Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eccentric Badger

I have wireless internet!  Merry Christmas to me.  I spent most of a week with my good friends up in Seattle, and they had an old wireless router with an automated setup key (for those like me who have no patience for nor interest in setting up computer components).  Now my friend visiting from Boston can't hijack the single available internet cable, and we can safely ignore each other while surfing social networks simultaneously from the same room.  Progress is grand.

After starting the day with a round of "Sumo Ham Slam!" we headed to the coast for some expensive mediocre food at Paradise Cove with such great views we could see Catalina Island.  A nice scenic Sunset Boulevard drive and a stop in Westwood for hot beverages and 3 for $1 cookies and to pick up another friend. We then joined perhaps half of Los Angeles at the Griffith J. Griffith Observatory after sunset and my friends waited with me in the biting cold gusty wind, huddled like penguins, looking out over the glittery city, until it was our turn to look at Jupiter from the 12" telescope.  Even though the wind made it blurry, I still got to see Ganymede get occluded by Jupiter. Then we went downstairs to the new section and watched cosmic rays hit the cloud chamber.  I love that.

Now to go donate some end-of-year money.  What's that you say about last minute?  Nah...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Whew!!! The lame duck congress swam across the finish line on DADT, getting the Senate to repeal it this weekend. I'd been worried enough to write my senators and ask them to make it a priority, even though repealing it has been their position for the entirety of the time the law has been in force, because I didn't want to see it slip through the cracks and get squished by the incoming freshman. That the vote came on a weekend worried me some too, but maybe that turned out to be smart. Instead of a bunch of 'sky is falling' headlines, these were the top headlines in yahoo news as of my late lunch, monday, pacific time:
  • Early Christmas treat: 2010 solstice lunar eclipse (which I could see right now if it weren't raining for the umpteenth day in a row)
  • Dog in Germany gives birth to 17 puppies (well, dogs do love to eat the feminine hygeine products out of the trash. Maybe someone was taking hormones.)
  • Winter disruptions turn travel bitter and chaotic (there is a ton of snow this year.)
  • Tonight's lunar eclipse comes with a twist (I kind of expected one DADT headline- good or bad - but being edged out by 2 eclipse headlines? c'mon!)
  • Pope: Church must reflect on what allowed abuse (not who? or why? I'm all for systemic abuses, but the question seems distancing in and of itself.)
Those were the most emailed news articles. I checked the top 5 most viewed and most recommended as well and they were similarly devoid of interest in the DADT repeal.

Just for kicks, I went over to HuffPo. Number one most popular article?
DADT repeal passes senate procedural vote.

Other topics were photos of things likely made by child labor, Al Franken's words about civil liberties related to net neutrality, Palin "jabs" Michele Obama's anti-obesity campaign, photos of things we accidentally learn while watching crime dramas (including my favorite: zoomed in shots of grainy photos get clearer!), and something by Michael Moore (trying to surf in on Wikileaks page hits?).

Completely different sets of interests. And the one where a loud minority of people were predicting global meltdown barely made the front page. Which is good and bad.

Now to get the law signed and implemented.

I've been thinking since I ran my poll on this (was it two years ago now?) where the majority reaction was that Obama would wait for congress to repeal it. The slowness of it has been almost as frustrating as the intermittent nature of my spacebar (grr, argh! Orrathergrr,argh!). But it kind of makes sense. One, now it will be a law that will take a great deal to overturn and probably no one will make that effort in a significant way. The other is that if the president had just stated from the start that he wouldn't enforce it by some magical executive privelege, it would have lessened the urgency. Since it doesn't look like many bills get passed without some urgency and urging from a riled up populace, leaving the discriminatory practice active kept it urgent. Two years was a long time to do this, but maybe not so long as it could have taken, and I think it will go easier because of the time and effort put into the studies and repeal. I do think that if they'd accomplished it before the elections that democrats would have been more supportive. I'm not sure they realize that this sort of thing is important for straight citizens too and we expected more vocal, public support for the repeal than we saw.  Still and all, it's mostly done.  As for implementation, sooner is better than later.  Now we can work on repealing DOMA.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cable Car Caroling

I'll be headed up to San Fran in about 9 hours, depending on whether or not I can make a decision about what to wear, which might extend that a tad.

I had some plans to make more cookies, but I punted that for laundry and shopping for the charity work is supporting. Most years they pass out a list of things foster kids want. I'm the one who gets someone the dark purple sheets or arts and crafts kits. I love buying that stuff but don't really need it for myself, which makes it fun for me too. Now if I can only get that freewheeling with the kids of friends I actually know!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I'm working on Christmas presents.  I'm doing ok, but it's still in progress.  And I was going to make great strides this weekend.  But decided that it was more important to hang with some of my peeps in San Fransisco, doing some cable car caroling.  I'll be driving up, because hey, driving.  The sign near my house on the freeway tempts me every morning saying it's only 394 miles to San Fran.

But that means my grand plan of doing christmas cards this weekend may be up in smoke.  Unless I get back sunday and still have energy. The box of card stuff is still on hand from last year because I had something like 2 more people to send cards to and the year kind of snuck by.

So the good news is that I think I'm more organized than last year, and I made good plans to do stuff in time.  The bad news is that I'm blowing it all to go sing drunken carols in the rain with friends.  There would probably be cardiac arrest if you all got cards before the actual Christmas holiday anyway, right?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Cookie Party

With the help of my organizer, I got the bathroom reassembled and gussied up, then neatened up the rest of the condo in time for the Cookie Party.  Every year I get a little more ready a little earlier.   The first year, I was frantically scrubbing the bathroom floor at 11:30 for a party starting at 12 - and not a single person went into the bathroom.  This year, I had cleaners come over and just worried about rearranging stuff, and that got done sufficiently before the party started that  I actually got started on a batch of dough before people showed up, for the first time ever!  Plus my AC managed to keep up with the ovens being on even with the SoCal temperatures soaring into the 80s for the first time in weeks.

With my new stools and chairs and the reno'd kitchen, it went well.  Turns out that about 6 people + me is about right for max productiveness without verging too far into chaos.  And we were really productive this year.  I got a volunteer to time the cookies (I'm too distractable and can't do it well even when I'm not hosting) so we had 3 racks going in the two ovens and cranked out the goods.  I'm always surprised at how little people take when they go, but since almost everyone takes the same amount, there must be something to the choice.  I guess I only wind up keeping about twice what the other guests take home, which is enough to get through a week without inducing a sugar coma.  The rest I load into decorative bags and hand out to my coworkers.

While I remembered to take pictures of friends, I tend not to post people here.  For you, we have the food. This year's menu:
Overview of the take, after guests have taken their share
8 kinds of cookies

Zaletti (Venitian rum-currant-cornmeal.  Delicious and compelling but I got pushback on using cookie cutters with the currants.  A google search shows others cut them in diamond shapes.  Maybe I'll do that with the last of the dough.) with a patch of Earl Grey cookies  (yes, with ground up tea! but this dough got melted and turned kind of green...)

Chocolate Hotties (triple chocolate with chili) and Molasses balls  (friend's special recipe which I called Reindeer nuts.)


Oatmeal with Butterscotch chips (lush, double batch)

Coconut Macaroons

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti (fewest broken ones yet!)

Stained Glass (hard candies melted in center cut out - new)

Happy Holidays!  Thanks again to everyone who came.  The Glee christmas soundtrack was delightful.  Here's hoping that next year I will actually host those dinner parties, now that the place is in relatively good shape for having guests.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Irrational Predictions

The MIT club of SoCal managed to snag Dan Ariely on his way out of town, and had him speak to a gathering of MIT and Duke alums and friends.  I took the coast road down to Santa Monica in less time than it took another attendee to get there from Westwood, which is nearby.  Crazy. For various reasons, I got there early for the reception, getting to talk to some nice people, but got into the lecture room late.  It was a hotel conference room set up with chairs.  I decided that front row was better than back row, and actually wound up talking to him a little before he went up when he sat down right there to put on his microphone.  Cool. 

You can find his talks on TED and other sites and he's a good speaker.  Inspiring too.  I've read his stuff but still had ideas while he was talking tonight.  His topic was cheating.  He and his cohorts have found that pretty much everyone/every population cheats at about the same rate for non-cultural tasks.  That rate is about 10%.  Given a chance to lie with impunity and make money at it, most people won't be obvious - instead of taking the whole $20 possible when they "earned" $4 at the task, they're likely to as for $6. What they've found is that it's a combination of cost-benefit analysis, self assessment, and social acceptance.  If everyone is doing it, you can do it too and still feel that you're honest.

Then you can mess with this baseline in a few ways.  Cheat at something long enough, and suddenly you hit the "What the Hell?!" point (as they've named it), and you start to cheat a lot more.  There are things that can knock you back into baseline, though, like confessing, even if no one ever knows what you confessed.  Or not cheating long enough to get there.  Culture plays a role - some things are cheating in one culture that aren't in others.  Being reminded of morality or given a chance to feel superior to a rival will get people to not cheat as well.

