Sunday, May 17, 2020

Keep Plodding

In April, a coworker started a Strava group for employees with the goal of walking or running 100 miles during the month. I figured that might be a good idea since I've really embraced the fine art of quarantine snacking. But then I found out there was a group leaderboard, and my competitive streak -- which is normally very well hidden -- came out, and that's how I made it to 168 miles last month. I've been in a death match with another woman (whom I don't think I've actually ever met) and I'm not saying I've climbed on the treadmill at 10pm to add a couple miles to take over the top spot for the week, but I'm also not saying I haven't.

This month (May, in case you've stopped keeping track), my goal is 200 miles, which I am well placed to hit. It's just over halfway through the month and I'm around 145 miles.

This is my secret weapon:

treadmill with board desk containing laptop and drink
That desk is kitchen flooring leftover from before I bought the house. Works great.

I can work on all the stuff that needs to happen to publish my novel, or waste time on Facebook, or even write a blog post, all while racking up two miles every hour. I'm a lot more productive than when I'm sitting down. If the treadmill didn't squeak, it would be even better, but noise cancelling headphones will take care of many problems.

I was feeling kind of tired and sore today and I thought maybe I was getting sick, and then I remembered I'd walked over thirteen miles yesterday.

But let's face it, the really important thing is that I am five miles ahead of the coworker I've never met. Victory is mine!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Surely This Can't Be Normal

Okay, sure, there are a lot of things going on right now that aren't normal, but what I really meant was this:

Six broken/bent sewing machine needles

I've made about a dozen masks, and so far I've broken six sewing machine needles. The last two were needles meant for sewing denim.

I tagged in my expert (my mom, the master quilter) and she thought it might just be the number of layers, and we were talking about it as I worked on one. I was zipping along and she said "Wow, it sounds like you're going really fast." So... you're not supposed to just push the pedal all the way to the ground and zoom along as fast as you can? No wonder I don't sew. I don't have the patience for this sort of thing.

Anyhow, when I broke the fourth needle and I was on the last one that came with the machine, I ordered new ones on line. Then I realized I wasn't going to get them quickly enough, so I called the local sewing machine/vacuum cleaner store and talked to Pavel. Or rather, I called the store and listened while Pavel talked to someone else for a good 20-30 seconds as I said "Hello?" and I tried to figure out if someone had accidentally knocked the phone off the hook to keep it from ringing. But eventually Pavel came on the line and I explained my problem and he agreed that I needed more needles. So I gave him my credit card info, walked downtown, called him again to let him know I was there, and then he passed a bag out to me and locked the door again. Shopping in-person during the pandemic is a little weird.

Eventually my online order came in as well, and now I am set for needles for a while.

But really, this can't be normal, right? I'm beginning to think I'm just bad at this...

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

I shall rip and then I shall sew

It's mask-making time! I ordered some from Etsy, but they haven't arrived, so it was either figure out how to use the sewing machine in the closet, or wrap a t-shirt around my face the next time I had to go out.

My mom is a quilter, so it's more than a little embarrassing that I can't even sew a straight line. But I had the machine (and for the life of me, I can't remember where I got it or why), and though I was pretty sure Effing Scooter (RIP) had worked his magic on it at one point, I decided to give it a try.

My backup plan involved the glue gun.

This was my starting point:
Mary Robinette said it was simple and I figured I was the perfect person to test that theory.

I started with an old pillowcase. Luckily it ripped along the line like it was supposed to. I'm fairly certain my mom took a stiff drink when I complained that fabric is hard to cut "even when I use my good kitchen scissors."

very wrinkled purple batik fabric
Designer batik masks -- I should charge myself extra

Things started well, mostly because the machine was still threaded from the last time I gave up on it. I sewed the first line like a boss and crowed because I'd finally figured out the whole sewing thing.

Note: the gods punish hubris.

