Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Rash

Whoa. I went 11-days without blogging. Eleven whole days! That was not the plan. But if there's one thing I've learned about the holidays it's that they rarely go according to plan.

So anyways, Merry Merry to you and yours, and I hope any traveling you needed to do went off without a hitch. Our drive north on the 101 in California was pretty uneventful and traffic eased up after we got through Santa Rosa. We had a little snow over Christmas Eve, but it pretty much stayed up on the hills so it was pretty scenery and easy driving.

This year somehow felt less hectic with the family. It was nice. I don't know if it was the "no shopping" thing, or that we didn't get there until 5:30 pm Christmas Eve, or that Christmas Day was spent at my sis's place with just us, her and her partner, mom and dad, and an uncle. It was probably a combination of all of the above and I'm pretty sure it's a safe wager to say it'll never happen again. But was nice to just relax and enjoy the family time all the same.

We played a domino game last year and had so much fun we played it again this year. I'm betting it'll become a tradition. Anyhow, it's called Mexican Train. Isn't that like the worst name ever? I don't know who made it up, and I don't know why it's called that, but it's fun and I'm good at it.

It's something I need to work on, but dudes, I'm incredibly competitive. Betcha didn't know that. Well, a few of you did. Anyhow, I've known my competitiveness can be a problem and I've pretty much dealt with it. But what I haven't dealt with is that, even though I'm okay with not winning, I'm still incredibly focused on the game.

Anyhow, I get so focused on the game that I really don't pay much attention to anything around me (anyone wanting to search my purse, that'd be a good time). Which means, as Scoob (Sweetie has decided to be Scoob) so gently pointed out, I didn't do a whole lot of visiting because I was so intent on beating everyone else and taking no prisoners. Hmmm, maybe that's why the trip seemed so mellow, I didn't really talk to anyone? Anyhow, now I'm wishing I'd visited more. And played more. Well, it was fun.

We came home on Friday and spent the weekend being bums. Yesterday was my first day back to work, but I worked from home. Funny story about that. So my sis gave me one of those scented oil reed diffusers for Christmas. I love those things and we've had one in the house that just ran out. So perfect, right?

I opened it up on Saturday and got it set up. I liked the smell. It smelled good. Later on Saturday I started getting the migraine aura and immediately popped my pills. But the headache kept getting worse and I ended up in a drug-induced sleep on the sofa. (Scoob was so sweet, covered me up and slept on the floor near the sofa in case I needed him in the night. You can gack if you want to, but when you're feeling like that, it's sweet.)

So Sunday dawns and I still have a headache; Normal considering the migraine the day before. But it kept getting worse. I finally connected the dots and realized the diffuser was triggering the headache. Even though it smelled good, it was kinda strong. So I tried to put away, and in the process, I spilled it. You can put a stopper in the bottle, but once it's out of the bottle, yeah. Apparently I also spilled it on my hands, and even though I washed them (it's scented oil, yo), I spread it onto my neck and face. So it basically looked like I'd broken out in this massive rash. And it itched. And I scratched. Oh, Lord. So anyway, I worked from home on Monday because I still had the rash.

Today (Tuesday) was my first day back to the office and the regular day-to-day routine. Get up. Brew coffee. Eat oatmeal. Curl hair. Apply make up. Snuggle kitties. Get dressed. Hug and kiss Scoob. Out the door. (I snuggle the kitties before I get dressed so I don't get cat hair all over my clothes--not that it helps, and I hug and kiss Scoob after I get dressed so that I can get out the door. Otherwise I might be later than I normally am, :) ) Yeah, TMI. So what?

So part of getting back into the routine was my plan to stop at the grocery store tonight on my way home from work. Now, I didn't communicate this to Scoob. It didn't seem important. But I emailed him from work to let him know that the earring I'd lost last week had turned up. And he emailed back to say that he'd gone for a bike ride and picked up some frozen corn at the grocery store. Corn? That's great. What about the chicken, and onions, and potatoes, and tomatoes, and lettuce, and milk, and Brussels sprouts...? He was being thoughtful. He was being helpful. But I still had to go to the store.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Closing In

So we're closing in on the end of year holidays and not only have a been a bad, bad blogger, I'm also so not ready for Christmas.

Remember I said that my family was not exchanging gifts this year? Well, Dad called a few days ago asking what Sweetie and I wanted for Christmas??!! So now I'm freaking out because I followed instructions and didn't do any shopping! And that's a big deal. I always try to put a lot of thought into what I get people. It's not like I can just hop over to Sears, or wherever, and load up on gifts for everyone and feel good about what I'm giving. So we'll be running around this weekend (I'll be dragging Sweetie along). Ack!

And then there's wrapping and baking. And do you think I sent out a single holiday card? Heck no! I'm a bad, bad Christmas elf.

But, I have been working on raising money and food for the Alameda County Food Bank, so I'm not a complete hopeless case. We've been having a food drive at the office. We've got the collection barrels out, and we had a bake sale to raise some money, and in January my department will go to the warehouse to help sort food. It seemed like a better idea to hold off until January because most groups donate their time around the holidays and then organizations are strapped for help the rest of the year.

It's pretty awesome really. Work has agreed to give us a half day off with pay to volunteer and give back to the community. I've suggested they give us the half day once a quarter, but that's doubtful considering they've recently sent out a memo saying that all salaries are frozen, they're freezing all hiring, and they will no longer make employer contributions to our 401(k)s. I'm cool with the first two, but my 401(k)? Dude, it's not enough to mess with my life here and now, but do you have to mess with my life 30 years from now too?

Oh, and remember I speculated that Sweetie's employer might cut my health care benefits as a domestic partner? Yeah, well, we got that official notice in the mail yesterday. So I spent the better part of my morning trying to get a mid-term enrollment (our policies run October – October) in my company's health insurance policy (I haven't heard back from them yet) and looking into Domestic Partner laws in California.

Come to find out that in California we meet all the required definitions of a domestic partnership, save one. For opposite sex couples, in order to qualify for domestic partner status, one member, or both, of the couple must be over the age of 62. Sweetie is quite a bit older than me, but he's not that much older. Oh, and bonus information, this age requirement doesn't apply to same-sex couples.

Anyhow, I'm sure everything will be fine once it's all sorted out and all the appropriate paperwork is filled out in quadruplicate: "The pink copies go to Accounting, the fuchsia ones go to Purchasing, and the goldenrod ones go to Roz. Leave the puce." Anyhow, it just chafes.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Driving with the Stars

Well, it's officially holiday season here in the Bay Area. And, "What makes it official?" you ask. Well I'll tell you. Traffic patterns.

I have a daily 60-mile round-trip commute. I'm fortunate that my boss allows me to work a 10-to-6 day rather than a regular 9-to-5 so that I can skip the peak freeway commute hours. It's still a 45 minute one-way trip, but during peak hours that stretches to 90 minutes—on a good day.

Aside from actual holidays, there are really only two times a year that traffic patterns change drastically around here; back-to-school time and holiday shopping time. At back-to-school time there's about a two-week block of time where parents readjust their schedules for getting the kids to school, which usually means they're running late and driving like maniacs trying to get to work. So for those couple weeks in September I'll see much more traffic during my morning commute, more back-ups and gridlock, and way more accidents.

The other time traffic changes around here is during the holiday shopping season. This usually lasts throughout December and impacts the evening commute and weekend driving. The first full December we lived in this area I quickly learned where all of the malls around us are; not because I love to shop, but because traffic will come to a complete stand still in the two right freeway lanes for up to two miles before the exit to a mall. The better the shopping options—the longer the back-up and the more likely you'll encounter some road rage. It gets worse the closer we get to Christmas. Throw in a basketball game at the Oakland Coliseum and I'll be lucky to make it home by 8 o'clock.

I ran across this article a few days ago that reveals some statistics regarding driving traits. Apparently, the way you drive could be determined by the stars. For the record, I fall in the Sagittarius group of drivers.

As long as we're talking about the stars, did you happen to notice the moon last night? The moon was at perigee (closest to the Earth) in it's orbit last night and it was a full moon. It was huge!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Octopi, Platypi, and Hippopotami, Oh My!

I'm a web content editor by day, but at night I turn into one wild and crazy gal. Well, if you count random thoughts about grammar rules while in the shower as "wild and crazy."

