Saturday, September 30, 2006

Just another Saturday at the home place....

And I spent the vast majority of it outside. Started out by getting up late and then got ready to head to town at a leisurely pace. As a result, I got to the farmer's market about 11am. Zooomed to Lowe's after that to try one last kind of wrench to get teh $*@#^$*&^% oil filter off the mower. Since Bob's House of Honda is right next door and they were having a tent sale, I stopped by there too just in case they had gloves my size. Guess what?! They did! Mitch has finally gotten me my Christmas present from two years ago. :o)

Get back to the home place. Attack oil filter problem with new wrench. Nada. Didn't budge the stupid thing one iota. Dented the side of it a bit. I'll call the dealer on Monday and see if they have any bright ideas. I'm fresh out of solutions. I filled it back up with oil and went on my merry way with the THATCHER.

Wow. Is thatching ever fun! For the first 1/2 hour at least. There was enough crap built up in the lawn that about one circuit of the backyard resulted in having to stop and dig out the grass from the tines. And it only had about 30 pounds of weight on it. Part of the problem is that the bermuda/zoysia grass gets all tangled up. The lawn looks a bit rough now, but I'm sure it'll come around nicely in a few days. I also fertilized the front and side yards, plus the bit of the back yard up by the house. Ain't no way I'm going to push a drop spreader across a lawn that's an acre in area and uphill in most directions.

After the fun and games in the lawn, I washed my car, including the rims. Then figured I ought to rake up any big chunks of thatch/clippings in the back yard and might as well poison more moles too. Didn't need to rake much. Found a really soft spot which was mostly weeds, so I ripped them up. Discovered mole tunnel underneath. Mole tunnel system is much more extensive than I thought. Wish I could find the old mole snap traps. I baited a whole bunch.

All-in-all, I spent about six hours doing manual labor in the yard. I think I'm entitled to sit on my behind tonight and watch The Third Man on TCM.

Sunday Sunday Sunday!
Tomorrow I need to bake some cookies for work. I received a specific request for chocolate chip. It was pointed out that while ALL of my cookies were very good, what this person really wanted was some of my chocolate chip cookies.

I'm also going to see Jet Li's Fearless at the local theater. Mitch's showing is about an hour later than mine, but that's the closest we could get things to work out. I probably should do some laundry tomorrow and all of those routine household chores. Heck, I have to pay bills too. Don't you just love being a grown-up?

Today's Discovery!
I happened to stop by Kroger today to pick up some odds and ends. I didn't feel like going all the way in to Wal-Mart. I happened to spot Amy's Vegetable Lasagna in a freezer endcap. They have a nice array of Amy's products, including tamale pie, cheese enchilada dinner, serveral pot pies and both cheese and spinach pizzas. There were also several Cedar Lane frozen dinners (veggie enchiladas and eggplant parmesan are two I remember). Why this stuff isn't with the Morningstar Farms and Boca vegetarian products, I don't know. That's probably why/how I missed it the first time.
There is currently no guide for the knitting section of I'm debating applying for the job. I think it would be fun. I need to come up with a writing sample and also an abbreviated/relevant resume. Worst that could happen is that I don't get it, right?

Movie Time!
Have a good night!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Poo is Flying!

Well, probably not, actually. I am hoping the Porta-Potties were emptied before they went sailing up to the top of the hospital construction. Which does make me wonder just how they're going to service these things once they get used. Will they be lifted down to ground level or will some poor sap have to empty them using portable equipment?

My first thought, of course, was to ponder how big a fan one would have to have to get poo to fly so high and just how bad things must be going for said fan to have been used.

My second thought was to wonder just how big a mess it would make if a full Porta-Potty was to drop from this height.

My third thought was to speculate about how difficult or easy it would be to turn the crane into a catapult and wondered how must distance one could get from a suitably motivated, yet very non-aerodynamic Porta-Potty.

Headline of the Day:
A Distinct Lack Of Intelligence
Of course, this refers to America, specifically politics and military matters. this should be any sort of surprise to anybody. Here's a concept for everybody that's presently bitching about how the military and government didn't know stuff that "they" think they should have known. It's *always* easy to figure out AFTERWARD where the flaws and gaps in the
knowledge base were. It's *always* easy to figure out how things went bad after the fact. It is VERY HARD to figure out every possible permutation of potential shortcomings and disasters ahead of time. Doesn't mean you can't and shouldn't strive for complete information and the best planning and implementation that you can have. Just be aware that analyzing the situation afterward and playing "Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda" isn't exactly fair. You already know the answers to the problems at this point. Playing Monday morning quarterback for the purpose of blaming people for not knowing everything ahead of time is stupid.

Word of the Day: Recalcitrant
Used in a sentence: The recalcitrant oil filter on my lawn tractor is refusing to be removed from said lawn tractor.

I have now missed two stunningly great evenings during which I could have de-thatched my lawn in preparation for fertilizing it and overseeding parts of it. It's rained a little bit the last couple of nights so any grass seed I could have planted would have been kept moist without my having to water it. Just watch....I'll get the filter changed, get the new oil into the machine, get the lawn thatched, fertilized and overseeded and IT WON'T RAIN.

I also need to find a grease gun which will fit the grease fittings on my lawn tractor so I can lube it properly. I suspect I'll be stopping at the John Deere dealer on Saturday for some assistance
with that.

Tonight's dinner: Mashed potatoes and greens
Sauteed some greens with garlic. Removed the greens from the skillet. Added 4 peeled and chopped potatoes and about 1 1/2 cups water. Let that cook until the potatoes were tender. Stirred in a little butter and milk. Mashed the potatoes up. Added the greens that I'd chopped up and salted to taste. Yummy and even healthy!

I have no idea what kind of greens I have. I suppose I could look them up in a book somewhere. All I know is that they've got some zip to them and I paid about 50 cents a pound. I think they'll be great in soup this fall and winter. Right now I'm developing a craving for some warm-from-the-oven cornbread.

Work Update:
The software is now almost completely installed. I'm waiting on one applicaton on my machine and a second machine to be set up as a server for two other applications. I now have access to the hospital data from the region and started writing the script to move the flat text file into SAS with appropriate variable names. It's more complex than being space-delimited. The chief complaint field is a free-text area for the hospital, so there's all sorts of stuff in there. I have been able to figure out most of the fields in the file, but there are a few which have me stumped. Fortunately, Dr. C put me in contact with the hospital's IT guy so I can ask what this stuff is. But I should be able to get the analyses figured out in the next week or two. The next step will be to automate the whole FTP (via FileZilla) and analysis process. Rumor has it this will involve batch files. I'm going to be a geek by the time this is all said and done. Good news is that work will pay for my high speed connection! W00t!

Even better news: the local IT folks at work have decided that I need admin access to my machine. The request has been sent to the main IT office. With any luck, I won't have to harass the IT folks several times a week for help, which will simplify all our lives.

Germ of the week: Campylobacter. Hint: Wash your hands after petting livestock and before eating. Still no spinach-related E. coli to deal with.

Critter Cam:

I collected mosquitoes again this week. I saw some turkey at one of the sites, which is a private hunting area. This place is a couple hundred acres (the part that I know is the one property, at least), and has areas planted with corn, sunflowers, millet and soybeans, plus some stands of pine and some pasture area.

I also picked up a grasshopper on my car windshield at the hunting area. He hung on for about a mile before he hopped off. I'm sure it got annoying to have his antennae flapping in the breeze as I drove down the road.

Monday, September 25, 2006


But first, today's household critter photo....
This hairy guy was hanging out on one of my rose bushes. He didn't seem to be eating anything, so I left him be. I have no idea what sort of caterpillar he is or what sort of moth or butterfly he'll become after metamorphosis.

On to the accomplishments!
Firstly, I have assembled the thatcher. I haven't used it yet. Just assembled it. I need to get the old oil filter off the mower and finish up the oil change before I get to use it. I'm getting my hair cut after work tomorrow, but perhaps after that or on Wednesday evening I'll get the lawn thatched. I'd like to get the fertilizer down this weekend and overseed the top of the hill (area around the deck).

At work, I did a very good job of sticking to getting things done despite distrations. Got my VPN login fixed, though I still don't have access to all the secured applications. I'm learning more than I ever wanted to know about ACIP Immunization Recommendations and the reason why they are the way they are, but I've always wanted to know why some vaccines are live and others are killed/inactivated and now I know. Maybe there will be a Trivial Pursuit question about the subject some day.

