And lo, such a thing exists

Sep. 21st, 2017 08:52 pm
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Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

As much as I thought it might not, time is starting to assume its normal course.  The days are starting to be the length that I expect them to be, not stretching out in front of me like a desert I didn’t bring enough water to get across.  For a while there I had to be so busy just to fill those days up. Walking, riding, swimming, cleaning, organizing… if I stopped too long and tried to do something like write or knit then I had too many of those pesky feelings all at once and had to clean out another damn closet. Now I’m mostly okay as long as I don’t think about how Thanksgiving is in two and a half weeks and I really don’t know how to manage that holiday if I can’t have it with my mother and where do we have dinner now for all the holidays and really I’m going to have to move because my dining room can’t hold everyone and… see. There it goes.  I’ll worry about that next week when it might not result in having to clean all the grout in the house with an old toothbrush after jogging 3km.

The point, before I started worrying again, was that things are okay enough now (oh man who is going to make the pies) that as long as I stay sorted, I can knit, and it feels like it helps a lot, and what’s really interesting is that this idea, that once the shock passes, that knitting is going to be a really useful way through grief… It’s not just me who thinks it. My inbox (thank you, thank you, thank you for the wonderful notes and letters and thoughts, I am reading them all, even if I can’t answer) is chock full (okay there are five) people who have written to me not just to suggest that knitting would be helpful (because there are a lot more than five of you who think that) but to call the kind of knitting they think would be helpful “Grief Knitting.”  These charming knitters have even gone so far as to cite the specific projects that they think would be the most helpful, and you know what’s interesting? They have a lot in common.

All the projects are challenging – challenging from the perspective of that particular knitter, for sure, but challenging none the less. They were kinda tricky for the knitter to complete, and they took up some of that scary mental energy that comes with grief. (Oh no mum always makes the turnips too.) All the projects are things that sparked a tremendous amount of joy and pride – the knitters think what they made was beautiful, and feel that they did a good job… and finally (here’s where it gets weird.) All of the projects but for one, were for babies.

Think about that. It’s a pretty compelling bit of information, and it makes me feel better that the two things I’ve knit since my mum died are both tiny things.  First the little hat, and now Elliot is bedecked in a matching sweater.

gussweater 2017-09-21

It’s beautiful to be sure – the yarn is Northampton, but with a bit of a twist. It was the natural colour, but I gave it to Judith to dye at the last Strung Along retreat, and it went for a swim in her indigo pot.  It’s a beautiful blue now, and reminds me of her when I look at it, which is really quite nice, and it suits Elliot pretty well.

wholegus 2017-09-21

The pattern is Gus, and here’s where it didn’t quite fit the bill to be Grief Knitting, it was pretty easy.  The pattern’s well written – so I didn’t struggle with anything at all.  I’ll have to try something from a less competent designer next.

gussweater2 2017-09-21

I tell you this, even unfinished (which it technically is, I’m waiting for the buttons) it does spark a tremendous amount of Joy.  Part of it is that little face, and the other part?  It is the pockets. I can’t tell you how much I love pockets on a baby sweater. It gives me an unreasonable amount of happiness to think of two perfect, tiny pockets, in a proper, handy spot… all for someone who has absolutely nothing to put in them.

pocketsgus 2017-09-21


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Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the seventeenth episode of the third season of Enterprise, this was a bizarre one, and I’M UNCOMFORTABLE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Let this count as yet another example of one of those episodes where I spent most of the run time composing a review in my head that was meant to address something very specific, only to have it all ruined in the end. Y’all, I was truly lost during “Hatchery,” and the issues I had pointed out in “Stratagem” seemed even more glaringly bad in comparison. Archer has repeatedly broken the rules in this season, and yet, his refusal to abandon the Xindi insectoid hatchery was held up as the pinnacle of ethics. I couldn’t believe it! How could he possibly think that this was appropriate after all that he’d done?

That doesn’t mean that this episode vindicates what happens in “Stratagem.” I still believe that there’s a major oversight in the construction of that script. However, I now don’t have to write a giant rant about how the writers had no idea what they were doing with Archer here. OH, I WAS SO READY TO, Y’ALL. And it’s not because I disagreed with Archer’s plan! If you take out the part where he got sprayed in the face, and you write him as far less paranoid, there’s actually a point to be made here. Yes, you still have the contrast between his actions and his philosophy, but that’s easier to address. Lots of people hold beliefs that they don’t always support through their behavior. Humans are, unsurprisingly, quite complicated. Yet there was a logic to Archer’s initial theory, wasn’t there? If the Xindi believed that humanity was heartless and savage, wouldn’t it help disprove that if they did something that was undeniably kind? Would it help dispel what the Xindi believed of them?

