Monday, December 27, 2010

Break Week

Its that week between Christmas and New Years, and we are all taking a break from the routine. We were so blessed this holiday with abundant presents, excellent food, good health, and getting to see so many friends and family. Truly, I will try not to complain because I have no right to do so. The sad news is that I did lose another family member...this time to old age. Jeanne was my oldest cousin, my grandmother's best friend when they were girls, and she had turned 90 this year. She still lived in her own home, although was considering that she would have to stop and go into assisted living soon. She was still active in her church. She was still mentally acute and enjoying life right up to her last day. My mom had just visited her the week before, and then she is gone. All of these passings this last year have made me wonder about what constitutes a 'good death'. I know we all fear it, and fear the pain, and the loss for ourselves and for our family. Is it better to know, and have time to say your goodbyes, or is it better to go fast, and not suffer? It seems both have their merits, and down-sides. I do know that Jeanne was my shining example of how I wanted to be and live my life when I am old. She was engaged and interested in life, she was active and kept her body strong, she knew herself well and gave herself what she needed, and she was always such a positive, upbeat person. I can strive to be the same!
Anyway, break week, that week where you may still overindulge because its not yet the new year, and there are still Christmas cookies around the house, but you know you really shouldn't because everything you stuff in your mouth will have to come out in sweat and deprivation later. That week where you have to find places to store your new stuff, and you look around and see that you have too much stuff, and that you must start getting rid of some of your stuff, and you want to help those who are in need, so you try to donate as much as stuff as you can, but can't help feeling how its such a waste of money. The week where you watch too much television because you haven't had time to do that in the previous two months and realize that you haven't missed much, or worse, that you really have missed it a lot, but don't foresee being free to indulge much in the future. That week you are off from work and school and could be traveling, but where would you go?!? Unless you ski, and even then its likely crowded. Even Florida is cold this week, so we are staying home!
I am cleaning. One of my presents is a hand held steam cleaner. I am trying to clean the grout of my tile floor. Some areas are clean, some are filthy. My steamer produces abundant steam! However, it does not produce abundant cleaning without some scrubbing and work on my part. So I don't know if its not working great, or if my expectations need to be a little bit lower. I got a Kobo, and I am donating books to the library. I still have way too many books, many of them unread. I got a waterpik oral cleaner and it is Awesome! And our girl likes using it too, which is great because teeth-brushing has become a point of contention in our household, and now it doesn't have to be. I got some shelving units from Ikea to store and neatly display stuff that we want to be available, such as the new kids' pottery wheel, but not out on a counter- or table-top all the time. I still need to get rid of some things, create a work-space on my table, and store away my supplies for other projects (until time/space permits), but I am on my way. I am still knitting old kitty a sweater. Its almost done, but I am not sure how well it will fit - that is, will he be able to escape from it or will he be crippled by it. Its such a narrow margin between those two extremes for cats.
Next week we go back to work, back to school, back to routine.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Camping! part 2