On the personal front, I walked for a total of 45 minutes today at work, between one break and lunch time. I also ate the lunch I took to work, did not get a soda in the afternoon and restricted myself to a single cookie from the new batch of Snickerdoodles I took to work. I had intended to workout at home after work, but elected to assemble the thatcher instead. I was thinking that working out after work might be a better plan for me, instead of getting up early. However, I realized that I've usually got household/yard chores after work, so it looks like a 5:15-5:30 wake up call from here on out!

Tonight's entertainment:
I'm not really much of a football fan, but one year ago today I made a second trip down to New Orleans for post-Katrina/Rita recovery efforts. I feel somewhat obligated to watch the Saints play their first home game in the newly renovated SuperDome. I saw what it looked like before and the convention center too. It'll be nice to see what it looks like now. I have absolutely no idea who they're playing.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Great Outdoors!

No tornadoes today. Yet. We've got a tornado watch for a while and it's been raining and thundering for a while now.

I made my weekly pilgrimage to Lowe's today. Twice. I had debated this morning buying a thatcher to pull behind my mower. I decided against it. After I got home I decided to get it, so went back in to town. Just in time for it to rain HARD.

While I was out shopping this morning, I hit the farmer's market and bought an eggplant, red peppers and greens. I'm going to have greens and cornbread tomorrow night for dinner. The guy who sold me the peppers is from Gary, Indiana, of all places.

The Home Corps of Engineers
It was still raining pretty good when I got home. I went inside and put on my Wellies and raincoat. I wanted to check out my yard during a good rain to identify any drainage issues and see where/how the water flows throughout the property. What I observed is that the side yard on the north wasn't graded properly. There's a low spot right next to the driveway, then it slopes up to the ditch and up to the backyard. I haven't decided which direction it would be better to have the water flow (front or back), but I'm leaning toward front, rather than directing the water to run under the main gate in the fence.

It would seem that a good bit of the rainfall in the neighborhood flows through my yard. The equipment parking area to the north of my property slopes to my yard and I had observed evidence of lots of water flow in that area before. Here's what it looks like when it's running. That's a hole in the fence and it was running full of water when I walked up. As I looked, it slowed down a bit. The slope on my side of the fence isn't washed out at all. I guess the grass is doing a darned good job holding things in place.

A river runs through the dog run too. If I end up getting a dog, I'll have to move the dog house to a different spot and do something about the water. If nothing else, put rock down along the west end of the dog run to prevent erosion and a giant mud puddle.

Most of the water running through the yard is on the north side of the pool, under the big poison ivy covered trees (sweet gum trees). The water then flows west toward the back of the garden (but not into the garden) before flowing onto the farm property. The amount of water flowing off the farm's parking area explains the amount of gravel on the north side of these trees. I think it would be really tricky to till up all the grass and just put in ground cover. I think it definitely needs to be at least part grass. I have also figured out why the fescue planted here does so well in the hot summers--it gets watered heavily by the runoff every time it rains! I'll go overseed it this week and keep up the watering to get it established.

The ditch along the street runs down the border between my yard and the neighbor's yard to the south. This is well-grown with grass and doesn't show any erosion problems. The one problem it does cause is that the end of the ditch flattens out in my yard, causing the water to run toward my yard barn before flowing around the oak tree and into the farm. It would be fairly straightforward to modify/revise the flat spot in the ditch to give the water more "direction" in its path. Just dig out a bit of a shallow ditch and use the soil and grass that's dug up to build up the north side a bit to prevent pooling by the shed. Once I dig it up, I'll have to mulch it pretty heavily and either seed it or put down a couple pieces of sod to keep it from getting washed out.

As long as I was outside in the rain, I cleaned the gutter over the driveway since it wasn't draining at all. There were leaves plugging the top of the downspout. It took 20 seconds to fix and 15 seconds of that was having to move the ladder to the right spot. I also switched the drainpipes on two other downspouts. One of them was the normal short elbow and ran out onto a plastic drain shield. The only problem was that the shield was in a low spot and only served to fill up the low spot against the house. Another downspout had a long plastic hose-type thing attached, so I switched the two of them. In the rain. But it needed to be done and it works now, so I really don't care. I'm pretty certain the neighbors all think I'm crazy by now anyway.

I also finished my "ditch" to drain the front sidewalk in a rainstorm. To the left is the "before" picture. The rain last night and today really softened up the soil so the digging was easy. The water pooling on the sidewalk disappeared rather quickly. I'll have to make sure I build the flowerbed so that the drainage from the driveway and sidewalk isn't going to cause problems for the plants. Maybe I'll finish digging up the grass tomorrow. I have several holes in the back yard where I can put the grass and dirt.

Now I'm fixing to unpack a couple of boxes and get the kitchen cleaned. I was a bit of a slacker on keeping up with the dishes this week. Need to finish up the laundry too.

Yard Critters!

Here's a recent collection of the fauna in my yard. No sign of the deck lizard in a couple of weeks.

The orb weaver by the front door. (Her body is about 1 1/2 inches long with a 2-3 inch leg span. The web is 2 feet across.)

Which of these leaves is not like the other? The one with the legs! I found this leaf hopper sunning himself earlier this week.

The mantis was hanging out (upside down) in the roses on the north side of the house. She turned her head around to watch me take the pictures. I can't tell if she's smiling or not.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Make your very own McDonald's sign! I made one that read "Bite Me". I suppose one reading "Where's the Beef?" would be pretty amusing too. :o)

In other news....
We tried to have a tornado tonight. Apparently the area of rotation passed more or less over where I live. Conveniently no funnel actually touched the ground. During the torrential downpour just prior to the storm sirens sounding, I did *not* hear any rain hitting my bathroom ceiling. I presume that means the catch-tray I set up in the attic is doing its job. I'll go up there tomorrow and re-bait the mice and check on the water in the tray.

I suppose it's a good thing I didn't try to caulk the vent pipes tonight after work because the caulk wouldn't have cured completely before the rain started. Maybe in the morning it'll be dry. Only a 50% chance of rain the whole weekend.


I tore up some more poison ivy tonight. I wore gloves and long sleeves. I was very careful to wash my tools thoroughly and to wash myself thoroughly. I think I'm going to end up killing a lot of the grass between the poison ivy trees and the fence. The poison ivy is growing through it so I'm having to use Round-Up pretty liberally.

I'm trying to decide if I want to plant a cool season grass on that slope, then put a ground cover around the trees (to simplify mowing) or to just plant ground cover on the whole slope. I'm leaning toward the former mostly so that I don't have to till up the entire slope and amend all that soil. It's somewhat rocky soil and I'm guessing the rock has washed out of the neighbor's/farm's parking area. I can't decide between English ivy and vinca as the ground cover.

Well, I took my lunch to work today, but ended up going out for Mexican food. One co-worker had a birthday was today so we all went out. Someone also brought in homemade brownies and I had a couple of them too. They were very very good. Really fudgy and just the right amount of sweetness.

I'm planning meals for the next week so I can get a decent grocery list put together for tomorrow. I'll have the remains of my "beef" stir fry for dinner tomorrow. Later this week I think I'll make tamale pie and use up some of the TVP (texturized vegetable protein) I have in the pantry. It cooks up to the texture of ground meat. I'm going to make spinach soup too (using frozen spinach) and use up some of the other veggies I have on hand.

We picked up two more WNV cases this week in our area. Well, one of them was technically from August. Apparently the infection control folks at one of the hospitals haven't been doing a very good job of reporting the reportable diseases to the health department. This was discussed between the health department folks and the head of infection control and apparently a "talk" was going to be had with the infection control staff. We'll see if we start getting things on a more timely manner now.

Some of the diseases aren't that big a deal to not report because the infected or sick person isn't a risk to anybody else, as is the case with West Nile. But for some things, like a cook or kitchen staff with an enteric disease like hepatitis A or salmonellosis, that's a real problem and the risk to the public is significant. For things like TB and meningitis, close contacts to the sick person have to be tracked down and given medication to prevent disease.

We now have one case of E. coli O157:H7 related to the ongoing spinach outbreak. The case is not from our region. I don't know anything other than the person is getting better and the isolate from the patient matches the outbreak bacteria strain.

I read a bunch about rotavirus today. I'm trying to write up a newsletter article about the new pediatric rotavirus vaccine which was licensed in February 2006 and made an official part of the pediatric vaccination schedule in August 2006. It's a live, oral vaccine in three doses given at 2, 4, and 6 months. It won't keep a kid from getting all gastroenteritis problems, but it does protect against one of the worst bugs. The "neat" thing about rotavirus is the immense amount of virus shedding that occurs, which is why it's so darned contagious. Virus is shed at a rate of up to 10e12 virus particles per gram of fecal matter. No wonder it rips through families and day care centers so fast. The virus co-opts your gut to grow a whole lot, then escapes and moves on. Isn't that cool?

