Archive for February, 2010

February 16th, 2010

» taking the plunge

I’ve been meaning to write a horsey post for a while now — something other than just My pony is awesome! (Which: he is.) But every time I’ve started, I’ve written My pony? He is awesome. Or some variation. And then had work appear on my desk. (And actually, I started writing this an hour ago. You see the problem. Pony: awesome. Work: less awesome.)

We’re over the initial ‘getting to know you’ period and have settled into a nice routine — which has really settled him. When he first came to the barn, it was a lot for his li’l three-year-old self to handle. A new place, plus the whole new-to-him stall thing, which he didn’t find much to his liking. He’d lived out with a herd his whole life, but while he was on trial with me I had to keep him in a stall and private paddock. (He took the hot wire down in the paddock playing with a horse on the other side, and banged on his stall door whenever he saw someone. “Over here guys! I’m over here! Come love me!”) He wouldn’t stand still for mounting, or grooming, or tacking; he completely forgot how to pick up his feet; had to be bribed and finessed for bridling. Throughout all this he was still at heart a very good boy — just a good boy with a serious case of ADD. I always lunged him before I rode, to gauge his mood and remind him of the pecking order while I still had two feet safely on the ground.

These days he’s much more relaxed, and so am I. I know that even though he gets tall walking from the paddock to the barn, the barn to the arena, it’s just him sticking his giant giraffe neck up to have a look around, not the start of a spook or bolt. He’s had a few (two? three?) little starts in the arena, jumping a bit off the track to have a look at some for-horse-eyes-only little ghostie, and they’re very rideable and over in an instant — and he stays over it, no eyeballing that same spot the next time around. He is so sensible. I love it. LOVE it. I am so unutterably excited to get out for a canter in the back field this spring. (Have I said that before? I’ve probably said that before. Probably every time I’ve written about him.) I don’t lunge at all any more.

He’s still 3 so he still has ADD, and wants his mouth on everything, and I suspect will always wish he could just climb right into your pocket. But we’re hard at work every day at standing quietly in the cross-ties (he still shifts about some but has gotten SO much better), taking the bit lower than ten feet in the air, standing for mounting (I give him a B/B- on this most days; much improved from his initial D-), etc, etc. He’s an absolute joy to ride: he has his own motor (and what a glorious thing that is!) and he tries so, so hard.

We aren’t really jumping yet — he’s a big, growing warmblood, and I want him to still be sound and happy in thirty years. There is some thought/evidence that mild concussion helps strengthen growing joints and bones — but jumping them off their hooves or over-lunging youngsters is a very quick way to break them down. Anyhow, I’m waiting at least until he’s four this spring to start any real jumping work (low stuff!), but on Friday we tossed out a few groundpoles and a baby cross-rail (maybe 18″?), just to remind him that we don’t ONLY go in circles, that this is a jump and the idea is to go OVER it. He’s a total baby and very adorable; couldn’t've cared less about the poles, but the first time we stuck the last one up to an X his eyes bugged out of his head all Waaait a second! There’s something in my way, on the ground there! And after that he popped right over it, la de dah. When we stuck it up to a vertical he clobbered it a few times, not lifting up his front feet, but he got the idea the third time around. Then we popped over it the other direction and called it a night.

Most days we work on basic walk, trot, canter, and I’m constantly impressed by how balanced he is for his age, and how quickly he’s catching on. He had a LOT of trouble getting his right lead canter when I first got him; he’s picking it up consistently now, and in the last week or so it’s become his better lead. He’s got a really fun canter overall, with an absolutely enormous stride, and — well. Like I said: back field, this spring.

I am so, so glad I took a chance with this guy. I will admit, the first time I rode him I wasn’t head-over-heels in love. I was thinking mostly about his age, and his wobbly baby steering, and my wish that I could compete this spring. I spent two years working with Everett, only to have our debut event canceled for rain, and him sold a month later. I wouldn’t redo any of it for the world (well, except for the rain), but I had the notion that this time around I wanted something ready to go. Something that would let me work more on my own shoddy riding. But after that first time with Reliant I had a feeling.

A feeling not unlike crouching before the open door of a plane, staring at the countryside far, far below.

