As of just a few weeks ago, I had never seen X-Men--any of them; and not without reason. In my teens, I even pillow-censored Star Wars (for those of you who don't know what pillow-censoring is, I define it as the act of holding a pillow between your eyes and the television during the creepy parts. For those of you who don't know what Star Wars is... well, I'll have to refer you here.)

Anyways, I outgrew most of that a couple years ago; probably when I saw The Patriot, closely followed by Gladiator, which violent (and beautiful) films became the first two movies I ever cried over.

Those two movies didn't quite cure me of my ideas about most of the action genre, however. So when
Brandon wanted me to go see X-Men III with him, I hadn't seen the first two, and I told him that. Which meant that we brought the first one back to my place and watched it.

To my surprise, I didn't just like it--I found it passionate, deep, haunting and powerful. So we watched the second one, which I liked even better. Brandon filled in the story with history from his knowledge of the comic books, TV shows, etc., and by careful cultivation grew a healthy X-Men fan.

Be forewarned from here, if you haven't made it to the theater for the third movie yet: if you know enough about the first two, you might be able to piece together a spoiler from the rest of this blog. And--if you haven't seen it, stay till the credits are over. Trust me on this one. Don't leave, like everyone in the cinema did tonight except for me and Brandon and two or three other astute folks in the back.

Tonight, we drove up to Sunset Square and watched the third. The Last Stand left me feeling bittersweet, for several reasons. First of all, Wolverine and Rogue have been my favorite characters from the start. Wolverine ended the series as a hero, but it cost him unimaginably; one couldn't ask for a more heartwrenching scene than his final confrontation with the Phoenix. Rogue made a choice that cost her deeply as well, and would change not only her life but the lives of others around her. But I cannot blame her for what she did. Rogue, of all the characters, faced the most hellish dilemma--to love, and never be able to touch.

"Let the punishment fit the crime" accurately describes Magneto's fate. I don't for a minute deny that he deserved it. Something in his character always caught me, though; held out some small hope of redemption; perhaps his friendship with Xavier. Instead, one of the stallions in the story with the greatest potential for nobility chose viciousness instead; and, despite the evil, it was a shame to see that strength gelded.

Here's the question that will dog the mental footsteps of X-Men fans for... ever, I guess: What made that chess piece wobble?


Music at Work

Being a musician, I never thought I could listen to music and write Perl scripts at the same time. I thought that for a reason; namely, that music tends to take over any other tasks at hand. If I'm driving and listening to Def Leppard, I'll catch myself speeding (if it's Lifehouse's "You and Me" playing, I have to be especially careful, because I love that song and it's all I'll remember after it's over.) If I'm doing housework and listening to LeAnn Rimes, whatever I'm doing stops whenever the melody goes above high C, because I have to straighten up to hit high notes well, and it's nearly impossible to just listen to LeAnn.

Apparently, though, the absence of an accelerator pedal at my desk--and the fact that "singing along" in my silent department would be akin to shouting in the library--makes it possible for me to listen and work at the same time, without affecting the quality or quantity of work accomplished.

So, today--while setting up divisions and tangling with a nasty multi-level list--I wore headphones most of the time. On the playlist:

1. Relient K, "mmHmm." I haven't paid much attention to this band in a couple of years; guess I should have. Excellent CD. Fave tracks: "Be My Escape", "High of '75", "Let It All Out", and "Maintain Consciousness"... although I have to put in a good word for "My Girl's Ex-Boyfriend", because it runs through my head and makes me laugh.

2. Collection of themes from various video games, movies, and TV shows. Brandon made it for me. Has the "Brothers" song from Fullmetal Alchemist on it, and a lot of other very beautiful songs (others that stand out to me right now: "Tifa's Theme" from Final Fantasy VII, "Kaoru and Misao" from Rurouni Kenshin, and "Grief and Sorrow" from Naruto.) Incredibly good music to work to, although every time I hear "To Zanarkand" from Final Fantasy X, I have to remind myself that I can't learn a melody and write regular expressions at the same time.

3. John Van Deusen, Closet Songs. My favorite artist, with or without his band, The Lonely Forest (although they definitely rock.) Someday, I'll be able to say that I played street hockey with him before he was famous. That particular CD is made up mostly of songs he, unfortunately, doesn't do anymore.