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Tonight I actually cooked something other than a frozen dinner. (Usually my dinner is oatmeal, cereal or a sandwich.) I made a szechwan "beef" stir-fry. I say "beef" because I used Morningstar Farms Beef Strips which are 100% vegan and mostly made of soy. To me they don't taste like beef, but they're pretty tasty nonetheless. I added a package of frozen veggies (Pepper Stir Fry, which is red, yellow and green bell peppers with onion) and about 1/3 cup of Szechwan stir fry sauce. Heated it all up until steaming and served it over rice. Quite tasty and I've got some yummy leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Now I just need to go make myself a mug of green tea and my dinner will be complete.

Blues Miles
I'm participating in the employee health program at work. I am tracking how much water I drink each day (goal: 64+ oz, how many servings of fruits and veggies I eat (goal: 5+ servings), my food intake and my exercise/activity accomplishments. I need to average 40 "miles" a week in order to reach the 500 "mile" goal for this quarter. If I reach 500 "miles", I get a free day off from work. W00t! So far I'm way behind on the miles for this week. I didnt' eat very many vegetables yesterday and didnt' do any activity. I'll make up for the activity this weekend with some yard work and I'm making a concerted effort to keep up the veggie and water intake.

Around the House
I got my lawn mowed tonight. It's supposed to rain tonight and there's at least a 50% chance of rain every day this weekend. I figured if I didn't do it now, it wouldn't get done until the grass was too long. With any luck it will rain this weekend and then I'll have to stay inside and unpack/organize things. And if it doesn't, I'm going to try and dig the front flower bed I've been planning which will also help control the sidewalk flooding. I'm going to need a LOT of compost/manure to amend the soil. Good thing it's cheap.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Avast ye scurvy dogs!! Arrrrrr!

Yep, you guess it, Matey! It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day! My first clue was reading UserFriendly this morning and discovering that it you waited a bit, the strip changed and all the dialogue was in Pirate-Speak. hee hee!

I was a good wench and found my Pirate Name. I shall henceforth be known as Cap'n Mary Kidd. ARRRRRR!

Knit Like a Pirate!
Surprisingly, there is such a website as, which features a couple of knitted pirate hats in various styles. Oddly enough, there are several other pirate related knitting websites. I'm going to have to knit myself the booty bag. I think this is one instance in which one's bag could and, perhaps, should make one's booty look big.

Today's Commuting Adventure!
I am pleased to note that there really wasn't much adventure today. I left the house a bit late this morning and then discovered that the excess moisture inside my car had condensed on the inside of the windows, so I had to wait for the defroster to burn that off. Today I picked up some DampRid and I left my windows open at work so evaporation could take place. (Yes, I remembered to close them when I got home.)

Adventures at work!
Still no spinach-related E. coli cases, which is fine by me.

Got more software installed. Wouldn't you think, as a sys admin, that the incoming person for a job might have the same IT requirements in terms of software and database access as their predecessor? Seems rather sensible/logical, doesn't it? That logical process doesn't seem to have happened. I'm having to ask for each and every thing and to justify it as well. The good news is that one of my bosses had a chat with the director and he's a bit annoyed that I haven't been able to do much work yet because of the IT snafus. I've been advised to expect things to get sorted out fairly quickly now.

I got my pager today, a month after I started this job. I guess it's a good thing we haven't had any outbreaks or other disasters, cuz work wouldn't have been able to get hold of me. I guess the aforementioned logic of getting resources from the past to the present also failed to transfer my predecessor's pager to me.

I've obviously been spoiled by the quality of sys admin work done by Don at 00Webworks and the rest of the geek gang (Michael, Wayne, Mitch). Heck, even the beleagured CITES crew managed to get things done more effectively and they've only got 35K undergrad users, 15K grad student users and then all the faculty and staff to mess with, plus a hundred computer labs.

I think my expectations in this instance may be too high. Tom the Hispasian said that would be my downfall, although it's also one of the best things about me. I expect the best out of myself every day. The only person I have to be better than is the person I was yesterday. Every day I strive to do a better job than I have done before. Learn more, do more, stretch more. Faster, stronger, taller, better. Sometimes that is accomplished by working harder. Sometimes that is accomplished by working less and relaxing more. Just don't relax too much. Remember: If you're resting on your laurels, you're wearing them on the wrong end.

When it comes to computer-based and technology expectations, my primary problem is that I started out as an Apple user (way back when in 1980), then moved to Macs in the 1990s. I learned to expect computers to WORK and to work reliably. I also learned that it's not rocket science to get them to cooperate. It's not like Windows machines and the blue screens of death. Macs just go about their job in a quirky, amusing, happy sort of way. They don't have to show you all the details of how they do it, they just get it done. Windows machines are more adversarial and definitely higher maintenance if they don't get their daily mocha and nap time (re-boots). With that said, I can wrangle a Windows box to do pretty much whatever I want it to do. I'm just hamstrung right now by not being allowed to have ANY admin privilieges on my own personal work box. I have to get someone else to fix everythihng and anything and that's where the trouble is. Today I couldn't look at data I need to do QA on because MS Office Web Components isn't installed. And I can't fix that myself. I had to try very hard to not beat my head on the keyboard when the error came up. And I lost another half day to waiting for a software install. Maybe I'll get it by tomorrow afternoon. I'm not very good with having to "hurry up and wait". Not very good at all.... I absolutely *hate* wasting time when I have things I could be doing.

Tomorrow's Fun!
I get to catch a bucket load of moquitoes!!! W00t! I hope the gate at Site B isn't locked. I'm not really keen on walking 3/4 of a mile through a hunting area while wearing a backpack aspirator The heaviest part of the aspirator is the motorcycle battery that powers it, but it's built on a backpack frame and it's really bulky for short folks like me. It kinda looks like the Ghostbuster packs. Ray used to start reciting lines from the Ghostbuster movies when he was using it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I'm afraid I've left my brain

in my other cranium.

Yes, it's a day which began and ended with blonde moments.

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain and occasional thunder. No big deal. Conveniently, the parking lot at work is right outside the door (as opposed to 50 yards away at Vet Med). I figured I'd make sure I took a jacket to keep from getting soaked too badly, but life would be good. I get ready for work. I even pack my lunch and eat breakfast. I go out to my car and discover that I left the back windows open about an inch. I go back inside and grab a couple of towels to soak up the water from the seat. I lay them at the ends of the seat and get in the front seat. And observe that I also left the passenger side window in the front seat open. At least I closed the driver's side window or I'd have had wet pants.

At the end of the day, I went to Wal-Mart with the intention of getting some Damp Rid to help dry out the interior of my car and hopefully prevent any mold growth. I remembered to get all the stuff I need to change the oil in the lawn mower and even remembered hair mousse. I thought there was something else to remember, but couldn't think of it for the life of me. Until I got out of the store and 3/4 of a mile down the road. At that point I was too fried mentally to go back. Getting Damp Rid was probably the biggest reason there in the first place.

Driving to work on a Monday:
I have a relatively small car. It is not, however, invisible. At least it's not invisible to the best of my knowledge. Apparently my little car fails to register on the consciousness of some drivers. Twice on the way to work today, other vehicles tried to occupy the same space as my car. Unless the rules of physics have changed since I was in a physics class, two objects cannot occupy the same space. The second encounter I can sort of understand, though it was annoying. A Saturn SUV was turning onto N Highland and had probably been waiting for a while. The entire left lane was open, but the SUV decided to turn S-L-O-W-L-Y into the right lane in front of me. FOrtunately I hit the brakes hard and didn't hit it or spill my coffee. I think I did shout at the SUV though and inquired as to whether or not it knew how to drive. The SUV then proceeded to tailgate the daylights out of the poor vehicle in front of it.

The first "invisible" car incident was a bit more worrying. There was a school bus on a side street, waiting to turn north on Christmasville Rd as I was headed south. Apparently the school bus driver has NO IDEA that the front end of her bus does NOT stay in its own lane when it turns. So 1/3 of the front end of a bus is now in my lane and I'm doing the speed limit of 40 mph. Fortunately there was a turn lane I could swerve into because I'd have either hit the bus or been in a ditch. The corner of the bus was over the grease strip in my lane. That's not kinda overlapping the opposing lane a little bit, in my book. That's being IN the oncoming traffic. I seriously hope that was a one-time lack of judgement on the part of the driver and not a regular occurrence cuz she's going to get into an accident with those kids and get someone hurt or killed.

