Sunday, December 27, 2009
Which is what I was thinking the entire time I watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special, The End Of Time Part One, last night.
The Master is dead.
The Master is resurrected.
The Master is dead again. Maybe.
No, he's definitely still alive. With a flashy Skeletor head, electric jazz hands, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Oh, and he's got meat cravings. Including people-meat. Like a zombie Time Lord on crack.
Then some homeless people discuss how Obama is going to save the world economic crisis. Overnight!
The Doctor is chasing The Master! The Master gets away.
Hey it's Donna's Grandpa!
Hey didya hear that Obama is going to save the world economic crisis. Overnight!
The Doctor chases The Master again!
The drums! They're real!
Some EVIL dude and his daughter have an EVIL machine that needs some fixin'.
Hey, EVIL dude wrote a book.
EVIL dude kidnapped The Master and is forcing him to fix the EVIL machine.
The Master looks awesome in that straightjacket.
The Doctor and Donna's Grandpa will save the day!
Ooops! Sorry......The Master got free and is using The EVIL machine to change every human on the planet into a copy of himself.......WTF????
Donna's brain is burning up, and, oh yeah - it looks like the Time Lords are back, and they might possibly be EVIL as well.
Part One ends......
I've been dreading this episode, afraid that it'll be too contrived, or just completely fizzle. So far, it ain't lookin' so hot.
I hope next week's episode will redeem this mess.
Let's do the time warp again?
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The day after Thanksgiving, we put up the Christmas tree.
It's still standing.
This illustrates two things:
One - In our household, it's a Christmas Tree, not a Yuletide Evergreen, Winter Festival Spruce, or Non-Deciduous Holiday Fir.
Two - Leonidas has not destroyed it. Yet.
It's on his list of things to do, of course. He's working it, limb by limb.
Since it's a fake tree, Leo's spending his spare time (in between naps and flooding the kitchen) bending the bottom section only. I figure he's saving the final annihilation for tonight.
Which reminds me, I still have a ton of wrapping to do. It's just not Christmas without staying up til 2:00am wrapping gifts with Bailey's Irish Cream by your side.
Speaking of gifts, I thought I'd tempt death, and make one last trip to the mall this afternoon. I was nearly killed at least three times. For serious.
There was so much stupid on the road. A big, fat, giant, stupid party, filled with stupid morons, driving stupid. And I don't mean drunk – although I'm sure the guy fading into my lane on Route 33 began his Bailey's a few hours ago.
My favorite was the douche bag in the mini van. See, traffic was backed up outside the mall, and I was waiting in line, being nice and taking turns letting people into my line. Out of frickin' nowhere, this guy makes a hard right into the one foot space in front of my car.
He was completely perpendicular. To. My. Car.
He turned so far sideways into our lane of traffic, he had to back up a little before fully pulling into the lane.
Well, I'm off. Those presents won't wrap themselves.
Let me tell you, I earned that Bailey's tonight.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Odd, I was positive I spent several hundred dollars on clothing when school began. Surely, she had enough to get through a five day week.
Apparently all the fine clothing I purchased became unacceptable, in favor of two special pairs of corduroy pants.
I probably should've noticed that sooner. There's a school dress policy, so the pants can only be black or khaki. This makes it difficult to discern which pair is which. To me. The Mom. Obviously, my daughter knows exactly which pair is her favorite.
Then the wave of bad junior high memories washed over me. The pair of Sergio Valentes that fit the bum just right. The vintage t-shirt that was worn out in all the right places. The Nikes that had the proper amount of smudgies. The favorite pair of undies that didn't wedge. Well, actually, that still applies - but I certainly don't wear the same pair daily.
The point is, I really do understand having that favorite pair of jeans, sweater, sneakers or undies..... and this is even more urgently felt in the teen years. I get that.
Woe, I am old now. This means I cannot reconcile the favorite pair of pants, with the amount of money spent on the whole lot.
I made a strong (and possibly cranky) suggestion to wear something else. Preferably a warm ensemble, since it was going to be 20 degrees with a wind chill near zero.
The next morning, she came downstairs in a pair of khaki Bermuda shorts and boots.
Well then. After some actual long pants were procured from the bottom of the closet, she tells me "other girls are wearing shorts and boots".
Oh yes. Those "other" girls that must look like a stiff version of The Crocodile Hunter in Uggs, once their legs succumb to hypothermia.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I had a coupon for these new Crispy Cheesy Baked Crisps - or something like that.
So I thought, "what the heck, I'll try it". I'm wild like that.
The box was a normal-sized box, but the contents were not normal-sized. Inside the box was a small, hermetically sealed baggie.
A bag-lette, really. It was so tiny, it was Barbie-sized.
The bag-lette held about six Cheesy Crisps. This is no way to induce me to purchase this snack - coupon, or no coupon. At least float me 12 Cheesy Crisps.
Also, they were more like Buttery Crisps, not Cheesy Crisps. So I was boned on the cheese too.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
This morning, I was overtaken by a stench so rotten, so foul, it made me gag. I heard the scrape, scrape, scraping of giant, fuzzy paws in the litter box, two rooms away. I tried to put it out of my mind - and nostrils - hoping the toxic cloud would dissipate.
It did not.
Leonidas produced a bowel movement so caustic, had he (and his nuclear progeny) been at Thermopylae, the Persians would have disintegrated on the spot.
I got out the biohazard suit and performed the extraction. I survived, but I think all my nasal hair fried off.
His diet hasn't changed, so I've no idea why this happened. Maybe he got into something left in the sink. Or he ate a bug....like a stink bug.
A really big stink bug.
Monday, December 7, 2009
I've been lazy. Soooo lazy, I stopped my skincare regimen. Then my face fell off.
Slid down my shoulders, bounced off my boob, and almost smothered the cat.
Seriously. If my cheeks and eye bags get any lower, I'll need a little sling to carry them around in. Maybe something snazzy, like dual fanny-packs hooked to my ears. From Prada.
* sigh *
I scrub my face with rocks to remove dead skin. I have tubs o'crap to replace moisture, collagen, and remove wrinkles. I've had a dermatologist burn off brown spots and broken blood vessels from my face. If I get lazy, as I did the last few months, I look like the Picture of Dorian Gray.
Zits, however, never cut me a break. This teenage malady will continue to plague me until I'm 90. They pretend like they're behaving, then when you least expect it.... WHAMMO! They find a way to be even more disturbing than a standard blemish.
Like the red spot on my cheek. It lurked there for a week, angry and petulant. I learned long ago not to touch them, and they'll go away on their own. But it's been a WEEK now, and there was NO change until this morning.
It was ready to detonate, so I touched it. When I did, a small round pellet fell out. A ball of pellet.
I'm expecting a volcano, but get a white, mini-rabbit turd. Not only was that unsatisfying, but downright weird. Like a tiny alien laid an egg in my face.
I just really resent that at 41, there's so much maintenance. Because my metabolism has slowed to that of a three-toed sloth, just getting rid of a few pounds is a monumental task.
When I was 25, I could eat salads for a week and lose ten pounds. Now, I can work out every day of the week, eat a lettuce leaf for lunch and dinner, and lose absolutely nothing.
Maybe it's heredity. My sister, the family archivist, showed me a photo of my paternal grandmother when she was in her twenties – she looked fabulous. Then, in her late thirties, she looked like a few miles of bad road.
On the other hand, the women on my mother's side tend to hold up well. Hardy Irish stock. Maybe there's hope for me yet.
Or maybe I need a potato and Guinness diet.
Guinness is good for you, right?
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I've heard that the day before Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of the year. True to form, it took two and a half hours to get home last Wednesday afternoon.
Bumper-to-bumper, never exceeding the 20 mile per hour mark, the taillights left a trail of red as far as I could see. The stretch of I-78 around Clinton looked like the Wendol Fireworm from The 13th Warrior.
Photo Credit: The 13th Warrior
I've been thinking about being thankful. I may have, inadvertently, given the impression that I hate my job, due to my whining about the driving.
Honestly, I haven't been at this position long enough to know whether I like it or not.
However, the work and the drive are two separate things.
The drive is heinous. I've made that perfectly obvious, based on my grumbling over the past few weeks. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it, eventually.
