Archive for the ‘wheels of terror’ Category

Basement Skates Continued

January 7, 2014 - 12:01 am 1 Comment

So after a couple weeks worth of neatsfoot oil, Dr. Jackson’s Hide Rejuvenator, and Leather Honey, the leather in the boots has come quite a long ways towards viability. Work on the plates has been a little more challenging. A few shots of penetrating oil didn’t do much, but some small vice grips did the trick on getting the kingpins loose.

The toe-stop obviously didn’t fare so well. The kingpins remain the oddest bit, but more on those in a bit.


The pivot cups, being arguably the most wear-prone part, are in surprisingly good shape. Gonna replace them anyway since the age of the rubber has some cracks showing, but if the leather hadn’t been dessicated, you could mistake these for something that just sees regular use and hasn’t been replaced in a while.



Getting useful toestops in, as you can see by the post size, will be a bit of work. The fixed stops originally on were loc-tited in place, but came out clean. I should be able to bore out the holes and re-thread them without un-mounting the plate from the boots, but if there’s any hope of a derby life for these old war-horses, a transition to adjustable stops is pretty mandatory.


So the kingpins. They’re kind of bass-ackwards from most these days. Largely, with exceptions and hand waving and so forth, kingpins either drop through the top of the plate with the nut on the bottom for adjustment, or are more in this vein, screwed in from the under side of the plate, again with a nut on the bottom for action adjustment. Not quite sure what to do here, since these screw in from the bottom, but the nut is non-integral. Adjusting the nut to be able to screw the pin further into the plate to tighten up the trucks is… awkward at best. The bushings are toast, and rock hard, but at $15 for a full set for both skates, who cares? They’re wear parts again, it happens. The bushing cups could possibly stand replacing, but they’re not really something that wears out, and the metal is overall in good shape. The 7mm axles remain interesting. Bearings are plenty available in that size, or a ten dollar sleeve will let me use normal 8mm bearings.

Now the bad news. After loosening up the leather a good bit, the odds of these fitting my battleship-like feet are getting lower and lower. The width could probably be stretched, but the length… that’s a long way to go. Fortunately, there are still multiple good homes for these, and the restoration itself is actually a lot more fun than expected. The leather is just about to the point where it needs motion before it’s going to get any better. We’ve got a couple sets of wheels that can be Frankensteined in, and some old clean bearings (from before I discovered the ones that apparently never get dirty) so long as I put those sleeves on.

Thanks, FarmFam! These are awesome!

Trunk Monkey Gets Basement Skates

December 18, 2013 - 2:53 pm 5 Comments

Farmgirl and FarmFam have been in the process of cleaning up and renovating the actual farm house this year. Part of this has been cleaning up the basement. In the process, they came up with a pair of ancient skates. Farmgirl made an offhand crack about them and my derby skating, and somewhere in the Good Idea* matrix of my brain, something said “No, don’t throw those out, let me take a look at them.”

Time passed, and I’d managed to forget they were in the for-Stingray pile at Blogorado. More time passed. Farmgirl got a case of the itchy-feet and came down to visit, and did in fact remember that there was a for-Stingray pile (mostly empty beer bottles that need refilling), and brought that, and the skates, along.

For once the Good Idea matrix of my brain was on to something. This is what showed up:

They’ve already had two coats of neatsfoot oil to start reversing the effects of, I’m told, 30 years minimum living in a basement without any attention aside from that of a packrat, but they look suspiciously similar to modern skate design.


On the right is one of my current workhorses, along with a spare truck and kingpin for reference. A brief aside into skate anatomy, the plate is… well, the plate. The metal bit to which all other bits are mounted. The truck is the bit that has the axles (detached with the black plastic caps protecting the threads below the two). Rotate the pictured spare so the lower cap is pointed up but otherwise in the same position and you can see how they fit, if you’re of the less spatially-thinking set. The forward tip is the pivot (mirrored on the rear but pointed the other way), and the kingpin goes through the bushings (black on the old skates, “orange” with a hefty dose of grime on mine) and the large hole in the truck to hold the whole assembly together. They’re both double-action trucks. I haven’t busted out the protractor yet, but they appear to fall in the more popular 10-15 degree range (45 being the other somewhat less popular but still common angle. If anybody is really that interested in this particular divergence, I can go into more detail later, but it’s sort of a hornet’s nest.) Also the axles are 7mm instead of the currently more popular 8mm (which is what LabRat and I roll).


Oriented to see the model, the make (inverted) is Sure-Grip. This is interesting because Sure-Grip is rivaled only by Riedell in terms of ubiquitousness in the modern derby world. The more things change, the more things stay the same, it seems. The plate is even today part of Sure-Grip’s lineup.

As it stands, they’re too narrow for my feet, but not outside the realm of stretchable. I think you all know where this is going.