There are cumulative effect to cheating though.  The research was started in response to Enron.  It turns out that there are very, very few people who cheat because they like to and for the sport of it.  But since nearly every cheats just a little - and about as much as their peer group, groups that cheat a little can spiral into cheating a lot.  One group cheats a little for a while and either hits the WTH threshold, or another group cheats just a leetl bit more than them, then a third group cheats just a little bit more than them, and the next thing you know, Lindsey Lohan is making bail.  Everyone's doing it, she's just doing enough more than the next person to stand out.  Enron was similar (my words, not Dan's).

This says to me that we really do need regulators and watchdogs.  Not because we're evil, but because people inherently cheat a bit. (Like speeding.)  We cheat less if someone's catching us, or when we're reminded to be responsible.  So we need mechanisms for that reminder, to avoid blundering into situations that spiral out of control, like subprime mortgages. 

 While he was talking, he also brought up how people feel pain when they pay for something as they do it.  It seems to me that this is what prevents internet paywalls from working well. If we just funded an account with something like $50 and had, say, green links to paywall sites and normal blue links to free sites, then paywall sites grabbed a penny or two every time you went to their site (once a day) or a new article (not for each page of an article you greedy guys) or every hour you spent there, they could get money with your consent, but without you having to stop, enter all your personal data, and interrupt your thought process.  Every so often, the site would remind you when you're at your last 10% and you can refill.  Or have auto refill from paypal up to a certain amount per month.  This way you get more content, less advertising, less clicking, and they make money to bring you more content.  the account could maybe even work in fractions of cents.  Say every youtube video is 1/10 of a cent.  For protection, the account would be such that it would only allow fractions of cents to go out, and only if you clicked something (they can't just come and grab it), but with low enough $ amounts that it wouldn't be life ending if you had to cancel a compromised account and make another.

Seriously, if youtube is getting 10 million hits a day and each hit paid (let's go lower!) 1/100 of a cent, they can basically print money.  The New York Times could actually hire editors that would allow them to use the word "torture" when reporting torture and keep sending reporters to the scene.  Things like that.  Because it's not that I'm unwilling to pay for content.  I'm just not willing to pay as much as most sites want, upfront, for unknown benefit, after tons of interruption.  And I don't want to be using my high limit credit card for a $2 charge. 

I think that brings me to 3 types of credit - your basic credit card for medium/large purchases from reputable places, your mini-credit card for the $2-5 purchases in places likely to steal your info, and your micro account to bleed off hundreths of a cent at a time.  It's like paypal, but easier and more invisible.  So I can surf to a hundred sites and it only costs a dollar.  But I don't have to see that dollar leave.

I had a couple of other genius ideas, but I'm too overtired to remember them.  I did figure out what to get my brother for christmas that could potentially rival 12 pounds of birthday bacon for awesomeness.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Today's mostly just a rant.  I had a nice time yesterday at a party that I almost punted on due to feeling "meh", and slept most of today. (Eon't know why, really - could be new meds, could be the sick, could be that I was just tired.) Want to update the blog but my brain is stuck on health issues.  Since I probably need the happiness help, I'll give it a try, then rant.

  • My neighbor invited me to a party of someone I'd met through her.  I didn't wind up meeting a date, but I did maybe make a couple of female friends.
  • There was a white elephant gift thing, and I got the "rave toys".  We put on and played with the glowstick jewelry last night.  My fav, though, is the "Wiggle Worm", a yellow rubber tube with widely spaced koosh ball like flaggela.  Inside is a light that turns on when it gets moved around.  It's great.
  • A medical symptom I've been concerned about for two years went away this weekend after my antibiotics were rev'd up a notch.

I've been on antibiotics for nearly two weeks now.  My sinus infection is thinking about maybe sort of finally going away, but it's not gone-gone yet.  The side bonus from ramping up my antibiotics is that something I've been concerned about for two years cleared up this weekend.  I spent about $600 on diagnosing and treating that side condition with no actual diagnosis or relief coming from it.
paraphrased conversation with doc, a specialist in the field:
Me: I have symptom A.
Doc:  That symptom is in the normal range of experience.
Me:  But it's not normal for me and started suddenly a couple weeks ago.
Doc:  it's nothing to worry about
Me:  can you tell me what's causing it?
Doc: it's normal.  don't worry about it.

Finding that it was an antibiotic resistant infection gives me a huge case of the I told you so's, but it also means I've been fighting this infection for TWO YEARS.  Presumably I was in some equilibrium state where it wasn't necessarily overtaking anything else, but I do think it might contribute to my sudden onset of superbad restless leg syndrome a couple years ago.  When you wonder why, when I have medial issues, I try to solve the problem myself and go to doctors as a last resort, this is why;  I have vastly more experience with doctors dismissing my concerns and not helping than with them helping me.

That said, my internal med doc seems to do ok most of the time, when my insurance allows him to.  I've had 4 medicines outright rejected for coverage in the last 6 months.   This means that my doctor, his/her staff, my pharmacist and I all have to scramble to deal with it when I'm sick and in need of meds.  Blue Cross Blue Shield?  I really really resent your policies.  They're horrible.  At least cover a "test" prescription so I can see how the actual drug is supposed to work while I get a chance to work with people on whether or not the substitution is warranted. Don't make me force all these other people to drop everything to help me *right* *now*.  Let me start the treatment and give me time to work it out.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Any event that gets excited about how early it can start is not one that gets me excited. My family spent the day driving around the Ft. Myers and Sanibel Island area today. In our one and only stint at shopping, we made a stop at The Shell Factory, which aside from shells, sells a bunch of other randomness. I nearly took some pictures but you kind of have to see it to believe it. Suffice it to say, if you're in southern Florida and need medieval coins, fossils, fudge, taxidermied safari animals, seashell toilet seats, or just some place to goggle at for an hour or two, The Shell Factory is your place.

For me, the vacation has been good but slow. I managed to see two sets of friends and their SOs located a bit up the coast, drive over the Sunshine bridge south of Tampa, practice some Cued Speech, celebrate Thanksgiving and two birthdays, and get a sinus infection.

I'm not sure if it was the airplane or the air in Florida starting my nose tickling, but staying with my cat-owning friend put me over the edge and I woke up with a sinus infection tuesday. After finding an urgent care place that would see an out of state visitor (where other patients wondered about the sanity of a Californian vacationing in Florida), I got some antibiotics courtsy of Publix. Thank you Publix! I'm feeling better, but not good yet. Then my mom asked if I blow my nose like that every day. Well, only when I have a sinus infection, so no. I'm still not sure why she asked me that.

Also, everything I take except the tylenol, sudafed and antibiotics kicks me into an extreme case of restless leg syndrome. So my usual jet-lag cure of Lunesta puts me to sleep for 30 minutes then wakes me up with the RLS. The chlortrimeton does the same. As a result, I haven't slept much on this vacation. I don't fall asleep until about midnight pacific time even if I'm tired at midnight atlantic time. Makes me glad I'm flying out at night tomorrow because I'm not sure I'd make it in the morning.

It hasn't been all rough, though. We had a potluck Thanksgiving at the condo/yacht club's club house. One neighbor made a "Florida turkey" decoration where she drew the turkey body and made the tailfeathers out of palm fronds. The weather here is nicer than where I live. It's about 85 and just humid enough to hold the heat in. My aunt's place is on the water, where we just had drinks and snacks with the neighbors out on the dock. My brother and the neighbor between them caught 3 sailcatfish and a ladyfish. The ladyfish (a "she-fish" per my bro) became bait and the sailcats went back in the water, but it kept them occupied. My skin is liking the moderate humidity, of all things. Pretty good.

To condense, the "happiness items" in today's post:
  • Seeing friends and family
  • Shell Factory outing
  • Drinks on the dock
  • Happy skin
Here's hoping everyone out there is surviving the harvest celebrations and time with family. This is one of my favorite holidays. How is yours going? Ready to escape the family by shopping or seeing movies? Or is everyone still getting along?  What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bathcave Revision

My dad, assuming he goes online before Thanksgiving, will be pleased to note that I got the drawers back in the relocated organizer.

bath vanity reno

The bathcave, while still windowless, has made great strides. The vanity/ laundry/ closet area used to feel like a closed-in hallway that I did not generally spend time in. Remeasured with the stuff out, it's about 11'x6' which is 9% of my square footage and I didn't much use most of it. By taking out one side of the closet, the header, and moving the organizer parts to either side of the room, there's now a great space when walking in. You can see above that it doesn't looked cramped anymore.

When entering the bathroom previously, this is the view - with curtains closed to keep the clutter from total obviousness. Also, the laundry sticks into the room several inches. It's masked slightly because the oddball closet wall sticks out so far on that end.
bath vanity before, wall with curtain

Opening the curtains and walking in further, you can see the nice organizer. Well, the components are nice, but they allowed a roughly 9" gap through which to access the 3 foot deep corner storage on one side and 11 on the other . They'd put in garment hanging racks so the things being stored could actually fit through that gap, but it wasn't workable for a daily use situation. Essentially, I had the organizer and very little else.
bath vanity organizer before

There's so little in that space now that this picture doesn't quite do justice to the space, but notice that there are no cluttered shelves on first view. And yes, I did paint that far wall white. Even I can't handle *that* much orange sherbet.
bath vanity after, far wall is white with white baseboard.

More details after the jump!  Click below.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Bathcave

One of my recent excuses for not updating the blog is that whenever I could be working on the blog, I think about how I could be making progress on the bathroom and go do that. I was stalled for a while while working some long hours, but am back in the swing of things.

