Sunday, April 29, 2007

More Digging

Contrary to the first assumption by my User Friendly buddies, I am NOT digging holes in the back yard for the purpose of burying bodies, tempting though that would have been after the weekend I have had. In the past 30 hours, I have, instead, planted 24 shrubs, moved some sod and planted my entire vegetable garden. For good measure, I also trimmed off the freeze-damaged parts of two trees.

My garden consists of the following plants: eight tomato plants (six regular and two cherry tomato), four red bell peppers, two jalapeno peppers, and 3 cucumber plants. For seed, I planted sunflowers, Swiss chard, acorn squash, zucchini, romaine and mesclun lettuces, radishes, basil, peas, green beans, dill, cilantro, tarragon (not true French tarragon), oregano and nasturtiums. That should keep me well supplied with veggies this summer. I would like to be able to eat almost exclusively from my garden. I think that would be fun. Don't you?

For giggles, I poured a quart of dill seed over the poison ivy corner. If I'd had that much mint seed, I've have planted it in mint instead. I am going to plant mint and once it takes over, I'll be certain to move some of it to the poison ivy corner.

Things left to plant: four more holly bushes (around the non-code electrical line to the pool pump), some monkey grass from a co-worker, plus lavendar, snapdragon, and morning glory seeds. To plant the seeds I will need to finish digging up the front flower bed. I might manage to get some of that done this week after work. Once things start to sprout, I'll take a photo of the veggie garden.

The rose bushes on the north side of the house are developing some sort of fungus thing. I have cut down one of them completely. I may dig up the three remaining ones and plant them in the far end of the poison ivy corner. That way they'd be out of the way (so I can't snag myself on them any more) yet I'd still be able to look at the blooms. I could let the hostas take over the north side of the house and maybe put in some hardy ferns. It would also work to mix in some of the irises. Actually, I think I'd like to put the hostas next to the garage where the irises are now. I think the irises are a bit out of control there. Heck, they're growing up underneath the siding!! The hostas would spread, but would be easier to control in a small space. In a week or two the irises will quit blooming and I'll move them to the north end of the house.

Tried to find the gaming group to play Asheron's Call today. There had been e-mail earlier in the week about getting a session together and I specifically asked for a head's up when people started gathering. I heard nothing. I logged in just to see if anybody was there, but nobody was playing. Since I can't tell if that means someone is coming in later or the whole deal has been called off, I logged off and went on with things. I will not spend the afternoon logging in every 15 minutes to see if people are playing or not. So I logged in around 6:45pm and found everybody starting to log off for dinner. It would seem they played most of the afternoon. Knowing my luck, they started about 10 minutes after I checked and found nobody in the game.

The comment was made that I'd make more points "if I'd start gaming again". That pissed me off. I *do* game. I'm in the game a couple times a week. I simply never manage to log in when anybody else I know is in the game. I am ABSOLUTELY UNABLE to guess when other people might be gaming. In fact, I seem to be pretty darned adept at gaming when NOBODY else is in the game. Yet it is once again my fault that I wasn't gaming at the right time with the group today, despite the fact that ALL OF THEM are in a single location and I am 700 miles away. I am magically supposed to know when the gaming starts without anybody bothering to make a phone call or send e-mail. Somehow it's all my fault. Funny how they'll tell me they really want to game with me, yet they ALWAYS "forget" to tell me when they're gaming.

If it had happened just once or twice, I'd believe it really was being forgetful. The problem is that it happens EVERY FREAKING WEEKEND. That's not forgetting that's intentional exclusion and rudeness. Do NOT tell me that I never game. I just don't happen to game with you because you make a point of never telling me when that might be, even though I ask very politely if you might make a 30 second phone call. Thank you ever so much for once again treating me like shit. I needed that little kick in the teeth.

On the Website Front
I am the volunteer webmaster for website of a non-profit agency. For some time now the site has been going to change hosts. Apparently that happened during the night on Friday. Saturday morning I got error messages from the listserv and when I tried to correct the problems found out that I no longer have access to the website or listserv. I also discovered that the site was about 98% broken. Whoever was in charge of moving the site doesn't seem to know how to move a site seamlessly. I cannot imagine how someone would think it would be wise to just move a site live and NOT test the set up at the new host BEFORE changing the domain redirect. The site still isn't working properly and I have found several errors on it, which I have forwarded on to the "server administrator". I figure it will be mid-May before I have access to the site, if it happens at all. I'm really not impressed with how this is being handled.

Can you identify a theme here? Where people are INCAPABLE of giving me information I need to do what needs to be done? It happens at work and elsewhere in life too. The people with the information I need either get pissy if I ask for the information and/or blame me for not knowing what they withheld from me. I just *love* getting blamed for things I have no control over and being expected to know everything, including things I have no possibility of knowing. Yes, that's an unreasonable expectation. I know that. However, just because it's an unreasonable expectation doesn't mean people don't still expect me to be able to do the impossible. When someone asks me a question or asks me to do something, I am absolutely incapable of not answering. That comes from getting in trouble for saying "I don't know", even when I didn't know the answer. I actually feel physically ill if I don't answer a question. This may explain why I can't stop learning new things and end up actually doing the impossible on a relatively regular basis. This, of course, simply trains people to tell me even less and expect even more.

