Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shatter Me

Lindsey Stirling has a new album coming out, and the title track on it (Shatter Me, about when she had an eating disorder) makes my ears happy. Lzzy Hale (not a spelling error) from Halestorm did the vocals, but Lindsey wrote the lyrics. Here is a behind-the-scenes video about it being made:


Shatter Me Lyrics:
I pirouette in the dark
I see the stars through me
Tired mechanical heart
Beats until the song disappears

[Chorus]
Somebody shine a light
I'm frozen by the fear in me
Somebody make me feel alive
And shatter me
So cut me from the line
Dizzy, spinning endlessly
Somebody make me feel alive
And shatter me!

[Violin Drop]
Shatter me!
Somebody make me feel alive
And shatter me!

[Verse 2]
If only the clockworks could speak
I wouldn't be so alone
We burn every magnet and spring
And spiral into the unknown

[Chorus]

[Violin Drop]

[Bridge]
If I break the glass, then I'll have to fly
There's no one to catch me if I take a dive
I'm scared of changing, the days stay the same
The world is spinning but only in rain
If I break the glass, then I'll have to fly
There's nobody to catch me if I take a dive
I'm scared of changing, the days stay the same
The world is spinning but only in rain
(Only..)

[Chorus]

[Violin Drop]
Me...!
Shatter me!
Somebody make me feel alive
And shatter me!


It inspired me to try moving forward with my own music, and I signed up for an online songwriting class administered by the Berklee College of Music. I don't know if it will be any help, but it's free, so I might as well give it a try. It's six weeks long and begins next week. You can read about it here. Supposedly it's 6-8 hours of work per week. I'm interested to see exactly what it involves. I have specific songs I want to work on, so hopefully they will be a good fit for the exercises.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Chomolungma: Goddess Mother of the World

Long ago: sacred
They throw themselves at her now
Ruin crashes down

I'm sure you've all seen coverage of the Everest disaster on the news. It was only a matter of time before this happened again, from what I've learned in my mountaineering studies.

Before the influx of westerners into the Karakoram and Himalaya, locals regarded the mountains as sacred spaces (hence the title of this post: Everest is called Chomolungma in Tibet and Sagarmatha in Nepal), and they were not to be climbed. The goddesses of the high places would wreak vengeance on any who came near the summit.

Everest from the Nepalese side
The religious feelings of indigenous people for the mountains remain to this day (some consistently refuse to take the final steps onto a summit), but the huge inflow of cash from foreigners wishing to climb has corrupted their way of life and encouraged them to take risks they would not otherwise have thought proper or wise. To somewhat ease their minds, a puja ceremony is conducted to gain the goodwill of Chomolungma before each expedition, and the locals will not set foot on her flanks without it. Despite this, of course, the many dangers surrounding high-altitude climbing remain.

Puja ceremony
The people being hired as porters, assistant guides, rope fixers, etc. are so very poor that even the relative pittance they're paid for a couple-months-long Everest expedition, several thousand dollars, is more than three times what they would make in a year doing other work. Thus, caution is abandoned in favor of improving their families' lives with the extra cash.

Far too many people are attempting Everest each season now. This resulted in terrible tragedy back in May 1996, and now it has again. In the avalanche that only recently occurred, the Khumbu Icefall was too dangerous due to rising temperatures that rendered it even more unstable than it normally is. (Usually the porters begin before sunrise, to avoid the dangers of sunshine warming the ice. In this case, they began late, after 7am.) In the best weather (meaning solidly frozen at night), the Icefall is treacherous. With the weather warming during the day and the seracs becoming less and less solidly connected to the main ice river flowing off the mountains, it is a straight-up death trap. The gigantic ice maze moves at an incredible rate - up to 6 feet in a single day.

Climbers trekking through the Khumbu Icefall
Sherpas are actually one particular ethnic group from Nepal, instead of the blanket name for all high-altitude porters that most people think of when hearing the word. The head porter is referred to as the sirdar, and he gives orders to the others, reporting only to the leader of the expedition. He also helps smooth the path with local ordinances and customs, transportation needs, etc. Very few are the sirdars who will go against a direct order from their expedition leader, even if their own safety is at risk.