This weekend, I purchased baseboards, including one for the kitchen. The bathroom took a bit of a backseat to the fridge project. I had to pull the fridge completely out to get the adjacent baseboard out and while I was there, did the annual filter change on the icemaker line. I was pleased to note that there was only a little bit of dust and a lonely craisin under the fridge after a year of lost food possibilities. After about 18 tiny adjustments with the new sliding compound miter saw (due to trying to shove the baseboard partly under the cabinet but needing room to angle it in), I finally got it in.

I'm attaching the pre-primed baseboards with construction adhesive, which is going ok, but has enough width to it that I need to fill in a gap at the top. I figured white caulk would do the trick. At the home depot, the person at the paint counter, who would help me find such things, was probably the most butch lady I've seen in my little red-state-socal town. After a momentary pause during which I decided there was no way in the world I could ask her for caulk, I settled on "caulking" instead. Two seconds later, I had waterproof white caulk. ing. An hour later and the kitchen was reassembled.

The baseboard on the big wall was tricky to do without nails - I hadn't prepped enough support pieces so there's a screw in one corner, but it went alright, and now I can measure my shelves that will go between that and the sink. (I couldn't stop the baseboard at the cabinet or the lowest drawer wouldn't open.)

Taking down the closet wall and the built-in vanity left a row of missing tile. I managed to cobble together enough partial pieces to cover all the bits that show easily, and filled in the rest with a similar tile. The fill tile isn't a total match, but I figure anyone who finds it under the cabinet is going to be replacing the rest of the tile anyway. It took a while to figure out which tiles would go where and whether they'd even fit under the legs of the back cabinet. They did fit - by the hair of my chinny chin chin, but I got them in. Tonight was the night to actually stick them down, and it went twice as well as I'd hoped for. It was very satisfying to see the puzzle I'd had to solve actually work out in reality. Tomorrow will be grout day and I'll try to start posting pictures.

Due to having an appointment at 6 and doing an utterly wacky dance class t 7:30, I got the tiles in but posting pictures is outside my abilities for the evening. I could show you how to dance like a whacked out marionette that can do a little "house" style jig, however.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Homemade Hot Pockets, Apple edition

I haven't updated my baking resolution records in a while, but suffice it to say that june and july were not good baking months.  I did get some done in August and September (including making my own recipe for "pina colada" bread, which, while it could be improved, disappeared completely at a house party so clearly wasn't bad).  October has been pretty good so far including some flatbreads (new), and these tasty apple pastries:
baked apple pastries, browned and delicious

Which came from these 5 apples.  Jazz and Galas are the two smaller reds in the back left.  The red striped monster on the right is a Honeycrisp which is aptly named.  I liked its texture and flavor the best of them all when I sampled them.  The others are Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.  (There's a glass color called "granny apple green" exactly that color.  It's hard to work with and easy to overuse, but so much fun.)  You'll notice I leave a little of the peel behind.  It's because I like the color, not because I don't know how to peel.
baking apples

The how and why of it all, along with an apple coring tutorial, if you

All Hallows Week

The great thing about a sunday Halloween is that the whole preceding week and weekend can be legitimately co-opted for themed events. This week involved decorating the office,  a full costume dance recital, attending an artshow with pancakes and booze, MY FIRST TRICK-OR-TREATER!, and baking apple goodies.  I also made progress on the bathroom reno, remembered to buy toilet paper, consider the upcoming election, and, well, I'm pretty sure that's it.  Here's the rundown again, with pictures.

I liked my cat pumpkin so well last year that I did one again this year.  The face I wasn't happy with, so I tried a ghost.  Shortly after this picture I used a melonballer to remove more squash from the backsides to let the light shine through the cat eyes and the ghost a bit better.  Immediately after that, my camera battery demanded recharging so this is my only shot. 
halloween 2010 cat and ghost jack-o-lanterns
Putting them in the window was successful since I actually got a trick-or-treater this year. I had dropped my guard and barely got the candy to the door - no "ooh, pretty princess"  or anything.  I may as well have grunted at her.  But she did get candy, so I assume she was cool with it.

My office likes halloween. One colleague has a holiday birthday, and the rest of us take advantage of the supplies. halloween 2010 office spiderwebs

More pictures after the jump:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rough Draft

Our dance finally got posted to youtube.  It was super fun.  This isn't the best angle, but sometimes done is better. If I run across the gussied up version, I'll add that too, but here's what I spent two months of weekends working on. The guy in the group is my trainer which is fun for us.  We usually practice our routine after my workout, which we both need.

All in all, I was really happy with it. Having been a dancer for 2 months now,  I think I need to make my moves bigger. I look kind of timid here; I thought I was going all out and I certainly sweated enough.  So practice, practice, practice. Bigger, bigger, bigger.    Hopefully we can remember enough to do it reasonably well for the class recital event this weekend.   The new dance (to Thriller, for helloween) is finally starting to take root in my muscle memory after an extra hour of practice today.  I'm glad it was my 3rd time with the moves and not the first as work has been hellaciously busy this week in a challenging, use the brain kind of way.  It's good, but I don't have a lot left over.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Thanks to my neighbor for the ride to the doc this morning.  I had about 10-20 minutes under anesthesia to get my throat/stomach scoped.  They found some ulcery bits in my esophagus and, continuing in the tradtion of only having things wrong with me that are annoying and not generally fixed by doctors, it turns out I inherited the family hiatal hernia.  This brings with it a greater likelihood of acid reflux, which most of the family has too, but I thought I'd mostly escaped.  Probably the ulcers are from all the advil I've been mainlining since march.  So I'll be sticking with the liver killing Tylenol.  Oh well.  I think I'm also getting arthritis in my right middle finger, so if it looks like I'm flipping you off, it's more likely that my finger just doesn't bend anymore.

The surprising thing about today was that I came out of the anesthesia slowly for about 20-40 minutes then felt totally normal for the next 3-4 hours.  I even considered going back to work, except that I was warned by my colleagues (who have all had this procedure) to take the whole day.  I was feeling energized, although not interested in doing  anything too complex like bathroom reno or baking, then I passed out on the couch for 5 hours.  Now I feel fine again, save the scratchy throat that is barely a 1 on the scale if "tonsils out as an adult" is the 10, but I don't trust the feeling fine.  I'd had a crackbrained notion of "sweating the poisons out" at the gym, but my trainer made other plans, which was smart.

So here I am, not driving today, not making any financial or legal decisions, and watching Raising Hope, twice.  I like this show, it's smart humor.  It's usually followed by some show that had characters so moronically dumb it was impossible for me to watch it.   So two episodes of people with bad-good intentions raising a baby and TPing the neighbors gets two thumbs up from me. Oooh.  Time for the Good Wife!  A TV show that actually stars a competent, sexy, adult woman or three.  Crazy.

[Edited to Add] Oh nuts!  I missed the Sound of Music sing-a-long night tonight. Although my throat probably wasn't up for it, I like SoM like most geeks like Rocky Horror.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thank You Blogger

While I'd like to update more often, and don't get to it due to not wanting to even breathe near a computer some nights, usually, Blogger is one of those applications that just works.  It took them a while to get the cutaway, but aside from very few aggravations, there was very little learning curve for a basic blog, and new ideas increment in effort appropriately.

By contrast, I spent the night trying to download 2 programs to get a free "pocket PC" to sync up then read PDF files, and then get a couple PDF files to read - I already had the target files in mind as the reward.  But holy sunday, I've been working on this since about 6pm when I got off a very looong work week.  My touchpad is hot to the touch, but using the Blogger software is so easy, I actually looked forward to this update, despite it being not what I'd planned to say.

My new-to-me work tool got intial data back on tuesday afternoon.  In a show of goodwill to the group getting us the annoying data and to keep things moving, I hustled, worked late, and set up the quals for the following day.  My part (until results come in) was done by thursday, which was good because I had a measurement tool install/setup/training session today AND we're dealing with a multi-area production challenge that is interesting but time consuming.  Oh, and a third of the line is backed up behind one of my tools, which keeps going down for 24 hours at a time.  And today was my day to bring breakfast.

In that weird way of things, I actually enjoy working hard like this for bursts of time, but I cannot sustain it. (Major reason I don't work for myself or blog more consistently.) I had my dad here for 4 days last week and I have a ton of stuff going on this weekend: a baking class tomorrow, further bathroom reno and cleaning, bill paying (mostly sorting paper, which I haaaaate), dance class, another trip to the tar pits, and a swing by Pasadena to visit an East Coast friend.  Tonight, I thought I'd be able to just download a couple of short stories and book excerpts to my new-to-me pocket PC (Dell Axim X30) so I didn't have to read them on the device I'm using now.  The hope is the ergonomics and eyestrain will be improved and I could just relax.  I charged it up already, had the parts and everything.

Well, 6 hours or so later, and I have the fool thing set up and I can barely keep my eyes open.  Hopefully I'll remember to go to the baking class in the AM.  Good thing I was only aiming at short stories because the SD card isn't compatable either.  It's things like this that keep me from wanting to have multiple electronic devices. I don't have 6 "leisure" hours to kill being my own IT person when I don't much like doing it.  Every so often I think it won't be *that* hard, FCOL total morons can figure out how to steal crap online, but I can't seem to do anything with computers without drama and hair pulling.

