Monday, December 31, 2012

To Juxtapose With My Previous Post...



I'd love to have something clever and/or snarky about the fiscal cliff, etc., but I'll defer to The Gormogons instead. Their cleverness is better than anything I could ever come up with.


Anyway...

Every year I start a post about the President's vacation in Kailua, and every year I delete it because it seems so pointless.

This year it surfaced again since we happened to be in Washington, and Barry was not. So I finally decided to tell my tale, regardless.

Normally I wouldn't give a fat rat's ass where The Pres takes his vacay, but this hits home for me. I've experienced the clusterfuck first hand.

Back in 2008, our Hawaii vacation coincided with the soon-to-be First Family's.

We had been to Kailua before. It's a very relaxed place with quiet beaches on the windward side of Oahu.

Our vacation was planned eight months in advance with a considerable amount of saving involved. Even if we knew how insane Oahu would be, changing dates was pretty much out of the question.

All traffic in the little town of Kailua came to a crushing standstill thanks to a confluence of issues: the roving bands of groupies hoping to catch a glimpse of Barry, the land-locked nature of certain areas of the town, and what I assume was the security detail for the future Pres. A trip across town that would take five minutes took nearly an hour.

The biggest travesty was the condition of two of the world's most beautiful beaches.

Instead, Kailua and Lanikai beaches looked like the Jersey Shore on the 4th of July, but with even more loutish behavior. There were people who apparently thought it was a nude beach – or just didn't care, there was public urinating, and monumental swath of garbage left behind. Apparently this is repeated every Christmas now.

My point is, if I brought that kind havoc and upheaval upon a sleepy little town, I sure as hell wouldn't do it again.


  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Washington Weekend




I have about 5,000 things I want to write about, all flying through my brain, but it all brought me to that procrastination point where I just didn't write about anything at all. Oddly, I woke up this morning feeling a) like I'm catching a cold, but also b) more rested than I had been in weeks. Which is weird, but I'll take it (and some cold meds) and move on.

That said, I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas holiday.

We kept it simple this year, and according to the news reports, it sounds like a lot of other people were holding back as well. I figured that would happen. Anyways, we took a quick trip to Washington D.C. last weekend as a small gift to ourselves and to finish our Christmas shopping.

Washington is driving distance from here at The Hundred Acre Wood, and Hubby got a hotel discount for all the traveling he does for work. So other than food, it was a relatively frugal trip.

We decided to stick to Georgetown – no monuments or museums this time. Georgetown has innumerable great restaurants, and you could literally walk from Glover Park, down Wisconsin to M, and pick a new restaurant every night. It would probably take months to get through them all.

We stuck with three: Sushi Ko, The Tombs and Old Europe, so this will probably sound more like a restaurant review than a real post. But hey, just sharing in case anyone has the opportunity to get down to D.C.

Sushi Ko isn't fancy, just a tiny restaurant with simple formica tables and a spartan décor. It opened 36 years ago and has the distinction of being Washington's oldest sushi restaurant. It is also refreshingly inexpensive for a D. C. restaurant.

The sashimi and nigiri were perfect. Very thinly sliced. Many sushi restaurants seem to go for “American sizes” and make the fish too thick, which can often be too chewy to be enjoyable. The Beef Kushi-Yaki (beef on skewers) was lightly marinated (in what, I do not know, but it was delicious) and tender. Just perfect.

The food is consistently high quality, and I have to say it was the best Japanese experience I've had. Which I should explain...

I've been to several excellent Japanese restaurants in the last 20 years. The two others that stand out for me would be Morimoto in Philadelphia and Kome in Allentown. Up until this point, Kome has been at the top of my list.

Morimoto (Iron Chef Morimoto) was outstanding until our last experience a few years ago. Our first visit was shortly after it opened in 2001. It was amazing and unbelievably expensive, but truly an incredible dining experience. I could certainly understand why everyone raved about Morimoto-san's skills.

However, this was his first restaurant after leaving Nobu in New York, and at that time he was physically involved. During our first few visits he could be found making sushi and visiting each table, making sure everything was perfect (it was oddly surreal having someone you watch on TV stop at your table to check on your dining experience, but a seriously nice touch). About five years later we stopped in to celebrate Daughter's birthday and it was not a good experience. The sushi was sloppy and the “Kobe” sirloin was burnt. Thinking it was a one-off, we went back again a year later, but it still wasn't the same as it had been.

It may be that after Mr. Morimoto opened a few more restaurants, he was no longer overseeing things in Philadelphia. However, Google tells me that Zagat's is giving it 28 out of 30 now, so maybe it's time to give it another shot.

I'm told Kome in Allentown has some connection to Morimoto, some say the owner or chef worked there at one point, but I haven't found anything on Google to prove that. However, it has been consistently outstanding for the past four years. It's a beautiful place, very trendy and they make a fab martini. And of course, the food is wonderful. Kome had been Daughter's favorite restaurant until our Sushi Ko experience. Now she's got even more incentive to go to school in D.C.


Our second day in D. C. meant getting Daughter out of bed before noon. But she had incentive – there would be shopping. Although, she didn't realize that while Georgetown did have the standard “mall fare” like Banana Republic and Sephora, it mostly had trendy mom-and-pop shops, antique and second hand stores, high-end stores like Barbour, Hugo Boss and Dean and Deluca, as well as European clothing stores like H & M and Benetton - none of which she had heard of before.

We started at Georgetown University, which was a ghost town. Since it was the weekend before Christmas, everyone was gone. It was actually pretty neat being the only people there. It was also freezing cold, because the storm that blew through the Midwest earlier that week was sending gale force winds through the East, and D. C. wasn't spared. After about an hour of poking around the school, we headed over to the 1789 restaurant, which is just off campus.