I'm back to continue the story, and before I leave the whole boy vs. girl in scouting thing entirely, I wanted to elaborate on the reasons why the girl scouts are more exclusive. The goal of girl scouts is to build young women of courage, confidence and character. Those are the three C's (NOT cookies, crafts and camping) that are most important, and the way to achieve that end is by allowing the girls to discover themselves, use their strengths, and cooperate with each other to reach their goals. So they learn by doing, their activities are supposed to be girl-lead (so they get to experience leadership), and they help each other. Study after study has shown that in mixed boy/girl learning environments, girls hold back, don't lead, don't volunteer, don't participate, and don't get valuable hands-on experience. So when the girl scouts camp, it is all about the girls learning and doing - hands on, and it gets sacrificed if boys are invited along, because you can't get boys to hang back and let someone else do it! In the same way, I could not get that father to quit "helping them" with the campfire, that is, taking the project over, and so the Brownie girls completely missed out on fire care learning. Smart Daisy leader that we had, the Daisies ended up with their own fire and marshmallow roasting, and maybe some learning happened at that end.
Interestingly, this was a source of some friction between the leaders of the Brownies and the leaders of the Daisies. Although only a few years separate the groups, they are surprisingly different in ability and tolerance, and what I heard, when they came back from panning for clam shells (no teeth found), was that the Brownies left them behind and the Daisies couldn't keep up, so therefore, the Daisies wanted to do their own hike and not combine that activity. Later, it was the Daisies who wanted to have their own (Smaller!) campfire and didn't want to continue at our Brownie bonfire. There were some hurt feelings on the part of the Brownie leader because as a Daisy leader the previous year, she felt excluded because her girls were young, and took pains to open the brownie arms of fellowship to include the daisies. However, I could see that the Daisy leader was correct in doing some things separately, mostly because it was easier to manage. There was no intention to hurt anyone's feelings.
The next activity was the hike, and my daughter foolishly went hiking without socks on her feet. Fortunately, she wanted me to go along, and I enjoyed it, even though I had to piggy-back her part of the way due to a growing blister on her heel. I hate having to be a mom/nag, but honestly, must all my prior hard-earned experience go to waste because she is too stubborn to listen to me and follow directions? Why is that?
We got directions for the hike from a friendly g.s. senior who lead us past a camp with other friendly cadettes and seniors and hiked about a mile before turning around and hiking back. After stopping by a bath house for a quick potty break, my daughter and I met up with another senior who piggy-backed Brianna the rest of the way to the tent so that I could patch her up. The Girl Scout spirit was alive and well in the welcoming faces and voices we met on the hike. It gave me hope that despite our misfit gaggle of girls who are on the verge of cliques and snottiness all the time, that they would emerge as friendly helpful women that would 'make the world a better place.'
We had some down-time scheduled after a snack of string cheese, pretzels and grapes, and I got busy with my bracelet making supplies. It didn't take long for me to have a whole circle of girls trying to weave a bracelet out of embroidery floss using the foam-circle method my daughter and I perfected. Several of the girls started the project but gave up quickly, but a few stuck with the project enough to get an inch-long chain of candy-striped weaving before it was time to cook dinner.
When I got back to the 'kitchen' it was just in time to see that a disaster happened: the majority of the macaroni for the mac'n'cheese had turned into a paste by the high heat of the cookstove, and was inedible. The less-than-half that had been cooked in MY pot had turned out fine, fortunately, so we just had to be conservative in doling it out. So the rule is, if cooking for 50 people, use teflon cookware! The beans came out fine (in my pot, I must add), and then it was time to cook the hot dogs and hamburgers. The hot dogs went on the little weber grill (yes, Jo, your old one!) tended well by one of the moms. The original goal was to have the girls cook them over the fire upon a stick, but as the fire was too big and dangerous, that learn-by-doing-plan got changed. I fired up the coleman propane grill and took out the hamburger meat.
Now, I do realize we went shopping at SavALot, and one cannot expect too much, but that 'meat' was a dull gray in color, squishy "as a crabby-patty" according to one mom, and full of fat and probably soybeans, but labeled 'all beef' (yeah, right). Cooking it was an adventure, because on low heat, they merely melted and lost 30% of their mass to falling between the grates, and on high heat, they flamed up so bad they were nearly black even with constant flipping on my part, and of course, there was no middle setting between those two extremes on the grill. I didn't eat one, and my daughter only ate half of hers, but most of the thirty or so that I cooked were gone by the end of the night. I and my tent-mate ate plenty of beans, so you can imagine what it sounded like that night.
After dinner, it was time for s'mores, and I started the water for hot-chocolate. It takes a long time and a lot of propane to heat two gallons of water! So long that, after I cleaned up the dishes (not many because we had paper plates), the girls wanted to retire to their tents rather than wait any longer. The fire had died down to a nice glow, and I roasted the last two marshmallows for myself, and realized for the first time how cold it was getting to be. I had time to get my jacket when Beth asked if there was just one more tent anywhere. We hadn't even gotten mine out of the trunk, so I offered it. The big tent had collapsed for the second time, and rather than shuffle the girls, we decided to drag its corpse out of the way and erect mine over its ground cloth in the full dark. Truck headlights were lent and the tent was up within minutes, while those girls who were sleeping in it went to have hot chocolate. I had put my daughter to bed in her tent when the troublemakers' tent started shaking and shrieking. I took them to get some hot chocolate and tried to get them to settle down. They took malicious delight in imaging shadows coming to get them and spooking each other with, "Someone's coming!" and the like. There was an incident earlier of two brownies drinking from the spout of the water cooler rather than finding their own cup, and I, for the first time, pondered how you punish someone else's child for wrong-doing. It wasn't just that they did it, its that they knew they were doing wrong when they did it, didn't stop when I told them to, and back-talked me to boot. I am going to have to ask the council trainers how to deal with this behavior, because it just shocked me that they could be this awful.
Once in their tents it still took a while before they settled down, and no sooner did they all shut up, then one popped out to go to the bathroom. My tent-mate and the other leader did the honors all night long escorting girls to the bath house. I was awake quite a bit, listening to the hoot of the owls, the rapid soft snore of my tent-mate, the coughing of my daughter, the rasping of my sleeping bag as I changed positions often. When I finally slept soundly, it was off my pad and tucked into the corner of the tent, but its where I ended up feeling most comfortable and warm. It got down to 42 and my shoulders were feeling the chill. At 4:20 I was glad to know the night was almost over. At 5:00 I thought, "only one hour to go." and at 6:00 after the night-owls woke up, I got up and dressed, too.
I started the stove for breakfast, and we had the remains of the hot chocolate to give the girls upon waking. The grits cooked well in my teflon pot, but the oatmeal had that burned taste I associate with camp...probably because no matter how much I stirred, some still burned to the bottom of those cheap pots and flavored the rest to its detriment. I hadn't brought enough brown sugar (barely remembered it at all!), and so we added some marshmallows to the oatmeal to sweeten it. It tasted weird! I can't say that it was much improved, but it really wasn't worse, either. Many girls opted for ham-n-cheese on hamburger buns, but the cheese grits were wonderful, I thought. While we cooked other moms broke down all the tents, and right after the closing ceremony and breakfast, many Daisy scouts and moms went home. A few moms stayed until everything was cleaned up and hauled back to the cars. Then we took pictures in our dirty, gritty, unwashed, poorly-slept state and headed back.
The girls had a great time; the parents were exhausted. I wasn't the only one to have a nap Sunday afternoon! It was worth all the work and worry, and I can't wait to do it all over again.


