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beauty and the mess
ev'ry tone I play will give whatever I've not said away
This is a story about a tiny (I assume) local company that makes cat toys and does really great customer service.

Back in November, I went out to Mud Bay to get my cat (Bug McLovin the Chocolate Muffin) a new catnip toy, because he had sacrificed his old one to stop the ravaging Roomba-monster (which he had activated by jumping on the power button, but that's another story). I found these:

If you don't want to click through to see the close-up picture, it's a bird-shaped toy with a tag in the format of a tweet. The tag reads: "RT @MudBay: RainingPetSupplyCo TumH2O,WA OrganicKosherCatnip RecycledPopBottleStuffin $3.95 #1000745 P.S. HiGrace: )"

For those of you who don't know: my given name is Grace, so this stopped me in my tracks. Clearly this toy was meant to catch MY attention. Of course I bought one, because it TALKED to me! And the tag format, paired with the shape of the toys? I thought it was terribly clever, and I mentioned that on the MudBay FB page when they posted a picture of the same item. Too cute.

Fast forward to April! Out of the blue, I got an email from the company, asking if I was the same person who had commented on their item on the MudBay page. They thanked me for my very nice comment, and said they would love to know my cat's name. I figured it was just conversation, but it was really nice to hear from them personally, so I replied, told them why I found it so amusing, and figured that was the end of it. Right? Nope!

Today, again out of the blue, I received a package from them:

The note says:

"Hi again Grace:)

As much as we loved the idea of you now finding your cat's given name on the tag (and we completely agree that you CANNOT change a name like this!)...we couldn't guarantee that these exact ones would show up at your local MudBay and we wanted to make sure you saw them. So Bug and Bug McLovin the Chocolate Muffin, along with other cat's names, are on tags throughout the 20 MudBay stores. Thanks again for the nice comments about this toy!

The "Terribly Clever" Raining Pet Supply Company"


Isn't that so cool?! I'm just tickled. They didn't have to send me anything, I was already happy to have had personal contact from someone thanking me for feedback on their toys. This is icing on the customer service cake, in my book.

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i am: pleased pleased

21 somethings or say something
Everybody else is doing it, so here you are: my panel schedule for Norwescon 34. :) (I have to work Thursday evening and my room reservation is only for Friday and Saturday nights, but I think that plus the Sunday festivities will be a full-enough weekend for me.)


Space Opera Sing-a-Long
Noon, Evergreen 1&2
Come and sing songs about space the old-fashioned way - with monsters and emperors and romance and GREAT JUSTICE! We provide the words and music. You provide the enthusiasm and voice.
Beth Runnerwolf, Creede Lambard, David Nasset, Sr., Karen Rall, Sunnie Larsen, Juliana McCorrison, Stephanie L. Weippert

Leannan Sidhe in Concert
8pm, Evergreen 1&2
Bittersweet faerie folksongs for ensnaring human hearts.
Leannan Sidhe, Betsy Tinney, Sunnie Larsen


Harm me with Harmony
11am, Evergreen 1&2
Want to sing along but don't know how it works? Interested in exploring more than the melody line but have no idea where to start? Come to this workshop on harmonies! Bring your voices or instruments to play along live.
Sunnie Larsen, BriarRose McDougal, Darragh Metzger

(I'm still pretty new to the whole con culture, so I'm more than a little nervous about moderating this panel. I don't entirely know how it's all supposed to work. However, I have some excellent notes that sweetmusic_27 loaned me from a workshop she did at OVFF that I am using as an idea-generator. Wish us luck, and come contribute to the discussion, if you think it might be interesting?)

Vixy & Tony in Concert
9pm, Evergreen 1&2
Vixy and Tony will be doing a rousing 1-hour set right before our good friend Heather Dale takes the stage to close out the night. Expect a fair amount of band-blending, as is only right and proper. It's going to be a fantastic evening! Please come be a part of it!
Vixy, Tony Fabris, Betsy Tinney, Sunnie Larsen


Trouble Clef Jam (Songs in the Key of R)
12pm-2pm, Evergreen 3&4
A Norwescon tradition. Join our pros, and anyone else who cares to join in, for a fun musical jam.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth. You can comment here or at http://solcita.dreamwidth.org/943651.html.

