your fault if you didn’t notice my absence.

For those who did notice that the lair was a tad bit emptier than normal, the reason is because I ventured forth into the sunshine for a mini beach vacation. Of course, such a vacation is deemed successful for me not if I come back with a tan, but rather if I come back un-burned.

This was a successful trip. True, I’m slightly pinker than I was before and, yes, there are more freckles. However, no lobster coloring to match my red hair. I have learned well the lessons of Burn-Fu. I am the Pale Ninja.

Yeah.

Otherwise, we spent lots of time wandering the boardwalk in search of tasty junk foods and kitschy trinkets and lots more time chillaxing under an umbrella on the beach, listening to the waves and dozing in between book chapters (okay, maybe that was just me). All said, it was a wonderful albeit brief vacation.

Now I’m back at my work desk, Googling desperately for my motivation. Haven’t found it yet, but I know it’s out there. In the mean time, I’m totally digging eating my morning oatmeal out of the mug that I bought myself during one of our kitsch-seeking excursions:

Yeah, her shoulder looks a tad bit odd…and she looks a little bit like Liv Tyler in this drawing…but really? Could I pass up a Wonder Woman mug? I think not. Especially since it was the last one in stock. I took it as a positive sign that there was only one Wonder Woman left while there were several Superman and Batman mugs left on the same shelf. We all know Diana’s way cooler than Clark and Bruce.

And, just because I feel like it and kinda liked this pose, here’s another pic from my “Bat(woman) in the Hat” photo session. Only thing I did to this one is crop it down from full size. Enjoy!

And So It Goes…

I had to eject the lair’s computer core two weekends ago. Things had been getting a little tetchy with the system for a while…little glitches and garbles here and there that were only mildly irritating at times, but seemingly not signs of imminent system-wide failure. Then, one day, it just started to shut itself down during boot-up. Did it once, then followed through with full system boot. Next day, shut itself down five times in a row before finally booting fully. Next day? Next day was almost enough to inspire the unleashing of that fabled “red-headed temper” that I constantly struggle to contain (if I were a mutant, that would be my secret super power). However, I was able to trick it into getting past the glitch moment that heralded the impending mystery shutdown. I’m not fully versed in the intricacies of hardware manipulation, but I know enough to get by in instances like this.

I ran a backup of all files to my external hard drive, removed programs that I would want to switch to a new system, hopped on over to Tiger Direct and began sorting through their custom builts (all the while, contending with the fact that the old system was now starting to shut itself down randomly while running). The system I ended up picking out is a nice, solid little gaming system with a quad-core AMD Athlon II processor, a sweet ATI Radeon 1GB graphics card, 4GB DDR3 SDRAM, DVD-RW, and a 500GB hard drive. Plus, with two red-trimmed fans and blue, yellow, and green interior LEDs, it looks like a mini-rave when the room lights are off. Check it:

Could I have taken my old system to someone and had them check it out? Definitely. Could it have been an easy fix? Possibly. However, my former system was an amalgamation of parts, some only 2 years old but some more than 6 years old. It was the amalgamation of the two systems during an upgrade that I think might have caused some of the glitches. However, I held onto the old system because…well, it was the last system that my uncle built for me.

I’ve talked about my anthropomorphic ways before in regard to my old computer. Did it upset me that the last computer he built me began to fail? Absolutely. But then I started to think about it from his perspective. My uncle loved building computers. He loved keeping up with the rapid pace of technology’s evolution. What would he have said if he’d known I was still holding onto a system that was rapidly being outpaced by what was available now? He would have laughed and told me to keep up. Time to move on…there’s bigger and better to be found out there.

So I found it. No, it’s not the fanciest or the fastest system I could have gotten. However, my computing needs aren’t quite what they used to be, especially since most of my gaming now takes place on my XBox and PS2 systems. But this new machine is solid, swift and sleek, and I can’t help but think that even my uncle would call it a great little machine. And, in a way, he still had something to do with setting me up with it. Amongst all the other things he taught me about computers, he showed me Tiger Direct, which has been my computer go-to spot for a while now.

So there it is. The lair is now outfitted with a new computer core. I spent time this weekend getting it set up with peripherals and software. All systems are go. Next? Time to give Sims 3 another try…

My Colors Are Blush and Bashful!