The bushings are obviously shot. I could get some 7mm axle wheels, but in the interest of in-house sanity, I think the better bet will be to replace the trucks entirely (and the pivot cups, obviously) and go to 8. The kingpins will go as well, since the crank-it-down flathead screw model doesn’t leave a lot of room for adjustment, and the less said about the toestops the better. They have a similar flat-head crank-down mount leaving the stops very high, which is less than useful for tomahawk stops, which are a severely non-trivial part of a referee’s toolkit. Options there are to either go with a standard nut and washer setup, or drill and tap a couple holes for set screws. Having skated both ways, I’ll be adding the set screw. May also have to bore out the main hole itself, but we’ll see how things go.

All in all, thanks FarmFam! (Like I needed another time sink…bastards.)

(And to end-run the inevitable questions, yes the Trunk Monkey moniker is based on the commercial campaign. My general policy of making boy scouts look underprepared** has resulted in way more than a few “Does anybody have a [oddball thing nobody would ever think a derby practice would need]?” “Yeah, I do. Just a sec.” moments, ergo press the button, deploy the Trunk Monkey, fix any problem. My number, for those curious, is .30-06 because “a man with a .30-06 doesn’t panic.”)

*They’re not
**Which sadly is not foolproof, as I have found myself underprepared at times.

Not So Small Victories

February 19, 2013 - 12:46 am 5 Comments

LabRat started skating a good couple-some months ahead of me; my original plan was to be essentially the team mechanic, then wound up a non-skating official, and from there progressed into off-skates trainer, who would of course need to know how to skate in order to come up with the most effective workouts to keep the team safe, and from there naturally into my current incarnation as a zebra. I’ve only been on wheels for around 3/4 of a year at this point.

Suffice to say I am not (yet) the slickest ninja on the track, but I am improving at a steady pace. I’ve gone from barely being able to stand up without severe danger to my tailbone to… well, to last night’s practice.

Bampf! is by any objective measure one of the top three skaters, skills-wise, on the team. Who takes the top honors depends on the phase of the moon and the alignment of the stars, but her name comes from Nightcrawler and the signature onomatopoeia he makes as he teleports around. Bampf! similarly appears to teleport, hence… right, you get the jist. She’s also maybe 100lbs soaking wet, so it’s not like there’s a lot of mass to get up to speed when she opts to floor it.

Anyway. Last night, derby girls being addicts they are, decided on ONE LAST JAM! to end the practice. And since it was the last one, let’s do it going around the track the wrong way, or as they termed it, Australian Style. We had just enough skaters to keep an even number of blockers and a jammer per team, except one skater had already started gearing down in the process of addressing a problem with a skate.

There was a brief period of “Aww, c’mon!” and “Ok, who’s gonna jam for blue?” and so forth. No solution was presenting itself, so in the spirit of shits n’ giggles, I handed my whistle to one of the other refs and asked for the jammer panty.

Some of you are at this point thinking “Well there’s your first mistake.” Patience, Grasshopper.

So Bampf! and I lined up as jammers. We made sure everybody was on the same page that, no, he’s not a ref anymore, yes you can hit him, yes he’s going to try to score. I did not have high expectations, but I figured for a last what-the-hell jam, it should at least be fun.

The jam timer/pack ref called the 5 second warning, and looking forward through the pack, not only were the blue blockers lined up to do their job optimally and shut Bampf! down, but the green team seemed to be suffering a bit of confusion at the notion of a ref jamming and were way over with the blue team on the track. The whistle blew, and I swear it looked like the whole damn interstate was wide open in front of me and marked off specifically for my use.

One of my problems as a ref has been acceleration, when the pack suddenly decides that they need to be moving about 90mph after crawling along at a near-stop for a half lap. As it turns out, the same technique of “Oh shit they’re going to ditch me” acceleration I had been practicing at length for a couple weeks is remarkably similar to the “GO GO GO GO” plan jammers tend to employ. Nobody even touched me as I shot through what couldn’t even be called a hole so much as a gaping chasm, and two blasts off the jammer whistle were the sweetest sound I’d heard all night.

I got a decent lead out before my brain kicked over and said “Hey, just ’cause you’re lead, um, she’s still coming around y’know.”

Well, shit.

Poured the gas back on right as Bampf! came out of the pack, and took an inertia-pushed line through the curve, which happily put me smack in her way and shoved her out.

I’d like to say that all the time studying the rules and watching for what goes wrong with skaters made me all sorts of ninja-awesome, but there may have been a few elbows that could have been called. On the flip side of the coin, her being used to skating against girls, who have a naturally lower center of balance, Bampf! was throwing more than a few low blocks trying to get around.

This is where it stopped being a jam and turned into a Roman chariot race. Wheels grew spikes, horses were turned carnivorous, the opposing charioteer was whipped… but through it my ass stayed a problem for her the whole way.

At this point, my team had better situational awareness than I did, the red flag being firmly waved in “CHASE! WIN! RACE! GET HER!” mode. “CALL OFF THE JAM!” penetrated my consciousness.

Now, I’ve been reffing long enough that I can recognize the distinctive “hands repeatedly on hips” signal to end the jam any time I see it, even if I’m half asleep.

Damndest thing, I could not for the life of me remember how to actually perform the signal for about a good 30 feet of skating.