I'm thankful I had the opportunity to work from home as long as I did. Realistically, there aren't any IT jobs in my immediate area, and the chances of finding another work-from-home deal is slim. So I'm driving.
The work itself, on the other hand, has the potential to be rewarding.
I'm honored that I was chosen to join this team, and support some of my company's premiere applications. I also have the opportunity to learn new technology.
The alternative was to take a layoff. Anyone who wasn't placed during this integration would be let go. It might have happened now, or in a year, but it would have happened.
Sometimes when I get home late and I didn't plan dinner ahead of time, I end up throwing it together. Or I'm so tired at night, that I don't do a good a job with the housework. Or spend time with my family. This makes me feel terrible, but it's just an adjustment. We'll get through it.
I have to plan dinners more effectively. I have to plan my after work schedule better, and get to bed earlier. In a way, working from home made me a little lazy, and I never had to plan ahead. I was always at home and accessible. However, this is do-able. We'll pull together as a family.
My family, who I love, and am thankful for.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday morning, I had a lovely cheese omelette nearly ruined by a genetic disorder.
I assume it's genetic, since every female in my family has this problem. We'll be going along fine, then suddenly begin to choke on air. We don't even need to be eating anything. Just breathing.
I could be talking, sitting, eating, reading, driving - just generally existing, the throat locks up, and the coughing fit begins. In Wednesday's case, I was unfortunate enough to be eating something when the attack came. I don't know if I breathed in as I was chewing, or what; but I snarfed egg up the back of my throat, into my nasal passages, then coughed until my eyes teared up. I almost died in my breakfast.
And yes. I blew my nose and there was egg. And cheese.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
In the past year, I bought three, semi expensive sweaters that inexplicably decided to shrink and warp.
I followed the washing instructions: wash on delicate, in cold water, reshape and dry flat. They were not made of any exotic material; two were cotton, and the other was a "washable" silk blend. Normally, I would assume I did something to cause this, but the coincidence here is that it happened to ALL THREE sweaters, and ALL THREE were made by Ralph Lauren. I would expect better quality from Ralphy-boy.
Okay, if I'm going to spend a ton of money on clothing, it better last longer than one washing. The orange one is now so small that it looks like a half-shirt, and is completely warped along the bottom. The blue one has a shawl neck that is now choking me, as well as half-shirty. The purple one has not warped (yet), but is slowly getting smaller with each washing.
This is ridiculous. What's worse, I had to buy these sweaters in extra-extra large, so they fit me properly in the first place. I am by no means a large person. I'm carrying a few extra pounds that have become nearly impossible to remove now that I'm over forty, but I'm not in bad shape. It's INSANE that I should require a large, much less an extra large.
I blame whatever designer decided that all woman's clothing must look like it's two sizes too small. This might be fine when you're a teenager, or a 20-something that weighs less than 95 pounds. Although, my teenager wears this style, and I think it appears as though she's growing too quickly and I'm unable to afford clothing which fits her properly.
Then again, my daughter is a beanpole, but in order for her school polo shirt to fit, realistically, she should be taking a size large - because the JUNIORS mediums from Aeropostale would better fit a toddler.
When I shop, I've noticed that most of the large and extra large tops are among the first to go. So I must not be the only one buying "big". I'm left wondering: Is this being used as another statistic to confirm the obesity of America? If so, it wouldn't be fair. You can't take a toddlers shirt, and say this is the new size small, and then adjust the rest of the sizes based on that. Again, this means most of us "normal" sized women are forced to buy extra larges, which skews the data.
Or maybe it's all a conspiracy to shame us American women into starvation diets so we can fit into these miniature clothes?
Still, even if I'm forced to buy stupidly large tops, I would expect them to last - especially for a designer name. Otherwise, it makes me NOT want to buy Ralph Lauren - or whoever else burned me with a high price tag and low quality. None of this crap is made here, by the way; and probably cost only pennies to make.
Speaking of not made here.....every year I go to the local Celtic Festival, and usually purchase a wool sweater, made in Ireland. These are usually hand made, and are machine washable - even though they are made of wool. These are sweaters I will have for the rest of my life. They never shrink, warp or fall apart. They are practically an investment.
I just thought of something else too. I had a number of "investment" sweaters, back from the earlier days of my career, from Ann Taylor. These too, were wool and washable. I still have most of them, and expect I may have a few of them the rest of my life. I had a Bennetton sweater from the 1980's last me twenty years, and the only reason I had to get rid of it was because I wore out the elbows. I probably could've put suede patches on the elbows and it'd be good to go for another twenty.
So what's happening here? One, we have a ridiculous trend towards insanely small clothing, and two - quality stinks.
In this economy, I cannot afford to blow $80 on a top that won't last til next wash day.
Well, I'm not playing anymore. I'm not buying any brands that have burned me in the past, and I'm going to be much more conservative about the quality and price from now on. Who's with me?
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Geez, I didn't think it was possible, but my eyes are more swollen today. This stuff better start working soon, because I've only got two more days on it, then it's just the antibiotics. At least I don't feel crabby or hungry, like the side effects said I would. I feel a bit zingy in the afternoon though. Zingy = good.
Traffic was insane this morning. I just don't get why some days the highway is practically empty, then other days it's bumper to bumper. There's no pattern to it at all.
I think I'm getting used to the driving. The car helps. A LOT. If I tried to make this commute in the Jeep, not only would it have shaken apart in the first two weeks, but I was only getting about 12 miles per gallon. The Volvo has a setting where it constantly monitors my fuel consumption, gives me the mpg, average speed and how many more miles I can go on my tank of gas. It does other things too, but I'm still reading the owner's manual and haven't figured it all out. On average, I'm getting about 26 - 27 miles per gallon in a mid-size sedan. That's not too bad.
I should've thought to go with a certified pre-owned car before. It's like, half the price of a new one, looks just like the new one, and Volvo practically takes the engine apart, cleans it, puts it back together again and certifies it as fantabulous. Or something like that.
And the warranty is comprehensive. Which is good, because hubby said the engine looks like something the Ancients created on Stargate, and just getting to the battery would be a challenge.
Truth be told, I originally wanted a Smart Car. They're just too adorable! It's so small I could fit it right on the front steps of my house. Then I read they're not great for long commutes because the ride was a bit rough. Two hours a day from PA to NJ and back again, would probably be a hemorrhoid fiesta.
Hemorrhoid Fiesta.....heh. Great name for a rock band.
Thank you Mr. Barry.
I did happen to see one during my commute one morning. It looked ridiculously endangered next to all the tractor trailers. Like a gnat flying with turkey vultures. You might as well be running down the road naked.
Gah. Three cups of coffee, and I just can't wake up today. And my stinkin seedless grapes have seeds. Liars.
So glad tomorrow's Friday.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Thank you for tailgating me for almost nine miles, then flying past me - Obama-Biden bumper sticker glistening in the morning light.
I was remiss, as I was only doing 75 miles per hour. Surely I should've known 85 was more appropriate. Your eco-friendly statement on wheels has shown me the error of my non-hybrid owning ways. I'm sure that 18 wheeler you lurched in front of has seen the error of his ways as well. Possibly that he missed an opportunity to demonstrate the sheer, hulking mass that is a tractor-trailer, bearing down on a motorized roller skate.
I see now, how terribly important it is to drive an electric vehicle. There must be great satisfaction in being able to break the speed limit by 20 miles per hour, leaving all of us gas-guzzling arseholes in your wake. Besides, it's all about giving the impression of saving the environment, instead of actually slowing down, and possibly using less gas. Yeah?
A Slow-Poke In The Left Lane
Okay, so I'm a little persnickety today. Went to bed at 9:00pm last night and was awake just about every hour on the hour. I think tonight will be an even earlier night, once dinner and housework is done.
Oh, and BONUS! I read the side-effects of the steroid used to reduce the swelling in my face. May cause crankiness! Touchiness! Foul mood swings! Yay!
Let's take an ill woman, put her in some Jersey traffic, and add an extra dose of CRAZY!
If it wasn't for the fact that my face looks like it needs to be deflated with a very large knitting needle, I wouldn't bother.
However, I am desperate.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
It was an Electric Light Orchestra morning.
Apparently ELO was floating around my Zune, and decided to show up during my morning commute. I'd forgotten how good they were.
