Wednesday, December 9, 2009

broken computer

I have been busier than usual because my desktop computer suddenly quit working. And right before my trip too, so I am trying to pack, trying to get Christmas together and shipped before we leave, trying to clean up the house and yard so it doesn't get left in its usual sty-like condition. But also, since we have diagnosed that it is probably the hard drive going bad, I am trying frantically to get said hard drive to run just enough to transfer files to other media.

So remember to back up your data, people, don't be like me!!

I have two and a half years of pictures, and pretty much six month of itunes and other music that I don't want to lose. I have successfully transferred two thirds of the pictures and half the music. I also have five gamehouse computer games that I really want to keep. Perhaps because they were downloaded I can re-download them from the gamehouse site?!? I will look into that. And the last thing I might like to keep is the email, but there is probably nothing there that I can't live without.

So hah, you can resend all of those old, lame jokes, because I don't have them anymore, and I can't even complain about it.

Mostly, its just a pain, its taking hours of time, and then, after I get the data off, I have to dig into my computer's guts, set up a new hard drive, load windows again, get all of its updates again, and the whole time pray that it is not the motherboard that is fried and the old hard disk was actually okay after all. At least I have another hard drive, and its huge too. Yay, more to lose next time! I may need to look into one of those 'passport' things. Shoulda bought one at Walmart on Black Friday like I thought.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Common Sense

My trip to Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell was really fun and educational. It was amazing seeing the places that were talked about in 7th grade American History, and the refresher course given by the NPS guide was very thorough. If I had taken a pre-quiz, I would have done miserably! Fortunately I was old enough to take it in, remember the key events, and to appreciate the significance of the buildings still standing. My daughter is just getting her start in history, and early in first grade, had learned about the Liberty Bell. How nice it was to be able to go and see it while it was still somewhat fresh in her mind.
What I didn't realize is how much there was to explore all in that area of Philadelphia. We only saw Independence Hall and the Bell. We took a carriage ride around the block, and saw that there was so much more available. There is the first churches of the area. The first Catholic Church didn't even look like a religious house because Catholics were persecuted by the Brittish.
We passed by the first Synagogue, founding fathers' houses and lodging, and I realize I could have spent a week exploring it all, and we had only allotted a few hours. Well, another time.
The whole experience, plus having read Dan Brown's latest brought me back to the founding fathers, and their vision for this country. I got my dad Glen Beck's version of Common Sense for a birthday present because I knew he would enjoy it. Well, he sent it back with me to read also. However, I decided to start with the original Thomas Payne version for several reasons: one, to see how Beck matched up with his effort, and two, to see how compelling the original was. The impact of Payne's pamphlet really cannot be underemphasized. He swayed many men towards the decision for colonial independence, and now, having read it, I can see why. It is everything I remember hearing in 7th grade about how unjust a king is, how rife with abuse a monarchy is, an how there must be a government by design and not chance. It is a compelling read, and I recommend it for anyone who's patriotism needs a boost.
Now, Beck's version leaves a little bit (okay a LOT) to be desired. The introduction was great, but when he goes on and on about how 'we' elected these yahoos and 'we' brought our current sad state of affairs on our own heads, I can't help but object, since I did vote, but did not vote for the yahoos in question. I was merely outnumbered. But how am I going to change everyone else's mind who did elect the detritus of society? So if you are reading this, please do me the favor of one, researching your elected political candidates so that you can weed out the corrupt, the wrong-headed, and the unjust, and two, vote for the good guys. It really is that simple. Get the facts, make your best pick, but be sure to pick. I can't phrase it any better than that, and neither can Glen Beck, although God knows he tried. If you have time, work for the campaign of someone you trust. If there is no one you can trust, consider running for office. Surely there are good, electable people out there, we just have to find them and elect them. Lets do it! Its Common Sense!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

surfboard repair 1

Finally had some time today to start the repair of the surfboard. You have my permission to skip this post, its really only meant to document what a nerd I am.

Okay, so the first repairs I attempted were small ones on the underside of the board. See a surfboard is basically a shaped piece of foam, wrapped in fiberglass cloth and enameled with epoxy or resin. So any bonks on rocks or shells or door handles can put a divot into the resin, and allow the board to become waterlogged. Waterlogged boards not only weigh a lot more, handle poorly, and fail to float, they can also smell bad. This board has a ways to go before it is water-tight.

So this first picture shows a previously repaired ding (left) right next to two small holes that I have now covered with fiberglass resin. On my first attempt, I used the resin with an overlay of smooth plastic. Would have worked great, but had bubbles under it that resembled pox upon drying. Not the smooth surface I was going for. So I tried a second time with another batch (this stuff dries in 10 minutes, so I am making only an ounce at a time), and I think I have the holes filled. I did sand it first, and it is really important to do so. In fact, the roughest sandpaper (40 grit) had the best results. The resin just peels off where it wasn't sanded.

This second picture that looks like garbage is what happens when I added pieces of fiberglass cloth (cut up) to the remaining resin to use as a filler. I pushed this sticky hairball into a much bigger crack to fill a hole. This crack went all the way through the board's fiberglass cloth shell right into the foam core, so I needed something to take up space in the hole. The second part of this repair is to sand it down and then use just resin to make it smooth.

An alternate is to wrap a patch of fiberglass cloth (intact) around the side rail of the board and resin it down, but that is not as smooth, and probably not necessary for the three inches of gash that this is.
See, as this third picture shows, sanded down, this same gash is filled very nicely. A layer of resin over the top and it will be smooth as butta'. As a side note, I do! tape off each repair in a little circle around the ding with some painters tape. That way, I can smear the resin around, and don't have to worry too much about it getting where it is not supposed to be. This was especially important for this rail because the resin drips over the side and will form permanant 'drips' on the top, like big zits (also not a look we are going for).
stay tuned for part 2

my aunt and other things

So my aunt is out of the hospital, and my mom is off to visit her this week and help her recover from surgery. The nodes are clear, but unfortunately, not all of the cancer is out. There are some places on the abdominal wall that just could not be removed at this surgery because there was simply too much to take out at one time. So the surgeon wants to go back in in a couple of months. So, not out of the woods yet. I will update more when I hear from my mom when they visit the doctor.
Busy packing for a week in Pennsylvania. Tday is at my sister in law's parents house (soon to be her house!) Should be a fun week! Just have to pack efficiently, and not forget anything important. Like the gifts, and the contact lens solution, and the pan to roast the turkey in, and onand on...
Finished a few projects off (yay) like grouting, now I just need to seal the grout. I still need to paint in the kitchen - behind the fridge. Yeah, I know, its like the last place anybody looks, but it will help to have that done. It doesn't even have to be a good job, but it cannot be left undone.
At some point I have to Kilz the ceiling and paint it too. I just hope I have enough ecru left over from the bathrooms paintjob almost seven years ago.
I haven't been keeping up with much else... I haven't FB'd, I haven't hardly emailed anyone back in an appropriate time span. I feel like I am barely keeping afloat with the paying of bills. And am I going to write christmas cards? I think I will have to do a letter and print it out, or not bother. Maybe photo cards! I feel like every minute must be accounted for, and every minute must be used to do something useful, and I am running out of time. And I perversely waste time even when I know I must not. Its like perversely eating when you are not hungry, but you have some other stupid reason for it like "this will go bad unless I eat it now". Similarly, "I have to reply to my movie club mailing, but lets just see what they have on sale..." and thirty minutes goes by shopping for something I don't need, don't need to spend money on, using time I cannot afford to waste.
Okay, that was a rant!
Now off to something else...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

great news about my aunt

The great news is that none of my aunts lymph nodes were positive for cancer. Zero out of thirteen. That changes everything! Instead of asking the question, "How much time left?" we can ask the questions like, "How long does she have to have chemo for her to be in the clear?" "What does she need to eat to compensate for removal of some bowel, so that she will maintain her bone mass and get enough nutrition for the long-term?"
The whole outlook has changed.
Poor thing, though, I talked to her this morning, and she is still in pain, still nauseous, unable to eat yet, still in the hospital, still anemic and tired, and just plain down in the dumps. Believe me, I know what that is like. But the great news is that it is uphill from here. She will get stronger and she has a very good chance of beating this completely, not just living with it and slowly dying from it.
I have been craving salad, roughage, and healthy foods too! I do not want this happening to me in ten years. What a wake-up call!

