Today was one of those days when you just throw up your hands and say "Maybe it will all look better in the daylight on some other day!" and I'm not even talking about the stepping stone.
Last night I went to the coffee shop to get some things done, but they were having an event, so I ended up staying outside on the patio. They had firepits going, but it was still really, really cold.
If I'd been any closer to the flames, my arm would have been on fire. It took me a couple of hours to thaw when I got back home.
Because of last night's temps, I wasn't worried about getting my run in early, so I left with the big dog after 11am and I was wearing running pants. After a couple of miles I was getting kind of hot, but I kept going. Then we made it out to the emus and turned around and the sun was no longer in my face and we were running into a breeze and it was pretty pleasant. That's when everything fell apart.
First my music app stopped playing, so I had to stop to get that going again, and then a minute later the wind shifted and the fire that someone had going on the other side of the road (which I think just had branches, but who really knows?) gave off a bunch of smoke that blew into my face. If I'd been walking it would have been no big deal other than the smell, so I didn't even think about it until I found myself gasping for breath a ten feet later. Turns out that a sudden drop in air quality really doesn't help oxygenate your body while running.
I dropped to a walk for the next half mile or so. My right eye wouldn't stop streaming tears, so I kept having to wipe my face, and I was starting to feel dehydrated on top of that and it just... wasn't a good run.
Apparently when the music app died, the running app also took a powder, but it still knew that it was supposed to be recording, so when I told it to stop it sprang back to life and gave me the funniest stats I've seen in a while.
So here are today's stats:
Distance: 6.40 miles (That's probably accurate given the course.)
Duration: 52:36 (Ha ha ha)
Avg pace: 8:13 min/mi (HA HA HA HA HA)
Calories: 895 (because apparently only the distance matters, not the fact that my shoes were smoking on the pavement because I was running so fast
Fastest split: 4:08 min/mi (Seriously, I should be getting endorsements and shit at this point!)
Roadkill: 2 (neither of which was the opossum which seems to have departed for other pastures)
Number of emus seen: 0 (Not sure where they were -- maybe they moved somewhere else because of the nearby smoke.)
I also used the new "hands-free" leash today -- it has a belt that goes around my waist and then the leash clips on to that. I wouldn't suggest using it with a dog that isn't good on a leash because you would get zero warning before being pulled to a stop, but on the plus side, if I drop dead while running at least my dog won't wander off.
And now, today's project -- first a shot of the artichoke plant that provided the leaves that I've used:
It even handled the hard frost the other night.
I ran out of clothing dye, so I tried to make the outline with some acrylic paint. It's harder to do the outline with liquid paint than with powder. It should at least get an imprint from the leaf.
But yeah, maybe it will look better in some other daylight.
Look up in the sky! It's a thing! It's a day! It's Thingadailies!
As a reminder to myself should I commit to Thingadailies again next year -- DO NOT PICK SOMETHING THAT REQUIRES YOU TO BE OUTSIDE EVERY DAY.
It was hailing earlier this evening.
Anyhow, I went with a pattern that looked a little more symmetric in my head. (Things often do.)
Still, the idea is not to make something that looks mass-produced and I think i can safely say that I have achieved that. Or else there is an army of three-year-olds pushing tiles into wet concrete somewhere. (Also possible.)
I got home somewhat late, I'm hungry, and it's cold outside, so no Thingadailies.
Instead, I offer you this important chart (with unlabeled axes, yep) showing the progression of rice being cooked, and my hunger. Brown Basmati rice is supposed to take 50 minutes after it boils. That's crazy. I'm just trying to add something to this chili so it doesn't kill me.
There's a reason I don't invite people over for dinner...
Ha, so you thought yesterday's effort was simple. Well, allow me to introduce you to...
Yep, it's just mortar mix in a plastic container.
... or is it?
Okay, yeah, it pretty much is, but there are some blue pure water stones at the bottom, the idea being that when it comes out of the mold it will just be like a pineapple upside-down cake, except without the pineapple. Or the cake.
In other news I went for a run this morning because the big dog looked like he needed to go run (and he wasn't with me for the 10k on Sunday). I wasn't feeling sore at all, but we made it three miles and then my legs said "oh no, we're done here". It was a cold walk home. The big dog was not really that impressed with the whole outing.