The 1789 is one of Georgetown's best restaurants, but our destination was actually it's rathskeller, The Tombs. Years ago, it had been a dark pub with just enough room to circumnavigate the square wooden bar. It's been redecorated in the last ten years, adding a restaurant area and more lighting. I'm not crazy about that. I preferred it cramped and dark. Heh.

Anyway, my understanding is that The Tombs shares the kitchen space with the 1789, and the food was outstanding.

After lunch, we spent several hours walking it off and exploring the pretty row houses and the shops. Headed down to M street, then up Wisconsin Avenue to Glover Park. I found the same old book store that I visited during my last trip to D. C., years ago. It's situated in the basement of a 150 year old brick row home, with stairs so narrow and steep they resemble little more than a cement ladder. Then, once inside, it opens up into a maze of bookshelves. I love places like that.

By this time it was getting late, so we stopped at Old Europe for dinner. Conveniently, it happens to be practically across the street from Sushi Ko, so we really didn't stray much.

Old Europe is a German restaurant with a standard fare of sausages, schnitzels and Sauerbraten. For December, it had a special menu dedicated to it's Wild Game Season. We tried the wild boar sausages for an appetizer, which were done with some kind of wine sauce and spiced apple slices on the side. I've never had that before, but they were so good I'm looking into trying to find some locally. Hubby went with the Sauerbraten, his personal favorite, Daughter was unadventurous with a sirloin, and I had the venison goulash. Venison has always been hit or miss with me, so it was a tough choice. This seemed to be slow cooked like a stew, then served in a kind of pastry shell. Each bite sized piece was fall-apart tender, and spiced just right.

Again, this is another restaurant I'll miss until we visit again in a few years. Thankfully, Old Europe has been in operation for 50 years and seems to be doing phenomenally well, so I expect it will still be there when we finally get back to Washington again.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

White Christmas 2012

It doesn't happen every year, but we got snow on Christmas!



Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fa La La La Blah



Today is December 12th, and I have just now begun to shop.

This is how it goes every year - a mad rush on my part to get it all done before the 25th.

I actually like Christmas. I just despise shopping.

Of course this year has a special set of obstacles. I have a final exam to study for and finish by Friday, and a paper on IT Security baselining for Sunday.

I think the problem is that I'm hopelessly unorganized (note the last minute studying mentioned above.....case in point). I start thinking about Christmas shopping in September, then remind myself in October that it's not far away and I should really start getting a few things early. After that, it's suddenly December and I'm running around with my hair on fire.

Also, I don't like crowds. Actually, I don't like crowds at malls. Crowds at the local Celtic festival are fine, because that usually involves Guinness which tends to make for a more relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps if I could have Guinness at the mall, I might not mind shopping.

The rudeness level of the holiday shopping crowd is unreal. The Mongol horde had better manners (and probably better fashion sense). Macy's is elbow-to-asshole making it impossible to move. How can you get anything done?

So I'm shopping online as much as possible, and expedited shipping is my friend. Now that I bought a few things on Amazon today, I almost feel like listening to Christmas music.

While on the 'Zon, I figured I'd update my wish list. Unfortunately, this is where I stick anything that I want to remember later, so taken collectively, it was pretty weird:

  • At least five different books on the history of Japan and/or the Tokugawa Shogunate
  • Certified Ethical Hacker Exam Guide
  • Pliny's Natural History
  • Vintage Guerlain Mitsuoko
  • Spinal Tap's last album
  • Hobbes' Leviathan
  • Likas Papaya soap
  • Herriot's Cat Stories
  • Book on String Theory
  • The Killing (Danish DVD version)

Which might be why I get some rather interesting “Recommended For You” items from Amazon.

So anyway, I'm sure I'll get into the spirit a bit closer to Christmas, once the shopping is done and the school work completed. I'll even bake a few things.

One thing I really have to make this year is “The Hot Pink Mess”:



It's actually called Cherry Walnut Bars, and contains everything I hated as a child: walnuts, shortbread, Maraschino cherry juice and coconut. Naturally, now that I'm an adult, these things are miraculously delicious.

The recipe is from an old copy of the Farm Journal Christmas Book:




I love this book. It is chock full of heinous 1960's technicolor vomit. And it is awesome:



Unfortunately, I probably can't post the recipe since it's copyrighted, but if anyone really wants it, just email me.







Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ostrich



It was so foggy the last few days, I'd swear we were living on the moors. Today it didn't burn off till way into the afternoon:




At least now you can see the mountain in the distance. Before, there was nothing but low cloud, and it looked like the forest ended in oblivion.

Went to the doctor (again) for my quarterly sinus issues. I begged for something else to address my allergies. I also begged for them to find an answer to my prolonged fatigue, reoccurring pains, hives, and other assorted weirdness.

I don't want a major disease, just a reasonable explanation for this nonsense. Nobody can tell me definitively if it's menopause - or something else. If it's just old age, hell, I've got a real crappy future ahead of me.

So off I go tomorrow for more blood work.

In the meantime, it's antibiotics and Nasonex for the sinusitis and allergies.

Anyway, they converted over to computers at the doctor's office. An appointment that used to take fifteen minutes takes at least a half hour or more. But now there's print outs! I get a little packet of printed shizz summarizing my visit, along with all the blood work referrals.

It made for good reading when I got home. Hmmmm. Isn't this interesting....it also gave me a summary of my temperature (low grade fever), heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, height, aaaaaand wait for it.....

…..weight and BMI. Fuck.

When I first got there, they weighed me. I told them I didn't want to know, and faced the other direction.

That's me, the big pink ostrich with it's head in the sand. I figure if I don't acknowledge an actual numeric weight, I can continue to delude myself into believing the dryer is shrinking my jeans.