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am feeling old

Something about today was making me feel old. Most days, I don't feel that way. Sure, I don't feel young, but I don't usually feel as middle aged as I am. Today, however, wearing my old-lady looking shoes that are very comfortable, shopping for crafts, feeling my back hurt. One of my aunts is visiting my mom as I am this weekend, and she is doing well having had a knee replacement just two months ago. I know my mom will have to undergo another one soon, so I cannot help but think that it will be very likely for me since my knees are my weak link. My other aunt just had surgery to remove colon cancer. She is only 53, so it is quite a shock. We are waiting on the lab reports to know what stage it is and the prognosis. Of course, I wonder if that is my fate in a few decades. Or the fate of more people I am close to. I know it is morbid to think this way, but even halloween skeletons make me think about being a skeleton before too long. I also know it is useless to worry about it, the only thing I can do is stay positive and involved in life, trying to be me at my best.

Monday, October 26, 2009

self control

I read this amazing book in one day. Titled "Precious" or "Push" by Sapphire, it was probably the most gut-wrenching thing I have ever read. Far worse than a gang rape of the different-ethnic-group boy in Afghanistan (ala Kite Runner) because it happened here in these United States, in my time, the late 80's. I don't have the words, just a warning: be prepared to cry, be disgusted, and to be so angry you cannot see straight if you take on the challenge of reading it. But it is ultimately a message of hope. Oh, and don't read it if you can't take swearing like a motherfucker, (of course, if you can't do that, why read my blog)?!
But the book really got me thinking about self control. Because Precious' parents had none. I mean NONE. No self control, no superego reining in the id, no self-aware sense of 'maybe I shouldn't do that,' basically no shame about the horrific things they had done. And then I had to think that the shame and self control really do go hand in hand.
Most people I know and are closest to have good self control up to a point, and then they have areas where it is not so good. I include myself in this group, although I have been less self-controlled in the past (*cough* swearing like a sailor for one thing), I am better than I was.
But if you perceive no shame with a particular action, you just don't have enough motivation to control the impulse to do that thing. Some people only experience shame when they get caught. Then, and only then, do they make the effort to control themselves and inhibit or modify the action that got them in trouble. Others feel shame at the slightest provocation, and go through quite a superhuman effort to squelch any hint of impropriety. There are a few (enlightened souls) who master their destructive impulses for the pure, logical benefit of themselves without being goaded by a sense of shame.
I have a hard time relating to people who are at either extreme of the spectrum. Honestly, how can you not be pathologically ashamed of yourself when you commit a really grotesque act? For example, I was reading a Newsweek blurb about a guy who recently was released from prison, his crime was for gunning down a chaperone who dared to tell him 'please leave my house' when he was roughhousing in it. How could you NOT be crippled by shame and remorse at this act? So stupid and senseless!
Neither do I relate well to those who have such an abundance of self control, who eat perfectly healthy foods all the time, exercise every day, volunteer, never say a bad word or gossip, get all their work done on time, keep a clean house, etc. They freak me out! How does someone have that MUCH self-control?!? Do they have that much self-awareness or self-imposed shame or are they truly one of those enlightened souls? I'm thinking of the Dalai Lama, here.
Maybe we have more self control about the things that are not too difficult to manage. Like, drinking alcohol, for me, is not something I lose control over. I can easily have one or none and stop. Sure, I would feel shame if I got too drunk , but that really isn't what stops me from overindulging. I haven't taken any drugs that might lead to indulgence issues, but what stops me there is a different reason entirely, more like a personal moral that I hold inviolate for myself, and has to do with the uncle I lost when I was young.
But how is it that I have so little self control when it comes to foods, particularly the non-nutritive ones? Its not like I don't feel shame if Ihave eaten too much. Not like I don't feel shame every time my pants are too tight or (God forbid!) I have to buy a larger size. And yet that shame is offset by the pleasure of the act. It doesn't matter how many times I am 'caught', I cannot seem to impose even moderation on myself. Maybe if there were more of a one-to-one correlation with eating and consequences, I could do it. But metabolism can be a tricky wild card. I can eat poorly for three days and not gain an ounce. Or I can eat really well for a week and not lose an ounce. For me, it is not clear what the magic formula is other than hunger. The more hours in a day I experience hunger the more weight I lose. But who can live that hungry?!?

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Now that I am older, I find that I am anxious about fewer and fewer things. I don't know if it is just age and experience or if it is my that I am not in a nine to five job, trying to balance work and home and time crunching the whole time. So many things used to make me very anxious when I was younger, and even envisioning trying to juggle my old job and a new baby was enough to make me break out in nervous hives. However my current life in not filled with anxiety. If money becomes a big issue, I will just go back to work. If things go wrong, I will just figure out how to fix it. It is a more practical mindset, and I enjoy and appreciate having it.
There are some things though that still make my heart race and fill my dreams with dread. Besides roaches, I mean. Even roaches don't inspire the venom in me that I used to emit, but something else does...people. Specifically strangers. I still really worry about meeting new people. I have terrible new person anxiety, and that has not improved much. It came to a head recently because I picked up my surfboard.
I hate making cold phone calls,. I loathe trying to sell anything. I love the anonimity of ebay and online catalogues where you don't have to actually know the person you are buying from. Why? Because people can be so random! You don't know when you might be trying to break the ice by making a little joke only to have it slice into a stranger's sore spot causing pain and humiliation everywhere. And then there are the people you just don't like. The ones you would cross the street to avoid on any given day or never talk to even in you were in the same long line. But now you are thrown together in a situation, and you just don't know how this is going to turn out.
So the surfboard, wisely, is pick-up only. So I have to go meet this person selling it to retrieve it. This brings out all my old anxieties. The only thing I have to go on is some amazingly poorly spelled emails and the sense of dignity one holds by being a buyer who has already paid. I had to go to a flea market to pick up the surfboard. Talk about a nightmare for anyone with stranger anxieties. My dreams had all been about arguments with these unnamed people with whom I must conduct business, ranging from haggling over price to the dreaded phrase "Oh, someone else already came to get it - its gone!" So when the day finally came to perform this errand, I was not very rested or calm.
However, I found the seller without a hitch, and retrieved the board which was the perfect size although not in the perfect condition as i hoped. It is going to need quite a bit of repair work. The good news is, I have all winter to do this! And it is not difficult work, just tedious, to sand all the dings, tape them off, and fill them with epoxy. The nose and the tail of the board are the worst, and I think I will actually have to re-fiberglass them to make them watertight. However, I am hopeful. Thanks to the internet and the knowledge of perfect strangers, I have seen blogs and youtube videos on exactly all the repairs I need to do. Hurray information age!
Now if I can just get out of meeting anybody else... Scratch that! I still have to buy the supplies to do the repairs!
The weird thing is that sometimes the strangers that you most fear are the ones that become your good friends. It is a magical transformation, like falling in love, where suddenly you just connect on a deeper level. You just 'get' each other and suddenly you are not so alone anymore. It is miraculous in my view that all the anxiety can just flush out like releasing a breath.

Friday, October 16, 2009

sneak peek

Here is your sneak peek for Halloween. Too much cuteness!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

updates on everything

Surfboard... I bought one! I will pick it up this weekend. It has a few dings that need repairing, so I will be playing with epoxy soon. SOOOOOOO excited, and so is daughter.

Chiggers....really suck. We still have itchy scabs

Washer...still works like a charm

James Joyce...wrote at least one awful book. Yes, I finally finished "Portrait..." and my main complaint is this: Nothing actually happened. There was no plot. There were a lot of discussions and dialogues. I guess it is famous for this aspect, and its title does accurately reflect the fact that nothing fucking happens in this whole dumb book, but still...forewarned in this case did not mean fore-armed. There is a whole middle section about the Catholic Church's vision of Hell, and how awful it is. I would consider banning this book for children of a certain impressionable age, but then, they would never have gotten past chapter one, so there's really no need to ban it. However, it did make me realize one (of the myriad) ways in which the Catholic Church's religion is totally crazy and why people brought up Catholic are so mental the rest of their lives. That description of Hell is a lot of shit to deal with! Ninety percent of it is not even in the Bible...its just made up by priests who have nothing better to do but think up all the ways Hell could me made worse than the apostle John described in Revelations. No wonder I am not a Christian and I hate what the church (particularly Catholic) has done to people, information, and books.