And in other other news I made chili today and I went just a little tiny bit overboard on the heat and now I'm now sure what to do with it. The taste is actually pretty good, but whew, eating it is kinda painful. I might have to go buy some plain yogurt to tame it down.
Right. Well, at least there are only eight more days in the month.
Thingadailies. How many times do you suppose something has to be typed before the interwebs adds the word to the known list and it stops getting listed as misspelled? More than 28, I'm pretty sure.
After the whirlwind of yesterday (and the sadness of having to work on this, a holiday for a whole lot of people including all the contractors in the company), I decided to go with something simple for today. Also, it's cold (for us) and windy outside -- next year I'm picking a theme that doesn't involve going out of the house every night.
There's a touch of blue acrylic paint mixed in with the mortar -- I'm hoping it comes through when this cures.
(Given the big crack in the garage floor visible in this photo, I'd say that maybe my next project should be re-pouring concrete for the garage, but if there's one thing this month has taught me, it's that I have no business doing anything with concrete...)
After helping my boss get Oracle, java, python, and R working in harmony on his new mac pretty much all day today, I spent some time this evening working on the author website. Some day I really will make it public, I swear, so that the world can ignore that website as well.
You know how there are those times when everything seems to happen on one day? This was that day. Granted, it all happened today because I procrastinated yesterday, but still. Busy.
Today I got out of bed way too early and conquered my first 10k race. (And by conquered, I really mean finished, since I came out 22nd in the 32 people in my age group.)
Then I finally made it to the hardware store to buy mortar mix for Thinga-whenever-I-feel-like-it stepping stones. (I also went to the pet store for 120 pounds of cat litter and as I was driving home I thought "hm, so this is what it would be like to drive a car with a body in the trunk" which is totally not weird or anything and I should probably work on getting published soon so people will believe me when I say I'm a writer and that's why I have these thoughts.)
Then I worked on getting the next chapter out to the writing group (a day late, oops, because I didn't set my reminder correctly). (See reason for working on getting published above.) This involved dealing with a note I had written to myself three weeks ago that said "but really, what does this have to do with the plot?" As everyone else but me would find obvious, the answer to that sort of note is "get rid of that section". It took me three weeks to accept that. It was painful.
Also, I saw a request for anthology submissions consisting of --and I quote -- "romantic and/or erotic ham sandwich fiction". My mind is boggled.
And I didn't even take a nap! So that's a preview. Now for the gritty details:
I showed up. I picked up my bib and a new t-shirt to replace the one that I was wearing which is good because that one has a bunch of holes from the safety pins for the bib. A group of us ran together and it was pretty awesome except for the inclusion of Mount Everest in the middle of the course. (Technically it was a pedestrian overpass to get across the six lane freeway, but it was unnecessarily long and high and a soul-crushing obstacle after five miles.) We finished. Yay!
I finished ahead of two of the three people in the 74-79 age group for the 10k. My split times were faster than both of the 74-79 women who finished the half marathon. Sure, they ran an extra seven miles after I stopped, but for the first six miles I had them beat as long as they didn't slow down later and pull down their split times. (They say that comparison is the thief of joy, but that's only true if you don't know how to make the right comparisons.) Now for the recap of last week's efforts. These two turned out pretty well. As expected, the "exotic glass" I tried to embed in the side of the lower one didn't really stay in. Once again, this year is all about failing -- go team!
This one wasn't quite as interesting as the artichoke leaf, but still a win:
Sadly, the technicolor vomit crumbles of death did not really improve when placed in the sunlight. Also as expected, the minute I put any pressure on it, it broke into pieces.
The back was kind of pretty though. Maybe I should do another one with it mixed correctly.
And then these two turned out pretty well. I guess.
And finally, today's mixture -- I used the mortar mix and some aquatic stones (ie, stones for your fish tank) that they had at the hardware store. The mortar definitely gives a smoother surface, so I think I'll try some more imprints with it.
I'm not sure what "Pure" is supposed to be modifying. Can you only use these pebbles with pure water? Are they pure "water pebbles"? They aren't made from water and I'm not sure what a water pebble would be adulterated by. Water sand? Water moccasins? It's been a day of questions not easily answered.