Yes, I know. I said I was doing low carb and everything was glitter and rainbows. It was. For about a year. I must have lost at least 20 pounds. Then five minutes after posting my “isn't low carb awesome” rant, I hit the wall. Hard.

I swear I gained ten pounds within a week. I wasn't doing anything different, it just happened.

So back to my health summary and discovery of my actual numeric weight. Just....ugh. I haven't weighed that much since I was eight months pregnant with my daughter.

Which came first, the severe fatigue or my fat ass? I just don't know.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ice Balls




I'm procrastinating today. I'm supposed to write a paper on public key infrastructure and cryptography (sounds like a fun time, doesn't it?), but I'm writing this post instead.


So we survived Hurricane Sandy with minimal loss of power. This was odd, because it only takes a strong fart to knock out power here in The Hundred Acre Wood. Which was a small kindness from The Fates, I suppose.

Thanksgiving was great and there were no squabbles, only lots of good food and fun. We always do a big party on Thanksgiving Day, and my mother does the same the Sunday after. I had a few days off, but somehow I'm still exhausted.

It's much colder out now.....the temperature dropped severely. We went from the mid 60's to the 20's within a few days. I've been holding off turning on the heat until recently because over the past year my electric provider likes to send me bills that don't seem to correspond at all with the actual energy use.

They refer to them as “estimated” bills.

I refer to it as as being too lazy or unorganized to get their asses out here to look at the meter, or put one in that doesn't require a warm body to read it.

One month they'll overcharge me outrageously, then deduct the difference the next month. That is, provided the next month is an “actual” reading. After 10+ years in this house, I have pretty good idea what the bill should be during the year.

I know electricity went up, but getting a $500 estimated bill when  both the air conditioning and heat have been off  really chaps my ass. 

In other news, Dog enjoyed his first snowfall yesterday. He's almost two years old, but we had  no snow last year, except the three feet that fell last October. He was just a wee pup-monster then, so I'm sure he doesn't remember it.

Anyway, he loves snow. He rolled in it, danced in it, inhaled it and ate it. When I brought him back into the house and toweled him off, I realized there was no way I was getting those crusted ice balls off his undercarriage. The dog, however, found this exciting because he took one look at his snow-ball covered tummy and thought “Yay! Snack!”, and ate them.

Then again, this is the same dog that eats carpet lint, the corners of his blanket, cat fuzz, leaves and insects. Last night he tried to eat a used dryer sheet that fell out of the laundry. He yakked it up within minutes, but hey, SNACK!



Cat Friend Vs. Dog Friend. Enjoy!




Monday, November 12, 2012

The Law Of Unintended Consequences




(Disclaimer: I like to make this blog a “fun” read, but I felt I needed to say something. So take it for what it's worth and I'll be back to discussing spiders, cat pee, lack of sleep, and bad driving again in a few days.)

We were considering putting an addition on the house next year, or at the very least, a patio or deck.

That won't be happening.

Our last “big” vacation was in 2008 when we went to Hawaii. Since then, we haven't done more than a few days off here and there. However, for 2013 we were looking into either a cruise to Alaska or going back to Hawaii.

That won't be happening.

I planned to use part of my bonus to pick up an inexpensive used car so that my daughter has some autonomy.

That won't be happening (also, there probably won't be a bonus).

We were considering replacing the 15 year old sofa and chair in our living room, and possibly upgrading the 10 year old television.

That won't be happening.

Before you all start calling me a Chicken Little, Spoiled Brat, or maybe something filthy, allow me to explain.

It comes down to the fact that recent events make it imperative that our family save as much money as possible, pay down any debt, and not spend on anything big and/or unnecessary.

Even if we don't fall off the fiscal cliff looming before us, we will still have to watch our money carefully.

My per paycheck contribution for my family's healthcare has already gone up for 2013. But if I like my plan, I can keep it, right? Maybe.

My plan may technically be considered a “cadillac” plan which means under Obamacare, there's a 40% excise tax on it. Even if my company absorbs that, do you really think it won't be passed along to me in some form? How about no raises or bonuses for a few years? Or maybe they'll dump the current plan and go for something more affordable, but with less coverage?

Should everyone have access to affordable healthcare? Obviously. But it doesn't mean rebuilding the entire process and (intentionally or otherwise) punishing people who do have healthcare. There's got to be a better way to accomplish this.

My employer has made no bones about the fact that the taxes and other increases with Obamacare, etc. will cut into profits. I have no doubt that there will be layoffs. Other companies have already announced theirs.

Oh Boo Hoo. Those big meany corporations should be helping the economy, not laying people off and making it worse. Maybe the government should get involved in that too? Stop corporations from laying people off. Just do it for the Greater Good, right?

It doesn't work that way. Corporations have stockholders to answer to. Government involvement at that level turns our economy from capitalist to communist.

But I work in IT and my skills are needed so there's NO WAY I could possibly be laid off!

Sorry, there's a ton of IT people with great skills that can't find jobs. This is actually one of the reasons I started going back to school. I felt I needed to solidify certain skills, especially since I've taken a step into a different field within IT, and there are many certifications I need to pursue in order to complete my training. Along with the fact that my daughter will be going to college within a few years, I had planned to move into a higher position so that I could better afford her tuition.

Unfortunately, if I were to lose my job, I will have no choice but to pursue education loans for myself and my daughter. Double the debt, baby!

That said, any extra money I have, will not be going to that small business contractor for putting an addition or patio on our house, it won't go back into the economy since we won't be booking that vacation or replacing the furniture, and someone will lose out on the $2000 or so that I would put on a used car.

I am also sure that I am not the only person thinking this way. What do you think will happen to our economy when so many others stop spending?

Right now, I can only plan to save my money, pay down debt, and pray that I don't get the pink slip.

Welcome to The Law Of Unintended Consequences.