Biting...well you know how 'cutting' is out and more mainstream now. Back in middle school, one of my friends was a 'cutter'. She totally fit the profile: perfectionist, quiet, smart, anxious. Well, I didn't cut myself, but I did bite my own arm on occasion back then. Its just a release for anxiety when you don't perform as well as you expect yourself to and you are so mad you literally don't know what to do with yourself. I never have urges to do this anymore, but something about reading that book brought up all those self-damaging emotions of adolescence. Hey! Maybe THAT was the point of the book. Its all so clear mud!

Halloween costume for my daughter... Is so CUTE! I sewed it myself, and it is a cat costume in the most luxurious leopard print imaginable. Now we just need a cold front for the end of October.
Hey, speaking of cold fronts...where the fuck is it?!?! GAWD I am tired of the heat and most especially the humidity. We have fleas and roaches all over the place because of the damp, hot, moist, close air. I swear October is the worst month in Gainesville. It is no hotter than July. Its just that it feels so wrong! Many leaves are turning brown, the Sycamores and Tulip trees have already shed their leaves. You know that it should be cool and crisp with the smell of apples, cinnamon and squashes in the air. But its NOT!

Ebay...I had special eBay luck yesterday. I just love it when that happens. I got bargains on things I wanted, and now I just have to wait for them to show up in my mailbox. Such Bliss! Its almost as good as ordering from Amazon. My husband is enthralled with our latest Amazon splurge... Burn Notice seasons 1 and 2. That is really a good show - even from the very first episode. We also got Disney Fairy chapter books this last purchase, and they are surprisingly good and well written too! My daughter is not quite quick enough at reading to do the chapter books herself. However, she can read the level 4 (2nd to 4th grade) steadily. It is so amazing! I am so proud of her progress and how well she is reading, and I just know she is going to be one of those who stays up until midnight with the flashlight on under her covers. Maybe as early as next year. That puts a smile on my face

One last Gainesville flashback for all you wanderers. I heard on the radio this morning:
'Its Magical
Its Wonderful
Its all right there!'

(can you guess it yet?)


(sing it with me now...)

' The Alachua County Faiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrre
We're goin' to the Faiiiiiirrrrrrrre'

Repeat ad infinitum.

Actually, I have never made it to the fair, but I sure hope that chick who sings that commercial on the radio has gotten dividends and royalties for the last twenty years because it is still the SAME song Every YEAR!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

my mind rebels...

I am reading the boringest book ...EVER
And it is called
The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
By James Joyce
Why did anyone publish this enormous festering pool of mental pus?
Let alone laud it?!?
I am so restless, I could bite myself.
But last time I made a mark
and that was embarassing
so I won't do that again
Not because of the pain but because of the mark
Throw in a few more big words and arduously looping comments
and I could be published and lauded too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

surfboard dreams

I have noticed that I obsess about one thing for a month and then its on to the next thing. So inopportunely, in October (although it is a HOT one), I am lately obsessing about having a surfboard for myself and daughter. We may have permanently given up hiking due to the chiggers, as even I cannot muster the enthusiasm to have a nice walk in the woods after looking at my scabs. However, I do love the beach, and I do love the waves and I recently saw the coolest Dad ever. He was on his longboard with his three year old son on the nose. He didn't even get up, but he was able to catch the wave so his son could do some nose-riding. I thought, "Hey, even I could do that!" Daughter is game, too. She is enamored with the new Toon network series 'Stoked' about six teens working at a surf resort and catching waves in their very spare time. Its like 6-Teen but way cooler, funner, and has some really beautiful (although simple) graphics that just make you want to smile and...SURF! Plus a kickin' theme song which I sing to her every so often just to make her grin. Do I think I have a real surfer girl on my hands? Will she turn pro at age 15? I seriously doubt it, but this would be a fun thing to do together that doesn't involve bug bites, whining, or anything more expensive than a tank of gas and a mcdonalds lunch. Well, except for the
Yeah, I don't have one anymore. I DID have one about ten years ago. Okay, it was 1994. I was a lot more phat and a lot less fat back then. I had a seven foot pointed-nose board that I bought used with a few duct-taped dings and tried like hell to ride...and I never managed to stand up on it even once. I was so upset that I couldn't make it work in the waves off Crescent Beach. I had learned to surf like every other tourist - in Hawaii, off Waikiki beach on a ten-foot wooden board that would have floated a sumo wrestler. So, I didn't consider that a performance board would require a lot more effort to catch a wave and would sail like a kite when caught by the repetitive pounding surf and offshore breeze that is hallmark of the Matanzas inlet. I never managed to paddle, push or drag it past the break point of the waves. Again and again I was rebuffed and humiliated. It didn't occur to me that I didn't have to go that far out or even stand up to have a fun ride. I saw a pair of surfers having a great time surfing the mild breaking waves and basically using their logs as oversized boogie boards. Why didn't I think of that before?!? No, I got sick, bought a house, grew up and yard saled the old board for 20 bucks.
And, now I am shopping for a new one. Actually, specifically, not a new board, not a board with a pointed nose, not a short board at all. I am haunting craigslist, garage sales and everything else I can think of to see what I can find. Maybe its the time of year, the weather, or something, but there are some longboards out there and interestingly, there are several other longboard-seekers too.
I figure I will find the perfect log...just in time for a cold front and twenty-degree drop in ocean temperature. And, I will have to put my current obsession on hold for six months, and jump with both feet into some other thing that will probably cost some money, singing the famous chant, "Just wait til next year!!!"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chigger washer update

There were at least thirty chigger bites on myself and fifty on my poor daughter. Talk about mother's guilt...I thought she had gotten away with nothing (and I was happy because it is a lot easier to suffer torture than to watch anyone else undergo it), but it turns out that her reaction was just delayed by two days or so. Finally, I have stopped itching right at the peak of my daughter's misery. The only thing that saved us was Aveeno oatmeal bath (can we sleep in it?) and Benadryl. I was taking four benadryls a night every night this week, and I have been keeping my daughter doped up on it too. Nothing else helped for very long. Fortunately the end is in sight because the severe itchy stage immediately precedes the scabbing-over and healing stage. (the first stage is pain, then a hard swelling, like a nodule). These symptoms in order are what differentiate chiggers from any other insect bites, but what a hideous progress.
Eight loads of wash later...
I love my new Kenmore. I got really worried because of course right after I signed the paperwork and confirmed the delivery of the new HE2Plus, I was reading all the terrible reviews on line for this washer. Leaks, bad computers, mildew smell, noise, 'walking', lost socks. You name it - anything that could go wrong was blamed on this model. So, I was super cautious at first, loading only towels and shirts I could afford to ruin. But dang, the very first load got everything whiter than they had been in three months. It uses very little water. It does spin at 1100 rpms so it wrings out the clothes so well that I do not have to use the dryer over 30 minutes for anything, any size load. It uses a fraction of the special HE detergent (yes I had to buy new and toss five bottles of the old stuff). I think a lot of the bad reviews are from people who don't want to shell out for a different style of detergent or don't want to make sure the washer is level. I did spend over an hour on the ground adjusting the legs so that the washer is almost perfectly level, but I also wanted the spinning parts to last as long as possible, and I didn't want it to 'walk' around. As for the smell, every manufacturer now recommends wiping the rubber door seal dry and keeping the door open to air the drum - common sense stuff for a moldy environment like Florida.
So far, so good, and I will be sure to post my favorable review in a few months.

