Friday, January 30, 2009

I'm Not Dead Yet

Work is crazy this week: my boss is trying to tie up loose ends (like reviews) before her imminent maternity leave; my one-of tool is down hard awaiting new parts from Europe and I have a contingency plan but it needs special testing; I have classes out the wazoo this week(can I do a nested colon? why not.): CPR/First Aid and 'Meeting Management'; my personal hormone cycle puts me at my all time low energy spot for the month (although I'm feeling much better today); and there's actually stuff I want to read and respond to at the book board.

Although freakishly busy, life's pretty good, actually.

  • My review was positive with next years guidelines along the lines of "how to be really good rather than just pretty good" not "OMG you're a trainwreck".
  • The nose surgery should happen Feb 19th
  • The date is over his cold and we were able to get together monday before the work chaos ensued.
  • There's more positive energy for me over finding a contingency plan than negative from my tool getting taken out by a power outage.
  • My CPR instructor (3 years running) wears more mascara than anyone else I know, although even that was toned down this year. But in what I think of as "Hollywood Instructor Style" she was sporting a pencil skirt and 4" stilletos with an ankle strap on her 6' frame. She cracks me up. She's always dressed. Then has great stories about construction accidents, arterial blood spurts on the job, and the self-heimlich (She's one of the few more accident prone than I am.).
  • A friend of mine will be in town on Saturday, so when both of our saturday work schedules allow, we'll be able to meet up.

So I didn't ditch you and I haven't forgotten about the manhandles, I just haven't been home and conscious long enough to drill holes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dark of Night

Oh! Yeah! Suzanne Brockmann's Dark of Night came out today. I ordered a copy through the virtual signing. Fortunately, as a VS beta tester, mine came a little early and I got a head start. I do not have time to read it now. But you should.

I See France

In addition to making myself sick while writing my review without trying to offer up reasons to rate me lower, I think I might be coming down with something. There's something going around. The date had it, but he stayed away for a week. Made him extra chatty on the phone, but he was out of work for a week. At least 3 colleagues have been home sick once in the last 3 days. My head is oddly wooly and I get a weird pressure between my ears when I swallow. Which I do a lot because there's a tickle in the top back of my throat that feels unhealthy. And that's hard because my mouth is all pasty feeling. And I've been loading up on allergy meds which may or may not be doing something. Which can mean that really, I'm sick but won't know it until I get freakishly worse or better because I'm really good at symptom remediation after a lifetime of nasal allergies.

On top of that, I went to the urologist today. While there, I noticed a sign for a seminar on bladder issues and recurrent UTIs happening this evening. I spent 6:30-8 pm at the seminar. They provided a fruit and cheese plate so I stuffed myself and went back to work afterward. I learned some interesting stuff:
  • Average bladder size is 400-500 ml.
  • Teachers' average bladder size is 600 ml.
  • This teaches us that if we repeatedly force ourselves not to go until we're more than desperate, we can increase bladder capacity.
  • More adult than baby diapers are sold in the US
  • Also, stress incontinence can be fixed or greatly alleviated with a bladder strap put in during a 20 minute laproscopic surgery. It keeps the urethra from bending out of place during coughs and other things. The bending is what causes the leakage.
  • Most treatments for non-infection related bladder issues are "retraining" in nature.
  • Most bladder meds take for-eeeeeehhhhh-ver to work and cost a lot.
  • If you do get a bladder infection, treat it early, but use the oldest, mildest antibiotic available. Only move up to cipro if you get them a lot.
  • If you are a UTI "frequent flyer", this doc recommends buying urine dip strips at Costco so you can treat it as soon as possible with a 3 day round of mild antibiotics.
  • When your seminar on UTIs and bladder control runs over an hour, someone's going to need a potty break.
[Start TMI section]

After using a camera on a scope a metric ton of numbing gel, the doc was able to tell me that my bladder "looks normal" aka "it always runs like that". I had another test last week that showed mostly normal results as well. I void in a way they think is normal and don't leak even when I cough - I know this last because someone sat there and watched to see if I did while they loaded up my bladder with clean water. Their suggestion is that my sensors are wacky - the nerve mapping to auto and deliberate controls is out of whack. So we're going to do bio-feedback retraining. Whatever. Can't hurt, might help. The meds mostly all work on the bladder and I don't think that's my problem. Or if it is, it's just the little bit that goes to the urethra.

