Monday, November 27, 2006

CSI has failed me

In one of the episodes tonight, the asst coroner stated that he found E. coli in the GI tract of a person whose abdomen was slashed (with evidence that the damage was done by human teeth). He suggested that the victim may have eaten a bad burger and stated that the suspect would probably be sick.

Well, of course he found E. coli in the GI tract. It *lives* there. Millions of them live there quite happily and cause you no trouble whatsoever. In fact, E. coli makes up the bulk of the fecal matter that is produced.

Regular gut-inhabiting E. coli will, in fact, make you sick when it gets in places that it doesn't belong. It does cause gastroenteritis when ingested (it's probably the leading cause of traveler's diarrhea) and it's the causative agent of the majority of urinary tract infections.

The "bad" E. coli (and the bug which was found on the fresh spinach in the recent outbreak) is a particular strain of pathogenic E. coli known as Shiga-toxin producing E. coli or STEC. E. coli O157:H7 is ONE strain of STEC. There are about 40 strains which produce this toxin and cause an enterohemorrhagic infection (bloody diarrhea). There are also other pathogenic strains of E. coli which can cause nasty disease.

Oh well....I suppose it had to happen some time. Knowing much at all about science means that you're bound to be disappointed by the "facts" presented in most TV shows. At least CSI can manage to pronounce the big words correctly. I still cringe when I remember someone saying "He-ma-toe'-crit" instead of "He-mat'-o-crit". That was even supposed to be some sort of disease investigation show. I turned it off after that incident--after less than 10 minutes of watching. I don't even remember the name of the show. I *do* remember that it didn't last more than a single season.

This does remind me that I have a web domain registered for a site which, once I design it, will explain the differences between the TV/movie world and the actual real world. I may just have to work on that during lunch breaks at work. I need to work on my web design skills anyway.

Other "Projects"
I have found a cool knitting project. It's called the Dulaan Project. Dulaan is the Mongolian word for "warm". The Dulaan Project seeks to provide warm hats, gloves/mittens, scarves, sweaters, socks to orphan children in Mongolia. Today I found a pattern for something called Ken's Dulaan Hat on the Yarn Harlot's blog. I figure I can whip out a nice thick, warm hat this evening while relaxing with my mug of hazelnut coffee.

Other small happinesses:
I found a cricket in my bedroom tonight. Crickets are good luck! Perhaps s/he will serenade me with chirping later.

I had a lovely lunch while reading a collection of essays from various persons who were adventurers or explorers and wrote for National Geographic. The essay I started with was written by Theodore Roosevelt. I didn't get very far though. Actually...that reminds me, I need to renew my books tonight.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, everything turned out just swimmingly. The food was wonderful and not at all difficult to put together. The menu included roast turkey breast, bread stuffing (on the side), mashed potatoes with gravy, candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, five cup salad (a fruit salad) and pumpkin pie. The turkey came out really moist and juicy. The pie had just the right balance of spices in it (ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon). The bread stuffing was moist and flavorful without being mushy or over seasoned. It only took three hours of actual work in the kitchen, not that any of it was particularly difficult.

In between eating turkey and all the fixings, we went to Jason's Deli for samiches, salad and soup. The muffaletta was a big hit. The vegetable soup is pretty good too.

Fixing up the House:
The list of things to fix in the house that I needed help with got completely taken care of. I now have a new storm door on the front of the house. There is a door sweep on the front door so the wind won't whistle in underneath it. Half the living room got painted. (I may finish the other half this weekend.) The back door and the garage door both latch and lock now. The gates in the fence now open and latch. The opening around the dryer vent hose is now closed in. The hole in the bathroom ceiling is patched. The bookcases in the living room got moved into other rooms. My car now fits in the garage with room to spare. The new bookcases that Mom made are already filled with books. (Apparently the book multiplied while being carried from one bookcase to the other.) We even got the old oil filter off the mower and the new one installed.

I've got a few things to return to Lowe's which we either didn't need or weren't going to work. The weather stripping for the front door won't actually stay stuck to the door. I'll have to find another solution for that problem. It may be possible to just bend the tab on the latch plate to get the door to position itself closer to the gasket. I'll have to give that a try later.

Things left on the house fixing list:
The list has gotten significantly shorter now. I'm going to have to work on finding new things to do now that the house tasks are diminishing in scope and urgency. What I have left includes:
finish painting the living room and re-arranging the furniture, put the garage shelves in properly, put the doors on the laundry room (already bought the hardware), finish screwing down the boards on the deck (the deck was built using finish nails, so the boards are pulling loose around them), paint the baseboards, install a deadbolt in the front door. There is also a gap between two pieces of siding that I need to caulk and one shingle tab which has pulled up and also needs caulking. Good news is that I finally found my caulking gun yesterday. w00t!

The outdoor work is mostly limited to landscaping now. I'll hopefully finish digging up the flower bed in the front yard yet this year. The tiller needs a tune up and then I'll get the garden plot dug up so I can work on it earlier in the spring. Then there is the re-channeling of the ditch run-off so that it doesn't run up to the garden shed. That will take some serious digging and careful placement of earth to re-direct the water flow.

Other updates:
Still working on the Kiri shawl. I spent an hour fixing an error three rows down. I didn't make much progress beyond that, but at least I didn't have to rip out the three rows to fix the problem. I haven't touched either of the pair of socks I have on the needles. I need to work on that. I could use a couple new pairs of socks.

Haven't gotten in much bicycling this week or any other exercise, just the activity from house fixing. That needs to change. My pants are getting snugger about the waist and hips. I'd much rather have that trend reverse itself. I definitely want to have the cardio capacity to do some actual running in the spring (once it's still light after work). On a related note, the St. Jude's Hospital Marathon is next weekend. I still think I'll choose Chicago next October instead.

