Thursday, December 22, 2011

Long Winter's Nap

I'm not exactly known for being a high energy bundle at the best of times. If competitive sleeping were a sport, I'd be an olympic athlete. I have no problem with getting up on Saturday, feeding all the animals, and then going back to bed for five or six hours. And then I might take a nap after lunch.

But now it's going to be even worse. I bought an electric blanket for the bed. No more shivering for ten minutes when going to bed, and there's really no incentive to ever get out of bed. Really, the electric blanket could be the downfall of civilization.

Wake me up when it's Spring.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

So Demanding

You know how rockstars go on tours and have riders in their contracts that specify all kinds of odd things (eg, two pounds of M&Ms with all of the red ones taken out, an E-Z bake oven in the green room, etc.)? I'm trying to figure out how to get that kind of thing written into a contract if I have to become an employee.

Because, let's face it, becoming an employee at this point would majorly increase the suckitude of my life. I'd have to leave the house five days a week, I'd be expected to answer my phone again, and worse yet, I'd have a yearly review. If I'm bad at my job, just fire me, or tell me there's a problem the minute it comes up. Don't save it up to spring on me once a year. That just causes stress. (Clearly I'm not cut out for management. This comes as no surprise to anyone.)

On the plus side, I'd get to keep my job, and since I absolutely hate changing jobs, that's a big plus.

So anyhow, since I probably won't be able to actually affect anything important like wages if I get hired, I'm thinking that I ought to try to get a list of outrageous demands included somehow. I just need a suitable list.

In case anyone needs me, I'll be reviewing contract riders for the next few weeks...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Village of Idiots

People think I'm kidding when I say that both of my dogs are stupid, but it really is true. Ginger looks like a rocket scientist compared to Molly, but they both belong on the short bus. (Please note that I'm not saying my dogs aren't lovable and sweet -- they're great pets and I don't have a job for a dog that needs constant stimulus.)

A few weeks ago I did an impromptu intelligence test just to see what would happen. While both dogs were watching, I filled two short cardboard tubes with kibble and folded over the ends. Again, both dogs watched me do this. I gave one tube to each dog and observed the results.

Molly took her cardboard tube into the living room and proceeded to eat it, cardboard and all. She even ate the pieces that hadn't made contact with the kibble.

Ginger ignored the tube and stared at me, with the same intense stare she uses any time she thinks I might give her food. After a few minutes I shook the tube (nothing), then I opened one end (still nothing), then I even shook out a few pieces. She gulped down the kibble that was on the floor, but still wouldn't look at the tube which still had one or two pieces in it.

Finally Molly came over and took Ginger's tube into the living room and ate her second helping of cardboard.

Apparently life really is like a box of chocolate. Especially if you don't even bother to open it before eating.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Next Career Probably Won't Be Carpentry

In an attempt to bring order into my chaotic life (and why exactly do I still not have a personal assistant?) I decided to put together the second dresser that has been in pieces on my bedroom floor for the last... six months? nine months? some embarrassingly long amount of time anyhow.

The dresser has four drawers, three of which are the same size. So while I continued my "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" marathon (don't judge), I put together the first two. I even used wood glue this time, because the front of the large drawer fell off on the one that I built last year (or whenever it was).

I got to the third identical drawer and ran into a snag. No matter which way I turned the pieces there were two right sides and no left. (I'm guessing that this was why it was still in pieces on my bedroom floor although quite possibly I hadn't noticed and it was just due to pure laziness.)

A more organized person would still have the receipt, original packaging, and inclination to return the dresser to the place I bought it. I, on the other hand, remember how heavy the damn thing is, and I have no desire to try to explain why I let it sit for a year without returning it. Besides, I'm an engineer (more or less) and my belief is that I can fix anything. (I have a lot of broken things in pieces around my house and garage that belie this idea, but I'm strong in the power of denial.)

Really, though, how hard can it be to turn a right panel into a left panel? Remember, everything I know about carpentry I learned in orthopedic surgery, so you know I must be good at it.*

I drilled some holes for the dowels and a few screw hole guides. It was all good until I got to the doohicky that ties into some sort of toggle bolt that is supposed to hold the front of the drawer on. (We didn't use toggle bolts in any of my surgeries, so I have no idea what this thing is called. I do know it doesn't work very well, which is why the front of the big drawer fell off.)

Anyhow, it required me to drill a large-bore hole halfway through the wood. The hole was bigger than any of my drill bits. I almost got it, but then it turned out something was a fraction off, so I finally gave up and decided that the wood glue was just going to need to do double duty on this drawer.

So... all of the drawers are together now. They might even stay together. We'll just have to see how things go when the glue dries.

* Just as a note, my very last orthopedic surgery was on a barn owl with a fractured humerus. I put in an intramedulary pin with an external tie-in. The post-op x-rays were beautiful. The six week checkup was great. I pulled the pins and then the freaking owl got his wing caught in the corner of the flight cage just before being released and the whole wing shattered into a bazillion pieces and I euthanized him. There's your feel-good story of the day.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My brain, it's like a squirrel running on a wheel. Eating cookies.

I got home the other night and was getting ready to go to bed when the thought hit me -- there was still one cookie left.

Yes, I intentionally put the cookies on the top of the refrigerator where I can't see them in hopes that I will forget about them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

In this case, once I thought about the last, lonely cookie sitting forlorn in the wastelands of my kitchen, that's all I could really think about. Funny video? Sure, but oh yeah, there's a cookie in the kitchen. Email from my friend? Nice, but there's a cookie in the kitchen.

So finally I said (literally, I said this out loud) "Screw it. I'm eating that cookie." And then I took down the box and found out that there was not one, but two cookies.

At that point there was only one thing to do. Yes, again out loud: "Screw it. I'm eating both of those cookies."

This is why I can't bring home things with sugar.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Leaves Me Alone

The slogan for my hometown is "City of Trees" and this really becomes evident in late Fall when there's always one week when all of the trees shed their leaves overnight. This year, that was Wednesday. In my fairly small front yard, I raked up a pile of leaves that dwarfed my car. Sure, you can argue that it's not that impressive because I have a Honda Civic, not an SUV, but I still find it hard to believe because none of those leaves were from any of my trees.

Apparently complaining about other people's leaves falling on your lawn is genetic because when I mentioned this to my parents, they told me that my mother's father complained about the same thing. I may not have inherited the skinny height and wiry strength, but I got the complaining gene.

Anyhow, I've decided that raking leaves is a good upper body workout, justifying the ingestion of an extra thousand or two calories for the day.

I'm blaming my neighbors and their damned trees for all the weight I'll be gaining over the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Safe Harbor

It's always a good sign when your not-really-a-boss asks if you might want to take a year off.

The answer is yes, but only if someone else is paying my bills. Since that seems a little unlikely, I'll do what I always do and ignore the issue until it either goes away or I have to do something about it.

It could be worse, of course -- I could be harboring a budding juvenile delinquent like my nephew Liam. Somehow I made it through all of my schooling without getting in trouble for anything other than my unwillingness to do homework. (This despite the fact that I remember getting in a few physical altercations -- my theories: 1) nobody in charge saw anything, 2) nobody in charge felt compelled to report anything back in the dark ages when I was in grade school, or 3) nobody felt compelled to report anything because why would they report a boy and girl fighting if the girl didn't lose?)

The nephew, on the other hand, hasn't managed to make it through first grade before getting his first "green card", a really poorly-named infraction notification sent home for his parents to sign. It sounds like it was named by a teacher who was into the whole self-esteem thing. Or someone who had no children involved in the immigration system.

Anyhow, if he wants to continue his life of violence, he should probably pack on a few pounds since I'm sure even his shorter classmates outweigh him. On second thought, with his coordination, he should probably just learn to run faster than everyone else. But that would require effort.

I'm going to start calling him Bruiser.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Or Possibly, Just Call Me A Tree Falling In A Forest With Neighbors Who Were Out Of State For Thanksgiving

Yeah, so it turns out that my avoidance of my neighbors might have been completely unnecessary because Friday morning I saw them drive up and unload a bunch of luggage from their car.

It was a lot easier to keep track of them when they still had the senile old dog, because every time they left her alone she would wander around outside and bark. Sure it was occasionally a little annoying, but I figure I had no right to complain on that score since the only difference was that my senile old dog did all of her barking indoors.