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Current Location: work
i am: excited excited

12 somethings or say something
(Our first full day was travel, so it doesn't really count)

So here I am in Ireland, the furthest from home I've ever been. So far it has been an excellent trip -- tieyah and zondrrrah are delightful travel companions, and we've been all over and seen lots of amazing stuff already.

Day 1: arriving, Rock of Cashel, dinner in Galway (McDonagh's)
We got into Dublin about 8am but we couldn't check into our hotel until the afternoon, so we headed out sightseeing. We drove to the Rock of Cashel (which was not entirely on our way but the detour killed some time). Some of it was under scaffolding for rehabilitation but we got to see quite a bit, and the view from the hill was quite nice. After walking down the hill we encountered a Woollen Mills shop, where I bought myself a wonderfully warm and gorgeous green wool cape. We drove some more (to the point of exhaustion for all of us, approaching 24+ hours awake at this point) and finally made it to our hotel in Galway where we rested for a bit, ran out for a bit of shop-browsing and dinner, and then came back and got to bed early. I'd been hoping to find someplace to get a decent fiddle, but one shop only had $100 mass-produced cheap crap, and the other didn't have anything (but recommended a luthier downtown). Dinner was mussels and fish & chips.

Day 2: Dunguaire Castle, Cliffs of Moher, Galway Cathedral (briefly), Paul Doyle violin shop, dinner in Galway (The Quay)
Up early for breakfast at the hotel. We made a quick stop at Dunguaire Castle because it was on the way (there are run-down castles and tower ruins EVERYWHERE). Cliffs of Moher were amazing, such a view! And the weather cleared up as we arrived, so we had bright blue skies for pictures (I took LOTS, of course). We were hoping to get to Bunratty Castle, but with it being Sunday, we weren't able to get there before they closed. Instead, we headed back to Galway, reaching the Cathedral just just before Mass started (because I got us lost trying to get there using only the tourist highlights map). We got lost AGAIN trying to get to the Indoor Market, but we did manage to find the Paul Doyle violin shop exactly in our path, so we went in. I spent probably 45 minutes there trying out various instruments and chatting--he steered me away from the cheap stuff, of course, but did have a VERY nice 19th century German violin for a very respectable price (including a bow and a sturdy travel case). I'm going to sleep on it and go back tomorrow if I decide to pick it up.

The other thing that Doyle showed me was a new project he's working on: a reproduction of the instrument played by Colm Mac Con Iomaire (violinist from The Frames & The Swell Season). It's a 5-string violin with a deep viola-hued voice, flame-shaped f-holes, and sloped shoulders that Doyle called (I think) a "sultana" -- it may have been his name for it, because it isn't a standard instrument name. But it's going to be amazing, maple inlaid with rosewood stripes on the body and the sides, similar stripes with ebony on the fingerboard and tailpiece. I WANT THAT INSTRUMENT SO BAD YOU GUYS, you don't even know. It isn't finished yet and will be well over $6,000 when it is. My brain is arguing that it's inexpensive for a good violin, but my heart says PRETTY! WANT!

Doyle showed me several videos of Mac Con Iomaire playing, to demonstrate the instrument. You can get a good look at it here:

Things we hope to do tomorrow: Kylemore Abbey and a bunch of other things that are on the way there and back. I can't remember them all at the moment, but I'm sure I'll have a ton of pictures. We haven't found an Irish music session yet, but that's mainly because we didn't want to stay out late tonight. That's also on the docket for tomorrow. Seeing as how it's nearly midnight here, I should probably get to bed. :) More later!

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Current Location: Galway, Ireland
i am: enthralled enthralled

3 somethings or say something
* I started a new work schedule this morning -- for the last six months I've been working noon-10pm Thurs-Sun, but now I am 4am-2pm Weds-Sat. I chose it of my own volition and it'll be fine once I adjust, but getting up this morning was rough.