So that’s how my Sunday went from average to awesome as I got lead jammer over one of the best jammers in the league, and started contemplating starting a men’s league. How was your weekend?

Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers My Ass

October 31, 2012 - 4:22 am 5 Comments

(For those who don’t recognize the joke in the title… here)

Last weekend, while the Los Alamos Derby Dames were holding their Halloween fundraiser party to apparent success, the neighboring league, Duke City Derby, was holding their championship bout. When I mentioned that against all common sense, I’d be putting on the stripes and reffing the matchup, someone employed all the subtlety of a honey badger with a sackful of bricks and requested that I write up this questionably planned plan. Not quite sure how to cover this, but here we go.

First off, I learned it’s important to find out how many bouts are going to be in an event well ahead of time. I found out either the day before, or two days before that this was going to be a double-header. As it turns out, skating for five hours straight puts a bit of a hurt on anything south of the lower back; now in my mental checklist for the future, “double header” means “extra-large bottle of vitamin I and possibly a flask of something stronger”. I’ve got extremely flat feet, and being up for that long and using all the fiddly little muscles for stabilizing an ungainly monkey on wheels… they just stopped screaming this morning.

Now I call this plan questionable for a couple reasons. First, I’ve only been skating since late May, and before that the sum total of time I’ve had wheels on my feet was about 20 minutes when I was 12 or so, where upon I naturally fell directly on my ass, proclaimed “Fuck this,” and returned the skates to my friend in order to go do something not insane, probably involving Mario. Second, I’ve only worn the stripes in anger, as it were, twice before and neither time actually counted. The first was a scrimmage, and the second was a glorified scrimmage with an audience because one team had already forfeited. Nothing that would affect standings, or say, cause a trophy to change hands.

No pressure.

For extra fun, and this time I mean that honestly for a change, this was also their Halloween shindig, so the already somewhat off normal derby crowd was even further off, with kids running around in gas masks with spiked collars*, bondage nuns, painted faces, pleather Optimus Prime microskirted costumes…. it was a little weird.

The first game was the big one, the Disco Brawlers vs. the Dooms Dames. This was kind of neat for me because I’d heard more of the Dooms Dames than seen, so checking out their military-styled uniforms was fairly cool. Then the other penny dropped, and I found out I’d be on outside pack ref. The good news is that means my job would be nearly just symbolic compared to other positions. The bad news is that there were only two of us on the outside, which means a lot of skating, and having to haul ass the whole way because you’re going so much further than the rest of the crowd. Yeah, there was a shitload of this. There was also a water main access thingy of some sort in the middle of the back straight on the track, right at the point where I invariably needed to put on a burst of speed more than normal. During warm up, rolling over the tiny little bowl-depression around this didn’t seem to be a problem. At speed, the damn thing was like seeing the banana peel in the middle of the line you’re taking through a curve in Mario Kart. There is clenching involved.

The other fun part of being on the outside, is that skaters called on penalties will be invading my precious space in order to get to the penalty box. And they’re never happy on the way there, and their entire skating purpose is hitting people. There was a lot of this going on. And seeing one girl you know hits like a truck coming at you at speed, visibly pissed off with the call, doesn’t do your blood pressure any favors. Fortunately she left a whole half inch between me and her on the way by, but I was all set to call the misconduct penalty as soon as I regained consciousness.

That water access and pissed off skaters doesn’t sound like enough fun, you say? Good news! It gets worse! The bench coach for one team had injured herself badly enough to require a wheelchair. Which, since she needed to yell instructions and so forth to her skaters, “somehow” wound up frequently disturbingly close to the track, where us poor outside zeebs were zipping along. I lost the pack more times than I’d care to count or admit trying to get around her gimped ass, and by half time I was asking around to see if anybody had one of those boots they put on cars with too many parking tickets. My skate bag now contains extra strong zip ties to go through wheels. This will not be a problem again.

Overall, I don’t think I did too badly. I know I missed calling some things I should’ve called. One was simply my brain going “derp”- I watched the whole thing, said to myself “Self, that was a low block major,” skated on, and eventually the little light went on to say “….and I was supposed to DO SOMETHING about that! Fuck!” just a skosh too late to call it after all. The flip side, the calls I did make I felt really solid about, so there’s that.

So after the two 90000 minute periods finally were over, the Disco Brawlers took their trophy and victory lap and huzzah hoorah, everybody survived.

Then it got worse.

Between games, there was an exhibition of the worst kids jump-roping ever seen by man. LabRat, who had been bumped out of her non-skating official position for various reasons (we thankfully got her back to working for the second game), was forced to leave the stands to keep from laughing at them, and what I saw after a break in the ref room, I can’t blame her.

The next bout was back to the status of “doesn’t matter,” and off the books. This should be way better, right? Uh, no. First, we lost one ref from the first game, so instead of having enough zebras to field outside pack refs without skating somebody to death, we decided to run with one extra inside pack ref. This is not supposed to happen. It gets crowded. Really crowded. And since the game wasn’t going on any books, the DCD folks announced that they’d be playing on the rules as they were used to them being, not necessarily how they actually are when you check WFTDA. There was a lot of this, without the benefit of the beverage. Fuck it, I don’t know their deviations, so I’m going by what’s in my official rule book. It only caused one spat, and I wasn’t at the center of it anyway, so all good, if weird.