The best thing? Mortar mix comes in 10 pound bags.
And here we are with the thing for today. The water pebbles are happy colors.
Today I tried to redo/improve on yesterday's efforts with acrylics. (As suspected, yesterday's vomitus contained too much water and is not hardening -- ah, well, art is sometimes ephemeral and who am I to argue with the Fates?)
Anyhow, today I mixed blue in with the base and then tried to float some yellow on top, only slightly working it in. It looks a bit like some sort of slide you'd see that used an unusual stain. Or possibly some neuro scan.
Or... it looks like a painting done by a T. rex who couldn't quite look at the canvas at the same time as it was close enough to paint and had to imagine what it looked like as it turned to the side to get its arms close enough. Thus I am going to refer to it as the RAWR-schach step. You can see in it whatever you want to.
(Thursdays are known as a sleep deprivation test for a reason.)
Thingadailies. It's like the neverending story, but with fewer cute furry creatures. And the horse doesn't die.
Remember, the goal is to fail more in this new year. So far I am acing my resolution!
Tonight I mixed in some acrylic paints that I found in the closet. I have no idea what I originally bought them for so I was somewhat surprised to see that they were still in liquid form.
Despite mixing concrete almost every day for the last two weeks, I still somehow added way too much water to this batch. I tried to correct it by adding more dry mix which meant I had to use a different container. I think it was still too wet. Also, I have no idea what adding acrylic paint does to the chemical reactions that make concrete cure.
I suspect this may end up like the red crumbles of death from day two. Still, at least it will be different. This will be the technicolor vomit crumbles of death.
Technicolor Vomit Crumbles Of Death may be my new death metal band. (Buy our debut CD on Amazon.)
Roses are red,
Violets are blue, Thingadailies is here,
I'm making a path to avoid stepping in dog poo.
(Yep, poetry. You get what you pay for.)
Since the artichoke step was such a success, I decided to make a smaller version for the garden gnome path. I'm not sure the smaller leaves will make such a good silhouette (okay, that's one of the two words where autocorrect continually saves my bacon. [In case you're wondering, the other word is bureaucrat.]), especially since I couldn't get them to stay down.
Speaking of things that won't stay down, we had agility this evening. Someday the big dog will generalize his knowledge of "stay" from home to the agility arena, but tonight was not that night. Maybe next week.
Speaking of other things staying down, I had a Klondike Bar for the first time today. I am not impressed. It's bad ice cream covered in terrible chocolate and it makes a big huge mess. I can't figure out why they carry it in the store.
(I'll still eat the rest of the box though. They aren't that bad.)
There's no getting around it -- Mondays are kinda sucky. I have to drive down to the Bay Area and the traffic is just crappy even though I try to avoid it.
So I didn't go to the hardware store for mortar mix today. I also didn't go to the grocery store to pick up canned cat food which I somehow did not notice was getting low when I made my list on Saturday. The trip to the grocery store is obviously of higher importance lest I be slaughtered in my sleep, so I'm probably not going to make it to the hardware store tomorrow either.
Life. Sometimes it takes better planning than I account for.
Anyhow, today I tried to embed "exotic" glass around the sides and then put a simple design on top. I'm guessing the glass won't stay, but maybe it will at least make the sides interesting. Or more likely, the whole thing will just fall apart. Hey, not everything can be a winner. (Or, as K-Poo once famously said "It can't be all jazz hands all the time!")
By the way, sprinting at the end of a six mile run? Not the greatest idea if you want to be comfortable the next day. My legs are not jazz-handing right now.
I didn't quite make it to the hardware store to buy mortar mix today. I'd like to have a real thing to blame this on, but the real reason is that I was too lazy. So... yeah.
Anyhow, I was thinking about the throw-away comment I made yesterday about using the tiny initials stepping stone in a fairy pathway, and I realized that's almost exactly what I need -- not for fairies, but for my garden gnomes and the Yeti-holding-gnomes statue that I may someday move outside when I really need the space in my office.
So today I made another step in that pathway.
(And this is all totally not because it's so much easier to mix a very small amount of concrete!)