* I get to see Great Big Sea on Saturday! :D I was going to skip this trip due to its proximity to my Ireland trip, but a very, very kind soul (thank you, tanuki_green) decided I needed to go, as a birthday present. I will be careful with my voice this time--last time I saw the B'ys at the Moore, I strained my voice so badly that I'm still occasionally having problems. I love my B'ys, truly, but not at the expense of my singing voice.

* I leave for Ireland a week from this Friday (!!!) with tieyah and zondrrrah. I'm going to try to post updates here regularly while we're gone, so I have a running record of our trip. We'll see how it actually works out, but that's the idea, anyway. :) seattlejo is going to cat-sit for me for the first week (because I'm concerned that my cat will get lonely), and I'm hoping that either mrdorbin or ophanim can look in on Mr. Bug for the last few days.

* School continues to be busymaking, and will only get busier, because I realized, after talking to my advisor, that I'm looking at least another 5 years of (half-time) classes before I graduate. Possibly six, unless I get my behind in gear and start taking summer semesters as well. Since I would like to have my degree before I turn 40, I decided I need to do that. I registered yesterday, so on my upcoming slate I have the following:

Summer (8 week May-June)
EM 301 (Intro to Emergency Management--the first course actually for my major)

Summer (4 week July)
GY 251 & GY253 (Physical Geography: Landscape Patterns & Processes, plus lab section)

Fall 2011 (Aug 30-Dec 10)
EM 331 (Populations at Risk)
PST 110 (Intro to Public Safety Communications--the first class for my minor)

I'm excited to finally be able to start my actual major courses, but am feeling dubious about May through July... I expect that what I'll probably do on July 4th is deactivate Facebook and Twitter and completely clear my social calendar (with very few pre-arranged exceptions) and mostly disappear for a month. I'm taking the first half of that Geography series (GY250/252) right now, and I do not see how they can cram that much material into just 23 days.

So... that's pretty much all that's up with me at the moment. Life is great, on the whole. How about you?

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Current Location: work
i am: optimistic optimistic

7 somethings or say something
Shortly after I posted that last entry, I had my first chance ever to jam with sweetmusic_27 (who I had met only the day before) at the Conflikt open filk. I was really tired, but didn't want to leave before we could play at least one thing, so after a few under-our-breath consultations, Amy started up with "Ashokan Farewell". After I remembered how the song went, I joined in with my viola, and we had one of those wonderful long moments where everything just worked. And then later we did it again, on a version of "Summertime" (both of us plus quadrivium)! And funny thing: suddenly I just wasn't that tired. :) I ended up staying at open filk until 4, and we had a bit of a mini jam-session with Mark and CD Woodbury and a bunch of the other folk who managed to stay up that late. Oh wow, was that fun!

As I was leaving the hotel this morning, someone said to me "I hear that you and your sister-separated-at-birth managed to find each other last night..." :) Playing with Amy was truly a great pleasure, and, as I said to her immediately after our first piece, I think we need to do that some more! :D (Seriously: two curvy purple-streaked-brunette geeky fiddler chicks jamming? How can that be a bad thing?)

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Current Location: home
i am: pleased pleased

6 somethings or say something
Bless me, Father, for I have filked...

(This was inspired by a conversation at the Saturday brunch at Conflikt. I've never written a performable filk before--I have a verse here and there of other things, but nothing completed until now... and I just sang it at the open filk. meep.)

this is very sillyCollapse )

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i am: silly silly

4 somethings or say something
I had a realization earlier: this is the first New Years Eve in several years where my overarching thought hasn't been "don't let the door hit you on the way out". 2010 had its ups and downs, certainly, but the ups far outweighed the downs for me. I've made new friends and had some amazing opportunities come my way, and I have had a total blast. Thank you to all of you who have had any part in this.

I love my home and my cat.
I love my long-time sweetheart.
I love my music and performing opportunities.
I love my community and chosen family.
I love my work (even when I'm here on Thanksgiving and Christmas and NYE).
I love my life.