Anyhow, now I feel slighted that they left town for Thanksgiving and didn't even think about the fact that I might have been counting on them to invite me for dinner.

The world today... You just can't count on anyone any more.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Thankshiding

Yes, it's almost Thanksgiving again, which means that I only need to avoid my neighbors for three more days. As the saying goes, praise the Lord and pass the butter.

It's not that I don't like my neighbors -- I actually like them quite a bit, and they have a comfortable couch, which is something I'm sorely lacking. I've even forgiven them for the whole Uncle Walter thing, especially since there's no danger of a repeat seating chart land mine. It's just that I like lazing around my own house even more, and my attempts at polite conversation are getting worse and worse as time goes on. Also, Thanksgiving is a weird holiday for vegetarians when not eating with other vegetarians. (Even when eating with "almost a vegetarian" folks.)

So, yes, this year my plan is to again hang out in my house and eat a bunch of French onion soup (with melted cheese, of course) while lounging in my sweats. The only thing that could possibly go wrong is a chance encounter with my neighbors before Thursday. I know they only invite me because they think it is sad that I'm alone for the holidays, so really, I'm doing them a favor by walking the dogs at odd hours. If I could actually get my gate open I'd park in the driveway behind my house instead of in front of it for the next few days. Maybe I should just leave the lights off outside for the duration, just to be safe.

So anyhow, wish me luck in my skulking, and enjoy the gluttony of the day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trying To Do My Part...

I walked downtown last Sunday with the express purpose of spending money, which felt a little odd, but my reasoning was that I'm always talking about how the downtown area has so many vacancies and I rarely spend money to support it.

For those keeping score, the nutritional quackery store closed a few weeks ago, and Dee's (which replaced Jim's Store) went out of business in less than six months. However, one of the restaurants that went out of business is being renovated and is opening up soon, and there's another gourmet hamburger place that recently opened.

Anyhow, the next time I feel the need to implement my own personal stimulus plan, I should probably not pick Sunday. Almost everything is closed on Sundays. I really ought to know this after living here for almost a decade. But the Western wear shop was open and I now know where to buy all of my camouflage clothing. (I did buy a thermal shirt there, so mission accomplished.)

I considered buying a skateboard, but decided that I didn't need to get that crazy. The mini pet supply store was open and I could have bought multiple Halloween costumes for the little dog, but I decided I would rather just give the shop money to stay open rather than buy clothing for my dogs. I did buy another set of clippers (since I think I permanently loaned the last pair to someone) so I could clip the big dog. I'll be sure to take before and after photos. How bad can it be?

Maybe next time I'll just get drunk in The Stag.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Do you want to know what happens when you make fun of your boss and his mumbling on your blog? You get voice mail like this:

Program. Also, for apartment. Eating. Hello, the time, watch out. For more of it, try track track. It is Good luck with that. Bye, bye. 5.

That's just about what he said, too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What is seen cannot be unseen...

Apparently all good things must come to an end, and Darth Vader has finally been taken off the lawn.

However, in the days preceding his departure, his cape was blown out and it stuck to nearby branches, just as if he was holding open a short black trench coat.

You've never seen a flasher until you've seen short chunky Darth Vader flasher.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Luke, I Am Your Blubber

I live in a town where people tend to decorate their houses for the holidays. Christmas is always the biggest season, of course, to the point that I saw one lawn with three (indoor-only) power strips chained together in order to power all of the blinking crap covering the grass. During the rainy season. It's a wonder more things don't burn down around here.

Halloween is another big decorating holiday. Pretty much everyone has a few pumpkins by the front door, but some people spend a little more time and effort. And while most of the decorations were down by Wednesday evening (thanks, in part, to the winds that kicked up), some people seem to be going for multi-holiday decorations.

It would be hard to justify keeping ghosts hanging for Thanksgiving, but there are some more non-traditional items that don't exactly scream Halloween. I'm thinking of one particular house which still has a Darth Vader dummy on the front lawn.

I'm not really sure what Darth Vader has to do with Halloween, so I suppose he could be just as relevant for Thanksgiving. I mean, Thanksgiving is about family, right, and why not have an icon who is best known for reconciling with his son?

The best part about the Darth Vader dummy is that the helmet was clearly bought at a store, along with the cape, but the rest of the body was assembled at home. His torso looks okay, with a black shirt, but his legs were made from stuffing black tights. The problem is that the tights were obviously made for a woman's figure, and he's a little overstuffed, so he's got big hips and chunky thighs. Every time I pass the house I think "Wow, Darth's really let himself go."

I'm sure these people wonder why I giggle every time I pass their house.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Technology is mumble mumble mumble

I recently set up a Google voice account because... well, it's free, I can screen my calls, I don't have to give out my home phone number to people at work, it doesn't require me to turn my two decades old answering machine on, and it just seemed like a good idea.

Overall it has worked out pretty well. The call quality is usually pretty good and aside from the really poorly thought-out Google voice interface, it's easy to use.

One of the things it offers is a transcription of voice mail. This is the first transcription I got:

"Hey Theresa, it's Ashraf, it's about 140. Gimme a call me when you have a chance wanted to ask you if We send revenue assurance and activation notice for L T E Not sure if they're included in the email distribution. I have someone suggesting that they are getting emails but I don't have any requirements on thinking maybe that was something about it later on. I'll send you an email so maybe you don't have to call me back and just like that alright. Talk to you later. Bye."

This is so close to what Ashraf actually said, I was really impressed. It got acronyms and some uncommon words (revenue assurance). Aside from a few odd punctuation choices, it's almost perfect.

However, Ashraf speaks pretty clearly without a discernible accent. The next call I got was from a developer who doesn't speak English as a first language and tends to speak very quietly.

Hi. This is a good morning, this is called Georgie end of this team. I just want to call you regarding the The made which I could try getting paid modification. The second decisions. Please. Call me when you get this and such. Bye.
(There's no Georgie working on the project.) I couldn't figure out what this was about, but after listening to the message I wasn't any better informed, so I'm giving Google a pass on this one.

So I was still pretty impressed. Then I got this call from Rvan:

The Thank you. Bye truest friend Al papers and and and you make out of the just calling. We have a Unit 3 E to talk about. Carlie, and just wanna make sure stuff alright with the call comments. Never mind with this price. Rich, email me, but otherwise we're doing okay bye bye.
(There's no Carlie or Al working on the project either.) This sounds very mysterious, with Unit 3 E and all, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the actual source.

So, yeah, Google voice. Apparently it only works really well for one person.

Otherwise I'm doing okay bye bye.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

May the Luck O' the Pot Be With You!

The annual Halloween potluck is tomorrow. For some reason (probably because Halloween is actually tomorrow) it was scheduled for a Monday instead of Friday, so I have no excuse to avoid it. What does it mean when I spend 40% of my week working from home and still seek excuses to avoid my coworkers? Actually, it just means that I have no idea who half the people are, I'm actively trying to avoid another quarter, and the remainder I see three days a week anyhow.

I'm making what turns out to be a 1950's casserole stuffed into a pumpkin. Or three little pumpkins in this case, since it proved difficult to buy one large pumpkin the day before Halloween. But other than that it has all of the traditional ingredients: cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, and Cheddar cheese. Healthy? Not a chance. I only hope it's at least edible. Not because I care about the potluck, but because I'll be eating the remainder for the rest of the week.

At least I haven't resorted to the ultimate potluck snub, the "Vienna franks in lime Jello" masterpiece.

Maybe next year...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Under Siege

It is once again birthday time for my (nearly) seven year old nephew, so of course that means it was time for Jeff and me to create a birthday cake.

First the excuses:

The birthday boy wanted something from Star Craft. Yes, a video game. And not even the current Star Craft. Jeff doesn't have the hardware to play anything released within the past five years, so this is the original game.

We all know how much I like video games.

I have to admit -- I wasn't feeling very inspired. At first I was thinking that it was because we were creating a cake based on a thing that didn't exist, unlike the Kraken and the Storm Trooper. Then I thought about that statement and laughed.

Also, we decided not to mess with fondant this year because it's a pain to work with and tastes pretty gross. It turns out that frosting is also a pain to work with and tastes pretty nasty too. And it looks worse. I think next year we may have to switch back.

So, given all that, here is the "Terran Siege Tank".

Yeah, it's a little underwhelming. Oh well. The birthday boy was pleased that he could put red candles in the gun barrels "just like it's firing".