After today, I can only hope that my car doesn't think I don't like it, between the two brushes with crashes and the accidental interior shower. As long as it keeps running ok, we'll get along fine. Which reminds me, it's been three months since my last oil change.

With any luck tomorrow's commute will be less frightening. And, yes, the windows are rolled up.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What a way to start the day!

Climb Mount Nataka!
Is there any better way to start a Sunday morning than with a classic WWII movie? I find it a bit ironic that AMC chose to show Tora! Tora! Tora! early on a bright and sunny Sunday morning. I flipped on the TV for some background noise while cleaning my desk just in time to see the Admiral Kimmel figure out they were under attack. I had a great deal of difficulty in not sitting down to watch it for the umpteenth time.

Tora! Tora! Tora! is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's a simple dramatization of the events leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor, including the confusion with when the Japanese ultimatum was to be delivered to Washington, the capture of a Japanese sub just outside the harbor prior to the attack and the famous quote attributed to Admiral Yamamoto that the attack had served to "awaken the sleeping giant and fill him with terrible resolve." No extraneous plot lines, no stupid romance stuff thrown in there to make it a chick flick, like they did to Pearl Harbor.

I *want* this T-shirt!
Definitely appropriate garb for my next attempt getting license plates, don't you think?

Headline of the Day So Far:
A damp squib from Apple’s Mr Incredible
It's not very often you see the term "squib" in the common parlance. I can only hope that Mr. Incredible (Steve Jobs) hasn't deformed his barrel.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I *did* it!!

I actually got through an entire Saturday without going to Lowe's!! Can you believe it? Good thing it was a weekend or I'm sure the stock price would have fallen dramatically.

I did end up going to Wal-Mart. I got a new motorcycle battery. I've never had to fill a battery with acid before. I was a bit worried about goofing it up and the directions which came with the battery weren't particularly helpful. It would appear that the person who wrote the directions does not speak English as their primary language.

Here is what the manual says:
1. Place the battery on a level place, and tear down the sealed tape on even place.
2. Softly inlay the filling funnel on the ports of the storage battery.
3. Take out the electrolyte container. Put it down straightly. Then pour through the funnel to the ports. Caution: Unless the electrolyte container is pushed down straightly, the battery may fall down, from which spillages may cause loss of eyesight and/or burns.
4. Be sure that bubbles are generating in all six cells of the electrolyte container and the level of electrolyte should be down.
5. After being sure that no electrolyte is left in the electrolyte container and funnel, remove them slowly from the battery and clean any acid stick to battery.
6. Place the sealing plugs fixed to the battery in the right positions of filling plugs.
7. Push the sealing plugs in until reaching the equal level with the top surface of the battery. When pushing the sealing plugs in, the equal strength must be given to all plugs simultaneously. Caution: Do not push the sealing plugs in one by one. Damage may result.

To use battery in a comfortable condition:
After filling the electrolyte, allow the battery to vitalize, with the filling plugs removed, for about 20 minutes. After then, fix the seling plugs to the filling plugs and recharge the battery at the normal charging current as given in TABLE of this Instructions.

The instructions are also written in German, French, Spanish and Italian. I can only imagine those translations are just as rough as the one from Japanese into Engrish.

Touring the Countryside
After I got the battery installed into the bike, I had to take it for a ride to charge it up, of course. So we had a quick zip up the road to the next town to get fuel and came back. I took a back road which is fairly smooth with a few twists, turns and hills. This is one of the cotton fields nearby. The cotton must be getting close to picking time. You can see the burst bolls on the plants in the field.

I stopped in at Mitchell's to get a soda and I discovered they have a lunch counter. I may have to get a burger or something in there. It's about 1/2 convenience store and 1/2 dining room. Didn't see any guns or ammo, but there's a nice collection of dealer stickers on the front door. And an advertisement for the concealed carry course that's required to get a carry permit in this state. Classes start the first Saturday of each month and are $75. I might have to take one in the next couple of months. If nothing else, I'd get some shooting time in.

Unpacking and Tidying Progress:
I did break down a couple of big boxes in the living room today. And put away some stuff on the coffee table. I even vacuumed. There's still detritus on most of the horizontal surfaces, however. I'll try to get rid of that tomorrow.

Other tasks accomplished:
I edged the sidewalk yesterday, but hauled away the remains today. I also hauled away the bits of sod that I dug out by the walk to help the drainage. I dug the grass out of another expansion joint in the driveway and watered some of the flowers. I also watered the fruit trees, dug some composted cow manure into the flowerbed by the front walk (and startled a large toad), and sprayed more Round-Up in the poison ivy corner. Most everything in the corner looks dead right now. I was able to get further back into the corner than before, so that was good. I'm going to keep spraying once a week until the end of the month. Then I'll clear the brush and think about digging things up. I also bought a month-by-month gardening guide for the area. It's divided into sections for shrubs, lawns, trees, etc. It looks to be a wonderful resource and it makes me want to run out and tackle the entire yard all at once (which would be a sure way to burn myself out and blow my budget). But it's getting me thinking.

Well, time to call it a day. I'll tell ya more tomorrow.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Oh, I almost forgot....

I get a year of free credit monitoring courtesy of the US Dept of Education. The weekend I accessed their website to tell them my address had changed was the weekend their database got compromised. There was a 48 hour period where people other than me could have accessed my information, including my SSN and other info. That error was corrected as soon as they found it and the website is fully functional once again. Anybody who changed their information during the "oops" time has had their data rolled back to the pre-"oops" time. This is to get around the possibility that someone could have EDITED my info and started receiving my student loan bills at their address. (If only I could get someone else to actually pay them too....)

The Direct Loan Servicing Center has taken the professional and ethical step of notifying me in writing of the problem they had and are offering me one free year of credit monitoring with all three of the credit reporting services. I'll be signing up for that tomorrow morning. And changing my mailing address with DLSC again.

Don't Eat the Spinach!

So, our mothers were all wrong. Spinach is *bad* for you. Well, the fresh kind that doesn't come in a can or frozen is bad for you, at least right now. In the 3 hours since I left work, the number of states involved has doubled to 20 with over 200 cases of illness and three deaths. I'm not going to be at all surprised when my phone goes off this weekend with a health alert and I end up investigating an outbreak. In the meantime, I'm going to go throw out the new bag of spinach I opened on Monday (and ate a salad from on Tuesday...)

Other than that, today was repeatedly annoying.

Bad Motorcycle! No biscuit!
My motorcycle wouldn't start this morning. I had been planning to ride it since last Friday. Looking forward to it all week. I carefully checked the weather forecast to make sure it wouldn't be too hot, too chilly or too rainy. Weather was *perfect*. I get up a bit early and get organized to go. I am ready ahead of schedule for once. I go out to start the bike and warm her up. She turns over once and then hasn't got the energy to turn over again. The starter just clicks. Dead battery. And this particular bike does not have the "luxury" of a kickstarter. Do the standard frustrated/angry stomping around muttering through gritted teeth, then go back into the house and get the car keys. At least nobody else rode their bikes in to work this morning.

Miss Crabby Clerk
I have found where the crabby people in the state governmental offices are. It's not the driver's license bureau. It's the county clerk's office where you get license plates. Or at least the individual who I imposed upon to try and get license plates is crabby. We started off on the wrong foot. The station where she works is at the opposite end of the room from where the door marked enter is located. There were also two people between me (standing patiently at the place marked "wait here") and her station, obscuring my view somewhat. Also obscuring my view was her computer monitor. Once she noticed I was standing there she announced in a rather annoyed-sounding voice that she could help me. So I hustle myself down there and apologize that I hadn't seen her "hiding" behind the monitor. She replies (without any sense of humor at all) that she wasn't hiding, she was working. This implied to me that having to deal with the public and assist them in obtaining license plates at the license plate office where she is apparently employed is interrupting her work, which leads me to wonder just what work she does as an employee of the license plate office.

The next step in our interaction was for me to produce the necessary paperwork. In the state of Illinois, this means producing your registration paperwork, your own personal identification (a driver's license), and proof of vehicle insurance. According to the official state website regarding what is necessary to bring to get a NEW set of plates as a new resident in the state, you need the car's registration paperwork, proof of who you are (two forms of ID) and proof that you live in TN. It also says to bring the name/address info for any lienholders. Ok, so I collected all of that information. I brought it with me, along with my checkbook.