There is so much more on the horizon! And so, I welcome the new year, because (wait for it........................) this one goes to 11. ;)

Current Location: work
i am: silly silly

10 somethings or say something
Five things making me happy right now:

1) The new Sherlock series is pretty much my most favorite thing at the moment. Yes, yes, I know I'm a few months behind, but I finally watched it this week (I bought it on Amazon Video because I didn't have time to watch it streaming on the Masterpiece website, and what with one thing and another I have a brand new Roku arriving tomorrow. Shut up.) I've been a Jeremy-Brett-as-Sherlock-Holmes fan since I was a wee girlchild, but this is familiar and yet different all at once. Benedict Cumberbatch (how can you NOT love that name?) as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson are a wonderful pair.

2) My latest addition to my favorite podcast list, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Sweet, funny, intelligent geeks (of the comic book, music, and book variety) with just enough snark to keep me giggling almost non-stop. I recommend listening from the start (July) because a few in-jokes develop along the way. If you want them all in a handy .zip, let me know; I have the archive ready and waiting. :)

3) I had two small but fun recording sessions this week, and I have another (larger) one scheduled in about a month. I love being able to contribute to projects my friends are working on, because it gives me a chance to stretch my own creative wings a bit. I don't think I could ever make a full-time career of music and be completely satisfied (there's too much Type A hovering around the outskirts of my usual head-in-the-clouds Pisces nature), but it is still an essential part of my life.

4) My cat may be a co-dependent alien robot who never sleeps, but he is adorable and sweet.

5) Bedtime! Yes, it's making me happy, because I have a wonderfully comfortable mattress and piles of fluffy blankets, just the way I like it. G'night, friends!

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i am: happy happy

10 somethings or say something
A local bank branch just had their grand opening last weekend, and as part of the festivities they invited neighboring pet owners to bring their animals in for a photo session with Santa Paws. It was only a block away, and I really couldn't resist. :)

(Bug didn't mind the hat at all, so I've been pondering whether to buy him some costumes for future hilarity. This is clearly the beginnings of my life as a crazy cat lady.)

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i am: giggly giggly

11 somethings or say something
I have two helpful pieces of advice for you today, friends.

#1: Do not leave your refrigerator door open, especially when you'll be out of the apartment for 12+ hours.

#2: When running a load of dishes in the dishwasher, remember to put the soap in.

*cue "The More You Know" after-school TV special-esque swoopy star*

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i am: ditzy ditzy
listening to: Groove Salad: a nicely chilled plate of ambient beats and grooves. [SomaFM]

9 somethings or say something
Allow me to share with you a small portion of my school Blackboard website from this morning:

That, friends, is the final grade tally for my math class. With some absolutely invaluable help from my friends, I did much better than I had expected to on the exam, and even pulled an A in the class overall. I am SO relieved.

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i am: pleased pleased

18 somethings or say something
I have one last thing to say about my awful math class, and then I'm done, I promise:

When giving your math students a test in which the words "the appended table will be needed", it might--just perhaps!--be a good idea to actually append the table in question.

Not doing so will cause your students to be exceedingly cranky. Trust me on this one.

(I took my math final this morning, because I can't do it on Monday due to work. As you might have guessed, there was no table appended, which meant I couldn't even attempt to answer 5 of the 42 questions. I proceeded to be very [politely!] cranky at my math professor, who replied "If the table did not get appended I will not count those. In fact, I'll probably take them off of the others before I print them out for Monday's exam." While I appreciate him saying he'll handle the issue, if he'd been organized--though he hasn't been all semester, so I don't know why I should expect it now--this wouldn't have happened.)

And that's that. Unless I completely bombed the rest of the test, Battle Exploring Mathematics is OVAH. The only thing left to do is to decide whether to expend the energy on burning this pop culture monstrosity of a textbook, or just toss it in the trash.

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Current Location: work
i am: relieved relieved

6 somethings or say something
I have been getting very strange text messages for the last couple of days. They're coming from a cell phone with a 206 number, but I don't recognize the number and Google is turning up nothing helpful.

The messages, with all punctuation and capitalization preserved:

Yesterday, 10am:

Today, 12:01pm:

Just another baffling moment in my day.