(By the way, it's come to my attention that my liberal “friends” blow off my perspectives because they think I'm unduly influenced by the Hubby. They would be wrong. Also, by taking that opinion, you've just reinforced the standard liberal attitude that the rest of us can't think for ourselves. Thanks for that.)








Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

Apparently I Had A Brain Tumor For Breakfast That Day




I needed powder. I wanted something different. I was lazy, and skipped Sephora. I skipped the researching, and went straight to my department store counter. They're professionals too, right?

That's when I was accosted by a 300 pound drag queen.

“What you look for?” she said, in an accent I couldn't quite place.

“Uh, just looking for a powder that won't settle into fine lines,” I said.

“What wrinkle? You have no line....” I think that was a compliment, but she made it sound like an accusation.

“Okay, well, can you give me a recommendation?”

“Here, come to counter and I show. What foundation you use?”

“I don't wear any foundation. I'm using tinted moisturizer and a light setting powder. I'm just looking for face powder.” I was trying to make it clear that I'm pretty low maintenance.

“Okay, we try a little bit of this powder in your eye corner,” and she makes a motion to the corner of her eye, “I remove just a little bit here.” Her accent still floating around the globe, yet not touching down anywhere specific.

When a make-up counter lady is that anxious to use your head as her/his(its?) new canvas, you should be very cautious. 

Bam! She took rag full of makeup remover and toweled off the entire left side of my face.

“What treatment you use?” But she didn't miss a beat, and answered her own question with “I use wrinkle cream here for you.” She slathered something wet on my face, and lobbed a too-dark foundation at me.

Then I noticed her tools, namely the makeup brush which appeared not to have been cleaned in a while. I tried to get away but....too late. RuPaul was smearing my face with foundation and using that brush. Oh well. I had medical coverage for whatever flesh eating disease I might contract.

Then we finally get to the powder. It's white. Not light, not opaque, but the color of cocaine.

She decided to take a light hand with this, barely setting all the other slop.

She handed me the mirror. There were streaks of foundation crisscrossing the side of my face.

“Look.....do you have a powder that is NOT WHITE??? Maybe something in a nice flesh tone, and not the color of nose candy??”

She responds with, “But you use this white powder over color foundation. Then is not so white.”

“Yes. I get that, but I just told you I don't wear foundation. I don't need all that. Look at me, I didn't have much makeup on in the first place, so that should be a pretty big hint right there.”

A light went on in her brain. “Oh, nooo. We don't have thaaaat.”

What she actually meant was, “We don't have that in the product line I'm trying to sell you, but I'm also not going to offer any recommendation on another product line, so suck it.”

Normally I'd hand out a verbal beating at this point, but my daughter's been reminding me that my menopause temper has been getting the better of me, and I should try to relax a bit more. In retrospect, all my daughter did was snicker through all of this, so I should have just gone with my instincts.

I grabbed a tissue and began looking for a mirror somewhere far away from this sales clerk. As I'm wiping goo from my face, I was tempted to ask the MAC Weirdo behind the counter about their powder. Although they tend to hire freaks as beauty consultants, in my experience, they really know their stuff. I used MAC about ten years ago, it might still be good.

Apparently, in anticipation of a cosmetics question, the MAC consultant came over, smiled widely through purple glossed lips, and revealed a pair of eye teeth that had been sharpened into fangs.

I kept walking. I had my share of freak show for the day.




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy





We're still here. Cleanup will probably take a while though...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sno'reaster-maggedon




Well, Chris Christie tells it like it is: Don't Be Stupid.

Granted he's referring to the barrier islands in NJ, but it's looking like we're all in for it. PA will probably get high winds, lots of rain, flooding and power outages, for sure.

We prepared over the weekend, and I'm working at home - at least til we lose power.

So now we wait.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Don't Have A Good Title, And Don't Want To Use "Pee" Again. Oops.





For about a month now, it seemed we were over the cat pee issue, so I figured the cat had a UTI. Now I think it's kitty prozac time.

I was sitting in our back room working on the computer, and the cat comes sauntering over to his bed by the window, which was flipped over from what looked like an earlier kitty attack.

“Awww. Does kitty want his bed all fixed so he can glower at birdies and deersies in the yard?” I cooed, and I reached for the slightly mangled bed.

“Ewww. What the...?”

The cat bed was heavily saturated with something sticky. And smelly.

Initially, I figured I'd coat it with Urine-Off then wash it out, so I dropped kicked it into the basement. This was a stupid idea, because there was no way something that foul was going to get unstickyfied, and I should have put it into the garbage.

It was then I noticed the gopher outside the window. The bastard was back.

When I was researching ways to get rid of gophers on The Googles, it mentioned using cat litter as a deterrent. Place the used kitty litter in and around the hole; the gopher won't like the animal smell and will leave.

Ingenuity and genius come from odd places.

So why not a saturated cat bed that's going to be thrown out anyways?

I grabbed a plastic garbage bag to use as a makeshift glove, gingerly picked up that nasty thing and sneaked out of the house. The gopher was about 30 feet from the hole, on the left side of the house. I planned to move stealthily around the right side of the house, and head it off before it can get back to the hole. Hopefully it would run into the woods. Then I'd throw the cat bed over the hole.

It didn't go down that way.

That fat rodent was faster than I thought. It saw me, took off under the deck, then headed straight for me.

I was standing about five feet from the hole, trying to frighten it by waving a cat-juice soaked piece of fleece and a garbage bag. My neighbors must love me. I bet there's a YouTube video.

At the last moment it turned, and shot down the hole. Apparently my bag-fu worked.

Granted I was thrilled it didn't bite me or run up my leg, but I was incensed that it got to the hole before I did. I dropped the cat bed over the hole, retrieved a sapling sized stick from the woods, and proceeded to shove that disgusting thing down the gopher hole.