Monday, October 5, 2009

chiggers and washers

I am totally zoning on double-dose Benadryl tablets, so if this post fails to make sense, well, now you know why...
Why am I on Benedryl (and double dosing, at that)? That is because I am covered with oozing itchy painful chigger mite bites. No, I am not 'drowning them by putting nail polish on the bites'. What I am doing is mentally kicking myself for agreeing to have a picnic with my daughter at O'Leno State Park in late September. The weather cooled and dried to perfection, it didn't even occur to me that there wouldn't be enough permethrin or DEET in the world to keep my skin intact this day. So, I was unarmed and unprepared, and never even saw them coming. We did see an alligator, several deer and many turtles, so that was good. My daughter got two deer ticks which I didn't see until two days later. So far no fever rash or any other indication of Lyme (knock on wood).
Plus also! The washing machine broke down after 14 years of hard service, it no longer agitates. So, now I cannot wash my chigger infested clothes. If in fact chiggers can infest clothes, I am in deep doo-doo, but I don't think that they can stay viable for long. I think all of them already found me, and sucked me dry.
My mom had a garage sale, but it was not very lucrative. At least it wasn't a whole lot of work, but I wish now that we hadn't tried to pull it off on short notice. She is going on a long trip to Europe soon, and it really could have been put off. I felt like I was working double, and I know she was, too. I have gotten so lazy about doing things. I am a born procrastinator, but it is not always the best way to get things done. So many things late or half-assed, that I wish I could have done over or differently.
On the up side, the new washer should arrive tomorrow. If it is not a lemon, it ought to work wonderfully and maybe even save water and electricity. Daisy Scouts should start soon and Dance class for daughter this week. I have started work on a Halloween costume that dear daughter loves, and I have a lot of minis to paint while Cynde is away at first a show and later visiting her beautiful newborn granddaughter. Also, I have chilled rum cream in my fridge....if I can't numb my chigger bites, I can numb my mind!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What is kids' homework coming to?!?

You should read the homework problems my first grader is trying to do in just the fourth week of school:

Ben eats the most candy corn, Jen eats more than Len, Jen eats less than Ken, Zen eats less than Len. Put them in order from most to least.

Find the mystery number. If you add me to myself and then add 2 more, the result is 14. What number am I?

I hardly even know where to begin to explain to my daughter how to go about approaching these problems. It is so different than when I was taught where it was all memorization. I guess in a way, it is good to challenge their thinking. But Sheesh! Isn't this kind of a big leap from last week where it was just 'how many children have birthdays in September'?!?

Poor thing was obviously overwhelmed and frustrated. I would have been, too. Break out the popsicle sticks and pennies...I have a hands-on learner. What inthe heck is she going to do when it comes time for a math test? Pack her a roll of pennies and dimes? Or shouldn't I worry about that!?! And the biggest question: What are we going to get at the end of this torture... a bunch of geniuses that can define a 'quark' or a bunch of miserable frustrated kids who still cannot give proper change for a twenty dollar bill if the cash register breaks?

My real dilemma is this: Do I teach my daughter in the way I was taught... memorization, flash cards, times tables, etc just so that she can feel confident now, but maybe will be rusty on word problems later (like I was), or do I let her struggle through it, complete with crying outbursts and reminders to listen to the teacher during lectures, so that she will be able to think about word problems differently and better than I did?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Asus Eee Pc - a review

I do have a new netbook which I bought off eBay. The reason I was even looking to buy one is that the laptop was on the fritz and we were looking around in Best Buy and they had the little things everywhere. I tried to type on a couple of HP Minis and found that I made a dozen typographical errors due to the keyboard. Its not that the letters were small, its that the keys were not shaped well - they were flat and square like chicklets, so my fingers slid off. Also, the F and J keys barely had any raised dashes to help your fingers find the home position. Then I tried the Asus, and I could type a whole lot better. The screens, though small, were amazingly clear and readable, and I really loved the idea of carrying around a mini laptop rather than my bigger heavy Dell Latitude CPx which takes a full 10 minutes to boot up ubuntu.

A note on Linux. As far as operating systems go, we don't have too much choice. We can have the evil conglomerate that is run by Bill Gates deciding your every move. It is ubiquitous, its pricey, it is full of security leaks that they are only finally closing. I would never condone computer viruses, but I do understand how people can get so angry with Windows that they would be inspired to sabotage it. You should have heard my swearing sessions when I had to type a lab procedure into word, or compute means and standard deviations with excel. Plus, I never liked how Microsoft bullied and took over smaller companies to steal their good software ideas and make them under their own umbrella. Unfortunately, for a while, the only alternative was DOS or Linux Red Hat, both minimally graphical, and frankly difficult, with all the command prompts and the memorized obscure codes for doing things. But I like the idea of open source software, where people code together to make things better. I didn't see that it was a workable solution until the old laptop's Win98 OS expired (thank you Bill). Without the continued support of 98, there were still gaping holes in security and other software (like Adobe) that could not be upgraded. Rather than toss the laptop, I got enthused by ubuntu, a flavor of linux that is open source AND graphical, so I successfully installed Intrepid Ibex (8.04). And does work, but it really does take a looooooooong time to boot up and shut down, plus I shorted out my second battery, and the poor Dell may end up as a paperweight or landfill fodder soon. 8.04 is easy to use, reminds me of Win 98 which I was most comfortable with. The finding of drivers (so difficult with Microsoft) was immediate and intuitive with I.Ibex. The downside? Okay, this is really petty...I wanted to change the desktop background. Its really easy with Windows, but I can't figure out how to do it with linux. And I am tired of looking at the brown dirt painting, and the flat gray is not an option for me. See, even writing it, I can see that is such a lame reason not to like I.Ibex.

So back to the netbook: Dell laptop was having trouble getting power, battery was blown, so I started shopping on Ebay for an Asus. I figured I didn't need that much hard disk space, because I was NOT going to put all my music and photos on, I just needed a little pc for web-browsing, checking email, and writing documents. I found out that many Asus, especially the 700's and 900 series use a linux-based OS, so that didn't scare me. I found a netbook at a great price, got it home, plugged it in and quickly filled (overfilled) its 4GB of solid-state hard drive space. So much for being able to save a written document. Now, it had so little memory that I literally could not bookmark a website. Seriously!! Upon more investigation, I found out that this is a common problem with my model number (900a), and the best solution was to install ubuntu netbook remix. Why not upgrade the hard drive? Two big reasons: the first is that the solid state drive is soldered into the mini-PCMI card, so you have to swap out the whole card with a different card that has more SSD's soldered onto it. the second is that the bigger card costs as much as I spent on the netbook. However, I did not want to jump into UNR OS because I was having an easy time navigating the Xandros flavor of Linux that was pre-installed. I did a system recovery and found that the space required by this Xandros OX was 3.6 Gigs of my 4. In addition, there was an update that was forced to run, reducing my memory space to a mere 0.13 Gigabytes. On top of that there were 29 other updates, some of which were not meant for my model number, and others of which took up the remaining space. What about deleting things I didn't need? The Xandros OS made it impossible. You could delete it, but you didn't get your disk space back. The only way to get more disk space was by using a lot of code on a blogger's post to shrink the read-only partition and grow the usable partition. Too much for me. So I went with UNR and it seems to be working really well. I got the newest version of ubuntu which is the Jovial Jackelope (9.0), and I like the desktop a whole lot better. Plus it has the tabs (large style icons) that I liked with the Xandros OS. And now, I have a whole gig to myself for saving stuff, even after the updates. Presumably, I can also delete old documents and recover disk space if I need to.

Lastly, with all the researching into shrinking and growing partitions, I was able to resurrect, and make even more usable the old Dell laptop, so now I have Edubuntu for Brianna on it, again cool desktop background, and sufficient space. Still really slow booting up, though; the netbook boots up much more quickly, so it really is ideal for travel.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

things I have learned recently

1. If you are going to grout tile, it pays to buy the real rubber grout float and not buy the 'economy' foam grout float. I wish they had run that as a banner under the HGTV program. Now wouldn't that be cool? If they had a running banner of home tips while the shows were on? Like headline news, but only for home improvement? That would have saved me an hour of wringing out a wet sponge and the shocked trauma of my fore-arm muscles.
2. 4GBs is not a big enough hard drive no matter how much ram you have. Well, I didn't know until recently. In fact it is so obviously not enough, that manufacturers really should be spanked for making such hardware decisions. They ought to recall them and put in 8GBs. I am speaking of my new netbook which I love, but it has been fraught with space issues and it is going to be a battle that continues. I know I should quit bitching about it since I only spent $139 on it, but in my defence... I did think that 4 GBs would be enough at the time I bought it, not realizing that the OS took up 3.6 of that space and all the updates take another Gig. As you have now figured out 4 is not enough.
3. I need to do yoga or some hamstring stretching EVERY day to keep my hip/sacro/illiac/back from hurting. If I do it, I am fine. If I say, "I'm fine, I can skip a day" I am not going to be fine any longer. It is a testament to my stupidity or stubborn-ness that it took months to come to this simple conclusion. So ...triangle pose...breathe deeply...repeat mantra...."I must stretch every day of my life"