Tomorrow I'm going to see Happy Feet "with" Mitch and I need to set up my menu plan for the week so that I can buy any necessary groceries. There's a good chance I won't need to buy anything besides some fruit and yogurt for lunch.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Traditions

I happened to catch the opening of the British Parliament on CSPAN today. Parliament actually opened on Wednesday. The Queen was wearing the Imperial Crown and looking a bit stooped, though given that the crown weighs a couple of pounds, plus the weight of the 20 foot ermine-fur trimmed train and the rest of the accoutrement, that's hardly surprising.

Once the Queen gives the signal, there is a messenger (an actual member of Parliament) who goes down to the House of Commons and tells them that the monarch is ready for them to attend the House of Lords. In case you were thinking that the British do not have a sense of humor, part of the tradition is that the door to the House of Commons is SLAMMED in the messenger's face and he must knock on the door to gain entry. He carries an ornate stick for this purpose (ebony with gold caps and trim) and there is a mark on the door where it has clearly been knocked on for a long long time. Then everybody walks SLOWLY down the hall back to the House of Lords for the Queen's speech. The slow part is to remind the Lords that the other MPs are NOT at their beck and call.

I didn't actually listen to the speech. I was busy watching the jewels, the crown and the regalia. The MPs were all dressed formally in their wigs and robes. The Queen's head did not wobble much at all when she looked down at her notes. I know that the crown is specially fitted to her head, but I'd be worried about the silly thing sliding whenever I moved my head.

I like watching this sort of thing more for the process, procedure and protocol. I find it fascinating what parts of history are kept by various cultures and reinforced over the years/centuries. It's also fun to see the places that I've read about. I once watched Christmas Mass from the Vatican just to see the Baldachin that the Pope sits under and the other pieces of art and architecture that were visible. I also discovered that Pope John Paul II's voice sounded a heck of a lot like Marlon Brando in The Godfather and I caught him nodding off at least twice during the service. I'd like to see the Dalai Lama presiding over the equivalent major ceremony some time. I bet he'd wink at the equivalent of the altar boys and smile at them. He's nearly always smiling from what I can tell.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Busy! Busy! Little Bee!

Well, actually, I wasn't *that* busy. But it sounds good, doesn't it? All I really did was clean both bathrooms, re-arrange the guest room (again), do laundry, go grocery shopping and watch the big game.

Tonight I made some caramelized onions to be eaten later this week (though I will admit to having a scrumptious cheese and onion samich for dinner). They are absolutely perfect in flavor and color (they're actually darker than in the picture). My intention was to have caramelized onions to eat on samiches with leftover turkey, but I may end up making more tomorrow because I'll have a hard time not eating them all up by Thursday. They'll taste really good on scrambled eggs and baked potatoes. And home-made pizza with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Or a nice onion tart. The possibilities are nearly endless. I'm slowly turning myself into a foodie, now that I have time to cook real food and the chance to eat a real meal at lunch and dinner. I have even been trimming down the portion sizes so my clothes will quit "getting smaller".

Tomorrow I'll move the living room bookcases to the computer and guest rooms, then re-load them. Need to finish moving boxes out to the garage, then tidy things up. Guests (Mom and Becky) arrive on Tuesday.

College FB!!
Watched my first game of the season. Actually sat down and watched it, instead of just letting it be on in the background while I vacuumed or worked in a different room. Ohio State beat Michigan, but it was a darned good game. Lots of big plays on both sides. It looked like Michigan was going to take control a few times, but then the Buckeyes would come back. I think it helped a lot that they played at The Horseshoe in Columbus. It might have been a different outcome at the Big House in Ann Arbor. The new turf that was put down in October caused some trouble. Several players slipped and tripped on it as it tore away from the ground.

At the end of the game some of the 105,000+ fans stormed the field. The police did not attempt to stop this. The police did, however, form up in triangles around the goal posts. I thought that was quite a good approach to the situation. There were numerous officers spread around through the crowd too, but it was definitely apparent where they placed priority.

Consequences of Wool Allergies
There has been some discussion on one of the knitting lists about wool allergies. One woman wrote in asking for advice about knitting socks for someone who said they were allergic to wool and what yarn should she use since most sock yarns are at least part wool. SEveral people replied to tell her that most people aren't actually allergic and she should just proceed as normal. One woman went so far as to assert that it is impossible to be allergic to wool. Finally someone advised that it is not a good idea to just ignore someone's statements about allergies since in some cases it may be life threatening. While wearing wool socks may not result in anaphylaxis, it's probably not going to be something comfortable to wear. Which leads to the greatest sin ever inflicted upon a knitter (at least to hear some knitters tell it....):

The LACK of appreciation and lack of wearing of handknitted items. If you knit someone an item in a yarn they find unwearable, due to scratchiness or actual allergy or other sensitivity, they are NOT going to wear it. Many knitters find such non-wearing of gifted knitted items to be something on a par with drowning puppies for sport. The person who received the gift is labelled ungrateful, stupid, ignorant and downright rude for failing to wear something which may not be to their taste, may not fit, may not be comfortable and may, in fact, cause them to break out into hives. If someone gave you a gift that you found completely unsuitable or poorly fitting or made you break out in hives, would you wear it as part of your normal wardrobe or at all?

This time of year there are always questions on the knitting lists about which patterns to use to knit various people presents. The knitter may decide that something is really cool and that Cousin Jane or Teenager Joey really needs one. Now, what isn't ascertained is whether or not Cousin Jane or Teenager Joey think this item is cool. Teenagers have a tendency to be picky about what they wear, but there are numerous adults who are also particular. Why would you knit someone a present when you didn't even know they would like it? Why would you invest that much time, energy and emotion into something which would have a good chance of being unappreciated? All it does is raise your chances of getting your feelings hurt and generate resentment toward the recipient.

