Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Question of Time

I'm kinda sorta maybe trying not to be nocturnal with all this time on my hands. I got up today and finished some laundry. I'm headed out to pick up a couple books from a friend. Yeah, maybe I could get them from the library, but I'd like to see my friend. I had a bit of "I don't know anyone here" panic again yesterday. And I could swear I had glommed the lot of these books! Now I can only find numbers 1,2 & 4 of 5. Naturally I stayed up until the ass crack of dawn reading number 2, hence the whole "kinda sorta maybe".

I did get out though and went to see "Charlie Wilson's War" written with wit and style by Aaron Sorkin. Entertaining and educational but still not preachy when making a point. Two thumbs up. Mostly a mature audience, and we laughed much of the way through. Gems like, "Why does congress say one thing and do nothing?" Charlie raises a glass of whiskey and replies, "Tradition, mostly." Tee hee!

Afterward I had a jones for a margarita, no salt, heavy on the lime to cut the salt of the tiny popcorn I'd had - $2/bag for a fundraiser gave me just the right amount but daaammmn was that salty! I hit up a mexican chain restaurant's bar and it was almost totally deserted, so no help on the interacting with people part of the plan, but I got a margarita and a surprisingly fabulous chicken breast with mixed veggies that totally hit the spot.

I also made bread while listening to an old Depeche Mode album. I bought the motherlode of eggs from the farmer's market guy for the cookie party before going through the recipes and realizing that I only needed about 8 eggs. I've been having hard boiled eggs and lots of omlettes so I figured I'd burn thru some eggs by making an egg bread. I used a Williams Sonoma recipe and apparently they have a non-denominational recipe title policy because everyone else calls this Challah.

Before baking. I'm rather proud of my neat braid.
Braided raised dough, saffron colored

And it looks good!
Braided baked bread

A skosh overdone, even though I checked the oven temp and took it out 5 minutes early. But that just meant a lush center and thicker crust. It is tasty! Success!
Bread cut into, fine texture, slice with PBnJ
(It's half gone as of this morning.)

And I thought about going back to update previous posts but heck. Here are some more pictures. My little tree of happiness.

And my friend's boys. One is nearly 10, the other is nearly 1. For anyone who worried that they wouldn't know each other well, I thnk it's safe to say that they're well acquainted. I caught this shot during a brief pause in the wrestling portion of the evening. The older boy was gentle but relentless.
Wrasslin' boys, referee hold

Off to get some books!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sneezy, Sleepy, and Dopey

I had a nice Christmas. I went to my friend's parents' house in Lancaster. That's an 85 mile drive that makes you want to learn a foreign language on tape. Yeesh. Anyhow, we had mucho food for dinner, and learned that you're not supposed to add more sugar to cans of already candied yams. And after an hour, I stopped being able to breathe well. We went outside for a bit, then decided to take a walk. Our other options were (1) see a movie or (2) go hang at a bar. But (1) didn't allow for friendly banter and (2) didn't allow for bringing the kids and I had to drive back, I couldn't stay over. So we walked. And her older boy rode his bike. I was able to breathe better almost immediately.

When we got back I didn't want to cut the evening short but it was too chilly just to sit outside so we tried playing a game indoors. A couple hours later, I decided to leave while I could still breathe. I was fine driving home. I took a shower, put all my clothes in the laundry, did my sinus rinse, and *still* got a pre-sinus-infection snot waterfall about 6 hours later while I was trying unsuccessfully to sleep. I did another sinus rinse, took 2 benadryl, 2 cholortrimeton, and was able finally to sleep when the benadryl stopped my nose from producing buckets of mucous. (Had I not taken the benadryl, I would have a sinus infection now, simply from the quantity of snot - all my sinus infections begin with that waterfall of snot.)

And the fallout from 4 hours in a house with a cat was that I lost all of the day after Christmas. I went to the UPS store and picked up my gifts, got some stuff at target, and went home for a 4 hour nap. (More TMI: The fact that it also coincided with my period just put it over the edge.) I was barely conscious the whole day. I did wind up waking up and watching Mythbusters late into the night, and reading snippets of a novel, but I couldn't focus, hurt everywhere and could barely move. Didn't feel even like typing

I was marginally better yesterday. I got up and went on a nice little hiking trip with some colleagues. We drove up some wicked ass scary windy road and then hiked to the top of Sandstone Peak. Up and back was about 90 minutes, including some time to look around from the top. Views were of the valley I live in and the Pacific ocean and Malibu. It was quite windy, so it was clear enough to see mountains in Pasadena and most of the Channel Islands too. It was stunning, and everything we could have hoped for. If I can figure out how to download the pics from my phone, I will but it won't do justice to the panorama.

From my perspective, I was distracted by breathing. I'm not sure if I'm out of shape or just out of breath. I couldn't breathe through my nose for the first 20 minutes. But exercise helped clear my sinuses and I started being able to breathe better. In time to be pretty pooped. I did fine on the way back down - usually I'm slow going down to check my footing, but I did fine. There were 10 of us, so we paired off with people to talk to and I had an interesting talk with a colleagues husband (who wasn't breathing hard but is 15 years older than me. grr.)