I will try to record our 28 hours of Girl Scout camping here while it is fresh in my memory and before I have to pick my daughter up from school. The total number of Brownies that went was fifteen and for the Daisies, thirteen which means we were outnumbered! We had twelve adults with the Daisies and eight with the Brownies, which meant that at least the ratio was favorable! Because of a few cancellations, we were not over-crowded, and despite my panic attacks the night before, we did have enough tents and blankets for all.
We met up at a church parking lot to do the final headcount, give everyone the gate code and directions, and headed off to S. Springs (abbreviated to protect the innocent...or guilty!), about an hour's drive. Some of the parents had started earlier, so I met them as the first of the leaders and directed them to our designated sites.
The Daisies are not allowed to camp primitively, and went to claim cots in platform tents. Their campground was cozy and there were four units each with four cots. Many moms chose to share their cots with their little girls which must have been crazy fun, but mostly sleepless for them! Otherwise, the mothers pitched their tents right next to the platforms to be close at hand. This wasn't strictly girl scout practice, but I knew we would not be under scrutiny, as long as we endeavored to keep the bath house clean and tidy...and bring toilet paper. So long as girls have enough TP, they can all get along!
The Brownies camp site had two picnic tables, a nice fire ring and a mostly flat open space for pitching tents. The Brownie moms and all the girls helped to build ten tents of various size for the first activity. The girls loved helping, and it was so gratifying to see how well they worked together and pitched in. They moved their packs and bags inside, and then the drama began... Who was in the same tent with whom? My own daughter wanted to be with her buddy and no one else, one tent-ful was fighting with each other which ended with one girl moving out and her sister moving in. One wanted her mom only, but finally accepted a friend (and enjoyed it!), and four others kept playing and keeping to themselves so much that their big borrowed tent was filthy and collapsing by the evening. One girl was wandering from leader to leader, anxious about where she would sleep, and the more her anxiety grew, the less welcoming the other groups of girls were toward her. Isn't that the way it always is? Leader Beth had to step in, give up her spot in a tent, insist that the other girls accept her, and once situated, the odd-girl-out was readily accepted and complained no more.
Tents built, moms gathered to make lunches (sandwiches, chips, fruit and brownies), and we had no sooner finished eating than a friendly leader from the lodge invited us for the tacos that a cadette group had made. We begged off, with many thanks, and later realized that she had no idea how many people we had brought! I stayed to clean up after lunch while all the girls and most the leaders went panning for sharks' teeth at a natural spring. I helped a late-coming mom to build her tent and we discussed the different natures of boy-scouts and girl scouts. Boy scouts are more inclusive, inviting full families (including girls) when camping. Girl scouts are fairly exclusive, and many were opposed to allowing one father to join our trip (as the mother was incarcerated). The father did come and helped out by bringing and storing food and cooking equipment. However, he also took over the fire preparation, stacking a huge amount of dried timber overhanging the fire ring, and when that sucker went up in flames, it was ... well, frightening. Lets just say that no woman anywhere would have built a fire like that...only a man would have done it!
Okay, I am posting this, and I will have to get back to more this afternoon.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kitten #1

The first of my new kitties I am blogging about is Tiger, the kitten that chose me. I named her as soon as I saw her fierce personality. She was the last kitten to be captured and the one who scratched Jason and got away the first time. She was the one who made an impressive "hiss/spit" combo that kept Jason away from her until I caught her, writhing and wailing and deposited her into the cat carrier. Tiger has always been more bold, more inclined to explore, the first one out of the cage, the room, the house (oops!). She was the first to claim a human and the first to really snuggle.

Jason kept confusing the kittens, so he coined the mnemonic, "Orange on the butt means Tiger in the head" to keep them sorted out. She also has a subtle ecru stripe down her nose. But the distinguishing feature for me now is her quintessential inscrutable cat look. You just can't read her expressions. She has none of the openness of the black cats. Her eyecolor is gray-hazel and she really doesn't even show contentment until she closes them.

Tiger has the most unmelodious voice I have ever heard in a kitten. It is scratchy, high-pitched and off-key, but fortunately she doesn't use it often. She has a nice breathing-purr and she was the first to purr for petting. Normally she gives me a little chirp to indicate she is looking for attention.
She was a little naughty at first, mistaking stinky clothes piles for litter boxes, but some care on our part stopped it from being a habit. She is the one who likes to walk across my keyboard, surfing me to some crazy site where I got a notice about a blocked virus (Thanks, Avira!)
Kittens are not very good sleepers, but she slept with me during a nap today. And Tiger is jealous! I have to take some pains not to pay too much attention to her sisters or she will sulk and give me stink-eye. She likes attention from Jason and our daughter, but its me she prefers. She has handled my absences well, and she is quick to forgive me when I return.
I couldn't be luckier with my little Tiger.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I have spent the last three weeks trying to arrange a location for the Brownie troop and Daisy troop to camp together. It has been fraught with misunderstanding and miscommunication, getting priorities out of order and just plain bad timing, but I think we have finally succeeded.
It all started with exploring the state parks and their reservation website. It was very easy to see that this was not an option for us. Daisy scouts in our council must have raised beds and/or four walls in order to camp. We needed cabins, obviously. Lots to choose from, but they were all full. I was stunned at how many people camp! Next I looked into Youth Primitive camping at individual parks, each accessed by its own phone number. Several nice rangers later, that proved fruitless as well.
Next I directed my phonecalls to the GS council headquarters and that is where the 'fun' began.
At first, it looked promising; one site for Daisy scouts was available. When I got preliminary go-ahead from my troop leaders, I confirmed that there was also space for the Brownies and I learned that there were several sites available. As treasurer, I cut a check to reserve half the camp and started planning meals and activities. When the paperwork hit the council office however, it was a different story. 'So sorry, that is not available that date' What?!? I pleaded and cajoled, but could only reserve as much as I wanted by switching the date of camping. I did agree to switch, thinking it was better to take what we could get rather than give up. Wrong decision! They locked in a date that turned out to be very wrong for us. Then they denied a refund or even a check hold for a future date. Dangit, we were about to lose our deposit because of some scheduling screw-up! I felt like a victim of bait and switch!
Finally, after more phone calls and emails, we are allowed to switch back to our original date of camping. We don't have half the camp; in fact our number of campers is limited, but at least we didn't lose all our money.
Now we just need our paperwork in, and we can start getting excited again! Yay, camping!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brownie Girl Scouts and me