Now add in to this mix a couple skaters I already recognize as being penalty magnets, and mouthy penalty magnets at that (Elvira Mental, if you stumble across this somehow I’m looking at you here :-p ). On the bright side, I wasn’t dodging the wheel chair anymore, but on the downside my overall dodging was increased about 5000% based on the stripe-wearing congestion.

Things went about as you’d expect; stuff was missed because we were all dodging each other, skaters tried to get away with everything short of murder, and then looked butthurt when called on it (Sorry, Kandi Warhol, but when you elbow someone’s face, how did the plan conclude in your head?)

The most memorable point of the night though did come in the second bout. Without bogging down into rules minutia, it was the start of a fresh jam, and one team did not successfully create the situation they were trying to create before the starting whistle. There was still a path on the table to achieve the same goal, but unfortunately, the one skater caught out who could’ve finished the execution didn’t know it, apparently. The other route open to her was to take a penalty. Since it was the start of the jam, and their plan meant nothing would be moving until it came to fruition anyway, this one girl was caught like a deer in the headlights: take a knee, get a penalty, and didn’t see the path to safety just over there**. So at this point, she’s been sort of dancing in a half crouch trying to figure out how to avoid the penalty, wavering between standing up and kneeling. Whistles were poised. A fight could’ve broken out between the jammers and I don’t think we would’ve noticed. She finally opted to just take the penalty, and I tell you it was the Fox 40 Philharmonic. I think the penalty trackers had it written down before we even finished calling it, and we all called it. I felt bad for her, but the deer in the headlights expression with every zeeb staring at her was just hilarious.

And then it was over. And they thanked us! And sounded sincere! And it was like “holy shit, you’re all bi-polar, aren’t you?” And it was awesome!

Then my body told me I just skated for five solid hours with minimal breaks where I was still on wheels just not going hard. That part sucked. A lot. I may need another beer now just thinking about that part.

And that’s how I got out of having to figure out a costume for the derby Halloween party. The end.

*LabRat tells me she believes that particular kid is Pork Chop, the Dooms Dames mascot, and he’s always like that. See what I mean about slightly off normal?
**For those readers who are also derby fans, this was a situation. She’d have been fine if she just skated off.

*nods off at desk*

September 24, 2012 - 10:56 pm 6 Comments

Sorry for the radio silence. We are running on a pretty big sleep deficit, thanks to lately everything in the world happening in the morning but needing most of the evening to wind down before sleep is possible. Kang is also in heat, and while this will only happen once before one of them is neutered, this means we are dealing with Overhormoned Intact Adolescent Male as well as Cranky Bitch Who Hates Being Female, and their acting out is damaging our zen, to put it very mildly. The roller derby world is also going through some final frantic do all the things and wrap up all the standings stuff before the offseason begins, so we basically have no weekends right now*. This is an issue because prior to this weekends were the time we got just about everything done.

The good news is things get a LOT quieter starting next month.

*For the lone reader who knows what I’m talking about, yesterday I got to be the wrangler, inside whiteboard, and scorekeeper all at the same time. *ref rolls up* “Ten!” *polite nod* *long mutual stare* “…And ten did, what exactly?” “No, points!” “oh” I’ve been self-medicating.

Mommy and Daddy Taught Me Not To Hit Girls Though…

September 15, 2012 - 3:18 am 5 Comments

Yesterday was normal derby practice. But Wait! There’s a boot camp this weekend. So today was bonus work. Have I mentioned I never had wheels on my feet for anything more than 15 minutes before in my life until I started skating in like June? Today was supposed to be boot camp runner running a light evaluation.

Which turned out to mean an hour or so at Stingray’s Sprint Speed and lots of getting up from fall work, followed by a sucker punch as a wheel check sent me flying to land straight on my solar plexus.

And she really really wants the refs at tomorrow’s 9 am (which I didn’t know they *had* a nine in the morning on Saturdays) to 2 pm training fest. Because it’s good to have big guys in the mix for hitting drills and blocking drills for… uh… reasons.

Look, I know I’m pretty low on the totem pole for skating skills, but when the lion is waving to everybody else “Hey! That zeeb is the slow weak one! Let’s fuck it up!” I’m not entirely on board with the plan.

Please donate generously to the Prostate Cancer Foundation in my memory.


August 3, 2012 - 4:43 pm 20 Comments

I debated whether this remotely qualified as postable, but given that I haven’t got any other ideas today, content only a small handful of people will be interested by is superior to no content. And damned if I feel like even glancing at politics again today, especially given as the Chickfildämmerung still seems to be in full swing.