After the hike and the scary ass trip back down the mountain on the cliff side of the road (how can people live up there???) we stopped at "Neptune's Net" which is essentially "Brown's Lobster Pound" on the opposite coast, with more expensive lobsters. So I got fried seafood instead. All in all, it's a great "California Experience" and one I'll probably replicate with visitors, even with the windy roads. The hike is long enough to be a workout without overdoing it. The mountain roads are very much part of the experience, the view is fantastic, and the seafood place is just my speed - picnic tables and a handwashing sink, right on the ocean.

The only bad part about yesterday was that I came back and fell asleep for about 6 hours on the couch. Which means I'm now nocturnal again. I think I'll go see a movie today. I'm still thinking about what to do or exercise. With the exception of the day after x-mas, I've managed to do my 30 minutes or more every day.

Good Stuff:
  • Finally went hiking, and it was great
  • Have relaxing time off work
  • Got to see friend and her new boy
  • My little christmas tree makes me happy

Monday, December 24, 2007

Stink, Stank, Stunk

Ok, so I really like Christmas. I like giving stuff. I like getting stuff. I like cookies. I like time off. (Unlike today. I'm just finishing up a bonus 4 hours of work on a vacation day, but I'll sleep better for it and won't feel guilty about cashing in that Thanks award now that I've done the deed.) I'm expecting friends over in about 3 hours. We might hang out at the skating rink at the mall. It'll be all cheerful and stuff.

But this still makes me giggle.
funny pictures

As does this
funny pictures
more funny pictures

So the good things today are
  • LOL cats
  • Getting the test runs done and the tool re-set
  • Seeing friends
  • Christmas music

Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Is There Something to Do?

So I've paid the bills, cleaned the pad, done some laundry, mailed the gifts... For the first time in almost ever, I have no last minute thing to do before Christmas. I'm home and I'm not stressed out about everything I have to do. There are plenty of things I can do, I just don't have to do any of them. Which leaves me time to want a date of some sort. I do have plans with friends, but none of them dates. I should check on match again. I might actually go see a movie.

I've had some TV going most of the day. I watched the gingerbread mansion contest and realized thta the most important things are choice of project and project planning skills (practiced, preferably). Now there's the guy who hosts "The secret life of..." some food. He's cute and nice, but just strikes me as dim.

Oh, and I've committed myself to a half hour + of exercise every day I'm not working. Yesterday I did the legs (3wts) and cardio (1 wt with a break) of the BodyRev essentials workout (then went and got a massage). Today, I've done 2 sets of 10 puss-ups. I think I'll go for a walk but I should hurry or it'll be dark.

Somewhere I have a list of stuff to do with myself when I don't have something I have to do (that I'm probably putting off). I should find it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Otter Eats, or Inverse Cravings

One of my colleagues started a "bagel club" at work. The deal is that you provide good bagels one friday and you get to eat the bagels all the other fridays. Someone convinced the gang to make it a "breakfast club" only without molly and judd. And here's why. One guy wanted to make waffles. Really wanted to. Enough that he packed up a giant cooler with yeast batter, fluffed egg whites to stir in, homefries, fruit, fresh whipped cream, orange juice, and syrup. Fabulous way to start the day.
waffles with blueberries and strawberries and cream and ham

After the waffle breakfast, I really wasn't hungry by lunch. I had a little can of something out of my emergency rations so I wouldn't get overly hungry in the middle of an experiment. But it turns out you can still get hungry for healthy food when looking at a cookie starts to make you a little ill. I usually have salad for dinner four times a week. This week it was mostly cookies and nibbles of stuff like deli meat and cheese on tortillas. By the end of this week of cookies, I was hungry for fiber. I needed something green.

Usually the danger of shopping while hungry is two-fold: buying too much, and buying too much junk. I have been eating so much holiday food (mostly cookies) this week that my body rebelled and sent me out for salad. I hit the Trader Joe's for more baking chocolate (I need more chocolate hotties - my dad ate all of them before my mom was un-sick enough to want to eat) and spent most of my time in front of the refrigerated veggies instead trying not to buy everything. I managed not to buy a pre-made salad or sandwiches because all the ones I wanted I could make from the stuff in my cart or fridge and still bought about 10 large veggie items. Raw ingredient type things, but still a lot of veggies for a single otter.

I wound up making such a big spinach and bok-choy-mix salad before adding the green beans, broccoli, avocado, corn, tomatoes, and cucumber that I decided to do a wilted salad rather than cut back on spinach. I put the cucumber back in the fridge, but everything else went in the dish. I had also picked up some pre-cooked chicken chunks which came with teriyaki sauce and decided to hard boil some of the remaining eggs that I hadn't used for cookies. I sauted the green beans with shallots in a little butter. Blanched the broccoli in the egg water, nuked the chicken, then tossed the broccoli, frozen corn, spinach and greens mix in the beans with the warmed chicken. I decided to use half a pouch of sauce and stirred it in at the end with the tomatoes.

This went into my big bowl, which I topped with avocado slices, hard egg slices, a twist of salt and pepper, and the juice from half a lime. I realized recently that stir fry gets a great kick from a generous splash of fresh citrus - orange, lime, whatever - tossed on just before eating. It was gorgeous, it was green and protein, and I totally scarfed it down even as I thought of taking a picture. My body was so craving it, and it tasted so good, my eyes rolled back in my head several times during the inhaling process. It's possible I've never savored anything so rapidly before, except maybe that first pizza after a week in a backwoods canoe when I was 14.