It was our first meeting, with the parents (moms) filling out forms, and writing checks and the girls cautiously getting to know each other, seeing a few familiar faces. No fewer than forty girls because we are combining the financial and managerial functions of both a brownie troop and a daisy troop. I get to be treasurer, so that will be interesting, and more of a role than I have had as a mom in the past. As I look at all these girls, I wonder how they are going to learn about each other and grow closer as friends. I know on the first day of daisies last year, it looked hopelessly confused, with many shy girls, and I figured this would never form one unit or that half the girls would drop out. And I was glad to be totally wrong about it. The same ten girls came almost every week, and they mostly came to the weekend group events, and they all learned each other's names and personalities, and it worked great, even for my shy girl. So it is with a new hope that I look at all these girls, some shy, some loud, some open, some nervous, that we can know all of them, appreciate all of them, and get them to bond with each other. I am not sure how the dynamics of friendship will work out. With my daughter being a little older, she has started to care more about her friends and wants to be with them more. I hope she will reconnect with old friends, but I hope she finds some new ones too. Without that connection, there is no point to scouts.
The brownie troop is allowed to have up to thirty-five or forty girls. If you think about it, that is double the current classroom size. And lest you think its not the same concept, oh wrong, we are here to teach them things! At least there are two leaders, but I sure hope there are moms who are willing to stay and help some! Of course I will, as I did last year. The moms who hang around and jump in to help with crafts and games make things run so much more smoothly.
We have a very full schedule already too - right up to February already. We are going camping, and more than once! Sometimes, I don't like being tied down to a schedule or having to stay close to home as this will require. However, I want my daughter to have stability and a routine that will ground her with these new friends.
Of course, I am biased. I don't want her to miss a single meeting, and definitely not any event. I want her to experience it all. That may just not be realistic. I doubt that the all the girls that came tonight will make it to a majority of the meetings. Particularly in brownies, there always seem to be drop-outs. I worry that my daughter will want to drop out, particularly if she feels on the outs of a clique or if one person makes her angry. I have to remember that it is okay if not all the girls come every time, and that its okay if my girl doesn't make it sometimes. Its just that I know how much they are missing when they skip. Each meeting brings the girls closer, each activity enriches the bond, each big event becomes a legend in their share memory. They don't realize at their age, but I see it at mine. That is why I am so pro-scout. I root for anything that encourages friendships that can deepen by shared events and experiences. Its the reason why girlfriends weekends (and trips) work so well for me and my friends. We reconnect and remember all the things that make us friends in the first place. That plus experiencing a new setting together enhance our connection and build memories. And the laughter, its essential!
I look forward to it. I am awed by the potential...but I will take it one meeting at a time.

Friday, September 3, 2010

the results are in

The results are in and ...
we are gifted!
Okay, I say 'we' but mean my daughter of course. But you have to admit, it is something you can take credit for at least a little...
Our excellent combination of genes has lead to this culmination of perfection...yes, going overboard now.
Actually, the even better news is that dear daughter is being kept busier in school and has less time to be bored. And Tuesday she starts going to enrichment math/science that will challenge her even more. So while she does complain about the amount of homework, she has been relatively quiet on the amount of classwork. And I have had the first look at some of the work she has been doing in class, and it is awesome! It is a lot more challenging than last year's work already, and she is meeting that challenge (so obviously she is listening a little better in class, too!)
Good year for us!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pat Conroy books

I have not read all of Pat Conroy's books, but I did enjoy Lords of Discipline and I did make it through Prince of Tides, Beach Music, and most recently, South of Broad.
One thing I like about his books is how realistic they are. His descriptions are long, sensory experiences. The plot is frequently saddening, but not in an overly tragic way, with a glimmer of hope at the end of each. For the most part, they are compelling reads, too. I didn't want to stop reading the last one, and, even though it took me a couple tries to get into Beach Music, I ended up liking it too.
There are some things I don't like about Conroy's books. Each one starts with a long monologue that is about the most depressing reading in print to be found anywhere. Every book starts with this downer! Sometimes, it puts you off the whole book. Another thing I don't like is the dialogue...because it is too good. It always has the feel of a witty, snarky, new-york-style play. Every line is a zinger. No one ever stutters or fails to say exactly what they mean. It is too perfect. And I don't like it because it is such a contrast with the realism of the rest of the book. The plot is intricate but believable, the twists are easily conceivable, but no one I know speaks like a character from any of his books. No one I know is that cutting or cruel or dead-sure. So, while I am reading, I am taking in these verbose descriptions, getting a real sense of things, and then people speak, and its suddenly brought home that this is fiction. And I do like to get lost in the story, wondering how true everything I am reading is, wondering how much is autobiography. But I know these conversations are not the truth. They are honed, sharpened, distilled essences of the truth that we rarely ever meet in our daily lives. Its what we say in our heads hours later, usually preceded by, "what I should have said was...". The characters in Conroy's books are either too good or too evil, and rarely a mixture of both. The main character is always a wonderful person. In fact, almost too wonderful. Maybe that character is always supposed to represent our better selves. It is our selves if we did always make all the tough decisions correctly. The main character of a Conroy book is never fatally flawed, and that is usually what keeps the book from being a tragedy.
One of the reasons I love the Harry Potter books is, that HP is NOT perfect and he makes some stupid mistakes and errors in judgement in each book. He does learn from them, but it makes him more likeable to see him pay for his errors, and grow.
I never get the sense that the main character of a Conroy book is growing, learning or changing. Its more like he is weathering, enduring, and hoping against all hope, but he is a complete person in the beginning and a complete one at the end, and ultimately, I find it hard to identify with!
So while I like reading Pat Conroy books, I find that I don't love them, I wouldn't reread them, and yet they are all memorable and haunting.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Barbie - Fever