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i am: confused confused
listening to: Drone Zone: Atmospheric ambient space music. Serve Best Chilled. Safe with most medications. [SomaFM]

7 somethings or say something
Classes continue to be what they are, which is to say not bad. I like my English class (although I haven't cared for a lot of the reading assignments), and despite my irritations with my math professor, I've honestly had it pretty easy this semester and I've developed a tendency to slack. Sadly, this will not serve me well with next semester's schedule:

Introduction to Anthropology - AN 224: Surveys the field of anthropology, including cultural anthropology, archaeology, physical anthropology, and anthropological linguistics.

Physical Geography I: Atmospheric Patterns and Processes - GY 250 (plus Lab - GY 252): Study of the function and distribution of the interrelated processes that shape Earth's weather and the classification and distribution of Earth's climates.

They both look like really interesting classes, but I'm envisioning lots and LOTS of reading and homework. Urg.

I'm trying not to get too worked up by what I read on ratemyprofessors; my Anthro professor has okay ratings, but the Geography professor is looking problematic. :/ I have to go back to 2006 to find any actual good ratings for her, anything that doesn't say, basically, "why is she still teaching? I changed my major to get away from her, terrible teacher, disorganized", etc. I'm attempting to take that with a hefty salt lick and evaluate the teachers on the merits of my own interactions with them. We'll see how that goes.

As for the rest of this semester, I have two more weeks of reading and one exam left in English (the assigned paper was made optional/extra credit when some of my classmates couldn't keep up with the reading schedule) and two more assignments and one exam left in Math. I should be finished by 12/12 and have a couple of weeks to relax before I have to dive back into classes.

(Oh, and since I don't think I ever said: I pulled an 85% on my math midterm. Hooray for me, still passing!)

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Current Location: work
i am: okay okay

12 somethings or say something
I'm going to Ireland in March with some friends, and we're starting to think about itineraries and such... I have been sort of looking around at tourism sites, and have a few vague ideas, but I don't really know what's best. If any of you have visited Dublin, could you offer suggestions for me to consider? :)

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i am: excited excited

16 somethings or say something
Here it is, almost a week out, and I haven't yet had a chance to write about the amazingness that was Strowler Nights. It was... well, those of you who attended the other Strowler events will probably understand. It was so much fun! Music, fire, friends, and amazing magic, all crammed into one not-long-enough weekend. I love s00j and vixyish and tfabris and stealthcello for letting me play with them, and consider myself to be exceedingly blessed to have such opportunities.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was some mischief that Vixy, Tony, Betsy and I had put together as part of our concert--see, my costume was inspired by an idea from the inimitable inaurolillium, who said to me one night (months ago) at The Night Kitchen, "You know, what I really want to see some day is someone dressed up as Mamma Gkika from Girl Genius, singing "When You're Good to Mama" from Chicago."

And somewhere inside my little brain, a lightbulb went off.

If you don't read Girl Genius (why NOT?) and don't know who Mamma Gkika is, here:

(clicking on the picture will take you to the place in the comic--in Volume 8 of 11, so it's fairly deep in the story--where she is introduced)

I proposed the idea to V&T&B, and to my delight they loved it. So I Jaeger-ified the lyrics, Tony worked on the guitar tabs, and soon we had a goofy little super-sekrit cover for me to sing. Now, I've done a bunch of backup vocal stuff with Bone Poets and occasionally for Vixy, and some of y'all have been to karaoke with me, but most people haven't heard me sing lead on anything, ever, so it was a fun surprise. And amusing, afterward, to be greeted by fans and friends exclaiming "you can SING!" :)

Phil & Kaja Foglio (the creators of Girl Genius) were scheduled to attend, but were sadly unable to be there at the last moment, so they didn't get to witness the fun. (Rumor has it that there is a video of the song. It hasn't surfaced yet, but I'm suspecting it will, if we give it enough time. :) )

I didn't get the costume perfect, but I think it was close enough:

(Photo by Dave Alverson, who had a photo booth set up at Strowler Nights, and got some very lovely shots of the costumed awesomeness)

We, of course, had tons of fun on stage:

(Photo by solarbird)

(Photo by kightp)

