Sunday, October 29, 2006

Personal Responsibility!

I'm impressed! There was personal responsibility demonstrated on TV today! I caught an episode of Top Chef on Bravo. One of the teams ended up with a case of lychees they did not pay for. One of the team members, Otto, knew they hadn't paid for it, but would have used it until someone on his team called him on it. Team members advised Chef Tom Colicchio who immediately stopped that team, called them all together and made it clear that not making good on it was going to be unacceptable. At that point Otto returned the case to the store. The challenge went on.

At the end of the challenge, the discussion with the judges centered on the lychees. They had decided that if Otto take responsibility for the error in judgement they would vote him out. Otto not only took responsibility, he removed himself from the competition. He said it was bad judgement, that he hadn't been thinking clearly in the face of the competition and that he was wrong. It was very well said. The judges didn't say anything other than that they accepted his resignation. I think several of his teammates were taken aback by the rather quick solution. I think at least one of them was expecting him to be lectured and was looking smug before Otto started to speak. After he spoke she seemed unsettled.

Joint update:
The anatomical sort of joint, that is. I spent 20 minutes on the trainer tonight. I didn't push things at all, just got the heart pumping a bit. I had some stiffness in my right knee, but no pain. I think the stiffness is slowly resolving. My elbow and hip weren't bothered at all, but I didn't think they would be. I'll work my shoulders and abs in a little bit, then stretch really well. I would work my biceps but between the weed whacker yesterday and the pesticide sprayer today my biceps are a bit sore and tired already. I worried that the 2 gal sprayer tank would aggravate my right elbow, but it didn't. Yay!

Open Season!
Saw this entertaining film today "with" Mitch. Boog was highly entertaining, as was Elliott. The porcupine was really cute. "Buddy!" was about all the porcupine said. He reminded me a bit of Eeyore, but was more cheerful. Beth, the park ranger, was mostly an annoying sort of brainless character with really big shoes. The squirrels were hilarious with their leader threatening to "kick your big blue bahookie!" I'm not entirely sure what a bahookie is, but I'm fairly certain I don't want mine kicked. The plot was highly predictable. The CG rendering of the characters was good, though not as meticulous as Pixar films. I did notice there were 11 people assigned to rendering only hair.

Knitting plans....
I found the Wool and Company blog, which is primarily written by Jen, who I met through Mitch several years ago. She's been working on a really cute hat lately. I've even had breakfast with the hat model sitting on my lap, though she was less than a year old at the time. Anyway, I may have to use the pattern Jen developed for some charity hats. It would be cute knit in helix stripes too. Now, to find a couple of charities who need kid-sized hats. I need to check the requirements for The Dulaan Project and Children in Common. I should also find the address for the hospital in Wisconsin to which I used to send preemie hats.

In the interest of finishing projects, I am going to pull out my red lace socks to finish. These are the socks that I have knit to halfway down the instep about three times, having to rip back to above the heel several times to fix errors. I think it's time to finish them. Then I'll start in on some of the nice Mountain Colors sock yarn I bought just before I left Urbana. I did finally get the ends darned in on about three pairs of socks that I finished some time ago and have been wearing. Just for giggles I should inventory my sock yarn stash and see how many pairs of "unknit socks" I have.

Disgusting food product of the day:
An people wonder why Americans are fat.....

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Most Excellent Weather!

The day started out bright and sunny. The leaves have really started to turn colors this past week. The maple tree in the back corner of the yard has become bright yellow. The sweet gums are starting to turn scarlet. None of my oak trees are changing colors yet.

The temp got up to the upper 60s, so it was a great day to do some work outside. I planted the maple seedling and Rose of Sharon seedlings I brought from Urbana. I also finally put the mums in the ground. Weed whacked the dog pen, the flower bed out front, around the pool and the side of the yard barn. I will need to rake up the clippings tomorrow. I marked where I'll divert the drainage ditch away from my yard barn. I don't know that I'll fix that this weekend though.

The indoor projects included fixing the weatherstripping on the front door. All I had to do was remove the foam that the previous owners had put on the door frame and the existing weatherstripping started to do its job. No more light shining around the edges of the door. There is still a gap at the bottom of the door, but a new door sweep or threshold should fix that. Conveniently the previous owners had purchased a new door sweep and left it (still in its package) in the garage. All I need to do is install it. I would like to get my bedroom painted some time in the next month and re-paint the bathroom/vanity area. That'll be a good rainy day project.

The current major indoor project: the garage shelves.






I remembered to get a stud finder today. It would seem that the previous owners did put the uprights on the studs. It would be nice if the shelves could be put in right side up and fit properly. On closer look, the problem is that the spacing of the uprights is off by about 1/4 inch. I did get one shelf (only held up by two brackets) wedged in there, but I don't think that will work with the other shelves since they have three or four brackets, all of which are probably spaced incorrectly. I may be able to get away with bending the wire at the back of the shelves in order to make them fit around the brackets.

Other fun stuff:
New pajamas, featuring Earl and Mooch from Mutts. And I'm going to have an Amy's Spinach Pizza for dinner while wearing my new PJs.

Oooh! I found Bob's Red Mill steel cut oats at Kroger!! This was *awesome*! I was just about ready to run out of oats and was worried about finding steel-cut oats here. Problem solved! It also appears that Quaker is getting in on the steel-cut oats business, but the price for their oats is *TWICE* what is being charged for Bob's oats. I also discovered that Kroger has a sizeable cheese section where I can get goat cheese, Gouda, imported Parmesan, and fresh Mozzarella. w00t!

Eating plans:
It's pizza today for dinner and probably tomorrow too. I'm focusing on cooking whole grains and veggies this week. I will make spinach lasagne or spinach ravioli, but other than that the menu will be heavy on the millet, rice and quinoa. Soon it will be soup season. I look forward to working my way through my 365 soups cookbook. I've got salad greens for lunch this week. I really really like the Newman's Own Light Balsamic Vinaigrette. It's not terribly oily like many vinaigrettes and it has tons of flavor. I'm certainly more likely to eat salad when I like the dressing.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Another awesome idea I had

and someone else ran with.....

Since I have taken to watching CSI on a daily basis courtesy of Spike TV, I have decided that I will lift weights during the commercial breaks to get me off the couch periodically and get in a bit of strength training (I want my buff deltoids back!). What do I see in the November 2006 Self magazine? A workout geared to a 30 min television show! At least they used one of my fav TV shows, SpongeBob SquarePants, as the TV show to workout during. The idea is to do a strength circuit during the show, then run in place or do other cardio during the commercials.

The last killer idea I had was to somehow develop a way to block pop-up windows in browsers. I was advised by a geek friend that it was impossible. I think it's safe to say that software development isn't his strong suit. Or at least not that variety of software.

Weekend Plans
The usual: grocery store raid, laundry, routine housework stuff.

The unusual: mouse corpse recovery from the attic and re-baiting, poisoning the moles in the yard, possibly building a bonfire in the backyard (it *is* Halloween/Samhain this week), turn clocks back Saturday night, add weights to the pool cover so it stops ballooning up in the wind, weatherstrip the front door.

Depending upon the weather and time, I could finish digging up the flowerbed I started digging a couple months ago. I can dump the sod/dirt in the low spots elsewhere in the side and back yards. Low spots which were highlighted by the rain in the past couple of days. I might also re-direct the ditch between my yard and the neighbor's yard so the water doesn't flow up against and possibly under my yard barn. I should also plant the mums I bought a while ago, the Rose of Sharon seedlings and also plant the acorns so I have oak seedlings to transplant in the spring.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Warning! These shoes will self-destruct in 5 seconds....

Actually, I don't know how long it took for them to self-destruct. I noticed the heel of one of them made a "sticky" noise on my kitchen floor as I was leaving for work. I didn't think anything of it and figured whatever it was would get worn off during the day. As I stood in the hallway at work waiting to sing "Happy Birthday" to Susan, I noticed that the left heel of my shoe felt like something was stuck to it.

After I sat down in my cube, I discovered that the outside of the heel had started to peel off the shoe. By the end of the day both heels had pretty much disintegrated. I hadn't worn these shoes in the at least three years, but didn't expect this sort of thing.

What's funny is that I set out a different pair of shoes to wear initially, but changed my mind because I wanted to wear socks since it was cold. Except that the socks I chose wouldn't fit in these shoes and I ended up wearing "trouser socks" or knee-high tights instead. Obviously I should have changed the shoes when I changed the socks.

Assimilation or not:
I overheard on the news today that the wearing of a veil by a Muslim woman prevents her from assimilating into society. That's every bit as intelligent as saying women who wear jeans or have short hair don't assimilate into society. I think it would be more accurate to say that the speaker's perception of "American society" is rather closed-minded and restrictive.