Okay, that's all I can remember for today. Back to watching TV...
4. Oh wait one more thing...iTunes now has iTunes U which is like college lectures and they are FREE. So you can learn stuff for FREEEE. Man do I love a bargain. Which probably explains 1. and 2.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Now that I do not have a regular hours job, I have a hard time figuring out when I should be working and when I should be relaxing. I have a whole list of chores to do, a long list of want-to-do's and of course, the competition for my attention among my daughter, husband, and cats. Don't underestimate the cats...they are as greedy for love as anyone else in this house. The sum answer is that I run around a lot getting many things half done, some things fully done half-assed and few things completely well performed. I know it is really no different from when I was working 8 to 5 elsewhere. In fact, it was much the same ratio of outcomes. Its just that when I had a place to go to be working, it divided my time better so that when I was at work, I was fully engaged in work. When I was at home, it was time for relaxing or home chores. Now, when I can't ever seem to be 'done' with anything (laundry always has to be done, cleaning, neatening, painting, and momming), I am less organized. Sometimes I even invent chores that are single jobs that can be completed simply so that I have something I can acoomplish and check off my list.
The other problem with this arrangement is that I seem to have no down-time. I don't have as much time for myself and my own interests. I feel a little guilty ignoring the other demands to carve out a little space. What I don't know is whether this is the normal state of being a parent or whether I am particularly poor at time management and planning. I have gone through the Franklin Covey what matters most series, and I think I am on-track in the big picture. But I do have times where I feel like my life is slipping out of me and I cannot control it, slow it, or even change course. Sometimes I wonder what the hell is wrong with me? How can I be so book smart and life stupid?
I think this must be where religion helps people, particularly when their faith encourages the giving-up of control to God. I sometimes envy those who do this, but then I think about how they also can't take credit for doing something well (after all, God actually did it). So I am stuck.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

into Thin Air

Just outside of Denver is a state recreation area where you can drive to the top of a 14,000 foot peak on the world's highest elevation paved road. Usually, when a
road gets up to that elevation, no one bothers to pave it, they just leave it as dirt or gravel. I was greatful for the paving, even though my step-dad's driving left me sweaty, white knuckled and praying! To be fair, his tires only left the pavement once...
Anyway, the view was spectacular, and we actually found some snow to play in. Little Miss is posing in front of peak and snow. Down at Echo Lake we had a delightful picnic, tried out the tread on the hiking boots, and fed ducks. On the drive were the most glorious wild flowers. Colorado and Wyoming had better amounts of rain than usual, so the plants responded with gusto. At the top we saw mountain goats and a big-horned sheep. The drive down was not nearly as hair-raising as the way up. At the peak, there was a trail to the very tip of the rockpile summit, but there was also a snow patch lower down. We opted for snow, climbed carefully over chunky rocks and daughter was reminded of how icy and crunchy it was. She claimed to not ever remember snow, but she had played in it before. Its just such a rarity for a Florida child that it becomes special. Snow in the middle of summer is even more fun! There may be more snow in our future, since her appetite for it has been whetted, and now we have more north-dwelling relatives to visit.

Monday, August 10, 2009

dances with wolves? pees with horses!

The funniest thing that happened in Wyoming was the night spent in the teepee and the usual call of nature. The reason I was in a teepee goes way back to the spring when my mother was planning our trip as a driving vacation. She was researching fun things to do in South Dakota and Wyoming on the way from Minneapolis to Denver. She really wanted to do some horseback riding, but she didn't want to round up cows or just ride with a guide. She found on a website that there were overnight tours where the guides drive the chuckwagon and fix the food for dinner and you spend the night out in the wild and ride back to civilization in the morning. My mom is not known for her adoration of the outdoors, so it surprised me that she was even willing to consider spending a night in a teepee. However, the reassurance of cots and port-a-potties as well as a large strong horse to carry her moved her to make the reservation for a trip. Later, when we weren't going to drive from Minneapolis to Denver, but fly...well, I thought 'there goes that idea'. Mom surprised me again by deciding to rent a car and drive up and ride as planned. My mom and I had ridden horses enough to feel like we could do this, but I was worried about whether my daughter could safely ride. It turns out that the guide also had reservations about it and only agreed to let her ride in the chuckwagon and later on a horse as long as it was halter-led. I was fine with this, as was she, so the reservation stood. My daughter was excited that her gramma was going to spend a night in a teepee ... the closest she had ever been to camping.
The ride was great! My mom and I agreed that the first minute or two on the horse gave us a real "oh, shit!" moment when we weren't sure we could do this, but we both settled down and remembered what to do. Daughter survived the chuckwagon ride (it was bumpier and steeper than she had dared to hope). The ambiance was not all it could be since our ride just took us on a loop around a mesa, and the chuckwagon did not bring our food (the F150 did), but the view of the teepees by the river was so idyllic. We had a generous meal of overcooked chopped steaks, salad, fruit and desert and then it came time to inspect the sleeping arrangements.
Mom chickened out. Ostensibly, it would have been difficult for her to get up and down off an air mattress in the night, wander two hundred yards to the port-o-lets and repeat. I could hardly believe she didn't stick it out just to say she had done it - slept in a teepee, but she opted for the motel. My daughter was so sad not to see her gramma camp, too.
So what does a female do when camping in the pitch dark (haven't seen that many stars in years!) a fair hike from the relief station? She tries to hold it, that's what. And I did fairly well in that department, but when you have to go, you just have to go. All night I had heard the horses grazing around the outside of the teepee and relieving themselves (in great gushes of moisture), so I figured that the hike was optional. Out I crawled at four in the morning, moon up high and bright, and found a nice little spot with a slant away from the sleeping area. I dropped my drawers and felt the blessed relief, looked up and saw several pairs of eyes on me...
the horses. They had all stopped chewing, ears pricked, staring at me while I peed. Apparently, no one had ever demonstrated the human method for them. They couldn't believe their eyes and ears. It was a bit unnerving to have them all be so interested, so I finished and hurried back inside. The sun rose just an hour later. Had I known that I might have waited for the light and made the hike.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

being a Thien

Most people might think that gravestone rubbings are morbid, but today I did one. Yes, I found my great great great grandfather's marker. The lettering was so faded, that I thought, 'If I don't do a rubbing this trip, we might never be able to read this again!' So in lies J.H.Thien, founder of Thiensville, WI, without whom I would not be. I thought it was really neat. We also went to the village and lurked about the millrace and dam that he (had) built. Dear daughter was bored out of her wits, but I tried to impress upon her that most people do not know even the names of their ancestors let alone the things that they did. We are very lucky in this respect. We also got to see the civil war relics from a different great great grandfather who was a captain in the Ohio cavalry. The best part was seeing a one-hundred-fifty year old hard-tack biscuit. Looked like you could still eat it! I never cared much for history before, but I have figured out that the real appeal is in how it relates to yourself, personally. I am totally absorbed by my personal history. I can understand how general history is interesting in how we get to be the way we are. So now I have a grave rubbing, a land sale plat map and a few pictures, but the big picture is in my head.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

brief checkin before checking in

It is late Wednesday, and I will be getting up in 6 hours to fly to Chicago to visit my stepbrother, his wife and their adorable children. This is the first leg of a multi-city, multi-relative tour. my suitcase only weighs 40 pounds and has my mother's family history scrapbook in it, which for me, is a coup! we will be gone for three weeks, but hope to find laundry along the way. Otherwise, i will not smell very nice. daughter's suitcase is small, stuffed, but not very heavy, which is perfect. I resisted using a big bulky suitcase, but since I am the one heaving it up, down and sideways, i think size is a consideration, as much as weight. I am using a new jansport with nice turquoise targets on it, hating those ubiquitous red or black bags everyone else seems to have. Okay, dear daughter's is red, but I didn't buy it, it was a hand-me-down. One fact of life is that the more you weigh, the more your clothes weigh, and the heavier your luggage is. between that and the size of airline seats, there is enough reason to lose some of my pounds. It is a battle that is at a stalemate right now.

I was hoping for a big fireworks display for the 4th, and my kin assure me that their tiny town will deliver, but I am a little disappointed that we are not going downtown or someplace bigger. With small kids, though, I can see why they don't want to this year.

also, I am anxious about the weather. It has been so hot in Gainesville - 95 every day, muggy, and now finally getting some rain. Dear d has gotten used to being very warm, and if it is noticeably cool, there will be much complainage. Yet, i packed clothes for us for cooler weather. So if it is not cool, I will be the one complaining. You really cannot win if you have a big body and a small suitcase.