We knit gauge swatches to ensure that our knitted items actually achieve the desired dimensions. Why not make a "gift swatch" to find out if a gift will "fit" the recipient? Does this person wear hats? If yes, what sort of hat do they prefer? Beret? Toque? Felted Fedora? Ear Flap hat? Long stocking cap with or without tassel? What colors and fibers do they like? Knitted items are just too personal and too involved in the creation process to be sprung on someone without doing some homework to ensure that the recipient actually appreciates them. With as much time and effort that goes into knitting for someone else, don't you want the end product to be a success? I know that it's nice to completely surprise someone with a gift, but with some gifts that may not be the best idea.

"The Network is Coming Down....."
SuperComputing 2006 is over. SCinet has torn down its network. Things went very smoothly, though not without adventure. On the first or second day the actual exhibit floor was open, it rained hard. At that point it became apparent that the Tampa Convention Center has a leaky roof. The staff at the TCC knew this, but had been hoping that it wouldn't rain. Fortunately the water dripping down to the show floor missed any of the hardware and also missed the actual exhibitor booths. Mitch estimated the actual damage costs would have been around $100-150K if one of the NOC had been rained upon, plus the network would have been down for a DAY in the middle of the show. People would have definitely noticed that.

Despite my desire to place bets on which vendor was going to get hacked first and on which vendors would have brought pre-hacked boxes (like they did last year), 2006 was a BORING year for the security guys. It sounds like Dennis and his crew didn't have to do much, which is good, but not very exciting for them. Dennis himself managed to catch a virus himself (of the common col variety), which I thought was ironic.

Shawl Progress:
Here is the latest picture. This is the first time I've taken it off the needle and spread it out. Right now it's about 17 inches long and 36 inches wide. I think I'd like it to be closer to 60 inches wide. It barely covers my shoulders at the moment.

I have several shawls in mind for my next project. By the time I finish this one, I might be tired of shawls, but I don't think that will be the case. I do like having a few hours each day to knit. That is a great luxury.

Other Luxuries

Reading....I've been reading the 6th Harry Potter book at night for my bedtime reading. I either read them all very quickly or sufficiently long ago that I did not clearly remember the plots of any of them. Of course, I remembered that the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor never lasted more than a single year, but couldn't remember the precise details. My non-bedtime reading is "The Meaning of Life" by the Dalai Lama. It's various topics in Buddhist philosophy and is proving quite useful in helping me re-develop patience, among other things. Next I'll read "How to Practice" and "The Art of Happiness." I'm half expecting one particular co-worker to get upset about my reading "heathen" material. I figure if I have to listen to everything starting with a prayer, they can deal with me reading Buddhist texts.

Hot Chocolate
I realized the other night that I have a bottle of Hershey's Chocolate syrup in the fridge, so I make myself a nice big mug of hot chocolate. It's really the only thing made of chocolate that I like to eat. I had been drinking about a pint of hot milk at night before bed and the hot chocolate makes for a nice change. I bought some mini marshmallows last weekend to put on a sweet potato casserole, but threw some into my hot chocolate too. YUM!

Electric Blanket
I have been pre-heating my bed for about 10 minutes before hopping in. Oh my that is delightful to climb into. When I was out of town for a meeting last week it took me a little while to figure out why the bed was cold. I guess I've gotten spoiled. :o)

I'm sure there are more things on that list. I'll give it some more thought and let you know. That might make a good blog all by itself....

Friday, November 17, 2006

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Yet another aggravating sort of day.....

Not only did nothing particularly satisfactory happen at work:
I spent five hours beating my head against a DOS DB program trying to run queries. The "trick" here is that I can't get anybody to show me how the actual program works with regard to data entry, which makes my job of running QC a wee bit difficult. I realize that it's not necessarily unusual in the Dilbert World of Work for clueless ones to run QC, but I find it a bit difficult to figure out if something is a wrong answer when I don't know what the right answer is.

I made an idiot out of myself because I can't find out how things are done in my office, sometimes not even when I *ask* how to do them. So I sent e-mail to the central office asking about it on the advice of the local people, then was told by the local people that they've always done it in a particular way. (I had initially been told they didn't know the answer to the question either.) End result: I look like an idiot and I'm learning that my co-workers can tell me that we're all on the same team, but aren't really very good at helping me play along.

I have also discovered:
That my car has a leak somewhere in it, resulting in the floor of the trunk getting wet. I have been unable to detect any defect in the door or hatch seals. I will have to check the lenses of the tail lights and the seals of the lights. I'll also pull up the carpet and check the seals in the floor of the trunk area.

Right now my car fogs up when it sits all closed up. Now that the temps go below freezing at night, this means there will be frost on the INSIDE of my windows which is very difficult to melt or scrape off.

So, I had a more or less crappy day. Fortunately I have some Mike's Hard Lemonade in the fridge. Maybe tomorrow will be better. The trend sure hasn't been heading up lately though.

Monday, November 13, 2006

More fun at work

Or not, actually.

Today I got to write the report on an outbreak investigation I had nothing to do with. The person who did the investigation was more than happy to do that part, then dropped everything on my desk today while telling me this was everything I'd need to complete *my* report. While I definitely want to have more to do at work, I don't know that I want to just do the stuff nobody else wants to do, like write other people's reports. I can't write a particularly good report on an outbreak I had virtually nothing to do with. For example, I don't know why there was no questionnaire done on 8 patients--too much effort to make the phone calls? Unable to reach them? Were questionnaires mailed to these people? I didn't even talk to any of the patients or health care staff, though I did write the questionnaire that got used. I would have been happy to do that stuff, but that information was kept by the investigator until today.