Okay, I could say that I was sorry for quoting from probably the girliest movie I will ever willingly admit to liking. But I’m not going to. Besides, I know at least one person is laughing at the title of this blog entry, and that’s enough for me.

So I’ve been working on this template for a while. I confess, I didn’t build it from scratch. I don’t have that much free time. However, I was so pleased by the basic concept of the original theme that I knew I wanted to take it and make it my own.

I’m pretty pleased overall. There are a few things that I think I’m going to change, but they’ll more than likely be minor. I just really dig the clean, crisp nature of this new layout. I do a lot of design work that, while being lovely in its own bold and brash way, is far from the rather minimalist design concepts that I’ve taken to preferring lately.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new look of the lair. And, yes, in case you were wondering, I did “borrow” the color scheme from the image in my last entry. I’d been toying around with different color schemes for an embarrassingly long time. When I saw the color elements of this particular design, I knew I’d finally found the right colors. Plus, the primary color is teal. And we all know who wore teal, right?

Yep. The look might be new, but the geekery is par for the course. Geek on, denizens.

Holding Court

Indulge me in a moment, will you, denizens?

(As if you don’t do that all the time already…)

So you remember on Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Captain Picard would get up from his command chair and walk toward the viewscreen when he was confronting the person with whom he was exchanging terse Federation-sanctioned “don’t make me kick your alien ass across this quadrant” words? He’d usually come to a stop somewhere in between the command center and the Ops and Conn positions and, if a show of might was necessary, he’d turn around and look up to Lieutenant Worf, right? Right.

Imagine, in this scenario that I was Captain Picard and the Court Yard Hounds were Worf. A much more attractive, better-coifed, far less addicted to prune juice version, of course. That’s how close I was to Emily and Martie last night.

Wait for it…wait…

SQUEE!!!!

I don’t get giddy girl apoplectic over music that often anymore. In fact, there’s only a handful of musicians I like enough to want to actually see live. The Dixie Chicks have always been very high on that list. I know, I said once upon a time that I was through with country music. But the Dixie Chicks are just…the Dixie Chicks. Somehow, they succeeded in transcending the jingoistic hurdle that country music became for me. They’re passionate, opinionated, and talented. Plus, they’re just so darned cute.

But this isn’t a post about the Dixie Chicks! It’s about releasing the Hounds last night. Actually, I’ve talked about the Court Yard Hounds before. Apparently, Natalie Maines still isn’t ready to return to the Chicks, so sisters Emily and Martie continue to make a go of it on their own. Last night, they rolled into town and took over the 6th and I Synagogue. Yep, that’s right: Bluegrass on a Bimah. You really haven’t lived until you’ve experienced such an event.

After listening to their debut CD many times and seeing them live twice now, I have to say I really do love the Court Yard Hounds. They give off a progressive adult vibe that’s flavored generously with country spice and bluegrass zing. Emily’s voice is surprisingly strong and (to me, at least) sounds almost identical to Sheryl Crow at times. That’s never a bad comparison, in my book. Last night, we also were treated to hearing Martie take the lead on a few songs. Here’s photo proof of that:

Martie has an equally lovely voice, but she didn’t seem as comfortable with taking the vocal lead as Emily does. However, when you can play the fiddle like she can, you’re okay without singing. More than okay. In fact, one of my favorite shots from last night is this one of Martie playing her fiddle:

It’s a little too blurry for my liking (it was difficult getting good shots without using my flash, which I didn’t want to do; nothing says “I love your music!” quite like blinding the musicians on stage, right?), but really the blurriness kind of adds to the frenetic aesthetic of her fiddle and bow when she’s in the zone. And look at that Cheshire Cat grin she’s got! Actually, Emily got almost the same look on her face whenever she was in her “Banjo Zone”:

Must be something about those Bluegrass Girls that we city folk just don’t understand. Whatever it is, though, I’m addicted.

Dipthong

I don’t know why, but I’ve had the word “dipthong” stuck in my head for about a week. This post really won’t have anything at all to do with the word…although perhaps it does. This will be a bit of a dual-toned entry—equal parts whimsical and serious. That pretty much sums up my current state of mind. I’m sure I won’t need to tell you that by the time you’re finished here. If you finish, that is. This one’s a rambler, denizens.