Thank goodness I ate before "Bear Eats" came on. I admire his adventurousness, but eewww. I don't think I can keep watching or my eyes might roll back in my head for a different reason. [changing channel] Well, except for monday and other ad hoc days, I'm off work until the new year. And all I can talk about is food with fiber. Yum. What foods are you craving this time of year?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Organic Vegan Fair Trade Junk Food

I had another trying day with the tool of crankiness. It was kind of fun because I got to call some random people I would ordinarily never meet and discuss the situation and they were once again able to validate the fact that it is acting "weird". But mostly it was frustrating. Every day I get halfway closer to making it production worthy. I'm asymptotically approaching available. So when the local instigator suggested a happy hour today at a pub within walking distance of my condo, I RSVPed with alacrity.

It was cool. Five people showed, and I had 2 beers and a meat pie (I've seen too many Sw.eeny T.odd ads recently and I checked - it was pork, not people) in short order. As an unrelated point of interest, it's both drizzly and chilly, so my glasses fogged up for the first time since I moved to CA. When they cleared, I found my colleagues and set to drinking and got a nice little buzz on.

The pub is one of those places tucked out of the way behind other places making everyone say "they should put up a sign" but it's already crowded so they probably don't see the need. One of the people who showed after wandering around lost said he finally called one of our other managers to gave him a landmark. Turns out this landmark is the local "Valley Natural Foods". And I didn't even know it. It's one turn in farther along than I've managed to wander.

Valley Natural Foods is the name of the local food co-op where I grew up, so I tend to relate all organic food, vegan friendly, volunteer oriented shops to it, like the Cambridge Natural Foods. This was much the same. The one big change in 25 years is the amount of prepackaged organic, vegan crap. I mean snack food. I guess it means they hit the big time. The supplement aisle is larger too. I was able to pick up "parsnip chips" and "orangutan-Os" and a couple other drunken, but free trade purchases with the $20 in my pocket and stagger home crunching on my snackage. Because what I need after 3 days of all-you-can-eat cookies is vegan junk food. Vegan sugar is still sugar.

Anyhow, I'm a little relieved that fair trade junk food is my vice of the evening. I've been keyed up enough this week that I had a real worry I'd hit on a co-worker and live to regret it, but that turned out to be easy enough to avoid. So I'm still a little tweaked up because parsnip chips are good but they are not that satisfying. I might sit in the dark and look at my little tree with fiber optic lights which I put up last night. Or I might ponder the humor of the yard long receipt for 5 objects from the tree-hugger store. Or laugh at the soy based glue they're using on the green makeover playing in the background on HGTV. Perhaps another beer is in order.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's Raining, It's Pouring

I need to figure out something that made me happy today. My tool is still kind of broken, and it's sucking up all my time and has to stop. A fair number of people at work have been sick with some plague that is making them miss many work days, and my mom in another state seems to have it too. I had a weird online exchange with a friend. It's raining the day after my car wash. This guy on the food network is calling biscotti /bis-COAT-ee/ instead of /bis-KAW-tee/ as I'm used to hearing it and I don't like it. I could get cranky about this, but it's not worth it and I need a nap.

What is good.
  1. I contacted our other site that has a tool like my cranky one and they've both validated my engineering judgment to keep the tool down and given us another option to try.

  2. My libido hasn't totally gone AWOL. I was distracted part of the day by some funky fantasies. (I need to prioritize that whole getting a date thing.)

  3. One of the managers decided to organize a hiking trip and biker burger bar trip during the holiday and used me to bounce ideas off of. I like hiking but I can't go on my own due to rattlesnakes. (I'm not afraid of them like some people are, but I have a healthy respect for the fact that they can cause severe injury or death and I want backup. Or someone to step behind.)

  4. I'm going to be helping with an adv. development project (going in early on the 24th!) and the manger gave me a $100 thanks award today, which I can exchange for an Amex gift certificate.

  5. I sat next to another romance reader at lunch today. I had my Wine Spectator magazine but noticed her pick and started a small conversation as I was paying my bill.

  6. The car wash includes vacuuming, interior window wash, and trash removal, so it was not for naught.

  7. The UPS store might sell some of my left over ornaments for me!
I could dwell on the annoying things, but look how many good things there were! I'd much rather think about those. As a byproduct of this "find good things anyway" experiment, I find I lose patience with people who are consistently negative and don't seem to want to change that. I do find that I'm more content overall these days. Even if I have an occasional day when I want to throw things at a wall, I find it's easier to get back on track if I blog the good stuff.

Monday, December 17, 2007

C is for Cookie

Resolving to be happy for what does happen rather than what doesn't held me in good stead for enjoying my weekend. It was all good, from my point of view, but when people ask me how it went, I feel the need to qualify it. So here it is, my weekend in frogurt format.

Good:Several friends called me at intervals throughout the day friday, from CA.
Bad:Northern CA. I'm in Southern. For those not from here, it's like going from Boston to NY or NY to DC. Or one midwestern state to the next.
Good:My friend stranded there by the snow in Boston enjoyed the suggestions I gave her and had a fine dinner at the Stinking Rose, walked up to Coit tower for the view and exercise, then had a sundae at Ghirardelli Square. Another gave me good feedback on my ornaments. Another gave me good feedback on my ornaments and offered to get me a date. Another assured me that they loved me and offered to get me a date.
Bad:The last couple might not remember that offer of getting me a date. Plus, NORcal.