In the meantime, I'm still mentally composing and revising blog posts about:
  • hoarding (including the recent CSI episode with a crime scene in a packed house)
  • voting YES on prop 19 (free the weed; prohibition doesn't help)
  • Democrats not using ANY political capital to help teh gays, so far as I can tell
  • But Obama at least said something nice to them on ITGETSBETTER
  • updates on my baking resolution (yay for yogurt in banana bread)
  • Hoping someone posts the video of our fun dance from friday.
  • Halloween decorations at work
  • My wonky digestion where twinkies make me feel better than plums.

Sadly, I'm in the blathering without much direction phase right now, and I want to go read my stories. (yes, say that like I'm smoking my 2nd pack for the day and am heading off to watch soaps.  Nothing against soaps, really, those folks work hard too.) Have made zero progress on planning a Galapagos vacation or buying cheap tickets to Seattle or Kansas City.  I did finally get my brother his birthday bacon though.  And if nothing else, work is engrossing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shake it Like a Chorus Girl

I've been feeling tense recently - physically - in that my muscles feel tight, so I got in a massage after work today.  The masseuse thinks all my tendons feel inflamed, which is consistent with my lay diagnosis of tendinitis of the everything.  I don't think the gastroenterologist I'm seeing thursday will necessarily know what to do, but maybe the doc can recommend someone who will know.  Probably, I'll wind up doing some CA inspired cleanse.  I'm pretty sure my problem is yeasty overgrowth.  What I don't know is if that's also affecting my allergies.

Ever since last Thanksgiving, I've occasionally been reacting badly to my allergy shots, particularly if I've missed an appointment.  Well, I missed an appointment.  Most times if I do, my arms just swell up more.  This was another overreaction where I started sneezing, coughing, and wheezing enough that I got an adrenaline shot which has made me more jittery than usual.   Another stellar day in allergy land and one massage shot to hell.

But my dad's coming wednesday to help me with the vanity and I'll be bringing him along to the dance competition friday.  We could use some people cheering for us, so please let me know if you plan to come too.  If you're on the way, I can even pick up 2 other people.  It'll be fun.  If I don't shake apart by then.

Friday, October 8, 2010

It Gets Better

For anyone who hasn't heard, Dan Savage started a video project to help LGBT kids know that life is better after high school. If you're having a tough time, go to YouTube, check out the videos posted by all the regular people living regular lives and the occasional famous person too - go Tim Gunn!

Really, stick it out, it does get better.

Me, straight grrl here, I had an ok time of it in high school, despite moving to the other high school in our district mere weeks before school started and joining the math team.   I have a very specific memory of sitting in a pep rally, probably junior year, when they'd brought in a motivational speaker to tell us to enjoy high school, as it would be the best time of our lives.  I had two thoughts: "this goober's rather doughy" and "this better not be the best time of my life". To paraphrase a Jennifer Crusie line, I enjoyed it all I could, but I could not enjoy it very much.  I had some good times and some blah times and overall high school for me was fine, and still, it got better.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

With My Hoodie On

The "reality" shows I actually like tend to be the ones where people with mad skilz are asked to do something that would be totally easy for them if they had 4X the time limit, but tends to make a good portion of them look incompetent.  For instance, on "America's Handyman" there are only 2 of them that I'd let near any project of mine.  "Chopped" makes chefs who are otherwise probably awesome get *very* *near* to genius dishes and somehow have something go horribly wrong. Austin and Santino roadtripping to small towns to make dresses for deserving women who are mostly not thin makes me giggle. Then there's "Project Runway".

Project Runway routinely drives me crazy, but I keep watching because every so often they go to the circus and come out with some of the best funky looks I've seen in fashion.  (2nd from left is the winner, deservedly.)  Every once in a while, the event just gels with one of the designers and they make something fabulous, and we get to see how it happened.
 5 circus looks, 4 of them wonderful,the left two being the most awesome
Today, with the 6 designers left, they asked them to design something in godawful-grey for Heidi's baggy loooking "active wear" collection that left me thinking someone left the fabric in an ashtray somewhere.  It seemed an odd choice for a show that is looking for the designer's voice to come through, to ask them to design for someone else - even if that winds up being their day job next year.

Often, I disagree with the PR judges about the lower ranking people.  However,  I so totally agree with their winning choice of Andy's design that I want that hoodie!!! The one with the round shape on the body and the stripey sleeves.  Super flattering, and fun.  Can't find it on Amazon, even though they said on the show it would be part of the line. Maybe Heidi's executive decision got shot down?  She probably doesn't sell stuff in my size anyway...

That said, I really didn't appreciate the focus on negativity and mocking that occurred with this episode.  Most of it was in the commercial, which almost made me skip it because I'm not watching to see these people be jerked around in front of their peers in their field. Constructive criticism is all well and good, but I could do with a lot less "creativity" on the negativity.  Although grumpy Gretchen's bike shorts topped with puce ruched skirt hurt my eyes a little too, so they aren't always wrong there.

Now I'm rambling.  I just caught a nice episode of Chopped while writing this, one of the rare ones where everyone either has a good idea or good execution making the choices best of the best, not who screwed up the least.  If anyone knows how to get that hoodie, let me know. It would be easier for you if I could find the picture, but alas and alack, my googling skills are not bringing it up.

Monday, October 4, 2010

In My Head

I'm not dead; I've been spending time in my head. And at the gym. Two weeks from now, my white belly will be dancing in a gym class hip-hop contest on Sunset Boulevard. You can't make this stuff up. More abbreviated updates follow.

I've once again had many, many, many ideas for posts, but I've been avoiding being on-line. I'm asymptotically approaching a Facebook page now that literally one fifth of the planet has one. I'm still kind of bummed about using my regular guy name for it, which is one major reason for my holdout. I'm an open, very honest person and things can be taken out of context. But many people have stopped blogging, and almost no one sends email anymore. Since everyone's still connected, my assumption is that if you're not on Faceborg, you don't exist in the collective consciousness and my conscientious objection just hurts me.

My brother is getting bacon and bacon accessories for his birthday. I'm committed to a bacon sampler or bacon of the month club, but have to put the order in still. In the meantime, the bacon floss will have to hold him over.

While I still need to have a dinner party, but my baking resolution is getting back on track after a summer with minimal baking (I have to include microwaved candy sushi to make July's) with banana bread (new version) and ham & cheese crescent rolls (repeat) and new spiced flatbreads (small plate cookbook), and other things (working on a pina colada bread).

Thanks to the low-low prices at Harbor Freight and my brother searching the sales, I just got the 12" compound sliding miter saw my brother found for my birthday. With the leftover (mine was $75 as-is for having an ugly box) I was able to afford a trim router and bits that fit it. Whee ha! My dad is coming out to help with a project in a couple weekends (where he'll also be taken to see me "dance") that will be helped by miter saws and trim routers. Wish us luck.

Musical overlaps that grate on my nerves, still:
  • The 4 note sequence from the Emperor's Theme in the Harry Potter theme. It just makes me think John Williams phoned it in. I'd been so excited when he was tapped to do the music, given how endemeic to the culture the Star Wars music is - this dance I'll be in mixes the main theme - but aside from the "Something Wicked This Way Comes" in number 3 or 4, I can't get the emperor out of it.
  • Ben-Bridge jewelers advertising engagement rings and Pristiq advertising antidepressants use much the same tune.
  • Two of the optional ringtones for our very lousy portable phones at work are the lead ins to "Things look swell; things look great" and "We Want a Rock" by TMBG.

In my head, I wrote several very excellent blog posts on topics I'm sure you'd find fascinating, a least one on why we should legalize pot: it's just sensible, and of all the dumb things CA lets us vote on, this one is a good idea. Even if this law is imperfect, I think we should legalize it. We ruin good lives for no reason by persecuting *use* of drugs, and ignoring the difference between use and abuse.

I seriously considered going to DC for the comic bit "Rally for Sanity". I think my $ would be better spent going to my friend's adoption party. Yep, my friend of the three norse gods is adopting a boy to make 4. Although I could still be convinced about the DC thing. I've got a friend there who has probably been a little too in her head as well, recently.

It's a lot easier to live in my space as I get rid of stuff. It's appalling how much new stuff I bring in though. (New portable sweeper, circ saw, router, two cabinets for books with the intent to replace other shelving sets, more exercise clothes -  but I'm still having problems throwing out coupons I'll forget to use? sigh.)  All in all, though, my place doesn't look like a train hit it, and watching TLC's "Hoarders" keeps me throwing stuff out.

What's up with you? You wanna be my friend? sheesh.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

When to put a sock in it

To all the mass media outlets: there are all kinds of meanspirited kooks in this country because, despite ourselves sometimes, we try to keep it a safe place for kooks of all stripes. Just because some doofus with 50 people who listen to him on a regular basis is going to do something wrongheaded doesn't mean he should be getting every-hour-on-the-hour coverage. You know what makes his wrongheadedness important? Hint. It's not him; it's you.

So, blog fans - I seem to have roughly 25 regular readers, meaning 10 repeats with 15 people who get here following Google alerts - which means I have just half the audience of someone I won't name and should be spanked and sent to the corner without a snack. What kind of wacky thing can I do that would get me every-hour-on-the-hour coverage for 3 days?