It's funny, but while the US was founded by a bunch of folks who fled various countries for various religious and political reasons, the only acceptable religious and political views today are those found in western Europe. If you "look American", then you can't be an immigrant. Of course, by "look American" people seem to mean people are white and non-hispanic. Once they open their mouths, they have to be able to speak English fluently or they're somehow of lesser quality than "real" Americans.

I received an e-mail last week ranting that immigrants these days don't try to learn the language and instead expect us to learn their language and cater to them. Funny, when Americans go abroad we still expect everybody around us to speak English and typically make little effort to learn any of the language in the country we are visiting. I suppose that's different. What if the person who was speaking French to her child in the grocery store last week was 1) teaching her child French, 2) just visiting in this country or 3) attempting to help her child retain her native language. According to the author of the e-mail I received last week, the only acceptable solution is that this person is refusing to become a part of the US and shouldn't be allowed to stay here. Perhaps that's why few Americans are bi-lingual--having a second language would get you labelled as an immigrant outsider which apparently is a bad thing.

The e-mail asserted that it is the immigrants who are screwing up immigration. I would argue that it's the attitude of the citizens which has changed. Perhaps that's a function of post-9/11. Anything which isn't "us" is bad and not trustable. The fact of the matter is that we still live in the best country in the world and that is a privilege.

Here's to the "immigrants"
I am an immigrant. My ancestors immigrated here >200 years ago, but I'm still an immigrant. I am certainly not descended from any native culture in the US. So why don't I get lumped into the category of immigrant? How long ago did someone's family have to enter this country to qualify as American now? Is it because nobody from my cultural background has caused significant problems in this country? That argument doesnt' fly. Americans of European descent blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. Jim Jones was a white guy. So were Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. So were the folks in the US government who decided that slavery was a good idea. Fortunately they were outlasted by the people who decided it was a bad idea.

Is it because my family speaks English? At least a few of my ancestors were from England, so they had a head start on learning the language, but not all of them did. There is some Scandinavian blood in me. I'm willing to bet the Norwegians and Swedes in my background didn't speak English at first. Depending upon how long ago they arrived in this country, they may not have had the option of learning English *before* they came to this country as they would today. Even if they learned English before arriving here, they'd have accents. That would still mark them as immigrants. It takes a long time to lose an accent. I lived in Australia for a year as a teenager and was still identifiable by the Aussies as an American. I know people who have lived in the US for over 40 years and still have their native accent, even if they grew up bilingual.

I think the issue is that those who rant and rave about "immigrants" are feeling insecure. Americans are accustomed to being on top of the world and the best at everything. Things which we do not excel at are called "stupid" or "unimportant". We would, as a society, rather complain about how other people are getting ahead of us instead of working harder to get back on top of the game. If we spent half of the bitching time working instead of bitching we'd be a lot better off. Recent studies have indicated that American HS and college graduates are not competitive in the workforce when compared to foreign graduates. I'm willing to bet that the reason behind that is simple: effort and desire. They are willing to exert the effort and have the desire to succeed. Americans have a tendency to peform to the level of "good enough" and let it go at that. We wouldn't want to strain ourselves, after all.

The downside to this attitude is that we're getting passed up by the rest of the world. The response to this event seems to be more bitching ("All the Indians, Asians, etc are taking up all the college spots so "real" Americans can't go to college", which of course eliminates the possibility that said Indians and Asians are actually citizens of this country). The other response seems to be the mandating of school curricula. This may start to fix the problem in the elementary and secondary school systems, but doesn't fix it at college.

We've dug ourselves a deep hole and we're not making any effort to get out of it. Guess what folks, we're about to become obsolete. If we don't learn to adapt and put in the effort to keep up or get back to where we once were, that won't change. There are growing opportunities in other countries. They have no reason to suffer brain drain any more. The brightest and best in other countries aren't coming here to bail us out any more. They are staying in their own countries and our brains keep saying it's not fair and too hard to keep up. It'll be interesting to see how this trend develops over the next 10-20 years.

Ok, that's enough ranting for one day. I had a pretty good day at work. Time to put myself back in a good mood before bed.

Dialogue of the day, courtesy of CSI:
"Why are you throwing phone books?"
"Because beakers get glass all over the place."

I've had days like that. I throw yarn balls. Once I almost threw a baseball at the wall instead. That would have been bad.

Related trivia:
In an interview with Paul Simon (the singer/songwriter, not the politician), Mr. Simon showed the interviewer where he wrote his songs. It was in a room under the eaves of his house and he showed exactly where he thought up lyrics. It was in a corner of the room. Throwing a ball against the wall and floor in a rhythmic manner. The interviewer asked him why. I remember he said something along the lines of his mother always telling him to not throw the ball in the house, but this was his house so he could throw the ball wherever he wanted. I liked that.

Knitting update:
Here's the latest photo of the cashmere shawl. I've got three repeats done of the pattern. My goal is to get one repeat done a night. This will take more time as the shawl gets larger, but for now it takes about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is it bad when...

your knee clicks whenever you do squats or lunges? At least it doesn't click when I walk. Yet. It used to do that before I had the cartilage repaired. Of course, my ankles click when I walk, but I did break one of them a long time ago.

The good news is that the knee doesn't hurt when I do squats or lunges and it's not getting stuck or otherwise exhibiting abnormal behavior. I'll keep up with the walking, cycling and weight routine within reason until the knee doth protest. The right elbow, on the other hand, is getting painful, but only when under torque as when lifting a bottle of water with the elbow out. I guess that's my inspiration to use good manners and not stick out my elbow.

What I like best about October:
Several things, actually. Colorful leaves. Bright, sunny days with crisp air. The smell of burning leaves and wood fires. Scary movies on most of the cable TV channels, including TCM and AMC. While I still think the book is scarier than the movie, The Shining is awfully hard to pass up. I don't generally watch it all the way through because my attention wanders and Jack Nicholson's character is too disturbing in large quantities. Along with creepy movies, I also get the urge this time of the year to read creepy books. I try to re-read The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury each year the week before Halloween. I also like to re-read my favorite Edgar Allen Poe stories: The Sphinx, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado, to list a few. Perhaps I'll finish with some other macabre tales that I like such as An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman Perkins. By the end of the month I'll be leaving the light on at night to keep the monsters at bay. :o)

Poe-related infectious disease trivia: The man died of rabies. What a horrible way to go.

In other news:
I finished the first pattern repeat in my cashmere lace shawl. My John Deere Owner's Hat came in the mail today. The big crane at the hospital apparently was taken apart yesterday and carted away. It was gone today when I got to work. It didn't even say goodbye.

The test results on the gastroenteritis outbreak came back positive for Norwalk virus as we suspected it would. The lab was absolutely tickled they got to run the tests, since it's a new test for them. I also read a study published several years ago that says >74% of hospital employees say they themselves wash their hands properly all the time but they claim only 50% of their co-workers do. The researchers then placed hidden observers in the hospitals and actually observed that closer to 30% of employees (nurses, doctors, technicians, etc) actually washed their hands. This helps explain the rate of hospital-acquired infections in this country. I only wish more members of the public would get pissed off about it and would demand to see hospital infection rates. That's the only thing that is going to ever make it change. Certainly the death rate from hospital-acquired infections doesn't appear to be doing anything to bring about change.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Happy Mol Day!

Happy Mol Day everybody! Celebrate with 6.02x10^23 of whatever you like. I'm going to have a Mike's Hard Lemonade and hope that there are enough molecules of beverage in there to qualify. I could do the math to find out, but I don't feel like it. So *there*.

In honor of Mol Day, well, not really, it was entirely coincidental, I had a wonderful blog/website idea. Idea: To publish periodic short articles about basic science in the every day. I guess it's a non-engineering version of what Engineer Guy does. Of course, a quick Google search has revealed that Bayer supposedly has the same evil plan that I do, though their site is presently down. Fortunately I have other evil plans with which to take over the world.

Other Mole News

The backyard moles I attempted to irritate over the weekend by excavating their tunnels decided to make more tunnels. I feel I should almost thank them since they are doing a fine job of fluffing up the soil in the area which will become my veggie garden next spring. As long as they do NOT uproot my plants, we should get along just fine. Moles, I have learned, are not vegetarian, but instead eat worms and grubs. Garden damage is mostly accidental when their tunneling uproots stuff.

Happy Birthday iPod!

Five years ago today, Apple introduced the iPod to the universe. And the universe hasn't been the same since. Simplicity and elegance all in a nice, neat, functional and easy-to-use package.

No Poo Monday:
To my knowledge, no additional cases of gastroenteritis appeared in the ED or among the hospital staff where the outbreak occurred last week. Yay! I think the lab was going to run the test today on last week's samples. There should be results by Wednesday.