I had to skip the ironing part because... look, if I don't ever buy clothes that need to be ironed, why should I own an iron? (Except I feel like I used to have one and I have no idea where it went.) In any case, my masks have that casual rumpled look.

What happened next was a series of attempts to sew another line, interspersed with breaks for me to swear and try to fix the bobbin again or rethread the top part after the thread broke, or my favorite, refill the bobbin. (When the instructions say that it will stop when the bobbin is full, DON'T BELIEVE THEM!)

sewing machine with purple fabric
Look, it's sort of working here

I am fairly certain that this was about the time my neighbors closed their windows. Also, one of my coworkers found out that I was making a mask and hinted that she'd love one too and I almost ran over my finger while laughing about giving the results of my sewing to another person as a gift.

Anyhow, it turns out that these mask instructions really are quite simple, because even I was able to finish and get a working mask.

white woman with a purple fabric mask
At least the mask is bigger than my forehead! And yes, it's still wrinkled.

The good news about this project is that if anyone is close enough to evaluate your stitching while you're wearing your mask, they're too damn close and you're allowed to poke them in the eye.

purple fabric with a clusterfuck of thread because bobbins are evil
Whatever. Close enough. Bobbins are the work of the devil.

And that's what I've been doing lately.

The big dog standing on the sofa and staring out the window
The big dog is guarding the house from viruses and other dogs
The end.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Neighbors of Constant Sorrow

If you recall, I mentioned that I bought a violin to help warn people away from me during this time of isolation. I started trying to find fun music to play, which led me to bluegrass fiddle (no, I don't know anything about fiddle music or how to play it) and that led me to this tutorial:

(Bluegrass fiddle tutorial for "Man of Constant Sorrow")

I have slightly more patience now than I did in grade school, so I spent the ten bucks on the tutorial (well worth it, by the way -- it includes sheet music, the tutorial, and backing music at three different speeds) and I've been learning roughly one measure per day, which is exactly how I was told to learn things as a kid and completely ignored.

Anyhow, my neighbors (trapped in their home!) have been forced to listen to a bad violin player trying to learn bluegrass fiddle, and I can only assume that shortages at the grocery stores are the only reason they haven't yet egged my house.

Black cat on bed of newspaper even though he has about 20 plush beds around the house dammit
Ripley does not have time for your nonsense

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Captive Audience

Well, here we are and here we'll be staying for some amount of time. My county has only had a shelter in place order for the last day, but I've pretty much been in sparkling isolation (hey, as they say, it's not quarantine unless you're in the Quarantine region of France) since last Thursday.

That was a week ago. I live alone and I'm not a very social person, so this isn't all that different from my normal behavior. I have had some evening "sit around and chill" video calls with friends, but it will be another few weeks before I run into trouble.

I haven't had the mental energy to work on editing (soon!), so I've been doing other things, such as this:

Pen-drawn squiggles partially colored in
DIY coloring book
(I'm Gen X. We know how to keep ourselves entertained.)

But today I got this:

Shiny new violin on chair

For less than $200 you can get a violin, two bows, rosin, a shoulder rest, an electronic tuner/metronome, plus an extra bridge delivered to your home. And the violin is far higher quality than the one I played during grade school. That one literally cracked lengthwise sometime around sixth grade, without noticeably affecting the sound.

Am I any good? Well... I haven't played in 37 years or so, and I wasn't all that great to begin with. So that would be a no. But I'm having fun with it because instead of trying to play something written on a page, I just put on something I listen to, like Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know", and try to hit notes that are in the right key. Sometimes they are, sometime they aren't. This is the stress-free way to play the violin.

Pity my poor neighbors though -- they can't hear what I'm playing along with, so all they're hearing is random notes played badly. And they can't leave!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Just Another Day At The Office

At work today, there was a raptor (don't ask me what kind -- I'm horrible at bird identifications. It was too small to be a red tailed hawk -- maybe a sharp-shinned hawk?) that was just standing in the water in the fake river that runs between the buildings. This was really abnormal behavior, and when it was briefly standing on land, it held up one foot, as if maybe it was injured.