I attempted to point out that I need more to do today. I have tried to point this out in the past. I have even asked what they'd like to have done that nobody has ever had the time to do. I again got told that the problem is that nobody knows what I can do, which seems to result in nobody asking me to do anything. Perhaps it's just my own goofy logic system but I would think that the way to find out what I can and cannot do would be to ask me to do stuff and I'll tell you if I can or can't do it. Rarely have I been in a situation where I cannot do something as a permanent thing. There have been many times when I haven't been able to do something at the time I was asked, but was absolutely willing and able to learn so as to get the job done. I don't expect to know everything, but I do figure that I can learn most of the stuff I need to know or find out who to ask for the stuff I can't learn (or can't learn fast enough or well enough).

I sincerely hope that I do not, yet again, have the wrong degree. Without a clinical degree or clinical license, I seem to be relegated to preparing spreadsheets, creating handouts and
writing reports. One of the comments made today was that the other staff members don't know how to do outbreaks so having them do them means they get to learn. Of course, they also don't know how to write the reports on the outbreaks, but the "learning by doing" concept doesn't appear to apply to reports. I really really hope that something develops out of the meeting on finding an epi project. Finding myself busywork to do is driving me insane and definitely draining the fun out of this job. I don't want people to get sick, but it would be nice if there was something to do besides read medical journals and textbooks online. I don't know how long it will take to train my colleagues to remember that I can, in fact, help them do things, but I hope it doesn't take more than a few months. I know everybody is busy, but I have almost *nothing* to do. It would be nice if I had a job too instead of just being the clean up person for the overflow nobody else wants.

And to think I passed up a job with the Navy (as a civilian) doing global avian influenza preparedness. I am thinking more and more that I should have changed my mind after I accepted this job and went with the Navy gig, even if it did pay less and was in Virginia Beach, where the cost of living is much higher.

*sigh*

To top off a generally dissatisfying day, NOBODY showed up for the knitting group tonight. That's pretty much my only opportunity to interact with people besides myself outside of work right now. Oh well.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Stupidity and Ignorance

Two examples: One positive and one negative.

The Negative Example:
There is a vegan e-group I belong to. One person, we'll call her Amy, stated that vegans don't eat things which are alive or can feel pain because that would be unethical. A second person, we'll call her Suzi, stated that the first bit of reasoning was irrelevant to those folks who were vegan for non-moral/non-ethical reasons. Suzi also pointed out that by Amy's reasoning eggs would be acceptable to eat since they are unfertilized and not alive, but that vegans still don't eat eggs, so how does that fit her reasoning? Amy went to a separate e-group to brag about how she blasted Suzi for being stupid and not a real vegan since she obviously eats animal products and has no aversion to other people eating animals or animal products. Amy was praised by two other group members for showing such "kindness and compassion". Apparently one is only a true vegan if one is a vegan who is a vegan for moral and ethical reasons. No wonder the public thinks that vegans are nutcases.

I sent e-mail privately to Suzi telling her that she asked a legit question very politely and didn't deserve to be blasted for it. I also sent e-mail to the e-group where Suzi got blasted and tried to point out that if this diatribe was considered "kindness and compassion", I'd hate to see what anger looked like. I also inquired why it is that the moral vegans think they are superior to those who are vegan for other reasons when we are all "on the same side". I expect to get nasty e-mail any minute now.

The Positive Example:
I happened to catch an episode of Hogan Knows Best today. Yes, it's TV to rot your brain, but it's one of the better "reality" shows, in my opinion. Wrestler Hulk Hogan has two teenaged kids and a wife who is not particularly full of common sense. They recently moved to Miami and Mrs. Hogan decided to take home-baked cookies around to all the neighbors as a way of introducing themselves and apologizing for the parking issues caused by their house renovation. The Hogans discovered that several of the neighbors could not accept the cookies because they keep kosher. The Hogans didn't know what that meant, but Terry (Hulk) decided he wanted to find out so he started asking when they went to the grocery store. Mrs. Hogan decided to throw a big neighborhood cookout and sent Terry off to find the right food. While his son stated that they could just feed the neighborhood regular meat and call it kosher, they actually went to a kosher grocery store and asked all about what makes food kosher. They then purchased kosher meats and had the kosher store cater in a bunch of stuff too. A neighborhood rabbi also explained that regular and kosher meat can't be cooked on the same grill and that the grill has to be made kosher or else the meat cooked on it wasn't kosher. Terry said "I screwed up. I'm sorry." The rabbi gave him full points for trying to get it right. Terry pointed out that there was catered food, so he thought everybody would be ok anyway. The rabbi agreed. Everybody had a good time. Nobody felt bad. People even *learned* from each other.

Nobody called anybody stupid for having different beliefs, even when it made for a potentially difficult and embarassing situation. Brooke, Hulk's daughter, even asked the younger rabbi why the older rabbi politely refused to shake her hand. He thanked her for asking and explained it to her, then showed her the "jewish hug" (it's a big air hug). A very positive experience all around.

How hard is it to be a bit tolerant of other people's way of life? I wish folks would stop taking their insecurities out on others and leave off being judgemental and nasty towards folks who aren't exactly like them. If we were all exactly the same life wouldn't be nearly as interesting. You don't learn much from other people when everybody knows and does everything exactly the same. Quit bashing everybody else and look more critically at yourself. Clean up your own act before you start pointing fingers at everybody else.