SCinet Staging Update:
Is it bad when the shipping company misplaces half the shipment? Surely you can just whip up some sort of fiber-optic cable substitute using gum wrappers, a Walkman (or iPod), a Swiss Army knife and pocket lint. I'm pretty sure I saw the MacGuyver episode where they did just that. :o)

Remember, Mitch, it's only Day 1 of staging. There's still plenty of time for everything to crash and burn yet. (I'm kidding. You know how this works: the real disasters will wait until set-up in November.)


Driving Excitement:

Nothing like having a full-sized Suburban come around a curve IN YOUR LANE and not slow down. Or move back over onto their own side of the road. Fortunately, I was able to stop before either hitting the mailboxes by the side of the road or running off the road.
The absence of a front license plate here means I have no hope of IDing the vehicles coming toward me or driving up the backside of my car. News flash for local drivers: STAY ON YOUR OWN SIDE OF THE ROAD IN CURVES. Just because the NASCAR drivers corner tightly, doesn't mean that you should. Remember, in NASCAR there is no oncoming traffic.

At this point, I'm pretty much resigning myself to having my car totalled in a hit-and-run accident by some idiot who can't keep it on their side of the line or otherwise follo
w the rules of the road. Too many idiot drivers for me to avoid forever. It is causing me to seriously re-consider staying here more than a few years.

Frosty Fall
We had frost last night. Temp was about 38 when I headed to work this morning. Frost expected tonight too. I had the heat off over the weekend, but turned it on last night. The leaves do not appear to be turning colors as rapidly here as I remember them changing in Illinois. I'm definitely going to get good use of my sweater collection. I had been worried about that, but not any more.

Fall Leaf Color Pic of the Week:


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Marathon Day

Today is the annual running of the Chicago Marathon. Obviously I'm not there this year, but I do think I'll get there next year and I fully expect to hack at least 2 1/2 hours off my previous (and only) best time. It'll be cool to cut that much time, but I'll only ever be able to do that once. My goal is to actually run most of the race, instead of walking it. No matter how fast I ever get, I'll always be a Penguin. Waddle on! :o)

Also running today in Chicago, is Dean Karnazes. Dean is running in 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. The idea is to get people to get off the couch and start getting active. I don't know that an elite ultramarathoner will inspire the average overweight Joe to get off the couch. Intimidate one into staying on the couch, perhaps.

Yesterday was the Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. Years ago I decided that I would finish a marathon by the age of 35 and by the age of 40 I was going to complete an Ironman distance triathlon. I've already proven to be stubborn enough to not quit in a marathon when I had effectively NO TRAINING prior to the start of the race. Just imagine what I can do with training....

Marathon Day activities:
I'm not running today. I'm not even going walking. My right knee and hip are rather unhappy still. I'm hoping that regular chondroitin supplementation will help with that and I should check in with my primary care doc once I pick one. I will get on the trainer later today however. An hour on the bike will be fun and doesn't seem to aggravate my knee at all.

I did jump into a marathon cleaning session though. I started to put away things in the guest room. I also steam cleaned the carpet in there. The dresser is in the right spot. I've decided which direction to put the futon. I even have a space to put the nightstand from the living room. I think I'll put the kids books in the spare bedroom too. That won't free up a whole lot of shelf space in the living room, but it's a good division of resources.

Yesterday was something of a marathon cleaning session too. The routine stuff got done yesterday (vacuuming, clean bathroom, clean kitchen, mop floors, laundry, grocery shopping, washing/vacuuming car). I also moved some of the lawn stuff to the yard barn after I completely cleaned out the yard barn. I started to fill in one of the big potholes in the yard too. Just to aggravate the moles, I dug up some of their tunnels. I don't know that it'll actually make any difference to the moles. The backyard now looks like it's got acne. The mole damage wasn't all that visible from the deck. My excavations are. :o) Oopsie. That's ok. I don't expect to spend much time on the deck now that it's getting cold. In fact, now that I think about it, I should move the grill to the yard barn too.

Quote of the day:
"As unfair as a hailstorm at harvest time...." Isn't that about right?

Knitting Today...
My newest project is the Kiri Shawl knitted in camel-colored laceweight cashmere I bought from The Twice Sheared Sheep. I've decided to rip out the grey cabled socks I've been working on. The pattern just isn't right and I did just find the perfect pattern for that yarn--the Cablenet socks from the Fall 2006 Knitty.

Walking Tall Trivia
I just caught an ad for the movie Walking Tall, starring The Rock. It'll be on TNT later this week. The trivia: Buford Pusser, the main character in the Walking Tall movies, is from McNairy County, Tennessee, which is less than a day's drive from here. Apparently he thoroughly aggravated the folks engaged in illegal activities along the Tennessee-Mississippi border for a number of years.

Driving and Technology

I think it may well be true that people here learned to drive by watching NASCAR. Today the truck in the right lane, poking along with its hazard lights on decided to drift over into my lane without bothering to look to see if there was a vehicle there. I'd have swerved but there was oncoming traffic. I honked and the truck moved back where it belonged, but the driver didn't seem particularly concerned. I guess you're just supposed to push whoever is passing on the left into the infield.

The funniest thing was watching the behavior at the new stoplight. The primary street's light is flashing yellow. The cross street is flashing red. It has always been my understanding that a flashing yellow light means proceed with caution. The flashing red light is treated like a stop sign. I was traveling along the primary street and was going to turn left at the light. Two vehicles in front of me were going to do the same thing. Several oncoming cars apparently were confused and started to treat the intersection like a stop sign. The two vehicles in front of me did try to wave the oncoming traffic through since they weren't supposed to stop, but that didn't really help. I think the fact that there was turn traffic stopped and waiting for a break in the traffic flow confused some of the drivers. I must say that I was impressed that the confused drivers did stop and try to figure things out. They did not just proceed with abandon and expect everybody else to get out of the way as I have seen happen elsewhere.

Cooking this week...
I didn't get much cooking done this week. I have a half-made pot of squash soup in the fridge (it just needs to be heated up and blended until smooth). I've still got fresh greens too and a freshly made pot of chili. I haven't had any chili yet, but I've been eating the cornbread I made to go with it. I've found a new favorite recipe for cornbread. I even baked it in my cast iron skillet! I've got several meals planned this week using quinoa, millet and lentils to use up some of the pantry supplies I brought with me. I need to work on halving the recipes I make so I don't have leftovers for more than a week. I hate throwing out food but I'm not going to start eating more just to not have to throw it out.

Baking....
For those of you who are keeping track, I've already gone through about 8 pounds of flour since moving here. I predict that I'll use up about 20 pounds of flour between now and Christmas.

This past week, I took cinnamon rolls to work for breakfast on Monday. They got rave reviews and several people asked for the recipe, which I happily provided. Right now, there is a big bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough in my fridge right now for the cookies I'll take to work on Monday, not for eating. I don't really like chocolate chip cookies. Actually, I just don't like chocolate very much. The cookie dough minus the chocolate is really good. But other people really like the cookies I make, so I keep making them. I just sent a box of cookies off to Mitch's hotel in Tampa so he can bribe/reward the SCinet fiber team during staging for SC06.

SCinet....
SCinet puts together the world's fastest high-performance network every year for the The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis, also known as SC. It takes a year of planning, a week of setup and it all gets torn down after a week. This year Mitch is the fiber lead for the whole shebang. Last year he was a DNOC team lead. Needless to say, by the first week of November, he's going to be a wee bit stressed, especially if one of the forklift operators insists on driving over the fiber drops again. (Apparently he did that twice before he got fired.) I'm sure the cookies will help. Just as long as nobody gets crumbs in the patch panels, right?

Doesn't this picture make you think of animals in the zoo? Techies/geeks at this level *are* a different sort of animal....


Speaking of technical things....
I discovered this week that the head IT guy at work is now referring problems he can't solve to me. Well, a colleague is taking a Java class and was having problems getting the compiler to run, so she went to ask Michael if he knew anything about Java. He said no, but told her to ask me. We were able to figure it out when standing there in the hallway and I later confirmed my solution with Mitch. Kimberly was very grateful. She's working on a degree or certification course in internet technologies. I told her to give me a call if she got stuck with stuff and I'll help her out where I can. That got me a standing invite to go 4-wheeling. :o)

Now, if I could just set up the server I'm waiting for....

Thursday, October 19, 2006

You know you have an unusual job when....

you can call someone and ask them to give you crap. Lots of crap, from as many people as possible and the looser the better. And mean it literally. How cool is that? :o)

Bug of the Week...
There's a GI bug making its way through a local community and local hospital staff. We're having trouble getting stool samples from the patients. So one of the county health department nurses will go to the hospital in the morning to corral the employees who have returned to work and talk them into producing samples for us. Even though they aren't sick now, they could still be shedding virus.