My dear daughter has a wicked virus that has given her a fever yesterday and today, so I relented and played Barbies with her. It is so sad when kids get sick because they are so energetic otherwise, and they get brought so low when they are feeling badly. I just felt so sorry for her, but we did get to watch a lot of Studio Ghibli films. She was feeling better this afternoon, so I got to sew blue jeans for her dolls (the third try looked a lot better than the first two. She has decided that most of her dolls are high school age and they must comply with the dress code. Daughter's dress code is denim, so jeans must be worn. This is the same girl who literally did not own a pair of blue jeans in kindergarten or first grade. However, since she has been horse-back riding...denim is now the must-have fabric of the season. And, sad to say, I am getting old eyes. I cannot see as well trying to hand-sew snaps to these tiny seams.
The fever seems to have broken, but not the passion for fashion!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And we're walking

I forgot to tell everyone...I am torturing my dear daughter this year by making her walk, yes walk on her two legs, walk to school (just one way for now - still way too hot in the afternoons). So the first day went well...we made it in about 25 minutes. The weather has been very cooperative in that it has been cool, and we leave early enough (to get there on time) that the sun is still not up. So I don't start sweating until I make the return trip home. She only complained five times the first day, and each time I started a lecture on the benefits of walking for health, evolution of walking people, etc... No surprise she shut me down each time, but she also quit complaining! The second day went well too - took a little longer because there was a gecko to catch and release. She complained only twice and only at the end, but begged to bike ride on the third day. Still, she asked to run around the block this evening, so she cannot be too bad off. Meantime, I walked to the voting place and made the long trip home...about four miles total, and I was SORE. So, we will both be complaining tomorrow...but we are walking!
Please tell me you voted, people. If not this time, promise you will in November!

Monday, August 23, 2010

more computer issues

I was reading over my old posts from this year, and realizing that I have yet to tell 'the rest of the story' (thank you Paul Harvey) about my computer problems. So for six months, my desktop worked fine. I reloaded all the software, most of it available by download. I had replaced the mother board, power supply, hard disk, and upgraded the RAM, and all it was all working well. Until my computer just shut off again in the middle of web searching. So, obviously I had not fixed or replaced the correct component, even after all that trauma. Back to the drawing board. I figured that it was fairly unlikely that one of the new components failed, mostly because the main symptom (computer just shutting off) was the same. Still, I kept the possibility of inadequate power in my mind. So the only things I didn't replace that had to do with power and computation were: the power strip connecting the box to the wall, the AMD chip (the processor) and its cooling fan, and the video card with its cooling fan. My stepdad reminded me that a hot chip will shut down a system fast, and so, after replacing the power strip, I ran the desktop with the side panel off to watch the fans. And there was the problem...the cooling fan on the AMD chip was not spinning. And the chip could take some heat, but when I was doing a lot of intense processing, it couldn't cool off, and it shut down the system. Good news was that everything on the hard disk was still okay...because I hadn't tried to reboot right away with a processor that was still hot. If it shuts down while trying to load Windows, that is when you get those nasty 'hive' errors.
Still, it was time to fish or cut bait, and I decided to quit cutting bait and start fishing for a new desktop. So now, I have a bunch of computer parts to build up dear husband's older computer, and I have a new computer with an AMD Athlon II, Windows 7 (making the switch wasn't bad at all), 5 Gigs of RAM and a Terabyte of hard disk space. Oh and a beautiful new monitor. You may envy me now.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

We met the teacher

We met the teacher and also carefully scanned the classmates list. The verdict is not yet in, but the signs are good! The teacher is older, has been at the school for a while, and one of her former students came by to give her a big hug (always a good sign!). The roster is also a lot better than last year's, and I know so many of the moms of the advantages of going to the same school year after year. So I can't wait to see how it unfolds for my dear daughter. I will also be keeping closer tabs, having volunteered to be a folder mom - that is, I come in on Mondays and stuff the folders of each student with the homework assignments. So I will be in a position to keep better track this year than last.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

real quick update

I cannot believe the summer has flown by, but it has because tomorrow is MEET THE TEACHER day for my dear daughter entering second grade. This is a big deal day for us, and more so because this is a big deal grade, I think. School starts out easy, but it does get harder each year, and I think this will be the first year that my daughter and her peers will be really put through some disciplined learning. Sure back in the ole days, as soon as you went to school, you had to behave and pay attention, but I swear last year was just more practice and not real school. The discipline problems alone wasted half of the learning time. The kids did NOT cover money in larger denominations than dimes. They did NOT cover telling time at all. They did learn to read, and they did learn to add and subtract up to twenty. So I think it is possible that some kaka will hit some fans for these kids in this grade. If they are coddled again this year or bogged down again by discipline problems.... Well I don't even want to think about it, but I will turn into THAT MOM. You know, the one who complains, the one who meets with the principal... Don't make me do it, people, you don't want me to get my grump on.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