Friday, October 14, 2011

That's A Compliment, Right?

I went to what used to be the Pot Belly Deli this week for lunch. It changed names about ten years ago, but I prefer the horribly inappropriate old name to the new bland "Deli Delight". The food hasn't changed in fifteen years.

So while my sandwich was being made, Victor, who hadn't heard me order, looked up, said hello, then asked "Vegetarian Delight?"

Apparently I'm a little predictable, but there are exactly three vegetarian options on the menu: one has cream cheese (which I don't really like in a sandwich), one has olives (devil's donkey droppings), and the third has cheese. You can't really go wrong with cheese unless it's one of those stinky expensive kinds which this isn't.

I tried to make a joke about it by responding "It's almost like I always order the same thing or something."

That's when Victor looked at me and said "You're an engineer, aren't you?"

Totally a compliment. It has to be.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Action and Adventure Never Stop

As usual, I was going to get a bunch of things done this weekend, but, also as usual, I didn't really do any of them. I did mow my lawn and tossed a chicken over the fence. (That last bit isn't a euphemism for anything -- one of my neighbors' chickens was in my back yard when I went out to mow the lawn, and I'm not sure what the dogs would do with a chicken, so I helped her back over into her yard.)

I also watched the movie "Hanna" which had some good acting but a storyline that wasn't all that well thought out. Then I watched the movie "Blitz" with Jason Statham which actually had a better plot, something I really hadn't expected from an action film. What is this world coming to?

I also watched the pilot of "Xena: Princess Warrior" which was actually pretty good for what it was. I'd never seen any Xena episodes, just read the odd comment about the show and heard a few people talking about it. My main impressions: that "ayiyiyiyi" thing sounded different than I expected it to, and the whole Xena-Gabriella relationship wasn't so much a subtext as just plain text (ie, rot26 encrypted for the old-school geeks among you). There's no way that was unintentional.

I didn't actually talk to anyone for two days. (To borrow a line from the show "In Plain Sight": "Best two days of my life.")

So there you have it. My weekend in a nutshell. I look forward to spending many more like it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

URGENT! You might be an idiot!

One of the important things that you learn when you study probability theory is that if something is truly random, you will get clusters of events. I'm trying to believe that's the cause for the three "drop everything, oh my god, this is totally wrong" reports that I received in two days that turned out to be not only user error, but user error that makes me find it hard to believe that these people can actually tie their shoes in the morning. The other possibility is that our users actually are getting dumber and I can't contemplate that thought for long.

Imagine that you get an email with the subject of "URGENT!!!: kittens no longer waking up since the last release, must fix IMMEDIATELY" and when you finally wade through the bug tracking system to find the attached screen snapshots, the "before" picture shows five kittens playing, and the "after" picture shows an alligator basking. With a date stamp on the picture that shows it was taken five years ago.

Anyhow, after the third such email on Friday, I sent Rvan mail indicating that our users were idiots. I also included some profanity, but in a completely professional way (ie, I abbreviated it all). Then I said I was going to take a nap, which I did.

The good news is that Rvan is pure of thought and deed because he didn't immediately understand my abbreviated profanity. The bad news is that he is tenacious, so he spent the time to figure it out.

Anyhow, I'm hoping that the stupidity cluster has passed us by again. If only I'd learned something in my stochastic processes class, I might be able to figure out if I should just stay home for another week...

Friday, September 23, 2011

We All Belong Somewhere

In place of the regular Thursday post, I offer this conversation between my brother and his soon-to-be seven year-old son which deserves to be immortalized:

[last night, sun setting]

Son: Dad, can I join the boy scouts?

Jeff: Sure. But I thought you didn't want to.

Son: Oh yeah, right. How about the girl scouts?

Jeff: [pause] Um, sure. We might have to ask about that.

Son: Oh, never mind.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Let me check on that...

The dogs went to the groomer's on Friday (Molly because she was stinky and had knots in her hair, and Ginger because it's easier to pay for her to go to the groomer than to deal with the fallout from taking Molly in the car and leaving Ginger at home). However, the groomer doesn't take credit cards so I had to write a check.

A check. Who doesn't take credit cards? I hadn't written a check in about six months and it was another four months for the previous one. I had to go back out to my car to even find my checkbook. Then I had to remember how to fill the check out. I type almost everything these days, and when I do write things down the end of the word tends to trail off because I know what it says and nobody else needs to read it. (I get flack at work for my pages of checklists, but really, how else am I supposed to get a sense of accomplishment? Writing a new method? No. Marking an X in a box on my list? Yes.) I had to consciously finish the end of every word while I was writing the dollar amount.

Anyhow, Molly now looks about ten years younger with a goofy puppy cut, and Ginger is prancing around like the princess she is.

Next time I should probably just bring cash.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who are you again?

My contracting pimp came by work again today. Naturally my cubicle neighbor Jon and I were discussing the results of our card game at the time. I often wonder what the people who do my payroll think when they come by in their suits and professional attitudes and I'm slouched in my chair wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes talking about something completely unrelated to work.

On the other hand, I don't wonder that very often because for some reason I seem to be completely unable to remember anything about my contracting people the minute they leave the building. It's become the standard joke for Rvan to quiz me on the name of the person I just talked to. (There were only two of them before today.) I see the main agent about once every two months and at least five times in the past three years I've assumed he was someone else. Luckily I never use anyone's name, so he may not have noticed.

Oddly enough I find his voice very easy to recognize, so if I hear him talking to someone else before I see him, I'm sure to pass the pop quiz later on. I used to be able to remember faces really well, but at some point in the past twenty years I reallocated that brain space for something else, presumably something really important such as the words to Britney Spears songs. (Jon started quoting "Oops I did it again" today.)

Anyhow, now there's some woman named Taylor working for them which means that the people I have to remember has increased by 50%.

I'm doomed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Old Shiny Shoe

The great thing about shopping for shoes on the internet is that you don't have to go to shoe stores. I actually used to sell shoes, so believe me when I say I really hate shoe stores. Unless you have a foot fetish or (possibly) completed a veterinary dentistry residency at Davis, buying shoes is something to be avoided at all costs. (Or, put more plainly, sane people don't like to buy shoes.)

Anyhow, the only bad part about shopping for shoes on the internet is that sometimes things don't look exactly how you picture them. Case in point, my new shoes.

Yes, I somehow bought shoes that look like I should be strolling on the starship deck in a silver metallic bodysuit in a 80's sci-fi movie (except they don't have heels because they are "performance" shoes, whatever that means).

Yes, I could have sent them back when I opened the box. But everyone in the entire world knows I'm way too lazy to do that.

Instead I'm wearing them to walk the dogs and mow the lawn. I feel like Glinda the Good, except that she was, you know, polite and stuff. I'm more like the troll that lives under the bridge. In sparkly shoes.

Anyhow, these shoes are so obnoxious that I'm starting to actually like them.

I may order a second pair in purple...

Monday, September 5, 2011

I Don't

To keep my mind off the fact that I might have to buy a new car this week since my transmission went on the equivalent of a three day bender down to Tijuana, I will give you the real reason that I remain unmarried:

Back when I was seven years old I went to a real elementary school, the kind that had playground equipment that could kill you. I have a few scars from childhood, mostly from deep knee wounds that had so much dirt ground into them that they were guaranteed to be infected, but on this occasion, I was on a see-saw with a supposed friend. This see-saw was one long plank of wood with handles on either end, and it went all the way down to the ground. Ideally the person on each end would slow their descent with their legs, but on this occasion the other person just let it plummet until it hit the ground and rebounded.

This acted a bit like a trebuchet, with me as the bucket of rocks. I went up into the air and led with my chin as I landed on the plank.

I learned a few things that day -- the physics of a parabolic arc are not to be denied, wounds anywhere on the head bleed a lot, and many people aren't good with blood. My hemorrhaging chin didn't bother me all that much (since I couldn't see it) and I didn't realize that I was even injured until the people around me told me I had to go to the nurse's office.

My mom was called to pick me up and I got some stitches in my chin, the thought of which bothered me much more than the wound ever did which is why in my school picture for the year I'm wearing a gigantic band-aid even though everyone tried to convince me to take it off for the picture.

Anyhow, the point of this story is that my grandmother visited us that year, looked at my chin, and assured me that the scar would be gone by the time I got married.