In the meantime, I'm going to pour myself a nice glass of hot tea and knit something until it is time for bed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Brain Dead

Well, day two of SNS Mobile Preparedness Class is over. My brain is fried. Class went well. I got elected to stand up and explain how my table of people would set up a POD (Point of Dispensing) Site in a given location. We apparently did a fairly decent job of organizing things as there weren't any big questions or problems identified. My table of folks thought I did a decent job of presenting too. Right now I'm really tired though and, at 7:50pm, just about ready to go to bed.

Tomorrow I have another day of training, though on a completely different subject. Hopefully it won't be so tiring.

An interesting observation
Today I listened to three women in their 50s gossiping about whether or not several of the men in a restaurant were or were not gay. I had the distinct impression I was back in high school again. One of them said she "just had to know" as though she was going to be creeped out or somehow contaminated by being in proximity to a homosexual. She was definitely relieved to find out one of the guys who she was convinced was gay is actually married. I wonder if it's ever crossed her mind that he might not have figured it out himself yet or that he might have a marriage of convenience. I suspect not. :o)

I'm still trying to figure out what difference it makes if someone is gay and who cares. It's not like *she* is going to be involved with any of the guys in question since she's married. It may well be a cultural thing and/or a very conservative thing at that. I have been informed that in a year or two I'll be turned into a "Southern Belle" and settle down and marry a nice guy and have kids. I replied that I wasn't exactly looking and that most men find me rather intimidating given that I'm just about 99.9% independent and self-reliant. The one guy in the vehicle nodded and suggested I might have luck finding guys who could deal with that at the gym. I'm not sure she knew what to do/say when I said I wasn't actually looking to be in a relationship. I'm not sure that option ever occurred to her. As far as I can tell, everybody here is brainwashed into believing that you can't have a fulfilling life without being married and having kids. Oddly enough, even those women who have been divorced at least once STILL think that. Sigh. How can you even hope to have a successful relationship if you can't be happy independently?

One of these days someone is going to aggravate me one too many times about my failure to have marriage as an end goal in my life. Frankly, it's absolutely none of their business if/when I ever date anybody or who I might date. And I'll be hard pressed to not make up something outrageous, like that I'm dating a girl from New York, though that ought to get them to quit asking if I'm dating yet. Of course it will also gain me some bad karma, I'm sure, tormenting the conservatives. I'll have to practice saying, "No comment" when the subject comes up.

Monday, April 23, 2007

First Day of SNS Class

Well, I must say I was impressed. I had thought it was just a state-produced course on Strategic National Stockpile deployment. I was wrong. It's actually a CDC-run course on Mobile Preparedness. The course materials are thorough, the instructors are engaging and the information is actually useful. Now I need to read through our regional SNS plan and figure out what my role is. Of course, I got asked today if I'd help re-write the plan later this summer, so I really will have to read it and understand it.

Speaking of writing things up, I should probably summarize the SNS training for the folks who weren't there but still need the info. I'm pretty sure the info won't get around if I don't do that. I will have to write a report after the TB stuff is over so someone in the future will have some idea of what was done. Right now there's no info on the past TB problems at that facility. I keep getting told that's because the people who did things then aren't here now, as though that explains why it's ok. I would think that staff turnover would actually lead to a desire to document things so that when staff do leave that knowledge is not lost. This is apparently not the case.

I got called on in class several times. I guess they've figured out that I'll share an opinion or three when asked. (I should probably quit doing that.) One of the instructors is a paramedic so we traded war stories at lunchtime. That was fun.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Digging Fool!

Well, I still haven't gotten the whole front bed finished. I ran out of energy. I quit digging when I got to the end of the front porch and then I started tilling things up. I added about 240 pounds of composted cow manure to the bed, then tilled it up again. I put in the various plants I've either purchased or divided from existing plants (where the iris and the larger coreopsis came from). I have also planted a lot of coreopsis seed that I brought with me from Urbana.

In addition to putting in all the plants, I also planted about 2 gallons of some sort of bulbs which I dug up during the great excavation. I think they might be gladiolus, but I'm not sure. I planted them in a line behind the irises and also between the iris clumps. We'll just have to see what happens.

I did not get any of the holly hedge planted. I was good about watering them though. I also put the raspberry bush I bought last week in the shade next to the deck. I think I'll plant it next to the garden shed by the Urbana raspberries that survived the move.