So here's what I was thinking last night:

If the plural for nucleus is nuclei;
And the plural for syllabus is syllabi;
And the plural for radius is radii;
the plural for octopus is octopi;
And the plural for hippocampus (seahorse) is hippocampi;
And the plural for platypus is platypi;
And the plural for hippopotamus is hippopotami;

Why isn't the plural for walrus walri?

All of these, except hippocampus, also has an -es plural option, but why doesn't walrus have an -i plural? For the record, the second plural option for walrus is—wait for it—walrus. I did not know that until I looked it up.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Save Money While Shopping Online

Sweetie and I usually spend Christmas with my dad and step-mom (whom I also call mom, it can get confusing), my sister, my aunt and her children, and their children. It can be a full house. Thankfully we draw names each year. Each adult draws one other adult's name, and two names from the kids.

Well, this year that's all thrown out the window. Auntie is taking all the little ones to Disney World and the family has agreed that the trip is their Christmas gift. Mom said I could contribute to the bingo prizes (I said it could be a full house) and bake up some goodies for the cake walk, but that I'm not to buy gifts.

Sweetie has also begged me not to get him anything. And I was just gearing up for some serious shopping! I've got all these links saved up, with items book marked and everything. So I'll probably still be sharing some shopping stuff even though I probably won't be buying much this year.

Maybe I'll even get cards out this year since I won't have as much shopping to do. I haven't sent cards in so long I'm sure most of the addresses I have are wrong.

All online shoppers should know about the big coupon/discount code sites. If a website has a current, active discount code offer, these guys usually have it on file, FatWallet, CouponMom, CoolSavings, RetailMeNot, and CouponCabin. There are way more coupon/code sites out there. Just run a search. It's quick and involves minimal effort and can save you money.

Have you ever noticed that not all retailers charge state sales and use tax (usually just called sales tax) on your online purchases? Residents of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon will have no idea what I'm talking about since your states don't collect sales tax in the first place, but the rest of do (hence our decision to make our recent camera purchase in Oregon).

Anyhow, at one point while developing the new website at work we thought we would add a retail element to it, and I had to research our obligation to collect state sales tax. Fun times, yo. The short answer is that unless the retailer (or any of it's subsidiaries) has a physical presence in the state, they have no obligation to collect the sales tax for that state.

For example, Amazon.com is headquartered near Seattle, WA and they are only obligated to collect state sales tax when Washington state residents make purchases through the site. Amazon.com also has an obligation to collect state sales tax from the residents of any state where Amazon.com has a warehouse or shipping hub.

But don't think you're completely off the hook. Tax laws for most states have a clause that requires individual taxpayer residents to self-report out-of-state purchases that would have created sales tax revenue for their home state had the item(s) been purchased there. This applies to online and in-person purchases, even if the location you're purchasing it from is collecting a state sales tax.

If we go on vacation to Las Vegas, we are supposed to report to California and pay tax on any purchases made in Nevada, and we would need to file with Nevada for a reimbursement for the sales tax we paid while there. Nobody wants to go through all of that; not you, and not the states.

Generally the states just call it a wash--plenty of out-of-state residents pay the sales tax in California and don't file for a refund and it balances out the California residents that make purchases while they're out-of-state. So states don't really spend a lot of effort chasing down revenue from individuals on out-of-state purchases. I'm not saying that you should break the law, but some states also define a threshold in this clause, for example, if sales tax revenue on out-of-state purchase exceeds $X, you must report it.

So, maybe you can save some money while shopping online by using coupon codes and not having to pay state sales taxes, but then there are the shipping fees. I've run into this several times where the shipping fees are actually more than I would have paid in sales tax dollars. I've especially noticed this when shopping at Coldwater Creek. They apparently calculate your shipping fees based on the amount of money you spend, not on the actual weight of the package. Bastards. (And if you ever have to return something, be sure you pay the shipping out of pocket and not as a deduction from your refund because you'll get smacked with that inflated shipping fee again. Bastards.)

But, in addition to the above mentioned coupon code sites, there's also FreeShipping.org. They compile all the known current and active free shipping codes for over 850 retail sites. Again, a minimal amount of effort could easily equal money saved.

New Camera

So I did it. I know I said I wouldn't; but I did. Now that I've had a week to recover, I can talk about it. Sweetie and I went shopping on Black Friday.

We wouldn't have gone at all, except that the camera Sweetie bought for me while we were in Eugene on the Tuesday before was $100 less on Black Friday; and it was worth driving back to Eugene for the refund. The logic was that the crazed shoppers would be busy shopping and we would have the returns counter all to ourselves.

And actually it wasn't all that bad. Probably mostly due to the fact that we were in the Eugene/Springfield area as opposed to a major metropolitan area. Getting from the freeway to the shopping area was a bit congested, but finding a parking spot was easy, as was actually being in the store.

And I've got to hand it to the Best Buy in Eugene--you guys are great and have incredible customer service. This is the third time I've been really impressed by the staff at this store. It's probably how all Best Buy locations are supposed to operate, but all their stores here in the Bay Area treat customers like an inconvenience and a potential criminal from the moment you walk in the doors.

Mom still had some flowers blooming so I decided to try out the new camera one afternoon. Here are a few of my favorite shots.





Friday, December 5, 2008

Roasted-Garlic Greens Beans

So the week-long Thanksgiving fest is done and we're home and safe. It was good to be able to spend a prolonged amount of time at mom's instead of the usual run up for two days and run back.

We did the usual for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone picks one side dish that they must have and then there's turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Sweetie always wants candied yams, I always want green beans, and mom always wants more stuffing, which would be why she cooked an 18 pound bird for just the 3 of us.

Mom tried something new with the green beans and they were super yummy. She gave me the recipe and I made it at home last night. It was good; but of course mom's was better. She got the recipe from someone else, so I don't really know where this originated, otherwise I'd link to it.


Roasted-Garlic Greens Beans


Cooking time: 15 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients
    12 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise (Yeah, baby. That says 12)
    2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    ¼ tsp sugar
    1 ½ pounds green beans, trimmed
    3 Tbsp water
    4 tsp red wine vinegar
    salt and pepper

Directions
  1. Microwave garlic, oil, and sugar, uncovered, in a small microwave-safe bowl until garlic is softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Carefully transfer 1 Tbsp of oil from the mixture to a large nonstick skillet. Reserve remaining garlic mixture.
  2. Heat skillet over medium-high until oil is shimmering. Add green beans and water and cook, covered, until bright green, about 3 minutes. Add reserved garlic mixture to the pan; do not stir. Continue to cook, covered, until beans are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Remove lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are browned in spots and garlic is golden, 2–3 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Conflicted

So here's the deal. I know I've mentioned that my 20-year high school reunion is next year and that my class has been getting back in touch on Facebook.

One of my old friends mentioned that she's still in touch with and old boyfriend of mine. Actually, my first serious boyfriend, and it was not a happy relationship as adolescent relationships go.

My first reaction was knee-jerk and instinctual--I was deeply offended that she was giving me an update on how he was doing and felt such intense revulsion at even the mention of him. But, I can't control who other people are friends with, so I just decided not to comment on it.

So now, he has apparently searched for me on Facebook and sent a message:




Have been trying to find Wayward from High School, and your name was the only one left from the search. Is this really the Wayward that used to work at the local McDonalds?

If it is, please write me back. Would love to catch up with you.

Look forward to hearing from you.

After 20 years, he's basically a stranger. But then again, that same statement would apply to all my old classmates I haven't stayed in contact with. Except that memories shared with them are more likely to be positive and reestablishing contact with them might lead to friendship and doesn't resurrect bad feelings and tonight's dinner.

Here's my dilemma, the revulsion I feel for this person is on the level of what I feel for my grandmother's ex-husband who molested me as a child.

Do I try to let go of the bad feelings and memories and try to make nice? Do I actually have any obligation to make nice?

My gut reaction is that I really want nothing to do with him and I really don't care if he's a whole different person now. That may be immature, but that's how I feel. I don't think making nice would do anything to enhance my life. I certainly don't feel like anything has been missing from my life for not having had contact with him.

So the other part, if I don't want to make nice, am I obligated to respond at all? Part of me wants to respond and let him know I want nothing to do with him (that's that immature part again) and part of me just wants to ignore it.

Now that I've written about it and thought it out it seems like a no-brainer--of course I don't want this person in my life. Why invite those feelings in to be a regular part of my life? But I'm still stuck with how to handle it. And how to handle future messages from him as he friends people I'm already friends with in the Facebook world?