It’s an idealistic theory, of course, and it relied on a whole lot of things going perfectly right, which made it seem even more impossible to the crew. It’s why Archer’s treatment of Reed in particular was so galling. How was he supposed to open up communications with the Xindi who were actively firing on them? Even if he had, how was he supposed to convey that Archer and the other humans were actually trying to help the hatchery, not harm it? They probably would have assumed the worst, right???

That’s a pivotal scene in this episode, because prior to that moment, it was still possible that Archer, while harsh, was actually on the right path. Sure, he seemed obsessive, but was he truly that far gone? OH GOD, I HAD NO IDEA JUST HOW FAR HE WAS GOING TO GO.

Seriously, though, that’s part of the allure of “Hatchery.” The writers introduce this concept, and then they commit to it. What would happen if Archer’s brain chemistry was quietly changed to make him feel a biological imperative to be the caretaker for these unborn insectoids? WELL, THIS IS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN! It’s such a slow burn, since Archer has been shown to be compassionate and kind, so it’s not like his initial decision is entirely out of the question. Where it goes, however, is wildly out of character for Archer, and each new scene with escalates things further. He relieves T’Pol of duty after she refuses an order in public, but it’s not even the tip of the iceberg. Plus, I understood why she was doing it! Archer seemed to be forgetting the entire mission that had been the basis for going to the Delphic Expanse, and wasting that much antimatter wasn’t going to help them leave the Expanse after they destroyed the Xindi weapon. (If they could even get there in the first place!)

Then Reed was relieved of duty, and then Archer turned into… good lord. That whole scene in the hatchery was too much. HE LET THEM CRAWL ON HIM, I WOULD LIKE TO NEVER SEE THAT AGAIN, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I would have started a mutiny based on that moment alone. Can we update the Starfleet rules to include that mutiny is allowed if one’s captain morphs into the caretake for a bunch of baby insectoids? THANKS.

So, I’m glad that I got an explanation for Archer’s behavior. It doesn’t assuage my concerns over “Stratagem,” but I got to write a much different review for this episode than I had been planning. Also: NOPE TO THOSE EGGS.

The video for “Hatchery” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

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Tiny House on Guemes Island, Washington

Submitted by Jessica / @guemes.tinyhouse 

My husband and I built the tiny house in 2015, he’s a wood worker and I’m an illustrator. It’s located on our property where we live of 5 acres in the woods here on Guemes island (home to around 600 year round residents) we rent it on Airbnb so people can try out tiny living. 

We also decorated it and provide things inside of it to use (like cutting boards and ceramic mugs) made by artists and we have a book about all the items called our ‘tiny house featured makers" book. Guests really enjoy this as they can go buy any of these items they use and enjoy during their stay.

My tweets

Sep. 21st, 2017 05:00 pm
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Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the seventh episode of the second season of Person of Interest, HELP ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest

Y’all, that was a breathless experience, one of the most horrifically intense episodes of this whole show, and I am in AWE.

Amy and Madison

So, there’s a specific thing you might hear brought up when folks like myself are talking about diversity and representation: we want normalcy. Now, that doesn’t mean that I want people of backgrounds that are not of the default to be written exactly as the default stock of characters are. I know I’ve written about that in regards to folks under the LGBT or queer banners. I don’t want our culture or our history or our lives sanitized so that we just seem like everyone else. The things that make us different from het folks should be celebrated, too! The same goes for my identity as a Latinx person. I don’t want the things that make that identity a part of who I am to be ignored. Instead, it’s about leveling the playing field in a different. It’s about giving stories that have very little to do with these identities to people who don’t normally get them. I want fairy tales and sci-fi jaunts and adventures and thrillers and horror flicks full of people who look like the rest of the world, and I don’t need them to come off like after-school specials either.

Amy and Madison are presented to us matter-of-factly. They are married. The first scene they’re in, they’re affectionate the entire time. There are no jokes about them being a couple, and they’re treated as some sort of special “case” because they’re the first lesbian couple on the show. Instead, they get treated as complex people thrown into a nightmare and – most important of all – worth saving. The writers don’t invoke the Bury Your Gays trope by killing one of them off, and yet they still get a story where the threat of death hangs over everything. It’s terrifying, upsetting, and in the end, Madison makes a devastating choice to maintain her ethical commitment to medicine, even though Amy could have died because of it. It’s a rich, detailed, and gut-wrenching story, and they get a happy ending.

Is it the pinnacle of representation? No, but it was fulfilling. I got to see an interracial lesbian relationship on primetime television from one of the major networks, and the main guest character was a non-white lesbian. It meant a lot.