4. CD I burned off of MSN Music last year. Titled it "Philosophy and Passion." Managed to make it all the way through Jon Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer" without accidentally singing aloud... minor miracle, that.

5. Relient K again. I broke my usually strict rule about not listening to the same CD twice in the same day. And I did it for a Christian CD. That... just doesn't happen. It's good stuff. Besides, their happy-go-lucky drummer keeps me awake.


Sunbreaks and God

The dark clouds cast an ominous feeling, hovering just at the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, which had gone gray in the shadows.

I was eight, and my family and I stood in the church parking lot, along with more of the church. Josh and Jared--boys from the junior-high contingent--pranced back and forth among the ruts in the gravelly dirt. One of them had smeared mud on his tongue, obviously for the sake of getting an "Eww, gross" from the pack of little girls.

Distractions notwithstanding, I kept turning my eyes to the top of a nearby peak. A small part in the clouds had formed there, and a bright ray of sunlight made a track through the darkness. I remember feeling that if I walked up that trail of light through the doorway in the clouds, I would find God there.

That memory comes back to me now and again, perhaps once every couple of years, whenever I catch one of those narrow, highly contrasted sunbreaks. They look--damn science!--like portals into heaven.

I thought of it last night, standing out on the pier at Boulevard Park. The sky and water had turned as gray, and almost as smooth, as steel; out across the bay, the sun came through in a couple of spots.

It's just a little girl's imagination. But I still think of the experience of going to heaven as walking up the light, through the doorway in the clouds. Straight to God.

Which proves, probably, that I have either read too much Reader's Digest or that a part of me will never quite grow up. Both, I hope.



We all feel it sometimes—that sense of the deep sorrow involved in living in this world, mingled with a poignant hope. Those who have read John Eldredge’s books will remember that he called it “the haunting.” I love that description. You know the feeling.

And you feel it when you watch your friend walk back into a situation that she’s beyond her ability to bear. Even knowing that you’re doing what you can to help her, a part of you wonders if you’re missing something—if you could go just a step further, and it would be enough.

You feel it as you watch a beautiful story about two brothers on a quest, making their way in a brutal world, possessing nothing—not even a body, in one case—but each other. The haunting pours out of the song they sing to each other, and out of all music, really; music, like art and story, convey what can never be expressed in only ‘so many words.’

And you feel it when you say something that, no matter how important or well-meant, hurts someone that matters to you. You watch the sword hit its mark, and everything inside you wants to get up and fling your arms around them; and you hold back because you wonder if it’s appropriate, and instead watch your respect for them grow in the grace of their response.

Hope changes everything. It's enough.


Strange Encounters

Bellingham definitely has its own cultural aura. I moved here because I love its funky, hippie-grunge feel, even though (a) sign-carrying protests on street corners make me laugh a lot more often than they make me think, and (b) there are some things no woman should do with her hair. I love it that they show movies in parks in summer, rain or shine. I love it that a pirate band can march through WalMart with an accordion.

Occasionally, though, the live-in-the-raw mentality makes for some very... well... unique experiences.

Tonight my sisters and brother-in-law and I went out to a little restaurant downtown. Bellinghamites know the downtown cafes for the personality as much as the food, and it seems expected for the staff to joke back and forth with each other, have lively, lighthearted conversations with the customers, and otherwise make the dining experience fun.

The cook at this particular cafe, a guy probably in his twenties, busied himself making burritos and in the process found out that his four customers were related. "Ah," he said, "I had a weird feeling about you when you came in." This made us all laugh.

Having ordered last, I waited behind for my plate as my family went outside and chose a table. As I strolled back toward the counter, the cook spoke again.

"Yeah, I got a really weird vibe from you all. Are you witches?"

I smiled and said no. "Well, is one of you a baker?" he asked.

My youngest sister, I told him. "Well, that's one. Is one of you a seamstress?"

None of us really like to sew. No, I told him, still smiling.

"Well, usually I find that when I meet three witch sisters, one of them's a baker, one's a seamstress, and one is all about the dudes."