I'm wondering if I have some sly skin fungus that's creeping inside because I do not fight of fungus (I've been unsuccessfully combating athlete's foot since age 6.) and I think I broke out in something after the antibiotics. I, all of a sudden, started getting buildups of stinky dead skin under my arms and boobs, and, of all things, uncontrollable earwax. Literally I would wash the underparts at lunch and after work to keep after it, and did my ears twice a day. I talked to my brother who mentioned that he got some ringworm fungus (sorry bro, I won't tell your future dates) on his hip. Doctor told him to use Lamisil on it for 4 weeks. Two to kill it and two to make sure it stays killed. Six weeks later, it was laughing at his pansy attempts. So he dipped a Q-tip in bleach and stuck it on. Aside from some collateral damage to adjacent skin, it worked like a charm. So I thought maybe my weird new extraneous stink could be due to a fungus.

I don't like working with full strength bleach because I cannot be careful enough and it splashes on clothes and carpet and ruins stuff. So I got naked but for my faceshield and mixed up a milder solution in a spraybottle with distilled water over the bathtub. I sprayed it on the underboob and underarm regions, hit the feet for good measure, and rinsed off. Sure enough, no more underboob buildup, no more extra sweat, no more stink. Huh. That's cool. To keep it gone I washed all my bras in hot water and to hell with the consequences.

I thought maybe the ears could be similar. I didn't want bleach down my ear canal so I just sprayed the Q-tip end and followed it up with my usual spray of face toner in the ear and a cleanup Q-tip. Sure enough, earwax levels back to normal in 2 days.

(It may or may not be helping my feet. I'm not objective enough to tell. 3 separate prescriptions have done little to make a dent, and even the dents are very temporary.)

To me, this means there was something - either fungal or bacterial living in those various places. No amount of elbow grease, organic soap, super concentrated soap, dish soap, antibacterial soap, isopropol alcohol, or straight Listerine had previously done anything which makes me think tenacious fungus rather than bacteria. But one or two bleach applications and it's gone like there was nothing ever wrong.

So I really do wonder if there's some sly little fungus that no one else would notice (or get or react to) that is hanging around my pee hole making me have to pee. The fact that this was a sudden onset symptom after a UTI and month of antibiotics makes me wonder. They're humoring me and running the fungus test, which can take 40 days and 40 nights. In the meantime, I'll be practicing correct peeing hygeine and taking probiotics.

[/TMI section]

A Girl With Good Conditioner

Bunch of stuff going on. Wore me out enough that I only drove 70mph on the way home and didn't turn on the radio coming back from work at 10:30. Part of the reason for the late hour is due to me procrastinating, part due to a frontloaded schedule this week, part due to doctor's appointments, and part is plain not wanting to write my review.

Usually writing my review is like exercise - I don't particularly enjoy the moment, but afterward I feel better about myself. Not so much this time. We know already that we aren't getting raises. No big surprise there for anyone on the planet who has seen the economic news. And nothing like a layoff to make one feel better about still having a job. So my review just had to get done well enough to not look incompetent.

But what I felt like writing was something along the lines of, technically, I performed above average, but even so, I still have problems I cannot yet solve and I'm feeling impotent about that.

Basically, everything on my primary tool is possible if only about 4 novel things work. And for every damn option, only 3 things work. So it has been an exercise in frustration all around to be thwarted at every turn. Although I do seem to be making progress, I honestly thought I'd be done with this project in 2 months. In reality, it took me about 4 months to work out the basic recipe. (I tend to be optimistic about timelines so this isn't so bad.) But with extended use and larger loads, we got drifting. When the machine is supposed to make the same thing every time, drifting is bad.