I’m kind of a scent geek. It’s one of my few concessions to girliness; I’m roaringly uninterested in clothes or makeup and my hair care regimen is centered around laziness and pragmatism, but I’ve been fascinated by perfumes and essential oils since I was little. For a long time I made my own- I can’t even remember why I stopped doing that, probably because it’s a really damn inconvenient hobby to have if you’re limited in space and don’t live in a city big enough to support a local store that sells essential oils.

When I’m psyching myself up for something (test, interview, event, planning on jumping Stingray’s bones extra spectacularly, whatever), picking a scent for the occasion is as important if not moreso to me than picking an outfit. I have a small collection of favorites for every occasion, things that work for very specific purposes or moods, and a much larger one of stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time but… just… didn’t… work.

For those that don’t spend their time mucking about with perfume, there’s a caveat; everyone’s skin chemistry is different, and lots of scents, especially more complex ones with ingredients that aren’t blunt as a hammer, will smell very different on people whose skin chemistry is sufficiently different. No one knows what exact conditions produce what exact effects, but hormone profile, skin pH, skin oiliness or dryness, and diet all have definite influences. Some are more or less constant over a person’s lifetime and are as unique as they themselves are, some will change with age, stress levels, pregnancy or menopause, and significant diet shifts.

I have learned over time that, for whatever reason, my own skin chemistry, at utter odds with the rest of my personality, will aggressively feminize any scent or oil that touches my skin. Sweet scents tend to get dialed up and dominate other notes in the blend; floral notes will rampage out of control; rougher, sharper scents will be de-emphasized or erased altogether. Occasionally some act of alchemy will pull floral or delicately spicy notes out of scents that aren’t supposed to have anything like that in them. Because the changes my skin chemistry may make to a dried scent in comparison to how something smells in the bottle or wet on the skin are sometimes so dramatic and so opposed to the rest of my personality, and because I am completely psychotic, I have come to visualize this force of my nature as a small, prim woman in Victorian clothing. Her name is Miss Bonnet. Miss Bonnet’s chief joys in life are flowering gardens and tea parties with sticky baked goods served. My chief concern with any new scent is what Miss Bonnet is going to do to it by the time it’s finished drying and warming.

In any case, one of the traditions of roller derby is creating a persona to go with your name and performance on the track. Roller girls can get quite elaborate with extra uniform accesories, facepaint, and other “boutfit” touches. Me being me, the first thing that occurred to me when I realized I should do this was to go looking for a scent to go with. Something that smelled like flashy, fast-moving violence. And, ideally, wouldn’t break down into something hideous when subjected to a few hours of sweat and stress*. This may, in fact, be completely impossible to accomplish, but at the very least I’ll end up with a bunch of things that may smell fantastic on me on more ordinary days when I could stand to feel confident and energized.

Lately, I’ve been a big fan of ZOMG Smells, largely because they make it very easy/cheap for me to order lots very small samples to see what it’s actually going to smell like on me, partly because they’ve got a big sense of creativity and fun and seem to be able to follow through in the quality of the actual product, and partly because they seem to add quite a lot of personal touch to client orders. Every time we get something, we see evidence someone is paying close attention to what the client asks for and throwing in one or two extra samples of something they might like. So, for this particular project, I’ve stuck with ordering from them. (I feel I should probably caveat that the nature of our relationship is strictly me giving them money in exchange for smells; writing this was entirely my idea based on being hard up for content and this having consumed a portion of my week.)

Here are the results so far, for those that didn’t bail out 700 words ago.

Coronal Mass Ejection

Scent description:

The sun is a mass of incandescent gas and sometimes, just sometimes, it sends a big ol’ glob of those fun times hurtling out into space propelled by solar wind.

When these coronal mass ejections are pointed Earthward, they do neat junk like freaking out radios, the entire power grid of Quebec, and the Earth’s magnetic field in general. The Carrington Event, a super-major CME in 1859, was especially exciting, causing aurorae borealis as far south as Rome. Certain telegraph operators at the time–possibly crazed on patent medicines–also claimed that they could operate their telegraphs without an external power source due to the current running through the lines. A coronal mass ejection of this majesty happens, on average, every 500 years or so. Ready?

Notes: Pink grapefruit, Tunguska pine, two ambers and the distilled fear of everyone working in telecommunications…by which we mean tolu balsam.

In the bottle, this smells just about as described. Mostly grapefruity, with something warm and a little woodsy underneath, and something difficult to pin down or define lurking about the edges. Wet on my skin, the pine and amber came forward a lot and the tolu balsam asserted itself a bit more.

Unfortunately, as I learned when I later looked up what exactly tolu balsam is, it smells like vanilla and cinnamon to most people. Miss Bonnet loves these things in a way that’s sort of inappropriate. By the time it finished drying on my skin and warming to my body temperature I smelled like I’d spent my day working in a Cinnabon outlet. No trace of any of the other elements remained. I wound up having to actually wash it off my wrist to stop smelling like a tray of baked goods. I will probably give the rest of the sample bottle away to a friend whose skin is more reasonable on the subject of sweet, vanilla-y smells. I wish her joy of it, because this smelled amazing in the bottle and I’m really disappointed it doesn’t work for me.