Friday, May 15, 2009

My baby is six

My dear little girl is a very grown up six, as of yesterday. I am reminded of how far she has come whenever I look at my computer screen-saver and see her little baby face and how much she has changed and grown. B loves to see her baby pictures, and she will sit at the computer with the arrow keys going back and forth between photos of herself.
We went to Magic Kingdom yesterday, since the birthday person can get in free. Then, they get a large button to wear so that everyone knows its their birthday. It was amazing to see how many people had been born on May 14th! Disney sure knows what its doing with this guest promotion. It was hot, but not crazy hot. It rained promptly at 4pm. And it really wasn't too crowded - we never waited more than 20 minutes for a ride. Space Mountain was closed for refurbishing but we rode the other rollercoasters thrice each. I had the worst headache ever on the drive home, but the day was worth the pain. Bri had a great time and she was wished 'Happy Birthday' by every cast member. We ate cheeseburgers twice and ice cream. I was so proud of her because she walked miles and miles in the heat with almost no complaint, didn't even whine about anything, and she knew what she wanted to ride and in what order.
I had to rush back to Gville last night because today was her Kindergarten play, "How does your garden grow?" She had the first speaking lines, and she said them well. She wasn't that much into the singing, but the whole thing was so cute, it was a really great experience. We had cupcakes for her classmates in the afternoon. Of course we bought fairies with her birthday money (the only thing I said 'no' to was the $65 tinkerbell dress).
In some ways, she is still so little, though. Today she said that she was 'almost' a teenager, and I had to tell her she was less than half way there (thank goodness). She is blissfully naive about love and sex and truly does not understand why most stories have a love-interest theme. She dresses with care and modesty by natural inclination. Her favorite play is imagination stories of her own making - she rather resents rules imposed by parents, adults, gravity and other realities. She is brave enough to pet a hissing cockroach if someone else is holding it, but not enough to catch her own lizard. She dearly wants to pet a squirrel, duck, and sparrow, and doesn't understand why she cannot. She can say "DUUUuuuuh" with the best of them, but doesn't perceive that she has learned to read and write this year; that she couldn't do it last year. She is old enough to type a document on the computer about her favorite things! She wants to be so many things when she grows up: a kitty vet, a writer, a home decorator, a nurse, a ballet instructor, a kindergarten teacher.
She is my baby, but not a baby. She is growing, and so fast, too. It is so amazing, this process of growing up. I love seeing it this close up. Motherhood is amazing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring Break driving adventures

Did you know that there are over 50 billboard signs for that stupid South of Border along I-95 (southbound) in North Carolina before you actually hit Dillon, SC? That place is so cheesy, my daughter and I may just have to visit before she grows up too much. I will have to see if we are allowed to climb the sombrero tower before I commit to staying there, though. It is a comfortable drive from our town to Dillon in one day, so it is within the realm of possibility...
We took the scenic route north when travelling to (almost) Trenton, and it really was pretty. I found this road that is basically an interstate highway, but almost nobody is on it. Sorta like the Suncoast Parkway in Florida - sadly underutilized. In North Carolina the roadside forests were draped with wisteria in full bloom. The medians were congested with daffodils. I found a buffet in Cheraw, SC that had some tasty fried chicken. I could tell that it used to be a Quincy's because it had the same layout, food warming islands and color scheme as our town's old Quincy's. However, the drive north went poorly after Charlottesville, Virgina (where UVA is). What is it with university towns and their absolute inability to build enough roads to handle traffic?!? (see Gainesville, Morgantown, etc). There were roads, but each one was filled to the maximum, peppered with useless traffic signals designed to slow the progress of those on the main road. When I finally got north of the worst of it, I was in this very pretty rolling hills, and frustrated by other slow drivers. Then two cars zoomed past, and I attempted to keep pace with them. Now, I did not want to drive only 62 in a 60 mph zone, but neither did I think it was a good idea to drive 72, either, as I soon found out when a Virginia state trooper pulled over both cars just a mile ahead of me. I was going about 68 and deciding the locals were not slow for no reason, after all. So I made the decision to get back on the interstate rather than continue on the slower byways. Wouldn't you know I found a large truck center near the last few miles? So many semis on these little country roads. I was glad to get back on the highway even if I did have to skirt DC. The two good things about it: Snow flurries in Virgina and taking the high-occupancy-vehicle lane exit to 495 which had a super-fun roller-coaster dip right off the exit ramp. "Do it AGAIN!" yelled my daughter. Wish I could, baby, maybe next year...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

getting back into it

I am finally getting back into the groove after Spring Break and this yucky cold we passed around. Also, I have been wasting my computer time by watching old Survivor seasons on YouTube - it is great fun catching up, and I have seen both season 1 and 2 now. The house chores seem to just pile up, so I made a dent by vacuuming the porch (really the best way to remove the layer of pollen and cat dirt) and bleaching the skylights until I am dizzy and my nose-hair curls.
I have also made the decision to remove a bicycle from this household. This is a major hurdle for me. I am in love with bicycles. I love to ride them, build them, tune them and dream about new parts. Much of my money I earned as a laboratorian was sunk into bicycles, so for me to give one up feels like giving up the whole hobby. But realism prevails. Realistically, I cannot keep this one bike going - it uses special rubber elastomers as shock absorbers. This rubber rots in the Florida heat, so I need a continual supply to keep riding this bike. There is no way to engineer around it (its a pro-flex). The last time I bought the elastomers (three years ago) they were 20 dollars each (I need two), and the bike store said they only had two left and no new supplier. I didn't buy the last two, figuring someone else may need them. Realistically, I have not even gotten much use of the last two I bought. So I have decided to disassemble the bike, scavenging the parts I can for my old bike, and tossing out the old frame. I would recycle the steel frame, but I don't know how or where. You can't even recycle old baby carseats, except if you live in Denver. It is a disposable society. I have fought it long enough, though. I don't even want to give the bike away, because the recipient would just have the same hassles and headaches. That is no gift! So it is an end to my multi - bike era.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

update on phone and fan

The ceiling fan works! "It Blows!" said my dear husband. The up side is that I got it finished while daughter was at school, it moves tons more air than the old fan, and it is prettier too. The down side is that halfway through the install, I ran out of cuss words I was so mad. Seriously, when the best you can come up with is "Get in there you fucking fuck-face fucker," you need to either take a break or grab a thesaurus. Also, I have aches in my forearms and shoulders from wielding a screwdriver above my head for so long. Still it was worth it to flip the breaker and see it purr to life (rather than spark, arc-weld to the light fixture and explode). No I didn't peek into the attic. By the time I was finished, I had 15 minutes before I had to get my daughter and I spent it looking up stuff for my phone on the internet.
So that brings me to my phone. After extensive googling, and reading countless posts in obscure forums (fora?), I found a solution to getting my pictures and videos off my phone and onto my PC, and for putting an electronic book from my pc on my phone. It actually worked, and I am so pleased. I am still looking into getting new ring-tones. I want "The Path of the Wind" from Totoro to be one of my ringtones, and I wouldn't mind paying for it as long as I could guarantee that it would work. Any advice in this area is welcome. I also want new games and that one memo app, but those are looking not very likely at present. I tried to put tetris on there, but it didn't work, so I may try variations of the same program and see if I can make it go.
The ebook was the most successful task. Not only did I get it to load, and was able to read the book on the phone...but I also found the coolest website for electronic books, which I am adding to my links list on this blog. If you have thought about getting books, particularly classics, and want to download them instead, please check out Project Gutenberg!