Miss Crabby Clerk snaps that I have to give her all the license plates on the vehicles in question. Ok, I say, I can give her the plates off the car, but I don't have the other vehicles handy so I'll have to come back for those two. This does not mollify her. She asks rather crabbily if I'm making payments on "all of these vehicles". I reply that I am making payments on the VW and the Honda. She says I have to provide the information about the lienholder. I tell her I have that written down right here and give her the sticky note with that information. She makes an unpleasant face (I guess I ruined her fun by having SOME of the necessary information). Then she says I have to have the titles in hand and that registration information isn't sufficient and pushes the paperwork back at me. I said OK, I didn't know that and that I brought what was on the website. I told her I'd come back on another day and take care of it all.

Here's going to be the "fun" part. In Illinois, if you have a lien on a vehicle, the lienholder gets the title. I am not in physical posession of the title to my car. I do have the actual titles to the bikes (apparently there's no lien on the Honda afterall). According to the Illinois Secretary of State's website, the REGISTRATION paperwork is considered proof of ownership for the state of Illinois. I have no idea in @#$!#^*& how I'm going to get this to work in this state if I have to have the title in hand. I could order a duplicate title, but Illinois will send it directly to the bank with no exception (says so right on the webpage) so that doesn't solve anything and does cost me an extra $65 for the title. Looks like I'll be making some phone calls early next week about this.

With any luck, on the day I return to the clerk's office, Miss Crabby Clerk will be off having dental work done or something. In any event, I'm going to make sure I end up being assisted by a COMPLETELY different person, even if it means waiting extra long. I can't stand people who do customer service FOR A LIVING and who clearly hate having to deal with the public in any capacity or who insist on demonstrating that they have all the power and can jerk you around however they like. I'm fairly certain that Miss Crabby Clerk fits both categories. Maybe she ate spinach this week.

Library Card!
To recover from this unfortunate and very unpleasant experience and to save myself an extra trip later, I went to the library to get a library card. Librarians are almost inevitably kind and polite creatures. The librarians at the local library are no exception. I had a library card in 30 seconds and my request to not provide my Social Security number was completely acceptable. I even was allowed to check out 5 items today. I wasn't going to check anything out, but then I wandered over to the new book section and found a couple of interesting things, including the SQL Cookbook from O'Reilly. Out of the knitting section (which holds about 18 books), I selected Barbara Walker's Second Treasury of Knitting Stitches.

Efficiency in Action
Now that I had two of my errands done, I found myself in heavier-than-usual traffic driving north. And my book browsing caused me to miss getting to the bank before they closed, so my paycheck is still sitting in my checkbook. Fortunately this is not a problem and I'll just go to the bank on Monday at lunch. Hopefully the computer system won't die again. If I had deposit tickets, I'd just go through the drive-up because it's open later, but I don't have any.

So on my way out of town, I diverted to Lowe's and Wal-Mart. I figured I'd get a battery for the Honda. I called Mitch to find out what kind of battery. He's got no idea. The King of Stockpiled Useless Information Stored in his Treo never entered in the battery data for his motorcycle! I was amazed by that! He's got the 3 letter codes for every airport in the US, but not the battery data. But he did tell me what I needed to do to get to the battery and find out, including that I needed to buy a 10mm or 12mm socket to get the seat off the bike. So I skip Wal-Mart and go straight to Lowe's.

At Lowe's I return the last of the unneeded stuff from the faucet job and purchase mouse poison, mole poison, blood meal (for the compost pile) and the sockets.

Homicidal Tendencies:
I get home, all excited to take apart my motorcycle and extract the bad battery. I get the side panels off with no trouble whatsoever. I try the 10mm socket and discover the seat bolts are 12mm. I try the 12mm socket. It doesn't fit. I try the other side of the bike. Socket still doesn't fit. I look at socket. Socket says 11mm. I did not indulge my desire to throw said socket against the wall with all my might. I did, however, indulge the impulse to stomp up and down the garage in frustration. And seriously regretted NOT buying the entire metric socket SET for 20 bucks, which would have solved this problem. See what happens when I try to save myself 15 bucks?

So my motorcycle sits in the garage half naked with a dead battery still trapped inside. I'll go BACK to Lowe's in the morning to get the correct socket (the adjustable cresecent wrench I bought last week won't fit in the necessary space and none of my other crescent wrenches are metric), then I'll come home to take out the battery and RETURN to town to get a new battery before returning home to replace the battery. So this will be a 28 mile set of round trips. For one stinking battery. Grrrrr.

Given my high frustration level after these incidents, I was feeling a teensy bit homicidal. With the song from Shel Silverstein about poisoning pigeons in the park going through my head, I commenced to bait the mole hills and tunnels in the back yard. Heavily. There are almost 20 mole hills back there now. This of course means that I have lots of worms and yummy grubs in my yard, which is a good thing, but it's wreaking havoc on the area I'd like to make into a garden. With any luck there won't be any new mole hills popping up after this week.

To top off my homicidal urges, I pitched 6 bait packs into the attic for the mice. Last night at midnight I was awakened to the sound of scratching and scrabbling in my bathroom. It sounded like the mice were rappelling down their side of the shower enclosure, which I'm sure would be very fun if you were a mouse. Heck, it might be part of a mouse scouts excursion. I put bait blocks in the laundry area just in case anybody wanted to come out the hole in the wall there. We'll see how much noise the little beady-eyed bastards make tonight. And some time next week I'll go up to the attic and haul out the corpses so they don't stink up the place.

That was nearly as satisfying as spending half an hour beating the crap out of the heavy bag or firing a hundred rounds at the range.

Other stress relief activities:
I hosed down the neighbor's cat when it decided it wanted to hang out in my yard. Yesterday it decided to take up residence in my garage while I was mowing. (This is *not* "Phoebe", but some gray tabby.) I didn't get a direct shot, but he got misted pretty good and has figured out that the sound of the hose is something to scamper away from.

I edged the front sidewalk, but haven't yet fixed the north side of the driveway. I also started removing the grass/sod from what will be the expanded front flower bed and flood control area. I made a rough outline of the bed on the south side of the front walk all the way down to the birdfeeder pole. I think the bed shape and design will change over time, but this is a start. I found the soil too hard to get the sod up, so I soaked it pretty well and then went inside.

Tomorrow I'll water the fruit trees and fertilize them with fertilizer spikes. I'll also rake in the bloodmeal I dusted over the "tropical" flowerbed on the north side of the walk.

The Good Bits....
The day started with a co-worker offering me the opportunity to ride horses at her place or her relative's place any time I wanted. She gave me her home phone numbers and said to give her a call any time and that she really means it. I told her I'd take her up on that and that while I might not look the prettiest, I could stick to most horses fairly well. She laughed and said she could certainly find something for me to ride. I'm thinking next weekend I'll have to go riding.... I'll have to find my boots and helmet (which I think is still at Kim's barn, actually).

Another co-worker threatened me with serious bodily harm as she lost her willpower to resist the peanut butter cookies I brought earlier in the week. Turns out that they're her favorite. She ate five of them by the end of the day. I think I've had five or six now myself.

Had lunch with co-workers at a local sit-down restaurant serving standard American fare. One had a huge chicken strip salad, while two others had the soup/salad special. I had a burger with mashed potatoes. The potatoes were a bit gluey but good and had lumps of potato in them. The burger was cooked perfectly.

I got poked twice today at work. Once for the HepB titer and once to start the TB test. The TB lump is already gone. I ought to contact Provena's employee health office and have them fax a copy of the stuff they did to me when I was hired.

Finally, the weather today was GLORIOUS! The sun was shining, the birds were singing.... And I got to leave work early because I worked late on Wednesday with the mosquitoes. I didn't get as much accomplished today as I wanted to get done, but it seems like I got a few things done anyway.

This weekend's plan:
I really want to straighten up the living room and get all of the boxes out of there. There is a bunch of clutter and detritus collecting on the coffee table and that needs to stop. I need to make homes for things and start putting them in their homes. Or I'll be my own office's version of Miss Cranky Clerk.

I also need to decide about getting a puppy from a co-worker (or both of the older dogs). I'll whack the grass down in the dog run and get it cleaned up. It just looks a mess right now and it needs to be cleaned up anyway.