Good:Saturday I had my first solo booth at a craft fair selling my glass.
Glass sale booth
Bad:This involved carting a bunch of stuff by myself and a dozen trips to and from my car in the course of the day.
Good:There were lots of people through
Bad:Not many of them bought anything from anybody
Good:I sold enough to make back the low fee, and met some lovely local crafters who told me about the higher profit sales.
Bad:Aside from earning about $5 an hour, it wasn't bad! And the guy next to me was a biker making jewelry. Gotta love that.

Good:Sunday was the cookie baking party.
Bad:I worked like a dog cleaning the place up. I was still pretty much cleaning at the time the party was supposed to start. And then some.
Good:The place is now spotless. Guest Worthy.
cleaned up living room
Also, I got all the powder/hairspray mix out of the bathroom tile grout. I like the squalor free bathroom.
Bad:No one actually used the bathroom, so all that angst over what the neighbors would think of my squalor was for naught, although I am reaping the benefits.
Good:We made a TON of cookies. Almost all of them were fantastic, being tested at previous Boston based Cookie Parties.
Bad:The new sugar cookie recipe I tried out was not good and not roll-out-able. It goes in the trash.
Good:Chocolate Hotties, Zalettis (cornmeal current), Persimmon cookies, Macaroons, Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti, and oatmeal butterscotch bars. Already somewhat picked over.
Many Cookies, some already eaten
All fabulous if I do say so myself. I follow the recipes on all of these, btw, because I know they work. Although I think I prefer oatmeal cookies to bars.
Bad:Only 4 people came.
Good:Four people came to help! We had a good time! The last two didn't leave until 2 hours after my advertised stopping time, but that was fine, they clearly needed the down time.
Good:I almost totally cleaned up already.
Good:My coworkers liked the cookies I took for them today.

Other good things I can't wait another day to say:
  • I got an ING checking account opened and set up bill pay for all my stuff, at least for this month. I shouldn't be missing payment times on the most important stuff, and I might be able to negotiate the remainder.
  • I got out some christmas gifts to the people who will likely care most whether or not they get something on time. The ones who won't be home might be waiting a few more days, (even though we all know I bought the stuffed and other books weeks ago).
  • My floor is clean again and I can exercise there.
  • A friend who has taken up making glass beads might want to share a sale booth with me in the coming year. That would be a fun because it would be friendly for us, we can spell each other for bathroom breaks without taking the cashbox along, and we can split the fee. and between the two of us, address all your art glass needs.

Despite the recent rash of people quitting their blogs (I'll update the sidebar soon), I think I'll be here for a while longer. I have more to say. I just hope I still have a reader or two!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Scrubbing Bubbles

Does anyone know a good way to clean tile floors? So far the only ways I can think of are with a brush and sponge on hands and knees, or hiring someone to use same. I have people coming over to cook on sunday and I don't want someone to be grossed out if they drop something. Thankfully I have a kneeling pad. The kitchen floor is now clean and scrubbed and the grout no longer has that mysterious white powdery look near the soon to be replaced dishwasher.

Good stuff got done:
  • My helper and I got the living room floor cleared, finding out she's more allergic to dust than I am. We could tell the place was looking up when she stopped sneezing. It was kind of cool to be the less sneezy one in the room.
  • I wrestled with ING and got my account access. yay. They set me up with two savings accounts. What exactly would I need with two savings accounts with the same bank? Still scouting for other online checking options.
  • I got called by 4 people from San Fran today. Drunk people are plotting to get me a man. How can that go wrong?
  • And even though it was chilly at the farmer's market, it was not gridlocked with snow like Boston was today, and I got to wear my funky sweater coat while I picked up fruit of many colors.
glass bowls of oranges, lemons, limes, pomegranate, guava
That one tiny guava is adding a lovely scent to the place. Whoever makes air fresheners should do a guava scent because it's a floral smelling fruit and it doesn't fade into the background. In the meantime, I think it looks too good to eat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Every Now and Then

I get a little bit angry. Every now and then I fall apart.

I thought the smoothest transistion for my NetBank account to ING would be to let them do the automatic conversion this weekend. I copied down all my automatic payment information so I could re-create it this week. I finally got my new account info in the mail on Tuesday. Tuesday night, their server was down and asked me to try again later. Wednesday night, I get the log in page. I enter my user id in the only available entry location on the log in page and hit "next". It shows me the same page again. So I doublecheck the number and click next again. It shows me the same page again. I read all the possible options on the page and find nothing new. The next time I do this, I get a "you've maxed out your login tries, call our helpline" message. Um, I haven't gotten as far as logging in yet, you fuckers. I use a good, popular, well supported browser. Your damn interface is crap.

And the helpline? Open 8am to 8pm...Eastern. For me, that's 5am to 5pm. I'm either asleep or at work during those hours. And recently work has been so busy I can barely pee, let alone call some helpline for some indeterminate amount of time. (Although I did manage 10 minutes to snag some extra packing material from the loading dock's recycling stash for the pumpkins.) Tomorrow I have a meeting at 8:15, 8:30, 9:10, 10, and 11. And possibly at 2, although I might have taken myself out by that point. When exactly am I going to call ING Fucking Direct? And most likely announce to everyone in my cube area all the security tidbits they'd ever need to know to open an account in my name.