Given the sheer volume of climbers with permits to go up Everest this season (334), I'm sure the pressure was on to get everything up to the camps, all the ropes fixed, and so forth. "...on a single day in 2012, 234 climbers reached the peak, with some unable to stand on its highest point because it was so crowded..."{1} The climbing season on Everest is very short, a small window when the jet stream moves off the summit and the monsoons have not yet begun.

Most attempts are made during May before the summer monsoon season. As the monsoon season approaches, a change in the jet stream at this time pushes it northward, thereby reducing the average wind speeds high on the mountain. While attempts are sometimes made after the monsoons in September and October, when the jet stream is again temporarily pushed northward, the additional snow deposited by the monsoons and the less stable weather patterns (tail end of the monsoon) makes climbing extremely difficult. {2}

How many more accidents will it take before people realize that trying to rush hundreds of clients (many of whom are woefully unskilled) up the tallest mountain in the world is just asking for disaster? Will anyone care? How many more will die? The governments of Nepal and Tibet do not want to give up the permit fees, and so they increase the number given every year, despite the growing evidence of tragedy due to overpopulation on the mountain.

If one or more of the expedition leaders ordered his sherpas out into the Icefall anyway, knowing that the conditions were incredibly dangerous that day, they ought to be liable for it. I don't know what the laws in Nepal say about such things, but recklessly endangering the lives of others should be a crime (if it isn't already) and punished appropriately. Supposedly, according to one western climber, the Icefall looked slightly less dangerous the day of the accident, but who knows? Maybe the reason for the late start was an argument between Sherpa about whether the Icefall was safe for passage.

There is a very real possibility that climbs will be canceled on Everest for the rest of the season as the Sherpa community grieves and makes peace with their fallen, and I say just as well. Poor Sagarmatha has feet tromping up and down her almost every year without fail, and the tons of garbage and human waste (including bodies) are piling up. I think the latest tally I heard was 50 tons of garbage that need to be taken off the mountain.

This is just gross. Gross and dangerous. These mountains should be treated with much more respect. This is not a day hike you're going on, y'all. Even with Everest, where there's nearly a highway to the summit at this point (unlike, say, Annapurna or K2, which require significant technical skill), it's a mountain. A gigantic mountain. With all the dangers that come alongside.

I just wish people would think about things other than money, I guess is where I'm going with this. Cash will not bring the fallen Sherpa back. Permit fees are not worth the deaths of any, but I doubt the governments of Nepal and Tibet will see it that way. If only we as a species could abolish greed, imagine what we could become...

Sherpa are some of the bravest souls out there, doing the hard and dangerous work high on the mountains so their families can live decently for one more year. I am so very sorry for their losses in this tragedy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Belated Birthday, Blog.

On the 3rd of April, this blog turned eight years old. Yay, blog! It could be in fourth grade now.

Do I still enjoy blogging? It goes up and down. Sometimes I really like it, and other times it's a slog trying to think of anything to say. I feel less like blogging these days, given Rei's continued disappearance. I like comments, but I don't expect anyone else to have anything to say whenever I post whatever drivel is in my head. It just feels like sometimes I'm the only one actually reading this stupid thing, you know?

I'm contemplating a blog hiatus to see how I feel about it, whether I miss it, etc. Or making it private, so I can write whatever I want. I'm well aware of the unfriendly eyes who watch this blog (in spite of the thing in the previous paragraph where sometimes I think I'm the only one).

This is not some sort of pathetic crap where I want everyone to beg me to keep writing. Hardly. I just thought I'd let y'all know, whoever reads this, that I'm thinking of going dark for a bit. I'm not decided yet, but we will see.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Adventures in Serging or How I Almost Took a Baseball Bat to The Thing

Patrick had a recording gig last night for the new Batman game coming out (as far as I know it's only being released on PS4 and Xbox One, if any of you care), so he was out until 9:30 or so. I debated going over to my friend Brynn's house, but I felt a bit ill from stupidly trying to eat all our avocadoes so they wouldn't go bad, and I just stayed home.

Well, I'm here. What should I do? I KNOW, I'll set up my new serger!

This.
Oh my god, you guys. It was horrifying. Look at this shit:

I looked at this and my stomach dropped through the floor and started to dig into the house's foundation.
Apparently in all the years I'd borrowed my mom's serger to make random crap, I had never actually threaded the damn thing myself, so I hadn't the foggiest idea how to do it. This instruction manual was more torture construct than useful guide.