Stopped for coffee at the cafeteria, the check out clerk was muttering to herself again. She reminds me of a certain older actress who regularly appeared on The Love Boat, back in the 70's. I don't recall her name, but I do remember she was always smacking her husband with a purse.
I checked my email, and had a message from someone working on an old project of mine. It was turned over to him over two months ago, and he's just looking at it now. His questions were along the lines of "can you do this entire analysis for me?". No dude. Your job now. I don't even have access to those systems anymore.
Anyway, I finally went back to the doctor yesterday. I couldn't take the constant pressure behind my eyes. Turns out our home thermometer isn't working properly, and I've got a nice, fat fever, along with a sinus infection. Again.
Doc gave me a "talking to" for waiting as long as I did, because now the infection has embedded itself behind my face. I told him that when I was younger these things usually resolved on their own, which is what I was hoping for. Which why I always wait. He reminded me that I'm no longer 25, and that at my age the immune system is a bit more battered. Thanks Doc. I feel ancient now.
So it's an extended round of antibiotics and a steroid to reduce the swelling in my face. Did I mention the swelling? For about a month now, I've looked like Jabba the Hut. I'm sure my new team is wondering why they hired someone terminally ill.
I really need to get to bed by 9:00pm. I've been getting up at 4:30am in order to have bathroom time before my teenager gets up at 5:00am, then staying up late so I can have some time with my family. That's the part that makes me sad. This commute puts me on a different schedule than everyone else – I'm sleeping when they're awake, and awake when they're sleeping.
So four hours per night isn't cutting it. But, maybe I can handle more late nights once I shake this infection. Right now though, four hours sleep sure isn't helping.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
A side note: for the past few days there has been a green spider in the ladies room here at work. Today it disappeared. I assumed someone braver than me removed it. However, I noticed it has reappeared outside the bathroom. It's making a break for it, and is probably looking for my cube to build a nest.
I'm trying to do this post from my Blackberry, so this is fresh and unedited, typos and all.
So. The sunrise over the "Welcome to New Jersey" sign was breathtaking this morning. Seriously. This was the first morning this week where I didn't feel like I had Typhoid, or a hot poker jammed in my left eyeball.
Everyone at the office is sick, so it was only a matter of time before the germs found a new host in me.
What's worse, I haven't been good about getting to bed early, so I'm averaging four hours a night. I cannot begin to explain the physical pain I felt upon getting up this morning. However, once I got on the road, I started feeling better. Although it may have something to do with the quantity of coffee I've consumed this morning.
Today the Zune found some T-Rex (20th Century Boy, Rock On, Bang A Gong), and some Toto (99 and Africa). Is that song really about Agent 99 from Get Smart? I'll have to Google that later.
Got here well before 8am, and had to turn on the lights. This place is weird, no one comes in before 10am. I don't get that. I'd rather get here early and leave early so I still have time to spend with my family at night. Oh well. To each his own, I guess.
Well off to do some work. More to come soon...
UPDATE: I took a 50/50 shot at remembering who wrote The Sun Also Rises, and guessed wrong. So yeah, it's corrected now.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I didn't think it would be such a huge adjustment. The work part wasn't that big a deal – it's the getting up early, washed up and dressed appropriately, then driving an hour.
I put on eye makeup for the first time in months, and couldn't understand why I didn't look normal. Maybe I'm out of practice, but I looked like my eyes were on lopsided. The left one appeared to tilt further towards my ear, and was slightly misshapen.
Dress slacks, sweater, pantyhose and heels – yay! At least it's not a suit. Later, I would find out I was completely over-dressed. Most of my co-workers barely met the definition of “business casual”.
The morning commute wasn't too bad, and I made it there in about an hour. They let me in, and I found my cube. There were dust bunnies rolling around the desk, and the chair looked like someone vomited on the edge of the seat. Other than that, everyone was very nice and helpful. A great group of people. I consider my old team a finely oiled machine, and some of the best I've worked with, but so far this group is pretty awesome.
A few odd experiences though. I guess there's a few pockets of people that aren't used to normal human interaction like: “Hello”, or “Good Morning”. Some ran away, others looked at me like I was nuts. Maybe it was my lopsided eyes.
Also, English is a only a suggestion. There were several occasions this week where I'd get into the elevator, a meeting, the coffee room, and five or six people are speaking in another language. They would continue to do so, even though it was painfully obvious I had no clue what was being said. I was always taught this was rude, but hey, whatever. I'm getting paid, so I'll deal.
The evening commute is heinous. It's like a wild roller coaster where everyone's going the same direction, just not attached to one another. It's up to you not to become bumper cars.
However, I noticed rush hour drivers were considerably more cautious than I would've expected. Rarely did I see people cutting each other off, or doing anything overtly stupid. I suspect it was due to the shear number of vehicles. There's simply no way to go any faster, so you might as well not drive stupid.
Which brings me to an observation: All three lanes of the highway are jammed, but the only way to drive anywhere near the speed limit is in the far left lane. I drove the middle lane the first two days, and it took me an hour and a half to get home. If I stay in the far left lane, my chances of getting home in an hour are considerably improved.
The interesting thing is, I cannot stand people who do this when there's no traffic. They hog up the left lane, never let anyone by them, and you're forced to pass on the right. Now I understand why. I think they're so used to driving in this insane traffic, they just don't think about it anymore.
By week's end, I was exhausted. I think it's the driving. It's stressful – you can't take your eyes off the road for a second.
I'm hoping this week will be less tiring. I'm going to streamline a few things, shower the evening before, cut down on the face paint. I'm sure most of it is just getting back into the swing of things.
Wish me luck!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I've been trying to write a post since Monday.
I have great ideas while driving to work, but most evaporate by the time I get home in the evening.
Once dinner is cleaned up and I finish studying, it's 9pm and I'm fried.
Heck, it just took me close to a half hour just to write these four sentences.
Need sleep. Will write more soon.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I have to go grocery shopping tonight.
Well, it's not that I have to. There's food in the house. It's just that Thursdays are the only evenings I can get the shopping done with a minimum of aggravation. Plus I'm on call. Even if I wanted to suffer the trauma of a Saturday grocery store run, you can pretty much guarantee a server will implode the moment I queue up in the checkout lane, behind 40 other people.
So yeah. Thursdays.
My local grocery store must be feeling the economic pinch, because they always seem to be restocking at irregular times. I could be wrong about that, after all I don't work in the food business, but I always thought most restocking was done on Wednesdays. Now it seems they're refilling shelves every other day, yet many are still empty. Thursdays are the least barren.
Friday evenings are like open house at the lunatic asylum. Go to any grocery store on a Friday evening and you'll find worn out, lost souls on their way home from work desperately attempting to find something easy for dinner.
For example, our store has great takeout: fresh sushi, fish and chips, pasta bowls, Asian cuisine, even pizza. Visit them on a Friday after 5:00pm and your choices will be limited to a solitary pack of California rolls, and maybe a fried crab ball.
Saturdays, obviously, are very busy since everyone else had the idea to go that day. The stock boys are restocking - again, and have a palette the size of Greenland parked in the middle of every aisle. Honestly, does anyone really want to waste a perfectly good Saturday on grocery shopping?
Sundays are no good between the hours of 9:00am and 2:00 pm, owing to the after-church crowd. Mondays are, well, Mondays, so I try to avoid any additional stress after work other than cracking open a bottle of red.
Tuesdays are a forgotten day.....I know nothing of Tuesdays at a grocery store. I'm usually still stressed from Monday, and there's often food in the house, so going to the store just doesn't even register.
Wednesdays? Like I said, I always figured this was National Restocking Day, so I've avoided it.
However, there are other things that can make grocery shopping challenging. I really try to be polite and not get in other people's way, pull my cart to the side when I'm looking for something on a shelf, look both ways before blowing out of an aisle, etc. I'm one of the few though.
Invariably, there's always someone stopped dead in the middle of the aisle, catatonic in front of the cheeses. Can't go around - there's not enough real estate, so I wait, five carts deep, while Wallace decides between Wensleydale or Gloucester.
Or there's five long lost friends are having a reunion at an intersection, oblivious to the traffic backing up around them.
Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, I bet there's a direct correlation between how people drive their cars, and how they behave in a grocery store.