So far, not liking the ING Direct. The only thing going for them as far as I'm concerned is the corporate color of orange, and it's not enough. And I had to get this out because my other project of the night is photographing and packing glass, and right now I'm in the "I need to throw things" state of mind which is not very compatible with handling glass.

Please, if you have an online bank that you like which supports online bill paying, let me know. I have a We.lls.Far.go account for cashing checks and getting money out of the wall, but I'm not thrilled with their bill pay interface and I like to have 2 accounts with different banks, for flexibility. I'm not about to join up with BoA - people come out of the woodwork to tell me their BoA horror stories. If ING doesn't clean up well tomorrow, my money needs a new way station. Stupid FDIC closing my most excellent bank for my "own good" when they had 10% more funds than accounts drawing on them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dirty Jobs

While packing up ornaments, I watch cable TV. After my "Designed to Sell" fix, and sometimes "The Big Idea" or a cooking show, I often switch to the Discovery channel.

I really like the show Dirty Jobs. Mike does a great job making a hash out of any dirty job, thereby making the regulars look like the competent professionals they are (generally) and does so with good humor. I worry about his lack of respirators and long term lung health, but I love the show. An unlike queer eye, it doesn't get too big for its britches as the show gets more popular. (I liked QEFTSG when it was helping people who needed help. But when they started taking on whole baseball teams and various famous people, I felt it didn't serve any purpose but advertising and fundraising, and it was less fun to watch when people weren't really being made over anymore.) Dirty jobs just gets dirtier and more like itself.

I'm iffy on Bear's Man vs. Wild adventures. Mostly because a lot of what he does is unnecessarily gross. Like drink out of disgusting water pits without even an attempt to filter out the bigger chunks of crud. Or eating bugs that are so small as to be hardly worth the effort. Or what I just watched - rubbing cow patties on his hands to mask his scent while setting rabbit traps. Understandable, maybe even necessary, but gross. He says he doesn't tell his wife what he eats so she won't stop kissing him - then by the time she finds out, it's too late. uh huh. But contrast that with watching the joy on his face while jumping out of an airplane, and he does do something really cool or interesting a couple times a show, so I keep watching. (The american version, Survivorman, I object to the premise for some reason. Plus it's not as watchable.)

Mythbusters, always good fun. They test a myth, then figure out what it would take to make it true. Or just blow stuff up which is also fun. And they have a good sense of style and design while they do it - it really is worth the effort to paint something to look real and put a hat on Buster. The final finishing details make the difference between professional looking, highly watchable tests and cobbled together crap in the garage.

I like the continuity of shows that do something along the same lines every time so I have comfort in format, but if each show is independent of the others, I vastly prefer it. I find some of the network dramas watchable (ugly betty, desperate housewives) but I can't handle keeping track of series right now. Sometimes I see ads for them and just think, oh, I'd really like that, but it seems like too much effort to follow. Ever since the TiVo moved out of my friend's apartment with the roommate and we stopped watching Gilmore Girls off-night, I've kind of lost my enthusiasm for dramatic series. Maybe if I had a TiVo, I'd even program it, but probably not. Aside from Heroes and Buffy, what should I put on my list of DVD's to get?

When the writers strike is over, I'll look forward to more Daily Show. And Friday night is a Firefly marathon. Not that I need to see it on TV, but hey, that's how I usually watch stuff (it happens to be on) so I probably will tune in. Unless I get a hot date. In the mean time, I'll be packing up ornaments and scrubbing the condo in preparation for the cookie party, my own dirty job. But someone's got to do it!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Best of All Possible Worlds

There are things I'm very pragmatic about. How long it takes to do things is not one of them. How long it takes to get somewhere? Nope. I tend to underestimate. One could say I misunderestimate quite dramatically. I'd pretty much need to teleport to get places in the amount of time I think is required. Additionally, while in my head I know how long it takes to make ornaments, I forget that not every one of them is stunning and saleable, and I'm not a robot, so I need to add more time. Meaning that I made ornaments for six and a half hours today, and just maybe might have enough to fill my orders.

The trick with the ornaments is that last year I made a lot of large ones. This year, I got asked for small ones. So I made small ones. I have lots of small ornaments. Then I got a huge order for big ornaments. And so I had to make a lot of big ornaments but I had only today to do it. We'll see how many turned out. I think I have a reasonable chance. And that assumes I don't drop the lot on the way home. Usually a reasonable assumption, but I'll be driving about a lot tomorrow. With a carload of pumpkins and ornaments.

On the theme of the best of all possible worlds, I think that describes a lot fo the movie "Love Actually", so I'm watching it again for probably the dozenth time. (Only the Bourne Identity, A Christmas Story, and Big Trouble in Little China probably have more viewings.) I tear up a bit every time during the wedding between Ki.era and the operative from Serenity. Even more now that I know they modeled the scene on Jim H.enson's funeral, where everyone brought their mup.pets along, somewhat covertly, then busted them out at the end. Or so the story goes. I like HG's crush on Natalie, and when he threatens to send the SAS after her ex. I like CF trying to speak portugese. I like the body doubles discussing traffic. Well, I like pretty much the whole show. Everything but the mobile phone ring, and the cheating bit. And noone's buttocks get sacrificed to feed the people.