This outbreak has really driven home the importance of hand hygiene. I don't care how many gloves and gowns and masks you wear. If you do not don and doff them properly, dispose of them properly, wash your hands properly and clean up properly, the outbreak will continue.

On finding things to do at work...
I have started actively searching for things to do. I sent e-mail to a colleague a couple levels up the food chain from me stating that I very much wanted to become involved more involved and that I was looking for things to do since I accomplished my primary job goal/objective in two weeks. I got a fairly straightforward response which I will quote in its entirety here:

"Awesome!"

I'll take that as a good sign. Colleague said he would mull over the proposition and ask around to find things for me to help with. I also asked if there were any goals or projects to be accomplished. We'll see what happens.

Photos:
Here's my newly finished green lace scarf being blocked out rather sloppily. I wanted to have a quick look at it. I'll re-block it later with pins.

Next, the weekly hospital photo with "sleeping" cranes. It's been rainy so the cranes aren't doing much work.















Finally, the evening's "sunset" pic. No actual visible sunset though. The fog was rolling in. The leaves on the trees behind the house haven't really started to change yet. It's supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow. In fact, it's raining now. At least it's not raining sideways....






Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ames Plantation Day

I decided this morning that I would go to the Ames Plantation Festival today. It was an easy and scenic drive there. I had a map to get me to the plantation site and there were plenty of big signs marking the way. Parking was organized in a recently mowed hay field and school buses shuttled visitors from the parking area to the festival area. The shuttles ran a continuous loop, so there wasn't much waiting.

There were lots of historical re-enactors present. Soldiers from the Union and Confederate Armies, complete with camps and cannon. One of the cannon was cast in 1864 at the Revere foundry in Boston for the Union Army, but was captured. The officer with the cannon says they can get 1600 yards out of her using ball, but mostly keep her to 300 yards. He also commented that at the maximum distance, you really need a forward observer to get targeting down. When firing ball, the cannon, being made of bronze, rings like a bell too. There are dents along the sides of the barrel where they think bullets struck the barrel when opposing forces were attempting to kill the cannon crew. There was a second cannon, cast of iron for the Mexican-American War, but also used in the Civil War. This particular group of Civil War re-enactors and their cannon have been in a number of movies, including Gettysburg and Gods and Generals.


I watched spinners, a bobbin lace maker, a shuttle lace maker, a weaver, a dulcimer maker, a farrier (and a very handsome black draft horse who was watching everything around him with great interest), a chair caner, a basketmaker, several musicians, brick makers and some fellas with steam engines.




One steam engine was being used to grind cornmeal, one was pumping water (and could pump over 2100 gallons a day) and a third was being used to make ice cream for sale. The sound of a running steam engine is very distinctive. It reminds me a bit of the sounds that Mr. Mitty made in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (ta-pocket-a pocket-a). They don't sound like they run very hard, compared to internal combustion engines, but they do a lot of work.

I learned that the Ames Plantation is actually multiple plantations which were obtained by Mr. Ames. It is now 35 square miles. The plantation belongs to the UT Ag Experiment Station. The National Field Trial Championships (for bird dogs) take place in early February. I bet that's something to see. There was a dog in the 2006 trials named Chispa's Rampage. I'm willing to bet that it's no relation whatsoever to the dog named Chispa that lived next door when I was in kindergarten. That Chispa was a gray toy poodle and was blamed for *everything* that went wrong or got broken when my sister and I were growing up.

The plantation folks have built a brick kiln near the site of the plantation's original kiln and clay pit. Two men were demonstrating (with the help of some boy scouts) how bricks were made by hand. I did not realize that bricks were fired. I thought they were formed then air dried. It is true that they air dry, but are still very fragile as "green bricks" and cannot tolerate getting wet. Once a sufficiently large number of bricks is produced a kiln is built of the green bricks. Fires are built in the openings at the bottom and a low level of heat is used to cook the water out of the bricks. When the steam stops, the fire is built up hotter to cook the bricks completely. If you heat a green brick to the high temperature without cooking off the excess water first, the bricks tend to explode when the vaporized water escapes suddenly. A brick that got too hot tends to crack, so cannot be used on an exterior surface. Bricks which are not cooked enough are light in weight, but tend to be less sturdy and somewhat porous. I'd never given brick making much thought. I can see why brick houses and buildings were so expensive and so rare prior to mechanized brick production.

A fellow festival goer recommended hiking at Fall Creek Falls State Park when we rode the shuttle back to the parking area. We had ridden the shuttle into the festival together too and I had noticed that he has the men's version of my hiking boots. When I commented on that, he mentioned Fall Creek Falls.

By the time I got home I was exhausted. I made the mistake of not taking some sandwiches with me, so I basically went six hours without significant food and I walked around for a couple of hours too. I'm spending the evening drooling on myself and watching TV. I was going to organize the office this evening, but I think I'd be better off waiting until tomorrow and just go to bed early tonight.

In the Heat of the Night
Mr. Poitier just put a nice wrist lock on the murder suspect in "In the Heat of the Night". I can see why the suspect decided that kneeling next to Mr. Poitier would be a good idea, based upon the angle of his arm and hand. I've seen a similar hold in aikido class, but of course I don't know the name of it. Standing up becomes pretty much impossible, but holding that lock is fairly effortless.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Frosty FRIDAY!

The week is over! Yay! It was also payday this week. Double yay!

Frosty

It was 27 degrees this morning when my alarm clock went off. It got much warmer during the day (up somewhere in the 60s), but there was a heavy coat of frost on everything this morning. It didn't take much to scrape the car windows clean though. I really should get my garage cleaned up so I can park inside this winter. Perhaps I'll move the mower to the yard barn. I hope the mantis didn't freeze to death. I didn't see her in the rose bush or on the fence. I didn't look to hard for her on the ground at the bottom of the fence or bushes. Some things you just don't want to know. I hope I have a yard mantis next year.

Philosophizing....
I realized something this week. Well, re-remembered it, at least. I am happiest when busy. I *need* to have stuff to do. I cannot work at half speed, just as I cannot do a half-assed job of something. I must work at a good pace for me (which may vary with the task at hand, but is generally faster than the pace of those around me) and must do an excellent job. I just can't help it. It's how I'm wired. I also can't be at work and not do work. That's a completely unacceptable work ethic. I'm being paid to do work, so I should be doing work.

Earlier this week I got really frustrated at work. I really didn't have anything to do. I answered a couple of questions about some ongoing investigations, but other than that I mostly looked for new information to share via the newsletter or to add to my own mental library. I kept busy, but it was busywork that I found for myself. Nothing which was at all intellectually strenuous or challenging or anything that would give me a sense of accomplishment. I realized partway through the week that the reason I had been having a thoroughly dissatisfying week was due to not having enough to do. The thought that went through my head at several points was "Is this it?" Although I was secretly tickled to have amazed everybody with the development of a syndromic surveillance program in under two weeks, it had a downside. In two weeks of actual work (or less than two months since starting my job), I accomplished everything I was hired to do. Yes, you heard me. I did everything they wanted. In two weeks.

Today I sent e-mail out to my bosses asking "what next?". I got some suggestions. I also got told that I'm an excellent resource and addition to the office, as well as a pleasure to work with. I said thanks for the suggestions and said that I like to keep busy. We'll see how long it takes for me to drive everybody nuts with requests for finding things to do and "excessive" productivity. :o)

Weekend Plans
On Saturday, there is a historical arts festival within a day's drive from here. They are supposed to have demos of knitting, spinning, weaving, making soap, tatting and that sort of thing. The festival is at a plantation which is part of the state extension/ag experiment stations. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to go. It would be fun, but I really want to get my home office re-organized and start on the guest room.

Sunday I'm going to bake cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Monday. I'll also make chocolate chip cookies for the office. I'm kinda feeling like baking something tonight, but I don't know what I'll make. I've got recipes picked for the next week already and I don't need to buy anything for groceries either. This has cleared up half a day to play or work.

So, what to do? There is always knitting. Movies on TV. Unpacking. Laundry. Learning Linux. All sorts of options. Right now my brain is mooshy, though in a good way. I had a couple of rants/essays percolating earlier today, but I can't remember any of them now. For the moment, I'll watch my two hours of CSI re-runs and maybe play StarCraft for an hour before bed. I'm about 1/3 of the way through reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Harry is about to start the first challenge of the TriWizard Championship.

Dining Plans:
I had a Cedar Lane foccacia stuffed with tomatoes and cheese. It was not very appetizing. The cheese ended up with the texture of a combination of white paste and rubber cement. I cut the foccacia into 4 pieces. I ate two of them, just to be sure that my initial assessment of "Yuck!" was correct. I'm not going to eat the rest of it and I won't be buying that particular product again. So now I'm about to eat a bowl of oatmeal with raisins for dinner. It's probably better for me than the foccacia anyway. Certainly lower fat and it'll help lower my cholesterol. (on a related note, I wonder if there is a point beyond which consumption of whole oat products and oat bran will no longer lower cholesterol levels. I'm sure there is. I have no idea what it is.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Applause!