Oh, this whole thing was one giant exercise in suspense, and there was SO MUCH HERE meant to ruin me specifically. I have ranted and screamed about thrillers for many years here on Mark Watches and LOOK HOW MUCH IS IN JUST ONE EPISODE. There’s a ticking clock! There’s the emotional pain of knowing that if you don’t make the right decision, someone you love dies! THERE’S ALASTAIR WESLEY, WHO IS SO EVIL THAT I WILL HATE HIM ON SIGHT!!! You know what else makes this episode unbearable? A formidable foe, and we get that in Wesley. This probably wouldn’t have been such a ridiculously difficult case if not for him. That moment where he called the sniper’s phone to demonstrate to John that he’d have to take out ALL of the operatives hidden in the park to save Amy was HORRIFYING.

So you’ve got Reese up against a timeline and hidden assassins and a very motivated leader of this operation, and it’s built for suspense. That’s not even addressing the nightmare in the hospital itself! With the brilliant return of Leon Tao, the show is able to stick Finch on the scene, where he must face his revulsion of hospitals while Leon does the job he’d normally do. Look, I’m a huge fan of Leon as a character, so I hope we see him again. He also brings an interesting dynamic to the episode, since he’s not normally the kind of person that Finch would trust to leave alone in his office. (At this point, I think he only trusts Reese, so there’s that.) But it’s Michael Emerson’s performance, alongside Sharon Leal’s, that truly makes this episode such a rewarding experience. THEY’RE BOTH SO GOOD, Y’ALL.

She Has a Plan

This was 100% too much before Carter started investigating the dead body with her card and an address on it, so yeah. Suffice to say, I was not prepared in the most literal and metaphorical of senses, and I NEED THIS SHOW TO CALM DOWN. LET ME LIVE. Carter’s inclusion into Snow’s plot is another brilliant move because it forces her to ask questions. She discovers that Snow is being controlled by a woman through use of a bomb attached to his torso. Controlled to do what, though? Kara Stanton has something awful planned, but none of the pieces make any sense to me. Is this a revenge plot of some sort for being left behind? That seems like an easy guess, but this is Person of Interest. We all know it’s gonna be more fucked up than that.

It puts Agent Carter on a precipice, though. If she continues to seek out more information, she’ll learn who Snow is. What Reese used to do with Stanton. And the Machine isn’t that far away either. This series stresses that knowledge isn’t just power; it’s a risk. The more you know, the more expendable you become. So does Carter willingly choose to know more???

The video for “Critical” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 

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High Rock Look Out near Ashford, Washington

A plaque reads:

“In loving memory of Johnnie T. Peters who packed materials by mule from Mineral in 1930 to build namely this lookout, High Rock, and 10 others in the Mineral, Packwood, and Randle Districts.
‘At home in the hills’”

Submitted by Nick Wojtasik 

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coffee house in Taiwan turns your coffee to a pet portrait

If you're having a RUFF morning, Mi Cofi cafe in Taiwan is sure to put a smile on your face. The Café  has taken latte art to a whole new level by using frothy milk, chocolate and a bit of patience to create the uncanny creations. Since posting pictures online the cafe has been flooded with photographs and requests from people hoping to see their beloved pet staring up at them from their morning cuppa.

Via: Caters News

Submitted by:

Tagged: art , pets , coffee , cafe

Outfits! — Pre-Fall 2017

Sep. 21st, 2017 12:00 pm
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Posted by Karen Templer

You may have picked up on this already, but I’m not really ready to start putting together fall outfits that I can’t wear anytime soon. But I also want to try something different here — at least for the next few months. Rather than projecting a whole season’s worth of outfits at once, I’m going […]
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Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the second part of “Not On My Patch,” I realize I’m glad I’m reading this now so I can annoy all of you with my screeching about Halloween. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards. 

Trigger Warning: For prolonged discussion of overprotective parenting and brief mentions of parental abuse. 

So, I’m the child of overprotective parents.

It’s like we have a code. It’s one of those experiences that almost instantly bonds those who have gone through it. I can tell someone has had overprotective parents with just the slightest hint or reference that a person might make, and then it’s like a dam bursting. This happened to me LITERALLY last month with a new friend I made, and we spent nearly an hour swapping stories and bonding over our shared misery.

I bring this up because I wanted to answer Ronan’s question: what happens to kids whose parents don’t give them any freedom? Obviously, there’s no universal answer. Similarities, sure! And studies done on kids like me have shown of preponderance of behaviors linked to strict parenting, but I definitely don’t want anyone to feel like they’re weird or anything because they turned out differently or actually appreciated their parents’ style. (I’ve met those people, too!)

The most immediate answer is that I ran away from home. Mine is an extreme case, and I have no problem admitting that. Abuse was heavily tied into the strict upbringing I had, so it’s often impossible to separate the two. Not always, though! How that strictness manifested often relied on trust: my parents simply did not trust me to make my own decisions. That ranged from the more obvious issues – things like extracurricular activities, having friends outside of school, curfews and bedtimes – right down to the absurd and mundane. I was not allowed to use a steak knife until I was 15. I was not allowed to check out books from the library without supervision. (Still did it anyway.) I could not leave the property of my home for any reason. No walks. No hikes. No trips to a corner store, to the park across the street, to even the small lot the Home Owner’s Association had built that was just one house away from hours. It was considered a privilege to get the mail. To watch any television show that wasn’t animated or on PBS. To get to stay up past my bedtime, which was only allowed on Fridays and Saturday’s, wherein we got an extra hour.

