Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brutal Brutality

Game of Thrones should be one of the cult shows I watch.  It has all the makings of a favorite and with the wave of popularity it's enjoyed, I'll admit I've felt a bit left out of the cool geek crowd. I do love fantasy worlds like Lord of the Rings. The early descriptions of Game of Thrones noted a sword-swinging, intrigue/adventure tale with dragons and British actors talking to each other while riding horses--it sounded so promising!  Okay sure, there was also vengeance, sadism, nudity and sex to spice it up but everyone could use a little more of that I suppose.

Well we didn't have HBO and the premiere of this show coincided with the birth of my firstborn. But I started hearing from Facebook friends, blogs, podcasts and articles in popular culture about some of the details of this show. Incest? Gory torture and death? Beyond gratuitous nudity and sex scenes? Rape? Blame the postpartum hormones or my upgraded respect for the value of a life--but my tolerance for all that crazy sh*t was about as strong as my tolerance for alcohol (decreasing over time and not that high to begin with).

Over the next few years, Game of Thrones (the show) came into it's own with some of the most brutal and explicit visual storytelling.  People couldn't stop talking about it. In a state of perpetual hesitation, I wanted to be a part of a cultural phenomenon, but I just couldn't do it. Yet I felt its power. I mean, I didn't even follow the show and I felt the waves of devastation after the Red Wedding. The night that episode aired, my Facebook feed flooded with aggrieved despondency.  So when I found out more details about the Red Wedding and what happened to some specific characters--especially having just given birth to my second child--I was all, "NOPE." Right then, like a Vegas dealer at the end of her shift, I clapped my hands together and said, "I'm out." I just can't bring myself to keep horrific images like that in my head no matter how great the story.  Seriously, I even had to stop watching Breaking Bad when <spoiler alert> Jane shoots up heroin, begins to choke to death on her own vomit and Walter just stands there, watching her die.  It was something about that scene, probably having to do with being a mom and Jane being someone's little girl.  Anyway that was too brutal.  And Game of Thrones, from all that I heard and what little I'd seen, was too.

Well last Sunday on Game of Thrones, unless you were under a rock somewhere, the news of a rape of a major character tore through the Internet. Yet that particular rape was not in the book so it took on a strange tenor.  There was so much chatter about this scene that I felt inclined to find the clip, read multiple editorials and write my own post on a show I don't even watch. It's because I have noticed, as have others (check out this amazing piece by Matthew Wallace), that TV and movie writers tend to use rape to just sensationalize and escalate stories.  Even my much beloved Downton Abbey had a terribly handled rape plot line this year and it sparked a reaction.

Like it or not, the majority of the writers and directors for TV shows like this are men. It doesn't mean they can't address and explore something as prevalent, damaging and regressive to women as rape but, too often it's used as an ingredient to spice up an existing story. It's also something that if done improperly on a show can make it seem sort of "exciting."  When you look at the Game of Thrones scene from last Sunday, it's shot in a manner that could make it seem less terrifying and more, dare I say, voyeuristic.  The ladies of The Mary Sue also had an in-depth discussion about this too.  They make some great points about not needing to use rape just to communicate how dysfunctional a relationship is or increase shock value of a show. Which leads me to wonder if this show (and others like it) are reflecting a trend that brutality is a necessary component for praiseworthy and cutting-edge entertainment. And in doing so, does that desensitize or perpetuate the acceptance of brutality (in this case, rape) in real life as a status-quo?  This above all else worries me most...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pushing Boundaries

I've been 40 for a little over a month now and I'm still getting used to that "4" at the beginning.  But do you know the best way to prove that you're still young at heart?  Take unnecessary risks with 9 brave friends.  Here we are pushing boundaries and getting out of our comfort zones last Sunday at Adventura Aerial Park in Woodinville.  I shot the video with my GoPro Camera secured to my Chesty harness.  I put the 8 minute video together after wrestling with the editing software.  Feel free to revel in the magic...

Here are also some still pictures of us on the course and at the dinner after, 
taken by Sarah Waller, Mika Waller & Sean Testa.

Serious Wilson

Shark cake!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Raise the Roof

Solar panels in Seattle may not make sense at first blush.  However we get sunlight just like any other place.

A few months ago, my husband spearheaded this project after hearing about a recent installation on a friend's house here in Seattle. We invited Solterra Systems over to take a look at our roof on a VERY rainy Saturday.  I was doubtful that we'd have the attributes to support a solar installation.  But lo and behold, our location at the top of a (slight) hill coupled with a significantly unobscured western exposure made the house a prime candidate.  Add to that a smaller but just as unobscured southern exposure, and we were looking at a system that could generate 44% of our yearly power draw. With a one-time federal tax incentive and yearly energy production credits, the system will pay for itself in 5-6 years--all the while reducing our draw from the grid.  While I had understood we'd be paid for energy our system collected, I only thought it was whatever excess we didn't use first.  But no: ANY kilowatts we generate, regardless of who uses them, we get paid $.54 per kW (until 2015, then the rate drops a little).  But still--Wow.

Our system was installed in February when we were on vacation earlier this year. The only reason I mention that we were gone is that that when we came home, the panels protruded above the roofline by at least a foot.  It was significant.  I saw this and was, no. I certainly didn't mind having solar panels but I didn't want to turn our house into a goofy-looking science fair project.

 Luckily they were able to slide the panels down a bit on their rails to make them less obtrusive.

Western facing array

South facing array

From the backyard

More technology bolted to the old house--inverters and meters.

With the monitoring tool, we can see online how much energy the panels produce and likewise, how much energy the house is using.  See those red spikes?  I think that is the heat pump coming on in intervals.  See that green bubble?  That's a mostly sunny day and a surplus of kW going to the grid. We are eager to meter specific breakers (hot water heater, range, washer/dryer) to see exactly which things take the most energy. Just this week, a very serious report out by the UN basically concluded that alternative energy and reduction of greenhouse gases has to happen or we risk "catastrophic effects from global warming." Sounds so dire and so unsurmountable.

As a parent though, as someone who wants humanity and all of the planet's life to succeed, apathy isn't an option.  It's now about the "long game" and doing one's part.  Our science project in domestic energy production won't completely solve the problem but it's one step in what needs to be done. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

Girls Weekend!

First plane ride by myself since the kids were born.  First trip to Sonoma.  First Girl's Weekend in a LONG time.

Is it wrong to have felt so much unbridled glee as I strode through Sea-Tac on Friday with not a care in the world?  Having only traveled with children these last 4 years, I'd forgotten that it doesn't have to suck.  Grab some tacos, sip a Starbucks, wait in peace while checking my phone for Facebook updates.  It can almost be, dare I say, fun?  Suzanne's 40th was the occasion that got us all to Sonoma.  

Beautiful and picturesque as you'd imagine California wine country but not as "commercial" as Napa I was told.  All of us are moms so we savored every minute of it.  Even though it was Suzanne's Birthday, this trip was a gift to us all.  The visit to Ram's Gate Winery was the crown jewel of the weekend.  The grounds, wine and hospitality were unparalleled.  We were taken on a tour of the facility and sampled gourmet dishes paired with appropriate wines. I even bought two wines and had them shipped home.  Good times.

The Sonoma Film Festival was also going on. The East Coast Singla contingent.

Ram's Gate Winery


Private tour and tasting event.  Amazing.

Requisite Selfie

Suzanne, Erin & Brynn

Liz & Jo-jo

The birthday girl and her mom