Bear in mind that my 9/11 event last year was challenging a traffic ticket in court and getting traffic school, and this year my plan was to see Serenity at the Can't Stop the Serenity event, but it got moved to 9/10 so I'm going to an art show, and maybe a "western" gun show (ad: new and antique! just for fun! ...and for serious collectors...). So there's potential of me strapping some sidearms to the thighs and putting on a long brown coat. (Or there would have been if I didn't just donate my long brown coat to goodwill.)

No idea too crass. In fact, that seems to be the primary requirement to be a news darling so have at.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Carbonated Grapes

Ages ago, I took a road trip from Boston to the __ folk festival in NY.  On that road trip, we had a cooler of food in the back seat.  We wanted it to stay cool for as much of the weekend as possible, and there was an ice vendor down the street so we were able to get dry ice.  We put dry ice over the bottom of the cooler, covered it with water ice, put frozen stuff on that, then a shelf, then the fresh food.  About the time we hit Sturgis, I was getting peckish and reached into the cooler for some fruit.   I grabbed a nectarine and some grapes.

I bit into the nectarine and almost spit it back out because it registered as rotten, even though I'd bought it not 4 hours before and it was superfresh then.  I tried the grapes and got the same input, but not the same reading on it.  It turned out that the cooler held in enough gas to carbonate the fruit as the dry ice sublimated.  I just couldn't make myself finish the nectarine, even though I tried, because it really gave the sensation of eating food that had started to decompose.  But the grapes?  Fabulous fun.  I don't know if everyone would have the same reaction - I had previously bitten into bad peaches but my reactions to fermented grapes remains entirely positive to date.

Recently, I learned that high altitudes can kill the ability to sense carbonation, as can some anti-altitude-sickness meds (and likely other things as well), which means that we have carbonation sensors in our tongues that are separate from other things.  I think that's pretty cool. And I think of carbonation as another thing we can taste since it registers partly between sensation (hot/cold/wet/dry) and flavor.  It makes sense that some people don't like carbonation given my inability to finish a perfectly good carbonated nectarine due to the association with rot.  Fortunately, I have more positive interactions with carbonation.

Ever since then, I've wanted to try carbonating grapes again to see if I could get it to work. Last night, while picking up some supplies (for key lime cake) I noticed a cooler of dry ice at the supermarket for $1.49/lb and bought about a pound of it.   I tried 3 different containers.

  1. Initially, I wrapped the dry ice in some paper towels, put it under a makeshift shelf, put grapes on top and wrapped it in 3 layers of supermarket plastic bags and stuck it in the fridge on a towel to keep the glass shelf from shocking.  About 4 hours later, there was a smidge of carbonation.
  2. Figuring that a pressure vessel with a relief valve would be better, I stuck them in my pressure cooker.  But it never built up enough pressure to seal well, so the results were kind of paltry there too.
  3. Lastly, I just stuck the remaining hunk of paper towel wrapped dry ice with the grapes in a gallon ziplock and stuffed it back in the fridge figuring that if it did explode from pressure, it wouldn't do much damage.  And if the grapes froze instead?  I like frozen grapes too.
The grapes in the ziplock seemed to work the best. It didn't take a lot of dry ice, either.  I totally recommend carbonating grapes for a funky party treat, where putting it in a cooler with a tight fitting, but not locked, lid would probably be the best of the options.

UPDATE: If you try this, and want to share, don't do it more than a day in advance, and try not to freeze the grapes. The frozen grapes are good frozen, but not if they thaw out, and the CO2 seems to encourage browning as well (seeing as it feeds plant life, that makes sense). I did vinegar rinse (swish in 1part vinegar/3 parts water, rinse, dry) all my grapes before carbonating to be on the safe side and they're still looking a little miserable two days in. Some still look ok and they are still carbonated but the bag is no longer puffed up.

SAFEY UPDATE: If it wasn't perfectly clear - don't confine dry ice in anything that won't leak at least some, or pop open harmlessly at a low-ish pressure. Soda bottles? Right out. They will blow up into bits of shrapnel. Fun outside, not so much in your fridge or your face. Stick to flexible things or unsecured lids. See comments for technical details if "don't" is insufficient for your rebellious nature.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Just Stop Already

I'm getting sick unto death of all the "marijuana is evil and causes evil to come forth" nonsense that is plaguing the airways these days. I turned away from the final commercials of the CSI:Miami tonight because the cause of the fatal accident? Hiding MJ under the hood. This led to cutting the power steering line (which I have to say, as someone who has pillaged through an engine compartment with tools and duct tape, is totally bogus with regards to hiding a dime bag) which led his underage sister into crashing a car and killing two people. It's only the MJ that makes it a crime. Otherwise, it's just tragedy.

But really, how much longer do we have to hear crap about the demon weed? I even wrote into the local radio station after 3 solid weeks of hearing about "major marijuana busts!!!!" when we're just **two months shy from pretty well legalizing it. The point of view I expressed what that if the growers are paying for their own water and electricity for plants grown on their own land, as their neighbor, I don't care. I care when someone grows crops on parkland, just as I would be upset with someone growing commercial strawberries or grazing cattle there without permission. And I care when we waste police and prison resources on this.

Giant ass rant after the jump.

Maybe This Time

Maybe this time
- I won't go so long between blog posts, especially when I have material
- I'll actually sign up on facebook, where people live these days
- I'll figure out why I'm getting extra cranky at work.

Maybe This Time also the title of Jennifer Crusie's first solo novel since Bet Me. If the link to her blog and books wasn't enough, here's a quick interview about the book. I think she has one of the best pro-women voices in romance, or literature generally. That she also does good snark and has quirky characters who know happiness when it bites them on the ass makes her a great read. In this case she's added ghosts, doing a fresh take on The Turn of the Screw. I haven't got a clue what they'll be like, but I'm picturing nearly-headless Nick in attitude.

Barnes and Noble didn't offer a pre-order for my nook, so I bought a hardcopy from Amazon. With the free shipping, it may still take a while, so I might be sitting in the B&N with my nook, reading what I can while I'm there.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Orange Stars

I was trying to think of a title that references "lucky", but I may have found my next tattoo... I'm inordinately fond of 5 pointed star tattoos, particularly the ones around Kat Von D's left eye. I can't really see myself tattooing my face with stars, but I could find someplace. And maybe I should get some orange in it.

As I was relaxing tonight in one of the dozen or more "foot massage" places that has popped up in my town (I know of a dozen, I hear there are more) and charges $20 for an hour's relaxation I thought about how lucky I am. I was able to go do this when I felt iffy. I broke myself taking a walk. I managed to bruise the bones in my big toe by, um, walking around in shoes that weren't perfectly comfortable.

Then, knowing that my existing Chaco sandals are one of the few shoes I can wear without inserts, I was able to buy more via who has free return shipping if they don't fit exactly as I'm expecting.

And I have this cheap little netbook and an expensive cable connection that allows me to surf the web from Already Pretty to Whorange to I'm Revolting who posted a picture of Abby Walton's funky painted fingernails that I was able to emulate after "rehydrating" a couple old colors with the butyl acetate/ethyl acetate mix I was able to buy at the store next to the Trader Joe's (since I can't get it from my chemist friend anymore... and TJ's doesn't carry my favorite sundried tomato bruschetta topping or frozen black raspberries anymore either. I can still buy my favorite Pop-Secret Homestyle snack sized microwave popcorn.)

So, there are minor slights. But I'm learning hip-hop dance routines despite the toe, have enough money this year to ease up and get things I need when I need them, even if they aren't on sale, and there are all these fabulous people out there curating links on blog sites so I can follow the most bizzare but interesting things instead of sleeping. I'd just like to acknowledge how cool this all is.

Monday, August 9, 2010

American Cuisine

There are not really any pictures from rafting - I have the pic I bought of me looking too serious in the big rapid, and maybe my friend who'd brought a disposable camera will send some shots my way, but while that's lingering, let's look at food. Turns out I'm not the only home canner this year. I brought a jar of plum jam and my friend had made apricot and strawberry. Funnily enough, they're all in different sized jars. Breakfast was delightful, like so.

jam selection, coffee, tea, toast, hummus

There are more pictures of happiness thru food if you click through.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Do, Done, Did

I've been racking up some pictures to share, and it's about time to have something happiness related and not political, so here goes.

First, the pop-art pins I selected from grandma's vast collection of costume jewelry have been mounted and put on display!
pins and frogs, images on lime green wall

For the rest of the pictures,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Yes We K(ag)an

For the first time evah, there will be three women on the Supreme Court!! Thank you President Obama, and all the senators who voted to confirm her.

Back when Roberts got confirmed (and how the hell he came in as freshman judge to take over the head spot I'll never know), it was after the Harriet Meyers fiasco. Harriet Meyers was, from the start, a feint. They offered her up knowing that, while a smart lawyer, she didn't have the right qualifications to be a constitutional judge in this day and age. They offered her up so that they could say "see, we nominated a woman, but you threw her out, and now here's the white man we wanted to put in there all along." It was, frankly, sickening to watch. And so blatant I'm surprised there aren't books out about it.