Now if I could just get that air horn and rocket launcher mounted on my cart...
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Okay, I promised a few people I'd post this pancake recipe. It's really good, and not too complicated. The worst part is the sifting.
After making these, I'll never go back to pancake mix. Well, probably not.
This batter can be mixed up the night before and refrigerated, just bring it to room temperature before baking.
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
1 ½ c milk
2 tsp melted butter
1) Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl.
2) In large bowl, whisk together egg, milk and melted butter.
3) Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the egg and milk.
4) If batter is too thick, add a little extra milk.
5) Whisk until smooth.
6) Add a small amount of butter or margarine to griddle/frying pan. Cook on medium heat (number 4 or 5 on electric stove). The trick here is to make sure the pan is fully heated before adding the butter/margarine and the batter. I've often found I'll start off at the number 5 setting, then end up turning the heat down to 4, once it's hot enough.
7) I use a small gravy ladle to measure each pancake. This is about 1/8 of a cup. You can make yours as big as you'd like.
8) Cook until batter appears to bubble, then flip. Check pancake after about a minute to see how well it's done. They should be slightly browned on both sides, but can be cooked so they're less toasty. Basically, you just want to make sure they're done in the middle.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
I just finished the third, and last volume of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series. The trilogy contains three immense volumes:
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Girl That Played With Fire
The Girl That Kicked The Hornet's Nest
They tell the story of Lisbeth Salander, a highly intelligent young woman in her early twenties, who was deliberately mishandled by a section of the Swedish secret police, SAPO. Her father, Zalachenko, was a Russian agent who sought asylum in Sweden. Because of his connections and the information he could provide the Swedish government, SAPO (similar to American CIA) protected him as a highly valuable informant. Zalachenko created his own crime syndicate, and SAPO looked the other way.
Zalachenko was incredibly vicious. When Lisbeth was twelve, he beat her mother so badly she suffered irreparable brain damage. Lisbeth tried reporting him to the police, but they refused to do anything, as he was under the protection of SAPO. So, at twelve years old, she decided to take matters into her own hands, made a Molotov Cocktail and threw it into Zalachenko's car, setting him on fire.
The fire failed to kill Zalachenko. SAPO saw Lisbeth as dangerous to their interests with him, covered up the police reports of the fire, and doctored Lisbeth's psych evaluation so that she would be placed in a mental hospital for children.
Repeatedly, Lisbeth would try to explain what had happened, yet no one would listen – not the police, certainly not the secret police, and not the psychologists that faked her mental evaluations. She decided then to withdraw completely, and refuse to speak to anyone. This resulted in her being deemed “retarded” by most people she came into contact with, particularly once she was allowed to leave the asylum, under guardianship.
Lisbeth's first guardian was a kindly older gentleman who was making progress in drawing her out. He got her a low level position at a security firm, where her co-workers considered her an anomaly. The owner of the firm, quickly realized she was far from “retarded”, was actually extremely intelligent, and had a knack for investigation and computer hacking.
This basically lays the foundation for the three books. You get a little more of Lisbeth's back story with each volume. Early on in the first book, Lisbeth becomes acquainted with journalist Michael Blomqvist. Because of her investigative and computer skills, she's able to help him solve several mysteries and corporate cover ups.
By the end of the second book, Lisbeth began working towards revenge against Zalachenko, also a subject of investigation by Blomqvist. The third book culminates into a series of events where Lisbeth is arrested for attempting to kill Zalachenko, has to prove her innocence and mental capabilities so as not to be institutionalized again.
I've noticed in several advertisements, this series is being marketed as “a new heroine for a new millennium”, or something to that effect. That's actually a large part of what kept me reading these books. I don't care for stories about victims as heroes. Throughout these books, Lisbeth Salander has been, in my opinion, a “non-victim”. She had many, many bad things happen to her, and chose not to shout her victimhood from the rooftops. She decided that what happened to her was no one else's business, and took her life into her own hands.
From this, she methodically began planning revenge on those who hurt her. Particularly Zalachenko. Throughout the three books, Larsson keeps the suspense high, the mysteries exciting, and throws in a few terrific twists.
I'm sure Hollywood will option these books for movies and completely ruin them. Lisbeth Salander is supposed to be about 4'11'' and around 90 pounds, yet strong and wiry. I can see Hollywood casting Angelina Jolie in the role, even though she's two feet taller, and nowhere near the same body shape. This wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that Lisbeth's size plays an integral role in the stories.
I had two issues with the books. One was a particularly violent rape scene, however it was not titillating or sensualized. It was brutal. While that is not my taste in reading, it was highly important to the plot of the third book. The other issue I had was that the final book became somewhat bogged down, explaining the legalese and government of Sweden. It's worth getting through though, because for those of us not familiar with the Swedish government, it's important to the plot.
Unfortunately, we won't be seeing any more novels from Stieg Larsson. He suffered a massive heart attack in 2004, before any of his books were even published.
A bit of background on the author: It seems Larsson was pretty much a raging communist. This places him squarely in an area of books that I would not normally read. However, I didn't feel there was any overt propaganda when reading his books. They were just great crime novels.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Getting ready to start a new job had me thinking about some of the other places I've worked. My first “real” job was as a bank clerk doing loan closings. Man, did I see some strange stuff.
For example, what do you do when you're explaining a particularly complicated document, and the customer's toup starts sliding off? I'm not aware of any protocol for that. Do you say anything? Make hand gestures? What if it hits the floor and crawls away?
I opted for not looking directly at him or his fuzzy pet tarantula. I also managed to finish my coffee without snarfing it through my nose.
His wife was sporting quite the hairpiece herself. It was huge, and apparently bought from the Dolly Parton Wig Emporium, circa 1982. Also, bright blue eyeshadow and three inch nails. Like Lil from The Squidbillies.
How about a customer decked out in biker gear, spikes all over his jacket, and yellowed fingernails filed into points??? Actually, Beelzebub turned out to be quite gentlemanly and polite. He also taught History at a university in NYC.
Then there was the lady who let her two year old to walk up and down on the closing room table, the bank documents, and the lawyer's paperwork. She became incensed when told to remove said child from the table, even though the bank documents were covered in muddy shoe prints.
Here's my personal favorite. No sooner had I walked into the closing room and introduced myself, the customer stood up, stuck his fist in my face and said he'd punch me if I didn't remove certain bank charges.
I could've understood the anger if I'd been bitchy or something, but I was in the room for all of six seconds. There wasn't time for me to get snippy. I hadn't even warmed up.
I think I was so shocked by his asshole-itude, I didn't have the common sense to get scared. I'm just standing there thinking: “Are you kidding me? Who threatens a 5' 2'' bank clerk in front of witnesses? And no ski mask?”
What I managed to finally say was, “Uh...yeah. I'll be right back.”. I found the nearest bank VP and told him I was NOT going to do a closing that required me to have judo skillz. Kindly send in the nearest armed guard. Kthxbai.
The wussy veep actually had the balls to tell me to go back in. He thought I was being a “histrionic female”. I told him to suck it (in bank lingo, of course). He gave in, and went to see what the customer was upset about. He never doubted me again - the idiot got a chair thrown at him. Histrionic my ass.
There were fun times too. We had a cavalcade of (harmless) crazy people working in the mortgage department - just to lighten things up. Like wacky Darlene who gave us the “bathroom weather report”, an hourly update on the air quality in the ladies room. Apparently one of our co-workers was rotting from the inside out.
Darlene also had a repertoire of off color songs to drive our manager mad. That and her clog-dancing between cubicles. You always knew when Darlene was in the room.
Then we had Jenny, with her overzealous burping habit, used for comic relief (it was probably acid reflux, but this was long before anyone knew what that was).
She's the only person I know of that had “needs to control gas” as a goal on her yearly review.
Yep. Good times.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The weather's been rather nice the past few days, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. This being the complete opposite of last Thursday through Sunday, where we were treated to a preview of a January blizzard.
So the woodland critters made a reappearance in the backyard, as well as the insects. While I was working at my computer, I noticed a tapping on the rear window and sliding glass door.
Ladybugs. Lots of 'em. Smacking themselves against the glass.
Went outside to find the rear of the house buzzing with them. Not swarms like I've heard about on the news, but still, a lot. They were using the drainpipe as a freeway, some traveling up, some traveling down.