The veggie garden got a second tilling today. I have not added any organic matter to that area. I am debating having Lowe's deliver me a pallet of composted cow manure. I need to decide something soon since it's time to plant. I have at least decided on what is going in the garden: six tomato plants, two cherry tomato plants, four eggplant, 3-4 cucumber, 3-4 zucchini/summer squash, lettuces, radishes, peas, onions, potatoes, garlic, basil, mint, thyme and oregano with sunflowers, marigolds and nasturtiums for a border. The plants I'll get from WalMart since they have the best prices and the same quality as everybody else. The seed seems to be cheapest at Home Depot. If the weather cooperates, I'll plant the garden next weekend.

Elsewhere in my life....
I baked bread today. Two loaves of whole wheat sourdough. I should have let it cool a bit more, but I had a couple of pieces when the loaves were just 10-15 minutes out of the oven. It tastes really good plain and with hummus. Tomorrow at breakfast I'll try it toasted with peanut butter or jam.

I am consistently getting in daily physical activity, though I'm not consistently running/walking, but this is progress in the right direction. I need to print out a training plan and put it on the wall. I have several saved to my various computers.

At work, I will spend three days this week at meetings. Two days on the Strategic National Stockpile deployment and one day is a presentation for County Fair Animal Exhibits and Petting Zoos. I might be able to get my UV light manuscript finished while at the meetings. I'm hoping I'll be able to make a vegan lunch option out of whatever they provide, but I will have fruit and Luna bars in my bag, just in case.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Definitely Going Vegan

Now that the contaminated wheat gluten and rice protein from China has gotten into the human food supply via pig feed, it seems like a good excuse to just give up all animal products. First, it would result in improved health. Second, I don't eat meat/poultry/fish more than once every couple of weeks to months anyway and rarely eat eggs or butter either. Third, what contaminants there are in the human food supply tend to bioaccumulate and are typically found in highest concentrations in animal since animals are at the top of the food chain.

The benefits: reduced risk of cancers and heart disease, increased vitamin and mineral intake, and probably some weight loss, though walking/running/cycling/lifting weights is contributing to the weight loss too. I always feel a whole lot better on a vegetarian diet, so I imagine I'll feel better on a vegan diet too.

Eating at a restaurant is about to get "interesting" though as will eating catered lunches at work. I will have to start carrying my own snacks more reliably. I nearly always have a Lemon Zest Luna Bar in my bag somewhere. I'll get to practice dealing with the catered lunch on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. I should build up my portable snack stash on my next run to the grocery store....

Speaking of food, other than needing some fresh veggies (lettuce, onions and maybe peppers) and the aforementioned snacks, I don't need to go to the grocery store tomorrow. I have a pot of soup made (mixed bean-barley) and some quinoa with beans and corn. The sourdough starter has been freshly fed, so I can get bread started first thing in the morning.

Outdoor Weekend
I need to get my hedge planted. I have been waiting for it to plant itself, but all the pots are still just sitting next to my deck. So much for the help of the lawn pixies. I did get quite a bit of the front flower bed dug up this evening however. I need about 200 pounds of compost dumped into it but I don't think I'll do that this weekend.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I am officially in training!!

I registered for the Chicago Marathon today. This has been a great motivator for me and I hope the motivation will continue to grow. Next I need to make hotel reservations to stay downtown the night before the race. That will be my splurge for me. Well, that and a new pair of shoes (or two), which I'll buy at Body 'N' Sole in June. The runners I've got for now will do just fine. And as I get into better shape, I'll reward myself with new workout clothes! Yay for me!! I used to "reward" myself with going out to dinner. That is not necessarily compatible with increasing my fitness and health level. Time for some new behaviors.

Here's another factor in the NJ Governor's car accident
The SUV was apparently going 90 miles an hour at the time of the incident. Oops. Even with the world's greatest reaction time, it's hard to react fast enough at that speed. I hope the trooper isn't in trouble. I think it might be difficult to say "no" to the governor when you work for the state.

Proof that banning guns completely does NOT eliminate gun violence
The mayor of Nagasaki was shot and killed yesterday. Civilians in Japan may not own handguns and rifles are being phased out as their owners die of old age (ownership of the rifle is not transferable). Shotgun and air rifle licensing is becoming increasingly onerous and ownership rates are dropping. Nonetheless, Mr. Ito is now dead after being shot twice in the back with a revolver.

More reasons to not eat meat
Frequent consumption of cured meats is linked to increased risk of lung problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The problem may be due to nitrites in the cured meats.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Not a Good Day to be at Virginia Tech

There has been a shooting at VA Tech. At the moment, the official count is 31 dead, not counting the shooter. MSNBC has called this is the largest mass murder in the US, which would be incorrect. There were 2973 persons killed in the September 11th attacks. There were 168 killed in the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. Julio Gonzalez killed 87 people after he set fire to a nightclub in New York City following a fight with his girlfriend who was at said nightclub. The worst school related-incident in the US occurred in Bath, Michigan in 1927 with a total of 44 dead. The VT incident may well be the largest mass shooting, but that's not what MSNBC was calling it this morning. (Update: By 4pm CDT, MSNBC has figured out their error and is labelling the incident correctly.)