Talk about feeling like I'm back in high school.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Preparing to Leave

Well, we're headed out tomorrow for mom's. While we're there, I'll only have access to a dial-up connection; so don't be surprised if next week is just as quiet as last week.

Poor Sweetie, he's actually feeling much better but he just can't seem to shake the cough and it's been keeping him awake at nights (me too, but I'm not as miserable). He's tried the Quils, both Day and Ny, and cough syrup, and lozenges, but he's still coughing. So today I tried looking up remedies online and found a doozy here, and they got it from Herbally Yours by Penny C. Royal, 3rd Edition. I had all the ingredients in my spice cupboard, so he decided it was worth a shot. It seems like it took 30 minutes to an hour to kick in, he's still coughing but the fitful bouts seem to have stopped:

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
Whisk together and take by the teaspoon-full. (He took 3 teaspoons of the stuff and said it tasted a bit like Tabasco sauce, but sweet.)

This weekend has been mostly about getting ready to go. Mom had a list of things for me to bring up to her, the biggest of which were some shelves from IKEA. We have two IKEA stores here in the Bay Area and these are the nearest stores to her. The shelves mom wants are only $25 each but apparently IKEA wanted over $200 to ship them to Oregon because they're over-sized packages. The challenge for me was figuring out how to fit them in the Subaru for the trip up. At 75" they fit, but just barely, and Sweetie will have to ride in the backseat on the way north. Love you mom.

Also on mom's list was some sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, and daikon radish sprouts. Because of all the Asian grocery stores here, we can get the oil and vinegar for way less than she can. And the diakon sprouts are something new. I'd tried them and told her about them, so she's curious to try some. I'm not sure if they're still in season. We'll stop at the vegetable stand on the way out of town and see if they still carry them. It's the only place I've ever seen them.

The last item on mom's list was my Christmas lights. They were hers to begin with and became mine with one of her moves. She has had some clear lights strung in a Japanese maple tree on her patio but they recently flickered their last. And since I don't decorate for Christmas (I can't see the point since we don't have children and we're always traveling to somewhere else for the holiday) she wanted them back.

I was positive I knew where I had those lights stored. Dead positive. So of course I waited until the night before we leave to go dig them out of the garage. Oh yeah, you guessed it. I can't find them. I've found every other ornament and Christmas related item I've ever owned, but the lights? Forgeddaboudit. I have this little voice whispering in the back of my mind that tells me I already gave them back to her when she lived in San Jose and needed to replace the lights on that patio.

Oh well, give it a month or so and all the holiday decorations will be on clearance anyhow. BTW, Target is a great place to go for marked down and clearance items and not just Christmas decorations either. I have it on good authority (my cousin's hubby works for them) that they do not return items to the warehouse from the stores, so they keep marking it down until it sells. If it doesn't sell, they give it to Goodwill.

With the economy being so tight and holiday shopping upon us, I thought you might find that tidbit useful. Oh, and not from my cousin's hubby, but most Target stores follow the same mark down schedule (your local store may be different so checking with an employee wouldn't hurt):

Monday - Kids Clothing and Electronics
Tuesday - Women's Clothing and Domestics
Wednesday - Men's Clothing, Toys, Health & Beauty
Thursday - Lingerie, Shoes, Housewares
Friday - Cosmetics, Housewares, Automotive

Also, all clearance items have orange tags. In the top right corner of each tag you'll see a number, 15A, 20A, this is the percentage the item has been marked down. So if you're on my list this year, don't be surprised if you find something from Target under the tree.

I'll probably have lots of shopping posts and tips as we head into the holidays because, you guessed it, I haven't started my shopping yet. Last year I was finished by Halloween, this year, oh well. We'll start with this one, if you have a kid on your list that loves to know how things work or is otherwise a bit geeky, any one of these 17 items (prices range from $15 to $150) might be just the ticket. Well, maybe not the cutesy guitar for Guitar Hero or the Darth Vader t-shirt, but the other 15 ideas sound good.

Speaking of Star Wars, during my web surfing today I ran across an excerpt of Carrie Fisher's new autobiography Wishful Drinking here. I thought I would just skim through it, but I found myself really reading it. I like Star Wars and all, but I wouldn't call myself a "fan". I do like Carrie Fisher though. Wishful Drinking is due out on bookshelves December 2, but Amazon already has it in stock.

Last thing and then I better start dinner (we're having Kahlua pig fried rice and lots of fruit to clean out the fridge before we leave), I mentioned in yesterday's post that we're planning to do some casual house hunting while we're up north. Sweetie would really prefer a newer construction (10 years or newer), but we're willing to look at remodeled older homes.

One of the things we're noticing as we look is that, unless the developer left trees standing on the lot, very few of the newer homes have any mature trees. It's not as if this is a deal breaker, but trees absolutely add to your home's appeal and value. Not to mention the potential for saving you money while you still own the house and the environmental benefits of more trees. J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly talks more about the benefits of adding trees to your property.

Fall is the perfect time to plant a tree, but there is a lot to consider before you run out and purchase a tree. Check out the Arbor Day Foundation's database and try the advanced search.

You'll want to consider the soil on your property, vegetation zone and sun exposure; you'll want to determine how tall and wide you want the tree to be at maturity so you don't plant too close to your home or to power lines; you'll want to think about any leaves and seeds the tree may shed annually that will require clean up; you'll also want to consider the tree's root system among other things.

Some trees have tap roots that sink deep into the ground and other trees have shallow roots that spread out underground making it next to impossible to grow anything around them. The house mom purchased has trees of this last variety and since she's an avid gardener, it causes her no small amount of trouble.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh, What a Week

But it's over and I'm done. It's officially vacation time. Woot! I brought work home with me, definitely not woot, but it's for Monday, 12/1, because I'll be working from home. Jury duty. Another not woot. It's my second call up this year because I had to defer the earlier one due to a funeral (obviously not mine).

So I'm mostly back to normal, normal for me anyhow. The digestive system kicked back into gear on Thursday and by Thursday night I was feeling pretty good. I still have some tenderness in the ribcage area where I supposedly bruised my pancreas and if that hasn't cleared up by the time we get back from vacation I'll be back at the doctor's. But dudes, that was seriously the worst case of food poisoning I think I've ever had. It even tops Thanksgiving 2000, and that was a doozy.

Unfortunately, Sweetie got sick with cold/flu just as I was getting better so we've still been taking things pretty easy around here. He said he was feeling a bit better today so I'm hoping he'll be even better on Saturday. It would suck to be out of commission two weekends in a row, and last weekend was b-e-a-utiful here. 80 degrees and sunny, sunny, sunny. Hard to believe it's late November.

So the vacation plan is to hit the open road on Monday and head straight for mom's house in Oregon. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. We'll head to Eugene and do some casual house hunting on Tuesday and do a little shopping (no sales tax in Oregon yo). Oh what's that you say, but all the good sales start on Friday? You won't catch me anywhere near a retail brick-and-mortar store on Black Friday. I won't do it and you can't make me. No way no how. I don't care how good the sale is. In fact, the better the sale, the more likely I am to give your store a wide berth. There is no material thing on this planet worth braving retail on Black Friday.

Anyhow, back to the Tuesday shopping. I think Sweetie is planning to get me my Christmas present early this year, actually, I know he is, because he told me. My digital camera took a dirt nap a few months ago and anytime I want to take photos I have to borrow his, download the photos to his laptop, then email them to mine. Oh, the horror, life is so rough, right? Anyhow, we'll be shopping for a camera.

I've also been thinking about replacing the laptop. I scrubbed a lot of programs off the hard drive and it helped a bit, but it's still incredibly slow compared to what it used to be. I've found it runs better if I power it off whenever I'm not actually using it. Waking it up after a "nap" is when it seems most sluggish. And the fan runs constantly from the moment I turn it on. I don't think I'll replace it this trip, but when I do I think it'll be with a desktop.

When I work from home I need to 10-key webpage node reference numbers a lot. No, really, a lot. I also need to use the number pad for diacritical marks (alt+0225 gets you an á, and alt+0241 gets you an ñ). On the laptop I need to copy paste these each time I need to use them because the numbers on the keyboard don't work for this for whatever reason. And when you're working on guidebooks to Latin America, that's a lot of copying and pasting. Thank goodness putting the guidebooks to Asia and places like Budapest online are way off in the future. At least I know the Spanish diacritic keystrokes by memory.