Someone asked me (uh, former veterinarian who used to treat a lot of raptors and had techs who were excellent at bird identification so I didn't have to) about it, but of course when I went over to get a closer look, it flew up into a nearby tree.

A couple of hours later it was back in the water, so I grabbed a cardboard box on the off chance that it held still long enough for me to grab it, then made my boss (H) come outside with me so someone could pull me out of the water if I slid down the bank. His wife (S) came along because she figured if I fell in, H could pull me out while she recorded it all for posterity.

[It is important to note here that neither H nor S speak English as their native language, though they are both completely fluent. In particular, H and I had a very surreal conversation one day when I was talking about my birds and when I said "conure" (tiny, loud parrots) he thought I said "condor" (huge, endangered birds) and there was a good five minutes of disbelief on both sides before we figured it out.]

So today, the three of us walked outside to try to catch the bird --

Me (pointing to the water): There it is.

S: That's a duck.

Me: *looking at her in disbelief because even I can identify a freaking duck*

H: It can't be! It has wings!1

Me: *whips head around to look at him because... wtf, ducks have wings too*

At this point I deployed the tact that I'm famous for and said "I'm not sure which one of you said the stupider thing."

Anyhow, when we got closer to the bird-with-wings-that-was-definitely-NOT-a-duck, it flew into another tree, so that was that. If it really is injured or sick, they're just going to have to wait until it's too weak to fly and then catch it and take it to the wildlife center.

I gave them the 30-second talk on what to avoid when grabbing a raptor ("The talons. Avoid the talons."), but honestly, if the bird's survival depends on these two, it's doomed.


1) Turns out he thought she said "dog", not "duck" which clears things up until you start to wonder why he believed she could mistake what was clearly a RAPTOR for a DOG.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Can('t Get My Po)i(nt A)cross

Every once in a while, I see some sport or activity and think "huh, that could be fun!" Usually I then forget about it, but on rare occasions I follow through.

This time it was canicross. In case you don't have time to listen to some awesome Canadian accents in the link, canicross is like dog sledding, except instead of a sled you have a person running behind. The only rule (that I'm aware of anyhow) is that the dog always needs to be in front.

Put yourself and your dog in a harness and then connect the two with a bungee cord -- what could possibly go wrong?

Anyhow, my new gear showed up and after I spent about an hour figuring out the human harness, I took the big dog out for a run.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  • The human harness comes with a cup holder. "This could be my sport!" I thought. 
  • On further examination, the cup holder was just a water bottle holder. That was less exciting.
  • There's a bright orange "quick release" tab on the connection to the leash. That's not disturbing at all.
Bright orange fabric strip with grey letters "RELEASE"
I wasn't kidding.
  • Either canicross makes people instantly thin, or only thin people take it up. I'm not skinny, but I run three times a week and I just barely fit in the harness.
  • The big dog is at a perfect weight and of course fits very nicely into his harness.
Svelte Alaskan Husky mix wearing a sled dog harness, standing in weeds
(Ignore the weeds and the fact that the big dog is blowing his coat -- he's a handsome hunk.)
  • Perhaps I should limit my own kibble and I, too, would fit nicely into my harness.
  • I've spent a lot of time -- a lot of time -- working on getting the big dog to run nicely right next to me without pulling, no matter what exciting thing is going on around us. We practice this three times a week. He's very good at this.
  • Trying to convince your well-trained dog that he should run in front of you and pull on the leash is a lot harder than it sounds. Like, really, really hard.
Lovely Alaskan Husky mix running next to the camera, not out in front
Velcro dog only gets side views taken while running

So... I'm not really sure how to convince the big dog to run in front of me, and apparently he's too much of a gentleman to pull on the leash. Maybe this isn't our sport. Or maybe we just need to find another person to help in training. I must know someone who'd be willing to go for a training run at 6am, right?