It's still there. I haven't found a new tunnel dug out yet either, so I guess it's now a waiting game.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Great Weekend



This is a rambling mess of things. It was originally three posts - now consolidated into one, because I'm trying to avoid drive-by blogging every time a thought floats through my brain.

****

What a great weekend!

On Friday, Hubby and I took a trip to Philadelphia to see the Reading Terminal Market, Yards Brewery and my school.

School, as in, after 20 years I finally stopped procrastinating.

See...back in the mid-eighties, I went to college. At 17.

Not because I skipped a grade, but because I started kindergarten early. This probably isn't the optimum scenario unless your child is a super genius, because mostly it resulted in me being slightly bewildered. Math in particular. It was odd, because I was in the advanced classes for reading and English, but math was just lost on me.

I chalked it up to maturity. It wasn't until I was an adult working in the real world that it all suddenly made sense. Especially algebra. When I began programming, it was truly an epiphany.

It went something like this: “I'm writing a program to add stuff. It might be cows and chickens, or it might be assholes and elbows. We'll leave it up to the user. So I'll just call these fields A and B. Holy shit! That's a variable!” Then my brain melted.

It wasn't a difficult concept, really, but no teacher was able to properly convey this to me.

“I don't get it. Why are why adding letters again?” I'd ask.

“They're variables. A and B. They represent something.” said Mr. (name redacted), The Meanest Math Teacher Ever.

“But what do they represent?” I'd plead, hoping I'd get a tidbit of information that would finally make it all click with my 11 year old brain.

“Anything. In this case, it represents A and B.” Gee, thanks. Unhelpful, as always. I was beginning to think Mr. Nastypants didn't know either.

Apparently I just needed a real world example.

Anyway, this was also back when schools didn't have tutors on hand, or a “sense of community” or whatever shizz the guidance counselors use these days to help the hopelessly clueless.

My guidance counselors performed three functions:

  1. Met with you (once!) during Junior year to see if we wanted to go to college. If you did, they forwarded the high school transcripts. Then they kicked you out of their office.
  1. They identified the troubled kids. Keep in mind, we didn't have “special education” like these days. They took all the mentally handicapped kids, physically handicapped kids, kids that had emotional issues, and the ones that just didn't feel like learning and would rather smoke weed in the bathrooms, and lumped them into one class.
  1. Smoke in the teacher's lounge and complain about the rat-bastard kids.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, career-wise. I went off to a local college not known for anything special except having a weird name and being affordable. After treading water for a couple years, I left and got a job. Which lead to another job, then a different position. Several promotions later, I had an unintentional career in IT.

Which brings me to my current story.

I had concerns. My college credits were really old and crusty, and not especially special. It was a long shot. I applied to a fairly prestigious school, and miraculously they accepted me. I'm into my third online class, and pulling a 4.0.

Since I was hoping to hit one of the Saturday on-campus classes this Spring, we made a trip to Philly to see it.

I always heard the it resided in a suck-ass section of town, so I was surprised to see how nice it was, and that I felt (relatively) safe. And old. Most of the time I don't think of myself as middle-aged, but damn. I felt like Methuselah.

Still, that didn't stop me from picking up the requisite swag from the school bookstore. Then we headed off to check out the Reading Terminal Market.

I've been there before, but it was a few years ago and it was more of a stopping point between the Liberty Bell and The Franklin Institute.

It is SO worth it. I would totally weight 1000 pounds if I worked in Philly and was able to hit this every day for lunch. There is every kind of food here. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Hubby and I were dying by the time we got to the market, so the first thing we did was get us some Philly cheese steak. It was heaven on a bun, with hot peppers.

Along with restaurant vendor food, there's produce vendors, fresh meat and fish vendors – I could actually do my grocery shopping here. Really, the prices weren't that bad either.

After an hour or so at the Terminal Market, we headed off to Penn's Landing to visit Yard's Brewery. We're able to get their traditional beers at our local Wegman's, but they have special recipes that are only served at their tasting room.

They're called Ale's of the American Revolution, and include the personal recipes of Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and Ben Franklin. All were delicious, but the best was Jefferson's. Hubby bought a case to bring home, I bought the commemorative t-shirts.

We payed for it with Philly rush hour traffic – getting home took two hours instead of one, but it was worth it.

On Saturday, Hubby took The Teenager and me to the local rod and gun club for what he calls our quarterly re-qualification. That means target shooting, y'all.

Darling daughter fired an M16 (AR-15, I believe) for the first time. She popped two balloons at 100 yards out with her first two shots. She's an awfully good shot with a 9mm too.

We spent a couple of hours just enjoying the outdoors, watching all the geese fly South. Friday in Philly was 80 degrees and no humidity, but a cold front came in that night so it was only 50-something on Saturday. So time for the geese to leave. But the leaves were turning and it was a beautiful day.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Revolutionary And Innovative



I spent the last few days in a seminar for work. The gist of the class was to teach us a better methodology for software development. Even though I'm not actively developing anything anymore, I still need to consult with developers during the process. It was a very useful class, albeit mostly common sense.

The main thread being: communicate better with everyone on the team. Including the business and marketing people (and yes, the business/marketing people have to attend this as well, so for them it would be “communicate better with the IT department”).

In my past life I was making small enhancements within my particular area of IT, so usually those requirements made sense. Now I'm reviewing large projects, and not a day goes by when I don't ask myself, “why would you even want to do that?”.

But that's not for me to say. So....whatever.

I'm no longer being beaten about the head daily, or working stupid-crazy hours. So honestly, it doesn't matter to me if the requirements state that unicorns and fairies should fly out of an elephant's butthole - as long as I can get a basic understanding of said butthole, as well as the size and pointyness of the unicorn.