I kind of wish they'd left the Christmas Farts scenes in. Comedic genius. Is there any way to replay a DVD with all the deleted scenes reinstated? Of course I'd settle for being able to fix the brightness that has been washing out all my movies recently. I've fiddled with all the picture settings I can find and still get a lot of wash out. I don't remember this happening often before, just during my last couple of movies.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I Like Cold Bev'rige, yeah!

This is my 2nd post of the night. Feel free to skip the previous one where I whine about banking which is antithetical to the premise of this blog, but needed to escape my brain pan. This entry is much more upbeat and positive. I was going to save it for later, but blog topics tend to be ephemeral, over and done with before one might be ready, and my brain won't shut off and let me sleep unless I also post this. Although, that could be partly due to the subject of this blog, now that I think on it.

The newly renovated gas station near where I eat chinese for lunch at least once a week had a grand re-opening party today, and they were giving away various products. I stopped in and picked up a free "Rockstar" energy drink from the sweet young things handing them out, figuring I wasn't planning to try one if I had to buy it. Despite the fact that one of our techs drinks at least one of these a day and says they're tasty, I've remained distrustful and resistant to the lure of peppy, upbeat marketing and X-game type product placements. Oh, how much liquid happiness I've missed out on!

I managed to know almost zero about this product, assuming it was yet another Jolt soda (pop for you midwesterners) in fancier packaging. I was soooo wrong. It is a wonderful carbonated fruit drink.

Here are some highlights:
  • Lightly sweetened WITHOUT aspartame or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Rockstar is not too sweet for me! (At least not when consumed cold from the can.) I like soda (Coke, Dr. Pepper, Vernors, Squirt, A&W) but lately they all seem too sweet for my palate. I have to drink them with lots of ice to cut the sweet. I've wondered why no one just cut back on the sugar instead of totally replacing it with scary chemicals, but it turns out someone did. My search for a less sweet "soda" is over.

  • I try not to drink more than one or two sodas per week because an 8 oz serving with HFCS is 180 calories, or about a tenth of my daily allotment. (It's about 120 with sugar.) Rockstar is only 100 calories for an 8 oz serving, or 200/can. Whoa! I can actually drink one of these with minimal guilt!

  • The primary ingredients are fruit juices! There's some sugar too, but, may I repeat, NO HFCS! Also I don't tolerate sugar substitutes well. Apparently they use them here but I didn't notice - for the first time ever. Bravo!

  • The flavors favor my picky palate which prefers the obscure and exotic: pomegranate, mango, guava! In theory, I dig them all! I even asked for a 2nd can so I could try the mango, after the pomegranate proved tasty, and the cute young rep gave into my greed with a smile. (It's still at my desk, I can't justify 400 calories of juice after a big lunch, even if it is free.)

  • The energy doesn't just come from caffeine, although there is some of that. There are good herbal and vitamin additives, some of which I take when I bother with supplements, to boost energy. They chose wisely.
I love free stuff. I love fruit. (Unlike most otters, I am not a fan of sea urchin. I prefer Lychees.) I like a nice cold, bubbly beverage, especially when it is not too sweet. This is a great product. And they had both young women and men handing them out; I approve of equal opportunity eye candy in promotions. I am Rockstar's newest uberfan.

Cranky Banking

So... I've waited until the last possible moment to cope with the fact that my Ne.tBa.nk account has gone the way of the dodo and some wonky outfit called ING is taking it over. Fortunately I read early that I don't have to do anything but re-establish my payees. So I've written down all my payee addresses and whatnot. I've saved electronic files that might be pertinent. I've hated every minute of it.

In looking through all the printed information I got from ing, they said nothing about a checking account, only a savings account. But the online stuff I just read implies that there might possibly be a checking option. I'm going to need the pay the mortgage soon, so I hope this gets straightened out without much ado. (For once, having all my bills due between the 18th and 27th is working in my favor.) I do have an alternate checking account with WF, but my direct deposit only sends enough money there for me to get cash out of the wall once in a while and it can take up to 2 paychecks to re-direct the direct deposit. Apparently I can link the ing to the WF for cheap transfers, but it still means I have to pay attention to these details on someone else's (rather tight) schedule which makes me a little cranky.

I think I would actually come out ahead if I hired an accountant to deal with my finances. It's not like I'm incapable. It's just that I tend to do things in fits and starts, feast or famine, rabbit racing style, but corporations want to get paid regularly on the slow and steady wins the race tortise plan. Yeah, I set up online bill pay to keep my credit rating reasonable. I don't have any notion about credit money being free money - I only spend what I can reasonably expect to repay. But not every account requires the same amount of money every time, and I have developed an unreasonable mental block about dealing with it. Which makes me feel idiotic and whiny because stupid people with much less money manage to pay the bills on time, why can't/ won't/ don't I? It's not rocket science. Although there's reason to believe I'd be better at rocket science than accountancy.

After hanging out with my parents again, I can understand better where some of these tendencies come from. Doesn't excuse it but makes it easier not to hate myself for. Push comes to shove, I sit down and pay the bills. But it would be a lot cheaper, fee and interest wise, if someone more responsible than me handled it. And my living room would be a lot less messy.

living room with bills and paperwork laid out everywhere
Yes, it still looks like this 2 weeks later, just worse. My organizer grrl is coming over tomorrow. I meant to have it all done when she got here so we could focus on cleaning and decorating for christmas. But insanity like this is also why I hire an assistant. So someone responsible makes me do my homework. But I still have to pay the bills. I would seriously like a vacation from this chore, but that feels like something to be careful about wishing for, so I only wish it with velleity (for now).