Dudes, I'm on vacation! How did you get me monologuing about work? That's enough of that.

So between Sweetie and all the people that've been sick at work, I thought I'd check the Google flu tracker and see what the flu trends are. If our little corner of Berkeley is any indicator, the Bay Area should be royal blue on this map. But then again, they're making their map based on search terms, not actual medical data.

Ze Frank launched another photo project following the election for blue and red voters to share messages with each other. It's interesting and just made me feel good about all of it now that the campaigning is over. Then again, almost all Ze's stuff makes me feels good. Especially the duckies.

So Blackwater has been back in the news. In case you've been hiding under a bush since the war in Iraq began, Blackwater is a U.S.-based private security contractor and they're the largest security contractor operating in Iraq. So far they've been the biggest winner of State Department security contracts. Yes, Cheney has ties to them. Anyhow, there have been stories in the past about how Blackwater handles operations, how their security efforts conflict and interfere with our Armed Forces efforts, and even cases where Blackwater operatives have killed our troops in friendly-fire. So now we're learning that weapons shipped to Iraq by Blackwater have found their way to the black market. And again, no charges have been filed.

Two funnies and then I hit the hay.

For all the cat lovers out there, How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You.

And, if you live in the Americas and have ever felt somewhat disoriented, this may have something to do with it. (Save it for future reference when you're trying to explain to someone why you're not one of those people with a good "sense of direction".)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The One Where We Learn About the Morphine

Dudes, I so totally had plans to blog my butt off this weekend but after this morning's trip to the ER I'm not quite feeling up to snuff.

So we've been having sales conference at work all week, which usually means lots of people in and out of the office, and lots of catered meals. On Wednesday, there was this fritatta thing, that was actually quite tasty.

On Friday I found out that lots of people had been hit with a bout of food poisoning from it on Thursday. So, I'm thinking it's Friday right, I should be good. Oh hell no.

We went out to dinner at an Indian restaurant Friday night with one of the folks out from the New York office. Left the restaurant around 9:30pm, got back to the house around 10:15 and proceeded to start puking my brains out.

So for me food poisoning normally involves expelling everything from both, ahem, avenues and then I'll be fine. But by the time 3:30am rolled around and I was still waking up every 20 minutes or so so I could continue "expelling" I told Sweetie I wasn't going to be able to stop and I was too dehydrated and we needed to get to the hospital.

I gotta say, I love Kaiser. The only two trips I've ever needed to make to their ER have been handled swiftly. I've been to other provider ERs where we've had to wait upwards of 5 hours to be seen. I know it all depends on how busy they are when you show up, but still, they've been awesome. Still peeves me that work doesn't offer us a Kaiser option. So until they tell me I can't (oh, which apparently might be Jan. 1, 2009), I'll stay on Sweetie's policy as a Domestic Partner.

So the Dr came in to see me and asked about stomach pain, which was when I told it him it wasn't so much my stomach as my diaphragm. He started poking around, dude I hate the poking part, which set off another bout of vomiting followed by a dash to the toilet. Dr says, yeah it's your diaphragm (that's what I said), but you've also got something going on with your pancreas there (oh). So we'll be giving you something to stop the vomiting, morphine for the pain, Imodium for the diarrhea, and hook you up to a bag of fluids.

Dudes, when the nurse says, "Now you may feel a little dizzy and leaden," she's not kidding. I have a couple issues with her IV placement skills, but I appreciated the morphine warning.

So by the time we left, I was chugging down water and was begging for more. I'm still just on fluids, but I might try a piece of toast or crackers for dinner. I just jumped online to let y'all know what's up and to email my dinner mates from last night to see if they had any issues. Since we all shared family style I can try to narrow it down to either dinner or that fritatta from Wednesday. I still find it hard to believe that my metabolism is so slow I wouldn't get sick for two full days, but you never know.

I don't quite remember my exit instructions from the Dr, I know I'm supposed to continue to pay attention to the pancreas area if the tenderness doesn't go away, but beyond that I don't know. Really, really shouldn't be giving instructions to me, or asking me to read the informational hand outs, or signing credit card bills after a shot of morphine. Just sayin'.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Snip, Snip and Link, Link

So I finally made it out to get get my hair cut. I hate going and I always put it off longer than I should. But it was a such a beautiful day today that I decided to walk to the salon and do the deed. Nothing new. Same style, only shorter. But it felt good to get out and stretch my legs in the sunshine.

Sweetie got an invitation to shop a special sale at Best Buy that's supposedly closed to the general public. Only "premiere" club members have been invited. So he wants to head over there at 8:30 tonight. I can't think of anything we need, but that doesn't necessarily mean we'll leave empty handed. I think Sweetie mostly wants to check out what one of these closed events is all about, me, I'm skeptical of the whole "exclusive" thing.

On to the links.

I read this short article about flu shots today. I'd never heard of the herd immunity concept. I usually avoid flu shots. Maybe I need to rethink that, though I'm not typically in any herd situations other than the cube farm.

I spent some time on the web looking at state voter maps by county after the election, mostly looking at California and my home state of Oregon. In the process I found a couple interesting maps interpreting voting patterns. This one supposedly shows what the vote would have looked like if left just to the 18 - 29 year-old demographic. I have no idea what the source for the data is on that. Honestly, that much blue scares me.

Here's another map I find far more interesting (and probably more reliable too). I like how they distort the map into a cartogram to more accurately depict population and electoral influence. I especially like the map where they break the results down by county and then use purple to represent voter percentages. Visually, it makes the nation seem much less divided.

I spent some time on the WSJ site today. I found this story on the trajectory of the Republican party's swing from intellectual (1970s) to anti-intellectual (today) particularly interesting. I wasn't old enough in the 70s to pay any particular attention to politics.

I also read this interview with newly appointed Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel. I was a little concerned that Emanuel would pull the administration to the left, but from his comments here, it sounds like they'll really be trying to hold the center. That makes me feel a bit better given the sentiments I expressed earlier.

Flailing in the Rain

It's been a quiet Sunday so far, full of dryer sheets, bleach, and detergent. Sunday is typically laundry day for me and I'm getting after it with a vengeance.

I've already put the sheets back on the bed and when I did I added a blanket. We're not quite ready to close the sliding glass door in the bedroom all the way yet, but apparently it's fall and we need the second blanket.

On the subject of fall and colder weather, we had our first real rainstorm of the season last weekend and I discovered (again) that the majority of my shoes are open toed. So we hit the shoe store.
I bought a pair of these:



And a pair of these to keep under my desk at work. Except I started wearing them last night in place of my house slippers. They definitely keep my toes warm. I may have to put these on my holiday wish list so I'll have a second pair for the house.



The shoes weren't our main reason for heading out yesterday. We wanted to go to Lowe's and get the new light fixture for the second bathroom since Sweetie is just about ready to start working there. On the way to the store I needed to run my windshield wipers. They were working fine. And then they weren't.

Let me tell you, it is scary to be driving on a 4-lane highway in the rain next to a big rig and have your wipers fail. We took the next exit and immediately called Dad. (Because Dad has always been my go to for mechanical problem.) So as I thought, Dad said check the fuse (sometimes you just need that extra nudge to let you know you're headed in the right direction).

We checked the fuse. It was fine. So then we called the dealer. My car is not under warranty any longer (5 years/60,000 miles ran out at about 3 years and 3 months), but Subaru has great customer service and will generally help you try to troubleshoot the problem. So this tech says the wiper motor probably burned out. Hmmm, but the back wipers are still working. So that doesn't sound right to me.

Anyhow, we decided that since we were already at Lowe's to go ahead and get what we came for and wait out the cloudburst then head home. On the way home, it started raining again. I tried the wipers; They didn't work. I tried the wipers again; They worked! Oooookay. Now what.

I don't want to second guess this, but I also don't want to be heading up to Mom's house in Oregon for Thanksgiving and have the wipers poop out again. 'Cause that was just no fun. So we called Dad again.

It would seem something is not making a good connection somewhere between the wiper motor and the fuse box. I'm not terribly mechanically inclined. I tend to favor the demolition side of these things. But I think I'll need to tuck my head up under the dash and take a look. Dad said he had this happen once with one of his cars. He could never find the problem and it never presented itself after the first time. That's what I'm hoping for.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

When Is a Majority Not a Majority

Now that the elation of Election Day has faded, things are calming down and I've had a moment to take a closer look at what I'm feeling, and I have to say I am hopeful for the future of America.