Of course I didn’t tell anyone this, and refused to consider it too much myself. It was a good decision, I knew. He was not the horse I would have dreamed up for myself — but for that horse I would’ve had to dream up a bigger bank account and better riding skills and maybe a truck & trailer, a fifteen pound weight loss, a shorter winter. And I would’ve missed out on what may turn out to be one of the best leaps of faith I’ll take in my whole life. I have come to love this horse so much, and I am so excited for our coming years together.

February 12th, 2010

» 24 Books: February (1)

I just finished listening to Odd & the Frost Giants, by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman. It’s a short one, just two discs, but Neil’s a fantastic writer and (rare beast) a fantastic narrator, and this one didn’t disappoint. A lovely Norse fairytale. If you like audiobooks, you should definitely hunt down all of Neil’s stuff. A good share of it is read by him (I can recall the short stories, The Graveyard Book, and Coraline off the top of my head), and the stuff that isn’t (Anansi Boys for sure) is still wonderful. Broken record, but: nothing ruins a good book like a bad narrator.

Anyhow, Odd & the Frost Giants being so short, I’m not sure how to count it. One? Half?

I’ve also just devoured issues 25-33 of the Buffy Season 8 comic series, plus the two extras (the Willow one and — can’t remember the title, but the one about the new small town vampire boy), and Angel: After the Fall volumes 1 and 2. I have 3 and 4 waiting. And I have NO ONE to gasp over them with. Though Joe is finishing up season 5 of Angel right now, so I’ll soon be able to force the comics on him. (He just finished watching Smile Time, which is on the same disc as Hole in the World, and: dude. That has to be one of the finest discs in the whole Buffy & Angel collection, yeah?) Joss Whedon is involved in the comics, so of course they are wonderful and utterly terrible.

So anyway, I’m going to add all those littler things together (including the Angel volumes I haven’t read but will in the next few days) and call it — two. Two books so far for February.

2010 Book Count: 4 (+3 fluff)
January: 2 (+3 fluff)
February: 2

February 5th, 2010

» somewhere

Momentous occasion: Wednesday night, I went to the grocery store. Okay, that’s not so momentous (I love the grocery store, particularly the banana section), BUT: when I got home, I cooked! Just a simple throw-stuff-in-a-pot soup and some pan-fried tofu, but it’s a start, and now my fridge is stuffed with leftover soup, and the beginnings of horiatiki and a Mexican skillet.

I’m trying not to hate February just because it’s February. Deep in the long grind of winter, no end in sight. Lately I’m dreaming hard of far-off places. (Well, not precisely: I’ve actually been having strange, troubling dreams since the end of December; topic for another day, though!) The Boy and I are going somewhere this year, and here’s the dilemma (the wonderful, overwhelming dilemma): where?

First constraint: time. When I went to Peru in 2007, I took 2 1/2 weeks off work, and — how to put this? — it was less than appreciated by my boss. I was basically told that would never be happening again. But everyone survived, I’m very good at what I do, and — well. Let’s call it a week and a half, no problem. (I’ve already taken, or will be taking, 7 of my vacation/sick days — and can I just take a moment to thank my last-August-self for knowing I’d really, really appreciate 6 days in St. Louis in January? Because I totally needed it. Anyway, leaves me 9 for the rest of the year.)

Second constraint: location. I really want to go somewhere neither of us has been before. The Boy is adorable and pretty fantastic all around, actually, so I’ve decided to forgive him for this, but: he’s been basically everywhere. All around South America (Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, etc), the Middle East (Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, etc), India, Thailand, China, Japan, etc etc. To be fair, this is MY restriction; and also, the world? Big place.

Third constraint: money (of course). I’ve been researching in a dreamy, haphazard sort of way the last few days, and have come up with lots of places that would be wonderful: Bhutan! Vanuatu! Outer space! (I’ve been informed that they’re not actually sending people to the moon — just into outer space.) But they’re rather expensive to get to and/or be in. All part of the balancing act; I have some money to go somewhere fabulous, but I’d also like to, you know, retire one day (and I have that small, not-inexpensive horse habit). And once you’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money and time getting somewhere awesome, what’s the point if you can only stay for a week or so?

And then it’s trying to figure out the time of year, because, confession: I want to be somewhere right now. I hate February here. Okay, so today it’s all Look at me, I’m a bright fluffy beautiful snow globe! But mostly there’s the wrath of EIGHTY-SEVEN BELOW and YOUR CAR GOES SIDEWAYS NOW! and riding outside is some far, impossible dream, and no one can remember what green looks like anymore.