Still, there's the need to entertain myself. I get a chuckle out of Dilbert-esque documentation. “Adding value”, “growing the product” or “making it sexy”. Do people really talk like that? Oh yes.

Mostly it's just funny or a little bit cringe-worthy. Although I've had a few times when I wish I could disinfect my brain from the verbal gonorrhea.

Even though the seminar was pretty good, I noticed the prevalence of overused buzzwords. For your reading pleasure:

I have an “ask” - All over the country business professionals have stopped saying, “I have something to ask you” or “I have a requirement”, in favor of this abbreviated silliness. Grow up. You sound like a third grader with pig tails and a lollipop.

Revolutionary and Innovative – A standard for any marketing campaign. Although I'd like to see it used more often in daily conversation. For instance, “I found a revolutionary and innovative way to get rid of gophers. I shoved a urine-soaked cat bed down it's hole. “ True story.

Thought Leader – So culty-cult-cult. “Obamacare is revolutionary and innovative thus making the President a true Thought Leader”. Except every time someone says “Thought Leader” my brain hears “Thought Police”. In some cases, it's the same thing.

Value Added – A catch-all for any product that's been improved. Have you improved the absorb-ability of Depends For Wombats? It's value added.

Please. Just stop.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dirt Road



While perusing The Googles, this title from ABC News caught my eye:

Men Survive 100 Foot Cliff Plunge In Maui


Instantly, I knew where this was.

It had to be the same cliff side road we got stuck on back in 2008.

Before you tell me it's just the Road To Hana and it's not that bad, guess what? It's not the Road To Hana. This is something out of Indiana Jones.

This stretch of lethal dirt is on the opposite side of Maui, and runs along the North Shore.

Hubby, Daughter and I started off in Lahaina, and figured we'd take a nice leisurely drive along the coast. Beautiful day, gorgeous view of the ocean.

After passing all the resorts, we kept driving. We'll just see where the road goes. How could that possibly go wrong, right?

Most of this road is two lanes and nicely paved. It starts out as the Honoapiilani Highway, running along a perfectly safe looking coastal view. Then there's a sign that says “highway ends”, the road winds to the right, and then a more sinister sign that reads “Narrow Road”.

This is where the Kahekili “Highway” begins.

For us though, it will always be known as “Dirt Road”.

At this point, there is no way to turn around, so you have to keep going and hope the car doesn't slide off the cliff (there is NO guardrail for most of it), and pray no one is coming in the other direction.

We found out later that if someone IS coming in the other direction, the local etiquette is that the person going uphill has to back down to the bottom of the hill. There's usually some kind of widening of the road there, making it possible to pass.

It wasn't until we got a few miles in, that I checked the map the car rental agency gave us. There was our road, highlighted in bright red, with the notice “driving on this road may invalidate your car rental agreement”.

Well, yay.

Finally the road opened up with a small area to pull off and take in the view. There was also a shave ice stand inside an old school bus. I used the opportunity to get some fresh air and kiss mother Earth.

Then we turned around and cautiously made our way back.

By the way, the Kahekili Highway is named after the Hawaiian Chief Kahekili, who was such a badass that he built houses from the skulls of his enemies. Which seems to suit that road perfectly.


 Don't believe me? There's dozens of videos on YouTube if you search for “Kahekili Maui”.

Here's the best one, because it's short, and begins almost exactly where the it turns into “Dirt Road”. I laughed out loud the first time I watched it because the couple in this video are having the exact same conversation Hubby and I did.





Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Name Is Crabby...Why Do You Ask?



This actually happened last week, but I've been tied up with my final term paper for school so I never got around to posting it. What's this about school, you say? ...that's a post for a different day.

***

I spent the morning fighting off hypothermia at the dentist's office. I'm all for copious air conditioning since I've been in permanent hot flash for a year now, but this was just nuts.

Originally, the appointment was for last week, but that didn't work out. It was Daughter's six month check up, and I made it for first thing in the morning so we could go straight to the dentist, then to school afterward. A time saver, because the dentist was in the opposite direction of the school, with our house in the middle – at least an hour round trip (yes, we live in the middle of nowhere. Like, Hundred Acre Wood. Pooh Bear and Eeyore are neighbors).

Simples, right?

Well, Daughter is taking honors classes this year, and one of the more difficult ones is taught by Headmaster. She didn't want to miss the first half of class, so I agreed to get her from school instead. It meant having to take three hours off work instead of two, but hey, I had to admire her commitment.

As a side note, Headmaster only teaches this one class, obviously, since he's got other Headmastery things to do. He's one of those teachers who tries to scare the kiddos in the first few days, just to make sure everyone's serious about the class. Most of the teachers wait a few weeks before going over the summer reading assignments, but Headmaster dove right in. First day, he had them up in front of the class summarizing the books, and hammering them with questions while fueling debate on plots and characters.

It worked, some kids dropped the class. I asked my daughter if she was planning to do the same – I had hoped not - and she said, “OH HELL NO. I'm taking this as a personal challenge....he's not scaring me off.”

Love that kid.

So I get to the school office and there's no Daughter waiting for me. Secretary tells me she's probably on her way down from class. Five minutes goes by, then ten. Secretary calls the classroom and says she's on her way. Daughter finally shows up at 9:20am, leaving me ten minutes to get to a dentist 30 miles away. I hate being late for a doctor appointment, so I'm forced to reschedule.

Daughter says Dumbledore wouldn't let her leave, and gave her a hard time about leaving his class unless somebody died. I'm fairly certain he meant this in a semi-joking, possibly sarcastic tone, but still. This meant I'd be an hour late for work. For no reason.

Just then Headmaster rounds the corner. I introduce myself and tell him I'm thrilled that he's giving the kids a raking over in class (they deserve to know what the real world is like, and not that everyone's a wiener....I mean, winner). After all, I'm paying a a buttload of money for you to prepare my kid so she can ace her SAT exams and get accepted to a kick-ass college. But while you're twatwaffling with the hatchling's gray matter, I just lost an hour of work. YOU just wasted an hour of my time.