Today was an interesting day. It started with a late invite to the executive staff meeting. I got introduced to the county health directors, some of whom I'd already met. The director did the honors. I was described as having degrees in animal science and epidemiology. I was described as being "biologically qualified" to do the job. This confused people. What he meant was that I have the background in biology and science to do pretty much anything. There was some discussion that there had never been any good understanding of what the epidemologists could/should do in the region. The director indicated that I am a resource for everybody and encouraged them to call me. I am there to provide advice, consultation, information, etc. as needed. One county director asked me for my phone number. I'm hoping I get a call from folks in the next week. I very nearly said "Bring it on!" when the director said I am available to everybody.

At the end of the meeting it was announced that the syndromic surveillance system was now running on a daily basis. This yielded a round of applause with several folks turning to look at me. A comment was made by a colleague that I don't recall clearly, but it pointed out that it sure didn't take long for me to do what was apparently impossible for my predecessor. Then he and the person sitting next to him turned to look at me and nodded. I smiled. W00t!

It's getting COOOOOOOLD!
The temperature this morning was in the lower 40s. It only got into the 50s for a high and it's dropping now. I turned the heat on in the house. It was about 67 degrees in here when I got home. The front door desperately needs to be weatherstripped. You can see light around the edges of the door and the wind whistles. I suppose it may be easier to just put in a new door since the existing door doesn't fit completely square anyway. I've already turned on the electric blankie and I've tucked my PJs in underneath it to pre-warm them. That's gonna feel SOOOOOOOOOOOO good to climb into.

I've moved the container plants in to the garage. This weekend I should plant the Rose of Sharon seedlings and the maple tree I brought from Illinois. I picked up two dozen acorns out of the backyard. I'll plant a bunch of them in the yard too, then, after they sprout in the spring, will move them to where I want an oak tree. The grass hasn't grown enough that I'll be needing to mow this week. The overseeded area is sprouting nicely, for all that I only watered it once. The dew is heavy enough that I think it really helped things along.

Dinner:
Had a big baked potato from the local BBQ joint at lunch. Tonight I had a cheese quesadilla and a big steaming bowl of spinach soup. I will finish off with a big hot mug of tea. My hands are quite chilly and feeling a bit numb. I'll work on some menu stuff for next week. I think I'll hit the grocery store on the way home tomorrow instead of making a separate trip in to town on Saturday morning.

Knitting this week

I haven't done any knitting since Monday's meeting. I am going to try and finish my scarf this weekend. Then I'll work on either socks or the lace shawl I started a couple of weeks ago. I won't get that shawl finished for this winter, I don't think. The office is apparently pretty cold most of the winter. I may need a space heater. Today I felt like I needed gloves, but that was mostly because my hands were cold from driving in to work.

Photos for the day
I saw the mantis again tonight. She's turning yellow. I hope it's just for the fall, not a sign that she's dying at the end of the season. When I first saw her, her arms were over her eyes, as though she were playing hide and seek.

And, tonight's sunset....

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The beginnings of fall....

The change begins:
Here's a photo from my drive home. The green in the leaves is fading slowly, allowing the reds, yellows and browns to come out. I'll see if I can repeat this picture with some regularity over the next few weeks.

Hospital pic for the day:
Today they added some spiky things to the top left side of the steel frame. On a castle, I'd call them crenellations. They'd serve as protection when firing weapons and give you a great vantage point for pouring boiling oil and other nastiness on your enemies. They'd make good rope attachment points for rapelling or climbing too.

Upcoming entertainment:
Tom the Hispasian's favorite movie, Borat, is coming out in early November. In honor of the President of Hispasia, I feel the need to go see this film. Tom and I decided that Borat is possibly Hispasian, despite his claim to be from Kazahkstan.

On a related geographical note....
Tom and I used to discuss/malign Uzbekistan fairly frequently when discussing how far away something or some place was from where we were. (eg, "Had to drive halfway to Uzbekistan to find the CD I wanted to buy.") According to the book Unforgettable Journeys to Take Before You Die, one of the trips they recommend is to follow the Silk Road to Samarkand, which is in Uzbekistan. Now that I'm slowly accumulating vacation time, I may have to start planning a vacation. Samarkand sounds like as good a place as any, don't you think?

Today's Rant:
This evening on NPR was a story about cancers in adults who had cancers as kids. One woman who had Hodgkin's lymphoma as a teenager was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in her 30s. She grumbled about how nobody told her she might be at higher risk of cancer either as a side effect of her lymphoma treatments or because she'd already had cancer. One of the doctors interviewed said that very few physicians know to screen their patients for early cancer. I don't buy it. Any patient who provides a GOOD history to their physician ought to include past history of lymphoma. I'm thinking you don't "forget" an illness which may require radiation and/or chemotherapy treatments. It's been common knowledge since the 1980s as far as I know that kids who have cancer early often get it again later. (Hey, it was on PBS, so it's not like it's being kept secret.)

It really sounded like the patient they interviewed was looking for someone to blame for her recent cancer. Wouldn't you be that much more aggressive in preventive care and *asking* for screenings? I know if I had a history of breast cancer in my family I wouldn't be waiting for a mammogram until my 40s. I'd have started getting them already. But that's just me. What do I know. Whatever happened to the practice of medicine being a two-way team effort? Personal responsibility and taking some control over what happens to you. Wouldn't you really be primed to do that especially if you'd already had one serious medical problem?

Tonight's Dinner:
Baked acorn squash stuffed with mashed turnips and carrots with a bit of grated apple and some brown sugar. The recipe is from Crescent Dragonwagon's Passionate Vegetarian. I should have made a nice green salad to go with it, but I didn't think of that until just now.

I did notice as I chopped up the carrots that they're from Bolthouse Farms, the same company who recently recalled all of its carrot juice from the market after several cases of botulism were traced back to their product. It appears that the problem was that the consumers failed to refrigerate the carrot juice after it was opened. Being that carrot juice is a low-acid product, Clostridium botulinum spores survive the processing and were able to germinate, producing toxin. No, I wasn't worried about getting botulism from the fresh carrots. The toxin is only produced under anaerobic (oxygen-free) conditions and my bag of fresh baby carrots was hardly oxygen-free. Botulism spores exist throughout the environment and we probably consume some every day only to have them destroyed by stomach acid.

Tonight's Entertainment:
Just watched two back-to-back episodes of CSI, neither of which I'd seen before. Right now I'm watching Aretha sing "Think!" in the Blues Brothers on AMC. Jake and Elroy are on a mission from God. Now I think I'll go clean up the kitchen and start getting things squared away for work tomorrow.

The temperature is supposed to get into the mid 30s tonight. I think I'll be turning the heat on tonight and definitely finding myself a sweater for tomorrow. The office was freezing today and I understand that's how things will be all winter long. I'm going to have to knit myself a nice warm shawl or stole SOON! I'm happy to know my sweaters won't be going to waste even though I've moved South.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Annoyances and pictures

I found out what happened to the Monday annoyances. They saved themselves up for today.

I got a collection notice in the mail today for a phone bill that was paid in full two months ago, then billed again (labelled by the phone company as the "revised final bill") for service I never received. The account was cancelled on August 8th and the second final bill was for August 14th-September 14th. I called the phone company after the "revised bill" arrived and the customer support person verified that the account had indeed been cancelled on the 8th. She also cleared the charges associated with the account. That was almost two weeks ago. Today I received a notice from a collection agency stating that my account was sent to them. So I called AGAIN about a bill I should have *never* received. The phone company girl assured me that my balance was zero and that I can disregard the collection agency notice. What do you want to bet that in another two weeks I get yet another "final bill"? I did check my credit report (courtesy of the US Dept of Education's screw up several months ago) and verified that no collections actions are associated with my person. How hard is it to get things fixed the *first* time?!?!? I was good though. I didn't yell on the phone or get annoyed at the customer service girl. Once she verified things were ok, I thanked her and said that was all I needed.

Then I completely panicked. For some reason I was unable to see in my check register that I'd paid my mortgage. I thought I remembered paying it, but wasn't sure. Logged in to my bank account and the check just cleared a few days ago. Sure enough, once I got my brain connected to my eyes, there's the entry in the check register. That settles it. I'm going through both accounts and squaring everythign away in Quicken, then writing up a calendar for payments. It's the only way to stay organized and on top of things. This sort of brain lapse and inability to keep things organized is driving me nuts. I shouldn't still be this disorganized after moving.