The news media is already starting with the criticism on how there is a lack of good information and everything is chaotic. Really? Who'd have thought that there would be chaos following a shooting in two separate buildings over two hours involving upwards of 40 people. Of course there isn't good information yet. There probably won't be for at least 24 hours. The priority is securing the scene and getting the situation stabilized. Next, get the additional resources (EMS and law enforcement) that you need to contain the situation and handle the emergent issues, then address the less emergent issues. *Then* you start getting information out through the Public Information Officer (PIO) to the media and even then the information released to the public is carefully vetted so as to not complicate or compromise investigations. No doubt this aggravates the news media tremendously, but they're just going to have to wait. It is interesting, however, to watch different PIOs handle the news media and see how well they deal with the repeated requests for information they cannot give out or do not have.

No doubt the anti-gun persons will go nuts over this. I have one thing to say. Had there been a civillian with a weapon handy, the shooter might have been taken out prior to his self-inflicted gunshot wound. Banning guns won't solve problems like this. Guns were banned years ago in Chicago and Washington, D.C. (and are still banned there), yet the shootings continue. What makes you think that criminals who don't follow the laws regarding guns now will suddenly start following them in the future? They won't and the resources are not available to gather up every single firearm and destroy it. It just won't happen.

On the other hand, the VT Rescue Club has been very busy today. I'm sure they'll have a lot to talk about at the next Collegiate EMS Conference.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Birds are Migrating North

Here's a photo of seven of them who flew over late this afternoon (you can only see six in the photo as the 7th was trailing too far behind to be in the photo). They are all the same size, rather loud and flew in precise formation. I wonder where their summer breeding ground is.

Cold and Rainy Morning
Looks like another day stuck inside. It's in the 40s right now and raining. Yesterday I lay out where the new hedge will go, but didn't even start digging up the beds. It was far too muddy for that. I also need to get some compost or humus to dig into the holes.

There are over 25 compact holly bushes there, plus three variegated euonymous (one on each corner, plus one next to the steps) as a contrasting bush. The holly bushes were slightly freeze damaged from last weekend, so I got them for $2 each instead of the regular price of $6 each. Not a bad deal, if I say so myself. It's not supposed to rain this week so perhaps I'll get the installation done in stages after work.

Here's what the spoils from yesterday looked like before unloading the car. I even planned ahead and put a tarp down to keep the mud and water off the carpet. I probably wouldn't have thought of that except that I happened to see the tarp sitting behind the other plants in the garage.

Here's a shot of the perennials out of the bunch (minus the holly and a raspberry bush). There are two artemisia, six creeping phlox, five nandina, two sea pinks, two dwarf coreopsis and two Mediterranean heathers. The heathers will go into the backyard with the nandinas while the rest of the plants will be in front of the house in the new bed I haven't finished digging yet.

The day actually ended sunny, but very windy and cold. I did get the lawn mowed (well except for the swampy spots). I even washed the mower down afterward. I really need to change the oil in the mower, but it was too cold to mess with that today. I will work on that next weekend and lube all the appropriate places. At the end of the summer I'll get the John Deere guys to come out to do a proper tune-up. Sure, I could do that stuff myself, but I figure that for an investment like the mower it doesn't hurt to pay a little extra and make sure it's all taken care of properly. That way I won't have to buy another mower for 20 years, which is fine with me.

Headline of the Day
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

My New Pet!
I have a new pet! I feed him and talk to him and keep him warm. He lives in a little bowl on top of the dryer. I finally activated the sample of Carl's Sourdough that I got in the mail several weeks ago. In a day or two I'll have a fully grown starter and will probably bake myself some biscuits or bread next weekend. Every few days I'll have to feed it, but it will also do just fine in the refrigerator unattended for a week or so. I'll also take some starter and dry it for storage, just in case I kill this batch.

Over the next couple of months, I'll work my way through my bread cookbooks and try most, if not all of the sourdough recipes. I'd like to find a recipe for bread that I use regularly instead of paying $3 a loaf for store-bought bread, which is ok, but not spectacular. If I can find a recipe I like and it isn't too much trouble to bake at home, I can have better bread and have fun too. How's that for cheap entertainment, plus it will make my house smell *wonderful*.

Here's a photo of the starter after its second feeding and just prior to its final feeding. It got all kinds of bubbly.

I am starting to weed out my belongings. I have come to the conclusion that I have far too much stuff. I am starting with the computer parts. I really don't need four modems. Technically I don't need any, but I'll keep one of them. I'm also going to label the miscellaneous cables to things I still own and discard the cables I can't identify. This ought to get the stash of computer stuff down to a single box, instead of three boxes. Mitch is going to help me go through the miscellaneous bits I can't identify tonight and help me decide what I should keep and what can go.