At this point I didn't know whether to laugh or try to take him seriously. How does one respond to that? Excuse me while I go untangle my eyebrows from my hairline? Or maybe "Yeah, you can usually find me sewing and cursing." Instead, I smiled, took my food and thanked him, and went outside, where of course I told my family. By the time I got to the end of the story, Beth and I were laughing so hard we could barely speak.

What a funny world...


if (/moreinput/) {$brain=overloaded;}

After two full days on-the-job in my new position, I can say the following:

If you put part of your Perl script in the wrong place relative to the rest of it, the data really gets screwed up.

Perl also does not like it when you leave the semicolon off the end of certain lines. Or forget to backslash certain characters in a regular expression. Or lose track of how many curly braces you have open. I do those things a lot, meaning that I'm learning to find those mistakes very quickly.

There's a lot of road between $(+,2,3), which equals 5 in DIESEL, and other things beginning with $ that make important stuff happen... some of which I understand, and some of which is playing rather coy with me just now.

When everything works as intended and the markup gets properly converted, the victory experience compares to having climbed past a very difficult stretch of rock wall. Or winning at cards (oh, wait... have I ever done that?)

However steep the learning curve, and despite long stretches of staring at the screen trying to figure out why something doesn't work, I haven't regretted taking the position at all. I like this.

And... at least when computer languages get difficult to deal with, I know they remain logical. I'll let those who know what I used to do figure the flip side out :) although ninety-nine percent of the time I liked that too.

Anyway, I heard a funny computer joke the other day, which I never would have understood before. Apparently in binary, which uses only ones and zeroes, the number two is written one-zero, or 10. The mathematical convolutions necessary to get 10 to mean "two" have me positively kerflummoxed, but that aside: "There are only ten types of people in this world--those who understand binary, and those who don't."


P.S. Have I always had Briana's link spelled "Photograpy"? Sheesh! I think I'll fix that now.


Attention, WalMart Shoppers

You won't see this every day!

Saturday, last-minute shopper that I am, I stood among the greeting cards at WalMart, looking for something for my friend Donna's birthday party that afternoon. I love standing around reading greeting cards, as long as they don't contain rhyming poetry. Although I saw several hilarious cards that I'd never run across before, the cards didn't take me by surprise... the accordion did.

The accordion and its player marched by the end of the row, closely followed by two guitarists, a fiddler, and a whole troupe of dancing, clapping, oddly-garbed people. An amused-looking photographer brought up the rear.

Assuming the Highland Games in Ferndale had something to do with the display, I watched the show march past and went back to reading the cards.

Five minutes later (it takes me a long time to card-shop) I heard the music again, this time accompanied by raucous--but trained--voices singing "And the streets run red with the blood of the rich..."

I turned to watch again, and it hit me: these weren't highlanders, not unless I missed the history class that talked about the Scotch ruling the high seas with swords and terror. These were pirates, fully-costumed, singing pirates, missing only a parrot and the Jolly Roger.

A little Googlework led me to the
Pirates-R-Us. I'd never heard of this group before and have no idea what their songs are really like, but they sure livened up the Bellingham WalMart. Ah yes, this is why I moved to Bellingham. The funky, offbeat cultural melting pot appeals to me, minus the drugs of course. If you're bored or short on creativity in this town, you're just not getting out enough.


Betcha Didn't Know...

These surveys go around regularly, and I always get a big kick out of reading them. Now the time has come to fill one out! Briana Bell (see, now that I've gotten started with the hyperlinks, I can't stop) had this on her site, and I always follow a good example. Have fun reading!


Name: My middle name is Leah

Birthday: Same as W.A. Mozart's, but more recent

Birthplace: Florida

Current Location: Washington

Eye Color: Brown

Hair Color: Also brown

Height: 5'11''... I'm a long ways up

Right Handed or Left Handed: Southpaw (that's lefty for anyone who didn't know)

Your Heritage: American, which means: mostly Scottish and Creek Indian; ultimately Heinz 57

The Shoes You Wore Today: My Old Navy canvas shoes with the embroidered flowers. This is fun. Ask me about my jeans.

Your Weakness: Running late, being "too nice", reading when I ought to be getting things done

Your Fears: Tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes. Oh, great. We could get any of those out here! No, seriously: fast-moving water, losing the people I love, getting too far away from God, and existing instead of really living my life.