But I never said that. I wanted to because I was crabby and had to get up early, but I was also pretty sure he didn't do it intentionally. He's usually a good guy, so I let it pass.

So that brings me to today, where we did it all over again, but this time I allotted more time for general dickery.

Although I wasn't prepared for the sub-arctic waiting area. Or the snot-cicles (of course I have another sinus infection. You need ask?).

The rest of the day was uneventful until the school buses starting running for the afternoon trip home. It was the first day of school for the public school kids (private school started a week earlier), and apparently the transportation authority boogered the whole schedule. They had first graders on the same buses as high-schoolers – you keep them separated for obvious, delinquent-oriented reasons – and the private school kids bus ride took three hours. THREE HOURS.

I'm not privy to the inner workings of the local school district, but I do know they've had a problem with the buses for at least ten years now. I've even discussed this face to face with the transportation director after a school bus broke down, proceeded to strand my then ten year old (with friends) at the wrong development, in single digit temperatures. Rip his face off? Yes, I wanted to.

They can't afford new buses, there's a driver shortage, and they need to make due with what they're got (but they just spent millions on a new school). Boo Hoo.

Oh, and while I've got a good rant going, let me tell ya the best part of my chitchat with the transportation head. Because I dared to actually show up in person, he assumed I was a stay at home mommy with nothing better to do than be an annoyance. When I informed him that I was a programmer for (company redacted) and telecommute from home, he immediately suggested I sign up for bus detail.

Seriously? Did you even hear what I said? I have a job.....a job that requires me to be at my desk online at particular hours of the day.

Douchnozzle.

That was a few years ago, and it still grates on me. Obviously.

So once again, we're doing the bus schedule version of musical chairs. Hopefully Daughter will pass her driving test soon, and maybe we can manage to get a cheap beater car for her to use. That way we don't have to deal with this bus nonsense anymore.

Gah, I never thought I'd be saying that.





Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Letter To My Local Grocery Store


My patience is slowing eroding, and has been for the better part of two years.

When I see the carnage in the produce section, I wonder if I just missed a flash mob.

I go in search of some basics: bacon, bread, kitty litter or dog biscuits, only to find empty shelves and tumbleweeds.

Last week I had to fight a 500 lb woman for the last jar of garlic.

I get it... in this economy, budgets are tighter and restocking isn't happening as often as it used to. But why is it like this every time I visit?

In recent years, we've had a problem with the growing season, so produce kinda sucked for a while. Other stores seem to have recovered since then. So why are your tomatoes still fuzzy?

One of the reasons I shop at your store is the meat section. No one can compare. However lately, every time I purchase what appears to be a perfectly lovely bit of beef, it's actually a thin layer of meat residing atop a chunk of fat and gristle. Normally I'd chalk it up to someone in the butchery department having a bad day, but it's happened too many times now. I'm starting to think you just don't love us anymore.

*Sniff*

This week was the last straw. It was the second time I accidentally purchased pre-marinated, shrink wrapped chicken THIGHS because they were mixed in with the chicken BREASTS. The packages are nearly identical, and yes, it does say thighs/breasts on the package, however this is almost impossible to see if you have 40+ year old eyeballs.

I wouldn't care, but your thighs are nothing but a lump of snoodles: tendons, veins and fat held together with a gumwad-sized ball of actual meat.

Want to know the best part? I wasn't planning to get the pre-marinated chicken. I only bought them because there were no packages of normal, plain chicken. Nothing. NADA.

The whole reason I drive an extra 20 minutes to go to your store is because I want quality items, and you really do have the best prices. You used to have the best customer service too.

But I haven't seen much of that lately.

Why do the stock boys ram their hand carts into my back crack? Or how about the passive-aggressive check out clerk who puts the squishy items on the bottom?

Some would say I just need to lower my standards a bit.

Seriously though. If we all just keep lowering our standards, stop demanding excellence and hard work, what state would our country be in?

Oh, wait.





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hole



So remember the other day when I said I should clear out the weeds, in what used to be my vegetable garden?

Sigh.

I was standing by the kitchen window and noticed the tallish weeds waving back and forth in a non-windy way, as if something was having a stroll through them. I couldn't see what it was, so ran down to the basement where there's a dirt level window.

It was a small groundhog.

Well, that decided it. I was definitely going to make time to get rid of the weeds, because the last thing we needed was a gopher hole in the foundation.

Too late.

I yanked all that crap out and found this:


Here, I'll blow that up for you: 

Little fucker's been doing some excavating.


Anyway, I think it abandoned the hole after it realized there was no more ground cover. I'm going to fill the hole in later today (if it ever stops raining), and see if anything digs back out.

I was pretty surprised that it only took two hours to clear the garden, especially since I pulled the weeds by hand. You more satisfaction using brute force. However, the level of buggage in that mess was unbelievable.  Allow me to share:

Assassin bugs eat spiders.... I like assassin bugs.


A young katydid, I think.

I have no idea what this thing is.

Woolly Bear


Just.....ew.

There were actually dozens of caterpillars and more of those nasty wolf spiders than I ever want to see. The one above is just a regular dirt spider. Wolf spiders are much more special. They're about 4 inches across, meaty, and run fast. I tried getting a picture of one - I swear I looked away for one second to focus the camera and it disappeared. That's how fast they are. Poof! Into another dimension. Or possibly my pants.

Also, what are these? Satan's fungus?






Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Puddles And Butt Cutt



The cat woke me up the other morning, yowling. He hasn't done that in ages, and it usually means he peed somewhere. He likes to let us know when he's guilty of something.