There are many reasons we need diversity on the bench, but the biggest one is that our populace is diverse. Most of us value the melting pot nature of our country and society. But it's true that laws don't affect us equally. Someone who has a different perspective of how people are treated under the law based on color, gender, etc... can add to the discussion before a final decision is crafted in a way that someone from the majority may never think to even question. Back to Gavin DeBecker's quote (paraphrased):
Men's biggest fear on a date is that a woman will laugh at him.
Women's biggest fear on a date is that a man will kill her.
This type of thing leads to a difference in experience and that experience needs a voice in the law. I think Elena Kagan will be a good legal voice.

Plus, I've also read that once a minority hits about 30% representation in a group that's when their opinions are attributed to them as persons, and not to everyone from that group. It will be possible now to have more dissent between the women on the court, and their opinions less likely to be dismissed as "just a woman".

Kagan has had an impressive legal and educational history. I don't think I'll always agree with her (although my friends and I cheered her on, not knowing who she was, back when I was at college down the street from her's and she helped block the military recruiting on campus) but I don't have to. I do trust that she knows the constitution, knows law, and knows how to think. She seems like the sort who will try to look out for everybody. She may fail sometimes, but on the whole, I'm optimistic.

To everyone who thinks that two women nominees in a row is too many, recall that every woman who has ever been appointed has been so since I was in the third grade, and I'm not old. Before then, there had never been a woman on the court. That's funky to think about.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bending Toward Justice

Prop 8, the vote to disallow my gay friends and neighbors to marry in CA, has been overturned without equivocation! There is a stay on the decision until friday, at which time the Judge will hear arguments for whether or not to continue the stay until the appeal. Now, or at least pretty soon, I can tell all my lesbian techs back in MA about job opportunities out here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


So it seems like every time I turn around something else is causing me to have restless leg (RLS) problems. Most notable are allergy meds. Despite taking 12mg of chlorpheniramine every night for a third of my life, for the last couple years, it gives me RLS. I can take it to help me (a) breathe and (b) sleep, but I have to wash it down with tonic water to cut the leg jitters or I can't sleep.

I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping recently, as well as getting angry a lot, and I think I've figured out that it comes from the OTC Safeway brand Zyrtec. WTF? I've taken Zyrtec and generic Zyrtec before and not noticed anything out of the ordinary, but I took it for about 3 weeks in a row this time and it was like I turned into a stranger. Yeah, I'm used to not sleeping right, but this was excessive. I tried not taking it for a couple days, got the sniffles, took it again, and had not only bad sleep (waking up constantly, enough to regain consciousness every 40 minutes at least) but the next day I got *so*angry* I could barely see straight (even with my special eyes). It took me a while to realize that what was making me toss and turn in bed was actually restless leg syndrome but I finally figured it out. Add the Angry? I'm off that sauce.

Over the weekend, I got several extremely itchy bug bites. The ones that didn't get meat-tenderizered early still itch. (The later, treated ones are gone already.) They were keeping me up, despite the anti-itch cream, so I took Benadryl. I've had mixed results from Benadryl (diphenhydramine) before - in that it makes me sleepy, but not. But it knocks the allergic reaction six ways to sunday, so sometimes it's worth it. Last night? Not worth it.

After a long drive and not-sober weekend, I drove out to Pasadena for a booksigning last night. It was wicked fun (even though I didn't get my eBook signed...) and I'm glad I went but I was pooped. I was in bed by 10:45. I was taking benadryl by 11:30. I was up, jumping around shaking my legs from 12:45 to 3:30 this morning. I'd get up, drink a few ounces of tonic and try to sleep only to be wrenched from sleep by nerves in my legs that would not freaking stop until I got up and marched around, jiggling my right leg. The tonic did nothing, I just had to wait 4-5 hours for it to wear off. I was a total wreck today.

I took a few minutes at work to look up RLS and it turns out that Benadryl is a well known RLS multiplier. Yay. But Zyrtec? And chlortrimeton? ugh. I wonder if the allergy shots are making me more likely to flare up because some alcoholic beverages' breakdown products give me RLS about 4 hours after I drink them, as well. The magical internet advice fairies also suggest taking iron and/or magnesium supplements. I do tend to run low on iron and have been craving MEAT recently, so I figure that's worth a try as well. Anyone else have ideas? When my quinine fails me, I'm lost. And tired.

To top that off, my jet-flush toilet has a leaky valve. The part is cheap but has to be mailed to me, so I have to turn the supply valve on and off for a few more days. I'm too tired to cope with that but what can you do.

I'll check back in a bit with the regularly scheduled happiness posts, but until then, it's all cranky.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Teva Tan

Technically, my sandals are Chacos, so it's a Chaco Tan, but Teva Tan is both alliterative and better known. I had been tanning for a couple weeks prior to the trip to get my skin less likely to fry in the sun. It worked so well, along with my heavy handed reapplications of sunscreen, and wearing of a hat that I'm a little disappointed that I don't have more color! But I have some and in reality land, I'm thrilled not to be burning.

The Cache Creek rafting trip this year was fantastic. I got to hang out with friends, got to meet new people, see rafters from previous years, and get wet. Recently I've gotten really nervous in advance of rafting trips where I'm sure I'm going to die - and this is not the way I want to go. But I sit my ass in the boat and I'm perfectly comfortable. It's strange and the yo-yo of emotions from "this isn't a good idea, you should feel sick about it" to "wow, this is an awesome way to spend time with friends and nature and look! I can steer this raft!" keeps me a little off keel. Next time, I'm going to try and prevent the psych-out so the sum total of emotion over the trip is more positive. (Despite all my readings that it's the boundary conditions of the trip that set your memories and feelings of it.)

My reasons not to be afraid:
  • I'm pretty comfortable in water.
  • I can swim, well.
  • I wear my lifejacket religiously.
  • I can steer a small boat reasonably well and these 2-man kayaks are inflatable.
  • My friend in front is a strong and competent boater as well .
  • And this river is mild enough to do a lot of it drunk and backward. So we do.

There was no shortage of intoxication this year. The question came up on sunday morning if 10:30 AM was too early for a second beer... My personal level was a sustained buzz for most of the day with a bit of a crash around dinner time, making the whole day really quite pleasant. It turns out I yell (whoops and hollers yelling) when I'm well lubricated.

The trip was also great because the water was high enough to make it more fun. Last year was spent getting an ab workout scootching over various rocky shallows. This year there was more bobbing and flying over big water waves. The weather was lovely. Quite warm, but not freakishly hot - exactly a good temperature to be in the water. The water was chilly when we first got in, but not cold and for any part after the first 10 seconds felt great. We spent most of the weekend wet. I packed very little but took everything I needed. Someone else came with 100 cans of beer and was good about sharing... I think even the guy who split his head open on a tree branch had a great time. (I'm pretty sure that was our only scary injury, and he got it messing around in a tough rapid and still insists he "won" whatever bogus contest he and his boatmate were messing around with...) It think the age range for our 40 person group (not all of whom I met) was 21 to 51 or so. Mostly I hung out with a core group of 10 or 14 people who stuck together, when possible, down the river, shooting water at each other and sharing beverages.

Anyhow, I wish I hadn't spent all that energy making myself sick with worry beforehand because the trip was good, good fun. It was lovely to be away with friends, even with the 800 mile round trip drive with some portions of heavy traffic. (It's a beautiful drive, for what that's worth.) Maybe I'll see you there next year?!?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Discover is Dead to Me

I understand that the financial environment has changed and creditors can't be as lenient as they used to be. However. Discover has just been evil to me for the first time ever, and it's bad enough that I won't be using them again for the forseeable future, if ever.

I've been making a lot of purchases recently: airfare to a funeral, mattress, lighting, shipping costs. I use Discover for every in-person expense unless the business doesn't take their card or I pay cash. (I have a MasterCard which is my online card and backup daily card.) I paid off the full balance at the end of June. I set up an automatic payment through my bank to pay at least a minimum, starting in August. I thought I'd covered July and the last time I checked, I had no payment due. Turns out I was wrong, and I missed my payment date by a week. Yeah, I screwed up, but it was an honest mistake and one they're fully equipped to ride out until I take care of it, which based on my history will not take more than a month.

In the past this has no big deal. You pay your outrageous $39 fee, get 20% or higher interest mounting up until it's paid off, and everyone's fine. I've never been more than a month late with a payment in 20 years, and I've never, ever been in default. I have never failed to pay all that I owe, but I have occassionally been a week or three late because I'm not good at keeping track of time. Discover has been a good card for me because they'll take a payment by phone the day the payment is due, and credit the payment that day. They give cash back and don't make me mess around with credits, miles, or whathave you that need to be exchanged for something, it's just cash. On occasion (not often) they'll waive a late fee, even. Their operators are generally helpful. But all of that is not enough to outweigh the latest transgression.

This time, Discover - with a single late payment 7 days overdue - cut off my credit. I called them, put through an automatic payment for the full amount due at the last payment, and spoke to an operator. The operator was not allowed to extend me any credit at all. Not even the $25 I needed to send some packages at the after hours Post Office drop.

Excuse me? I've used your card every week for the last 4 years and have a dozen years credit history with your company. You know (based on my credit report where the last time I checked my score was 798) that I will pay you. And you can't extend me a hundred dollars of credit until I sort out my 7 day late payment that I've already authorized????? Fuck you, Discover Card.