this was my trip journal from July 7th

The drive into YELL from the northeast entrance road was undoubtedly the loveliest of the five
entrances. The national forest up there is cut by only two roads, both well maintained by the
state of Wyoming, and both smoothly winding. The towns outside the park are very small one-street,
no stoplight camping villages, accessable from Cody or Billings.
Within five minutes of paying our user fee (25$ for the week for those folks not of senior age)
we saw a brown hump on the edge of meadow, and my first thought was 'bear'. Well, it was one!
I had never before seen a bear in Yell, although I had seen them in GRSM. We turned around and
clearly saw the classic teddy-bear ears. He spooked and we didn't get a picture, but the luck
had begun.
Our next stop was Lamar Valley, where we found people eagerly looking up the North side
at a fence-enclosed forest in the middle of a sagebrush covered hill opposite the river and valley.
They had seen wolves, including pups, but the canids were hidden. After finding bison fluff on
the valley side, I got into the car and thought, 'hmmm, how did you get a radio signal out here"
when my mom pointed out that it was a howl! So melodic! It sounded like a woman singing a
country song, and really did give me chills.
We saw hundreds of Bison in Lamar. When we saw the first Griz, it was busy digging something out
of the ground, and where we parked, it was the required 100 feet away. I watched it through
the long lens of the eos and tried to get pix when it popped its head up. However, when I turned
around, the car was no longer there! They had driven up to get a better (closer) view and left me.
So I had to go closer to the bear to get to the safety of the car. The ranger was not amused, but
since I was on the far side of the road, allowed me to pass and get in. He would not allow mom
to stay out and take a picture, though. It would have served them right if they'd had to find a
turnout to come back for me, if I hadn't been allowed to walk toward the car.
We had our first Bison in the road. Fortunately, its eyes were calm and mellow, not rolling, and
he stared right into our car. I thought I got the picture, but perhaps the eos (camera) jammed,
because it couldn't be reviewed. I am hoping photoshop will be able to resusitate it.
Lastly, on the way out of the park to Gardiner, MT, I saw the famed stone arch. I thought it
was at the Northeast entrance, and I was vexed not to have seen it. Turns out the Roosevelt
arch is right outside the pay station on the North entrance. I was so close the prior to visits,
and I never knew, because I had the wrong info. So the next morning we stopped for the pictures.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Robinson Crusoe

I have read this and Moll Flanders now by Daniel Defoe, and while both are great adventure stories, they both suffer from the problem of where to end the story. They start somewhat at the beginning of a life (or rather, adulthood) and then end somewhere near the end, but not actually the end of the life. So are these actually Biographies as implied in the text of the books or are they Novels - made up stories possibly loosely based on actual persons or events.
Robinson Crusoe makes me question the veracity of several events related, most notably the cannibalism of the Caribbe tribe residents of the islands near Trinidad and the wolves of the Pyrenees. There is also the question of whether a man could live 25 years on an island by himself without going mad or dying of loneliness.
Like Homer's Odysseus which goes on and on about the roasting of the hams and leg quarters, quite a bit of this book is devoted to the trivia and minutia of raising of goats, growing of crops of barley and rice, digging of caves, storing of gunpowder and the ceasless xenophobia displayed by the main character. If you don't mind reading lengthy descriptions of these actions, it is quite an enjoyable book. One of the biggest turning points is when Crusoe becomes deeply religious; his conversion is profound and has a truth about it that transcends some of what has to be blatant exaggerations.
The biggest exaggeration has to be the cannibalism of Friday and others. Crusoe interprets the Caribbe's actions as just eating to eat, as though "eating mans" was just a delicious option to eating goats, deer, or pigs. If you read carefully, the Caribbes that engage in cannibalism clearly do so with ceremony: They go to a distant island to do it, only the men come, only a few people are actually eaten, those few people eaten are well chosen as the strongest of the enemy. In other words, this action fits with what is known about the cannibalism among other tribes, that it is ceremonial, symbolic, and represents taking the strength away from the enemy and consumed by the conquerers. It is not a regular dietary choice.
The second exaggeration ,that is just ridiculous, is the attack of the starving wolves in the Pyrenees mountains. Defoe writes of Crusoe facing 300 wolves all bent on attacking him and his party of twenty mounted men. At least it is acknowledged that the wolves were after the horses, and were not primarily preying upon people. Still, it is exceedingly unlikely that so many wolves would congregate in one place, attack in unison, or continue to attack despite a prior prey kill supposedly witnessed. Why end an interesting, plausible book upon this fairy-tale, wolf-bashing last stand is unintelligible to me.
Lastly, the end is not really the end. There is more material "fit for another book of this volume" hinted at, but told in a rush right in the last paragraphs. This is most probably a construct, like the preface, which is intended to make the book seem a biography rather than a novel.
In conclusion, unless you are really interested in survivalist mentality or religious conversions, this is not a book you want to spend a lot of time on. The cliff notes would suffice.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

No wonder everyone loves...