After that, it will be time for the various boxes of detritus from my life. I don't know that I'll throw out much of that stuff, but I will at least organize and label the boxes. I could start scrapbooks, but so much of the stuff doesn't work in a scrapbook, like programs from various concerts. I may invest in some acid-free boxes like those sold at Exposures. They also have some really nice photo albums and frames, should I ever get around to getting that organized.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Yes, it's true!!

The governor of New Jersey was *NOT* wearing his seatbelt. Apparently he never wears his seat belt. That explains the 15+ broken bones he's got today. Mind you, the state of New Jersey is about to roll out a big seatbelt ad campaign which the governor was going to do ads for.... Methinks they need to get a different spokesperson. The governor's staff think he needs to get a ticket and fine for failing to wear a seatbelt. I agree completely.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Not the Brightest Thing to Do....

The governor of New Jersey is in the trauma ICU of a hospital today following a rather nasty car accident. The SUV he was riding in yesterday (driven by a state trooper) was struck by a white pick-up truck on the Garden State Parkway and ended up slamming into a guard rail. The white truck swerved into them after it swerved to avoid a red truck which had suddenly entered the roadway from the shoulder. The red vehicle left the scene without stopping.

Ooopsie. *That* will be at least a misdemeanor and possibly a felony. Fleeing the scene of an accident is bad. Very bad.

(Update 4/15/2007: The driver was found by law enforcement and interviewed. He left the scene because he did not think his vehicle was involved in the accident. Apparently the police agree and the driver will not be charged. That's quite a change in attitude since the day of the accident.)

It hasn't been mentioned whether the governor was wearing his seatbelt or not, but based on the severity of his injuries and looking at photos of the damage to the vehicle, I'm pretty sure he wasn't wearing it. He's got an open fracture of one femur (broken in two places and now pinned together), a fractured sternum and a total of twelve broken ribs, six on each side. I'd bet that he might have had a collapsed lung as a result. The good news is that he didn't suffer a head injury and no brain damage. Right now he's on a ventilator, however, and the docs say it'll be at least a few weeks before he can run the state again.

Dinner plans
Since I have managed to not eat as well as I'd like for the past few weeks, I am going back to planning my meals day by day. This makes shopping much more efficient and effective, not to mention reduces food (and money) wastage. Tonight I'm going to have a hummus-veggie wrap, just as soon as I go make the hummus. Tomorrow I'll make some quinoa with black beans and corn. Later in the week I'll have vegan sweet potato enchiladas.

Speaking of vegan, just for giggles and as an experiment to see how difficult it will be, I'm going vegan for the rest of April. I can do anything for two weeks. If it goes ok and I like how I feel, I'll keep going until at least the end of May.

Although it seems like it would be limiting to give up all animal products, I disagree. There are all sorts of things I can eat. In my pantry, I have three different varieties of dried beans, plus millet, amaranth, barley, rice and wheat berries. I also have whole wheat pasta, marinara sauce, canned tomatoes (whole and diced) and beans (kidney and great northern), seaweed (nori and kombu), and crushed pineapple. In the freezer I have pecans, walnuts, spinach, collard greens, peas and corn. Other than possibly needing a bit of fresh fruit and leafy veggies, I ought to be in pretty good shape to just eat my way through the groceries I already have, which ought to take a couple of weeks.

More on reasons why to go vegan, or at least vegetarian, later.

Knitting Progress
I have started the border of the Kiri Shawl. Since the weather is expected to be cold and rainy, at least for tomorrow, I should be able to get a good bit of knitting accomplished and might, barring any disasters or major errors, even finish the shawl. Tomorrow morning, I figure I'll make the usual run to Wal-Mart, library and Lowe's, then fire up iTunes and listen to podcasts while I knit away the day. If I have time, I need to darn two socks as well. I still have no idea what I'll knit next although I'd like to crank out a Dulaan Project hat on Sunday.

Bad Weather
Today the world was cold and wet. Not at all pleasant. It's going to continue that way tomorrow as well, which rather precludes working in the yard. I really need to mow, but that won't happen until at least Sunday afternoon and possibly not until Monday. I had hopes of planting some of the plants I bought yesterday, but I don't think that will happen. I did work on developing some sort of plan as to where to put the plants though, so that's good. I think I will buy the holly plants to go around the deck. I'm debating buying a discounted Japanese maple too, but I'm not quite sure where I'd put it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bad Behavior Has Consequences!!!

Finally, three prominent examples of how bad behavior will not be tolerated. First, radio host Don Imus is presently unemployed by his network after making disparaging, not to mention sexist and racist remarks about the Rutgers University women's basketball team. It took a week or so to happen, but he did indeed get fired today. After most of the show's major sponsors (American Express and Staples, to name two of them) withdrew their advertising. MSNBC had already pulled the plug on simulcasting his show on TV.

Next, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed out some suspensions for bad behavior off the field. He expressly pointed out that playing in the NFL is a privilege, NOT a right. Allen "Pacman" Jones has been suspended without pay for the entirety of the 2007 season. Chris Henry has been suspended for eight games (half the season).