The final annoyance? CSI is *not* on tonight. There's some stupid Ultimate Fighter Marathon on Spike TV instead. GRRRRRRR! And I was *really* looking forward to two hours of Gil Grissom's dry sense of humor too. DANG IT! So instead I'm flipping between the movie XXX (with Vin Diesel kicking butt) and an old Bette Davis movie on TCM. My attention is being captured by neither of them.

Alternate Entertainment:
Made a pot of spinach-potato soup. It's very green. Pretty tasty too, especially with a dollop of sour cream on top. The soup itself is missing something, but I'm not able to put my finger on what should be added. I would work on the finance straightening away this evening, but I've barely got two functional neurons left to rub together. Perhaps I'll make enchiladas for tomorrow's dinner or I could just play StarCraft or read a book after I clean up the kitchen.

Photos for the day:
The infamous AmphibiCows!

For some reason, the cows in this pasture are almost always in the pond. I could understand this during August when it was hot. Tonight it was in the 50s and still there was one cow in the pond. Perhaps she's having hot flashes. I think these cows aren't entirely mammals, thus the name amphibi-cows. In case you can't see her, the cow is on the right side of the pond, next to the fence post.

Block of cotton:
This is what a harvested cotton field produces. Giant bricks of cotton. I don't know what the expected yield of a cotton field is or how much cotton goes into one of these modules, but it's got to be several tons by weight. Heck, I don't even know if the cotton is ginned before being put into a module or not. I'd be interested to see the outcome of a crash between a car or truck and a cotton module. Did you know that two thirds of a cotton boll is actually seeds? Cotton seeds are a marketable product too. Cottonseed oil is used for cooking and is found in lots of snack products. The seed hulls get used as animal feed.

The leaves are just now starting to change colors, but in a week or so I should have some good photos of leaf color to post.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Marvelous Monday

Unlike last week, when it seemed like most things didn't go quite right on Monday, everything went pretty well today. I remembered everything I was going to take to work. I didn't have traffic problems. No disasters arose at work, although a brief power outage and subsequent power surge fried a co-worker's computer. (Note to self: bring CDs in tomorrow for backups.)


More Construction!
Remember when I said I thought they were done adding major girders to the hospital wing? I was wrong. They're still at it. They're also putting in the stairwells.

Knitting group!
Tonight was the monthly knitting group. Ruth and Josie are going on their trip to ride the train in North Carolina next weekend. Mary Ann and Ruth are putting together gift baskets to be sold at the progressive dinner being put on by a local historical society. Susanne frogged the shrug she was knitting last month and worked on a baby blanket tonight. Paige had to leave early to pick her son up from karate. Mary Ann was working on a capelet and gave me a copy of the pattern (a freebie from Plymouth Yarns). She also had a dish cloth with a bit of tulle knitted into one end to make a scrubbie area. She purchased one at a gift shop on a trip to Utah/Colorado/Arizona, then developed her own design. I think you could actually make a scrubby/dishcloth combination using double knitting. I'll have to work on that plan.

The drive home:
The harvest moon was rising, over 3/4 full, through thick ropes of clouds. Tendrils of fog drifted across the fields and hovered over the road forming an intermittent ceiling. Choruses of bugs were chirping. I saw a spike buck grazing in the ditch next to a recently harvested bean field. Someone along the way had a wood fire burning, adding a rich aroma to the crisp night air. It was the sort of scene that might have inspired "The Halloween Tree" by Ray Bradbury and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving. Just enough shadow and light to fool the eyes and imagination. All the evening needed was a few jack o' lanterns glowing on a porch, an owl hooting in the night and a big mug of apple cider to drink.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

GERMIES!

E. coli strikes again! This time in ground beef. The company involved says the recall is unnecessary since nobody's gotten sick. The microbiology results indicate the germ is indeed there. Personally, I think it's a bit irresponsible to say the product doesn't need to be recalled. Certainly releasing for sale any food product known to be contaminated doesn't seem a good idea. It's also likely to generate all sorts of criminal negligence issues. I suppose they're not really thinking about the potential repercussions of what might happen if the USDA tests are right. Hudson Foods, a much larger producer of ground beef, ended up going out of business following an E. coli outbreak that was traced back to them.

TV today
Watched International Velvet on TCM. Obviously, this is one of my favorite movies since it features horses. (trivia note: the book National Velvet was the first "grown up" book I ever purchased. I got it at Kroch and Brentano's in downtown Chicago when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. It's still on my shelf and I read it every couple of years.) I skipped watching Double Indemnity. While I really like Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, I just don't like that particular movie. The characters in it just have no redeeming value that I can see. I suppose that's the point, but I still don't like it.

On the topic of horses....

I have a standing offer from a woman at work to come ride horses at her place. She's got more horses than she can get to and so does a neighbor/relative of hers. Her horses are gaited horses by breed, but not necessarily trained to be gaited show horses. I've never ridden a gaited horse. As soon as I track down a helmet, I'll give Becky a call and see about riding a bit. Need to get one pair of boots resoled too. Fortunately I've got two pair....

Movie quotes:
"She thought she was last in the race if there was anybody in front of her."
"I'm never going to be what people expect me to be."
Those statements could well apply to someone I know, don't you think? :o)

Knitting progress:
I've got the body of the cottage tea cosy felted. I'm holding off on knitting the roof until I get some existing projects finished, like the green polo sweater and some socks.

Today's plan:
Knitting on my lace scarf. I might even manage to get it finished up. I've got some socks to darn and the ends to weave in on a couple pair I finished ages ago. Since I'm still not feeling 100%, that would be a good activity for today. Maybe later I'll have a go at putting away my office. I don't know if I'll get cookies made today or not, but my co-workers will survive.

More of today's plan:
Haven't been out of the house yet. I only got to a shower about 5pm. I did get some work done in the office though. I successfully opened half a dozen boxes that I can't actually put away yet. Still haven't found my Palm Pilot. I did get the shelves on top of the computer desks put on though, so that's something. I should make my list of things to do for tomorrow. I also need to fold and put away the laundry from the past couple of weeks. The stack of clean t-shirts on my floor is growing and has been annoying me for a while.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Smooth and Easy Saturday

Today went very well. I woke up listening to NPR and hauled myself out of bed about 8am. Got put together and headed in to town by 9am. Got groceries for the next two weeks and got all my errands done by noon.

I even stopped at the Ag Experiment Station and examined various plants I might want to put in my yard. There's a GORGEOUS ginko tree there. I don't particularly like ginko trees in my own yard, but I think they look nice in other people's yards. To me there's just too much risk of getting a female tree and having it produce fruit. It's really stinky fruit, especially once it starts to rot/ferment. Stinky enough to be referred to as "corpse berries" and "barf fruit". Whatever you do, don't get it on your SHOES. Anyway, this particular tree is very nicely shaped with a heavily branched trunk. I can't wait to see it once the leaves turn color. Ginkos always turn a bright yellow and the leaves stay on the tree until a good hard frost, then fall off all at once. There's a nice gum tree with a hole in the side of it too. It would not be out of place in a haunted forest. I snagged a pocketful of acorns to plant at my house.

Other plants of note: a large tropical palm looking thing, which didn't have a sign. I think it would look nice by the pool or perhaps just along the south or west side of the house. There was an unusual looking ornamental pepper plant. The leaves were purplish and the fruits were basically black marbles. Quite distinctive. Lots of basil was planted and it seems to do VERY well. I hadn't seen dianthus before but it seems like it would be a nice border plant.

Once I got back home, I put away the groceries and mowed the lawn. Washed the mower. Still haven't gotten the mower up on blocks and thoroughly scrubbed underneath the mower deck, but I always blast it really good under there with the hose. Today I got the dust washed off of it too. I'm sure the neighbors two doors down think I'm crazy to actually wash my mower with soap, just like I wash my car. Wait til they see me wax it. :o)

Now I'm hanging out on the couch. I have a bit of a headache and I'm tired. I should probably put a load of laundry in the wash. And cook dinner. I may very well just stay on the couch and knit while watching movies on TV.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Ah....glorious weather

So, of course, I took advantage of the day by riding my motorcycle to work. It was a bit chilly on the ride in at 48 degrees, but that's what leathers are for. I shocked a number of my co-workers. I don't look like what they imagine a motorcycling woman to look like. One woman commented that I'm just very interesting and have lots of diverse interests. I pointed out that I really only have one hobby: collecting skills.

Right now I'm sitting on my deck, enjoying the evening. The sun will set in a couple of hours. It's in the lower 70s. The leaves are just starting to lose their green. Some orange and yellow is showing up in the sweet gum trees. The grass is slowing down in its growth rate and turning brown in areas (where it's mostly warm-season grass). The mornings are crisp (in the upper 40s to lower 50s) and the afternoons are nice and warm, but not too hot. The humidity level is actually just about right or a bit low, unlike in July where it seemed to be stuck on "sauna".