That was Saturday. On Sunday, I dressed up in a corset and top hat and had a blast being just audience for a change. The music was great, the fire shows by Ignition and others were v. impressive, and sitting around chatting with friends all day was just the thing I needed. Thanks everyone. :) (Going back to the "real" world has been difficult (kind of like after a Faerieworlds weekend) but I'm making plans on how to improve the costume so it'll be ready for Norwescon. :D )

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i am: happy happy
listening to: Vhen Hyu Goot to Mamma (headtune)

22 somethings or say something
Math midterm finally happened today, but not without an extra dose of fail on my professor's part (turned out that he sent the one for the OTHER math class he's teaching). I typed out the whole saga earlier but really, after all of this, I think my give-a-damn is broken. We finally got it straightened out, and I might have pulled an 80% on the test, if I'm very, very lucky. But like I said, can't really find it in myself to care at this point... as sarastro_us is fond of telling me: "Cs earn degrees!"

I took a tumble outside the school on my way home, too (after repeated dreams last night of falling down). Originally I thought I'd just scraped up my hands and one knee, but my shoulder and hip are starting to chime in, too. Ow.

Then I made pie when I got home, because baking makes me feel better. Mmmm, pie. And I have three different rehearsals on my three free nights this week, which is something nice to look forward to. And concerts! Lots of concerts coming up. Time to update ye olde webpage schedule, methinks.

Zooming (if a little creakily) off to the first of the rehearsals...

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i am: okay okay

10 somethings or say something
I didn't take my math midterm this morning.

insert rant here about lack of follow-through on the part of my professorCollapse )

At this point I'm wavering between livid and completely apathetic. I wasted two hours of comp time at work today that I really need for other things, so basically the test has already cost me $60 (and the testing center will charge me another $25 to take it). I realize that he's got other students and other tests to worry about, but is it so hard to drop a test in a fax machine a few days ahead of time? Really? Part of teaching a distance course should be making sure you're prepared for such things, I'd think.

Maybe I just need to stop expecting competence from my professors. It'd save me a lot of stress...

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Current Location: work
i am: tired tired

11 somethings or say something
Yea, verily, I am exceedingly weary of this ridiculous pop culture mess of a textbook that dumbs everything down on one hand while expecting me to know things it doesn't even mention on the other.

Actual questions from my actual homework (I swear I have not omitted any information):

If you purchase a new car for $12,000, and finance it for 2 years, how much interest would you expect to pay?

What is a reasonable monthly income when you retire? a) $300 b) $10k c) $500k d) impossible to estimate (hint, this one isn't d)

...and that's not to mention the questions for which there is no instruction whatsoever. Believe me, I spent the better part of an hour flipping back and forth through the three chapters we've done this semester, attempting to find some hint of how to handle a particular formula.

I hated last year's math class SO MUCH (see icon) that I actually burned the textbook when it was all over and I had my extremely hard-won A. My professor was ridonkulously difficult to get ahold of and was obviously using recycled material from another course. However, she at least posted extra lecture material and practice quizzes and reviews for the tests. The interaction I've had with this professor has consisted of "here's your textbook, here are the homework due dates, and here are your exam dates". He's provided ZERO assistance otherwise. Remind me exactly what my tuition dollars are going towards, again?

I'm so wrung out. I have a midterm in the morning, and even after making my own review quiz out of the textbook's chapter review questions, I have no idea how I'm going to do. Wish me luck?

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Current Location: The Night Kitchen
i am: aggravated aggravated

8 somethings or say something
The two performances for The Rite of Mercury were made of awesome. Thank you to everyone who came to support us! We technically have one more day of work on it, some filming for the DVD, and as soon as my nails dry I'm off to the theatre again to start the 30-90 minute process of curling my hair. (Dear hair, just survive through today and I promise I won't let the curling iron anywhere near you for at least a month.) It's been huge amounts of fun, and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to do this, even if I've been plagued by illness for performances. (Dear voice, just survive through today and I promise you can rest until Tuesday night.) I'm going to be sad when it's all over today, because the cast is full of great people and I've enjoyed spending time with them every week.

Alrighty. Nails dry, tea cold, time to do this!

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i am: awake awake

1 something or say something