P.S. Suiting my mood, the dictionary .com word for the day is surly :)

P.P.S. My original happy blog idea was to write about the free Roc.kSta.r beverage I got today. That may have to wait until the banking ire runs its course.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Yesterday, when I was Mad

It's been a weird week at work. My job is a mix of sustaining work and project work. I normally have well behaved tools that let me go about working on my projects. But this week, every single tool I have has acted up. Most of them have been out of service all week. This, in 24/7 manufacturing, is what they call not good. There's a limited amount of stuff I can do - I can help diagnose, troubleshoot, and theorize fixes. I don't actually get to reprogram the handler, rip out and replace the guts, use the winch to lift heavy things, and actually fix my tools. On one hand, there's a little bit of "it's my problem but it's not my fault" going through my head telling me that I shouldn't be overly concerned about how this looks aside from my project deadlines being pushed out by a week. On the other hand, I need to figure out how much of this is preventable and institute appropriate measures. Or at least help by providing a compiled listing of how we manged to fix various equipment woes.

Some days, I'm pretty zen about things. This week, I was not so zen. I threw a bit of a hissy fit at one point when a production lot got loaded on the tool I'd put down for breaking wafers, just as I went in the fab to run a handling check. We have a computer tracking system that will disable lots (a batch of stuff to process) from being tracked into a tool if that equipment is down. Well. Everyone in the whole building, I thought, was aware that I'd planned to run handling tests tuesday morning. Everyone but the guy who loads the tool apparently. His supervisor knew, his boss knew, their bosses knew, my boss knew, my boss's boss knew. The 35 people packed into our 15 minute morning meeting where we prioritize things like this knew. But the little guy? Apparently no one told him. (I didn't because I'm supposed to tell the Lead, which I did. The Lead then tells whomever has been assigned to the area that day which can be up to 4 people and can vary from day to day.) And then the computer tracking system, 4 minutes after I put the equipment down, flagged the tool for a regular maintenance event and put it in a state that allows trackins. Gah!

The combination of the two events (lack of communication, change in equipment status) meant that when I showed up to run a test, someone had just started a 3 hour run. I unloaded it, yeah, but then I had to write up a rework plan, and by the time I got the first test started, it was time to go to the dentist. So the engineer who volunteered to watch the tool while I got my teeth cleaned was the one who found the problem. I'm glad the problem was found, but I kind of wish it was me who found it. Not enough to reschedule the dentist appt at the last minute, but still. Of course, then after fixing the problem, the tool still needed the regular maintenance work, then it devised a new and more troublesome way to break wafers so it's still down.

Then the other tool like this one had a little bit of a water-on-the-floor-next-to-high-voltage incident. It didn't take the tool down or cause electrocution, but did require cleanup time. A whole different tool went down for a different handling problem, then when it came back up, went down for a vacuum problem...just when I'd gone into the fab to run an experimental lot. My fourth and final tool is only partially released to production, but has been down for weeks now because we have been unable to find the source of a leak. It turns out that they didn't ever do a leak back rate on this chamber (I that they had.) Then I ran one and the bad chamber leaked up almost 2 decades higher than the other two chambers and I still got people asking if that was a problem. Yes! Yes it is. E-4 torr is not acceptable vacuum when it should be E-7 or even E-8.

So. Hisssy fit city. I did better with that today.

To turn that frown upside down:
Good: I have beautiful new tags to put on my glasswork.
Bad: I get to spend the evening at Kink.os.
Good: People seem to like having the professional looking tags and I like doing that little touch extra to make the whole package work.
Bad: I ran out of tags and sent out a bunch of stuff without them.
Good: I have no cavities and I like my dentist.
Bad: I immediately got meat stuck between my teeth after they cleaned them all up for me.
Good: The stuff with my equipment is not my fault.
Bad: The stuff with my equipment is my responsibility.
Good: Our company has pulled in more orders. Our stock price went up. I still have a job for the forseeable future.
Good: I have been selling enough glass to afford to make more.
Good: I think I found the good berillium green glass color that I've been turning the interwebs upside down to find. Just in case it's not the right one, I bought some backup color that looks a lot like it from the color chips. And it should all be here friday.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pumpkin Mojo

I've been having issues finding someone to make stems for my glass pumpkins who bothers to show up. I have orders to fill so I wound up hiring the studio manager to help me out and it went pretty well, although I was frustrated by not having my mojo going on right away. The mojo is all about having the heat in the right place at the right time. The room temperature matters as does the color choice of the pumpkin. I did ok, but not great. I think I made some good looking gourds, but they weren't as big as I was going for and they took longer to futz with than usual - although I did deliberately make some of them smaller for a lower price point.

Actually, it was a miracle I got there at all. My 3rd stage alarm - the beeper - didn't go off because the switch was only *mostly* on, and I slept until 11:45 but I was supposed to be there at 11. Whoops! I got there a little after 1 and set up a bazillion colors - most of them part of an orange blend - because sight unseen, people ask for orange pumpkins. I like other colors better. I managed to make a slick black one with an orange stem. I want to see how it looks when cooled off. I'll post pictures when I get them picked up.