I have no illusions that the next 4 years will be perfect or that our nation will be miraculously healed. But I do believe 44 will strive for balance. I'm concerned about the huge Dem wins in Congress and hopeful that 44 will be able to set the agenda for them, and that he will quash any legislation coming through that is way too far left. There must be balance, and if Congress can't find it I can almost guarantee the Dems will lose all the seats they've gained in the next election.

That said, I can't remember a time when I felt this energized about the possibilities. The 1994 Rep. "Contract with America" was a moment (when the Dem-controlled Congress couldn't find the middle), but it can't compare to how I feel now.

I feel like I've been in hunker down, assume the position, and wait it out mode since 2002. There's a glimmer that this long, barren winter of the Bush administration is coming to a close, and I'm optimistic for the blooms of spring. Crappe, I think I just waxed poetic or something.

Then there's the whole Proposition 8 debacle in California right now. Essentially an initiative was placed on the ballot calling for an amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. I have to say I really just don't care who decides to take up a domestic relationship with whom as long as they're both consenting adults. But we sure as heck shouldn't be messing with the constitution. Not for this.

The constitution is there to define the government's relationship to the people being governed. It is not intended to instruct the people on what is and isn't acceptable. And really, should a simple majority be all that's required to amend a document of this importance?

I also think the government should get out of the marriage business altogether; Marriage is not a secular event. The government should only be regulating Civil Unions for both hetero and homosexual couples. Leave the marriage issue up to each couple's individual faith. Many cultures and countries already do this. There's the official civil ceremony with all the paperwork, then there's the religious ceremony with umpteen friends and family to witness before god.

I am pleased that it appears Prop. 11 passed, which amends the state constitution to remove the responsibility for redistricting legislative districts from the seated legislature and give it to a new commission. Politicians should protect their positions by doing their jobs, not by gerrymandering. However, even though I fully support this initiative, I still do not think that the voters should be able to amend the state constitution with a simple majority.

WARNING: Math and Statistics Ahead

So Prop. 8 wins with 52.5% and Prop. 11 wins with 50.6% of the vote. A majority right? Wrong. It would be if every eligible voter cast a ballot, but they don't.

The stats aren't in yet for 2008, but in the 2004 presidential election, California had a turnout rate of 59.6% and assuming 2008 will be similar, that means that 52.5% and 50.6% of the 59.6% are deciding to amend the constitution for 100%.

In California that means that roughly 7,955,000 - 8,254,000, or approximately 30% of the population, are deciding to change the government's relationship to the 26,380,000 people it governs. And that, folks, is why I don't believe constitutional amendments should even be put to popular vote in the first place, and why I don't believe they should be passed by simple majority.

Before I get to the links, a word of warning. I've dug up a different html code for links and from here on out they should open in a new browser window. Unless I forget to use the new code or just get lazy. :)

So just a few links before I head to bed. This article by Chris Jones at Esquire sums up pretty well my conflicted feelings about John McCain the man, and John McCain the politician.

I couldn't read this bit of geek humor straight through without doubling up with laughter at least a couple times. If you've ever been a part of a tabletop RPG group, this is for you. If you haven't, but you've been in a relationship with someone who has, you'll probably still get it. If you don't fall into either of those groups, you probably have a life and have better things to do than read that link.

And lastly, completely unrelated to politics, if you've ever wondered how shopping carts, specifically the shopping cart you're using, got so messed up, watch this video. In honor of my cart while grocery shopping last night. The video also does double duty as an excellent instructional tool on inertia and Newton's First Law of Motion.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Syndrome

So a strange thing happened at the office today... It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke doesn't it. But really, the whole day was weird.

I usually vote by absentee ballot, and I usually drop off my ballot in person at my polling station on election day. You see, I like being able to consult various sources and make my decisions at my leisure, but I also like being part of the political process on election day. In fact, while I was in college I used to work the polls. I highly recommend the experience.

But since I've become a 9 to 5er, I pretty much just stick to the voting. In past years, I arrive at my polling station (an elementary school), walk in, and drop off my ballot. That simple.

This year, it took me 15 minutes just to find a place to park. I walked up to the polling room and stood in a line that stretched around the school. As I was standing in line, I noticed that they (whoever "they" are) were busing people to the polling station. I mean, wow. I never noticed this in previous years. Being little miss Suzie Sunshine, I assume they were busing people regardless of how they intended to vote.

Luckily for me, a poll worker came out and scanned the line for people holding absentee ballots and we were able to walk on in and drop off the goods. While it felt awesome to vote (it's always a rush, because dudes, I take this stuff seriously), I felt a little guilty passing up all the people waiting in line. (Okay, I'll admit it, it was a little like what I imagine celebrities experience when they're whisked past the line to get in to whatever it is everyone else is waiting for. So yeah, that part felt good.)

We live in a neighborhood with a high percentage of immigrants and first generations and it really showed as I walked past the line. I may complain about the somewhat fluid rules of the road in my neighborhood, but my god that was a wonderful sight. Partly to know that far more of my neighbors are actually eligible to vote (i.e., not here illegally) than I previously thought, but mostly because we live in a place where that is even possible at all.

So the weird thing at the office. One friend at the office emailed and asked how we usually handle book donations. (We're a book publisher and we often donate books from previous seasons when we need to make room on the book shelves for new titles.) She said she was feeling overwhelmed and just need to clean out her office and clear some space to work.

Another co-worker walked into my cube carrying a manuscript I'd loaned to her some weeks back as an editorial guide. She said, she need to tidy up an make some space in her cube.

It seemed like everywhere I turned people were nesting, cleaning, rearranging, organizing, purging, and just generally putting things in order. Is it a coincidence that it also happens to be the most historic presidential election in most of our lifetimes? I don't think so. Regardless of who wins (it's Obama by the way, not that that's news to most people at this point) I think people are just ready for a new beginning and subconsciously or not they're symbolically making space for it by cleaning up the areas they have the most direct control over.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Post-Party Halloween Update

So the office Halloween party was fun. I don't think I got more than 30 minutes worth of work done the entire day. But then again, I don't really think we were expected to. So, are you ready for it?



I got lots of great comments on my costume, but the cleavage had me self-conscious all day long. As you can see, I kept holding up the book I was supposed to be dressed as in front of the deepest portion of the plunge. There are probably better photos of it (the costume, not the cleavage) out there, but this was the best one on my camera at the end of the day.

I knew when I was making it that I wouldn't be able to sit at my desk with the tail feathers on. What I didn't anticipate was not being able to walk through doorways, or hallways, or in large rooms crowded with Halloween revelers. So this peacock was strutting sideways most of the day.
Oh, and don't even ask about the logistics involved with using the restroom stalls. As one person commented when I took off the tail feathers for a bathroom break, "You've been plucked!"

Published!

It's a minor thing, but it made me feel good. The recipe for Chayote and Sausage Stew that I posted here I also put on AllRecipes.com. I was hoping to get a nutritional analysis since they do that for all their recipes, but apparently they only do the analysis for recipes that are published for public use.

Well, I got the notice today that they tested out my recipe and chose to publish it. So, if you're at all interested in seeing the nitty gritty on fat, fiber, and other things, check it out here. Details are listed in the far right column about halfway down the page.

There are several things I like about the AllRecipes site. Once you set up a profile, you can save recipes to your "recipe box," which can then be sorted however you desire. You can also rate and comment on recipes after you've tried them. The comments I read from other people who've tried a recipe are often invaluable. When you see 8 people who say the recipe was too sweet or salty, I know before I even try the recipe that I should alter the sugar or salt. Another piece I like is the shopping lists. You can select the recipes you want to shop for and it will automatically compile it all onto a list. Then you can edit your list to include items not in the recipes, like garbage bags. It's still a clunky feature, so I don't use it very often but it's pretty cool.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Secondhand Drama

So I got just about everything done today except the haircut. Well, and the laundry, but I can do that while I make dinner. We had a little thrift store drama this afternoon that I'm still more than a little peeved about.

So we get to the thrift store and we start looking around. Found this gorgeous shimmery peacock-teal floor length formal dress with a matching shawl. I'm thinking, "Bingo! Perfect." because the whole department costume is supposed to be staged like a pageant. (We'll be working on making sashes at our staff meeting Wednesday. And I think someone is even trying to source tiaras. Like I said, we're really getting into this.)

