Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Had a lot of firsts this year which were all positive experiences:
First trip to the Grand Canyon
First ride in a helicopter
First trip to Alaska
First time to eat frog legs
First trip to Las Vegas
First trip to see friends in Seattle
First president in my lifetime that I was thrilled to see take office

While the economy tanked around us, my job making parts for wireless connectivity recovered early and is taking off, which makes me exceptionally lucky. (In the meantime, my condo has lost roughly half its value which just makes me like everyone else.) Here's hoping for health, wealth and pursuing happiness. And keeping in touch with friends.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blue Sky

I've had a rough week or so. I have such good remediation (sinus rinse, sudafed, tylenol) that I can usually work through and outlast a sinus infection without antibiotics. The trouble is that while I don't feel bad, I also don't feel good. It makes me cranky and touchy and impatient. Finally today I'm feeling better, but the impatience to be out of work for the holiday is stronger than usual. Granted, it is clawing on everyone and tomorrow will either be no big deal or sheer hell to get through.

Even through all that emotional mess and a balky tool, there was still some good stuff. I've been saving up, so there are more than three.
  • The blue of the sky was so stunning and crisp today it seemed unreal. The sky out here still takes me by surprise.
  • I was "a reader" whose comment was published on the Daily Dish! Ok, I gamed the odds and wrote in when AS was on vacation and I was complimentary about one of his underbloggers. I managed to do it without mentioning that while I liked some aspects of the underbloggers' work, I don't like his prose... but since he didn't have to write in the Window View book, it hardly mattered. I like the little book. It is small and softcover, but once you realize it won't be huge, it's a real treat.
  • I have a good working relationship with the equipment guys and it makes a lot of things easier at work.
  • I submitted an abstract for a conference and got the acceptance today! This means I do have to work next week to get a jump on writing the whole paper, but it's good news.
  • I've got plans for christmas. I decided at the last minute (last week thursday) to see if my friends could put me up and feed me over christmas and they can. I got a cheap ticket *there*, now I need to figure out how to get back... two one way tickets re probably going to get me cavity searched by the TSA but oh well.
  • I contacted a professional organizer to see if they can help me with the clutter and a mac guy to help me with the balky eMac. Here's hoping.


Stick up a bare metal pole and start with the airing of grievances, then move on to the feats of strength.

I'll update mine later after my brain wakes up - although I'm leaning towards having not enough comments... In the meantime, undo my grievance by commenting with both a grievance and something that makes you strong. Interpret how you will! And feel free to partake of the ceremonial pork rinds and scotch before posting.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Huh. Vegas the weekend before Christmas is kinda mellow, thankfully. I'm not sure I'd have been able to tolerate the packed bodies and noise and lights I remember from earlier trips with the sinus infection I took on this one. (Never been to Vegas before this March, now I've been thrice.) Between the sinus rinse, sudafed, and tylenol, I was able to hold back the tide and feel mostly OK. Perhaps all the vodka helped too - my liver may never forgive me but I spent most of last night pleasantly buzzed.

I hopped over to see the Guy Fieri Roadshow with a friend, her brother, and his girlfriend. We had fun and were entertained, but it could have been better. Fortunately, the House of Blues has an awesome happy hour that kept us pretty darn happy. Unfortunately, we planned for appetizers before the show and dinner after based on the times listed on the tickets of 7-9. But the show ran from 8:30 to 11:30 with several very long intervals of nuthin goin on so we got out after the real restaurants stopped serving food and made do with some late night cafe at the back of a noodle restaurant. Fewer giant pauses and more food in the show would have been good. It was worth taking the risk to see how it would be. I'd do something like that again (go to an unknown show of someone who entertains me in another venue). The organizer got us tickets to fly out at 1pm and return leaving at 1pm. It was a pretty humane time of day to travel. Even driving back from Orange County after the flight, I had time to unpack, unwind, and clean up.

However, I am still sick. Bleah.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Blogger Down

I've basically been out for the count since tuesday.