This happens just about every October. They're looking for a warm place to hide for the winter, and in some cases, swarm into houses. We've never had this problem, only about ten or twenty actually find their way into the house throughout October. This usually serves as entertainment for our cat (both the old cat which passed way, and the new kitten). I'm the one rescuing them and pitching them outside. The ladybugs. Not the cat.
From what I read, ladybugs can sting, pee on you (defensive bleeding), and smell bad. Honestly, I've never noticed. I handle them all the time, and never had one sting or defensively 'bleed” on me. Then again, maybe we just have really laid back ladybugs.
Here's two of them, hanging out on the side of the house (click to enlarge):
Here's one with an assassin wheel bug (click to enlarge):
About four seconds before I took that photo, the ladybug had been motoring along the assassin's leg, and the assassin was waving it's long, robotic leg around, trying to dislodge said ladybug. Apparently they don't eat them.
I don't pick up assassins. They have a long, pokey stinger on their face, that they probably use for sucking blood from other bugs. I heard they eat spiders, which makes them awesome in my book.
To give you an idea of how weird looking the assassin bug is, here's a better shot. Check out the stegosaurus cog on it's back (click to enlarge):
Funny, I grew up in a small town, and thought we had plenty of insects. I had no idea there were so many weird things living in the woods of Pennsylvania.
Speaking of weirdness, here's a random photo of Leonidas being pathetic. Apparently, waiting too long for his sweet, sweet softie food caused all the bones in his body to collapse:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Well, I was going to write something about teenagers, angst, and how everything in life seems just so difficult when you're 14, but then I decided against it. It'll just make my daughter crankier.
So we didn't get the insane six inches of snow on Sunday. It's bad enough that four inches of snow fell last Thursday. The leaves haven't yet turned color, much less fallen off the trees, so when that heavy, wet snow fell last week, the branches collapsed under all that weight. We lost a lot of tree branches, and have some serious cleanup and pruning ahead of us this weekend.
Of course, today it's 65 degrees outside. The sun is shining, and it almost looks like Spring instead of Fall.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
It's snowing. Again.
They're calling for an inch throughout today, then possibly another FOUR INCHES overnight. According to the local newspaper, the last time it snowed this much was in 1836.
It's October. In Pennsylvania. It's not like this is the Canadian Northern Territory.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
You see that date up there? The one at the top of this post? I'm pretty sure it says OCTOBER 15TH.
So tell me, why is it SNOWING?
Here's my backyard. Yes, those are trees that still have leaves on them!!
We are still mowing grass on weekends, and the leaves have not fully changed for Autumn yet, much less fallen off the tree.
It was seventy degrees last Friday. Where's my global warming?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I took Friday off work for my birthday (yay!), and tried to have a relaxing weekend. I felt great for a few days last week, then I somehow got my cold back. Or it's a new cold. Or something. I don't know, but now I'm officially sick of being sick. Plus, now I'm beginning to stress about being sick and starting a new job shortly.
Looked at cars over the weekend. I'm considering a new one since the Trusty, Rusty Jeep is eleven years old. Plus commuting. And Jersey. And stress.
Also stress-worthy: apparently my daughter's social life is spiraling down the toilet, which is, of course, all my fault. I wasn't even aware it was in jeopardy.
I thought we had better communication than most teens and parents. Then again, most parents probably have the same revelation at some point. More on that later.
Two other things:
ONE - I tried the FullBar. You eat it with a full glass of water, and it fills you up. This works phenomenally well, except for the eating part. It tastes like the air filter from my Jeep.
TWO - Primeval left us with a completely crap ending in series three, but YAY! BBCAmerica has announced it will work with other production companies to fund a fourth series. Which is a bit odd since Primeval actually aired on ITV in the UK, and not BBC. Because it was such a big hit here in the USA, it prompted this unusual partnership. I don't care, as long as they tie up those scraggly loose ends.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
In my pursuit of books that might draw my daughter into reading, I was lucky enough to find this wonderful book. It's categorized as young adult, but it's very readable for us older folks too.
Kit's Wilderness tells the story of thirteen year old Kit Watson and his family, who move back to their ancestral town of Stoneygate in Northeastern England. It's an old mining town, seemingly haunted by the children who died in mine disasters in the early 1800's.
Kit meets the moody, troubled John Askew, whom he shares a connection – they both have the same names and ages of two boys who died in the mines over a hundred years ago.
John and a few other children like to play an game called “Death”. In the game, the one chosen for “Death” becomes entranced, sees apparitions, and is then swallowed by nothingness. Kit is drawn into the game as well. After Kit is chosen for “Death”, he's haunted by the ghost children, playing at the edge of the river, or in the “wilderness” near the mines. The reader is left to decide if the “ghosts” are real, a form of hypnotism, imagination, or dreams.
Kit's grandfather, who is succumbing to Alzheimer's Disease, tells him stories about the ghosts, and what it was like working in mines. One story in particular is about Silky, a ghost boy that never made it out of the mine for burial. The “old timers” in town considered Silky to be a good ghost, and they would say he would protected the miners who've lost their way deep in the mine. The stories, along with the ghost of Silky, form a strong bond between grandfather and grandson.
I don't want to give out too many spoilers, but I will say the story leaves some loose ends to your imagination. This might not go over well with kids that are too reliant on the instant gratification of TV, where storylines are spelled out like a treasure map for a two year old.
I enjoyed this book immensely. A little ghost story, a little growing up story, a little bit family. It made me feel good. Warm. Like Christmastime in front of a warm hearth. With family.
I pictured the grandfather in the story being similar to my mother's grandfather who worked in the mines, here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I don't recall the exact stories – they were things mentioned in passing by my mother - just bits and pieces floating around my brain. I seem to remember the ring he made her from a stone found in a coal mine. Fool's Gold maybe? How the children as young as eight (sometimes younger) worked in the mines. I know there's more. I hope that someday my Mom, her brother and sister will write those down for us. To my knowledge, we don't have any stories that take place in Northeast PA, like Kit's Wilderness.
David Almond's first novel, Skellig, was a huge success. It won the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Children's Book Award, and has been made into a movie by Sky1.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
It's like Animal Planet in my kitchen window.
Today I found this dude hanging outside the window:
(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)
Then it saw me:
Here's a close up:
(click to enlarge)
I need to get out of the house more often.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Got a Blackberry last week. It's a cool little toy. One of the biggest benefits in having this phone, is that I can use any MP3 as a ringtone.
I'm no ringtone nut. I would just prefer to have a ringtone that won't scare the crap out of me in the middle of the night. Seriously. A piercing ringtone will ruin your mood at 3:00am. Pity the poor fool who got stuck calling out to you, and the cell ringtone is set to “old fashioned ring” (sharp and painful), or one of those bad techno tones that come with the phone (pump up the jam! ...not at 3:00 am).
I've had two Motorola Razrs. Most of the goodies were locked down. But, I was able to use the record function to make a ringtone. The sound quality wasn't phenomenal, obviously, but it did the trick. Well I went through 2 Razrs – the same problem occurred with both. After about a year, they simply stopped picking up a signal unless I was right next to a tower. Considering I live in an area not known for it's strong cell signal, I began a search for a better phone, and ended up with the Blackberry Tour.
During my research, I saw many complaints about the trackball breaking, and I can see why. That little circumpunct (heh, just read The Lost Symbol and I couldn't resist) is used for navigating everything.
So I seem to be getting a better signal, plus toys and email. And a ringtone that won't make my ears bleed.
My personal favorite for on call: When The Levee Breaks by Led Zepplin. Slow drumbeat at the start, then moves gently into the rest of the song.
Besides, the title is so appropriate.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I have nasty allergies, and more often than not, the only thing that prevents me from contracting a hellacious sinus infection is a decongestant. I can buy Zyrtec and Zyrtec D without a prescription now, but if I want the D, I have to sign my life away because it contains pseudoephedrine.
This involves waiting in line at the pharmacy and giving the clerk my driver's license. They write down a number of things from my license and log them in a database somewhere, then I have to sign several documents. I'm not sure why I'm signing these documents, I assume it's something to do with swearing I'm not going to make meth.