chore list

I have a new cell phone and it is pretty cool, but of course I want to make it cooler. I am able to program it to remind me of things using a calendar function and what they call a 'to do' list, but I cannot really write an actual list under 'to do'. I want to be able to write a list. Oh, sure I could get a piece of paper... Its just that I have twenty seven pieces of paper, all of which are to-do lists that I start, then shuttle from one flat surface to another, occasionally checked off, and usually not completely cleared, then filed away, then re-started. If I have a phone to-do list, I am a) not killing trees, b) always carrying it with me and less likely to lose it, and c) don't have to keep re remembering what things I need to be doing. So, I have found an application for this very thing for my k630i, but I don't know if it will work (and therefore worth the 12 dollars) because I actually have the chinese knock-off version of the phone. I have more investigating to do before I buy the app. My dear husband was so helpful in suggesting that they probably do make an app... in Chinese! I'm sure they do, and what good does that do me?
Most of my to-do's involve house improvement chores. I am currently contemplating the ceiling fan in the computer room. First I am going to have to turn off all of the computers, internet cable modem, firewall, etc in order to play with the circuit breakers, because it is not clear which breaker is going to be correct for de-powering the fan. Then I am going to have to work fast, because dear husband will not be happy to come home and find a half-wired ceiling fan and all his computer capability shut down.
The sink project did turn out to be rather involved, but that is typical for home improvement. Why does it always take three times longer and involve fourteen trips to Home Depot before you can fix something. Do contractors actually think along the lines of, "Yeah, lets plumb this house with mobile home pipes so when they replace the sink, they will have to saw off the old drain and buy a new coupling."?!? I would love to hunt the plumber down and kick him in the shin, the cheap bastard. At least home depot is filled with wise, nice men on Saturday nights! At least the sink works, now.
Painting. I have to paint the outside of the house. I mean it is really overdue. I have to paint the eaves (my sprayer was a birthday present two years ago - still in shrink wrap). I need to buy a case of caulk because there are miles of gaps that need filling. Oh yeah, and I should probably replace two windows before-hand so I won't need to re-paint when I am done.
And, I have rearranged furniture so that I can get up into the attic (my personal horror), because we have been in dire need of applying more insulation up there since we bought the place. I fear and loathe the attic. I have to do it soon, too before it gets too hot. If I were to make a horror movie it would be about a florida attic in the late summer...filled with roaches. UGGHHH! insert shudder here. Actually, we have had enough cold spells this winter to make me believe that the attic won't be that bad, now. But I do have to start soon. Maybe I will peek into it today....

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Scenic Route

I hate Interstate 95. I am going from Florida to Pennsylvania and back. I hope to take two days each way. And the most direct route is the most dreaded (by me) on the planet. I would rather drive anywhere else than DC, Wilmington and Baltimore (in that order). Honestly. So I am trying to come up with alternative routes that won't take me too far out of the way or through too many small towns on too many small highways. I actually don't mind adding miles to my trip if the scenery is worth it. And I do like going through small towns as long as they aren't Waldo (Fla). Google it if ya don't believe me. But (there is always a but), since I am driving with my dear daughter, I don't want to be too far from civilization, rescue, anonymity. Also, there are only so many hours she is willing to withstand in a carseat, even if playing with cousins is the major bribe for going.
That said, I am going to try something new. Go where I haven't gone before. I am going to minimize interstate driving. Not at the expense of a speed limit of 45, but I am sticking to smaller highways, smaller towns. I am going to look for some fruit stands and farmers markets. I still look back fondly on the groves of pecan trees in late summer along US41 in south Georgia, cotton bolls literally littering the road-side, and the southern mansions with manicured lawns. There is really nothing like it. So I am going to try to find that kind of fun further north.
Oh, and here is the kicker...(are you ready for it?)...there will be nothing (and no-one) named Magellan, Tom-Tom, or Garmin in my car. No GPS. Just good old triple-A road maps, maybe an atlas, printed directions, and even a Gazetteer. Hopelessly old fashioned? Perhaps. However, I have found that it is really hard to have an experience when that little voice is nagging you to take a right in 200 yards. It is not all about the destination, people. Sometimes it is good to look around, decide on the spur of the moment to take that road less travelled, and even to get lost. I have gotten lost before, and it doesn't scare me. You meet some of the nicest people and see the prettiest sights getting lost. And it feels like an adventure again instead of just a long commute.
I figure I am adding about two hours of driving time. Balance that against the wait times in DC traffic jams, and the difficulty of actually finding the McDonalds in Virginia (those freaks don't believe in tourist-friendly advertisement), and I might come out ahead. If I am lucky, I may find a fried chicken or catfish place for dinner that will be worth revisiting. If I am unlucky, I will merely find another way not to go. Wish me luck!

Friday, March 20, 2009


I haven't blogged in a couple days, and I had this rant on my mind, but now I have forgotten what I was going to have a tirade about. Aint getting old grand? Actually, maybe that is why all my relatives were more mellow and happy the older they got! They simply forgot what they were all upset over. I do realize that not everybody gets nicer as they age, some turn into curmudgeons and other odious persons. So it could be worse. I think I am a lot more mellow than I used to be, but it could just be experience doing its work. I have been through a lot and it has taught me patience. It is fun to teach my daughter about things, too. I was teaching her about driving, today, not that she will be ready for it for a while. I was explaining that we drive on the right and sit on the left-hand side of the car. That we stay right except to pass. I am honest, too. i confessed that I speed, and that sometimes I tailgate, but that it isn't correct to do that. I remember when I was a girl that my grandmother would give me impromptu driving lessons. i remember really paying attention and taking it to heart. I cannot remember anything else she really taught me, so either her instruction was exceptional in its rarity or in its content. I try to remember that my daughter is just a sponge for information now. I think people forget that kids are always learning. It is not always apparent, even to themselves. My daughter will get home from school and complain that they "only teach me things I already KNOW!" I remember hating reviews when I was a kid, too, and finally realizing much later that I learn and retain things much faster than my peers, and that I could daydream or draw during the obligatory review sessions because I simply didn't need it. So she says that she hasn't learned anything in Kindergarten, except that she is now suddenly reading books, adding, subtracting, and knows what part of a bug its "thorax" is! I know her education is better than mine was. I will have to see if I can help her retain her skills over the approaching summer. Travel will give us some unique opportunities to learn map-reading (she already has compass directions understood), history, and distance. As well as meet a ton of relatives. I see why parents and educators get so excited over 'potential' of the mind to learn. It is amazing. It is not completely understood. But it is worthy of study. i think about aging and one thing I see is a slow reverse of elasticity of the brain and the ability to learn. I see the decline, and I can see that there are ways to reverse it. Just like muscle training for seniors, learning new things, exploring new points of view, and acquiring new skills are vital for a full life. I will be doing my part!

Monday, March 16, 2009

March sunburn

What is it about March and me getting sunburns?!? I should know better! I know the sun gets stronger and I need to be thinking ahead and putting on sunscreen. It just feels so benign, though. The sun was hot, but I didn't actually sweat much on my walk. I didn't think I would be out as long as I was. I thought my walk would be shady. The list of excuses goes on, but the fact is, I ignored my white flesh and the bright intensity from the sky and subjected the former to the latter mercilessly. .
I did it last year about this time at my mom's pool. I guess because it is officially winter, I still have my mind in winter mode (sun is weak, weak sun is good, make us some Vitamin D). For all practical purposes winter is GONE from Florida. Spring has sprung, and it is looking like an early start to a miserable summer. As much as my friend Jo loathes long winters in West Virginia, I want to cry every year when winter is really,finally gone because that means the humid heat will start up again soon. I was spoiled the last two years by extended cool well into spring, but I have little hope for it this year. Plus I saw three (3) black racers (snakes) on my walk! At least my daughter didn't get burned at all.
I did get some gardening going this past week. I have to remember to water everything because the spring dry spell is already here. I have a geranium, some blue eyes, little white violets, and a good crop of milkweed going. I am trying to prepare for some monarch butterflies. I also saw some blackberry flowers, so I know they are coming soon. I really miss having a bunch of wild berries in my freezer. I actually want to build up some flower beds in the sunny parts of my yard. At least I should do something to try to transform its barren look.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gijon and Bilbao

Back to my travels...The first stop on the second cruise after leaving the port of Lisbon was a place on the northern, Asturian coast of Spain, named Gijon. It is pronounced much like a donkey's bray (or if you speak spanish, you may try their phonetic Xixon (accent on second syllable)). Our tour also took us into Oveido on a Sunday. Many shops were closed, as I expected, but a few were opening up. Our first point on the tour was an ancient Roman structure (about the size of a small barn) that had served several uses over its thousand years. It was up on a hillside overlooking the city and the view it commanded was just grand! The weather was cool and breezy, and it was perfect for a morning hike. My poor mother was about three fourths the way up, and realizing that she was going to have a hard time going down and debated whether it would be best to start right away. I am glad she persevered and got to see it. The structure itself was used as a summer house by conquering Romans, a troups barracks, a storage house, and finally as a national historical site. It is amazing how long some things last, if preserved even a little. We had to hike back down the hill, and my mom convinced the tour guide that a cab was essential, not just for herself but also another. The bus driver was not very cooperative, and my mom may not have hiked at all if he hadn't insisted she get off the bus, but it worked out well in spite of it all. The next spot for the tour was Oveido where we got to see many local Roman Catholics filing in to their church service. I am sure they loved (heavy sarcasm) a bunch of American tourists getting in the way and gawking at their buildings. Right after noon, there was an impromptu celebration parade of drumming and flute playing groups dressed up in traditional costumes. I don't think it was planned, but an amazing coincidence. There were several of these groups, some only eight members, some as large as 50. They marched through their streets (most of which were pedestrian only) playing and carrying their banners. I think the best description might be that they were clubs organized by heritage? It was amazing to watch and the music was lively. There were also a number of public statues to look at, and mimic. Our favorite was the 'travellers' since they, laden with luggage, looked so much like our own experience. However, another statue deserves a mention - the double butts. How funny that statue looked in this very conservative town! There was also a 400 year old University. Think about that next time you visit our own schools.