So Anyhow, I'm thinking I've found the perfect dress, but it's about 3 sizes too small. Well, drats. And we keep looking. Eventually I find this royal blue floor length sheath dress in my size for $7.98. So I try it on to be sure and oh yeah, we're set. When I take off the dress the price tag got stuck in my hair and came off. No biggie, right? So I pack around the detached price tag while we keep browsing. I love thrift store browsing. You never know what you'll find.

I ended up picking up a blouse and we're standing in line to check out. As we're waiting, I over hear a conversation between two women. One is pregnant and has two young girls with her, the other has two slightly older girls and is making a donation of outgrown girls' clothes to the thrift store. So the woman making the donation walks up to the other and asks if she would like to go through the clothes to see if she wants anything for her girls before the clothes are donated. I'm thinking, "that was really nice and thoughtful."

So I've got this warm fuzzy feeling for all humanity when I get to the cashier. And this is where I discover that they refuse to sell an item if the price tag is not attached to it. Well, I had accidentally dropped the price tag, but Sweetie roved the store until he found it. But no deal. I tried to explain that it was for a Halloween costume, and that I wasn't trying to cheat them. In fact, I'd pay double. Still nothing. So we left. Pissed. I actually think Sweetie was as pissed as me and it's not like he was going to be wearing the dress. (Unless he has Halloween plans I don't know about.)

Anyhow, the rest of our errands took us near a Marshall's and behold, they had a royal blue jersey knit dress for $20. In my size no less. And who knows, if an appropriate opportunity presents itself, I might even wear this one again. (Unless I lose a whole bunch of weight first. Hey, it could happen.)

It's a little low cut for my tastes, but I guess that fits the whole pageant thing.

A Rant, of the Economic Variety

Dudes, so that whole costume building thing didn't take nearly as long as I anticipated. I think I did it in about 3 hours. I'll post a picture once I get it all together, or from the office hoopla on Friday.

On the agenda today: swing by the craft store and pick up a couple more clumps of that grassy stuff, hit the thrift store for something blue to wear, get my hairs cut (way overdue), then hit Target and Trader Joe's. Oh, and laundry. Sunday is typically laundry day at the Wayward house.

So, like most Americans, I've been more than a bit preoccupied by this whole economic situation we have going on and I've been collecting links to share with you, dear reader, for a week or so.

So let's start with the bailout. While I hated the idea of throwing $700 billion at the banking industry, I also understood why something needed to be done. But I can't even articulate the revulsion I felt when I read that financial workers are continuing to receive $70 billion in pay deals. Keep in mind that most of this will be given out as bonuses.

Bonuses? Bonuses for what? For completely undermining the American economy to the point of collapse? Oh wait. No. You're getting the bonus for undermining the world economy. Please, allow me to wipe your a$$ with my paycheck.

Oh, and now the clamoring is beginning for a second bailout as a second round of stimulus checks. Read here, here, here, and here. I'm sorry, but I didn't want the first one, and do we even have any evidence that the first stimulus check helped bolster the economy? Mine went toward items I would have purchased with or without the extra money, so I guess you could say my first stimulus check is still sitting in the bank.

And dudes, it's not as if it's free money. We've paid this money in taxes, and if it's being given back to us instead of being used to shore up our infrastructure that money still has to come from somewhere. Issuing more checks just adds to the national debt, and that'll all need to be paid back, plus interest, at some point.

Add to this all the talk of the government buying up bad mortgages and I get even more steamed. So what, the government is going to help out those people who took on mortgages for more house than they could afford? Should the government be responsible for this? Hell no. Look, if you're in this boat, then I'm sorry. But it is simply not my responsibility to get you out of the mess you created.

You didn't crunch the numbers for yourself. You didn't read the fine print. You didn't do your due diligence. And yeah, I get it that there were predatory lenders out there, but no one put a gun to your head and made you sign on the dotted line. You did that all on your own. Oh, I'll feel the consequences of your poor decisions when my property value drops, but I do not want to finance your ability to live beyond your means while we've been making responsible decisions to live within ours.

Now I'll grant you that there are a small handful of homeowners caught up in this mess that justly deserve to get the help, but here's what's happening; a good friend of ours is trying to refinance so she can stay in he home she purchased a few years ago. At the time, she could afford the loans. Now, as property values plummet, she's upside down on her mortgage and being laid off. Her bank says, get this, her bank tells her they can't help her refinance until she misses at least two payments on her mortgage. And they counsel her to stop paying her mortgage! WTF?

I've seen the same sentiment expressed by Paul Michael here at Wise Bread, and I have to admit, the thought has crossed my mind. And like Paul, I just can't bring myself to do it. (Thanks mom, and mom, and dad, you did good.) But it pisses me off that the people who tried to do the right thing all along are the people most being left out of any recovery or let's-fix-it plan.

All this led to a rant in the car the other day about how our society rewards mediocrity and coddles under-achievers. I've got too much to do today to work up another head of steam for that rant here. So I'll stick to the one I'm currently on.

The other day I learned about another bill making its way through Congress here. It's a Credit Card Holder Bill of Rights, or House Resolution 5244. The only piece of this legislation I think I don't like is that part that requires statements be sent out 25 days before they're due. That probably means my last payment will not be posted on the statement, which I fear will allow the credit card companies wiggle room to add financing fees. We don't carry balances on our credit cards at the Wayward house, so this really won't mean much to us. But I'm betting that a lot of other people will benefit from it and that's a good thing.

I vaguely recall taking economics courses in college, and I remember being very frustrated with the whole macro and micro thing. While it was relatively easy for me to grasp the various theories, it's much easier to apply them at the micro level. I was always challenged at the macro level by the whole what should be ideal versus the reality of what is.

So back to focusing on the micro, because that's all I really have any control over, this post over at Get Rich Slowly about what it means to be rich made me feel better and I'm thankful for all that we do have.

So I'll wrap this up with a couple not-so-funny funnies. The modern bedtime story, and the Grapes of Wrath, 2008.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Halloween Preparations

As you've probably figured out, I'm still not getting up any earlier on weekdays because I'm still not posting in the mornings. Now that I've finished the book that was keeping me up at night, I'm hoping to change that.

We're wrapping up the bathroom painting project today. The actual painting was done by Tuesday and Sweetie recaulked the shower/tub on Wednesday. Today has been more about cleaning up the detritus left behind. So far today I've scrubbed the shower, scraped paint off the laminate flooring, Sweetie replaced the light fixture, I've cleared off the bathroom countertop, and we've hung a new shower curtain and liner and replaced the shower rod. I may actually get to shower in my bathroom again tonight. Woot!

I didn't think it would be as much of an inconvenience as it was to bathe in the second bathroom, but it has only a small shower stall as opposed to the shower/tub, and all of Sweetie's things are already in there so there was really no room for mine. At any rate, I'm looking forward to having my space back.

The rest of today, probably the rest of the weekend to be truthful (at least when I'm not blogging), will be dedicated to making my Halloween costume. Oh yeah. Dudes, we've got some crazy pro-Halloween get-your-scare-on folks in our office. Last December we moved into a new office space, which we share with a sister company (we're both owned by the same parent company). So anyhow, this is the first Halloween we've had together in the same office.

They started decorating last weekend, and I gotta say, the bloody hand prints on the glass front door gave me a start on Monday morning. Simulated gore before coffee was a little disorienting. So yeah, there are spiderwebs and spiders, pumpkins and dismembered body parts all around the office. There's a competition for the best decorated department and best costume. And let me tell you, the competition and trash-talking is getting fierce.

So the memo about the competitions wasn't edited, and being part of the editing department, we took the memo literally and hence created confusion. We thought that there was a competition for the best costume as a department. So the whole department is dressing to a theme. The idea is that we will each choose one of our books and dress as the cover image. We publish travel guides and I ended up choosing our San Diego book.

I am to be a peacock. It seemed like a brainstorm when I chose it and I started looking for feathers online. Yeah I can get 100 peacock tail feathers at a reasonable cost, but then it hit me. I only have one week to get the feathers and build this dang thing.

So what started as a spectacular, spectacular Broadway-type costume in my mind's eye has become increasingly scraggly each time I think of it. I'm now aiming for a childish imitation of a Brazilian carnival bustle.

I stopped at the craft store on my way home last night and completely bought out their supply of peacock feathers. I also bought a plastic mask and a cheap-o bag of blue-dyed feathers which I plan to glue to the mask, some fake grassy plant stuff to help fill in some of the gaps between feathers, and several sheets of colored felt. I have a loose plan. Executing it will be the problem.