I would probably not be feeling as impotent had I listened to my manager earlier and brought other people in. But my general experience this year went like so:
  • Tool is not performing to expectation
  • Do reasonable test runs and confirm there is no easy fix
  • Talk to boss who says "call vendor"
  • Start writing up assessment and query for vendor
  • Realize there are further reasonable, though not easy things to test
  • Abort vendor contact and run more tests
  • Muck about in the data and come up with tantalizing lead and more questions
  • Run more tests to answer questions
  • Tantalizing lead doesn't pan out. Come up with some answers and more questions
  • Talk to boss who says "call vendor"
  • Decide, no, I'm sure I'm very close to solving this
  • Run more test runs, get conflicting data
  • Stew around in data analysis for a while
  • Run my confusion by my boss again
  • She says "bring in the vendor" [implied: like I suggested to 2 months ago]
  • I finally call the vendor.
  • Vendor tells us "it usually runs like that" (perhaps my least favorite response, ever)
  • And yet, it still doesn't meet expectations.
  • But we still get some options to try that help make progress.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.

So far when I talk to her, she asserts that I'm "persistent" but I feel that I've been unnecessarily obstructive by not bringing in my vendor sooner. I'm also working with an internal contractor (for lack of better term) who writes interface software, and I keep hearing her saying, "have you brought IT in on this yet?" Um, kinda. We chatted in the hall 1 week. We actually had a sitdown the next week. He gave me action items of stuff to find out. My equipment engineer called the vendor. They told him we "kind of but don't really have that functionality". Or, "we should have that functionality but the parts are obsolete". We could get around that if only these 4 things worked...

On the plus side, I got a sufficient process up and running on time for the qual timeline. I also got two other processes up and running, did a contamination study, am almost done qualifying an external processor, and sustained my regular tools pretty well. But for almost every thing I could have worked faster, done more.

I wonder, constantly, if I'm really doing a reasonable job, or if I'm coming off as half assed. Are my timeline expectations for myself reasonable or not? Certainly I was near to useless before the election. And had some part-timer feel after that before the shutdown. I do need breaks during the day, but I think I go overboard on that; I do need to be better about regulating my internet breaks (the modern smoke break). Still and all, I meet hard timelines, I get along with my colleagues, and I do honestly try to do good work. I stay late if I come in late or take a long lunch.

I'm not sure if it's a consolation that I'm even worse at home. The place isn't gruesome, but I thought I'd work on it more often than I do. Yet progress is being made. Health wise, I have high hopes for this nose and tonsil surgery. If it doesn't work, I'm going to need a new plan. Come to think of it, this tool at work reminds me of going to doctors. "We can find anything wrong." So what can I fix? Lather, rinse, repeat.

(Lyrics: Honest Bob, Your Shampoo)

Monday, January 26, 2009

They're Here!

The manhandles are in! I might even have enough in the checking account to pay for them and not overdraft on the mortgage.

Also, I've had a report that my blog has not been loading properly. This is the reason I took off the Obama sidebar thing. But I'm noticing it's still loading the sidebar really, really slowly. If you're also having problems (and can see this but have a hard time with the page loading), let me know - email eksmit at yahoo. I don't know what I can do about it, but I'll figure out something.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Brother of Mercy

While there's still work to be done, I'm darned impressed with Obama's first partial week on the job. He's taken care of implementing unequivocal policy decisions on the things I felt were most in need of fixing. These things make me happy.

Fixing Amendment the Eighth (nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted) which has the added bonus of restoring Geneva Convention protection and a bit of our international standing.

Transparency in Government I expect we'll work on restoring Amendment the Fourth: The right of the poeple to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.

Merciful and sensible funding for family planning. I have read several places trying to claim Bush was "good" on trying to stop AIDS. I'm going to have to call that bullshit. By refusing to help fund any clinic that even discussed abortion, let alone provided one, his obsession left out 75% of family planning clinics that typically depended heavily on US money. If you were to shut down 25% of hospitals and cut the majority funding for 50% of them, you cannot claim to be "spreading the finest of hospital services." When you're dealing with a sexually transmitted disease, you cannot be squirrely about using a clinic focused on sex and the effects of sex when in the prevention of said disease. Basically, Bush only wanted to prevent AIDS in people who would tell him what he wanted to hear. Obama has restored the ability of family planning clinics worldwide to openly tell their patients the honest and merciful truth.