Reassurance, blessing, or curse? I'll let you decide. In any case, I still have a scar on my chin, and I'm still not married. Those old German women knew a thing or two...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

That's Not Hot

Here is the main difference between working at home and working in the office (ignoring for the moment the commute, number of animals, and network lag time):

At home I know it is hot outside because it gets hot inside. In the office, I know it is hot outside because I have to put on a sweatshirt to stay comfortable.

Yes, we have paradoxical climate control in the office. The hotter it is outside, the more I'm clutching hot drinks to keep my hands from aching. Every once in a while the building management tries to fix it, but really, either the people near the windows can boil, or the people on the inside of the building can freeze. There isn't any way to make everyone happy.

I have an inside cubicle in the office, which is fine because I have a window at home. (Also, who wants a view of the parking lot?) Until last week it seemed like everyone around me was moving away. I was starting to wonder if I was the human equivalent of the heart attack bench. (When Eric was a manager, three people who sat in one spot died from heart attacks, and nobody would sit there any more. The group finally moved to another building.)

Now Rvan has hired the two quietest people in the universe to sit near me. Those poor guys. The only consolation is that I'm not there at least two days a week. We'll see how long it takes before they move to the other side of the building.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Geographically Challenged

While driving down to San Mateo (which, it turns out, is to the south of San Francisco) to visit K-poo a few weeks ago, I drove on a portion of the 80 that I hadn't driven on before. I expected to eventually cross the Bay Bridge to San Francisco -- when I saw a bridge in the distance my first thought was "Hey, I made better time than expected." And then my second thought was "That's not the Bay Bridge". Then I crossed over the short bridge and had no idea what bridge I had just crossed.

That, in a nutshell, has always been my approach to geography. I've lived in or near the SF Bay Area for about fifteen years, and I managed not to realize that SF was on a peninsula for at least the first ten of those. I grew up in Orange County and only know two freeways there. I'd be hard pressed to identify more than half the states on a US map. (To be fair, though, there's no point to all those little states on the east coast, and I don't feel bad about that.) At one point in high school I had memorized all the countries in Africa, but I think at least fifteen of them have changed names since then, so what little knowledge I had is still wrong. (Burkina Faso? Really?)

It's not that I have a bad sense of direction -- even if I take a wrong turn, I can usually figure out how to head back to where I'm trying to go. I just don't know anything about where I am when I get there.

I know that Tahoe is at a higher elevation because that was used as an example in my respiratory physiology class (and the point of the question was to prove why you shouldn't take a dog in heart failure with you to high elevations), but I don't actually have any real idea of where Tahoe is, and I couldn't name the mountain range it's on. Also, I'm pretty sure, but not positive, that I live within a few hours of Tahoe.

So pretty much my grasp of where things are is limited to the following:
1) Is it my house?
2) If it's not my house, have I walked there before?
3) If I haven't walked there before, have I driven myself there within the last two years?

If the answer to all of those is no, it may as well be in Ouagadougou.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can I keep a secret or what?

While looking for early evidence of my photographic failures, I came across this little gem:

(The title "My Daily Diary" is a lie. It reads somewhat like most of the blogs that you get if you hit the random button on blogspot -- most entries start with an exclamation of how long it had been since the last entry and then conclude that there isn't anything to talk about. It stops completely on page ten.)


Tonight is graduation night for the 8th graders [edit: Eric & Jeff were in 8th grade at the time, I was in 6th, and Mike would have been a sophomore in high school] so Mom, Dad, Eric, and Jeff went to the Arches for dinner. [edit: The Arches was the default nice restaurant for special occasions. I never actually went there.] Shortly after they left Mike told me he was going out to eat pizza and that he would be home before Mom and Dad got home. Well, he did. He walked in the door and said, "I'm asleep in bed." I was doing the dishes at the time so I washed off my hands and went back to his room. He started putting things under the blankets in his bed so Mom and Dad would think it was him if they glanced in the room. I asked him where he was going and he said bowling...

Looking back on this, I can only believe that there is no way in heck my parents didn't know what was going on after they got back, because I kept repeating that Mike had gone to bed without being prompted. I've always been the world's worst liar. Oh well. He turned out to be a productive member of society, and I'm sure his daughters would never, ever do anything like this...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

All's Fair...

The Yolo County Fair was held this weekend. I'm still recovering from the crud I ate at the fair last year, so I didn't go this year, and as a consequence I don't feel like vomiting this year. See, you really can teach an old dog new tricks. (Not my actual old dog, mind you -- she's still tearing up paper plates into little tiny pieces because she can't turn them over -- but the metaphorical old dog, yes.)

Last year I was astonished at how closely my contest choices lined up with ribbons on quilts until I realized that pretty much everything in the entire building had a ribbon on it. I had even threatened to create a quilt and enter it this year to see if there was any way to not win a ribbon.

This year one of my friends entered a photo and won a blue ribbon.

Now, I am in no way saying that his photo didn't deserve to win a top prize in the competition. For all I know his picture is of Ansel Adams quality. True, it's a picture of a baseball diamond, which means that the subject is a little lacking in my book, but I realize not everyone feels this way. But my point here is not the quality of his photo, but the fact that I may have found something that I am even more unqualified to do or judge than quilting.

Back when I was in college the first time, I didn't have an inkling of how bad a photographer I was. Then I took a photography class. In that class I found out that a) I couldn't compose a picture, b) I couldn't get the exposure correct, ever, and c) I couldn't focus the camera if my life depended on it. It's a good thing this wasn't a required course or I'd still be trying to graduate (for the first time).

Because this was back in the dark ages, we developed our own black and white film and printed it. That didn't help things either. My prints were always distinguishable by the fingerprints all over them. Everyone else was doing fancy dodging techniques and experimenting with different sepia tones, and I was trying not to crumple the film into a little ball while getting it out of the canister. The instructor kept looking at my stuff and moving on without making any comment at all.

Anyhow, the point here is not that I suck as a photographer, it's that I realize I suck as a photographer only because someone pointed it out to me. I would have gone through my entire life not realizing how bad I was if I hadn't taken that class. And the thing is -- I still don't understand what makes one photograph better than another. It's like this whole area of my brain is just completely missing. If something has pretty colors and is more or less in focus, hey, looks good to me!

So anyways, congratulations to my friend Keith on his winning entry. Despite the fact that it's a picture of a baseball diamond, the photo has pretty colors and is in focus. I can't ask for more than that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sounds like...

Another snippet from work:

Present at this time: Ngoc (who previously believed Rvan when he told her married women don't wear heels), JLo (not mentioned on the blog before now -- the funniest thing I can say is that his wife gave him a bottle of a Rogaine knock-off for a present), Jeff, and me. All of us are in our cubicles except JLo who is standing in Ngoc's cube.

Ngoc: (some conversation I didn't hear) "... and what is that called, when you can't remember the words?"
Jeff (mumbling): "Alzheimer's"
Ngoc: "Is it Parkinson's? When you can't remember the words."
Me: "Aphasia?"
Jeff (louder): "Alzheimer's"
Ngoc, JLo (together): "What?"
Jeff: "It's when you can't hear what people are saying."
Ngoc, JLo, me: "What?"
Jeff: "Alzheimer's"
Ngoc: "Oh, Alzheimer's. I always confuse that with Parkinson's. That's like this..."
Me: "Is Ngoc doing Charades of Parkinson's Disease back there?"
Ngoc: "What is Charades?"

And on it goes...

(Amazingly enough, I was super-productive at work today -- despite, or maybe because of, stuff like this.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Before I start this, I'd just like to acknowledge that this post really needs a picture, but I just can't do it.

There is a house within a stone's throw of mine that sat vacant for the first eight years I lived in Woodland. Yes, that was during the time that housing prices just kept rising. (Also during the time that prices fell back down again.) The first real sign of economic recovery I believe in was the fact that this house sold last year.

I have no idea what this house looks like on the inside, but in a neighborhood filled with Victorians and Craftsman houses, it looks like a 1970's duplex even though it's just a single family dwelling. The 70's had many things going for it (disco! bean bag chairs! lawn darts!), but it was a low point for architecture and if even I notice that sort of thing you know it must be bad.

So, essentially this was an ugly house to begin with (although it does have a pool, of which I am mildly covetous).