I'm heading up north for a vacation this weekend. And while I always carry two cards, sometimes I pare down and just carry one for a meal or jaunt somewhere. What if I'd been in need of gas or a meal 400 miles from home? What if I'd really had an emergency and needed a small portion of the $8400 of credit I should still have had available? You would have been no help. In fact, you shutting down my credit with no notice could have been way more horrible than me having to spend a half hour in a deserted parking lot with a mobile phone.

I've been an expert credit user for 20 years and I've never run up against this situtation. Did you warn me? I'd argue that you didn't. I try to skim all the "here are upcoming changes to your credit agreement" for at least the highlights and no where did I see "We shut down your credit if your payment is 7 days late". It's possible it was there, but it was not prominent and was mixed in with so many other changes that don't affect me that I didn't/couldn't see it. This one, however, is not a good way to do business. I understand that you don't want to hemorrhage money to someone who won't pay you. But there is nothing in my history with you that would suggest this to be the case. I would understand if you wanted me to call in and ask for an extension or something, and offer only a limited amount. But for me to call in and you to not offer me even $25? Fuck you. You knew you could trust me, but I can't trust you. This is not how credit cards work. You're dead to me, Discover card.

If it turns out that all credit cards now do this, I may be more lenient and go back to using them after a year, because they do have their good points, like not sending bills after the due date. But as I said, I haven't seen this policy being announced. And it could put someone in a rather dangerous situation where they're expecting to be able to pay for something important and can't, with no wiggle room. That's unacceptable.

UPDATE: Just got the bill for this month. My overdue amount was $188.56 which wasn't enough to even charge the full late fee - the fee was "only" $19. This is the month after I paid a $3000+ charge in full. Um. Whatever, assholes. I know Citi probably isn't any better but they haven't cut off my credit for no good cause and I already have their address in my bank bill pay system, so that's what I'm using now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Oh, and if the insane toaster videos don't sufficiently entertain you, Suzanne Brockmann's new (non-SEAL) book is out NOW. It's called Infamous and the link will let you read chapter one.

My copy came in the mail today but I haven't read it yet. After work, I hit up the tanning salon (I'm trying to colorize my fish-belly-white self so I fry a little less when rafting this weekend.) Then I worked out at the gym because the trainer who was so nice as to carry a heavy thing for me expected me to show up. On the way back, I stopped to get cash to leave for the cleaners tomorrow who will be sweeping up all the styrofoam bits and realized that "Transformers" (the first one, live action) was playing on the inflatable outdoor screen on the lawn at the *very nice* neighborhood strip mall and I've been wanting to see it. So I got a 50 cent popcorn from the Claim Jumper guy (actually named Guy...), put my pants and shirt on over my workout gear, grabbed a picnic blanket and fleece jacket from the car and settled in. For HOURS AND HOURS. The little dog next to me got tired of exploring and fell asleep this movie took so long. Still, it was pretty good, even if I couldn't distinguish Decepticons from Autobots for most of the scenes. See what I mean?
probably optimus prime on inflatable screen in the dark

Following that, I hauled out the detritus of the new shoe shelf packaging (the heavy thing which was recently carried in, pictures in later post) to the recycling dumpster, packaged up some things to mail to friends, then made toast and had the idea that I should record the toast coming out of the bottom of the toaster. So I did that, and used the last bit of my June jam on that slice. Yadda, yadda, yadda, and it's 1am (for all the timestamp is an hour ago - the book is out on Tuesday, so I had to backdate it a smidge) and I've made and uploaded two toaster videos and still need to shower off this godawful Right Guard "Fresh" spray deodorant I used at the tanning place which gasses me every time I lift my arms.

And I was ready to sleep at 7pm. Now if the pattern holds, I won't be able to sleep a wink. At least I have my new book. (Infamous!)

Technology Win

I'm always annoyed when the crumb trays in toasters don't span the whole area I need to clean. This solves that problem because everything slides out the bottom. Here it is, my new toaster, in live action, toasting bread!

This one's for West. Everyone else, fast forward to the end around 17 seconds. (Ignore the comedy central ads playing in the background, if they're audible. You may need to beef up the brightness or contrast to actually see the toast at the end. Apparently proximity to Hollywood is not influencing my movie taking ability whatsoever.)

Ok, the glow works out better on the viewscreen than uploaded to YouTube. Here we are again, with the lights on this time and South Park playing in the background.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Precious

The light above my dining room table doesn't work.  It's actually a fan with a light, and the fan works, but the downlight, not so much.  July is a 3 paycheck month so I went out and got lighting.  The dining room light is here, but I need an electrician to also put in the pendants over the "bar" and recess a light over the kitchen sink before that story is complete.  So this is actually the story of my new bedroom chandelier.

A lighting store down the street (remember, I live in the contractor-retail section of town) had a big advertising sign drawing me in, thanks to the mattress store being nearby and me needing a new mattress.  I also need new lighting because mine's godawful and always has been, but it's pretty much the last thing to do in the design so I hadn't thought much about it yet.  But I do watch design shows on HGTV and I know what Candace Olsen can do with a sconce.  Really, though, their ad mentioned fans and I thought maybe I could fix mine, so I stopped in.  While  at the lighting store I saw a sparkly light.

This was not just any sparkly light, but a glittery, shiny, beautiful bouncy light. And it would not work at all as my dining table light.  Gloom!  Despair!  But I have seen the HGTV folks putting chandeliers in other rooms, and I couldn't walk away from this light.  So I bought it for my bedroom. My friend from Phoenix has an even more elaborate one in her bedroom (more inspiration) but she also has vaulted ceilings and an opera theme. This is the perfect scale for my place!  Since I have yet to pick a theme, I'll make sure it works. Even with the clearance + floor model discount though, it's still two orders of magnitude more expensive than my previous bedroom light.  But oh, so worth it.  I picked it up 2 hours ago, and it's already up, lit, and I'm telling you about it.   See for yourself. 

My precious, chandelier with layers of crystals in willow or bloom pattern

More pictures after the jump.

The Sky is Falling

After cleaning all those plums off the walk last week, I had to do it again.  I went out yesterday to carve a path through the pulp with my trusty 3-for-$1 paint scraper and removed 151 plums from the sidewalk.  You read that right.  That's a gross (a dozen dozen) plus 7.  Including the one that fell on my back while I was tending to its brethren.  Criminy!

This morning? I counted 13 new plums on the walk.  I went out later to get those off too because they were particularly juicy and I had to haul something in from the car and thought I might be using my wheeled dolly.  The something is a cabinet I bought for my shoes and the unwieldy, oblong flat-pack weighs a ton;  I had more difficulty getting it into the car than many other things I've hauled over the years.  The heavy duty dolly at UPS didn't seem thrilled with it, so I thought my little folding one might not do so well through an obstacle course, or at all, really.   I was lucky and my trainer from the gym (such a sweet guy) helped me carry it - after I got the plum juice off the sidewalk after my workout.   I really thought they'd all be gone by now, or that I'd at least cleared out some reasonable quantity of them.   Next time we have a mild spring with lots of rain, I might need to get a bigger ladder and some fruit picking tools with some reach to them.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Huh.  I was in need of food, and leftovers were pretty much all there was unless I wanted canned food or cereal.  I nixed the leftover pizza because I had it for dinner last night and lunch today.  Pulled carelessly out of the freezer two containers yielded deliciousness.  One was half a pork tamale from the farmer's market vendor I ate with hoisin because I have no BBQ sauce.  The other was a hotdish (once I microwaved it) that I wish I'd written down how I made it because it was delicious, especially since I was expecting frozen leftover hamburger helper.

Here's what was in it:
  • egg noodles
  • stewed tomatoes
  • fresh shitake and oyster mushrooms
  • ground meat, probably buffalo
  • cauliflower
  • kale (not much in the frozen servings as it doesn't reheat well)
  • maybe some celery 

I have only vague memories of making it, which is why I'm pretty sure they were stewed tomatoes and not just canned plum toms.  I probably topped the original with frozen shredded cheese (mozarella and TJ's parmesan), but I didn't bother today.  Sometimes I can cook! I could even serve that to guests. If I could remember how to make it, and ask people to come over.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


In my Health Care plan's list of eligible expenses for Medical Spending Reimbursement, it lists "Laser eye surgery". Yet I just got a rejection from the company saying "Lasik" isn't covered. Perhaps if I re-submit and call it "laser eye surgery"? Seriously? Do I need to fight this fight to get my own money back for something they say they cover?  It's that or figure out some really expensive medical need in the next couple months.

Here's the relevant section of the list:
  • Hospital bills
  • Hypnosis for treatment of an illness
  • Laboratory fees
  • Laetrile by prescription
  • Laser surgery for the eyes
  • Lead-base paint removal (for children with lead poisoning)
  • Life fee to retirement home for medical care
  • Lip-reading lessons

What part of Lasik=Laser Eye surgery are they not getting? I may have to poke my newly surgerized eye out with a stick.