I found another bitchy blog that says this in a way I consider to be an improvement on mine, but I figure the more voices, the merrier. Plus, I get to use the tags "politics" and "happiness" at the same time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Careful What You Wish For

Whenever I get too disappointed about something minor, I remember The Nacho Cheese Incident and think about karma.

The NCI occurred several years ago. I was on my way home and stopped at Taco Bell for a Nachos Supreme with no sour cream. And they gave me a Nachos Supreme with sour cream. This makes the dish inedible for me, so I asked them to fix it. I checked that the next one didn't have white and headed for home. When I pulled out the nachos, not only did it not have sour cream, they'd also left off the nacho cheese. By this point I was tired and hungry and cranky and didn't want to fight 8 minutes of traffic to go the 2 miles and fix a $1.59 food item, so I ate it, wallowing in misery, and complained bitterly. I wanted my nacho cheese, dammit!

The following day was my regular day to help out a local charity by driving leftover school cafeteria food to a homeless shelter. I'd been doing this for several months and felt pretty good about it. The cafeteria had added a taco bar that often had leftovers. Along with the student volunteer, I loaded up tubs of soup, taco fixings, leftover mashed potatoes and whatnot in the hatch of the '85 Nissan Stanza to make the trip of just a few blocks. When we arrived to unload the food, we found that the nacho cheese had tipped over, spilling roughly a gallon of it into the carpet of my car. Apparently my plea for nacho cheese went into the ether, and rebounded with a vengeance.

We had winter holiday shutdown at work. It was just shy of two weeks. I'd taken a couple days off the previous week to go to San Fran, came back and worked 2 days, then got 12 days off. On the rare occasions that I get 2 weeks off from work (Sept 2006 with a trip to Italy was the last), I come back feeling like I've had a month off. With the parents visiting and one thing and another, this was a nice vacation, but despite one long weekend and nearly two weeks, it felt like I'd only been out for a long weekend.

We found out today. I'll get another shot at feeling like I get a month off. I'll be off from March 14 - 28. Apparently the market is still playing it safe and orders are there, but they're all conservative. I'm not annoyed about having 2 weeks off. I can handle it. But I had been hoping to take a vacation in June - going to Alaska for the solstice or thereabouts. March in Alaska doesn't really hold the same appeal, I have to say. So while I'm still going to try and figure out how I can swing Alaska, it probably means unpaid vacation in March. And I need to figure out somewhere else to go. Boston in March is not so wicked awesome, weather wise. It's possible I could get to Hawaii, but I think this might coincide with spring break, driving prices up. Also available are driving tour of southwest and Grand Canyon, SCUBA trip to carribean, and Minnesota for mom's birthday. I'm not convinced that I want to drive all that by myself, the spring break thing could be an issue, and Minnesota is only marginally better than Alaska in March.

Also, very soon, I have to figure out when to get my nose and tosil surgery. I'm kind of feeling like I don't want to blow my shutdown time on recovery and I'm impatient to see if it helps. So I'm hoping to do that early february. Which would be about a week from now, eit!

It also occurs to me that if my vacation coincides with spring break, I could do some volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity somewhere that is not here. (I have no objection to helping my neighbors, I just need to vacation away from my condo. San Diego would work, as long as I find somewhere not-here to sleep.) After listening to the call for service from my new president, perhaps this volunteer vacation is the way to go.

So if you can help me figure out what to do with my time off (or want to travel somewhere with me), sing out. I'm looking for ideas. The crazier the better. Or vote for one or more of the above.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


So before I try to focus more on looking to the future, I'm enjoying a fine evening of YouTube clips found with starting search "Goodbye George Bush".

Here are the ones catching my fancy.

This one just took a massive about of splicing.

I don't know about you, but I feel fine.

Some of them are more transitional. One had a quick clip of "Boys to Men" flipping from Bush to Obama. This one, "Sorry" is extremely graphic. But shows the reason yesterday brought such relief. (Anyone heard tunes from Tracy Chapman recently? Does she have any song that isn't a gut punch?)

About that road? Hit it.

Back later with the Hope & Change.
(Amused with Daily Show's tag "Dance Dance Inauguration")

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I was torn tonight between the title "Hope and Change" and the one I went with. But since I prefer song lyrics in my titles and January is sadly lacking in that regard, ultimately the choice was not hard.