However, I've managed to catch a nasty head/chest cold, and I'm taking Tylenol Cold and Robitussin Cough. Neither of these formulations contain pseudoephedrine. Yet, today when I stopped in Target to pick up more Tylenol cold medicine – which is NOT behind the counter, and does NOT require me to provide six forms of ID – the checkout clerk asked me for my driver's license:
“I need your driver's license, ma'am.” the clerk asked.
“Whaaa?” I was in a bit of a fugue from being ill.
“Your driver's license. You're purchasing cold medicine.” she said.
I stared at her for a moment and opened my mouth to argue. This cold medicine doesn't contain pseudoephedrine. Why are you busting my balls? But I handed it over anyway, and she swiped my license. I was simply too tired and sick to give good argument. Besides, I wouldn't have enjoyed it.
Afterwards, the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I became. Have you heard about the grandmother in Indiana that was arrested for purchasing Mucinex and Zyrtec within a week period?
Tylenol cold medicine contains phenylephine, which is just the craptastic replacement for real decongestant. To my knowledge, there is no restriction on purchasing this stuff. What does that mean then? Now that the cold medicine Nazi swiped me for Tylenol, am I on the record for having purchased decongestant this week, and therefore have to wait another week before getting any Zyrtec D, if I need it?
Maybe, but most likely not. That's really not the point though, is it? Either she screwed up and didn't need my license for Tylenol, or now some stores are tracking all decongestants, and we're degenerating into even more of a nanny state.
Ugh. My head is pounding, my throat feels like I swallowed glass shards, and, oh great! I just sneezed out “The Thing From Outer Space”. Now I need a shower. And a nap.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
I saw something very disturbing on television last night, and it wasn't Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami.
Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, is hocking bionic hearing aids.
Aside from the fact that this is cheesily called the “Bionic Hearing Aid”, I've got no issue with Mr. Majors trying to make a buck. Plenty of older celebrities have been on TV, lending their name to stuff. Go for it. That's not the disturbing part.
I think the source of the weirdness is:
1) Majors is sitting in a chair, looking sort of uncomfortably propped up. But he's not paralyzed, just frail.
2) This makes me think of childhood heroes, and fondly remember him as Steve Austin.
3) Then I realize how old he must be (70 years old according to IMDB), which makes me feel ancient for even remembering The Six Million Dollar Man.
A bit of a mortality wake up call.
About a year ago, we picked up some of the old Six Million Dollar Man episodes on Amazon.co.uk. Apparently there was a moratorium on selling them here in the USA – I heard this was because Hollywood was in talks to make a movie. I don't know how true that is, but I can't wait to see what a travesty that'll be. I also heard Jim Carrey wanted to do it. There's not enough words to describe how horrendous that is.
Anyway, hubby and I thought the episodes were still pretty good. My daughter, not so much. For us, I'm sure part of the enjoyment comes from our childhood memories. Steve Austin was part American James Bond, part athlete, part superhero.
Heh. Makes me wonder if my daughter will feel the same way in 30 years, when she reminisces about Buffy The Vampire Slayer with her own children.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Every September we go to the Celtic Classic. It's usually great fun, food and beer. They used to serve Guinness, but now it's a knock off called O'Hara's. Both are good. Love the Guinness though... it's like chocolate beer.
In 2006 and 2007 we ran in their 5K event - even my daughter. Now the 5K sponsor separated from the Celtic Classic, and I'm not even sure they run in the same area as the festival. That was a shame, because it was all part of the festival fun – you know, like a tradition. Plus you got a really cool Celtic Classic shirt out of it.
It's been the largest Celtic festival on the East coast for close to 23 years. Now I'm concerned it won't be around much longer.
We went last weekend. Walked in on the Sand Island side, and it looked mobbed. Wall-to-wall people. Paid for some beer and food tickets, got some O'Hara's, and headed through the masses. We got about halfway through it, walked past the Grand Pavilion and all the food vendors, over the bridge to Old York Road, behind the Hotel Bethlehem, and there was nothing there. Nothing!
There should've been more tents with vendors, food and games, but instead it was a parking lot. I ended up asking someone what the hell happened. Turns out, last year there was so much rain, the festival didn't make enough money, so they paired it down. Severely.
They had more rain this year. Last Sunday was a wash out. Who knows if it'll be around next year.
Okay, I was going to end this with “It's just so sad”, but now I'm just craving Guinness.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I've been working from home for about five years now. The job I'm doing now will no longer be needed within the foreseeable future, so I'm transferring to another department. This also means I'll be physically going into the office on a daily basis.
This is still about a month off, and could fall through at any moment, but I'm trying to prepare mentally and physically. For example, this job will be more hands on, so I'm brushing up on a few programming languages that I've neglected over the past year.
There's a few other items on my To Do List:
Daily showers will now be a must, unless I don't want to make friends. You see, working from home means shuffling downstairs, stopping by the kitchen for a cuppa joe, then flopping down in front of the laptop in jammies and bunny slippers. Showers were optional.
New clothing will be need to be purchased, because most of my old wardrobe doesn't fit anymore. This is mainly due to the fact that my home office is right next to the kitchen, and my work uniform is usually a sweat suit. Unfortunately, elasticated pants don't warn you when you've put on a few pounds.
On a positive note, going back into the office may result in weight loss, since I won't have the convenience of working next to where the hot pockets live.
When you live like a hermit for five years, sometimes you forget how to behave around people. For instance, at home, there's no one to share your bodily noises with. At the office, there's a sort of Murphy's Law where this is concerned: Even if no one has visited you all day, or even if it's the day after a holiday and no one's in the building, the moment you silently fart, someone will walk into your cube. See also: rumbling intestines during a meeting in a quiet conference room.
I should probably stock up on the zinc and echinacea, and get a flu shot. I figure by now I've no resistance whatsoever, and germs will feast on my brains.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Leo was neutered and declawed last week. He took it in stride, mostly. By the time we picked him up from the doctors office, he had already yanked off those little gluey caps from his toes. He was all, “Yo. I don't need no stinkin' bandages.”
Truly a King Leonidas moment.
They gave us antibiotics in liquid form, and pain killer pills. The antibiotics were no problem, they slide right down. But the pills? One quarter of a pill every eight hours. Not a lot - but honestly, have you ever tried to give a pill to a cat?
Let me explain. Leo gets a can of Fancy Feast at dinner time, and kibbles during the day. Did I tell you he can tell time? Leo knows exactly when 6pm rolls around. You'll find him camped out in front of his bowl waiting for that sweet, sweet softie food.
So we tried mashing the quadrisected pill into subatomic particles, and mixing it into an ENTIRE CAN of kitty food. I don't know if he could smell it or taste it, but he refused to eat it. He'd just look at us like, “You're kidding, right? I know what you did. C'mere, I'll cut you.... YARRRGH! Wha? No claws......damn.”
Eventually, he'd nibble at it. Enough to get some painkiller into his system. At least I assume he did, because he certainly didn't act like anything was bothering him.
My biggest fear was that he'd try to jump or climb up something while healing, and miss badly. I shouldn't have worried......within 24 hours he was vaulting to all his favorite hang outs as if nothing ever happened. He effortlessly launched himself to the top of the front room shutters, reclaiming his territory, and resumed glowering at the neighbors.
After a few days, we noticed he was much less aggressive, probably due to the sudden lack of testosterone coursing through his kitty veins. He's been very affectionate, and not attacking my head when I sleep, so the nad-loss wasn't a big-loss.
Now that Fall is here, it's been chilly the last few days. Leo's not liking the colder weather one bit. Last night he crawled under the comforter, attached himself to the back of my knees, and wouldn't come out. At some point during the night he must've surfaced, because I found him asleep UNDER the edge of my pillow. Because he's becoming a bit of a lard-o, all that fit under there was his front half.
It's 48 degrees outside today, and maybe 62 in the house. Leo's been spending the day between the thick, fleece blanket in the front room, and his kitty tube in my office.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
My daughter's school had Open House last week. This is where we get to tour the school, meet her teachers, and basically see what she'll be studying this year.
Well, I must be getting old, because I was not impressed.
She's taking all advanced placement classes. I figured this would be the year they'd finally start treating the kids like young adults, and focus more on preparing them for college. No more reports in collage or papier mache form. Sadly, this is not the case.