Painting Progress:

I got my bedroom painted and put a second coat on
the vanity area too. I didn't even make a dent in the living room painting, just cut in along the edges in a few places. You can see in the picture that the previous owners actually painted the living room two different shades of this icky green color. What makes it even better is that the darker shade is semi-gloss while the lighter shade has a satin finish. It wouldn't be so noticeable if the differences were on separate walls, but it's the top 1/4 to 1/3 of each wall where the color/finish change occurs and random spots in the middle too. Maybe next weekend I'll get farther with the LR painting and maybe I won't.

I did finish cutting in the master bathroom. The lighter cream color will really brighten up the room, as you can see in the picture. You can also see where I poked my finger into the ceiling when I discovered the roof leak. I'm not sure I have enough semi-gloss paint left to finish the bathroom though.

I don't know when I'm going to get around to painting the spare room. I have one gallon of lemon yellow paint for it, but as thirsty as the walls are, I don't know if that will be enough.

I have discovered several things about painting. The first is that I'm not very good at getting a nice even coat of paint with a paint roller. I am, however, quite good at not getting paint on things I don't want painted. The second thing I have learned is that the original paint in this house was flat paint put straight over the drywall. The walls just slurp up the paint like a sponge. I must have re-filled my paint tray 8 times when painting my bedroom. I can cut in about 4 inches before having to re-fill the brush or else the paint doesn't cover the area sufficiently. I guess all the painting I've done before was on sealed or previously painted walls. I am very glad I bought a 5 gallon bucket of paint when I first started painting this place.


Baking:
I'll be whipping up lots of cookies today. SCinet setup finishes today. Miss Alyce the desk clerk and Joseph the German student will get more cookies this week. Miss Alyce likes oatmeal raisin and I think Joseph just likes cookies in general. I'll see about shipping out two boxes on Monday.
I plan to include oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, chocolate chip and possibly snickerdoodles, but we'll see how far I actually get. I'm going to spend at least part of the evening just relaxing and knitting. (Update: I got oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies made before I lost interest and it got too late.)

Housecleaning/unpacking
I still have to re-assemble my bedroom, do laundry, clean the house and straighten out the guest room. I would much rather watch old movies on TV. I am trying to decide if I want to move the boxes piled inside the house into the garage or if I want to leave the boxes in the
house and put the car in the garage. Right now the clutter is starting to get to me and I'm leaning toward boxes in the garage. Need to wax the car if I'm going to do that. Heck, I need to wax the car anyway.

Bluebird:

I don't know if this is the bluebird of happiness or the
bluebird of disgruntlement, but he's been hanging out on my deck for the past couple of weeks. In the spring I'll put up a nesting box. I have seen three or four bluebirds in the yard and lots of blue jays, which I also like, despite the fact that they're noisy and obnoxious. There are also two woodpeckers. I will have to get the birdfeeder set up to keep the birds happy and keep them hanging out in the yard.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Extra Day!

Today is a bonus weekend day, thanks to Veteran's Day falling on a Saturday. (Today is also the 231st anniversary of the founding of the US Marine Corps.) I tried to put it to good use. First, I opened up all the windows since it was 70 degrees today. There were rumors of rain for this afternoon/evening, so I had an early go at finishing the end of season yardwork. Got the lawn mowed, cleaned up the mowers and put the big mower in the yard barn. This has cleared up enough space in my garage that I can actually get my car inside it now. I'll have to find something to do with the roll of carpet leftovers. The yard looks a lot better now with the leaves all munched up. The bad news is that the yard barn is now totally full of stuff. The push mower will have to stay in the garage.

I have discovered the living room will take two coats of paint, thanks to the icky dark green color that was put on it. So I picked up a 2nd gallon of Killz today. I started to cut in the edges along the walls and trim last night. That's when I discovered the regular paint wasn't going to do the job. I moved right along to cutting in the edges of my bedroom and re-touching the edges of the hallway. I decided to call it a night before getting the roller out. I'll get the walls finished up tonight, I think. I already got the nail holes in the wall patched and vacuumed the dust bunnies off the textured ceiling. I might start in on the Killz in the living room tonight. We'll see how wound up I am this evening.

SCinet
The electrical drops to the floor were delayed. So the carpet laying was delayed. So the shooting of the fiber was delayed (as was vendor access to their booths). All of this delays the Router Heads. Push came to shove today. Mitch kicked some bahookie to get the electrical finished so the carpet guys can finish up. The Router Heads have about three days of work to do and about 2 days to do it. The opening gala is on the show floor Monday night.

I chatted with Mitch for a bit today and one of his student volunteers wandered up. I told him to give the student a cookie. He actually put Joseph on the phone and Joseph told me that he loved my cookies and they were very very yummy. I told him that more cookies were going to arrive next week. He was very happy to hear that. :o)

While I was grocery shopping this evening, I texted Mitch and asked him if he needed anything from Wal-Mart. His response? "Power strips. The main NOC just lost power." Oopsie. I bet a chorus of screams and howls went up at that. Turns out the power guys overloaded a circuit. At least the power came up clean and didnt' fry anything. I was highly surprised to learn that there are no UPSes in the NOC. I figured that would be one place they'd really want to have power backup, just in case someone tripped over the power cord.

In Other News:
Ivan Basso has joined the Discovery Cycling Team. Joe Paterno has been advised to NOT be at Penn State's FB game tomorrow. He got mowed down last weekend on the sidelines of the last game and sustained a broken leg. It's not nice to run over your 79 year old coach. Mr. Paterno will now miss the first game in his 41 year career.

Pine Island was buried at the horse cemetery at Claiborne Farms on Monday. She was bred and born at Claiborne and would have been a broodmare there, had she survived. She now lies next to Easy Goer and Unbridled, among other champions.