UPDATE 21July2010 9:20
After 14 minutes and 22 seconds on the phone with Tiffany, who knew that (a) LASIK is "Laser Eye Surgery" and (b) that they cover it, she and her manager unearthed my fax, made sure the form was filled out correctly, and will reprocess the claim and cut me a check.  Whew!  Now I don't have to manufacture a new, expensive medical issue or fight with the bureaucrats to get my money back.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Plum Tuckered

My weekend started out energetically enough. I came home friday and stripped more plums off the landscaping. They were a little too close to overripe so instead of cleaning them and putting them in the fridge for the next day, I just went ahead and made more jam. I got fully half the plums off one tree and the other three trees offered up the other half (some of which got tossed out in the quality control process).
plum closeup with a purple leaf

Then Saturday and Sunday were somewhat lost to sloth. Biologically determined sloth, but sloth nonetheless. I still got stuff done because my mattress got delivered yesterday, so I reset the bed, and my organizer came today so things got done with or without my cooperation. Then I slept on the couch. I'm rousing myself long enough to post this before heading back to the new bed.

It's a little hard to see the difference in the pictures, but the airbed was oversized for the frame and somewhat blobby and formless. The mattress fits the frame and room better and makes the room look bigger by not being so overstuffed looking. Partly it's because the airbed was a queen, and the mattress is a Full XL (length of queen/king, width of full).

old aerobed
new mattress

See? Hard to tell a difference in the photo. You'll have to come visit.

More satisfying is plum jam. Plums stripped from the landscaping (which a neighbor asked the management company about and it's not poisoned to kill bugs or whatnot) were turned into jam with the addition of lots of sugar and some pectin. There were two efforts, 2 weeks apart. The first batch I tried to gather from plums poised to fall on my sidewalk, but still missed plenty having only a 2 step stepstool. The second batch was from 4 trees around the complex because I couldn't reach many more plums on my tree even with the 3 step ladder and by then plenty had already fallen off. I think the remainder will be gone within the week.

I've also been cleaning plums off the sidewalk because they leave a purple mush gauntlet that's not possible to get through without staining something. Yesterday's effort was done just before mattress delivery, making it my third cleaning. I went out this morning to go to my tan and thought there must be at least a dozen more plums that fell overnight. They were still pretty whole so I took the paint scraper out and scraped 33 newly fallen plums off the sidewalk. That's 3 shy of 3 dozen!! That's both a lot of plums for 1 day, and bad estimation skills on my part.

Here are pictures from the two jam making efforts. The first effort ended with me realizing that it wasn't setting up and wasn't boiling hot enough then dumping in a fair amount of pectin then accidentally scorching it a bit. It still tastes fine, but it's pretty solid and the first whiff from the open bottle smells a tad scorched. The second batch got boiled hotter with the skins in it, and had more natural pectin, so I added a very little more right at the end and managed not to scorch it.

I did squeeze in a meyer lemon, as well, but that's the sum total of ingredients: plums, sugar, pectin, lemon. Plus heat and elbow grease turns plums into this:
canned jam

For more pictures (including an opportunistic shot of the new toaster)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Special Eye 5 week Update

The vision is normalizing.  Five weeks after quick but mentally traumatic LASIK eye surgery, things seem to be improving according to the doc.  The thought of the surgery isn't as raw, and my left eye double-vision seems to have finally disappeared. I can go outside without sunglasses for small amounts of time. (Actually, it's about 6 weeks now, by the time I got around to writing this, but I've been composing this in my head for a while. Yeah, it's still a bit rough and could be organized better, but it's good enough for gov't work.)

I used the anti-inflammatory eye drops for 2 weeks, the anti-biotic eye drops for 1 week and occasional use.  I'm still using a variety of tear-mimic, saline, or re-wetting (dry eye combating) drops every day, but not as often as I was at even 4 weeks. Here's what I've learned.
  • Pred Forte, the anti-inflammatory, leaves white residue on the eyelashes that can reflect light into the eyes, making it look like there are weird visual effects.  But those go away after cleaning the eyelashes, thankfully, although I touched my eyelashes as little as possible the first week. My eye doc says that it's better to wean off it than go cold turkey.  I used this 4X/day for the first week and 2X/day the second week, and once in a while if my eyes seem itchy.
  • Anti-biotic eyedrops sting and burn.  I've had 2 or 3 brands and they all do.  Best way to deal with them is to put in some other drop first, blink that out of the way for a minute or so, then put in the anti-biotic drop.  I used these 4X/day for the first week and whenever I got paranoid that I'd damaged or otherwise touched my eye like when I hit my eyeball with a ziplock bag last week.
  • Blink makes a sample container that is annoyingly hard to squeeze. It's too squat to get a good squeeze on it.  The drops will wet the eyes like tears, but the effect is short term and not worth the struggle.
  • The Dollar Store eye drops work just as well as Blink and are easier to use and cheaper.
  • The "individual use" containers have about 5-8 drops per eye in them, which is usually too many.  I mostly use one or two drops per eye at a time.  These can be smuggled easily onto airplanes, but I otherwise recommend larger bottles.  (To avoid contaminating larger bottles, don't touch the tip to anything but the lid, but if you do, squeeze out a drop or two to clean out the tip before allowing the bottle to expand and suck in again.)
  • All varieties of "natural tear" or just plain preserved saline drops are good for rinsing eyes during or after showering. I had an old half-full bottle of saline that I plopped in the shower next to the shampoo just in case I got soapy or icky water in my eyes. (Do not put Lasiked eyes under shower water.  If you just get a little in from dripping or your wet face, it's ok, but I flushed mine with saline anyway, just to be safe.)
  • GenTeal makes re-wetting drops that seem to offer the best healing, and I give them credit for getting rid of the double vision.  But they are very strange to use.  Vision will be jacked up for about 10-15 minutes after using these drops, with fine/near vision not working great at all, but for the 2-3 hours after that, it's better than ever.  Then, my eyes started to feel sticky. This could only be relieved by more drops (either GenTeal or natural-tears type) but the stickiness is getting less as time goes on.  So if you need to drive 15 minutes home, use the saline/tears kind.  If you need to drive to San Diego, put in the GenTeal and wait 15 minutes.  (Fun fact: GenTeal is made by Novartis, who bought out the Necco Factory, of conversation hearts fame, a block from where I used to live then work. )
  • I have used Systane in the past for re-wetting, but not since the Lasik, so I can't say if it's better or worse than GenTeal, but GenTeal "feels" like it's working better so I stocked up on that. (I got mild-moderate and moderate-severe strengths both.)
Still on most days I think "oh, my contacts are starting to dry out, I should take them out before bed."   This was constant for the first month and only just started to become an intermittent thought. It was what triggered me to write this tonight, though.

I've been trying to exercise my eyes with the bead-on-a-string exercises and looking at Magic Eye images.   These practice control of focal distance.  My close vision is working better but I really can't focus at armpit distance yet, and that close, my left eye still gets a grey hole in the center.  I'm hoping if I exercise my peepers, it'll keep the muscles strong.  I keep pulling my reading back from my eyes because my muscle memory is to read with things 8" from my face, but I can see clearly to several feet away, so I keep moving books or computer screens and things close then away, just to make sure I practice using the various distances.

My eye appointment early last week (~1 month at 5 weeks due to holiday) showed my left eye vision correction improved without having the double vision in the way.  My vision is testing around 20/20.  My corneas and lenses look healthy and are mostly healed.  I can rub my eyes now if i need to but have only done it once.  Whenever I catch myself about to rub them, I just put in more eyedrops and the desire to rub goes away.  I noticed today at LACMA, when wandering through the 12' high rusted steel "ribbon" rooms, that I do get some aura still around bright lights when it's dark - the light coming over the top edge really came over the edge - but it's not as intense as the first week.  Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Otherwise known as "Men Who Hate Women" by Swede Steig Larsson.  My review, one of millions out there: 3 of 5 stars or a solid C.  Readable but there were not-insignificant problems. A Boston friend, also a reader, gave me the set with the ok to pass them on when I'm done and a hint to read it for Salander which bore out. If you'd like to try them, sing out and I'll send them to you once I figure out if I'm reading the next 2 installments.

Oftentimes my 3 star reviews mean "readable but doesn't really stand out in any way".  In this case, it's an average of 1 and 4 stars, rounded up because it ended better than it started, made some points (if clumsily) that I can get behind, and I'm allowing slack for it being a translation from the Swedish.

The short version is that it's a mystery in a mystery with some story at the end and infodump up the wazoo on the front end making it easy to put down for two thirds of the book.  There are characters you want to like doing dumb enough things that it would be easy to give up on them, but they do better things too.  There's really nasty violence that I felt was more than the story required, in order to make the point that ignoring and excusing violence is bad and violence poisons lives. The message of how journalists need to investigate, not just fluff those they're reporting on couldn't be more important.  We're introduced to Mikael, a writer/publisher who tries to walk that walk, and Salander, an odd young woman with a penchant for unearthing secrets.  When they work together, the story works, but until then it's a chore emeshed with wallbanging obstacles.  I have the feeling that my desire to start the next book has more to do with the gruesome allure of rubbernecking at a trainwreck than wanting to read it for enjoyment or worthier feeling.

The long version is after the jump.  If you're concerned about spoilers, skip the paragraph starting and ending with the word "spoiler".  BTW, I generally don't consider anything in the first 20% of a book as a spoiler, especially if it's easy to predict.