I must say that I'm very impressed with Commissioner Goodell. For being a new guy (on the job about a year if I recall correctly), he's definitely setting the tone for how he will expect things to be in the league. Strong leadership and definite guidelines for acceptable performances along with concrete consequences for failing to follow through. Consequences which are actually meted out too. There is nothing more ineffectual than threatening a punishment and failing to follow through.

So, kudos especially to Commissioner Goodell and, to a lesser extent, CBS. (They get points off since their motivation was primarily to save advertising revenues, not to make a statement about Mr. Imus' behavior. Until the advertisers pulled out, CBS had intended to only suspend Mr. Imus and that suspension was likely to have been *with* pay.)

Crummy Spring Weather is *GOOD*, especially for the garden!

Lowe's had a whole lot of perennials, shrubs and annuals heavily discounted today. These are plants which were frost/freeze damaged over the past week/weekend. I picked up two Boston ferns in hanging baskets for $1 each. I also have two shallow planter pots of annuals ($2 each), plus five Nandina shrubs ($2), four asparagus ferns and three upright dracenas (50 cents each), two heath plants ($2) and two artemisias ($2). Tomorrow I'm going back for some dwarf holly bushes. Instead of putting boxwood around the perimeter of my deck I am going to install a holly hedge. It'll also grow to about 18 inches tall and should fill out to be a nice solid little hedge. Then again, by tomorrow after work I may change my mind and decide to leave the deck as it is so the birds can hang out underneath it. (I am also reminded of the NON-CODE electrical drop that the previous owner ran from the house to the pool pump. This electrical line runs somewhere parallel to the north side of the deck and will, no doubt, get cut at some point in the shrub installation. I really should hire an electrician to fix that and bring it up to code....)

Anyway, I would need about 18 plants. At $2 each, instead of $8 each. That's a pretty good deal. I might pick up two non-dwarf holly bushes for the back corner of the yard too, to plant along the fence.

I still need to find a shade tree for the back yard, next to the house. Right now there is no shade there at all in the summer and no attenuation of the wind in winter. It would be nice to plant something like a maple, elm or hackberry there. The trick will be finding out where the septic tank is so that I don't end up causing myself problems down the road.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Miscellaneous Annoyances

It's been a rather aggravating week. Nothing major, just little things stacking up to drive me batty. I am almost completely out of sorts and feeling quite snappish, which I dislike.

First, driving 5-7 miles over the speedlimit means I get tailgated all the way to work and/or passed in a no passing zone. Occasionally with a rude gesture. There must be some bonus for collecting speeding tickets.

Second, the freezing weather last weekend has killed the baby pear fruit on my pear tree. (It appears that the peaches might survive.) The weather also killed off the cannas I planted the weekend before. I don't know if they'll make it or not.

Third, the local rabbit population is making a point of lopping off a couple of inches off my maple seedling every week. At first it was a whip almost 2 1/2 feet tall. Now it's about 8 inches. I don't think it's going to make it now and I think it's too late to move it indoors. This is a tree that I brought with me from my front yard in Illinois. Pout.

Fourth, my windmill has completely self-destructed. Today three bolts fell out of the legs and the whole thing collapsed, bending three blades in the windmill part and snapping one of the welds securing the vane/tail bracket to the top of the windmill assembly. I suspect that I will end up disassembling the whole thing since it's clear that the windmill can't actually handle the wind. If I lived in an urban/suburban area or had a sheltered spot to put it, maybe it would work. Even put right next to the shed it still gets too much wind, vibrates just right and shakes itself apart. I can't seem to be able to find a solution that will allow me to keep the windmill up, short of tightening all the bolts every 2-3 days, which would be impractical even if I could reach all the bolts without a stepladder.

Fifth, I hate being thought of solely as a glorified computer help person at work. I really can do more than "computer stuff" although that was how I was introduced to a new employee this week. Yes, I can do a lot with a computer, but I was not hired to help people find their files or edit spreadsheets. I can also be of assistance in investigations and also answer infectious disease questions. If I had to guess, I'd say I've had more epi and infectious disease training than half of my co-workers put together, (that's not an entirely fair statement given that I've also spent a whole lot more time in school). In any event, I'd like to use that training before I forget more things. I may have to say I'm bored again within the next week or two and we all know that *that* will lead to a major public health disaster of some sort, followed by "death threat" from coworkers. :o)

Sixth, that whole annoying newspaper thing is still bugging me. I guess I'm supposed to magically know that there is a problem because it's against their policy/practice to actually communicate problems to their subscribers. I'm really not impressed.

Seventh, it's been too cold or too windy to work outside. I spent the whole weekend indoors (all three days of it) and it's driving me nuts.

That's it for now. I had a few things to rant about, but I won't rant right now. I'd like to keep some semblance of a state of calm....

Monday, April 09, 2007

Well, that was a productive day.