I need to mention how clean these cities were, especially Bilbao. Bilbao was a fairly large city and it had NO dirt or trash anywhere. There were no homeless people, no beggars. Everyone was well dressed and proper. There were sidewalk cafe's filled with customers. There were high-rise buildings all around with excellent public transportation busses and trams. It was like an urban utopia, and I did wonder what it cost them. Do they have to pay high taxes to support the cleanliness? Do they lock up all their unsavories somewhere, or just take them someplace else? I saw young people and old, but no one who was really old. It was a little bit creepy in that respect. One of the four Guggenheim museums is located in Bilbao, and it was impressive in a modern way. Near it was a unique playground for kids of all ages. There was a snack stand and restroom (free!). There was a giant ropes structure on which you could climb, and I was so glad I had taken my daughter. We played for an hour on this playground. There were also really strange variations of traditional playground equipment, and there were mound of texturized semi-spheres in the ground on which you could sit or jump. Older kids were playing there too, jumping from sphere to sphere. In front of the museum is a giant statue of a puppy that is a 3-D flower bed, covered with the pinks, yellows, reds and greens of blooms and leaves. At the gift shop, we purchase a tshirt souvenier with the flower puppy, and the cashier said, "Grathiath" in perfect kings' spanish lisp. I marvelled that such an advanced society still spoke spanish like thick-tongued five-year-olds. People are amazing. My daughter and mother did very well on this tour, and it was amazing to see such places that I never would have guessed were there.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


The red wine seemed to do the trick. I am feeling better, but my larynx is shot, and I am resting it by whispering. While ailing, it fell upon my daughter to entertain herself, and what better way than to play doctor to mommy. First, I needed shots, then it seems I broke my arm and required Xrays and casting. Since she has gone through these actions in real life recently, she has first-hand knowledge of medical procedures, and enjoyed being the perpetrator rather than the victim. I didn't mind. I know that is how her experiences are assimilated into her knowledge bank - by talking about them, re-enacting them from all angles, and drawing about them. I am amazed by her creativity. Cast material? Fun-fur scarves! Stryker saw? Flower-shaped clothing tag! Her hands had to serve as the X-ray cross-hairs, but she imitated the hummmmclick most accurately with voice alone. She was a gentle, compassionate attendant which means she either was treated with appropriate respect, herself or that she wanted to treat me with tenderness, based on who I was. Either way, I was proud of her. Her littlest pet shop montage was also recruited for assimilation. Pretty kitty broke her paw and required the whole LPS staff to attend at the ER, the office, and Xray. She reproduced every step with great attention to detail. She found a stool for her patient to sit upon, a plate that was the X-ray negatives, the correct number of nurses required to give an IV, and a hospital bed. Playing broken arm has given her so much awareness and language about her real experience that she has come through it all very little worse for the wear.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

thinking about God again...

Is it my feverish brain that dwells on the immense complexity of God, religion and spirituality? Naw, I have been rolling these marbles around in my head for a while now. I am trying to define what I believe, and I am trying to decide whether it is important to pray - to whom and how? I am not Christian or Jewish. I certainly am not Muslim. I do not believe Islam is a religion of peace (just read Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali if you want an honest view). I am not Buddhist, and certainly not Hindu. There are truths to be gleaned from each of these religious views, but I am far from accepting any of them as a whole parcel. I do not believe any rights to religion should trump basic human rights. Just because the Koran says you can beat your wife does not make it okay. And yet...I cannot look around me at nature and believe that it was all some cosmic accident, that the Earth just came about by chance. I cannot contemplate the depths of space, the rate of expansion of the universe (just enough to keep the whole thing from collapse), the inter-atomic forces that define gravity and electrical charge, and the fantastically complex biology of my human child without thinking that there must be God, somewhere, in all these details.
What I do resent is the insertion of God into anything we cannot explain by science alone. The Jehovah's Witnesses are very cunning in some of their tracts to appear to 'prove' that a scientific explanation of the evolution of Earth is inadequate. For example, they point to the fossil record as 'incomplete' proof of Darwinian theory. There are too many gaps and jumps between species. Never do they discuss the process of fossilization and how capricious it is. Why did life 'suddenly' appear in the fossil record. And their answer is, of course, God. They insert God at every point. God made the DNA, God made the individual species separate, God made the dinosaurs and God took them out so we could be here. What this placement of God in all these holes does is to cheapen the wonder, the amazing creation and yes, evolution. There is no evidence that God made these things, just a lack of scientific knowledge of how these things come about. That does not mean that there will never be scientific knowledge, just that our current understand is not yet complete. Jehovah's witnesses would have you believe there is no Darwinian natural selection, no evolution at all. If so, did God make methycillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus? Why would God do that to us if God loves people so much?!? Did God make Ebola virus? People didn't do it. These things evolved from existing strains. To deny any evolution is to deny reason, rationality, and evidence. Why are 90% of South Africa's elephants NOW born without the ability to grow tusks? Because there is evolutionary pressure (granted, this pressure is created by humans, but so are many pressures) to not carry around thousands of dollars worth of ivory on their bodies.
So I do believe in evolution. I realize it does not answer all the questions of how we got here, but there really is no other way to explain why Down's syndrome occurs, why there are pathogenic bacteria and viruses. If God really is a loving, personal God, God would take away these bad things. And don't get me started on Satan...I don't believe in the devil.
So to recap: I believe in God because of the miracle of our existence, yet I believe in evolution as the origin of species, I believe that only God can create (that may be the best definition - Creator), and I believe that God cannot lie. If there are any satans or devils out there, it is just people, lying to save their butts. I also think God is Love, and therefore is in all of us.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

sicky and fishy

Uggh, I am sick. Fever. Gunk in nose. Headache. Tired.
Soooooooooo Tired.
Red wine is good for a cold, right?
Well, we will just see, shall we...
Red, red wine
Sing it how you like it.

We went fishing today, the daughter and I and some of her classmates. how cool and Florida-y is that? Kindergarteners get to go fishing for their field trip. They got to 'pet' some fish, too: bream, bass, catfish, gar and a big sucker fish (plecostomas). Then they got to fish for bass and catfish. It was a bit much for my group, handling hooks and cane poles, trying to be patient, losing the bait repeatedly, sitting in the hot sun. But I really enjoyed it, and I thank the fates for leaving me in this town of opportunities. I wouldn't have stayed here of my own volition, but since I am here, I try to make the best of it. And despite its traffic irritations, despite its fickle university student population, and despite its income disparities, its a pretty decent place to live.
Now, back to that resting...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New Blog

Not that I have to do everything everyone else does, but sometimes it is a good idea, it makes sense, and there is no good reason not to do so. I am copying the fact that I am shutting down one blog and starting another. The old blog is not me anymore, or rather the name is out-dated. Other blogs seem to have cohesive themes, direction, goals. I cannot promise that. This blog is meant to be a hodge-podge of sorting out mental garbage, funny things my kid did, enchanting memories, and travel diaries. It is meant to help me sort out the facts of turning forty, changing careers, being a mom, and my currently directionless existence. I may mention God and my beliefs. I may wax sophomoric about how much I like hiking and travelling. I am just hoping to condense my thoughts, capture them like the panic-fluttering birds that they are, net them with language, and calm their frantic flapping. Its like meditating, only you (dear reader) get to visit. Come along, have fun, and comment if you like!