Averting Frustrations:
I have taken to answering all manner of questions on the knitting and vegetarian cooking lists since I'm not really being asked for advice at work. We'll see how the meeting about the potential new project goes this week (assuming it actually happens). In the meantime, I've been trying to take my frustrations out on things I can beat into submission or make progress with, like knitting, exercising and cleaning up my house. So far it's working, but there are good days and bad days. I am, however, feeling ever less inclined to bake things for work since my professional activities aren't particularly appreciated. At least Miss Alyce squealed with glee when Mitch told her she'd get some of her favorite cookies next week. *That* is appreciation.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Entertaining the co-workers...

I amused the heck out of the clinic doc today. At the end of the day, a coworker's vehicle was possibly leaking oil and definitely low on oil. I produced a quart of oil from the trunk of my car. Doc's comment was "You're not a true country girl until you carry 30 weight oil in your car." Up until that time, he was just standing back and watching the rest of us examine the vehicle. He was pretty tickled, I think, that I was able to do that. The rest of the women just laughed about it and asked why on earth I'd carry oil. I figure there's no telling when you might need half a quart and I'd rather have it with me, instead of paying gas station prices for it. Of course, they also don't know about when I drove a car that consumed a quart of oil a month due to seeping engine seals. I really needed to have oil then.

Projects at work....
I have finished summarizing the infant mortality data and have identified the top 5 counties in the region. Tomorrow I'll put together the risk factor stats for those five counties.

A nursing home in the region has had persistent problems with scabies and has asked for assistance in developing an inservice program on this subject, so I'll develop a PowerPoint presentation for them to help them quit re-infesting their residents. Some handouts for the staff would be good too.

The infection control nurse at the hospital where the norovirus outbreak occurred has apparently been informing hospital staff that she will have their hands swabbed and cultured if she catches them not washing their hands when they're supposed to wash them. HA! Sounds like the incident is being taken seriously afterall. I'm very pleased to hear about that.

I might have a project to work on. Another epidemiologist has some ideas for foodborne disease surveillance, possibly multi-state, using existing data. We'll talk next week. w00t! I'm really really excited! I hope this turns into something to do.

CSI:
This appears to be re-run week. The episodes this week were shown in the past two weeks. *sigh* Oh well...now I'll have to do something *productive* with myself.

Speaking of productivity....
I have gained an extra day to my weekend thanks to the state choosing to use Friday as a surrogate for Veteran's Day (which is Saturday). I have decided that I'll just go on and move the living room bookcases in preparation for the delivery of the "real" bookcases that Mom and Becky are bringing at Thanksgiving. As long as I'm going to tear up the living room, I might as well paint the silly thing. So tomorrow night after work I'll mask off the trim and might even start cutting in the edges. Must find the dropcloth in the garage.... As long as I'm painting, I might just go ahead and paint my bedroom and re-paint the master bath/vanity. That should keep me busy most of the weekend.

I still have to re-arrange my garage. The cool season grass coming in near the house needs to be mowed too. That'll be easy enough to do while I move the mowers to the yard barn. One of these days I'll install the new blade into the push mower. I really need to block the possible mouse holes in the garage wall too. Something's been eating the mouse bait and I figure it's living in the attic, which brings me to the as yet avoided mouse body removal task. Fun. Note to self: snag some gloves from work for said duty.

Cooking:
Haven't done much this week cooking-wise. I made some killer pea/bean soup last night using a dried soup mix. I added some dried red peppers I grew in the last Urbana garden plot I had. I didn't think anything of crushing the pods with my fingers, until I was almost finished and remembered what it felt like to take out my contact lenses the last time I did that. Ouchies. I washed my hands really well, then scrubbed them with rubbing alcohol, hoping to solubilize any remaining oils, and washed them again. The sting was still there, but there was hardly any oil left on my contacts this morning when I put them back in. That was not the case last time.

More SCinet cookies will go in the mail system this weekend. Mitch is going to ask the desk clerk who called him "Cookie Guy" what her favorite flavor is and I'll see about sending a batch of them. Apparently the mention of my cookies now makes the Fiber Crew drool. Perhaps I should call them "Pavlov's Cookies".

Speaking of cookies, the office folks are becoming addicted to the oatmeal butterscotch cookies. Most people had never heard of them until I brought them in. Almost everybody who has decided to try one has commented on how good they smell. Then they sigh or moan when they take a bite. With few exceptions, they all have come back for seconds. I think we'll have Snickerdoodles next week and Peanut Butter Cookies after that.

Working out:
Spent half an hour on the trainer last night, then put in another half hour of strength training. I had intentions to get on the trainer tonight, but my seat bones aren't going to tolerate that. I've got to build up my saddle endurance. Again. I *hate* that. I do see that exercising every night after work is quite doable, however, which is good. This is one habit I want to ingrain.

I did manage to not overeat last night. Today I ended up going out to lunch at the local Mexican place, instead of eating my soup. I focused on conscious eating--paying attention to how many chips I ate (and definitely ate less than I usually do). I think I will start ordering just a plain spinach quesadilla instead of the veggie quesadilla which comes with rice, guacamole and sour cream. I am going to focus on snacks at work and on reducing the caloric content of my snacks. Substitute fruit for a granola bar, that sort of thing. I figure I don't need to work off the stuff I don't put in to me. Pretty smart, huh. :o)

SCinet Update:
The backbone fiber was run yesterday. Today the carpet goes down on the show floor. Apparently it's going down S-L-O-W-L-Y, which is delaying shooting the fiber. So Mitch is having to juggle the order in which things are done. I dared him to toss a paper airplane off one of the catwalks, but I don't think he did it. I'm pretty sure there was also no racing or jousting of boom crane either. The cookies ought to arrive tomorrow some time. That'll perk everybody up. The DNOCs started going up today. Whomever is on the patch panel crew will suddenly get *way* busier.