Then a few weeks ago they painted it. Normally that would be a good thing, but there are two problems:
1) The color is a bilious green. It's really, really hideous.
2) To compound the color problem, they painted the whole house one color. The walls, the trim, the front door, the garage door, the fence, everything.

So yeah, it looks like the 70's vomited up something in my neighborhood.

On the other hand, sure, it's ugly, but it lowers the bar and I don't feel so bad about my lawn.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Take Me Away!

Because all I've done is work lately, here's the funniest thing that I've been around all week:

A couple of evenings ago Eric and Scrawny Mike were still at work as they often are. Both of them are known for being able to talk at great length on subjects they know little about, and Scrawny Mike has the added bonus of liking to argue, to the point that he will change his opinion just so he can be on the opposite side.

So there they were, standing in my cubicle, discussing whether or not women like to take baths.

As the sole possessor of two X chromosomes in the building at the time, I tried to inject some actual facts into the conversation by giving the opinion of an actual woman (me), namely: 1) who has time for that?, 2) Even if I had time, why would I want to marinate in dirty water?, and 3) the whole "women taking baths" concept is a mirage created by advertising in order to sell Calgon.

Scrawny Mike and Eric, however, declined to register my input because (and I'm actually quoting here) I'm "not the target demographic". So instead they argued about it for another fifteen minutes until they got sidetracked on Star Trek actor information.

At least they weren't talking about video games.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Splash Of Color

About a month ago I started trying to let my right brain out to play once a day by drawing and painting. Sometimes the results have impressed me. Sometimes I just laugh and see if maybe adding more purple will solve the problem. (The answer is: no, no amount of additional paint will fix most problems.)

(Just add more paint. Keep adding...)

My original supplies consisted of 1) a sketchbook for "dry media", 2) watercolor pencils, 3) "manga" pens, and 4) the cheapest brushes I could find.

Technically watercolor is not really a dry media, so I guess it's not too surprising that the paper gets wavy when I add enough water to the watercolor pencils. The brushes tend to shed bristles like they're in a pre-Rogaine advertisement, and I'm not sure what makes the pens "manga", but I guess they draw overly-large eyes well. After weeks of attempting to find a light source in my house that would allow me to photograph the final product without adding a yellow hue, I finally dragged my old scanner out of the closet and hooked it up. (That also solved part of the wavy paper problem.)

(Helpful hint: it's best to remove all the cat hair from the glass before scanning...)

I decided to increase my investment over the weekend and I bought some actual watercolor paints. Unlike the watercolor paints of my youth which came in multicolored cakes that never went bad, these come in tubes. It's going to take some adjusting. I have to remind myself that watercolors should not be applied with a trowel.

The biggest problem I've had (aside from facial symmetry, which I just can't do at all) is coming up with something to draw.

(Is it really that hard to remove all the cat hair before scanning? Yes. Yes it is.)

It's almost like writing a blog or something.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


(Judgmental walrus is judging you)

About twelve years ago, our productivity at work was immensely enhanced by the Y2k hysteria when it was determined that the project to certify all of the internal applications "y2k-ready" was the perfect dumping ground for all the useless employees. The best part was that we didn't have to take them back afterward.

Jump forward ten years and there was no longer a ready-made group for shuffling the chaff out of sight. But once one person was successfully unloaded on another group, all the other managers poked their heads out of their offices and followed suit. Unfortunately that meant that the support group became the equivalent of a nuclear dump site. Sure there are a few competent people trying to keep things going, but there are also a lot of leaky barrels.

For example, every time we do a release, I write up a page of instructions. I number the tasks. I try not to put too many words on the page. Usually it's almost identical to the instruction sheet from the last release. Then I send it off to the support group where it is translated into some other universe.

How do you improve things when step four is run three times in a row, and step six is skipped entirely? There are only eight steps. And this problem with numbers has happened two releases in a row.

I just can't...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

That Bastard!

One of the great things about living alone is that if I put something somewhere, it will stay there (unless it's something that Ripley likes to drag around the house). The bad part of that is that if I can't find something, I have only myself to blame.

Take today, for example. I was cleaning up the back of the house and needed the dust pan, so I came out to the living room and failed to find it in its usual spot on top of the big dog crate. I didn't panic right away since (I have to admit) I sometimes don't put things away. Also, I have a tendency not to spot things that are right in front of me.

However, after about ten minutes of circling around the house and carefully looking in every nook and cranny, it finally dawned on me: clearly some bastard had broken into my house and taken the dustpan.

At this point my brain was split. One part (we'll call it the rational part) knew that that scenario was pretty unlikely. I mean, it's a nice dustpan, but it's still a dustpan. And surely if someone bothered to break into the house and get past Ginger the wonder dog, they would take my Mac, which is actually worth something. And possibly my work laptop, which is almost in its dinosaur years, but would probably still be stolen in the event of a real burglary.

The other part of me (which I fully expect to wrest control from rational me by the time I hit 80) was trying to decide whether it was worth calling the cops about the scumbag who had broken into my house.

My brain was still battling it out when I saw the dustpan where it had fallen behind the dog crate.

I'm blaming this one on the cats.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some People Just Don't Get It

So I'm at work this evening, and Scrawny Mike is describing his latest illness/food poisoning to another coworker in enough detail that I can't actually pay attention to what I'm supposed to be doing. And the whole time I'm thinking "well, at least he's not talking about video games".

You see where this is going.

Things started to take a downturn when he said "Yesterday I felt so bad I couldn't even play games."

At that point I was still hoping he might get distracted and talk at greater length about how his vomiting woke up the entire household, but no...

"Actually, I was playing Portal when I first got sick."

And then, the person he was talking to asked what level he was on and it was all over.

I give up.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Tastes They Are A-Changin'

One of the great things about having a garden is the ability to walk outside and graze. This, of course, works best if you plant things that you like. And that, of course, depends on your tastes being the same when the crops come in as they were when you planted them.

For some reason this year that seems to be a problem. Either my tomatoes really are terrible this year, or I just don't like cherry tomatoes any more. Broccoli (which I didn't plant but I do get in my veggie box) is another thing I used to like and now I can't eat it. The bush beans just taste very blah.

So what does that leave me with? The three strawberries that weren't eaten by the bugs were pretty good. The tomatillos aren't ripe yet, but early indicators are that I'll have quite a few of them. I have a lot more onions than any one person can eat, but luckily I can harvest those as needed. The lemon cucumbers are taking their own sweet time (which is probably because I planted them from seed rather late in the year). I have one (and only one) carrot that is about 1/2" in diameter but appears to extend down about two feet.

And other than that: okra. I have something like five okra plants and they're all doing pretty well. So far I've roasted okra, and added chopped okra to my pizza. I'll probably be currying okra soon. The odd thing is that I've never had much okra in the past, but it's one of the few things from my garden that I'm liking this year.

It's a good thing I don't depend on my garden to feed me the rest of the year...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Project Yourself

Back when I was in college (the first time) I had a roommate who worked part time at a group home for adults with Down Syndrome. Many of the clients had lived in group homes or institutions for most of their lives, and as with any group housing situation, often the behaviors learned were not ideal. One of the things that many of the residents could do was projectile vomit on demand. (My roommate had a great story about a new employee who had barricaded herself in the kitchen with the doorway completely covered except for a six inch gap at the top, whereupon one of the residents kept jumping into the air and vomiting into the gap. Fun times, fun times.)

Anyhow, I bring this up because it occurs to me (yet again) that this may be the only way to keep some people from carrying on with long boring conversations around me. In a quid pro quo type way, if you yack near me I may yak on you.

This pertains especially to conversations about computer games, but endless details about bicycle races may also qualify. Using a conservative estimate, I have been forced to listen to at least three hours worth of conversation/monologues on the two subjects this week. I'd prefer to listen to someone scrape their fingernails down a chalkboard.

So, take heed. You have been warned.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

One of the great things about walking the dogs every morning is the chance to feel more connected to the neighborhood. I see the same people on a daily or weekly basis, and this being Woodland, people say good morning when they pass, whether they know you or not. (I did this once in Orange County and got a strange look.)