Anyhow, I also went for a run this morning. Since the 10k is next week, my oh-so-scientific plan as suggested by Jeff (who doesn't run competitively, now that I think about it) was to have the big run last weekend and then taper. I ran the big run last Sunday, and then I ended up not running at all for the rest of the week, but I planned on running a nice leisurely 4 miles today.
But then I was running with the big dog and we were finally out of town and on the county roads and I thought what the heck, let's go to the emus and so we did, and then on the way back after we finished mile five the soundtrack switched to "Deliverance" by Rationale and so I had to speed up to match the tempo (except during the parts without a drum beat) and then I had to sprint at the very end of my run because... sprinting at the end! It's the most fun part!
Needless to say, my legs are a little sore.
Total distance: 6.39 miles
Avg pace (min/mi): 12:26
Fastest mile: mile 2
Second fastest mile: mile 6 (Usually the pace of my run slopes steadily downward)
Fastest instantaneous time: Somewhere around 10 min/mi for a little bit during the freaking 6th mile after an hour of running. (You used to be able to get the exact info from MapMyRun but I think they dumbed down the free version during the last upgrade. Oh well. Can't really complain about the free app.)
Number of emus seen: 1 (in a back pasture)
Number of guys on bicycles that asked me if I'd seen their dropped phone during the cool down walk because "I was following you" (presumably when I was still heading out of town and then he turned around before I did? I'm still not sure how this was supposed to work and yeah, saying that to a woman running by herself isn't creepy at all -- except it wasn't really that bad because when he stopped me to ask 1) it was in town, 2) there were three firefighters standing a few feet away, 3) the big dog was with me, 4) pepper spray, and 5) there's a lot of traffic on the road): 1
Bonus picture -- I'm occasionally really bad about maintenance, but these people have permanently parked their Audi in the alley in such a way that it keeps their fence from falling down. (That happens to be the only residence I've ever called animal control on because their big dog got out of their yard, ran down the alley, and attacked my leashed little dog on more than one occasion. Their dog hasn't attacked mine since then, but I also don't walk near that corner any more.)
Another day of Thingadailies (or as I like to call it Thingadaily-unless-I-get-home-too-laties).
Here is what they look like so far:
I think even if the dye fades it will still look pretty nice.
The official mold (minus one piece because I didn't mix enough concrete):
Doesn't look quite as much like I buried body parts in it -- now it merely looks like I bashed someone's head against it...
Then there are these two:
The crumbles on the lower left are the one I mixed with entirely too much water and thought was never going to harden. It finally did, but disintegrated when I put any weight on it. Lesson learned. (Haha, just kidding, I'm sure I'll do it again.)
I do like the little initials piece, but it would have to be a prototype for a stepping stone for fairies or something. (Which would actually be kind of cool, now that I think about it.) I think the mosaic tiles might actually stay in it.
This one is okay, but a little boring, and I think the glass is going to fall out. It's pretty sturdy, though:
I like this one, but I think the dye around the leaves would have worked better than this:
For some reason this one reminds me of archeology. I sort of like it. Also, the little dog was tired of me concentrating on things that were not her:
And finally, the new one I did for today. That's black dye surrounding the leaf.
Here are the things I've learned so far:
I really can't follow directions. (This is not new information.)
When in doubt, keep mixing instead of adding more water. Really. Just put the water down and walk away.
The best way to level the surface is to pick up the container and let it thunk to the ground a bunch of times.
I think the sixty pound bag of concrete mix may not be mixed very well which could be contributing to my problems since I'm only making small batches at one time.
I read something that said that mortar mix could be used for this and that it creates a smoother surface. It also comes in smaller bags. I'll have to take another trip to the hardware store.
One of my co-workers (E) recently moved to a different state, and before he left I went out to lunch with him and his wife (F). They talked about the new house and mentioned the next door neighbor (A) (a grown & married man) who had what what was described as a "man-crush" on the house's former owner (an ex-Green Beret and all-around amazing guy apparently). In fact, A got along so well with the former owner that there was path worn into the grass between their houses. Every time E & F had been to see the house A had shown up, fat little Dachshund in tow.