I got to watch a vast majority of the inauguration today. At work this morning, we had several computers all streaming video from the various networks set up in various office clusters, none of it planned beforehand. But nearly everyone watched at least some of it. When CNN would seize up, it was usually just as MSNBC was coming back online. I've never seen excitement like this for a new president. But then I was in 3rd grade when Reagan took office, so what do I know. I asked an 85 year old woman at our inauguration party tonight if this was out of the norm and she said she'd never seen nor heard of anything like it either. Millions of people invading each others' personal space and nearly all of them happier than not. Amazing.

Given that it's always easier to rally people around negative thoughts than positive ones (I'm not sure why this is), I find it extra amazing that Obama managed to take the "we can't stand another minute of Bush/Cheney" energy and deflect it into a positive force that people continue to rally behind. Do you know how hard that is to sustain? Even in book clubs, if everyone loved the book and it was the best book ever, you spend 3 minutes saying, "oh I loved it! Pass the wine". But if you hated it you could go on for 3 hours and find a willing audience. It would have been so easy for Obama to run on the "at least I'm not that guy" campaign. And while that was part of his appeal, it was by no mean the focus of it. I'm more impressed by this every day.

I'm a little annoyed at the people saying I've drunk the kool-aid for having hope in a politician who, while yes, must have a larger than normal degree of arrogance and ambition to become president at all, but who seems to be a genuinely nice person who is extremely competent, listens to other competent people, forms judgments based on facts, works hard to be inclusive, and works extra hard to remain positive and hopeful. For someone who supported the last administration's every sound byte, I find the kool-aid assessment to be head-exploding irony. I have hope, it's true. I'm not expecting miracles; there will be no walking on water. But to come out and say "lets put aside childish things" was one of the best things I've heard in years. It's just how I've felt. Now lets hope he can get people to do that more often than not.

I sometimes wonder how much Shepard Fairey's iconic Obama image helped. [EDITED to add: This image and Will.I.Am's "Yes We Can" mashup were probably the top two things he couldn't have won without. They're both high viewership grassroots things that were because Obama inspired the art, and the art gave people something concrete to mentally grab hold of, and anchor thoughts and actions to.] Myself, I can't look at the poster without my heart clenching and my eyes tearing. I realize it's a little extreme. I'm not sure if I'm more moved by the art or the ideas of the man. I've decided it doesn't matter. I have hope for the future of our country again. [Edited to add: The hope and the tearing up are not just because of Obama, but because our country rallied and actually voted for him and hope both.]

Red White Blue and Sepia iconic Obama Hope poster

And while I'm on images, can I just say Aretha's hat was fantastic? Not everyone could pull that off. The entire time she was on stage the only feeling was the relief of having a president who is both clearly in charge, and who I can r.e.s.p.e.c.t.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Start How You Mean to Go On

I was fortunate to catch the "opening ceremonies" of the Obama administration on HBO this morning. Very much the inclusive, celebratory occasion. Hope, it's still in the air. Compare and contrast to this stunningly prescient SNL skit from just before GWB's *first* State of the Union. Hunting accidents and dam failure anyone? Is it any wonder the news I've come to trust most is from comedy shows?

Back in the hope and change here and now is my assessment of this morning's festivities.

I felt a little sorry for the guy singing the national anthem. I've *never* heard a more confusing introduction for it. I was wondering what the hell they were playing until the verse started, at which point, it felt introductory to me too, and I waited as the singer did for when he was supposed to start. If the conductor had any compassion or sense, he would have started the first verse over after the guy didn't start on time. Clearly, they needed more practice, or a less obtuse introduction. He had a beautiful voice and clear diction and will probably never live this down, poor guy.

All in all though, for something put together about 2 months, while working on other stuff too, I thought it was very good.

A lot of the quotations presented by teh speakers are so common here as to maybe be taken for cliche. But they are not cliche so much as they are part of our national identity and, IMO, have been utterly absent for the last 8 years. The concept of "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" never crossed GWB's insular little mind. This ceremony was a reminder of who we are proud of being, where we come from, and what we can still be. It's all well and good to remind ourselves of this once in a while, but in this case, it felt so necessary as to rather scare me in the necessity. How close we've come to totally losing our sense of self.