I wrote the entire quarterly newsletter in the first four hours of the day today. Of course, I failed to bring a copy home with me to edit the embedded .pdf file in them. I suppose I could edit the .pdf separately and then paste it back into the document at work. I need to trim the first and third pages off of a document. Should be quick enough to do. (Famous last words....)

But now my brain is fried. Tonight is knitting night at the library, but I'd rather just sit in my chair and drool. Right now I'm watching The Green Mile and fixing to have a samich for dinner.

RIP Johnny Hart
Mr. Hart was the creator of the comics B.C. and The Wizard of Id. He died at his storyboard over the weekend. He was 76 years old.

Random News:
What did you expect Iran to say, that they had the capability of doing uranium enrichment at a "hobby scale"? Of course they said it was "industrial scale". How scary would a hobby uranium enrichment plant be? You can see one of those at the grade school science fair. What I find amusing is that it doesn't seem to have occurred to anybody yet that the Iranians *might* just by lying about this, yet we cannot possibly trust them to tell us the truth about anything else in the world. Sigh.

Caffeine consumption is associated with reduced risk of Parkinson's Disease. Of course, I find this out as I give up caffeine. In my personal experience, twitching of various body parts had a distinct positive relationship to increasing amounts of caffeine.

Apple sold the 100 millionth iPod this past week. W00t!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

An Interesting Experiment

What happens when you put a world-class violinist into a subway station and have him be a street performer? Will anybody stop to listen? Will he make any money? Read the result.

It's Prom Time!!

Anybody want to take bets on how popular this item will be? I still don't get what the big deal with the prom is, but perhaps that's because I never got asked to go to one. Even if I had been asked I wouldn't have been able to go due to financial constraints.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Customer Service?

I am beginning to think the local newspaper is run by a bunch of idiots. I called the circulation desk today to inform them that I had not received a paper this morning. The person who answered the phone first couldn't find my account. When she did finally find it (after over 5 minutes and eventually I had to go find a bill), she informed me that I never paid any of my bills so the account was cancelled. Excuse me?!?!? The bill comes in the mail (usually after the due date). I pay it within the week and put the pre-addressed envelope in the mail. Wouldn't you think that if the company had not received any payment that they might have sent a past-due notice? None of the invoices I received indicated any delinquent payments. I guess I was supposed to magically know that there was some issue with the payment system. Now I get to pay for copies of checks and then fax them to the company to prove that I have, in fact, paid them $30 over the past three months.

This is the same newspaper which took almost two MONTHS to get paper delivery started. Now apparently they are capable of cashing a check, but not crediting my account. Given that the paper is about 90% wire feeds, I'm highly inclined to not bother trying to sort things out. I certainly won't bother renewing my subscription. To be honest, I'm not entirely convinced that they'd be able to figure out how to do that anyway.

Update from Sunday: Guess what was on my driveway this morning? Yep. The paper. If I continue to get papers this week, I will contact the circulation office to ask them to make up their mind and, if they decide to continue delivering my paper, to credit my account for the three papers in the past two weeks that never arrived. If there is even one more problem with this I'm cancelling the subscription, though I expect it will take weeks for them to figure that out and quit delivering.

Painting Progress
The living room is painted, as is the bathroom. I even got the furniture all put back where it belongs. Because the previous owners failed to tape off the ceiling or the trim when they painted the living room its baby-poop green/brown color, there is icky paint on the edge of the ceiling and on the baseboards. I masked carefully when I painted. There are some green edge spots along the top of the north wall as well as along the top of the baseboards. I can ignore the baseboards since they are mostly obscured by furniture anyway. I will do my best to ignore the green bits at the top of the wall. We'll see how long it is before I get the ladder out, move the furniture *again*, find a small paint brush and fix it. I'll post pictures eventually.

Anyway, it's all done, but I am exceptionallly cranky and fussy at the moment. I hope my attitude improves tomorrow. Perhaps I'll be back to normal on Monday.

An Observation
I have discovered why the women here look older than their counterparts in other places I have lived. First, I don't think anybody uses sunscreen and many folks still worship the sun. Second, many women go tanning. Not just a little bit either. These folks are working on Wayne Newton and George Hamilton tans. I guess they think that age spots and crepey skin on their faces, chests and arms is attractive. Icky. I'll stick with wearing sunscreen daily on exposed skin, thank you.

I just found out today that there is a marathon being held here in Jackson NEXT WEEKEND. I might have considered entering it if I'd seen it advertised anywhere. It's not even been in the stupid newspaper until I happened to catch a notice about the race organizer getting an award for something or other. Even that didn't mention when the race was going to be. I had to Google it. Needless to say I won't be in that race. I'd be even less prepared for this race than I was for the 2004 Chicago Marathon. Sigh.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I just saw the greatest back and forth rivalry/practical joke. I'm watching "Deadliest Catch--Best of Season Two". The Northwestern came across one of the Cornelia Marie's crab pots. So they hauled it on board, pinned a pair of the captain's underwear to it and welded it closed. Mind you, this pot was *FULL* of crab and they left all of the crab in it, then put it back into the water.