Good things today:
  1. My uncle takes care of my grandma (his and my dad's mom) and deals with her finances. He just sent a lovely update with pictures and things are going as expected.
  2. Yay! I got the pumpkins done! Hopefully these will be enough of the right thing to fill the christmas orders I already have.
  3. I'm liking the new dining room layout. It's not done, but the hard things are done, as are the pesky things like painting, so it's already more relaxing. And I still have energy today.
  4. I've been reading some lovely threads on the book club board - so many I can't keep up - but someone posted about thanksgiving and I realized I talked a lot about thanksgiving but not a lot about what I'm thankful for. As the online book club is is the source of most of my Left Coast friends, I'm very thankful for the interwebs that let me meet new friends and keep the old.

Off to finish painting the shelf, remount the secretary door, and read a book from the TBR mountain range. (Yes, C, I did steal that phrase from you!)

Round like a Record

I still do better with external deadlines than internal ones, despite making lists and giving myself motivational speeches. This seems not restricted to just me, I'm happy to hear, as one friend got her lovely handmade table finished in the nick of time for Thanksgiving. I've been meaning to do a lot of stuff around the condo, but it all requires both effort and coordination because there are prerequisites for each of them that also require effort and coordination. And instead, I've been reading or goofing off, or traveling. But the combination of acupuncture giving me more energy, a desperate desire to avoid dealing with the bills, and a cookie party coming up in 2 weeks that requires a tidy and very clean dining room... and boy did I get busy. And inspired - while working on some things, I get ideas for other things. For me, a project day is an all or nothing kind of thing.

I wanted to paint the baseboards of the dining room to match the wall color. They had some drips of paint on them and looked bad. (They'll be replaced early next year, but still, it bothers me and I wanted it fixed.) How hard could this be? The paint is still in the dining room. But in order to do the job, I had to move furniture, including my huge 4x4 grid with doors and drawers affair that I use to store heavy paperwork out of sight. It weighs a TON. It does not slide. Unless it has teflon pads under the feet, which I bought about 10 months ago and never attached because I thought it was a 2 woman job to lift the behemoth even a little. On my own I could lift it about a sixteenth of an inch. Oh, and it was covered with about 40 decorative items I didn't have a place for. And kind of still don't.

Looking around for something to prop one end on while I attached the teflon skids to the bottom of 8 legs, and realizing that I couldn't lift it high enough or find something that wouldn't get crushed or injure my shelf in the process, I had an epiphany and got the car jack from my hatch. (Mazda has good designers and put it in a side pocket so I didn't have to lift stuff out to get to it.) One jack and a block of wood later, the shelf assembly was mobile. I also washed underneath it so I wouldn't trap anything sharp in the skids, and washed the baseboards. I had to do something similar to the secretary on the adjacent wall but it didn't need the jack. Then after cleaning the floor again, I swapped the shelves and I like it. While swapping them, I noticed the backing was gapping and that I could fix it, so I had an interlude with the staple gun. With the shelves pulled away from the wall, I was able to finish painting the baseboards and do some other touchups.

While retrieving the staple gun, I walked by my lumber stash and realized that a shelf with hooks that was useless on my patio might work really well in my bathroom if I shave a little off the sides. I've been thinking about a solution that doesn't require $200 spent at restoration hardware for the funky towel rack I'd prefer. But it was too late to haul out the circ saw so I cleaned it and marked it up to cut tomorrow. I'm going to paint it with the remaining baseboard paint which will be a fun orange going on a lime green wall. I'm not sure what to do with the corroded brass hooks - I got the corrosion off with fresh squeezed lime juice and salt - but they don't look good. Maybe I can spray paint them. Anyhow, it'll be a place to stash the extra TP and hang up visitor towels.

Since I was on a woodworking kick, I also glued up the door on the secretary that was falling apart at the hinge so it doesn't break irretrievably. I have to let it dry overnight and re-drill some holes, but it'll be much sturdier.

I also had to move other stuff out of the way and cleaned all the glass and pottery that had been stashed on top of the behemoth to get it out of the way. So that all got washed with ammonia and most of it got put somewhere else or boxed back up for later. The things I need to take pictures of went back on top. I took all last year's candy out of the candy jar, pitched it, and replaced it with new stuff in a cleaned jar.

I cleaned up after myself (no mean feat with all the glass and tools and various art pieces and displaced stuff laying about that required undoing months of indecision), doing a few other small projects on the way, fixing broken stuff. Of course now it's 3am and I have to get up at 10. Which isn't so bad. But I've been going since 2pm. Actually noon if you count the glass color inventory and assessment I did, in preparation for making pumpkins tomorrow. I am glad about the secretary though, I've needed to fix that since my parents let me run off with it several years ago.

So this is what I'm like when I have energy. Productive, but spinning around and just going flat out for 12+ hours, adding project onto project. I enjoyed myself even if I did listen to the same HGTV shows twice. And this is what scares me off starting projects when I don't have energy - I ALWAYS add some new task that seems critical at the time until I get in so far that I have to finish to get out. And all too often just the thought of a third of what I did today is enough to make me take a nap. This acupuncturist seems to be helping more than the last two, so maybe I'll have a few more days like this. If I can coincide them with my kitchen reno, all will be well.