Oh, and it's also occurred to me that I have nothing royal or bright blue in my closet. I used to have a gorgeous silk teal shirt that would have been perfect, but that's long gone now. So, I may need to squeeze in a shopping trip.

I'm actually getting into the Halloween spirit now. It's contagious. Let's just say I'm wishing I'd spoken up faster and taken dibs on the book cover with the leopard.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Paint Party, Party of 1

We've been doing some home sprucing the last few months. Nothing as drastic as a complete gutting like Becca's family has done (I still say kitchen envy is a valid psychological condition); we've pretty much limited ourselves to painting, minor DIY repairs, and replacing old college era hand-me-down furniture.

When we first moved in I wanted a sagey grey-green color in the bedroom, but what had looked good on the color swatch did not look so good on the walls. I ended up with what I can only describe as Crayola Seafoam Green. It took about a month for me to realize I completely hated the color, which, of course, by that time we'd already put away all the painting supplies and had moved in the furniture.

So I have opened my eyes to Seafoam Green (I think the actual color swatch was called Pond. They forgot the Scum.) everyday for the past 5 - 6 years. Each morning I would inwardly cringe with the knowledge that I had no one to blame but myself because I chose the color.

We finally repainted the bedroom in July and I love the new color. Knowing that we plan to move in 1 or 2 years, we knew we wanted to paint in a more neutral color. I went back and forth between a few choices but kept coming back to a swatch called Cookie Crumb. Sweetie swears I only chose it because of the name. But I love it, and I chose it. Woot! I now wake up in the morning and smile when I see the walls. (Well, I do when there's enough freaking light in the mornings to see the walls.)





In July we also replaced the old futon with a new bed frame and mattress, the old broken down sofa with a new sofa, and purchased an entertainment center. Our local Linens n Things was going out of business in July so we took advantage of the inventory liquidation sales and purchased a bedding set, new sheets (550 thread count!), a shower curtain and liner, and new bath towels.


That's Tank and Dozer inspecting the new sofa.

All the painting and lifting and moving of furniture in July sent my back back into muscle spasms so we've been off the home improvement bandwagon for a while. We got back on today. Well Sweetie got back on. Me, I'm blogging him my emotional support.

Now we're working on the bathrooms. Again, nothing drastic. We replaced the faucets last summer and now we're going to paint and replace the rest of the hardware (which we completely purchased with credit card point rewards). Hopefully we'll do the light fixtures too. We've got those blessedly hideous fluorescent bar thingys.

Anyhow, I helped Sweetie empty out the water closet (that ridiculously little room for the shower and toilet) in the master bath, he stripped the caulking from around the shower and then I wiped down all the walls with an ammonia solution. He's in there priming the walls right now while I'm comfy at my desk with a cup of coffee.

Dude, primer stinks. I've opened all the windows and doors and have a few fans going to help ventilate. I need to go into the bathroom and check on Sweetie every 15 minutes or so to make sure he hasn't passed out from the fumes. There are no windows in the bathroom. Sweetie is so getting a meat and potatoes dinner tonight.

Once we're done I doubt anyone else will even notice we've done anything in there. But we will, and we'll be happy with it. And we'll be happy with the knowledge that we did it ourselves. 'Cause we love it when we rock the frugal like that.

One More for the Ring

So this should be the last post on the ring for awhile.

Well we got the ring back yesterday and you can really tell they've done some work on it. They've noticeably tipped each of the four prongs on the center stone so that they wrap over the edge of the stone. It may come loose over time, but I doubt this baby will fall out again.

At any rate, the store manager was very gracious and still offered to exchange or refund the ring, and we have until the end of the year to make a decision. We spent most of the afternoon window shopping and pricing rings at other stores in the mall. Fun for me; not so fun for Sweetie. So I made sure we stopped off at some of the places he likes, Game Stop, Babbages, and Game Workshop.

One thing we're concerned with for the future is that if we move to Eugene, OR (one of the places we're considering in the distant future) the nearest branch of this jeweler is in Portland. We think we have it bad now with a 50 - 60 mile round trip.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More of the Same

So, the saga continues with the ring. I received a call yesterday evening from the jewelry store manager (I had lodged a complaint on the company's website on Tuesday). What he basically had to say was that this time they've secured the center stone as much as they can without causing damage to the stone but that given the nature of the ring, the size and type of stone used for the centerpiece, we should expect more frequent maintenance issues (though not at the rate we have been experiencing) with this ring than with a more traditional engagement ring.

We're going to the jeweler's today to meet with the manager and inspect the ring. He's also given us a few alternatives--he will ask the person who made the repairs if we could add additional prongs to the setting (I don't like this option as is fundamentally changes the ring), we could exchange the ring for the purchase of something else, or he could refund the full purchase price of the ring.

I have a feeling that the manager will want to tie up the loose ends today, but Sweetie is going to want to sit on the decision for a while.

In other news, I have not been getting up at 5am for a while now. I had been getting up at 6am and was fine with that for about a week. Then it became 6:30, then 7, and now I'm back to my old ways of rolling out of bed around 8am to get ready for work during the week. This does not leave enough time for yoga or posting to the blog in the morning. I need to get back to getting up earlier.

It could also have something to do with the fact that I've been working late all this week. I'm under a lot of pressure to get more content ready faster for the Jan. 1 launch of our new website at work, so it's not at all uncommon for me to be at work until 7 or 7:30pm. Which then pushes back dinner and the rest of our evening activities. But I am fitting in 15 - 30 minutes on the elliptical machine most nights.

Some things I've seen in my internet surfing that have stuck with me this week.

Well, I really just spotted this item today. I posted a couple weeks ago about some college students hanging an Obama effigy from a tree as a protest (here) , but today I see this video of a man in Ohio, one Mike Lunsford, who has done the same thing, only he specifically states he intends it as a racist display, not a political statement! There's also a clip in the video of the display (McCain in KKK robes chasing Obama) that inspired Lunsford to make his own. (No, I don't feel at all conflicted about using the man's real name here. It's already been reported by his local news outlet and he doesn't seem to feel the need to remain anonymous.)

It's beyond me how people can still think this way. This and some of the interview clips I see of McCain/Palin supporters coming out of Ohio just scare the living bejeebees out of me. (Questions asked by the interviewer are obviously left-leaning, but the answers are downright scary.) I don't think I'll be planning to visit Ohio anytime soon.

On to better news, Major League Baseball and FOX have agreed to push back the start time of World Series Game 6 so that Obama can address the American people. Granted, they're only pushing it back by 6 - 8 minutes, but the fact that they agreed to it just blows my mind, especially for FOX. To me (and I am biased), it almost seems like an implicit endorsement.

I spotted this on one of the tech blogs I read. What started as a comic strip has been developed and implemented. I love this idea of having to listen to your comments before you can post them to an open forum. I hope it'll be made available beyond YouTube. Not that crazy commenters are a problem here.

Lastly, this just made me laugh. Uncontrollably.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Ring (part 2)

I should get the call today to pick the ring up after work. Lucky me, I also have a dentist appointment after work. My favorite. Right up there with a trip to the OBG. And a trip to the jeweler is beginning to run a close third.

Interesting thing though, when we took it in on Sunday the saleslady we spoke with says, "They never should have sold you this ring as an engagement ring, especially if it needed to be resized." (Oh, and once we started inspecting it at the store, we realized that a side diamond had fallen out as well.)



As I suspected, it's a cocktail ring and not intended for daily wear. But Sweetie specifically told the sales person he bought it from in Austin that he intended it as an engagement ring. And when we took it to the Pleasanton store here, that salesperson said resizing was not a problem. Apparently, resizing it what has cause most of the repair problems we're having because when they took it down a size all of the settings stretched just the tiniest bit making the stones loose.

What should have happened is that the Austin salesperson should have told Sweetie that yes, the center stone is hard enough for regular wear (not daily wear, but that it would be susceptible to scratches and chips, and given the size of the center stone (it's a London blue topaz), would become very noticeable over time. When we brought it into the Pleasanton store, the saleslady there should have offered to order it in my correct size directly from the maker rather than resizing this ring.

All the store managers are off to Dallas this week for training or something, but I've got the name and number for the manager here and the regional supervisor for Austin. I don't want to get anyone into trouble, but come on, they need to do something at this point.