Here are the people I see in my neighborhood:
  • The older (than me) guy on Lawson who details his cars every weekend. One of the cars is a Civic -- it's nice to know what my car would look like if it were clean.
  • The bartenders at The Stag. (I'm assuming that they're the bartenders. I'd like to believe that not even the hardcore drinkers are at The Stag every single morning. Besides, I've seen them emptying mop buckets.) I sometimes return wayward pint glasses when I go by.
  • The owner of Emil's Shoe Repair. When he's cleaning out in front of the store, he's nice enough to turn off the leaf blower when we go by so Ginger doesn't have a heart attack.
  • The barber at Top Hat Barber. He's on vacation until next week, so the shop is closed right now. Normally there's one ancient guy sitting in the chair, with the big screen television on at full volume in front. Sometimes they close for funerals, too.
  • The guy at the holistic supplements store. We wave to each other every time I pass by during store hours and I try hard not to roll my eyes at the contents of the store.
  • The guy who owns Denny Design. I see him quite a bit since he's restoring the exterior of his part of downtown back to its original 1890s glory on the weekends, and he's always willing to take a couple of minutes to explain what he's doing. This morning he was applying gold leaf (I kid you not) to one of the columns. He's disappointed that the restaurant two addresses away was recently painted "like a wedding cake". According to him, "pastels are nice, but they didn't use pastels in the 1890s".
So there you have it. My morning walk.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


One of the first emergencies I saw during my residency was a pet rooster. At about four PM the receptionist called down to let me know that the owner was on her way with a sick rooster. The woman was driving from Manteca (roughly 90 minutes from the hospital) and would be there as soon as she could.

The owner, an 80+ year old woman, finally showed up at around 11 PM with a moribund rooster named Jaques (or something like that -- it's been a few years). She said that it had taken her so long because she "kept checking to make sure Jaques was still alive". (Remember that, it's important.)

The rooster was just barely breathing. He was dehydrated and had a grossly distended crop and his breath smelled like something was fermenting. Getting any sort of accurate history from the owner was impossible. The only information I was really able to elicit was 1) the rooster was quite old, 2) he had been sick for at least a few days, which was why 3) she was treating him with leftover dog/cat/rabbit/people "medicine" (she didn't know what all she had used) ground up and mixed in with his feed.

I hid my disbelief face under my caring frown, told her that the bird was probably not going to make it ("I'm very concerned") but I'd give it my best shot, made her sign an estimate, and sent her on her way to go 20 mph down the busy freeway.

That late at night it was just me plus the senior student (not someone who knew anything about birds) and the rooster. We got everything ready to give fluids and suck the distillery contents from the bird's crop, but the minute I touched the rooster it went limp. As in, it stopped breathing and fell over, eyes open, no pulse.

I looked up at the student and found her staring at me with wide eyes. Things like that didn't usually happen on other services. (Things like that often happened on the exotics service, but I was still trying to pretend that I had some handle on things in front of the student.)

I grabbed the crash cart, intubated the rooster, and gave it a few breaths. I might have even given it a dose of epinephrine. Naturally it responded in the same manner as the rest of my CPR candidates. In the words of one of the ER clinicians, if you can't keep them alive in the first place, it's hard to make them alive again after they're dead.

I called the owner on her cell phone and told her the news and she agreed to have a necropsy done.

There was cancer filling everything that could be filled with cancer. The crop didn't empty because there was no gut left for it to empty into. This definitely was not something that could have been treated successfully. I left a voice mail for the owner telling her the results and forgot about it.

About six months later, I heard from one of my advisors (who worked one day a week in a clinic near Manteca) that she had treated one of this woman's other pets. While they were talking, the woman told her that she had taken Jaques to the university hospital and that I had told her that he died, but she wasn't sure that was true because he "hadn't seemed that sick" and she thought I might have just taken him.

And people ask me why I don't practice any more...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Doggone Truth

Molly Speedbump, the geriatric deaf dog, has been with me now for slightly more than a year. In that time she has figured out how to climb on the bed, dig up rawhides that Lucy the elderly blind dog buried in the back yard years ago, and pee near, if not always on, the puppy pads spread on the game room floor for that purpose.

Taking Ginger and Molly for a walk in the morning is an exercise in planning and patience. Ginger gets so excited when it's time to go that she bounds in the air trying to lick my face, which makes getting her harness on somewhat challenging. She has yet to give me a black eye, but it's been a close thing a few times. Molly presents different challenges. She spins around on the hardwood floors when she's excited, and she hasn't gained any agility in the last twelve months. Lately I've been putting a boot on her tumor-leg foot since she tends to drag that foot when she gets tired. (Having a trail of blood lead to my front door is just not quite the done thing.) Putting a boot on the spinning dog while the other dog is jumping up to lick your face is just not easy, no matter what you do.

In any case, each day starts off with me adding multiple layers of duct tape to the boot, because otherwise it looks like this:

which doesn't really protect her toes that much.

So, yeah. That's me every morning, wiping dog spit off my face, trying to keep Ginger from attacking bigger dogs on leashes, and listening to the "whoosh, pause, whoosh, pause, whoosh, pause" of Molly scuffing her foot as she trots along with a big wad of duct tape on her foot.

Dogs are such great stress relievers.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Going, Going, Gone

The first person of the current mini-Exodus had his last day on the project today, so we all went out to lunch together. As going away lunches go, this one wasn't too bad -- the restaurant was so loud that I couldn't hear the person across the table, but at least that precluded any good-bye speeches.

We ended up at the Panera that just opened up near work. I'm sure it will do well -- it has nothing spicy on the menu and everything can be eaten without really chewing, so the blue hair crowd will take over. I had the bread and cheese calorie bomb. (No, that doesn't really narrow it down since everything on the menu has bread and cheese and is at least 800 calories.)

It's a far cry from the old days when we had at least ten Indian contractors working on the original project. The company that imported the labor made the visas for either one or (optionally) two years, so it seemed like there was almost always somebody leaving. Since many people didn't drive to work, we usually ended up at the one restaurant with a lunch buffet within walking distance. The sign out front said "Spring Garden" but among our circles it was known as "Good-Bye Garden". Eventually the company stopped hiring people from that intermediary and Spring Garden went out of business.

Only two more group lunches to get through in the next few weeks...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

You say tomato, I say that ain't coming off of there

I often wonder "What is the Internet really good for?" (besides stalking your exes, reading celebrity gossip blogs, reading non-celebrity blogs, watching things on, finding out which political candidates think God talks to them (and since when is hearing voices in your head not a sign of a mental disorder?), and ordering feral cat traps on-line).

The answer to this is clearly: recipes. Whereas before you had to page through multiple expensive cookbooks to find a recipe that looks great in the picture but turns out to taste terrible, now you can accomplish that much more easily. And it's free (aside from the $72 you spend on the spices that you'll never use again).

This week I had extra tomatoes in my CSA box. I'm not a big fan of anything but cherry tomatoes, and the beefsteak tomatoes that I had in my box were so ripe that they wouldn't even make the trip to work. But we've established that the one thing I have in abundance is sun. So I decided to make sun-dried tomatoes.

As with most new things that I try, I can't really blame my problems on anyone but me. It clearly says that Roma tomatoes are the best choice, and that the tomatoes shouldn't be overly-ripe, and that if you use something other than a Roma, you should probably remove the seeds. I ignored all of this advice, because really, are you going to believe everything you read on the Internet?

So I sliced tomato wedges, threw them on a cookie sheet with some salt, covered the whole thing in cheesecloth, put it outside on the patio, and forgot about it for four days.

The good news is that I have sun-dried tomatoes.

The bad news is that these suckers were welded to the pan. In fact, I had to soak the pan to get them off, which sort of negates the whole drying process. But the one piece that I pried off with a knife tasted like a sun-dried tomato.

So... next time I'll fail differently. That's all you can really ask for.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Beat the Heat

We hit triple digits this week here in beautiful Woodland, which is pretty standard for this time of year. The tomatoes are loving it, the dogs not so much.

I haven't turned on the A/C yet, mostly because I hate trying to close the house up that much, and also because it seems easier to just acclimate to the heat than to keep going back and forth between cold and hot. So far so good, but I certainly reserve the right to change my mind about this.