Landscaping ideas:
The little maple tree continues to sprout leaves after being a stick for so long. The little oak tree remains a stick (but with dead leaves still attached). The Rose of Sharon plants are doing wonderfully. I have no idea where I'm going to plant any of these things. Probably ought to be thinking about what I'm going to plant in the flower bed I started digging today too. I think I may try to fill in some of the holes in the backyard with the crap I dig out of the front yard. It's mostly clay though, so that might be a problem.

I think what I really need is half a load of good black dirt. I'm not entirely sure they have such a thing down here. I also don't want to think about having to haul the dirt around. So in the meantime, I'm shopping for trees on the US Arbor Day Foundation site.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Scooters!! Scooters Scooters Scooters!

Hooray Hooray Hooray!! I have Scooters!!! :o)

Scooters are the version of Cheerios made by the Malt-O-Meal company. They're way cheaper than Cheerios and they taste just as good. Actually, I think they taste *better* than the real Cheerios. I've been eating them for years. I can't find them in locally. WalMart has the Honey-Nut version, but I don't like that flavor at all. They're too sweet and they taste funny. I like the plain ones.

Mitch was kind enough to surprise me with a box full of Scooters. Four huge bags of Scooters! I'll have cereal for a week or 12 now. Thanks, Mitch!

Got your iTV yet?
Watched the Apple Press Conference from yesterday. Steve Jobs rolled out the new iPods, the new iTunes, the new addition to the iTunes store (MOVIES!!!) and then showed the world what's to come next, which is a rarity. In Q1, 2007, Apple will present what is now known as iTV. It's a box with a footprint a bit larger than a CD which will enable users to play iPod/iTunes media on their televisions, including music, movies, podcasts, TV shows...EVERYTHING. It's got 802.11 wireless built-in, Ethernet, USB 2.0, digital TV/audio, component TV and analog audio connectors. Sweet! Too bad for the competition, huh. Oh...wait....there really isn't any competition here. iPod has >75% of the MP3 market and iTunes has >80% of the US legal music downloads. I don't think any other source allows downloads of TV shows besides iTunes. Mr. Jobs and his teams must be feeling pretty darned good right now.

Now, if only they'd produce a SmartPhone or another PDA (since Newton was about 10 years ahead of its time...)

Now, if only we could get Mac to take a bigger bite out of the market share.... Perhaps with the new version of OS X vs. the unimpressive, only marginally "improved" MS Vista the balance will continue to shift. I think what's hurting them a lot right now is price. I don't think they can compete price-wise with the low-end PCs, but then, you *do* get what you pay for....

Speaking of SmartPhones and the like...
My phone needs to be replaced. It's been dropped, banged, whacked and hit too many times by stuff at work, mostly at my old job. The exterior screen has been cracked for over a year. The internal screen has been cracked around the edges for a while. The case has been coming apart for a while. but now it's starting to flake out in terms of performance. I'll answer a call, but not hear anybody even though they're talking. They can hear me, but I can't hear them. Or vice versa. So, time to get a new one.

Now the question is what will the replacement be. I am debating getting a PDA/SmartPhone, like the Treo. I'd like to keep a Palm OS since that's what I'm familiar with. They're a nice chunk of change though and kinda big to be wearing, but it would beat having to carry a phone AND a PDA. Decisions, decisions.... Guess I'll go to the Verizon store this weekend and have a look at what they've got.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dismantling the cardboard cubist sculpture

I got the living room cleaned up a bit more.
Moved out a bunch of flattened boxes into the garage. Eventually it'll actually look neat and tidy. I'm not sure I like how the furniture is arranged right now. It's kind of awkward having the couch not at the same angle as the TV. I need to paint the living room still. I've decided I don't like the green color in there afterall. (Let's not talk about how it's actually two different shades of green, one semi-gloss and one satin. At least they finished painting it like I asked and they didn't get paint on the new carpet.)

The living room is still a bit of a mess though. Part of the problem is the TV cable running through the middle of the room. When I called the cable company and asked them to hook up the TV, they didn't ask me if all the cable outlets were in the right places. They only asked if the cable jack was within 25 feet of the computer. It's either 8 inches or 15 feet away, depending upon if you go through the wall or around it. So the cable installer guy gets here on cable day and tells me he didn't know he had to drop cable from the attic and I'll have to have someone else come back and do that because he wasn't told it was that kind of install. I'm willing to bet that a second trip out is going to cost me money, so I figure I can deal with that myself. It can't be *that* hard to string a cable down an interior wall, can it? In the meantime, the cable in the living room crosses the room. The TV works. That's all I care about. And I have a nice long length of new cable. :o)

I also tidied up the garage a bit and moved a shelving unit up against the back wall. Now I need to organize the stuff on the shelves so it makes sense to me. Probably ought to re-install the wall-mounted shelving first. The person who installed it didn't get the uprights spaced quite right so the shelves don't fit. Their solution was to just put the shelves on upside down. I think it would have been easier to just re-measure and put the uprights in correctly the second time. Sure would have made the shelves more usable, but what do I know. I'm just a girl, and a blonde one at that.

Another pet!
This is my "pet" garage slug. I've named him Gary. Right now I think he's sleeping because he's got his antennae pulled in (they're at the left end of his body). Gary cleans the grass clippings off my tennis shoes when I leave them in the garage. He also eats dead bugs on the floor. He's quite the handy little critter. He's about three inches long, mostly gray-brown, with some very attractive dark brown spots on his back. I have no idea where he lives during the day. He only comes out to play at night.

Google Maps!

Those of you who have become fans of Google Maps, the blog Google Maps Mania lists a number of neato interactive Google Maps and other Google Map creations. Some of them are pretty cool. I still think the best Google Maps site is a newspaper article with photos of black helicopters from around the world. It prompted me to look up Andrews Air Force Base in Google Map and I found a clear image of a stealth fighter sitting outside. Hee hee!

Monday, September 11, 2006

It *moved*!

I got to work this morning to find the big crane had apparently gone for a bit of a walk over the weekend. It's now on the north side of the construction area. I suppose that means they're making more progress. What it means to me is that I now have NOTHING to watch outside my window. The crane is now out of my frame of view, so I can't watch the crane hoisting stuff up to the top anymore. I kinda wish I'd been able to see the crane crawling around. That would have been cool.

I did get to watch the backhoe on the right side of the picture drive over a big pile of dirt for no apparent reason other than "It was there", which is just about as good a reason as you can get with a big pile of dirt and a backhoe. I'd have done it too.

Knitting group:
I went to the local knitting group meeting tonight. Met four very nice ladies, none of whose names I can remember. One lady was knitting a shrug for her grand niece, another was knitting fingerless gloves for a friend with carpal tunnel syndrome, the third was working on a dishcloth and the fourth just chatted, but didn't get out her knitting that I saw. The lady with the dishcloth is planning a trip to NC to ride a steam train near Dillsboro and was getting info from the lady knitting the shrug. I did a lot of listening in as I'm looking for day trip and weekend trip ideas myself. The Dillsboro area sounds like a good candidate. The Shrug Lady also recommended a trip to Kentucky to visit the Adsmore Manor. Now I feel the urge to plan something for Columbus Day weekend, but I want to get my house cleaned up and put away first. The lady knitting the fingerless gloves taught my boss how to knit. My boss has a schedule conflict though and can't come to the knitting group meetings. Oh well...

Here's the final view of the kitchen. I even managed to get it cleaned up and get things put away. There are still a few boxes under the sink, but that's going to take a bit of sorting through. At least half of the kitchen table is now usable space for dining which is new.

My next "project" will be fixing the leak around the plumbing vent pipe flashing and then getting rid of the mice in the attic. I suppose I ought to then put some additional insulation in the attic since I suspect I'll be losing some insulation to the mouse body removal program. There are enough mouse tunnels in the insulation I don't know how effective it is anyway. I hate to think about how many nests there are up there.

The outside project to do next will be re-grading the fence gate area so that the gate actually opens. Then I'll re-grade the front sidewalk area to get ride of the moat/puddle. I have already dug some shallow channels to move the water away. They don't go far enough into the yard to actually drain water *to* any place useful, but it does allow the water to run off the sidewalk and diminishes the puddle size. Those projects are going to be extremely low cost (labor only) and I think playing in the mud is fun anyway.

Baking goodies!
I made peanut butter cookies last night. Apparently they are the favorite cookie of a number of people at work. The container, which was full this morning, (and is visible in the kitchen table photo) was about 1/4 empty when I left today. I figure it'll be completely empty by the end of Thursday. The public health reps all got told that the cookie and animal cracker jars are fair game too, so that'll help dispense with the goodies. Next week I think I'll make Snickerdoodles.