I got my allergy shot monday then not long after the usual 15 minute assessment, started getting a massive runny nose. It felt a little like the systemic reaction I'd had 2 weeks before, but I knocked it out with sudafed and sinus rinse. I'm not sure if I was having a reaction that then made me develop a sinus infection, or if I was just coming down with something that coincided with my allergy shots. I actually didn't have a head cold on tuesday, but was unable to wake up until about noon. I did go to work; I figured it was just my body remembering I'm a girl - when it functions without medical intervention, I tend to lose one day a month to severe fatigue, and worse things - so I didn't think it was anything more than that. But then wednesday, I also felt like my brain was buried in soup all morning and that afternoon was sneezy as well. Yesterday, I was fully awake when the alarm first went off, and figured that I didn't have anything else planned so I may as well go to work. But then I wound up being pretty sneezy. Sudafed helps that a lot, though, so I wasn't really all that symptomatic, other than being irritable.

One reason I powered through the week was that we are interviewing people for a job and I wanted to meet all the candidates. It looks like we have several reasonable contenders so the decision will be tricky. I just have to remember during the decision making process that I was irritable all week and not to hold it against anyone.

One good thing is it was my day to bring breakfast. I managed not to touch all the food, and brought stuff I like and usually bring (ham, hummus, bagels, donuts, blueberry pomegranate Minute Maid juice - I bring cream cheese but don't like it) as well as some "last breakfast before christmas" specials like cranberry sauce and extra meat (sliced turkey and bacon). So that's at least going well.

Ready or not, I'm headed to Orange County tonight, which could take 2-3 hours depending on traffic. Then I'm flying to Vegas tomorrow to go see the Guy Fieri food-music Roadshow with a friend. Should be fun, if I don't relapse.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Picking Up

I forget some important things:
- it's difficult to host a party and do something like mix dough
- dusting the rolling pin and surface with flour or sugar will keep the dough from sticking so the cookies cut with cutters will actually detach and retain their shape (sadly, this didn't get figured out until late in the day. sigh)
- noise makes me more tired than just about anything

The cookie party was a rousing success. People stayed long enough to get some serious baking done. I coerced my newly widowed friend to get out of her pjs and join us. A couple people brought their kids. And a coworker brought her bluegrass quartet. They just jammed in the livingroom for about 3 hours while we fed them cookies. Funnily enough, they had been disappointed at a previous engagement when someone took the cookies away before they got off stage, so they were ripe for cookies. It was delightful to have them as it was fun music and they played well. (One of the players had a style much like the music from Chocolat - a kind of french gypsy cant.) But it also was almost overwhelmingly loud for much of the day. I'd ask them back in a heartbeat, but I might wear some hearing protection just to dull the roar.

The kitchen as I remodeled it has really good flow and several workstations in and out of the kitchen proper allowing 4 or 5 people to all be busy doing something at the same time without too much tripping over each other. I'm really happy with how it has worked out. (So far so good on the tiles too.)

Then only thing is, I still have a couple recipes to whip up and several batches of cookies that need cookie cutting to make progress and I just want to pass out and enjoy my de-cluttered condo!

Cookie Party

Today's the day! I did better with the prep this year in that I'm basically ready now for people to show up -I need to stash some stuff and change clothes, but I'm not cleaning the bathroom frantically like last year. (And no one even used the bathroom, to my knowledge.)

It's been about a 3 week process to get to this point though. I have 3 giant bags packed for the goodwill, took out innumerable bags of trash (most of it paper) and recycling. And it makes me wonder why I am willing to live with such debris. I watch shows like Clean Sweep and Hoarders and get a grim sense of what my future will be if I don't get after this stuff. I think the important thing is to have a system for incoming stuff. I can maintain systems, but if I bring something in that doesn't have a place, it can set off a cascade of lazy. But for now, it's corralled.

The kitchen tile has been re-laid. A colleague of mine did the cut pieces for me and did just a fantastic job. I'm a little nervy in that the last cut tiles have only been in place for about 18 hours and grouted for 14. The instructions want me to wait 24 hours before walking on the tile and 16 for the grout so I've had fans going since last night. But it is SO nice to have a whole floor again and not worry about tile edges or wobbly tiles.

I've made a couple of stocking up runs and am now full up with 10# flour, 3 dozen eggs, 6# butter, and various and sundry nuts and fruits. I've got a nice list of the standard cookies and perhaps someone will bring one of their favorites too. Time for one last swipe of the swiffer and I'm off to change and bring butter to the masses. I'll let you know if the bluegrass duo shows.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good Day

I checked my mail at the UPS store today. It's been three and a half years, and getting that UPS box was one of the best things I've done. I like the location (around the corner from the post office, across the freeway from work, and next to the best pizza in town), I like the owners, and I love having my real mail go somewhere safe. The owner asked today about my glass as in past years I've shipped out rather a lot of it from her store and she hadn't seen any this year. I told her that it was rather a victim of the recession and I was hoping to get back to it next year. I think I'll take her some cookies.