This is junior high school, and the teachers still mark good grades with smiley faces and stickers.
The “advanced” reading teacher gave us an overview of the books they'd be reading. "The Outsiders" is one of the books, and the most recognized from my generation. Pretty much everything from S. E. Hinton was made into a movie during the 80's.
In addition to "The Outsiders", they will read three other books, making it a total of four. FOUR. Over the course of EIGHT months. One is about racism in the 1930's, and the other two are about outcasts in grade school, which, "The Outsiders" kinda qualifies for that category as well.
When she signed up for this class, they sold it as an “intensive reading experience” where the student would be reading “many” books throughout the year. Four books doesn't sound all that "intensive" to me, and it's nowhere near the amount of reading that was dumped on me when I was in junior high school.
In fairness, I have to say they are “studying” the characters in these books, and I'm sure they'll also be tested on them. I've already seen homework assignments where they're using vocabulary words from "The Outsiders" book. So I suppose this is where the all the time will be spent. Two months for each book.
Oh, and there will be book reports. In collage form. Again. Because we need to keep the kids interested!
They'll get out their Crayola 64 pack, some glitter and paint, and decorate each report page with a character from "The Outsiders". For serious. The teacher showed us an example. I couldn't believe my eyes.
So, to review: FOUR books in EIGHT months, three of which are about damaged people and victims. And 8th graders. With Crayolas.
There were a few other highlights to Open House. The presentation by the crunchy granola AP Science teacher was fab. He doesn't believe in text books. Nope, he believes in teaching the kids by inquiry. Telling them stories and getting them to ask questions. Okay, fine, but can't we do that in conjunction with text books? Apparently not. He said that no one ever learned anything by reading the text book and doing the questions at the end of each chapter. YES. HE. ACTUALLY. SAID. THAT.
The History teacher was the only one that impressed me, and is the same one my daughter declared “really tough”. I suspect this is because he actually expects junior high school students to behave like young adults. He started off by saying this was an advanced placement class, and he treats the kids as such. He assigns plenty of homework, more difficult assignments, lots of reading, etc. Which is more in line with the “average” teacher I had in school.
I don't know..... I guess I'm officially old enough to see the benefits of hard work, and want the same for my own child. And I'm tired of the bullshit.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Come As You Are by Beverley Knight
Unfortunately, I can't embed the video from YouTube here. Looks like it was disabled. But, I can still link to it.
Anyway, I heard it on a TV show called Hex. I hear she's pretty big over in Britain.
My Jeep is old, but it's a good car. It does, however, need some minor repairs. For instance, when I go over the dip at the end of my driveway, the back end creaks and groans like it's losing structural integrity: RRRrrrrreeeek.....THUNK!....rwapbapbapbap.
Potholes are even worse.
The source of the noise is actually the clamp that holds the tailpipe in place. It rusted through two months ago. I've ignored it, because I don't drive very far on a daily basis. Besides, it probably needs a new muffler and tailpipe anyway.
Then I found out I had to go to New Jersey for a meeting. Like, immediately.
I figured it couldn't be that bad, I'll take it slow and try not to hit potholes. Hahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahhahahahaah!!
I haven't driven in Jersey for a while, so I forgot just how bad it really is.
I-78 in Pennsylvania was nice and smooth. Which is saying a lot for PA, because our roads generally suck. Once I crossed into NJ, it was a whole other ballgame. First off, you cannot drive slow and just do the speed limit - you'll be run over by a fleet of tractor trailers. On the other hand, you can't speed too far over the limit because the state police are everywhere.
You're forced to keep up with the pack. This puts you somewhere between 70 and 80 miles per hour, depending if you're just cruising along, attempting to dodge that 18 wheeler, or some jackass in a Mercedes S600 cuts you off with only inches to spare: “Dude. Your $150,000 car looks like a shiny Ford Taurus. Is it really a status car at that point?”.
So. Car rattling apart. The problem wasn't even actual potholes, it was the texture and seams in road. There were uneven, cracked off sections that appeared to have been paved over so many times that the pavement resembled crumb cake. Other sections had deep, grotty seams every 10 feet so the tires make a Thwap! Thwap! Thwap! noise.
I'm trucking along, and my car is making some serious rattling, moaning and shaking. Not to mention the Thwap!-ing. I also notice along the side of the road (and sometimes IN the road), there are car parts. LOTS of car parts. A muffler here, a few tire treads there, a wheel, some twisted metal bits, and an entire front hood. Like, how does that happen? Even if it was an accident, don't they usually clean up the big pieces? How does one miss a 4 x 6 piece of sheet metal? Or do car hoods fly off regularly in Jersey, possibly due to corrosion from all the toxic waste fumes?
I figured if I lost a tailpipe or muffler here, it probably wouldn't even be noticed. So there I go, merrily down the Jersey Autobahn, with my tailpipe waving in the wind.
I got to my destination and home again, in one piece. Which is good, because it looks like I'll be making this commute on a regular basis from now on.
So yeah. I'm getting the Jeep fixed. Soon.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I've been using the Gymnema for about a week now, and I'm still not craving sweets. I'm not craving much of anything else either. It could be psychological, and I've convinced myself that I don't have cravings. Either way, I'm happy.
I have one odd side effect, and it's not necessarily a bad one. Food just doesn't taste as good right now. For instance, lunch time comes around and I'm searching for something. Tuna? Salad? Leftover pasta in Alfredo sauce? Nope. Suddenly, none of it looks appetizing, although my stomach is rumbling. Normally, I'd be all over that pasta. Now....meh.
I'm not about to starve myself and create a whole new set of health issues, so I sit down to something healthy like the salad or tuna sandwich. To paraphrase Arthur Dent trying to get a cup of decent tea from a Sirius Cybernetics drink dispenser, “it's not entirely unlike” (tuna, in my case). It's as if the flavor is muted. Which, I'm fine with, as it makes portion control much simpler.
So we'll see where this leads. I may be back to sweets and Alfredo sauce by next week.
But I hope not.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
This is probably the most brilliant and coherent article regarding the crass politics on both sides:
The Rise Of The Uncouth
Here's one snippet that I found particularly enlightening:
"The historian Thucydides has a wonderful chapter in his third book on the stasis at Corcyra on all this. In short, he says when rules, decorum, respect, and commonly accepted behaviors are jettisoned for short-term advantage, then the thin veneer of civilization, in other words the law, is scratched away and we peer at our natural Rousseauian selves below. And quite a scary sight that is, natural man without civilization.
Even more brilliant is the historian’s irony. When those on the outs, who excel through seeking the ends by any means, soon find themselves as the establishment, they want no more like themselves.....
.......But too late. Once the walls are stormed, and ramparts of decency in rubble, it is very hard to rebuild the stones to fend off the barbarians, given the power of natural coarseness, and the problem of legitimacy and irony (Why should we believe that you are shocked at Joe Wilson now, when you booed George Bush not long ago?)"
There so much more to this article. It should be read in full.
It's not long, go read it.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I have cramps. I feel like Jack The Ripper is pulling my ovaries out through my kidney, and taking my spinal cord with it. So I guess I'm crabby, which may explain my tirade on LLBean last night.
In kitteh news, I'm calling the vet today to find out when Not-So-Little Leonidas can get snipped and declawed. Leo doesn't know how to interact with anyone without using teeth and claws anymore. He's a maniac with razors.
Unfortunately, he knows he's adorable and can play that well.
When caught doing something particularly evil, like kicking all the litter out of his box, or shredding the papers on my desk, he'll roll over on his back, paws up, and try to look submissive. Or he'll crawl into the crook of my arm and look up at me like, “I wuv you!”. Blink. Blink.
It's been a weekend of behavior relapses for him. He hasn't dumped water in over a week, then this morning he flooded the kitchen. He hasn't been keeping me up at night, but yesterday I went to bed early, so he took that as a cue to tackle my head for two hours.
Yesterday he was busy stealing stuffed toys from my daughter's room. He dragged a giant blue monkey downstairs by himself:
So, yeah. Not much sleep last night. Plus we LOUDLY, lost power at 12:30am. All the air conditioners stopped running at once, and the TV powered on (Our bedroom TV does this when we lose power. I don't know why.). It's amazing how loud the sudden quietness can be. Even though we got it back within 5 minutes, I woke up every half hour after that.