So the Cornelia Marie comes across her crab pot and they discover that the pot has been spot welded shut. Then they find the underwear. The captain immediately begins to suspect his counterpart on the Northwestern. And begins to plot his realiation. They find a Northwestern crab pot. They run the cable on it through a section of pipe so the NOrthwestern can't haul it through their winch and will have to improvise another way to get the pot on board. Once the pot is on board they discover that the Cornelia Marie crew has put a week's worth of garbage bags into it. Sig, the captain of the Northwestern, gave the Captain of the Cornelia Marie a score of 9 for ingenuity and deviousness.

These guys are going to end up being the sort of best friends that Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were in Grumpy Old Men. These two captains have been rivals and friends for 25 years and this sort of practical joking is tradition for them. The captain of the Cornelia Marie was pretty proud of earning a 9.

Quote of the Day
From Alfred Molina who is in the new movie The Hoax: In an interview on NPR, he described the role he plays in the movie as "being in the passenger seat, desperately trying to see if we can stop somewhere so I can pee."

Can you tell I did a lot of laughing today? Right now (at 8pm), I'm about to start cutting in the edges of my living room. I've got the furniture moved (except for the TV) and the walls sanded down. Still need to fill the dents in the wall behind the TV.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


I had to do the first round of tilling after work on Monday since we expected a baaaad thunderstorm on Tuesday. Today the high temp was over 20 degrees cooler than it was yesterday and it is expected to remain cooler the rest of the week. It might even freeze over the weekend. Hopefully that won't piss off the peach and pear trees which have started to create baby fruits. I think the apple tree has just about finished blooming so I don't need to worry about the blossoms getting frosted off the tree. In any event, I won't be planting much of anything this weekend.

Weekend Plan:
Not mucking around in the garden isn't such a bad thing. I was going to paint the living room and bathroom anyway. Tomorrow night I'll sand down the rough spots, fix the multitude of dents in the wall behind the TV (I have no idea what the previous owners had against that section of wall) and get the various nail holes/dents spackled. Friday morning I'll put up probably two coats of Killz and in the afternoon get the base coat done. The tricky bit will be to move the secretary. I'll have to move a lot of the china out of it to prevent damage, then I think I can slide it on the carpet, esp if I use old magazines as sliders.

Getting Fitter
The women at work are raving about my losing weight. Dr. G asked if I was on a diet. I said I was not on a diet, but had decided to change my eating habits and avoid high fat meals and fast food. He seemed to think that was a good idea. Of course, I'm also exercising a bit. I haven't told anybody that I'm doing the marathon again this year. I need to get cracking on the walk/run mileage, instead of just doing weights and cycling. It's not that those things are bad, but they aren't going to be as beneficial to cutting my running time as actually running.

I'm able to stay motivated to keep on track. Mostly I've decided that I'm just going to do it and quit making excuses. I'm also able to start seeing changes. I can see the muscles starting to show under the fat on my legs. I'll have to up the intensity on the strength training and see if I can get the upper body muscles to pop more too. Soon it will be tank top season and I want to have killer biceps and shoulders before July.

Speaking of Rain....
So, last night it rained. I didn't get the windows in the house closed before the rain started. This wasn't such a bad thing, except that IT WAS RAINING SIDEWAYS.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

NPR has a sense of humor

One of today's stories was sponsored by the Soylent Corporation, which makes protein supplements. They were advertising the new addition to their product line: Soylent Green.

For those of you who don't get the reference, Soylent Green was a movie from the 1970s, starring Charlton Heston. Soylent Green was one of three food products that were the only food source in a future overcrowded and environmentally damaged society. In the end, Mr. Heston's character discovered that Soylent Green was made from people.

Yes, the ad was a hoax. Happy April Fool's Day!!

Stave Puzzles is a purveyor of sadistically difficult jigsaw puzzles. These are high quality puzzles produced on wood pieces with a cherry back and are all cut freehand on a jigsaw. Each puzzle has a special piece which is signed and dated by the person who cut it out. The price range starts at a couple hundred dollars and exceeds $20,000 at the high end. There are all sorts of trick pieces, including false edge pieces, and special pieces, called silhouettes, whose shapes reflect some feature of the puzzle subject.

Prepare for Destruction!
My tiller is now fully functional. It took the repair guy about 40 minutes to clean the carb and fuel line out. He also changed the air filter and filled the tires. It started up instantly after the carb got cleaned and he let it run for about 5 minutes to get the last of the goo burned out. It still needs a bit of choke to run smoothly, but that should go away with a tank or two of fuel through it. I had every intention of tearing up the back yard and re-grading the drainage ditch on the south side of my property, but it started to rain about an hour after he left and rained most of the afternoon. The good news is that the rain softened the ground up. The bad news is that the mostly clay soil might now be too wet to work with.