In my box were two excellent things, one a surprise by the fact of it, and the other a surprise by the goodness of it.

First, I paid off my car! I own my Mazda 3 outright now. Whee! This is about 2 months before I'd expected to have to stop paying - I even got a refund for overpayment.

Second, the View From Your Window book which is on sale from Blurb but comes from Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. I love this feature. Every time a new window view pops up, I take a deep breath and feel contentment for a brief moment in time. It was too overwhelming to look at all the pictures at once, so I'm going to savor it for a while. I ordered a couple extra copies for gifts. I sent one to my grandmother who is in assisted living and spends a lot of time looking out her window. I figured she could use more window views too.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Visibility: RainEx vs. Generic Wiper Blades

I've been running an experiment with my windshield wipers. The last time I replaced them, I bought a pricey "RainEx" brand wiper for the drivers side and the "cheap like dirt" brand for the passenger side. (I bought blades on a wiper arm, not just the rubber blade insert.) I chose thusly for a few reasons. (1) the blade would work best on the arm designed for it; (2) because I really like the RainEx product for windshields - driving on a misty or snowy day is no problem if one has recently applied the juice; (3) Living in SoCal, I didn't need to upgrade to a snow-plow worthy blade, but I figured a name brand blade would last longer or work better than the cheap blade and (4) I thought about upgrading the cheap blade slightly too, but then figured I'd just test the absolute cheapest to see how low I could go.

So far, the wipers have mostly been dealing with dust and windshield washer fluid, which could scratch the hell out of any blade. I do, however, routinely wipe the blades off when I get gas. So every 2 weeks or so, I run a soapy paper towel over them to clean off any built up diesel fumes, dust or bug carapces to prevent streaking and get better squeegee action when I turn them on. It has been a relatively cool summer (what summer? the first hot day of my year happened in Alaska, FCOL) with only a couple of very hot days.

The blades are maybe 8 months old, but I rarely use them and clean them regularly, and they don't appear cracked or damaged. In the interest of fairness, the passenger side blade is a couple of inches shorter and I am not listing the pressure points per linear inch of blade because I don't remember and it's cold and raining outside so I'm not about to head back out and count the number of places at which the wiper holder pushes the blade against the window.

Dealing with dust/dew: No difference

We are having our first big rain of the season today.
Dealing with rain: No difference

In my experience, there is no difference between the $16.99 blade and the $4.95 blade. They both streak equally, leave similar residues (with dust, particularly), clear rain equally, and provide the same visibility.

I guess I had been hoping the RainEx blade would help recondition the windshield surface similar to how the RainEx fluid does, but I don't remember the packaging saying anything of the sort. RainEx is the *best*thing*ever* for rainy/drizzly weather, but counterproductive in dusty situations, so I haven't used it in forever. Maybe I should get a tiny bottle to have on hand for days like today. Because their wipers are no better than basic. And more than a little streaky.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Silver Lining

In honor of World AIDS Day yesterday, here's an idea I've been thinking about for a while: the horror of AIDS was the tipping point to rapid, widespread acceptance of gay people socially and legally.

Stick with me, here. I've already mentioned that I came of age during the biggest horrors of the AIDS epidemic as experienced in this country. Before anti-retrovirals, you could watch people fall apart before your eyes. Not quickly enough to be merciful; not slowly enough to find a cure. People died gruesome deaths by the thousands. (And still are if they are poor or uninsured.)

I'm not going to pretty it up. Because most of the people dying from AIDS early on were gay, there was a massive backlash against gay people which led to, among other things, people getting fired from jobs for having AIDS/being gay. This is one reason that medical record privacy is a huge issue - your boss finding out you'd even had an AIDS test could lead to the loss of your livelihood and possibly your housing and family. (There will always be some hot button issue like it, but this particular one was pretty bad for a while and still isn't entirely overcome.)

Straight people can and do and did get AIDS but the vast majority of early deaths were gay people. So when someone died of AIDS, it was pretty obvious and the overwhelmingly likely reason that they were sick was related to their sexuality. The key thing I'm thinking is that the disease outed a lot of closet dwellers and folks on the down low. It forced family members to know something for sure that they had maybe only suspected and glossed over before; it forced them out of the closet too. More, it forced people to choose between caring for and comforting their dying loved ones or not, and do it in front of others. To be sure, some people chose "not".