Two companies came up to Mitch yesterday and requested connectivity. WEEKS after the deadline passed. Even after the "late" deadline passed. I hope he made them sweat. I'm sure they have been made to understand that he didn't have to fix things for them.

Conference starts on Tuesday. Chaos remains controlled for the most part. This is good.

Tonight's Fall Leaf Photos....
The drive home is too dark now to get a decent leaf pictures. Here is one from the drive to Franklin last week and one from just after sunrise this morning.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Rain Rain Go Away

Today was just dreary. Not cold, but it rained most of the day. Coupled with the sun setting early, it got dark fast.

Thursday Birthday Lunch
I have found a recipe which comes really close to being the very same crab dip that Sgt. Friedlein's wife makes. I think with the addition of shredded cheddar cheese, I'll be there. We'll see if it causes the toes of my co-workers to curl with glee. It's darned good stuff, if you ask me.

Weekly Cookies
This week I made oatmeal scotchies. This is a cookie which apparently is not well known in the mid-South. I had to explain that it's oatmeal cookies with butterscotch chips. No sign of recognition at all. Several people really liked them, but I don't think they're anybody's absolute favorite yet. I'm baking Mitch's Fiber Crew a batch of chocolate chip cookies tonight.

SCinet setup
Speaking of the Fiber Crew....SCinet setup kicks into high gear tomorrow. They get the show floor at 8am. I predict the jousting with the booms will start at 8:05. Yelling by Mitch will start at 8:06 and will stop when they let him play too. :o)

New Knitting to do....
The Winter 2006 issue of Interweave Knits showed up today. There are no fewer than five things I want to make from this magazine: A Cardigan for Arwen, Equestrian Blazer, Enid Cardigan, Nantucket Jacket, the Arctic Diamonds Stole and possibly the Venezia Pullover. The Refined Raglan has possibilities too. Oddly enough, I described a similar design in my idea notebook several years ago. This is what happens when I procrastinate on my ideas. On the other hand, I'm becoming increasingly motivated to actually develop the other patterns ideas I have. Perhaps by the end of the year I'll have a couple of sock patterns finished.

Thoughts on running....
Lance Armstrong finished the NY Marathon in 2:59 yesterday. When asked right after the race if he'd run another marathon, he said he never wanted to do that again though he reserved the right to change his mind later. Running a marathon was apparently the hardest thing he's ever done, even harder than a bad day in the Tour de France. Dang. And to think I want to do it *again*. It was hard at the time, but it never seemed impossible. Walking an extra mile to the hotel afterward seemed impossible, as did going up the stairs to take a shower and lifting my legs onto the bed.

Biked for half an hour today. I didn't break a sweat, but I did get my heart rate up a good bit. I need to set up a training log this week and start keeping track of my progress. It's funny, but I don't like working out until I actually get started. That's when it gets fun. The mighty endomorphins come out to play. Then the trick becomes staying focused and not getting distracted. Once I get distracted, it's hard to keep going. The distraction only happens when I'm on the trainer or a treadmill. Walking, biking or running outside gives me plenty to look at to keep my mind occupied.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

If you can do more, you should.

The title statement came from Robert Redford. It's his explanation of how he has accomplished so much. I identify with that sentiment. This is why I find it so hard to stop doing things and "take it easy". Having spent almost ten years in graduate school, I have become accustomed to having LOTS of things pressing on me waiting to be done. On the other hand, it also keeps me from stagnating or just sitting on the couch watching my life pass me by. It keeps me *doing* things and keeps me moving. That and the knowledge that as a single woman if I don't do it, it won't get done.

There are two downsides to this. The first is that I have a hard time taking a break because there is always something to be done and I was taught very clearly as a child that you can't do anything fun if you still have work to do. This may be why I have had two vacations in my adult life.

The second downside is that I keep finding more things to do. This leads to something of a paradox. I have so many choices of things to do that I sometimes get stuck and do nothing. Too many places to start. Too many distractions from other choices. I have lots of half-done things because I get distracted by something else that needs to be done before the current task can be finished or needs to be done simultaneously. This leads to even more half-done things, more mess, more sense of urgency to get things done. Of course, this is not helping me get my garage cleaned out/reorganized.

Part of the problem with finding more things to do is that I am easily distractable by something new. My brain is hungry. It likes to learn new things. It can learn new things, therefore it should learn new things, right? I joke that I have only one hobby--collecting skills/learning new things--but that's really true. Once I learn how to do something to my satisfaction, I rarely stick with it very long. I don't have to become expert at whatever it is, just figure out how it works and the theory behind it. Then I move on to the next "new shiny". I have only stuck with a few activities: knitting/spinning, cooking and computer stuff. Perhaps it's because there are things within each of those activities I don't know how to do yet. Right now I'm focusing on knitting lace, exploring vegetarian and whole grain cooking and learning to use the vi editor when editing webpages. I suppose if

Conference Trip Revisited
The highlight for me was finding a Wild Oats market. There is no big health food store like Strawberry Fields or Wild Oats or Whole Foods in my town. Actually, there's no Whole Foods store in the entire state. I decided it would be good to stock up on things I'll use but can't get locally. I picked up some millet, bulk wasabi peas, amaranth, organic shoyu, soba noodles, Odwalla breakfast bars and red miso. I also got some pomegranate-lime juice to have for dinner and breakfast while I was traveling.