Your Perfect Pizza: Lots of cheese and mushrooms! Thick crust. Should be part of an evening containing family or friend(s), and a good movie.

Goal You Would Like To Achieve This Year: Get some of my songs on CD.

Your Most Overused Phrase On an Instant Messenger: "Yay for _______"

Thoughts First Waking Up: "Six o'clock already, I was just in the middle of a dream..."

Your Best Physical Feature: Hmm. You decide! Eyes, I think.

Your Bedtime: As early as I can convince myself to go; usually around 11:30PM

Your Most Missed Memory: Evenings with my family, usually involving singing with my sisters and/or long rambling talks.

Pepsi or Coke: Coke

MacDonalds or Burger King: Wendy's

Single or Group Dates: Just me and l'homme que j'adore, whenever he comes around

Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: It's all disgusting. Just give me that powdered stuff we all used to eat out of the can in grade school.

Chocolate or Vanilla: Chocolate, unless it's a milkshake

Cappuccino or Coffee: Caramel Macchiato or Frappuccino

Do you Smoke: No... vocal cords aren't replaceable, and I need mine

Do you Swear: :-D

Do you Sing: All the time... around the house, in the shower, in the grocery store, in church, with or without my piano or guitar

Do you Shower Daily: Wouldn't miss it for the world

Have You Been in Love: I have

Do You Want to Go to College: I dream about it

Do You Want to Get Married: Heck yeah... I 've got too much to give to keep it under wraps forever :-D

Do You Belive in Yourself: Don't the survey people know how to spell "believe?" Yes, I'm getting there.

Do You Get Motion Sickness: Nope, nor seasick as far as I can tell

Do You Think You Are Attractive: Adorable, really :)

Are You a Health Freak: No, I like ice cream and pizza too much

Do You Get Along With Your Parents: Two of my best friends, none closer!

Do You Like Thunderstorms: As long as the lightning doesn't come after me

Do You Play an Instrument: Piano, guitar, and my voice

In the Past Month Have You Drank Alcohol: Yes

In the Past Month Have You Smoked: No... what is with this survey's smoking obsession?

In the Past Month Have You Been on Drugs: Just aspirin, and only once

In the Past Month Have You Gone on a Date: Not that I know of

In the Past Month Have You Gone to a Mall: Tuesday night

In the Past Month Have You Eaten a Box of Oreos: Seriously... does anybody want to know?

In the Past Month Have You Eaten Sushi: I have not eaten sushi in my entire lifetime

In the Past Month Have You Been on Stage: A couple of times

In the Past Month Have You Been Dumped: I don't think it could be defined as 'dumped'

In the Past Month Have You Gone Skinny Dipping: Too cold!

In the Past Month Have You Stolen Anything: Nope... those hearts keep getting away from me :P

Ever Been Drunk: Nope

Ever Been Called a Tease: No

Ever Been Beaten up: No

Ever Shoplifted: No

How Do You Want to Die: Quickly

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up: If I ain't there now...

What Country Would You Most Like to Visit: Excuse me while I go stab at a map of Europe with a push pin!

In a Boy/Girl...

Favourite Eye Color: Doesn't matter, as long as those eyes are warm and affectionate

Favourite Hair Color: As long as it's a color

Short or Long Hair: Depends on the face, although I find shaggy hair pretty hot

Height: I thought that mattered to me till I once met an eminently likeable man of 5'4'' (guesstimate)

Weight: Healthy

Best Clothing Style: Casual, please be casual... jeans, cowboy, grunge, hippie, granola, all of the above, I don't care, just don't be the dressy type

Number of Drugs I Have Taken: Apparently this survey is drug-obsessed too. None, unless you count aspirin, tylenol, and penicillin.

Number of CDs I Own: The question should be more like "How many of my parents' did I take with me when I moved out?"

Number of Piercings: One in each ear

Number of Tattoos: I don't even write on myself with pens.

There you have it! You too can take this survey and provide the world with large amounts of information about yourself... I just couldn't make the link bring up the questions, so you'll have to copy from here and change your answers. Have fun! If you post your survey results to your own site, let me know and I'll check it out.