Tomorrow is birthday lunch day. I'm bringing Waldorf Salad. I put raisins in it, but I think it would be better with grapes. I'll have to try that next time. It tastes pretty good how it is though. Apples, walnuts, mayo, lemon juice, sugar, celery, raisins. Sweet and crunchy goodness.

Food Food Food!
I was a good girl today. I had oatmeal for breakfast (well, at least some of it before I ran out of time), plus toast and some V-8 juice. At lunch, I took a salad with a fresh tomato and some yogurt. Dinner was a bean burrito from Taco Bell. I only had two cookies at work and no other junk food that I recall. I didn't have the time to walk at lunch, but I will try to walk tomorrow. I already have my walking shoes at work waiting for me. I'll take my pedometer too. W00t!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Post-sink To Do List

Yet another evil plan falls to the wayside...
The roof caulking will have to wait. Just as I sat down to eat my sandwich, the thunder started again. Right now it's raining. Lighting appeared to hit trees about a mile west of the house. That rather neatly cuts my list of things to do in half. There will be no mowing the lawn, washing the car, or caulking the vent pipes.

I will go clean up the mess I left in the kitchen first. It's starting to drive me nuts.

Then maybe tackle the garage and the laundry....

Another Pet!
I was out on the deck earlier today, moved one of the chairs and a little bitty lizard ran away to the side of the house. He was about as big around as a pencil and about 4 inches long. Plain brown little lizard. Yay! I knew I was going to find reptiles around here. I'll try to get a picture of one soon.

I've already seen toads, but I've had toads before. The toads like to come out on the sidewalk when it rains. I think they play in the puddles. One of them hopped up the length of the sidewalk from the driveway, turned the corner and headed towards the front door, but stopped at the edge of the porch so he could still get rained on.

Sink Update #6

It's a SINK! Well, it's always been a sink, but now it's got a fully functional faucet too. :o)

I did go get shorter supply lines. To save myself an extra trip to town, I got two 16" ones and one 12" one, just in case my measuring was a bit off and 12" was going to be too short. Turns out 12" was just right. I carefully tightened things down to 1/4 to 1/2 turn past finger tight. Turned on the water. No drips. Flushed the faucet on full power. No drips. Connected the sprayer and ran it a bit. No drips. YAY!

Now, one thing I did notice during this whole experience....the water shut off valves don't really completely shut off the water. Water welled up at the top of the pipe. It didn't spill over, but it obviously was still seeping through the closed valve. So eventually I'll end up putting in new shutoff valves. I think I'll pick the ball valve ones, not the screw valve ones, like I have now. But that's a project for a few years from now and possibly for a professional since my soldering skills are waaaaaaay rusty. I don't think I've soldered anything in 20 years.

Next on the list of things to do:
I really need to clean the kitchen up. I've got a nice spread of tools, boxes, detritus and dirty dishes. I did get the carpets cleaned on Friday night. Did the first load of laundry while I went to Lowe's this morning. I guess I could start in on the garage after I clean up the kitchen mess. I really am not particularly motivated to clean/organize stuff today. I don't know that I want to do anything else in particular, just don't wanna clean up either.

Maybe I'll start with a little lunch first and see what that leads to.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sink Update #5

The decision was to not bother with the caulk. In examining the design of the faucet, there isn't anything where water goes under the baseplate. It's all carefully contained within some spiffy, shiny pipes. I do, of course, realize this means I will find the caulking gun first thing in the morning, laying by the foot of the bed or some equally obvious place.

The new faucet is installed, but not yet plumbed. The supply lines are a tiny bit long. Ok, one of them is about 6 inches too long. They're the flexible stainless steel lines, but I don't think I need that much excess line and I worry about putting too much strain on the fixture and the connectors. So the plumbing of the faucet will wait for tomorrow. I'll go to Lowe's first thing in the morning and buy one 16" and one 12" supply line and return the two 20" lines I bought. Perhaps by lunchtime I'll have a functional sink again. Pictures will follow.

Garage discovery:
Found the missing kitchen box. I now have my Pyrex mixing bowls, including the one I make pancake batter in (so perhaps I'll have blueberry pancakes tomorrow), and the cast iron chicken fryer I picked up at a garage sale a few years ago. I'd found the lid when I first started unpacking, but was starting to think I'd left the pot itself behind. I was almost certain I'd checked the apartment for overlooked stuff and double checked everything was empty. Now I know I was right. :o)

Sink Update #4

The @$&*@#! faucet has been removed. I attribute the feat to the Mike's Hard Lemondae I consumed in the 20 minutes prior to the event and the threats of extreme bodily harm extended toward the faucet. (Don't tell the faucet the trashcan is not a vacation destination, because I felt the need to tell it thank you for cooperating and offered it a "reward" for being so polite at last.)

Next: I'd like to put some silicone caulk underneath the baseplate of the faucet. I have the caulk. I have two tubes of it, in fact. One I purchased some time ago and never used. One I purchased new today. I own two caulking guns. *TWO* of them. Can't find either one of them. I am only barely able to restrain myself from poking myself in the eye with the end of the tube of caulk.

I am beginning to understand why it is that plumbers swear. It makes me wonder how horrible a job it must be to be a sailor since their swearing is reportedly even worse than that of plumbers. But maybe that's just the US Navy. I know if I was in the Navy and had to wear a fry boat like Navy women do, I'd swear too. :o)

Back to the sink issue: I'm giving myself about 5 minutes to decide if I want to caulk the faucet base or not. I'll use three of those minutes to look for the stinkin' caulking gun and another two minutes to drink more Hard Lemonade.

Sink Update #3

Got new wrench thing that is specially designed to reach under sink without smashing knuckles on wall/sink/pipes. The nut holding water intake pipe still won't move. The major joints in the right side of my body from hip to wrist are about ready to kill me. Tomorrow I'm going to buy a torch and cut the damn thing off. Or set it on fire. One of the two. It's pretty clearly not going to come off any sort of normal way and I'll be damned if I'm going to buy a whole new sink and pay to have it installed because the stupid faucet wouldn't come off.

Part of the problem is the rather small area I have to work in. On the right side of the sink, the trap is up against the side of my head/face with the dishwasher hose wrapped around my head. I can only see out of one eye too because the pipe is on my face. On the left side of the sink, the trap presses on my trachea, but I can see a bit better. It would certainly be easier to work under a sink if the cabinet were designed differently. I'll have to think about how that might work.

Grrrrrr. Gonna go have Tylenol for dinner.

SinkUpdate #2

The sink is still completely useless. (Well the drain works, but other than that....) The cold water supply hose end just won't come off the faucet. Trying to break the faucet to get it off is resulting in bending the sink itself. I'm pretty sure I can't get the sink out of the cabinet by myself either, so removing the sink to get better access isn't an option. (And I think if the sink weren't fastened down that would just add a new level of difficulty to getting the hose unscrewed.)

Unless I get the hose to budge, I'll be washing dishes in the bathroom sink for a while. There's nothing more I can do with the project until I get the faucet out. My right hand and elbow hurt pretty bad right now. I can't even open the orange juice at the moment, that's how bad my grip strength is. Time for a break.

Sink Update #1

I've managed to get everything disconnected, except for removing the cold water line. It's a bad angle and my grip strength is declining right now. Unfortunately the faucet won't come off without removing that line.

New faucet looks pretty spiffy though. It's got a sprayer built into the faucet itself. The "extra" hole in the sink will now be occupied by the soap dispenser which comes with the faucet.

While I'm taking a break and catching the score of the Illini game (33-0 Rutgers wins), I discover that it's thundering outside. This makes it highly unlikely that I'll be doing anything on my roof today. Ordinarily a somewhat short person like myself doesn't need to worry about being struck by lightning. I think that changes a bit when you a) climb up a metal ladder and b) stand on top of a house. DANGIT! And I even bought a new tube of exterior caulk. Grrrrr.

But while I was making my weekly effort to keep the Lowe's Corporation in business (I really ought to buy stock....), I happened to buy some silicone caulk for my shower doors. I observed the other day that the inside of the shower door frame has been caulked in a particularly sloppy manner, complete with hair (not mine) stuck in the caulk. The outside of the door frame is covered with some sort of pre-fab plastic caulk stuff that's supposed to fold over and make a 90 degree seal. They didn't apply it very well though. My guess is that the previous owners had an issue with water escaping the shower. I've seen no evidence that the water escapes at all and I think I can do a nice job of caulking the shower, thus removing the crappy job. (I wouldn't really care, but I have to look at it every single day and it's icky to look at other people's hair stuck in my caulk.)