So I’ve been cheating on you all. With other blogs. Yes, that’s right, I said blogs. With an “s.” I’m not telling you anything else. I don’t want these other blogs to feel your wrath over my infidelity. They’re good blogs and they know nothing of the lair. Well, one of them does. But that’s a long story. Oh, and to make matters worse? I get paid to do one of them. That’s right…I take money for blogging. Do you feel dirty now? You should. You mingy little monkeys. You like it when I talk to you like that though, don’t you? Don’t you?!

Oh dear.

I don’t really know what the hell is going on with me right now. Things have been random parts chaotic and stressful in my life for so long that I think it’s starting to wear me down. Things are finally starting to level off…but the damage is done. And, yes, denizens, there is damage. I simply can’t tell you about it. Professional lines of scrimmage and all that, you know.

You gotta keep on spinnin’ around—
Never let your worlds collide
‘Cause if we all start talkin’ there might
Be nowhere for you to hide

Ain’t that the truth.

Two evenings ago, we were on a walk around the neighborhood and this beautiful black dog came bounding down the street toward us. I swear to you on my life, had she had a white stripe on her chest and one blue eye, she could have passed as my Jodie Girl. Everything else about her was perfectly, precisely Jodie: her size, her head shape and her floppy ears, her multicolored fur with the black overcoat and brown/gray undercoat, the way her tail curled back toward her body in a fluffy “O”…but more than this, the mannerisms were spot-on. The way she ran like a bullet, barely able to come to a stop before jumping up at me with fluffy soft paws. The sound she made as she ran: this steady chuffing that made her sound like a furry little engine-that-could. The way she pranced and turned when her owner tried to grab her collar to put her back on her leash. Jodie was always a clown, my little “bo-bo dog,” and she thought everything was a game and everyone wanted to play with her. This dog seemed to think the same thing.

I really don’t think I’m giving this the proper weight it holds in my heart, but everything about this dog was Jodie. Things that I don’t even know how to capture in words…some ephemeral essence that maybe only I could sense. But it was her, denizens. It was her.

I know that more than likely Jodie would have been gone from my life by this point in time anyway, had she not been taken from me by cancer. After all, 14 is pretty old for a dog her size. But seeing this dog just brought all the…missing right back to the forefront. As if I need to be reminded that there are multiple pieces of my life puzzle that I can’t seem to stop missing.

Even my subconscious mind seems hell-bent on reminding me. This morning my alarm cut into a dream-in-progress in which I’d witnessed someone fire-bombing my parents’ house in the middle of the night (although, honestly, it looked more like the house from A Christmas Story, only it had a window in the shape of the Star Trek delta shield at the very top; seriously, this is what my dream world conjures for me). Suddenly, it’s daylight and I’m standing outside a black Denali…talking with Catherine Willows. I’ve just told her that my dad had to carry my mom out of the house while the firebombing took place, but he wasn’t able to walk to the hospital fast enough and the doctors didn’t think she’d survive. Willows’ response was something along the lines of “Her body couldn’t have survived much longer in its condition anyway; perhaps this is for the best.”

That’s the point where I woke up.

There was always a part of me that wondered if perhaps my previous CSI-related dream had something to do with my mom as well. Some sort of strange parable, an attempt by Sara Sidle to give me a message that I was too stubborn and too late to hear. CSI Willows’ message was a little less cryptic and a lot more upsetting.

Now I’ve associated both of my favorite CSIs with something sad. That’s not cool. Here’s a happy photo. Erase, erase, erase:

It’ll be a year this Sunday. For some reason I’ve fixated on the thought that after this Sunday comes the beginning of the time in which I can no longer think to myself, “She was alive at this point a year ago today.” Strangely, I could find some sliver of solace in such thinking. Soon, that sliver will be gone.

I miss my mom.

So do I, Admiral. So do I.

See? I told you: dipthong. Two tones. One high and one low. Always sounding in my head anymore.

Did I ever tell you that when I was in San Francisco last year, I made a special walk from our hotel just to take this photo:

It’s probably the touristiest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I got looks. It’s admittedly not the first time I’ve gotten “looks.” But still, it made me laugh.

Well, then. That’s quite an eyeful I’ve just dumped on you. And now I’m leaving you. “Lunch time” is over and I have professional obligations to which I must attend. I’ll be back. I have a book review. And I know that tomorrow is Flashback Friday. I’ve written myself a reminder. Honestly and seriously.

Now I just need to figure out what kind of Flashback to have…