In other news, my diet/exercise regimen is failing beautifully. Remember those Slim Shots I mentioned back in July? Remember I said they didn't taste that bad? Well, they didn't at first. After about a week, I couldn't swallow them anymore. Too plasticky.
I'm still trying to maintain portion control, but my biggest downfall is stress eating and sugary snacks. I bought a book on stress eating which sucked ass. It spent the first 200 pages explaining why we stress eat, and gave examples of people's underlying problems.
I hate to self diagnose here, but I didn't fall into any of the categories which included: child abuse, spousal abuse, wanting to go back to the womb, unable to properly assert yourself, etc. etc. It took 200 pages before I got to a simple “eating because of work related stress”, in which case you're supposed to “challenge yourself” to not eat. They give you some examples of reassuring phrases to use when the urge strikes.
Yeah, I've got enough challenges with just keeping my job. I KNOW I'm not supposed to stress eat. If I need a mantra, I'll start practicing yoga. Which is probably a good idea, actually.
So it doesn't help that I did the grocery shopping whilst hungry, and in addition to the healthful items like lettuce, veg and low fat yogurt, I bought a tray of baklava. It was fresh and syrupy. The fillo crackled “Eat me!” from an aisle away.
I read recently about an herb called Gymnema. Supposedly it was used by herbalists to treat diabetes in ancient India and Africa. Now it's used in some Asian countries as a dietary supplement for weight loss. I got some from the local GNC for 9 bucks. Somehow, it manages to kill the urge for sweets. Or make them not taste quite so good. Since that's my Kryptonite, I'll try just about anything.
So far the Baklava hasn't been calling my name, so who knows. I'll let you know if I'm able to keep my paws off the pasteries. In the meantime, here's a link to the absolute best chocolate brownie recipe I've ever tried:
Baker's Chocolate One Bowl Brownies
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Stopped by the local LLBean today. I haven't bought anything from The Bean in years, except wool socks and hiking boots. Most of their women's clothing usually looks like something my Grandma would wear. However, it seems they're trying to revamp their style a bit.
They had some great fleeced-lined hoodies and non-Grandma sweaters. All the salespeople in the clothing section were very nice and helpful.
They even had some trendier shoes that my daughter wanted for school (they have a uniform dress code, so we're talking brown or black flat shoes).
The shoe department was not busy, yet it took an Act of God to get waited on. Every time I'd try and flag down one of the clerks, I was met with an annoyed, sing-songy, "I'll be with you in a MINute.".
A half an hour later....
We finally get waited on, the saleslady brings out a size eight. Too small. We ask for an eight and a half. The saleslady actually made that disgusted "Tck" noise, rolled her eyes, sighed, then said "We don't carry those in half-sizes.". Read: "You're really stupid and wasting my time, I hope you know."
"Well, how about a size NINE then." I said.
She brings out a size nine in a wacky looking blue and yellow, instead of the brown. And no explanation.
"Oh boy. The school won't allow this color." my daughter says, politely.
"I thought you could use them for size comparison." says Snooty Face, oozing disdain.
I'm thinking, you don't have the brown shoes in a size nine, so what exactly am I supposed to be comparing, other than the vile color scheme? I assume we were supposed to see if the nines fit, then order them online, in brown. Possibly. Who knows? She never articulated that. She just rolled her eyes.
Okay, so if you don't have the nines in brown, and I KNOW the eights don't fit, well then, duh, I'm going to go online and order the next size up. Guess what? That would be a NINE!!
By the way, this was a middle-aged woman of about 50, not a cranky, put-upon teen.
This is freakin' LLBean. Itchy wool, plaid skirted, flannel-wearing, Grandma-pants, LLBean.
I'm not trying to flag down a size nine pair of jewel-encrusted Blahniks at the Short Hills Neiman-bloody-Marcus.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Because of the wet weather this summer, I haven't done much gardening, and the weeds have taken over our side garden. It's this tall, spindly, grassy crap that comes from the forest behind the house:
As you can see from the matted down area in the center, something's been using it as a bed. And believe me, it smelled like it too. There was some serious animal funk in there.
It was a gorgeous, sunny weekend, so I figured I'd yank these pests out in about an hour. No such luck. I was simply not prepared for how “wild” the area had gone. For every fistful of weed, there were dozens of spiders running from their webs. I've never seen so many in one small garden. Little brown ones, big funnel weavers, golden garden spiders with their zipper-like webs. It was soooo gross.
To say, “I'm afraid of spiders” is not really accurate.
I'm certainly not “afraid” old eight-legs is going to corner me in a dark alley and bust a cap in my ass. Or chew off my arm.
It's the creepy factor. You never know where they are at any given moment. In the house, in the grass, in my car.
I think it started when I was a kid. I grew up in a house that was close to 150 years old. We were never without our eight-legged friends. They came with the house. Some of the basement spiders had ancestors that fought in the Civil War.
I was told the basement was blasted from solid rock. Like a dungeon. It consisted of a hallway that opened into a 20 by 15 foot rock-walled room, and 2 coal bins. The “hallway” was more of a deep trough, because the walls only rose about 4 feet on either side. Between the top of this trough and the ceiling, was a long, dark crawlspace of rock. It makes me shudder just to think about it.
Anyway, when my father ran a cable from the basement up to my room for a TV, he made the hole too big. About an inch in diameter, at least. This effectively made my bedroom the underground railroad for spiders.
Before I went to sleep each night, I had a ritual where I checked every corner, under the bed, behind the dresser, and next to the radiator for my little friends. They were always there. It didn't matter if the room was clear when I went to bed, because there'd be more in the morning. At least most of them were your “standard” cellar spiders. Smallish, stick-legged and skinny. Not like the ones I have here.
Now that I live in the country, the woods are my backyard. Spiders are expected. For instance, I expect them in the basement and in the attic. Maybe even the occasional spider on the floor, like a harbinger of Spring. But it freaks me out in the middle of the night when I walk into the bathroom, turn on the light, and I'm eye-to-eyes with Charlotte, hanging from the ceiling vent.
My worst encounter was about eight years ago. We had a heat wave in April, so anything living in the walls of the house was looking for a way out, fast.
Here's the scenario: It's 10:00 o'clock at night, I went to check on my sleeping daughter. There was just enough light that I could see where I was going, and make out the dark outline of kitty toys on the floor.
Catnip mousie, catnip pillow, birdie, another mousie and a fuzzy toy ball. Or was it? I don't remember a ball there before, and this one looked a little strange. There were spokes. Strings? Feathers? Something sticking out of it? At least that's what my subconscious was mulling over as I went merrily down the hall.
After making sure my daughter was fast asleep, I started back down the hall. Suddenly those minute, passing thoughts came rushing to the front of my brain, like The Robot from Lost in Space, “Danger, Will Robinson! ..... NOT a fuzzy ball!”.
I stopped about 2 feet from it in the semi-dark, and tried to get my eyes to focus on it. Yep. Definitely not a kitty toy.
Leaned over and hit the light switch. My brain did somersaults trying to understand what my eyes were seeing: “It's shaped like a spider, fuzzy with eight legs, but bigger than any spider I've ever seen, except on Animal Planet. Wait, we don't have tarantulas in Pennsylvania! Did a neighbor's pet get loose from it's terrarium? Maybe the previous owner had one and it's been living in the walls?”
Then I thought, “I need to capture it, because my husband won't believe me”.
I must've lost my mind.
I grabbed a shoe and smacked it. It did not go down without a fight. It took several beatings before it finally stopped moving.
The exterminator told me it was probably a Wolf Spider. I looked it up online. Biggest eight-legged beastie we have in the Northeast. Hogna Carolinensis.
Oh, and they lie. They say it's somewhere between one and one-half inches long. What they don't tell you is that's body length. Add on those meaty legs and we're talking bloody huge.
Thankfully, I've only seen a few of these. Here's a photo of a smaller one I found on the side of the house. Oh and by all means, please click on the image to get the close up, in all it's spidery glory:
I should note that the vent thingy above it is approximately 6 inches wide. And the ivy leaves are around 3-4 inches wide. So basically, we're talking about a spider about 4 inches across.
Did I mention how much I really hate spiders?