While working at home, I'm pretty much stuck in the hottest part of the house, so I've been trying a variety of techniques to stay cool:

  • Drinking chilled drinks. This doesn't do much other than make me have to go to the bathroom constantly. However, that actually does help because the bathroom is one of the cooler spots in the house.
  • Letting 14 pounds of ice melt in a wading pool in my living room. I was doing this one mostly for the dogs -- I was hoping that it would keep the floor cool since they insist on being in the same room with me. It didn't really work, but I did find it entertaining the Guido the cat spent almost two hours watching the ice melt.
  • Evaporative cooling. If you really want to stay cool, this is the way to go. Get a t-shirt wet under the faucet, wring it out, put it on, and sit under the slowly spinning ceiling fan. This works so well, in fact, that I was actually cold when the room was under 90 degrees.
I also try not to use the oven, which sounds obvious, but one of the perks of being at home is being able to cook or bake something for lunch. I finally got smart and moved the toaster oven outside on the patio with an extension cord. That worked pretty well, but I'm toying with the idea of building a solar oven. If nothing else, it ought to be interesting.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Those Old Proverbs Lie

First off, here is my apple tree. It has more apples than leaves, and the whole thing is only about three feet tall. It's a pretty pathetic excuse for a tree at this point, but it's trying hard to produce as much fruit as possible.

The winds kicked up a couple of nights ago, and I found this about ten feet away.

Sometimes the apples really do fall far from the tree.

Finally, never let it be said that there isn't much to be learned from the newspaper:

I'm not really sure what a "pimp bomb" is, but I have to imagine purple crushed velvet, tassels, and a fancy cane must be involved somehow...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

There's No Good In Bye

It's true, I missed my regularly scheduled Thursday posting, but JoJo the Enforcer sent me a picture of her new kid still covered in baby goo, and I had the vapors for three days. Or possibly I just didn't get home on Thursday until after midnight. Take your pick.

Anyhow, in the last couple of days it has suddenly decided to be summer and all of the kids got out of school. Normally my only contact with the school kids is tangential -- they drop homework on the street, and I laugh at their spelling, grammar, and content when I pick it up along with all of the other trash that gets stuck on my lawn.

Apparently the end of the school year brings out the best in everyone, or not... This weekend I found an unsigned letter. I'm guessing it was written by a girl based on the large, rounded printing. Also, I've never heard of a guy born after Lord Byron who expressed his feelings in writing. Of course, if all of the conversations I am subjected to on a daily basis about video games were transcribed, that would be a different thing. I continue to be amazed how deeply some people's feelings run over video games. In fact, I feel that I spend more time listening to people describe video games than they could possibly spend actually playing video games, but I know that isn't true.

But back to the point -- in true English honors format, the letter begins with a thesis statement, namely "I am mad at you for two reasons, one you already know, and I know the other isn't my buisness (sic), but still."

Such a maddening lack of detail. Come on, kid, if you're going to commit anything at all to writing, you might as well tell us what's going on even if it isn't your business. Or mine, for that matter.

It continues: "I just hate it how your (sic) all up on Sara and you guys aren't even going out, and that just shows me what kind of person you are, or have become, & I don't like it & I don't care if you don't like it & you don't want to be friends with me."

I have to admit, I'm not sure exactly what "all up on" someone really entails. Is this "hooking up"? I'd like to believe (based on handwriting analysis) that the writer is in grade school, but this is the point when I throw my hands in the air and say something about these kids today. Certainly Sara's morals are being impugned in any case. (There you go, Jeff and Rvan, there's your SAT word of the day.)

Finally, the letter wraps up in all of its run-on sentence glory "Fine just know that whatever your (sic) doing I think is wrong. Bye."

So there we have it. Drama. Other streets have the historic tour of Woodland. Here we just have the histrionic tour of Woodland.

It doesn't get any better than that.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Fistful of Change

Well, here we go -- it's been a week of huge changes for me and my sisters this week.

JoJo the Enforcer had a baby girl (or, as her now-middle child said after being told that the reason his mother wasn't there was that she had gone to the hospital to give birth, "Mommy went to the hospital so the doctor could take the baby out." -- sounds much simpler that way, doesn't it?) As far as I know the baby doesn't have an official name yet. I'm guessing it will be something other than "Poquito Tito", but who knows? Anyhow, apparently everything went as well as those sorts of things can go. I haven't seen any pictures yet, but I'm sure the baby looks just about like all newly born babies look. (Again, I haven't seen any pictures. This is purely me projecting based on every single other newborn human I've ever seen. They're hideous. Admit it. Kittens are much cuter.)

In other news, K-poo is switching jobs. While I'll miss the stories about her insane boss whose wife has been bankrolling the company for years, it will be nice for her to feel like she's not having to switch canoes in mid-stream every week. And possibly she'll move someplace that doesn't require her to store all of her belongings in an area smaller than my kitchen cabinet. (However, it really should be about the easiest move possible even without an elevator. We could probably just load everything into one box and toss it off the edge of the roof down to a car below.)

And finally, in really important news, I finally put the face plates back on the electrical socket and light switch in the bathroom that I painted a year ago. Also, half of the towel racks are back up. At this rate, I should be done sometime in 2015. Never let it be said that my life isn't exciting...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Return of the Kitten Cab

During my junior year in vet school, I decided to commute by riding my bike to campus. It was about a twenty-three mile round trip and I quickly got in great shape. When Spring (aka "kitten season") rolled around, I wanted to keep riding but I needed some way to bring my bottle-feeding foster kittens along so I could take care of them during the day.

A bike trailer worked perfectly -- in cold weather a couple of heating packs kept the kittens warm during the ride, and in warm weather I could open the vents and keep a nice breeze flowing. The only problem was that riding on the narrow county roads, with no bike lane and cars going 70 mph, I got a lot of nasty looks from people who thought I shouldn't be endangering a child that way.

Then my friend Charlotte personalized the trailer and the kitten cab was born:

I still got some odd looks, but at least drivers didn't seem quite so angry. Puzzled, yes. Incredulous, yes. But not angry.

Anyhow, I can't really commute by bike anymore since it would be a 130 mile round trip on the freeways and I'll never be in that kind of shape, but I find myself reluctant to drive around Woodland on my days at home, so I dragged the bike and the trailer out of the garage today.

I was assuming I'd have to do a major overhaul on the bike since I haven't ridden it in five years, and it spent one year outside in Baton Rouge, but a little bit of oil and some air seem to have worked miracles. Sure, the chain would probably move even more freely if I finished getting the pine needles, dirt clods, and leaves out of it, but really, it's not that bad.

I may try riding it to the grocery store tomorrow -- it's technically within walking distance if something goes terribly wrong.

I wonder if the dogs will be too embarrassed to be seen in it...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mind Is A Terrible Thing...

I woke up early this morning, interrupting a whole new stress dream. Generally I go with the tried and true -- teeth crumbling, unable to dial the telephone, just found out the final is coming up for a class I forgot I signed up for, etc. But this morning my brain decided to get creative on me -- while I was gone, someone broke into my place and set up a carnival on my property. There were cars parked all over the place and the people wouldn't leave.

It still makes me laugh. How does that make any sense at all? And why is my brain coming up with new ways to deal with stress?

I have to cut my brain a little slack, though, because at least it was asleep at the time. That's not nearly as bad as, say, someone adding a fifth button to a toolbar and somehow not noticing that it was a different height, width, and font than the other four it was right next to. (That's purely hypothetical, of course.)

Anyhow, somewhere between the complete illogic of the sleeping mind and the (hopefully) sensical waking mind, is one of the most recent stories from my lovely town. A group of senior citizens (85-95 years old) were driving to visit a friend in Davis (roughly ten miles away). The driver, who wasn't familiar with this area, got lost. He finally stopped to ask for directions in Gorman, which is over 300 miles away. As Jeff pointed out, that's over five hours of driving at the speed limit -- I can't even imagine how long that took these people.

So the lesson of the day is: be good to your brain, because you never know when you might need it.

Or possibly, to quote a classic Star Trek episode: "Brain, brain, what is brain?!"

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Reading Race

Here's my current problem:

Now that's a problem because (ignoring the fact that apparently I'm trying to burn my house down, and I'll freely admit this was entirely my own fault):

And this:

If I become catatonic from reading withdrawal before the mail arrives on Tuesday, can somebody please plug in my Kindle and prop it up in front of me? Thanks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Redefining Moment

This evening I'm celebrating the fact that starting at 9pm tonight (Thursday), I managed to work on the project that I'm supposed to be working on this week, and spent almost one uninterrupted hour (luxury!) doing so.