So what I really want, right this second, is to be somewhere hot. I want SUN and I want to be baked alive. But I also don’t want to wait a whole year to go, so I have to temper that with knowing I won’t still feel this way next fall. Mostly, I want somewhere that’s going to take my breath away.

(And alas, I’ve gotten utterly distracted by work for hours and hours now. So I’m going to just post this, abruptly and as-is, or I know I never will.)

February 1st, 2010

» 24 Books: January

This year, I made a New Years goal (not Resolution!) to read at least 24 books: two a month. And so far I am (yay) on track!

A few weeks ago I finished listening to the audiobook of Harlan Coben’s The Innocent, read by Scott Brick. Not really my usual type of book, and — well. When you’re listening to audiobooks, the person reading makes a huge difference. Huge. If you don’t really mesh with the person doing the reading, it’s hard to separate how much you dislike how they’re reading the book from how much you dislike what they’re reading. Brick was just So Overdramatic! about everything, and I found myself not really buying any of it, particularly the dialogue. Maybe the fault of Brick, maybe the fault of Coben. My favorite thing about this book was the complete and utter ridiculousness of the technology. Cell phones must’ve just been — wait. Okay, so I went to look up when this was written, and 2005? Really? Because Coben makes this HUGE deal about the main character and his wife buying camera phones — these cell phones that can send pictures! — but neither of them can really figure out how to use them, or be bothered to try, because they are So. Hard. for realz. And when the main character receives a picture on it, there are maybe eighty-five pages of description about which buttons he pushes to bring up the picture. And there is a private investigator who has super-special software (I KID YOU NOT) to get the picture off his phone and sharpen it. Ditto the video. Which, fine, okay. Let me spend five pages explaining pixels.

Oh man, okay, I have a new favorite part of the book, which is this review from Amazon:

You are Harlan Coben and you are a writer. You are tired of your series character and you have a contract to deliver a book. You decide to write a stand alone book about a guy who can’t become a lawyer because he killed some guy at a fraternity party. So your character becomes a paralegal whose practice is only eclipsed by Danny Devito playing Deck Shifflet, the “paralawyer” in The Rainmaker.

You aren’t a lawyer so you don’t know how utterly improbable this is. Your character marries a wonderful girl, who has a past worse than your protagonist. You offer lots of plot twists, but with fifty pages to go and the bad guys dead, you don’t use them up. So you spend fifty pages showing off how clever you are.

You are so clever that you try to write the book in second person, present tense. Your editor stops you, but you manage to open and close it in the second person. In the middle you write third person past tense from differing points of view. You consider yourself daring. Others are just annoyed at your waste of talent and waste of their time. They know you can do much better.

I didn’t actually mean to rag on the book so much (except the part where the wife tells her backstory to her hubs and it’s supposed to be dialogue but instead it’s like Coben wrote the scene out and just put quotation marks around it. Dear Coben: People do not talk like that! Not even people like me, with weird vocabularies!), but…there you go.

Book #2! Watership Down, by Richard Adams. Y’all probably read this a long time ago, but it was my first time, and I LOVED it. I’m not entirely comfortable with the state of violence or gender politics among rabbits — but then again, they’re rabbits, and it seems like Adams did his rabbit research. So I guess I was more bothered that it didn’t really bother me. ANYWAY. I don’t really like to say too much about books I think people should read — and if you haven’t read this one, I think you should! I’m not ashamed to admit I cried a little when someone went off to bunny heaven. (Which is not a spoiler because c’mon, you know it’s going to happen at some point in a book all about rabbits.)

I also read three (3!) romance novels when I was in St. Louis visiting Steph last week; horrible romance novels are something of a tradition we started in college. We spent one particularly memorable sunny afternoon with them on the rooftop of an Italian hostel, looking down the terraced city of Manarola to the Mediterranean Sea, sipping limoncello. (“Sipping” may not be exactly the right word; we didn’t realize until we went to stand up just what type of alcohol limoncello is. Tip: it is not to be drunk like wine.) They’re books and I read them; do they count? Maybe I’ll keep two running totals…

January 2010 count: 2 (5 including fluff).