To Kill a Mockingbird, which I had never read until this past week. Its consistently at the top of the lists, and I can see why. Its great to read this book as an adult, because you understand all the nuances. But I can also see why kids would enjoy the book too: It has a little perry-mason-style courtroom drama, it has the creepy unknown neighbor angle, and it covers the ups and downs of siblings with a truth that crosses generational and gender- specifics.
And the downside, of course, is the attitude toward African-Americans (or People of Color, whichever is more preferred). It is a stark reminder of how even late in the 20th century there was still this black/white divide especially in the south, where the most obvious truths were blatantly ignored. It is horrible how people of color were treated. Thank goodness times have changed, and continue to change for the better in that respect.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Practical truths in Nostromo

I've been reading books again, everyone watch out. I just finished Nostromo which is a classic listed as number one on somebody's top 100 list. Its by Joseph Conrad. If you are looking for a sea-adventure, this is not it. In fact, I don't even know how to categorize it. It is mostly NOT about the character Nostromo. But it is at the end. Yeah, after you have read the first 18 hours of it.
So here are the practical truths I have gleaned from the book:
1. If you are a woman, don't make the man you love decide between you and a treasure. He just is not going to make the right choice. He will want both, and you will never really be able to tear him away from the treasure, even if he says he will chose your love.
2. If you are going to stick someone on a deserted island with a treasure, make sure he is not an extrovert. That's just cruel. Particularly if you have to leave for a while. Make sure the person you leave with the treasure can be alone for more than five days without going insane, or give him someone to talk to.
3. If your husband is married to his work, especially if it is a 'cause', you are going to be lonely. Best find a cause of your own.
4. If you are basically an honest person, doing a dishonest act will eat at you the rest of your life, even if you can justify it with your rightous anger. Better to come clean and take your lumps.

And there you have it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I try not to write too much about my daughter on this blog. I don't want her to find it in five years and scream at me about all the embarrassing things she did as a toddler posted for all the world to see. I am trying to respect her privacy for the future when she will need it. However, neither do I want to lock everyone out of an important aspect of my life (and hers!).
So here is an update: My Dear Daughter is so amazingly creative. She is making dresses for fairies out of flower petals and glue. She was unfulfilled by a mere 2-dimensional approximation of a flower dress glued to a flat dress-form and clipped to a cardboard Tinkerbell. She is now trying to make a 3-D actual fairy size dress that allows for their wings to flutter from the back, all the while wondering whether any fairies will wear her fantastic dresses. Even her first grade teacher is impressed.
Dear daughter is reading well, ascending the "A.R." ladder with steady progress. She apparently does not test well enough to attend the advanced reader sessions with another teacher, though. I am not sure there is anything wrong with what she is doing or that I am doing to coach her. She likes reading, and can do it, but she doesn't love it, and she never chooses it over any other activity including boring ones, like waiting for an appointment. She has two avid-reader parents as examples, but it is just not something she does now.
Soon she will be tested for the gifted program in school. I so want her to get in because I know that she will have better classmates if she does. Not that I hate her peers, but I wouldn't want to be their teacher, and I can see why she gets distracted in class. Still, distraction is a part of life, and she has to be able to teach herself to stay focused. Do I think she is gifted? Yes, probably. But I do worry that she will not test well. I did not pass when I was tested at the same age. It wasn't that I was ungifted either, but I was similarly easily distracted and poorly focused. I didn't know the consequences of that failure until too late. So I desperately want to her to avoid those consequences! I will not be disappointed if she is not 'truly gifted', but I worry that I wont get an accurate result from her testing. Also, I can have her re-tested independently, but it costs a lot of money, and I don't want to stress her out. She is smart enough to figure out what she is being tested for and to be anxious about it. Mostly, I just want her to stop hating school, and stop seeing school as optional.
Dear daughter every morning wants to stay home, despite everything I say to convince her otherwise. Almost every afternoon she tells me of the reasons why school was bad, boring, or otherwise unsatisfying. She is six! She has another decade of school at minimum! I cannot live with all this negativity! School is not that fuckin' bad when you consider the alternatives...being ignored at home, sweatshops, forced labor, lifetime low wages. Besides, its First Grade! It is not that bad or that hard: So you have to subtract eight from ten and spell 'people' correctly. Maybe some of this school-hatred is her lack of perspective, but I don't know how to give her that perspective. I dont know how to make her love school like I did or her father did, as an escape from boring home life, a social gathering, a place where excitement and accomplishment are just after the ring of the bell...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

on writing

I am reading a book about writing and the creative process. Its a book for book club recommended highly, but its not my usual cup of tea. However, I am fascinated by the discussions on writing, writers block, 'tricks' to use for ideas and storytelling. It is darn fascinating to peer into the mind of someone who has had several books published to try to see how they do it; to peek into that creative well and see the spring of ideas. At one point the fictional author of the story gets hate mail from a reader, and rather than identifying with the abused author, I can see the point of the hate-mail writer: "your books are insipid; you don't deserve to be published" because that is exactly how I feel about some authors! And I had to realize that it is not so much a commentary about the author, (who obviously has a devoted following or they wouldn't get their books published), as it is about the inadequacy of the hate-mail writer: about their fears as a writer, about their inability to do something similar or better, about their lack of audience. I can relate to all of that. At least with a blog, you can write about anything, and not get a whole lot of hurtful feedback (unless and until you get famous), but rarely can you get paid for it either. And I don't presume to have an audience of any more than twelve.
I have thought to myself "I can write a better story than..." this person or that author - fill in your own blank. But then I have to ask myself, "If I am so sure I can, why don't I? Why don't I try?" Why indeed? Because I am better at critiquing what is wrong with a story and even providing a better direction for it to go. But I am much worse at coming up with my own story all on my own with unique characters, development, and interesting plot twists, and reasonable dialogue. "Alex Cross wouldn't have said that, he would have done this", I find myself saying, particularly reading 7thHeaven, but it does me no good, because I can't write a different ending for this already published story.
As for this current read, I don't identify with the main character well at all. If she were a real person, I would avoid her, because she would drive me crazy. So it is hard to read this book because I want to reach in and slap this woman, give her advice, shake her up, and I can't. And yet, I can't stop reading it either, because I think there is an interesting plot buried in there, because I want to know what happens! Isn't that every author's goal - to get their audience to turn the page because they want to know what happens next?
Also, it is fascinating to suppose that a popular author has doubts, fears, blocks or his or her own. That they don't want to reveal too much of themselves in a story, and yet they can hardly help themselves. Authors are exhibitionists, whether they admit it or not. And just because an author is published does not make them very good at either speaking (like at book readings) or at teaching (as in seminars and workshops) because those are different skills! And yet, that is what modern authors are expected to do.
I have been slowly reading a 'how-to' on story writing that i downloaded as a free e-book. It is actually quite helpful. It has a lot of nuts and bolts advice on thinking about your story from a planning perspective. Its very logical and straightforward. And I cannot help to wonder if that is NOT the way it is done by most popular fiction writers. That instead, they get inspired by one little bit of trivia, and then go off and tell a whole story about it. That some of their best work comes from creative exercises like "fit a fedora and a butterfly wing in the same short story".
I guess the truth must out - I would love to write a fictional novel, and I want it to be good - engaging, interesting, helpful, insightful. I have a good idea...I just need to bring it out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I know, its been a while