The salesperson said they would probably give us full retail credit toward a different ring since we are having so many problems with it. The problem for me, now, is that I don't want to get rid of this one. Sweetie put a lot of time and thought into choosing this one and proposed with so it has sentimental value. So I'm hoping to keep this one and get a new one. Because, can you ever have too much jewelry?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Ring

So we're heading back to the jeweler today. Wait wasn't I just there last weekend? Why yes, yes I was.

And why was I there? To pick up my engagement ring after they had tightened up the center stone setting.

So why am I going back? Because the center stone fell out of the setting on Friday. Again.

This is a highly reputable jeweler and I'm getting peeved. The jewelry is beautiful, their customer service is impeccable, but dang it if the product can't hold up to daily wear, there's just something wrong.

I take the ring off when I do dishes. I take it off when I shower. I take it off when I cook. I take it off when I do my hair. I take it off when I work in the flower pots. I feel like I spend more time with it off than on and this still happens.

It seems like all I do while wearing the ring is type and drive. That really shouldn't be that stressful for the ring.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Abductions

I've been watching Sweetie carefully this week. He not only replaced the battery in his car (finally), he single-handedly repacked the garage the following day, he washed the dishes in the sink, he vacuumed the living room, and he drove to the hardware store 3 towns over to get something we needed. And I've received 3, count 'em 3, backrubs this week.

He did all of this with my asking. He did all of this without pointing out that he did it without my asking.

I don't know what's going on--but I like it! I have my suspicions and I haven't ruled out alien abduction, but until he sprouts tentacles or an extra head, I'll be keeping him.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chayote and Spinach Quiche

I'm still experimenting with Chayote in the kitchen. I tried this a couple weeks ago and while it tasted good, I wasn't completely thrilled with the texture. Made some tweaks and tried again this past weekend with much better results. I wanted to post this recipe earlier in the week, but with the home repair situation I didn't quite get to it. We were just sitting down to this meal when the lights went out Sunday night.

Chayote and Spinach Quiche


Cooking time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients
    1 Tablespoon olive oil
    1 medium onion, chopped
    ½ cup light mayonnaise
    ½ cup low fat milk
    3 eggs
    8oz shredded cheese (I used a mixture of Mozzarella, Cheddar, and Jack)
    2 chayotes, grated and squeezed dry
    1 10oz pack of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
    salt and pepper
    1 9" pie crust (homemade or prepared)

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute the onion for 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Par-bake the piecrust for 5 minutes. (This will help keep the crust from getting quite so soggy.)
  4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and milk until smooth. Whisk in eggs. Fold the chayote, spinach, cheese, and onion into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the pie crust.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until top begins to brown and the center is set.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Reigniting the Spark

You know, sometimes you just lose it, that little spark that puts the twinkle in your eyes. We lost ours Sunday evening. As we sat down to dinner, I turned on a lamp near the table and the bulb went out. It was followed by a crackling sound in the wall near the light switch that controls the outlet the lamp was plugged in to. And darkness reigned in our home.

Unfortunately it wasn't a simple matter of resetting the breaker. But luckily for us it only impacted half of the house. Unluckily the master bedroom and bathroom is on that side of the house. I say unluckily because that meant we need to plug in the alarm clock elsewhere in the house, which of course meant we needed to sleep near it in order to hear it in the morning. Yep, we spend Sunday night sleeping on the living room floor. The cats thought it was fun.

Anyhow, I worked from home Monday and Tuesday while we made the necessary repairs. We called in a licensed handyman and he tested all the outlets and switches in that circuit to try and pinpoint the short. He finally isolated where it was in the walls, but couldn't actually locate the broken section, so he ran new wire through the walls and just bypassed the short. Works for me.

This search, of course, involved cutting huge sections of drywall from the walls, thankfully that work was limited to the garage. He did a pretty good job of putting the walls back together too.

Of course, since the repairman needed to work in the garage, we needed to pull all our crappe away from the walls so he could search for outlets and do the work. And in order to pull things away from the wall, we needed to move Sweetie's car out of the garage. The battery has been dead for about 4 months. Sweetie doesn't drive much.

On the plus side, we now have power throughout the house. Also on the plus side, Sweetie finally put a fresh battery in his car (Yea!). On the down side, the contents of our garage are now piled in the middle of the garage floor. We've had most of this crappe since we moved in, 6 years ago. I'm hoping we'll finally be able to part with some of it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Death by Laundry

Well, we didn't make it to the library yesterday. Actually I talked myself out of it, I have enough books at home waiting to be read. It's just that most of my books are non-fiction or "heavy" reading. I just wanted to be entertained with a bit of fluff. Sorry Nora, love your stuff, but you fall in the fluff category and you'll have to wait.

At any rate, we did get a lot of running around done yesterday and generally had fun. We watched the Sex in the City movie last night. I used to watch the series, but I think I stopped after season 3. The movie was fun, I had a lot of laughs, and was not at all confusing even though I hadn't seen all of the shows that came before. It made me remember what I liked about the show in the first place. I may have to go back and revisit the series.

So, random question here, is it completely irrational for me to be stoked that my pen ran out of ink? I usually misplace, loan out, switch up pens before they run out of ink. The sense of accomplishment I experienced when the pen ran dry doesn't make sense to me. But there it was.

This article about doctors redefining what it means to die in order to facilitate organ harvesting for transplant put a downer on my day. I've been close to this situation 3 times (two cousins and a significant other) so far in my life and have twice been part of the family decision making group determining when enough is enough and whether organs will be made available for transplant. It's not a happy place to be. Please people, complete an advanced health care directive. I know it's unpleasant to think about your own death, but it's much more unpleasant for the people left behind--especially if they don't agree.

After that, I went looking for anything to make me laugh. The SNL skit of the VP debate was just the ticket. Disturbingly, I kinda see myself in the whole "I like McCain, but I don't" portrayal of Biden. Oh, and I loved Queen Latifah as Gwen Ifill.

Today is laundry day. With just the two of us, there really isn't that much laundry, but I'm doing a couple of extra loads for rugs around the house and for my fluffy warm robe. It's been getting colder as I've been getting up earlier and I pulled the robe out of a storage box. It needs to be freshened up a bit. I ran across this video on how to fold a t-shirt. Clearly there are no engineers in the Wayward house.

Another political cartoon on the financial crisis/bailout.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

One Ringy Dingy

We're headed out to go pick up my engagement ring from the jeweler. The center stone had come loose last week and we took it in for repairs before it could fall out. (It's fallen out once before.)

Going to the jeweler isn't terribly convenient; it's about 30 miles out of our way every time we need to take it in or pick it up. This is the third repair in 5 months. So we've talked about getting a different ring.

It rained here this morning, so the world seems bright and fresh.Hopefully we'll find something fun to do while we're out. I'm angling for a trip to the library... oh, what an exciting life we lead.

So I've been receiving an unusual number of calls the last few days (like 3 times a day) from American General. They don't leave a message and they don't leave a number. I have no idea what my connection to them is or why they're calling. A Google search turns up several American General companies connected to loans, financial products, insurance and whatnot. I think I'll be reviewing my credit report this weekend. I'll need coffee for that task.

I love the smell of coffee, especially in the morning. Here's an article on how to roast your own coffee on the cheap at home. I'm fortunate that my commute takes me past two coffee roasters on the way to work each morning, Peet's and somebody else. I always breathe deeply when I pass through the cloud of coffee roasting goodness on the freeway. Of course, I then cough up a lung because I'm also sucking on the tailpipe in front of me. At any rate, I don't think I'll be trying this coffee roasting trick at home--my kitchen is just too small and, quite frankly, it seems like way too much bother. I'm happy to stick my face in a container of Folgers and call it good.

In other news, I caught up on the VP debate here. (Links to the video are embedded in the article about halfway down.)Gotta say, I'm pleased. Biden didn't run at the mouth and Palin held her own. I don't think the debate will really change anything, but all those Republicans calling for Palin to step aside may give her a little more breathing room after this performance. Granted, they both got some facts wrong, they both did their fair share of misrepresentation, and they both side-stepped some questions, but overall I think Biden seemed to answer a larger number of questions more directly. Thankfully the fact checkers have been hard at work.

When I think of politicians, I think of talking heads. And with Halloween approaching I think of pumpkins. And pumpkins as heads makes me think of the legend of Sleepy Hollow. Crikies! Can you imagine the headless horseman riding around with this monster?

On the subject of Halloween, I think I've found my costume for this year.