Amaranth is a grain which is native to South America and has been grown for thousands of years. It has a very high lysine content, which is important as lysine is an essential amino acid (meaning it can't be synthesized in the body and must be eaten in food instead). I can't decide whether to cook the amaranth into an oatmeal like porridge for breakfast or to put it into a soup or veggie casserole. I'll figure out something later today and cook this evening.

Other food things:
I'm shipping cookies to Mitch for the SCinet setup--chocolate chip cookies made with both semi-sweet and bittersweet chips, plus either peanut butter cookies or oatmeal scotchies. I may ship a second box for the actual conference week. I'm including business cards since a few people asked about how to get in touch with me. It sounds like the people in Mitch's office now ask about "Mary cookies".

Recipes for the week:
Mediterranean lentils and rice, split pea/lentil soup, and some sort of veggie stir-fry or casserole. I've got some frozen veggies to use up. I may also make muffins for a portable breakfast/snack, I just haven't decided whether to make blueberry or millet muffins. I could, I suppose make blueberry-millet muffins. I do need to go buy some salad greens. I've become quite accustomed to having a salad at lunch.

Knitting Update:
I am still working on the Kiri shawl. Unblocked, it's about 12 inches long now. I'm on the 9th pattern repeat now. I think I'll go to 12 to 15 repeats from the top, based on length. I don't know how wide that will end up being. I may end up going further.

I started a pair of socks while at the conference. I started in on the Mountain Colors yarn stash I have. This particular pair is in Weaver's Wool in the color Crazy Woman. I bought it for the beautiful colors, though the name is fitting too, I suppose. This will be my third pair of Mountain Colors socks. They all use the same pattern--Braided Toeholder from 3 Trails Designs. I've got about three inches of the cuff done. I'll post a picture soon. Maybe I'll get the socks done in the next few weeks. I miss not having knitting time at work like I had at Pro. Of course, I have more time which could be knitting time in the evenings, but there are so many other things to do in the evenings. On the other hand, knitting night at the library is in two weeks.

Trivia from In the Actor's Studio today:
Anodyne is Al Pacino's favorite word. No is his least favorite. He'd like to be a good doctor as an alternate profession. The job he'd least like to do (which he's actually even done) is moving furniture.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Post-Conference Regroup

Spent the past three days at a work-related conference. I successfully schmoozed with a bunch of people in the department and with at least one guest speaker. I had a good time, but I didn't spend very much time with the folks I actually work with every day. Hopefully that won't be interpreted as my being anti-social, because it wasn't meant that way. I hung out with some other people from the office instead and introduced myself to other folks who work for the state in other regions. My direct co-workers displayed a tendency to sit at the back of the room and not really pay attention to the talks, but talk amongst themselves. So I only sat with them twice and moved up closer to the front on the other occasions when we were in the same sessions. I have to track down some research articles to send to one of the speakers since I answered a question for him regarding why Iraq had been developing aflatoxin as a biological weapon just prior to the first Gulf War.

I participated in the talent show with a group of people from the office. We sang "Sea Cruise" as a group while wearing sunglasses and leis that lit up. We had a blast and we even won honorable mention.

Why I tend to not watch the Breeder's Cup....
Because horses go down whenever I happen to catch a race. Pine Island just fell, slammed Javier Castellano into the ground and rolled over him. Fleet Indian was pulled up at the top of the homestretch. Dr. Bramlage is reporting a open fracture-dislocation of Pine Island's left front fetlock. With an open fracture, she's guaranteed to develop infection. Castellano is supposed to ride Bernardini, the winner of the 2006 Preakness, in the Breeder's Cup Classic later this afternoon. It's not clear if he'll be fit to do that.

Edgar Prado, the winning jockey, did not celebrate his win, but kept looking over his shoulder to see how Mr. Castellano was doing as he was loaded up into the ambulance. Mr. Prado knows what it's like to ride a horse that breaks down in a race. Mr. Prado rode Barbaro in the Preakness this year. That's got to be one of the grimmest winner's circle photos I've ever seen for a group of owners who just won $1 million. Not much in the way of smiling.

Joe Pesci just handed over the trophy to the owner of Round Pond. Mr. Pesci looked horrible and his entire presentation consisted of the sentence "Here, I think this is yours. It's heavy." I think this is a fine example of not planning what to say prior to a big event.

Update on Javier Castellano: He's confirmed he will ride Bernardini. He didn't apparently get injured when Pine Island fell and rolled over the top of him. There had been some concern that he had injured his knee.

Update on Pine Island: Shortly after being taken to the vet barn, Pine Island was euthanized. She sustained too much soft tissue damage along with the multiple fractures. Dr. Bramlage reported that there was no way to restore circulation to her leg because of the severity of the injury. It's a bad bad day for the Phipps Stable and Trainer Shug McGaughey.

Pine Island won 4 out of 6 starts this year. She was a big dark bay 3 year old filly. Apparently she couldn't start and stop fast, but once she got going there wasn't much stopping her. Shug McGaughey has called her "an old, hard-running, big, old, country kind of horse and she always gives her all." The photo is of Pine Island winning the Gazelle at Belmont three weeks ago.

Update on Fleet Indian: Fleet Indian has sustained only soft tissue injuries, straining her suspensory ligament. Had she kept running, she'd have ended up with fractures too. Pine Island wouldn't quit running, even on three legs, until she fell.

In other news:

There are 215 noodles in each can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup.

Cool Website of the Day:
Adopt-A-Microbe!

I don't feel much like blogging just now. Pine Island was my pick to win the Distaff today and I was looking forward to tracking her offspring after she became a broodmare. Needless to say that won't be happening now. I'll post fall leaf pictures later.