Nuee Ardente

French for “a glowing cloud”; Volcano for “I must have you right now, darling”. An incandescent current of superheated caustic gases and glittering shards of volcanic glass that rushes downhill ahead of an eruption’s rocky components, the nuee ardente is a volcano’s most potent distillation of its twin capacities for beauty and hot death.

The former cities of Pompeii and Saint-Pierre were blown a kiss, thus, by Mounts Vesuvius and Pelee respectively. And now….well, you know. Our take: rosewood and dark rose blooms, black tea, and flecks of cinnamon.

In the bottle it smells exactly as described, somehow hot in the way a smell shouldn’t be able to present. The cinnamony smell isn’t sweet at all, but more like the raw bark off a cinnamon tree. Wet on the skin the rose and tea assert themselves a lot more strongly. By the time Miss Bonnet was done with it, it smelled less like a pyroclastic flow and more like having black tea with cinnamon sticks sitting in the cups, in a rose garden on a hot day. Not unpleasant in the least, and I’ll probably use the rest of the sample, just not remotely what I was going for.

As a strange footnote to this test run, Tank loved this one. He sniffed and nuzzled me like I smelled of finest deer poop, and I had to shoo him off when he started drooling on my chair. The other two dogs didn’t care. As of the other two one is neutered and one is female, I worry a bit this makes me smell of bitch in heat on some level.

Wrestling Tigers While Calling Your Mum Long-Distance

There are days when you are doing absolutely everything, and somehow you manage to balance it all with aplomb. This scent is for those days, both to reward you for coping well and to encourage it to continue: earth to ground you, incense to soothe the scattered mind and help you collect your thoughts, beloved frankincense for a touch of ancient luxury in your everyday life, two steady woods, and a sweet cola drink to help keep you perky and alert.

Incense, cola, frankincense, woods both sharp and creamy, and a hint of rich, grounding earth.

In the bottle it smells potent and aggressive. Heady stuff. As it was drying it acquired a bizarrely strong floral note, which thankfully faded once it was finished settling on what it was going to be, which was slightly sweet, woody, spicy, feminine (as usual for me) and very well blended. Stingray characterized the end result as “I feel pretty, and also I am going to kill you”. Winner. Will put this one through a stress test to see how it stands up to sweat, and even if it falls apart I’ll be ordering a full bottle because this worked fantastically for me. It lasts for ages without breaking down into simpler components, too.

Barbaric Splendour

Rich and proud and glinting with everything precious your neighbors had until you rode up and took it away from them. A heady blend of plunder notes and the pleasure of inflicting your will on the populace! Golden amber, sandalwood, patchouli and earth churned by the hooves of your richly-caparisoned steed. Isn’t ‘caparisoned’ a great word?

Exactly as described in the bottle. Someone sweaty and ready to beat your head in, who also happens to be oiled up with something faintly exotic. Unfortunately, once applied, Miss Bonnet chased the barbarians away with her broom, leaving only a faint residue of sandalwood and patchouli, though that residue lasted a day and an age. Stingray liked it a lot more than I did, which means he can have the rest of the sample. It will probably work better on his skin anyway.

Camping In A Vanilla Forest

Holly says this scent is like going camping in a vanilla forest, and so we went with that. Imagine, if you will: your campfire sends up thick vanilla smoke as night falls upon your little party deep in the woods. The fire heats a chunk of old tree sap– young amber in the making– until it adds its golden essence to the sweet aroma. The night air from the ancient vanilla forest smells of rich earth and herbal secrets under fragrant fallen logs. In the morning, you will hunt black vanilla truffles.

Young amber, smoky vanilla, earthy patchouli and a hint of vetiver-green shadows in the underbrush.

This one was the ZOMG crew’s bonus extra in the package, and apparently they know better than I do. In the bottle it smells, bizarrely enough, EXACTLY as it’s named: like you are sitting next to a smoky campfire in a dark forest primeval that for some reason happens to smell of vanilla. As it started to dry it seemed like Miss Bonnet was pulling her usual inappropriate mojo and making it smell entirely like sweet vanilla and coconut, but after it settled down the results were surprisingly nice. The smoke and char came back, along with something faintly floral that Stingray characterized as what would happen if Susan Sto Helit took over Miss Bonnet’s flowerbeds**. Against all expectation I’ll run this one through the sweat test and see what happens. At the very least it’s the first vanilla-smelling anything I’ve ever tried that doesn’t make me smell like a six year old eating a sugar cookie.

*I should probably note before the nightmares start that I am *not* one of those people that likes to marinate in perfume. My sense of smell is pretty sharp, and if mine is good Stingray’s is supernatural. I pick one pulse point, singular, and give it a quick, light swipe or spray and done. Generally no one but the two of us notices I smell of anything in particular.

**Possibly the single geekiest description I have ever written of anything.

Roller Derby FAQ

July 23, 2012 - 6:35 pm 16 Comments

Yes, I know it’s been really quiet around here lately. That’s because July has been insanely busy, with the topic of this post being a major contributing factor and work, friends, and other hobbies being no quieter. Either way, n+1 people have asked me about this and I have absolutely no better ideas for content, so here we go.