I imagine a little Richard Lewis cat doing his neurotic stand up routine:

"Should I tell them I peed?...No, I should go hide. No. Wait, I'll tell them, THEN go hide. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DOOOOOO!"

But yeah, a big puddle of pee. A human would be hard pressed to produce that quantity of urine.

The next morning, same thing, different spot. At four in the morning. Before coffee.

Every night since, I lay in bed wondering where I'll find it tomorrow:

Will it be on the floor,
Or behind the door?
Up on the table,
Or on the TV cable.
Maybe the DVD player,
Or just the radiator?

I took the cat to the vet, in case it was a urinary tract infection. They like to have a urine sample, and even offered to give me a syringe to suck the cat juice out of the carpet. Thanks, but no.

Doc says he's probably stressed about something. Or neurotic. Like I didn't already know that. So they're giving him UTI meds just in case, and after that, if he continues to pee around the house, they suggest Kitty Prozac. 

For serious.

So now I'm powdering the cat's medicine and mixing it into his softie food. Because you know how hard it is to give a cat a pill? Are you overly attached to your body parts? So while the cat's getting all the attention, the dog decided to up the ante.

Now that he's a (mostly) a grown-up doggy, he signals to go outside and do his business. Still, there are times when he does nothing but make a sniff tour of all his previous poos. He's also easily distracted by birds, squirrels, chipmunks, moths, leaves and wind. So a half hour later, dog has done nothing, so back in the house he goes.

I left the room for no more than five minutes.

I smelled it before I saw it...sorry to share, but this is the kind of smell that invades the nostrils, conquers the sinus cavities, rapes them senseless, then settles in for a nice extended vacation.

You're welcome.

Aaaand.....did I mention it was soft? Do you know what that does to a long haired dog? I didn't have time to give him a bath, and he was overdue for a trim anyway. So after mopping him off with baby wipes, he got a real nice butt cutt, Corgi-style.

Then I boiled my hands.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brave Girl


My daughter and I went to see the movie Brave back in June. We both loved it.

A lot of critics didn't like it because they expected the usual evil monster/princess plot. I also read several articles where feminists railed against the whole Disney princess stuff holding back our girls. Nonsense. My girl was into princesses when she was small, still took up Tae Kwon Do, isn't afraid to stand up for herself and others, loves school, the violin, and most of all, her family. And that's what it's really about.

So even though Brave did have a monster, it wasn't the one critics expected. It's a movie about the special relationship between mothers and their teenage daughters. 

This is for MY brave girl today, as she goes on a little adventure of her own.



Monday, August 13, 2012

In The Weeds


I thought I'd share a photo of my lovely vegetable garden:



You'll note the absence of any vegetable-y goodness. Because of school and our crap weather (second year of crap weather, WOO HOO!!!), I never had time to plant tomatoes. Obviously I never had time to pull out the weeds either.

I'm really impressed with how luscious they are. My only hope is that when they finally die, their decaying carcasses will bring nutrient rich soil for next year. Then again, it might just bring more weeds. Also, that the hell are these? Elephant ears?



This is pretty, but still a weed:



At least the caterpillars are enjoying it:



While taking those photos, there was something moving in there. So I should probably find the time to clear it out if critters are taking up residence.

Speaking of critters, we seem to have a skunk problem. These holes showed up about two weeks ago. Google says they're probably skunk holes. Which is a great name for a rock band.




Yeah, so skunks are digging up our yard looking for food. You'd think with the woods less than ten feet away, they'd have plenty to eat there, but apparently not. This was also the first year we didn't put down any chemicals on the lawn because of the dog. So we've been invaded by skunks, there's more chipmunks than I can count, there's spider trampolines ALL over the grass, and it's just basically a very buggy world here. We also didn't have a winter this year, so I'm sure that helped.

Due to all the wet weather, we do have a lot of moss. This stuff is so soft and fuzzy (and probably has spiders...).

  



Photo credit: Channel 4












Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ick....and also: OW.



So yesterday I was standing in the kitchen with my daughter. As we're talking, my brain noticed her ear looked funny. One. Two. Three....

Wait....what? THREE!?!

I counted again. Yup. Three ear holes.

A couple years ago, she asked for a second ear piercing. I gave in because I did the same when I was about her age. However, by the time I was 20, I quickly realized the second one was completely useless and hasn't been used since. I figured she'd come around to the same way of thinking too.

But no, a year later she wanted a third piercing. I wasn't really against it, I just thought it was unnecessary, but I said I'd think about it. After a few months she never brought it up again.

The power of parenting by procrastination. Yay me, right?

So, back to the third ear hole:

“Um, by the way. When did you get your third ear piercing?” I asked, fully expecting that it happened at the mall, and I never noticed.

I was gearing up my: “you should've asked me about it again if it was that important” speech, followed by the: “you're a minor and I want to know who's making holes in your head” speech.

Except it didn't go down that way.

“I did it about three months ago.” she said.

“But where?? ...the mall?” I asked.

“No.... I did it. In my room.”

“WHAT!?! How is that possible? What did you....” She knew exactly where I was going with this. Even before I did.

"I used the gold posts that the doctor used to pierce my ears. You know, that ones with the pointy back."

“But how?” My mind was reeling. My daughter is pretty tough overall, but not with needles. She gets nauseous with yearly booster shots.

“I just pushed it through.”

“Did you numb it?”

“No.”

“It's not infected. Your ear holes always get infected.”

“I sterilized the earrings and my ears. It didn't really hurt much. Just two pops - one going in, and one coming out.”

Oh, yuck.

My daughter was quite proud of herself. Partly because she succeeded in grossing me out with that last bit.

*sigh*

She plans to be a doctor someday, so I guess it's good that she doesn't have a fear of blood and stuff.

However, if she doesn't get into medical school, at least she's got a future in tattoos and piercings.