(At that point I was making siren sounds and telling them to abort the mission, but they'd already closed on the house.)
Fast forward to today. Now that they've had a week to settle in, I sent E mail to see how things were going.
Me: How many times has A come by?
E: None. But F saw him nekkid when he was getting into their hot tub.
Me: You made me snort hot tea.
E: To be fair, our furniture just arrived two days ago so we haven't been in the house that long.
Me: I hear bamboo grows really quickly.
I've been living in my house for nearly 15 years and I've barely even seen any of my neighbors wearing shorts. If I'd just moved into that house I'd be out there digging a moat, setting up a trellis for kudzu to grow on, and there would be black paint on all the windows.
Today I made a stepping stone smaller than my foot. One might call that asinine if the point is to create a path one can walk on, but I'm going to go with whimsical.
Mixing concrete is hard work. There's a reason people rent those big mixers. Very small amounts are fine but anything of, say, shoe box size or greater is enough to make my stirring hand hurt. Other (totally valid!) excuses:
I found a cat tooth on the cat bed over the weekend, and after spending a bit of time chasing cats around and trying to get a good look in their mouths (ha!), I decided that Ripley was the most likely donor. So I had to bring him in today to get anesthetized for x-rays to make sure nothing too terrible was going on in his mouth (they extracted one more tooth and cleaned up everything) which meant that he had to go without breakfast. I dare you to be productive in the morning when one hungry and lonely cat is wailing inside the closed bathroom, another cat is complaining because there is a closed door, and the dogs are underfoot because deep in their little pea brains they get that something strange is going on but they don't know what, so they just pace constantly.
I had to drive back in the afternoon to pick up the not-quite-sober Ripley. He's a happy drunk. He spent the rest of the day rubbing himself all over the other cats, the dogs, and a few inanimate objects that he stumbled into. (The remaining cats did not like this behavior and occasionally reacted poorly.) Right now Ripley's sleeping in my lap, his head resting on one arm.
Then I had to drive back again a couple hours later with the dogs for agility. And their flu shots. It was windy. The little dog was pretending she couldn't hear me. If she didn't regularly fly across the yard and around the side of the house to bark at dogs walking on the other side of the street I might have believed her.
All of this is to explain why I didn't get started on the project for this evening until almost 9 PM and then I didn't have the energy to do much.
So I made a stone with my initials. I have a feeling the tiles are going to have to be glued down later, but at least they'll have divots to sink into.
I mentioned I was going to use the mold after I figured out how to mix concrete correctly, didn't I?
Well... I'm not sure I've got it figured out yet, but I decided to try it out tonight anyhow.
I also decided to put the dry dye on top of the concrete and try to work it in since I haven't been able to tell that I've mixed in any of the dye in previous attempts. I used half a packet of red.
That's why even though it looks like it, I really didn't slaughter something and bury it under the wet concrete. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
By far the best thing about this concrete mold is the inspirational material included in the instruction sheet.
This part was so good they had to put it in there twice:
And while I'm not waiting for him, I can build up my business and creat(e) my happy family!
In case you were wondering if you made the right choice -- of course!
And clearly whoever wrote this intended it for people like me. Note the instructions. Step one - mix the concrete -- nothing more, nothing less. In fact, these instructions read like someone was tasked with writing them and that person looked at their boss and said "What idiot can't figure out how to use this?" And then their boss told them to do it anyway. So they did, mumbling about stupid people the entire time.
My boss said to me a couple of weeks ago "Can you write something up -- without sarcasm --". I think he meant to continue with the rest of the sentence, but we both started laughing at that point so he had to start over. Person in China who wrote these instructions -- I feel for you!
English is not my boss' native language. He's lived in the US for a long time, though, and for the most part he has no problem with it*, but every once in a while I throw in some colloquialism just to confuse him because it makes me happy. A while back I had to explain to him -- in an office with cubicles and no idea of how many people were paying attention -- the difference between "weed" and "weeds". But hey, this is California, so who really cares, right?
Anyhow, on my way to the back of yard to make today's stepping stone (and get drained of all blood by the the mosquito horde), I stopped to pick some leaves to use as imprints. Shockingly, they were all weeds. (Not weed.) I was going to find an example of a plant I actually wanted to grow there, but then I decided it made more sense to have an accurate representation, so I stuck with the weeds.