For those with decent math skills, that means that after approximately 32 hours of work, I've managed to do one hour of something useful. As a percentage, that's somewhere between awful and abysmal. Possibly that means that I should have just stayed home and partied for the first 31 hours of the work week. But probably that means that I should really redefine what I'm "supposed to be doing" to include all of the other things that I do that I like to forget about.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to redefine my vegetable garden as a "bindweed sanctuary" because that means that I'm doing a great job with it. There aren't a lot of things that will germinate and grow up through newspaper with eighteen inches of dirt on top, but bindweed doesn't have any problem with it.

Heck, while I'm at it, I'd like to redefine chocolate as a vegetable. It has to be at least as healthy as ketchup.

Anyhow, I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the week, and I'll see you all on Sunday for the post-Rapture looting parties.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Movie Magic

Every once in a while I'll watch a few movies. Not in the movie theaters, of course -- if I wanted to sit in an uncomfortable seat with a sticky floor with people talking all around me and music blasting at an ungodly volume, I'd go back to taking public transportation. No, I watch movies at home. In my own uncomfortable chair, with the music at a tolerable level. (The floor may or may not be sticky depending on how long it's been since one of the cats threw up on it.)

Anyhow, I don't have what you might call "highbrow" tastes. While I'm not quite as bad as JoJo the Enforcer (who gets confused if there are more than three characters), I'm not interested by too much subtlety. If I don't at least have some idea about what is going on in the first twenty minutes of a film, I won't watch it. Also, I don't like watching depressing movies. I don't care if that makes me a shallow person. If I wanted to watch people stuck in their miserable lives with no hope of anything getting better, I'd go back to taking public transportation.

I have no inherent problem with action films. I don't expect a plot that rivals a Russian novel. I don't expect a whole lot of character development. I don't even really expect there to be a lot of explanation for why the main character has to keep taking his shirt off to fight the bad guys. I'm okay with that.

What I don't understand is why so many of the films I've seen lately are so... boring. I watched the first two installments of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise over the weekend. If something has made it to number four, surely the first two should be reasonably good, right?

They were just sort of okay. There was a bit of a plot, and some of the characters were funny, but then, about every twenty minutes, there had to be a long drawn-out fight scene. And every time that happened, I'd wander around the house, check the refrigerator in case some chocolate had magically appeared, check my email, read a blog entry or two, and then go back to the movie.

Is it just me? Does anyone find those fight scenes interesting, no matter how well choreographed? Maybe it is just me. Maybe everyone else is at the edge of their seats.

But, frankly, if I wanted to see people fighting stupidly every twenty minutes, I'd go back to taking public transportation...

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Crown Has Passed

(Blogspot was helping me procrastinate by being down for twelve hours...)

It has come to my attention that it may be time for me to pass the official Procrastination Princess crown to Rvan. Not because he's a princess (although he's not shy about doing a hip wiggle while crossing a major intersection during lunch hour), but because he may have managed to procrastinate even longer than I would have.

During this year's conference, he was supposed to present four two-hour talks in the course of two days. Even more impressively, two of those talks were at the exact same time, in two different rooms. That's some impressive scheduling, people.

Rvan's something of a legend in our office for his presentations. Often we have a betting pool on how long it will take before the first person in the audience is noticeably asleep. I think ten minutes might be the record. However, as much as you might expect people to fall asleep during a lecture (especially after a hard night discussing engineering in the bar), the person giving the lecture still technically has to talk about something. And yet, as of the night before the first lecture, he still didn't have his presentations done.

I thought it was bad enough that he sent me something to proofread at 9pm (which was 11 pm in his timezone). Then I found out that he still had one presentation that he hadn't yet started.

So hats off to you, Rvan. You win the crown.

I'll find it and bring it in for you someday soon.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

While I Was Sleeping

Here's what I missed while I was sleeping last night:

1) My neighbors' house getting burgled (while they were asleep upstairs). Items stolen: laptop, wide-screen TV, iPhone, some cash.
2) My neighbors' daughter coming home at 2am and finding the front door wide open and apparently scaring off the burglars.
3) The police coming over to take statements and cruise the neighborhood to look for the people involved.

My neighbors have an elderly deaf semi-senile English Setter who slept through the event as well. I tried to convince them to take Ginger the Wonder Dog in case the people come back, but no luck.

These neighbors also have the problem of a bee hive within the wall of their house. It turns out that there is no way to convince bees to move somewhere else once they have set up shop in an inaccessible place. The beekeeper tried vacuuming the bees out but couldn't get to the necessary spot. Apparently the only way to get the bees out alive would be to remove a three foot section of the exterior wall of their house.

Talking to the beekeeper was interesting -- he's one of those people that is passionate about what he does, and also really, really likes to hear himself talk. He teaches classes on beekeeping at the university -- if I needed more responsibilities around the house, I'd consider it, but for now I think I'll just buy my honey at Nugget. Or maybe I'll try to get honey out of my neighbors' wall.

Anyhow, here are a couple of random pictures I took yesterday. See how artistic they are?

Yes, that's me. Artistic. Ansel Adams' got nothing on me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Welcome To The Glades Of Hell

In the great cycle of corporate life, we have returned to the "air fresheners in the bathrooms" stage.

Let me explain something about this building. This isn't a bus station filled with thousands of travelers who haven't had access to a shower in days and who have been forced to eat questionable food from roadside stands and have the GI distress to prove it. This building is lightly stocked with professionals (more or less) who may have questionable eating habits, but it's by choice. The bathrooms are cleaned thoroughly in the evening, and tidied up at some point after lunch. In other words, these bathrooms are pretty darn clean.

Yet every few years the facilities management people decide that what we need is air fresheners, and lots of them. They install them, a bunch of people complain, the vandalism of the air fresheners starts, they stop restocking them, and eventually they take them down. We've gone through at least two or three cycles since I've been there.

The most memorable models were the ones mounted at eye level around the bathroom that squirted out a mist every minute or so. My cubicle neighbor Jon got in trouble when they finally realized that he was the one removing all the batteries after they went through and restocked them every day.

This time around they installed an industrial strength air freshener (with no batteries) in every stall. That's four air fresheners in a fairly small space, or at least twice the recommended installations based on the website from the company that sells these things. It's not too bad while there's a fair amount of traffic during the day, but after about six PM I'm usually the only woman in the building. Then the "precise dose of pure designer fragrance, odor neutralizer, and air freshener" builds up to the point that I'm hit with a palpable miasma when I open the door. It's so strong that it actually hurts my throat.

After waiting a week in vain to see if the things would calm down, I finally did what I do best (or at least most): I complained to Rvan. He passed along my complaint to the facilities person, and she sent back mail saying there wasn't any way to control the things -- the only way to decrease the stench would be to get rid of one or more of the units. Rvan replied to her that the solution was fine and thanked her.

Of course, it's now been a few more days and all four dispensers are still on the wall in the women's restroom. In the meantime, Jon tells me that he "heard" that the dispensers can be removed by sliding them towards the ceiling, and he also "heard" that a few of them have somehow ended up in the trash in the men's bathroom. Purely rumors, of course.

I think it might be time for the rumors to hit the women's bathroom as well...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Day! May Day!

It feels odd -- now that I don't have to reinstall the operating system on my Mac every few hours, I've freed up a large chunk of time in my week.

I celebrated on this May Day weekend by lounging on the cat porch and reading. I did finally get up and mow my lawn late this afternoon because my 65 year old neighbor only mowed one half of it on Friday. Lazy bastard.

I also planted some seeds, although since I didn't label any of the pots, your guess about what I'll be getting is as good as mine. I only planted things I like, though, so it shouldn't be too much of a problem. Unless, of course, I planted something like beans which need a lot of space.

But I think I know what sprouting beans look like since Eric did that LD50 experiment with bean plants and turpentine in seventh grade. Had he labeled it an LD50 experiment, it might have gone over better. However, calling the science fair project "How much turpentine does it take to kill a bean plant?" makes it seem like a typical boy trying to kill things. Somehow I skated through those years without ever having to do a science fair project. It's just as well. I'd hate to think of what I would have come up with.

Many years later JoJo managed to turn in the same project two or three years in a row. I don't think I ever heard about what K-poo did.

These days, as far as I can tell, the science fair is a chance for the parents to do all the work, but I think even Liam could probably handle "Does Mold Grow Better In Light or Darkness?"

On the other hand, I'm sure he'll ask someone to do it for him anyway...