1. WTF is roller derby?

It’s women on roller skates playing a game resembling a cross between NASCAR and demolition derby. Go fast, turn left, if you’re assigned to scoring you try to lap your opponents, and if you’re assigned to defense you try to capture the scorer and/or hit her out of bounds/to the ground and/or hit the people trying to help her. The player responsible for scoring is called the jammer and the players on defense are called blocker. The chief blocker gets a fancy striped cover for her helmet and is called the pivot. Mostly her job is yelling at the other blockers. An interval of play is called a jam. The game as a whole is divided into two half-hour periods with an unlimited number of jams (max jam time = 2 minutes, endable earlier under various conditions), and a halftime in between to allow the players to recover some, the coaches to encourage/yell at them, and the referees to reshuffle into new vantage points. There are a bunch of other rules besides, but they are largely uninteresting to the casual observer. To quote a friend, it’s a game in which every rule is as fiddly as the infield fly rule in baseball.

On the grounds that jetting around on roller skates body-checking each other is way too awesome to leave entirely to women, there are now men’s roller derby leagues as well.

2. Isn’t that fixed, like wrestling?

Used to be, back in the seventies. Roller derby has actually been around in various different incarnations since the 1920s, and has varied from a straight-up sport to an exhibition/entertainment event. Right now it’s a straight-up sport.

3. Is fighting allowed?

Used to be, when the current incarnation still had more sideshow elements and penalties were more jokes/excuses for show than actual penalties. Now actually attacking the other players, as opposed to landing legal hits (nothing above the shoulders or below mid-thigh, can’t use your arms or kick), will get you ejected from the game. As it turns out, allowing players to actively try to beat the shit out of each other isn’t all that sustainable in a game that already has a pretty high rate of player attrition from injury.

The completely legal and sanctioned hits are perfectly capable of sending a skater crumpling to the floor or tumbling into the audience, particularly as there are no weight classes and players are sometimes getting hit by girls that are much bigger than them, so the game still isn’t exactly nerf. Imagine a sport that equally encouraged both the body types found on the backs of racehorses and those found in the defensive line of a football team and you’ll have an idea of the potential disparities.

4. Why are there so many, uh…


5. You know…


6. …lesbians?

It’s a sport whose modern incarnation originated in the punk-alternative counterculture and features highly athletic women in often skimpy costumes. What do you think?

Suffice to say the two communities are close enough that derby skaters often have a spot in pride parades even if everyone on wheels is actually straight.

(There are a lot of gay/bi men in a lot of amateur sports leagues for similar reasons. It’s just being out tends to get the shit kicked out of them, whereas derby tends to encourage any and all to fly their freak flag.)

7. Do you have to be an athlete to skate?

Yes and no. Most leagues make a point of advertising that all skill levels and body types are welcome, for the simple fact that being able to roller skate isn’t that common a skill anymore and most leagues value an inclusive you-can-do-it atmosphere. That said, being able to skate and hit people for an hour straight is actually a pretty big physical demand; by the time you have the skill and stamina to pass the tests to be allowed to bout, you’ll be an athlete whether you started out that way or not. (This is not even going into what you may have to do to be recruited to a team within the league, which depends a lot on the size of the league.) You either put in the sweat, or quit.

8. That girl is really, um…


9. …Heavy?


10. …Doesn’t that matter?

I’ll skip the fat vs. fit lecture and reiterate that the nature of the game encourages a lot of different body types. Jammers need speed and agility, but for a blocker being big is often an advantage in and of itself owing to sheer laws of physics. It’s difficult for a much smaller woman to effectively hit a bigger one, or to recover from a hit before major position has been lost.

There’s also more than one way to make it through a pack of skaters; little jammers tend to duck and weave and juke, bigger jammers tend to bash their way through. It all gets much more complicated than that, due to rules and skill levels, but as a basic explanation this one will do. Suffice to say everyone needs to be fit, but being skinny is not a requirement.

11. What kind of gear do you need to play?

Quad skates (NOT rollerblades), knee pads, elbow pads, wristguards, skate or hockey helmet, and a mouth guard. Skimping on any of it will get you hurt, maybe badly. Yes, this gets expensive pretty fast. Most leagues have at least some loaner gear for newbies who are still trying on the sport, but eventually you will have to pony up if you want to continue.

To give you an idea, scattered around various areas of our house are two pairs of skates (I want to upgrade soonish to get a better fit/better quality- this will probably cost me between $350-500, my old skates will go to the loaner bag for any tiny-footed fresh meat out there), a skate tool, a bearing puller, three sets of wheels, we’ve both upgraded our bearings at least once and gone through a set of laces apiece, bearing lube, a wash bottle (again for the bearings, an unbelievable amount of crap accumulates in your wheels when you skate outdoors), two bags for gear (both milsurp and pretty cheap, thankfully), a full set of helmet/pads for both of us, leather toeguards for Stingray (my skates are just duct-taped since I care less about them), and a pair of padded shorts.