Friday, September 08, 2006


It's been a long week it seems, even if it was only 4 workdays.

Today I met the state's health commissioner. When we were introduced he said he'd heard about me. (I hope I didn't make a worried face at that.) He went on to say he was glad I'd come on board and gave me a welcome. He also complimented me on my shirt and said it was a good color for me.

Met some the women who run the nutrition and WIC programs today. Chatted a bit with some other folks in the upstairs half of the office. By the end of the year I ought to be able to remember half their names. There's only about 50 people in the office. I really ought to work on my ability to remember names.

Weekend Plans:
I'd like to say I was going to the lake, river, beach, etc., but, alas, I am not. I could, of course, do that, but I've got a stack of stuff to do at the house. Here's the list of stuff to do (not all of it this weekend):
  1. Re-clean carpets in office and knitting room.
  2. Replace kitchen faucet (the drip started to miss the container I put under there, so I'm just going to fix it). Hopefully this won't take all day on Saturday. Lowe's opens at 6am and I'm hoping to get there about 7am.
  3. Re-caulk plumbing vent pipe flashing.
  4. Bait mice in attic.
  5. Clean bathroom and kitchen (just the usual weekly clean up)
  6. Laundry (and put away clothes)
  7. Re-arrange garage and put shelving units where I want them.
  8. Finish unpacking living room and move boxes to garage.
  9. Unpack office as much as possible and find computer speakers.
  10. Mow entire lawn on Sunday. Should be able to get the back yard to a manageable length this time around.
  11. Wash my car.
  12. Unpack/rearrange guest room.
I know I won't get to it all. I may clean the carpets tonight so they can dry overnight. I don't feel like doing all that much hard work tonight. I'll definitely be going to bed early. It's funny that working 7.5 hours at a desk is wearing me out more than a 12 hour shift hauling around patients who weighed >350 pounds on top of a cot that weighed almost 100 pounds. Who'd have thought that brain work would be physically draining.... Must remember to take my walking shoes to the office (and leave them there) with some socks and go for a walk at lunchtime.

Right now I either hear a movie calling me from the TV (so I can unpack/rearrange the living room) or I hear the steam cleaner calling. I can't decide which.... :o)

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Do you think this product comes with a warning regarding how long you'll be grounded based upon which member of the family or community you hit with it? Looks like fun, doesn't it? I suppose for some persons/objects, you may receive a reward for hitting them. This brings to mind a favorite quote from Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary: There are four kinds of homocide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy, but it makes no great difference to the person slain whether he fell by one kind or another -- the classification is for advantage of the lawyers.

The roof is on!

Well, the roof joists/I-beams are on the tallest part of the new hospital wing, at least. The sheet metal for the sub-floor is going in too. Cement trucks have been coming and going steadily all week. I can't tell where they're putting the cement though. Must be down low and inside somewhere.

Yesterday morning, the photo to the left is what I could see from my office window. It was just the *tiniest* bit foggy out. I like how the top end of the crane just vanishes in the mist. Didn't stop the construction workers at all. They were still moving I-beams up to the top.

Today's Rant and Rave:

Paris Hilton got arrested for driving erratically and then failing a field sobriety test. Today Paris says she wasn't really drunk because she'd only had one margarita on and empty stomach (and no food all day). So, because she was tired and hungry she was "kind of speeding". I'm thinking it doesn't matter how much you've had to drink and how long it's been since you ate, driving impaired, whether due to alcohol or exhaustion, is a problem. So is driving erratically and dangerously because you can't wait to have fast food. I'd even go so far as to say that driving erratically and dangerously is a problem *regardless* of reason. When are people going to realize that driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit is a problem, whether that takes one drink or a case of drinks. Stop making excuses. Stop saying it's not "really drunk". You screwed up, girl. Be responsible and own up to it. (Why do I think hell is going to freeze over before that happens?)

I remember a long long time ago when a UI student and his passenger were killed when said student drove his new Honda Civic CRV head-on into a tree. His friends who had been drinking with him at the bar they'd just left prior to the accident said that he hadn't been drinking much and that he didn't seem really drunk, just happy. Being "just happy" led to him driving his brand new car into a tree at >50 mph. But I suppose that wasn't his fault either. They were just hungry or something. At least they only killed themselves.

Who needs pets?
Several folks at work today asked if I had pets. I told them I didn't. I got offers of toy poodle puppies and an adult (I think) cat that is already declawed and spayed/neutered. Given the fauna inhabiting my house and yard, I may just start telling folks I have pets. Two nights ago there was a spider web >2 1/2 feet in diameter outside my kitchen window. The spider was almost 2 inches across (body was almost 1 inch across). There were a pair of black and yellow orb weavers in the front flowerbeds, but they disappeared after the last hard rain.

For those of you who are keeping track, one of the mole hills I squashed down yesterday was fluffed up again today. Still haven't gotten any poison.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Ok, on the count of three....

everybody pretend to be surprised by today's announcement: The US government has been doing sneaky secret things and not telling anybody!! Even more surprising, it's the CIA that's being sneaky--didn't they *invent* sneaky? Hmmmmm.....surely anybody with half a dozen neurons has considered the possibility, even the likelihood, that the government has been doing stuff like this DESPITE the fact they've been telling you they haven't. Haven't we all learned by now that what the government says and what the government does sometimes suffers a bit of a disconnect? Obviously those who haven't are unfamiliar with the saying "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (George Santayana (1863-1952) The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905)

I can think of at least three instances during my lifetime in which the government admitted to making things up or at least not sharing the whole story about something which directly affected the general public. If they'd allow unpublicized and intentional radiation releases along the California coast to see how far it would drift, would suppress draft records of men enrolled in the Tuskeegee syphillis experiment so as to keep them from receiving effective treatment, and would tell the public that the Three Mile Island nuclear accident involved no release of radioactivity, what makes you think they'd tell the US public about a secret jail (or a dozen of them) that doesn't directly impact our daily lives?

I have been greatly amused by the rather shocked and surprised reactions of some news outlets. I guess they haven't been watching the US government for very long. Let's remember, the oath that politicians take when they take office does NOT include the words "I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth". Those words go to a different oath, thought some politicians end up swearing that one too.

Which brings me to former governor George Ryan's sentencing today. I had to laugh when the governor's lawyer bemoaned the fact that his aging client would be spending many, if not all, of his last years of life in jail. My instant reaction was that he should have considered that when he gave lucrative contracts to political cronies. (I did manage to not yell this at the radio.) I'm not particularly sympathetic for two reasons: First, there are consequences to illegal actions when you get caught and one of those consequences is jail time. Second, I doubt that Mr. Ryan will go to a "real" correctional facility and be mixed in the general prison population. I imagine he'll end up at a country club type facility like Martha Stewart. The only thing that will change in his life is his mailing address (and even that may not change depending upon how his assistants handle his mail). Quit whining and suck it up.

Today's just an R&R day, isn't it? (According to my favorite auto mechanics, Click and Clack, R&R stands for Rant and Rave.)

I don't think my credit union likes me. It seems as though every time I go in there the computer dies, only brand new staff who don't know how to do whatever transaction I need to do are working, or something else goes wrong. I think there's a sensor in the driveway that can tell it's me and then it zaps the network before I get to the door. In Urbana, the library computer system didn't like me. It would bog down on days when I had a dozen books to check out and LOTS of people in line after me. It got to the point that the library staff would recognize the behavior and start to laugh. Hmmmm.....perhaps I should get a job as a sys admin for a large server farm. Just think of the havoc this ch1x0r could wreak just by crossing the threshold.

Around the house:
Need to mow the lawn tomorrow. Tomorrow is also trash day. I really should buy a big outdoor trashcan. I keep forgetting to do that when I'm at Lowe's. Need to get mole poison too. Found only one new mole hole addition today. None yesterday.

I have set myself a deadline for unpacking and putting stuff away. Columbus Day. It's around October 10th. That means I need to stop cruising the various blogs I follow and quit watching classic movies on TCM after work. It also means I need to quit messing around with the yard and get some of the inside work done.

Office carpet still stinks. Knitting room carpet smells a lot better. I read somewhere that a 1:2 vinegar:water solution sprayed over the carpet will help neutralize the smell. I think I'll keep trying Febreze and baking soda until the weekend. then I'll steam both carpets again and see how that goes. And I'll re-arrange the garage so I can store stuff in there.