I imagine it might be easy to understand how a person might feel frustrated or stressed by all of this, and you’d be correct. At school, everyone knew my mother had an iron grip on my life, so much so that by the time I got to high school, my friends just stopped inviting me to do literally anything. So a disparity grew; there was a chasm between what my peers were doing and experiencing and what I was. I knew they had sleepovers; dates; birthday parties; homework sessions; casual kickbacks; they went to the movies, to shows, to plays; they were living and I was stuck.

The major justification for this was success: my parents wanted me to get good grades and get into college. Yet even as I performed to their exacting standards, two things happened: I developed an intense and debilitating anxiety of failure, and I was never rewarded for meeting goals. I’ll be straight with y’all: it took me as long as I did to finish my first novel because I couldn’t get over the terror of failure. On a more positive note, though, I stopped doing things to please my parents! When I was kicked out at 16 and ran off to live with friends and teachers, I made a decision to succeed in high school for myself. Whew, spite became a BEAUTIFUL THING for me!!! I succeeded to show everyone that I was my own person, that I chose to be smart and get good grades, and it remains one of the achievements I’m most proud of.

But the effects of that overprotective relationship continued to crop up in my life for at least a decade. One thing I’ve found I have in common with other people like myself is that it often took years for us to not second guess every decision we made. We were so used to catering our every waking moment to the desires and whims of our parents that once that structure disappeared, we still tried to maintain the behavior. It’s awful! I got used to having to consider if any act of mine would be interpreted as a rebellion or an insult, you know?

This isn’t universal either, but many of us with strict parenting in our childhoods also have an utter revulsion for authority, even when that authority presents itself as a benign or positive thing. When you spend more than a decade being told what to do at every turn, it’s kinda hard NOT to resent that.  I’ve gotten better at this, though! (Shoutout to the very tiny bit of therapy I got seven and a half years ago for that.)

But it’s not all negative. I am a fiercely independent person, and I had to learn that very, very quickly when I was 16. That drive – motivated largely by the knowledge that I did not have any traditional support systems – helped me survive my chaotic twenties, and it also gave me a framework to apply to Mark Does Stuff when THAT started taking over my life. I suppose there’s some spite in that, too, but again: nothin’ wrong with a little pettiness to fuel your world.

Which brings me to a jarring change in topic and tone: HALLOWEEN RULES. I have no idea what is in store for me in the remainder of this story, but the setting has given me the perfect jolt of joy imaginable. I saw a post on Twitter recently about how September is basically a month-long eve of Halloween, SO THIS IS PERFECT. APPROPRIATE! THEMATIC SYNCHRONICITY!

Let’s talk about haunted houses. A few years ago, I had the utter pleasure of attending the Pirates of Emerson theme park with the lovely Seanan McGuire. Now, let me first say that I highly, highly recommend this place because THEY GO SUPER HARD. Their themes are generally fantastic, there’s a lot of immersion, and the cornfield maze alone is a work of beauty. Also, don’t go with Seanan because nothing frightens her and she will absolutely sacrifice you to every single thing that jumps out to frighten you. This is 100% what happened to me and I’ve barely since recovered.

But I loved the experience, y’all. It’s fun to suspend disbelief for a moment, to believe something that is, upon any examination, utterly unbelievable. It’s why Halloween and horror have long been huge sources of entertainment in my life. I’ve chased that “high” that comes with feeling frightened for a long time, and it’s so fun when it actually happens. That includes that damn collection of haunted houses at Pirates of Emerson, and you better believe I went to all of them. I HAD MY SPIRIT RIPPED OUT OF ME, OKAY.

I’ve been to the haunted houses at Great America in San Jose, too, and there was one there back in like… 2011, I think? Anyway, there was a long passageway you had to walk through made of canvas, and there were fans that blew on either side of it, so you had to squeeze your way through it, and then people TOUCHED YOU, and it was one of the best thrills I’ve ever experienced. It was meant to mimic walking through a pitch black passageway of ghosts, and y’all. My life was RUINED.

Anyway, I’m very excited to see what the next bit of this journey has in store for me. Are they gonna fight a possessed pumpkin? PLEASE.

Mark Links Stuff

– Please visit my new site for all announcements. If you’d rather not have to rely on checking a website regularly, sign up for my newsletter instead! This will cover all news for Mark Reads, Mark Watches, and my fiction releases. 


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May 2014

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