It doesn't get any better when you look at the entire two pages.
I persevered in spite of the horrible notion that I was about to make the entire business explode or create a wormhole or melt down into a puddle of sadness. How hard can it be, right? It's got numbers and letters to guide me!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA yeah, that's cute. It's got so many letters and numbers that they ran out of regular ones and had to start putting other sets in little circles. I could follow the basic stuff all right, like "bring the thread up from the spool and through the guide at the top (the weird metal pole with holes in it that looks like a T in the diagram)."

So I get everything set up with the exception of one looper. Because this looper is a Special Looper. This machine is an overlock serger, which means that it has to make little loopy bits (overlock), via two weird little metal thingies, and you have to thread said metal thingies correctly or nothing at all works. You'll just get a bunch of sad little stitches that don't really hold anything together and then fall out at one pull.

See how half that shit isn't even visible? It is buried underneath the presser foot and basically everything else on that side of the machine. It's LURKING inside there, just waiting to fuck with you.
Special Looper could not be reached by normal means. I had to unscrew the bottom of it, and it sort of swung down on its connection point. I thought I managed to thread it correctly and get it working, but NO, I DIDN'T. It was all a vicious lie. I screwed it back on with what I now know was a big mess of bad, and the shocking part was that it actually DID work for like 2 seconds, before everything fell apart and the Stitches of Sadness came back.

I stared at it, chagrined.

Opened it up again, looked at everything, tried re-threading the Special Looper. More screwdrivers and tweezers and cursing. Closed it back up and attempted sewing. CLACK CLACK CLACK. Plus a weird mess of threads all in a pile.

I stared at it again and wailed, "WHYYYYYY?!"

In general, I'm pretty sure loud metal noises are a bad sign. Opened it again, gave the Special Looper a vicious glare, and applied more screwdriver-ness. I lowered it all the way down, in the hope that it was banging on something and I could make that horribleness stop. No more mess of threads this time or CLACK CLACKs, just Sad Stitches.

Kinda wish I'd had the presence of mind to photograph the Sad Stitches, but I was too busy suppressing the desire to throw things.

It was at this point that I strongly contemplated either scream-crying, going out to buy a baseball bat for the sole purpose of beating this demonic contraption to death, or both.

Instead, I sulked. Stared at it. Muttered obscene things about its questionable parentage.

I did the only thing I could think of, which was to hold the cursed thing in place with tweezers, unscrew the connection, raise it a bunch to its top height, and re-screw it. If it CLACK CLACKed again or just exploded, so be it.

But lo! It sort of worked! The tension was still screwy, and I wasn't really sure what to do about that, but I decided to fool with it later. I'd had quite enough of this crap for one night.

See how the loops are in weird places and kind of migrate around? BUT THERE ARE LOOPS, AND FOR THAT, REJOICE!
Mom, if you are reading this, I looked at the stupid manual and switched the tension on all the threads to 4, because that looked like the most universally applicable setting. I haven't tried it yet, because FEAR, but that's my idea so far. I thought about calling you to see if you had any advice, but it was hard enough trying to figure out wtf was what while having it right in front of my face, much less trying to describe it over the phone.

Also, I probably would've just rage-yelled incoherently. Not productive.

Patrick is going to help me try to finish setting it up tonight. Pray for us.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Various pictures

Nylon flowers I got off Etsy. The strand they were on had a shitastic plug, and when I tried to plug it in, it sort of exploded and the plug separated from the light string, so Patrick and I took the flowers themselves off the original light string and fastened them onto another one. It worked out pretty well, despite being aggravating.
And how they look strung up. Those are giant poofy ostrich feather fans on the walls, one in teal and one in burgundy. Love those things.
A fence around what I believe used to be a car dealership in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle that's been decorated along almost the entirety of its length with various interesting motifs. Loved the multicolored section here.
I took this photograph the other night after we went out to dinner but then ended up going home instead (too long of a wait, as apparently everyone else had exactly the same idea).
Chinese paper lanterns that used to be on the white light string we used for the nylon flowers. I had a string of blue lights given to me either last year or the year before by my mother, and this seemed like a good use for them.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Alice: Madness Returns or My New Obsession

You guys, this game is AMAZING. It's gorgeous. Any game where the protagonist dodges by dispersing into a cloud of morpho butterflies is all right by me, but Alice: Madness Returns is really spectacular.