I took note that MLK day is being upgraded to "a day of service" in Obama's plan. I like it. Holidays with something to do are always the most meaningful. (Trivia: In New England MLK is the biggest skiing weekend of the year.) Since it just occurred to me this moment that I missed our SWE day of service yesterday, I'll have to come up with something for February.

And can I just say that the last time I payed attention to Beyonce, she was a kid. I didn't recognize her today, but she really looked like a grown adult in her professional prime. It's nice to see people doing well. But how funny was it that they had "Kumar" known for being a stoner and Jack Black who was "Nacho" in "stretchy pants" saying grave and serious things? And how 75% of the songs were covers sung by people who have hits in their own right they didn't get to sing, with a couple of exceptions (U2, JM, BS).

One thing I became aware of from anthropology studies is just how important special days of celebration are for the psyche, both individual and collective. And this was an impressive one filled with ceremony, symbols (uh, trapped eagles flailing uselessly, maybe not so great), professional entertainers, and meaning. Celebrations do not dismiss the negatives of life, but like my occasional happiness lists, get us refocused on why it's worth fixing or dealing with the negatives. When it is all too common to wallow in the things that annoy us, celebrations allow us to reestablish positive focus and share a communion with our neighbors.

I enjoyed it. You?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Back on Schedule

The farmer's market in town, expensive as it is, is my primary source for fresh produce. I find that I can eat $20 of stuff from there in a week without much, if any, spoilage - after the 25% vinegar rinse.

But I haven't been since before Thanksgiving! Today was my first day back in more than a month because it's on Thursday, and every major holiday has shut it down this year. For the other weeks between T-day and X-day, I had 2 weeks of no kitchen in which to clean or eat veggies and 1 Thursday starting trip to San Fran.

I'd been feeling a little like I put in the kitchen for nothing, but it turns out I just needed to get back to my usual food on my usual timetable to make me feel more at home. So now I do. (Kind of like when I get that "I have no plans for the rest of my life" feeling, it means I need to get back in the glass studio.)

To add to the kitchen happiness, I got a big 'ol clear bowl to display my stash of one color of fruit - which right now is oranges of all types - decorator style.

Kitchen Tour IIa

For real this time, I mean it. I gave up on blogger video after being thwarted about 4 times. If New Door Knobs can upload a 1:19 runtime hamster video, I can certainly get the 1:20 kitchen video going. I can learn, eventually. YouTube works much better.

I don't point out the cool corner lazy susan to the left of the stove; I think I'll live with the sink for now; I do plan to change faucets to something very similar but not the same; and I'll probably wait until I get the pulls installed before I re-video the place. But for now. This'll do.

Punch list: I've taken out the weird tile at the entrance and just need to install the whole tiles in their place. Then use the removed tiles to fill in toekick gaps. Need to install the toekick, for that matter. Still don't have drywall up so it sounds like the dishwasher is running from the far corner. The range hood is not totally worked out yet either, but I have removed all the hanging pots so I can repaint without the funky yellow that I used in lieu of primer. I now have primer and am getting sick of the yellow stripe. The countertop cutout by the sink window still needs figuring out. I've switched the silverware drawer to the right and the utensil drawer to the left. So far, the kitchen, it is working.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Secretaries Have the Real Power

I listen to NPR in the morning. Partly because I need to listen to people talking to have a hope of waking up - I found that out after a Boston station divested itself of competent morning hosts and went to all music that I slept right through it. Partly, it's because it's the only station I have reception for in my electromagnetic dark hole of a cave condo.

This morning, I woke up to Hillary Rodham Clinton answering questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It was interesting. I've never heard her speak so fluidly and respectfully and competently. I found myself thinking she could do really well with this gig. (I also had a moment to reflect that after all that hard work, her title is "Secretary".) I had been wondering after all her "foreign experience" gaffes on the campaign trail if this would work out. I don't particularly care for the foreign policy she proffered during the campaign. Mostly because it was like everything else I heard from her - it came off as unoriginal, arrogant, reactionary fluff that had been poll tested to the point of meaninglessness. It had no direction and was wandering. This morning, she had originality, direction and focus. She spoke well of other people and they spoke well of her.