That's the box my new running shoes came in. When I finished my run last weekend my feet were killing me and I thought about it and realized I'd been running in those shoes for about a year. So I bought new shoes. I wore them on my run today and they were fine so I think I'll be wearing them for the 10k in two weeks.
Helper number one:
Helper number two (not enthused about picture time):
Stats for today's run:
Total distance: 7.46 miles (My goal was 7.2 miles so I would know that I'm capable of doing a mile beyond 10k. I overshot a bit.)
Avg pace: 12:47 min/mile (Excellent for me, especially considering I spent close to a mile on soft dirt. However I probably won't be winning any awards in the 10k, even in my age group.)
Distance from home when finished running: 2+ miles (Oops.)
Duration: 1:35:26 + cool down time and a long walk home (I'm using this as an excuse to buy another album by Elijah Bossenbroek because I went through both of them.)
Calories: 933 (And don't think I haven't already consumed them several times over.)
Emus seen: Only one. I don't know what happened to the rest of them.
Roadkill (aside from the opossum which the county has apparently decided to make a permanent fixture in the road): One. A skunk. The big dog thankfully wanted nothing to do with it.
Number of dogs we didn't get in a fight with: Just the same two that tried to drag that guy across the road last time. He needs to learn to carry treats and use them judiciously.
On the outbound leg I planned to turn around at a hazy clump of trees in the distance. I thought they were hazy because the day wasn't clear. Turns out they were a lot farther away than I had assumed. That's why we were still out in the middle of nowhere when my legs decided we were done running.
After we finally made it home the big dog and I took a nap. My quads hurt. I suspect tomorrow is going to be bad...
* The one thing that trips him up (mostly because I start smirking) is MS Excel terminology. After years of me making fun of him, he tries really hard to pronounce "sheet" correctly. I haven't had the heart to bring up what his pronunciation of "chart" sounds like...
I'd planned on using the real stepping stone form today, but then I took a look at what I made yesterday and decided maybe I needed to perfect my mix just a bit.
This is what it looks like today. Still something that would require a trip to the emergency clinic if it came from one of my pets. I'm not sure this is actually going to harden. I guess I'll find out in the next few days.
I decided to try something new with the dye. This time I used green. It doesn't look particularly green. It also doesn't particularly look like I fixed my technique for mixing either. At the last minute I decided to add some leaf imprints. So... depending on how this looks tomorrow I may or may not use the real form for the next one.
Still, at least it's an improvement. I can't ask for much more than that.
(That's a total lie. I expect things to be perfect all the time.)
All I can say is that my New Year's resolution was to fail more and I'm killing it!
Day two of Thingadailies during the masochistic month of February:
I'm not very good at waiting. Or following directions. Especially following directions. So when I read that you're supposed to let the concrete stay in the mold for four days, I think "but surely that doesn't apply to me!"
The seeds of my self-destruction are sown deep.
All that is to say that I took yesterday's stepping stone out of the Redvines mold today. Some stuff on the edges flaked off, so probably I should have left it in. (Imagine that -- I should have followed the instructions. Who knew?) It does look a bit like a stepping stone which is good. I'll have to check the fragility in a few days.
That left the mold free for me to try something different today. Since I have obviously mastered the basics, this evening I added color in the form of clothing dye. You know, that stuff you throw in the washer to make your old jeans look like you screwed up doing laundry. First I mixed in the red and poured most of it into the mold. Then I mixed in some black and tried to swirl that in.
The theme I'm seeing here is... underwhelming. Also, this concrete was waaay too wet. It acted like the self-leveling stuff, but I was too tired and lazy to fix it (because I had to drive into work today for a meeting in the morning due to the fact that I pointed out some problems instead of just keeping my mouth shut like I should have learned to do by now). Besides, I mostly wanted to see how it would look when it dries (or cures or whatever the heck it does. Chemistry!) with the color mixed in.
Keep that in mind when you look at this next picture.
Yeah, it reminds me a bit of some things I saw coming out of dogs with parvovirus. Here's hoping it gets better later...