Still many people chose love over fear and embarrassment. These family members said, "I'm grieving for the wasteful loss of my [brother, son, father, lover, friend] and I'm not going to hide that grief". They said, "We are NOT ASHAMED of our loved one." The biggest organized demonstrations I remember were the quilts. People would make a quilt square to commemorate their loss, join with other people who had made squares, then tour the country raising the word about the horror of the disease and the desolation it left in its wake.

The quilts started as a small thing between people who might not have had anyone else with whom to share their grief when the rest of their family or friends chose "not". They came out of their own closet and reached out to others. Like a pebble being kicked in a steep snowpack, it took a focused effort by a few and turned it into an avalanche of advocacy. (I admit that I haven't read about PFLAG and other support organizations to find out when they were founded or when they took off, I'm just going with my own selective memories.) It just makes sense that a hidden minority wouldn't gain broad acceptance without advocates from the majority. And the trigger for widespread advocacy was the horror unleashed by HIV. It has been within my short lifetime that we went from not discussing gay people publicly in a serious manner to firing people for being sick with a "gay" disease, to openly discussing gay marriage and in some cases approving it.

There is still widespread homophobia - Uganda is up to some bad, bad policy; some Iraqis are trying their hand at lynching, my own state voted that gay people don't get the same legal rights as straight people. (Fortunately my previous state dispensed with this matter years ago and many countries are even further ahead.) But for all intents and purposes, I don't see homosexuality going back in the closet or being considered unnatural. There will be oscillations in the acceptance levels, but the trend is for normalization of homosexual people; it's only a matter of time. I don't expect full global acceptance in my lifetime, but I do hope that at least gay marriage will be legal in my country by the end of the next decade. And I really think the speed with which this came about (seeming glacial as it is lived, but historically quite quick) can be traced to the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Hopefully a cure and a preventative will be found and soon. It's still the case that AIDS is fatal, it's just slower now and quality of life can be maintained a relatively high level for many of the sufferers. It is still the case that many die horribly leaving behind families and children still in need of care. I look forward to the World AIDS Day when a serious breakthrough for stopping HIV in its tracks gets announced. Because as good as it is that there is now advocacy and increased levels of civil acceptance for homosexual people, the thundercloud that generated this silver lining extracted a terrible price.

I'd give him more, if I could

Those of you who have noticed my twitter feed on the side (the Otter Pops) might be aware that I'm doing trivia most wednesday nights at a local texmex place. Our team (The Dumb Bunnies) has been winning manically although I have less to do with that than new friend C. Most weeks it has just been the two of us but the team was founded by a colleague of mine from work. I'm his recruit, and friend C is his wife's recruit. For a few weeks it was the four of us and occassionally some of their other friends. Then after antibiotics did nothing for his "ulcer", my friend was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer and is has mostly been the two of us since then with occasional cameos by the founder.

I'm sorrier than I can say that our team will be forever short of its founder. He died last wednesday shortly after finding out that the cancer had spread extensively. He was a young man in his late thirties or early forties at the most. It's quite shocking if I think about it too hard.

I'll be going to the funeral tomorrow. I don't really know anything to say, but I do have something to do. On the advice from the traffic school instructor I'm going to offer to drive his widow (yikes!) around any day she doesn't really feel like doing it herself. I'm not good at casseroles or hotdish, and she likely doesn't need cookies or ornaments. My other useful shareable skill is driving, so that's what I'll offer.

Now that I've shared this, I think I'll be able to do more blogging. I do try to keep my posts on topic and a lot of them felt subsidiary to this one but it took a while to come to be able to write it.

Goldfish Brain

I've been having a lot of scattered moments recently. I need to make order from the chaos, so here are all the things I've been meaning to blog about recently:
  • trip to Boston to visit friends (so relaxing! I fell asleep during a rock musical with strobe lights)
  • trip to Minnesota to visit family (good to get back there. saw grandma, 'rents, brother, friend from european backpacking trip and her boy, the rain garden my mom got installed to drain water from their church's new roof, and turkey)
  • um, alaska pictures
  • food pictures
  • cookies
  • allergies
Huh. that wasn't so much but cycling in my head it felt like 2 dozen things.

And actually, I do have two things I will be blogging about in separate posts. Stay tuned.