And she does have foreign connections, even if they weren't as executive level as she tried to spin them. In addition to travelling as the First Lady, She and Bill took Chelsea to every possible place they could get in a handshake on the girl's school vacations. They got in a ton of photo ops, and I kept thinking that they'd done a really great job integrating Chelsea's white house opportunities in an age appropriate way. "What did you do over spring break?" Not "I puked in a gutter in Cabo", but "I met Nelson Mandella for tea." Seriously, how cool would that have been - or at least to think about later as an adult? But I felt then and feel now that the relationships she has are more casual, "I can get in the door" relationships rather than "I can get them to do things for me at an executive level right off the bat" relationships.

So why would I like her for Secretary of State when I think she came off as rude and stilted and unoriginal in the campaign, and doesn't have the necessary depth of connection? Because now, for the most part, she will be there to implement Obama's plan rather than her own. And at this point, I trust that he will have a better plan. He's more visionary and proactive. And Obama, I think, has more capital with foreign leaders than HRC does at this point - if only because he's never met with them from a semi-submissive position. Hillary's a tea and photo op connections will make it smoother because there won't be wasted time in introducing her around, and she'll be able to build these relationships to a power connection more quickly than a fresh face would have been able to. But by doing it under the aegis of Obama's directive, I honestly think she'll be better received - her status as Bill's wife is a definite double edged sword.

She doesn't totally have to drink the kool-aid to execute to his plans, and she can get some real face time on substantive issues in the meantime, and set herself up for whatever she hopes to do in the future, even if that's just retire comfortably and Kato her way around the world. I've got no problems with that. As long as she acts first to protect and defend the constitution, secondly to implement Obama's plan, and lastly, to do whatever it is for her personal agenda.

I can see this working out. I hope she comes through.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I've spent a long time looking for hardware for the kitchen cabinets. My temporary electrical tape drawer pulls are not going to last much longer.

I had originally picked out these:
brushed stainless, narrow round stock arc

However they are out of scale with the wide stiles of the IKEA Adel doorfronts. Additionally, I couldn't find longer matching handles for my giant lower cabinet drawers, so I returned them. After a few trips into the valley and several wanderings through kitchen and hardware stores, I picked out something online. It's wider and comes in multiple lengths and I like it. It's essentially the same as my previous handle in shape, but is wider with a flat front. It's still my second choice if something goes wrong with my order.
brushed nickel, wider flat stock arc

Even with the multiple lenths of handles, I was having trouble figuring out where I'd put the handle on the pantry door. Then I remembered handles I'd seen at a (thankfully local) kitchen store. They were stick figures that looked like they were rock climbing. I went over to the store today and, yep, I still think they're "cooler 'n hooties" as mom likes to say. They do cost about 4X what I expected, so I'm just going to use a few of them as accent art and put normal handles on the bulk of the cabinets.

The lady helping me out at the store gave me another catalog to peruse with funky stuff and I found the "normal" handles in that book. I really like them because they have a square hole pattern that matches the etched pattern on the cabinet glass - and as it turns out, they match the bedroom carpet design too. These meet my "won't snag on passersby" criteria and really feel like the right solution.

craftsman brushed nickel with square cutouts

But the real fun is in Soko's "Manhandles" collection. Here's what I've decided on, shown in bronze, but ordered in Stainless aka silver with "shiny butt" finish.

The upper pantry cabinet will have this guy. He looks like he's climbing, but is looking down to check up on his climbing buddy.
Upper climbing man looking down

His climbing buddy on the big pantry door is not doing so well...
climber hanging on by one hand, dangling

And then because (a) I couldn't help myself and (b) because I will be using the trash door a lot and I didn't want the pull right at the top of the door because it's only attached to a drawer at the very bottom and flexes and (c) I can position this wherever I want it on the door, say lower... I'm putting this guy on the trash door.
climber scaling the cabinet

Of course, now I have to wait until they arrive... so I'll be tiling.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One Dish Pantry Meals

After reading my food prep scheme you might wonder why I bothered spending money on a kitchen, but I'm pretty happy with both my pantry cooking and the kitchen.