The tendency to go gear queer is if anything even worse in derby than it is in shooting. Some of my fellow skaters have more sets of wheels than Imelda Marcos had shoes.

12. This sounds like I’m gonna get hurt pretty badly pretty quickly.

Maybe, thought it’s far from inevitable. You need an interesting mix of fearlessness and a very healthy respect for Newton’s laws of motion to play. Respect your learning curve skating and don’t try anything crazy until you’re pretty certifiable AND pretty damn skilled, never ever cheap out on your protective gear, learn the various falls and practice them over and over again, and train and supplement to protect your joints and connective tissues. Free weights are recommended if you don’t already have a physical hobby that challenges your connective tissues without just breaking them down. (Be very vigilant about form and don’t let your ego write checks you can’t cash in THIS realm as well.)

And try not to fall on your tailbone or your head. Seriously.

13. So just how fiddly ARE these rules?

Functionally? Pretty simple.

Technically? The sport is basically a mobile game of DnD for nerds who want to do something physical but don’t want to play with dumb jocks, so very. The occasional square-offs between 10th-dan rules lawyers are inevitable, and sometimes even change the game in fundamental ways. (See: scrum start.)

Short version: don’t hit with your elbows, or forearms, no kicking or tripping, don’t hit in the back, above the shoulders or below mid-thigh, turn left and stay near your team. Unless you’re the jammer, in which case haul ass and try not to get caught.

14. Why would you do something like this, anyway?

Because it’s cool.

Anything else?

Modern Gaslighting

July 15, 2012 - 7:12 pm 9 Comments

Warning: Jargon heavy modernized psychological “fiction” follows below the break.

How To Learn To Roller Skate

June 14, 2012 - 8:56 pm 10 Comments

1. Obtain skates. You can either borrow them from someone close-ish enough for government work to your shoe size, rent them from an appropriate establishment (for some strange reason the local Methodist church is that establishment here), or if you’re really insane you can just buy them. Skates are not as cheap as you will remember them being when you were a kid.

2. Obtain protective gear. Do not skip this step. At the very least* you want kneepads and wristguards, being the most likely points beside your ass you’re going to fall on. Your ass is probably well padded already. (Except for one particular point, which you may- excitingly- discover.)

3. Locate a good place to attempt skating. The sidewalk is not a good place, as you will rapidly discover if you try it. Yes, that is probably where you learned to when you were eight. You aren’t eight anymore, you are much further off the ground, and the amount of mass you have to interact with gravity has increased greatly. Even if it looks fine to you, taking a broom and clearing the chosen space, if outdoors, of gravel will do you lots of favors. Skate wheels aren’t designed for offroading even a little bit.

4. Put on protective gear. Put on skates.

5. Stand up.

6. Attempt to move forward.

7. From your new position on the ground, assess yourself for injuries, and determine if they are serious enough to justify taking the damn skates straight back off again. Common options include groin pull and bruised tailbone.

8. Try to find either a friendly person to literally hold your hand, or a vertical surface that can be slightly leaned upon. Try to do this somewhere with walls. When you come back, if you can come back with a baby stroller or shopping cart, these tools will help enormously.

9. Practice skating in a straight line from wall to wall. Now is a good time to quietly explore and discover every single tiny stabilizer muscle you don’t use at all in any non-skating capacities.

10. Because you will be doing it whether you call it practice or not, practice falling. You want to fall onto the bits of yourself that are actually well protected, which in most cases if you bought remotely adequate kneepads will be your knees. Although you may be wearing wristguards, never rely on them; wristguards suck and they will only help you a little. Even if you don’t break your wrists, falling onto your hands is a good way to break your thumb. You are not supposed to fall backwards, but this will happen anyway; attempt to fall on one side of your ass or the other. Falling on it straight back and center will bring you naught but woe. If falling at speed and knees are not an option, try to fall on your hip and roll. Again, it is likely to be already well padded. If you are female, falling on your chest is undignified but also a well padded area. Try to keep your limbs pointed in roughly the same direction and not to sprawl.

11. When you are walking, running, or carrying something, the best way to stabilize yourself when you feel you are losing your balance is to lean your weight back on your heels. When wearing skates, this will have wacky results. The correct answer in skates is always to bend your knees and lean slightly forward. This will either stabilize you or lead the fall the way it’s supposed to go.

12. Your toe stops are not for stopping, unless you are rolling very slowly indeed. Your toe stops are for ninja tricks you may learn later. Also, if your skates are rental or stock, they are probably also mostly decorative. If you want to stop without the aid of something vertical, you have to learn to make friction work for you while wearing a device mostly designed to reduce friction.

13. Do all of this for many hours. Learn to do it on one leg, which is a surprisingly useful base skill when learning ninja tricks.

It helps to have a small, perpetually perky woman shouting at you the whole way, mostly in the sense that if you do learn, you will eventually be allowed to hit her as hard as you can. Good luck.

*At the very least for just absolutely green starting out. If you keep doing it long enough to be capable of any real speed at all, you NEED a helmet and you SHOULD also get elbow pads.