since my last post.

Lots of computer issues, and lots of personal issues confounding each other.
On the computer front, I finally (last night) finished copying all the pictures off the old hard disk and putting them on the current one. Also all the music - most of which, I don't actually listen to that often, so why copy it? Its that waste not, want not principle. Maybe I will need a copy of "Back in Black" in the future, and I don't actually have the cd, and I don't want to spend the buck at iTunes if I already have an MP3. So I copied it all over.
The old hard disk had some spots that it just refused to work, and they were always the same spots, so I am hoping that the hard disk is salvageable. I took great pleasure in Formatting it. Its like erasing a mind that you had trouble dealing with, erasing a personality, even.
There have been a couple things I have yet to reload, and some I am considering not reloading at all until necessary.
The downside is that since I copied over everything I wanted, my new hard disk, boot up, etc is slowwwwwwwwww. And that is with 2 gigs of RAM instead of one. So I am trying to figure out which programs are running and sucking up computing power that don't need to be. It is difficult, because the more stuff you add, the more it slows down.
My personal issues seem to be the same way. Add one scoop of guilt, and everything comes to a screeching halt. Guilty. Not doing enough around the house. Guilty. Not doing enough to earn money. Guilty. Nagging. Guilty. Not calling people I should. So Guilty. No wonder it has taken so long.
I was even finishing up the whole picture transfer in order to use a coupon for free prints. But it took so long to copy over and put in order the 10K jpegs, that I ran out of time to use the coupon. Time mismanagement. Guilty. Freebee squandering. Guilty.
I know I could be doing better. I suck up power for useless programs, just like my desktop box.
Time to re-evaluate everything.

Friday, January 8, 2010

something you never want to see on a computer screen

STOP: C0000218
Registry File Failure
Cannot load hive
software or log or alternate is corrupt absent or not writable

It didn't start this way, but this was the message that finally told me to stop messing around, and just start over. Start with a nice fresh hard disk, load Windows (thank goodness I had the CD and not just an oem version). Then I had to download all the updates, load the drivers for the new motherboard, reload my software, pick a security strategy and load it, and now I am finally on the last step:
recovering all my data from the old harddisk.
That one is proving to be tricky but not impossible. I finally adjusted the jumper settings on the back of the old drive to force it into slavery (gosh that sounds mean...all I really did was move a plastic 2mm box 1 mm over to the left).
And YAY! all my itunes I had downloaded over the past half year are back. I am still working on importing the pictures.
and then, because I have learned my lesson, I will be making a shitload of photo and mp3 CDs so that if this Hitachi drive crashes, I won't actually lose stuff.
In the meantime, my husband has jumped on the ubuntu wagon and brought home a spare computer in order to have a linux model for himself. I am not sure what he is going to do with it, but I will be interested to see.
I put Karmic Koala (ubuntu 9.10 release) on my little netbook, and I like it a lot. The only downside was that it did not come with a log off or a shut down hot button, but it was an easy fix. Overall, Karmic Koala seems to be intended for a little more savvy of user of ubuntu - seems to have more capacity to customize and all. So if you want the easy version, you may have to hurry to still be able to get Jovial Jackalope. Earlier versions than that one seem to be absent entirely, which is a big change from ubuntu a year ago. I liked JJ, too as it was very easy AND very pretty to look at. I know that is just so girly, but I can't help it. I like staring at soothing colors while I putter on the 'puter.
As far as hardware changes to the old desktop, I changed three things: the motherboard, the RAM and the power supply.
I am fairly certain that the old power supply was bad. First of all the symptoms of just turning off mid-computing like it did seemed to indicate it. Also, when I was playing around with hooking different drives up, checking power connections, it totally failed to work, even enough to power on components at one point.
I also changed the motherboard because when I first checked inside the box and unhooked the extra peripherals, it failed to even send signal to video. And because the screen has its own plug, my husband suspected that the motherboard was intermittently bad. I am not convinced it is, but I am also not using the old one, and probably won't worry about using it later.
The RAM we were able to test with a neat utility called memtest86 (downloadable) and it showed that our old stick of 1 gig and our new stick of 1 gig work just fine, so now I have both. Yay speed!
Running memtest86 with the old components lead to freaky-bad results, so it really was either bad psu or mb.
The new power supply is more robust, has two fans, and a cool/spooky red glow. It also powers my SATA dvd drive directly without an adapter. So its great. All components were purchased on for rock bottom prices.
And, yes, I did move my socket 754 AMD processor chip myself over to the new mb, and added new thermal grease, and it was no problem.
I am an awesome nerd!