When I got to the grocery, I get a bunch of snack type fruits and vegetables, but not a ton of things that I turn into meals. Or, I blow through the fresh stuff and don't feel like stopping at the grocery again. Still wanting reasonably healthy food, I've concocted a scheme to make quick and easy one dish meals from my pantry and freezer. For example, tonight I made Beef & Mushroom Stroganoff in less than 15 minutes.

I started with the Mushroom Stroganoff dry side dish noodle package from Lipton/Knorr. This is to be boiled in 1.5c water and 0.5c milk. I don't have fresh milk because the stuff I bought for the holidays went bad and I forgot to restock my shelf stable milk drinkboxes. Ordinarily I'd use a quarter cup (half of a tiny can) of evaporated milk and 1.75c water, but I noticed some "healthy" condensed mushroom soup and used half a can of that instead. That stuff is unfit for normal soup applications where it's the primary flavor ingredient but it worked great for adding milky texture to the dish.

The next thing I do is add vegetables and sometimes meat or cheese. All of these things are kept in the freezer for doling out in 1 person servings without worrying about them going bad. If I have fresh veggies I might slice them in, but tonight, frozen peas were perfect. I also have a bag of meatballs, and several types of shredded cheese. I put 5 meatballs in when I added the pasta so they'd be cooked through. Just before taking the dish off the stovetop, I tossed in a handful of frozen peas and stirred until the dish regained its heat. Then, I tossed in a handful of frozen mozzarella and turned the heat off. The cheese cooled it down to edible temperature and I scooped it into a bowl so I could pretend to be civilized while I ate.

Basically, the trick is to keep dry packaged rice or pasta sides with preferred flavors and cans of either evaporated milk or soup in the pantry. Cans of mushrooms or corn can also be used, but for the veggies I generally used frozen. There are all kinds of frozen veggie mixes these days and whichever one has your favorites will work. If it has heartier stuff than peas, add it a couple minutes before the end of cooking rather than 30 seconds. Some cheese freezes better than others, but for this purpose, all of them do fine when shredded or crumbled. It does make enough for 2, or at least 1 and a half, depending on how much volume gets added, so it's not the perfect 1 person meal, but it's close. At least according to the old 4 food groups.

I eat like this fairly frequently, which is why it always flabbergasts me when people spend 3 hours waiting in line at the grocery the day before a storm. Spend the three hours baking the loaves of bread from the flour in the pantry, cycle through true emergency supplies as part of your regular routine, and get creative with your pantry stores. Three days without lettuce won't kill you. Even with a family one should have enough on hand to make it until the roads get plowed, especially if you've ever shopped at Cosco.

So, happy things today:
  • Got the goahead to move forward with my new process at work. Still requires a presentation and a meeting, but no big showstoppers have presented themselves.

  • A coworker brought in a selection of dried fruits to share. Her relative gave her too many for her household to consume in a timely manner. (No such thing in my family is untimely fruit eating.)

  • Had lunch with a friend after too many weeks of disconnecting. My parents were tiring, but her inlaws were a nightmare. If she wasn't so upset, it would be hysterically funny that she's been married for 10 years and her in-laws still don't quite know her name consistently, and weren't quite sure who was calling them or why when she notified them about their son's emergency surgery shortly before the holidays.

  • While I think it's alarming that I spent $160 restocking the bathroom supplies (deodorant, q-tips, breathe right strips, toothpaste (Wintermint! At the store!), face cleanser, feminine supplies, contact cleanser and other non-optional things) I'm happy that I can afford to do it without sacrificing other essential items like food.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kitchen Tour

Trying again, from a different, newer computer. This is what the kitchen is looking like now, although I am starting to attend to little details like tile patching and dealing with the odd paint over the stove while trying to figure out which handles I want and how that relates to which handles I can actually acquire. I returned the other ones because as much as I loved them, the scale was off and they looked thin and wiry on the doors.

Hrm. 3 hours and counting - 11777 items ...

Jan 7th...
Message 25451 failed with response...
Drat! Clearly this kitchen tour is not meant to be. I'll have to try another, and see if it's more upload friendly.