The night before last an owl was watching over my yard. I heard him/her hooting for a couple of hours, first from the tree in my neighbor's yard and later from the far corner of my yard. The moon was nearly full too. I was hoping I'd see the owl swoop down and snag a rodent or mole out of my yard, but I no such luck. Having lived in town for the past 20 years, I had forgotten how bright things are when the moon is at least 3/4 full. Tonight is the full moon. I may just hang out on the porch for a while after dark and listen for the owl and coyotes out hunting. I'm pretty sure I won't be able to sleep. I don't know what it is about full moons, but I often can't sleep. I'm just too wound up. The good thing is that it doesn't make me tired. I suppose this is all just a sign that I'm a lunatic in the old sense of the term.

The weekend stretches out before me, awaiting my decision about what to do. I have no adventures planned for this weekend, just the usual mundane domestic chores (mowing, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping).

I managed to plan most of the meals for next week while watching CSI re-runs last night. I was very surprised how planning things a week at a time really simplified my life. I didn't have to come home and stand in front of the open fridge and pantry trying to figure something out while my stomach growled at me. Instead, I had a short list of things to choose from that I already knew I had the ingredients for. Some things I even cooked in advance so all I had to do was reheat something for dinner (always a good idea when you get home HUNGRY). Now that I've said all that, I didn't actually plan this past week so have no idea what I'm going to do for dinner tonight. I may just have a bowl of Cheerios or make some blueberry muffins. I need to write up my grocery list before I go to bed.

Cool blog I found today: Three Beautiful Things. The author writes every day about three things that give her pleasure. Recent entries have included the layer of acorns in the parking lot, the weather being cool enough to eat crumpets and "three littlies all holding hands as they walk into nursery school".

Knitting of the week:

I'm still finishing up my lace scarf. The ball of yarn (KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud in color Moss) that remains is about 1 inch in diameter. The scarf is already about 60 inches long.

I have finished the body of my cottage tea cosy. The pattern is from Knitter's Stash. I just need to bind off the stitches and felt it. The roof of the cottage isn't felted. The details of the cottage are embroidered. I've got a whole book of ribbon embroidery flowers. I think it'll be fun to create a garden on the house.

Another nearly finished project is the "Sari Silk" purse I started several years ago. I need to knit a flap for the top and to knit the i-cord strap for it. I also need to sew it up, as you can see. As soon as I finish it, I'll start carrying it as my every day purse. The flap isn't part of the pattern, but I don't like the idea of having only a button closure and would rather not mess with a zipper. I could probably finish it this weekend if I worked diligently on it in the evenings. I don't know that that will happen, but it's a possibility. I probably should try to find the pattern soon.

The rest of the Works In Progress (WsIP) list off the top of my head: red lace socks, gray socks, green polo collar sweater (only needs to be sewed up), black and white Alice Starmore sweater, green and white ski sweater, blue pullover (my own design), different blue pullover (adapted design), orange tank top, purple vest and the lace shawl I started two weeks ago. I can probably finish the first three by Thanksgiving without really trying. The rest, except the shawl, might get done over the next year. I think the shawl will take over a year, perhaps two.

I just got some lace weight cashmere in the mail. It's a lovely camel color. There's about 1170 yards of it. I'll have to find a nice pattern for it. When I bought it, I had decided to dye it a jewel-tone, perhaps a dark sapphire or purple, but I really like the camel color. I'm picturing a snuggly warm rectangular shawl.

CSI quote of the night:
"People don't just vanish, Jim. It's a molecular impossibility."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

HOORAY!!

Hoorays for several things:

First, I think they're just about done putting girders into the new hospital wing. The uprights that I can see all have cross-pieces on them now. I'm sure it'll be a few weeks before they finish filling in the joists for the floors, then it'll be a major cement pouring operation. I hope the winter isn't too rainy here or at least is consistently wet or dry. Flaky weather is bound to drive the guys in charge of mixing the cement crazy.

Second, I actually got the syndromic surveillance analysis software to work two days running! I didn't expect that. I didn't expect it to not run, but given that I had to change the input data file that was a definite possibility. I even got Excel to re-name the facility field automatically. The next step is to get the process automated and to write a protocol for responding to "flags" or aberrations in the data.

There were two flags in a row for fever with neurological symptoms at one of the facilities. The data today did not generate a third flag. There were only three cases in two days and the demographic data indicated a couple of kids with headaches and fever. Probably not WNV, but could be LAC. I'd bet neither kid got tested for arboviral encephalitis, though I'll keep my fingers crossed just in case.

Thirdly, I got complimented about my work. I had sent an e-mail inquiry about a hepatitis A case which was complicated by the patient also having liver cancer and recently having his gall bladder removed. Patient has had symptoms consistent with HepA for several months. Patient has positive test for Hep A IgM. Elevated IgM indicates infection in the past 4 to 6 months, but the duration of the disease is much shorter than that. Patient was also vaccinated several years ago. Patient's liver enzymes were elevated, but that is to be expected with liver cancer and a pissed off gall bladder. Since the liver history and its associated symptoms could very well have obscured any symptoms from an acute Hep A infection, the decision was made to give IG to the patient's wife and family contacts. Better safe than sorry.

I'm not convinced this is an acute incident of hepatitis. Patient's vaccination should prevent acute infection, though should not result in positive IgM test result. Even if patient did not become immunized by the vaccine, we've got no way of knowing when in the past several months during which he was sick was the period when he was sick with Hep A. Prophylaxis is only useful if given within two weeks after the last exposure to the virus. That could have been months ago. The elevated liver enzymes are to be expected since the patient has liver disease. I'd love to see a second test result on this patient, esp if I could get IgM and total anti-Hep A. That would hlep clear up whether this is an acute infection or something else. Acute infections lead to positive IgM and negative total anti-HAV. There would also be an increase in IgM level as the patient's immune system reacted to the infection.

I think the patient's physicians ran a hepatitis panel as a shot in the dark after the cancer diagnosis. This is exactly the kind of testing which destroys the positive predictive value of tests.

Anyway, I e-mailed to get an opinion from a colleague on this case. I told him I wasn't convinced the patient was an acute case and explained why. His response was that I had provided an excellent summary (with explanation point!). He also said he agreed with everything I said.
W00t! That just totally rocks.

I also asked the colleague if he ever finished reading Arrowsmith since I had seen him reading it a month ago at a software training course. He said he did, but did not find it as engaging as the person who had recommended it had found it. I've got a copy of Arrowsmith and Main Street on my shelf. (Raided my mom's stash of lit books a long time ago.) I started Arrowsmith at one time, but never got very far. It just wasn't good bedtime reading. I may have to pick it up again and use it as evening reading. Right now I'm just starting the 4th Harry Potter book as my bedtime reading. I haven't got anything picked out for evening reading. Mostly I've been knitting and blogging in the evenings.

Walking and eating and cooking:
I only walked for 15 minutes today. I kept running into people in the parking lot and talking instead of walking. It was also pretty hot out. I ate Spanish Millet for lunch along with a tomato and some raspberry yogurt. It was quite tasty. I think it would be more flavorful with the addition of cumin, but that will have to wait until my next grocery store trip. Tonight I'm going to cook up a "mess of greens" and maybe mash up some more potatoes to go along with them.

Now for the bad news....for dinner I had one snickerdoodle, four twizzlers and some cheese and crackers. I'll make some soup in a little while. I'm feeling a bit dehydrated today, even though I drank 64 ounces of water at work.

The yard:

Moles have now reached the deck. It's kind of neat. It's like watching a siege, complete with tunneling up to the castle. I'm hoping the little critters will just keep on moving into the neighbor's yard. I really wish I could get the backyard tilled up. I would like to take apart and clean the tiller carburetor this weekend, but my time would be much better spent actually unpacking and organizing the inside of the house. Can you tell by how long it's taking me to unpack just how much I like unpacking? I thought so. :o)

Sprayed the rosebushes with insecticidal soap tonight to kill the spider mites. Accidentally spritzed the praying mantis. I thought she'd left. I hope I didn't get any soap in her eyes. That'll sting and I'm pretty sure her front legs aren't really designed for wiping her eyes very well. I wonder if she'll eat spider mites or if they're too small for her to bother with.

So, last weekend, I overseeded part of my back yard. It's not rained since. I haven't bothered to water, mostly because I haven't remembered. I remembered tonight. Now I'll have to remember to turn the water off.

I'll have to mow this weekend. Since I de-thatched the front yard, the runners from the bermuda/zoysia grass are all sticking straight up like it's got bedhead. It's kind of cute. It would be more cute on a freshly awakened 3 year old kid.