In that vein, I totally want to be Crazy Alice for Halloween this year. Observe the object of my greed:

Yes, that is a GIGANTIC knife. It is bigger than my head. I LOVE IT. It's dull, but nothing's perfect.
Alice's trademark weapon in these games (this is the sequel to the first Alice) is the Vorpal Blade. It is a beautifully decorated, oversized knife that she uses to dispatch the baddies plaguing Wonderland. See below:

LOTS of dresses! See why I like this game, parents? My favorite is the steamdress, top middle.
I really really really want to wear that steamdress for Halloween, but I think it would be a nightmare to create. There are a few sites on the internet that do Alice cosplays, but most of them are crap. The one that isn't crap is very expensive. We shall see. I could always do the blue dress. Hard to screw that up, and more iconic anyway.
Better image of outfit I'd like to wear.
I have the stockings and the knife already. I also have boots that I will just use. They aren't an exact copy, but they will effing do. We shall see about the rest of it. I hope my serger shows up soon. Next I want a mannequin that I can adjust to my exact proportions. It would be so much easier than having to fit stuff to my own body all the time. You can't exactly pin around your backside with any amount of ease.

I also got an art book about the game, which is equally stupendous. Here is my crappy picture of it:

Love it. Babies are indeed creepy. And hey, look, my foot!
Here are some more lovelies:

Inside the art book
Oh Alice, you knife-wielding minx.
Clockwork city, the Hatter's domain.
The Cheshire Cat needs snuggles, too.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Oh Rei, where are you?

My friend is missing, and there is a girl-shaped hole in my heart. It's been over a month since I last had contact with her, and I'm beginning to think I won't ever hear from her again.

I was feeling melancholy about this situation and snuggled in the lovesac remembering lyrics to the music she's sent me over the years that particularly reminded me of her:

This story's missing a wishing well
No mirror to show and tell
No kiss that can break the spell
I'm falling asleep

Every prince is a fantasy
The witch is inside of me
Her poison will wash away the memory

We kill the lights and put on a show
It's all a lie
But you'd never know
The star will shine
And then it will fall
And you will forget it all

-Kill the Lights by The Birthday Massacre

If you like we could play a game
Let's pretend that we are the same
But you will have to look much closer
Than you do, closer than you do

And I'm far too tired to stay here anymore
And I don't care what you think anyway
'Cause I think you were wrong about me
Yeah what if you were, what if you were

And what if I'm a snowstorm burning
What if I'm a world unturning
What if I'm an ocean, far too shallow, much too deep
What if I'm the kindest demon
Something you may not believe in
What if I'm a siren singing gentlemen to sleep...


...And you close your eyes when I say I'm breaking free
And put your hands over both your ears
Because you cannot stand to believe I'm not
The perfect girl you thought
Well what have I got to lose...


...You don't know me
Never will, never will
I'm outside your picture frame
And the glass is breaking now
You can't see me
Never will, never will
If you're never gonna see

What if I'm a crowded desert
Too much pain with little pleasure
What if I'm the nicest place you never want to go
What if I don't know who I am
Will that keep us both from trying
To find out and when you have
Be sure to let me know...

-What If by Emilie Autumn

Save the Fairyland we live in
Where all failings are forgiven
Feel like hunted by a griffin
I fall straight down
Save the Fairyland we live in
Where my failings are forgiven
Feel like hunted by a griffin
I'm falling straight down
Catch my daydream
Catch my fall
-Fairyland by Angelzoom

Basically everything by Flood of Rain, instrumental and otherwise, but particularly Submerge. Here is a link to download their stuff (the album was released free online, so no worries of piracy).
Sakura Maichiru ano oka de by Kagrra, this video of them in particular (sakura petals falling from the sky at the end). The video may or may not be to everyone's liking, but the sakura petals are gorgeous. I believe they start around 6:42, if you want to skip to that part.
There are a bunch more, but I thought I'd share a sampling. If you're interested, Rei's amazing art can be seen here
I miss my friend.