Website of the day:

Brooklyn Superhero Supply. Now you know where to go to buy your favorite superhero any supplies he or she may need.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Hey, at least it's not Monday!

Yesterday was just annoying. A long string of annoying things. Definitely a Monday.

First, my car's check engine light flashed on when I started it and it was running really rough. So, figuring that the car is all run by a computer, I turned it off and started it again. Everything was just fine after the "reboot". Fired on all 4 cylinders and no light flashing. It's run like a top since. Perhaps one spark plug didn't wake up with the rest of them. I'll keep and eye on it though.

All sorts of people wanted me to be driving >15 mph to work and chose to drive about 6 feet off my back bumper. Of course, what this really makes me want to do is slow down a bit and drive even closer to the speed limit.

Right as I got to work, I realized I left the chocolate chip cookies at home. *DOH!*

Discovered that the wrong account number on the bottom of the checks I ordered is actually correct. It's a randomly assigned dummy number. Would have been nice if they'd told me what that number was for when I opened the account and/or when I asked about ordering checks. I'm curious what would have happened if I'd ordered checks from an outside vendor and had my real account number put on them.

Paid bills, not my favorite activity. Now that I'm getting "real" paychecks, I'm trying to get a handle on my budget. It looks like ends will meet with even some overlap! That hasn't happened in a long time. I'm thinking about paying off my motorcycle to save myself some interest and cut a payment out of my budget.

Spent the first half of the day fighting with data and getting it imported into SAS. Finally got that done about lunch time. Gotta love running SAS code repeatedly and changing things incrementally. FOR FOUR HOURS! I like programming, but there's a limit to my patience.

At lunch, I ate the lunch I brought (roasted pepper, onion and cheese samiches with a pear and some yogurt), then went for a walk around the parking lot. I've been trying to get 20-30 minutes of walking in at lunchtime. There was a Hispanic man sitting in his car in the parking lot, presumably on his lunch break from the hospital construction site. Toward the end of my walk, one of my co-workers, worried about my safety, came out to tell me that she'd walk with me if I wasn't ready to come in, since this guy was sitting in the parking lot. Grrrrrr. I was mostly ready to go in, but not quite and I really hated going in because someone else decided it wasn't "safe". I couldn't come up with a good way to explain to her that I not only took, but also teach a number of self-defense courses and had, in fact, been skirting the occupied car at a distance my entire walk. Not to mention that this guy is unlikely to be a criminal, since he's gainfully employed at the construction site across the street and probably makes as much money as I do.

The perception here seems to be that women must/should rely on men to save them. Well, that's not going to work well for me, being a single girl. Now, I do have to admit that there was a strong-arm robbery at the eye clinic next to my office building last week in which an older woman was knocked to the ground at the front door and had her purse stolen about 10am, IIRC. I wish there were RAD instructors here besides me cuz my co-workers desperately need to take the class. The woman who came out to check on me (which I appreciated, don't get me wrong) said that although she "couldn't do much to save herself or anybody else, she could yell". You don't know how much I want to prove her wrong and have her see what she *can* do.

Spent the afternoon compiling data files and trying to get my SAS code to run. No luck. Finally figured out that all the data needs to be in a single file. That's gonna be a honking big file with six hospitals of daily ER visit data. Since March. I spent a whole day banging away at the computer and didn't get anywhere.

In an end of day brain fart, I managed to e-mail exactly the wrong information sheet to a client. Not a big deal, but I left work feeling fairly stupid and dissatisfied with my day. I *hate* that.

Started cooking dinner and managed to mess up the recipe. Didn't have my brain focused, so didn't end up with nice enchiladas. Ended up with gloppy refried beans. Still really yummy, but not enchiladas and too liquid to make into burritos. So I had a bowl of beans with cornbread for dinner. Still tasted good, but not what I was aiming for.

I also discovered that I've been air conditioning the neighborhood. I left a window open in one of the spare rooms. Probably for two days.

Well, at least I didn't spill anything on myself, trash my hard drive or stub my toe. (Small consolation at the time.) But today was much better.

Super Tuesday:
Called the John Deere dealer to ask about a filter wrench. The parts guy said the filter is only supposed to be hand tightened. I said "Yep, but the hand that tightened it at the factory is much bigger and stronger than mine and I can't get it off." He laughed and said any old filter wrench at an auto parts store would work and be less expensive than anything JD sold. On either Friday or Saturday I'll stop off at Auto Zone or some similar place and grab a wrench.

I still brought my lunch to work (Kashi Black Bean and Mango frozen dinner). And I walked for about 30 minutes at lunch, for 6 or 7 laps. No interruptions.

Got a phone call asking about the WNV cases I worked on in the past two weeks. She was checking up on whether or not CSF samples were being sent to the state lab (they are). The voice mail she left me says I'm doing an excellent job and to keep it up. That felt really good. I made major points with her on Friday when I tracked down a non-reportable tularemia case from last year. I needed a break from the stats programming, so jumped on the chance to dig it out of the files.

Rant and Rave:
If you're going to hate yourself and/or God, do NOT decide to do something about it by shooting school kids, then killing yourself. Either deal with it or shoot yourself. Leave the rest of the world out of it. Obviously this is not a good week to be a school GIRL. At least the governor of PA has stated that all the gun laws in the world will NOT stop someone who is bent on commiting a gun crime. Hooray for common sense! One Mennonite woman who was interviewed this morning said that this proved the Amish were right to withdraw from the world. Of course, one thing she forgot is that just because you withdraw from the world doesn't mean it won't come after you.

EMS/Public Health Rant: A retired Congresswoman died today on a rural Nevada highway in a car accident. She was thrown from the vehicle while holding her 5 month old grandson. Fortunately the kid survived and wasn't hurt. Grandma wasn't wearing her seatbelt and got ejected good and far from the car when it wrecked. It amazes me the number of folks who don't wear seatbelts all the time. I have very little sympathy for people who are ejected from cars and I've treated half a dozen folks who got themselves killed being ejected. It's frustrating because it's so completely and utterly preventable. If you are ejected from a motor vehicle in an accident, the odds of death go up dramatically. That's why the seatbelts are mandatory equipment in a vehicle and why there are laws about wearing them!!! I don't care how short the trip is or how slow you're going. You wear a seatbelt in a car whenever it's moving. It's not to protect me from my own good or bad driving. It's to protect me from the bad driving of all the other drivers on the road.

Knitting News:
I am definitely going to apply for the job of Guide at knitting.about.com. I'd have to write an informational article once every two weeks and update a blog a couple times a week. I'd also be encouraged to write original patterns to be posted on the site. The idea is to be an educational, informative resource specifically for newer knitters. I think it would be fun. I've got the writing sample about half written. I should finish that tomorrow and send it in.

Personal Fitness:
I'm at least waking up at the appropriate time in the morning, even if I'm not actually working out yet. Part of the problem is motivation to get out of bed, especially when it's cool. Part of it is my right knee being unhappy with me. I apparently twisted it up pretty bad last week when trekking around catching mosquitoes. It's swollen, but not sore. Range of motion is reduced. I can't kneel on it or bend it completely. Of course it's the same knee that I damaged running hurdles in high school. I'm hoping I don't need more surgery. I'm making a point of taking my chondroitin regularly. I don't think it will fix this problem, but it can't hurt. (In other anatomical news, my right thumb seems to be working better now and my elbow has recovered from having to fight with the oil filter.)

I have decided that I will walk for 20-30 minutes a day at lunch time. I may make a point of walking for my morning and/or afternoon breaks too. Today was a bit hot out to really walk fast, but I got in six laps and it felt good. I don't know that I'm losing any weight or gaining any muscle (or toning up existing muscle), but I feel better on days when I get *out* of my chair and walk a bit. It gets the blood pumping, my energy level goes up and I might even think more clearly. I know my attitude is better.

On the eating front, I've been cooking dinner at night. I'm working my way through several of my vegetarian cookbooks. Usually what happens is that I cook for the next day. Tonight I cooked "Spanish Millet", a variation on Spanish rice but using millet as the grain and I'll have that for lunch tomorrow with a tossed salad. I like the crunchy, nutty taste of millet and I happened to have some in the pantry. I've also got some quinoa to use up, but first I want to cook up more of the greens I bought last weekend. I really liked the greens with mashed potatoes. As a back up plan, I've got some frozen dinners and still have Morningstar Farms Chik Patties too.

Elsewhere...I think I have another small bit of poison ivy on my left forearm. I think I got myself contaminated while removing leaves/grass from the de-thatcher last weekend. I tried to be careful and washed with the poison ivy soap when I got inside, but there's a silver dollar sized spot that's all lumpy, bumpy and ITCHY! And just when the last of the lesions from the first episode were just fading away. Dang it!