Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!!

I got an early start this year. I purchased my bag of Mary Janes (it's peanut butter taffy, essentially) in late September. I have exactly two of the 87 pieces left. I did an excellent job of pacing myself this year. I should have no trouble at all finishing my candy allotment by the end of Halloween.

Halloween candy and I have always had a strange relationship. I would love to go Trick or Treating. But I was always very picky about what candy I would eat. And I wouldn't eat more than one or two pieces a day, even though the whole stash was available in my room. So by the time the next Halloween came around, there was still candy left in my little plastic Jack o' Lantern. I even remember dumping candy I knew I wouldn't eat into my sister's Halloween candy stash. (She liked more of the candies than I did and also ate it faster.) The bestest treats were when we got homemade popcorn balls and caramel apples from people in the neighborhood. That totally rocked. I don't think I've had a popcorn ball since and I'm positive the store-bought ones wouldn't taste anywhere near as good, even if I dressed up as a ghost to eat it.

Tonight I am pretending I'm not home (so I don't have to give up my last two pieces of candy to any Trick or Treaters!) and watching scary movies on TCM. I just finished watching The Haunting and now Bedlam, starring Boris Karloff, is on.

What is it about watching trainwrecks?
The Discovery Channel is showing the 2nd season of Everest: Beyond the Limit. Two Kazakh climbers attempted to summit late in the day and without bottled oxygen. They had nowhere near enough time to summit and return to the highest camp before dark *and* there is a storm coming. Around 3am, there is a "mayday" call. Sherpas scramble from advanced base camp to >27,000 feet to find them, which would ordinarily take 3 days. In complete darkness. I don't think this is going to end well for the Kazakhs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I LEARNED!

I made a new pizza tonight with the second half of the dough from Sunday. Again, it was topped with cheese, tomatoes, basil, marinara sauce and various herbs. This time I let it COOL before eating it. No mouth blisters this time.

And yesterday's blister has resorbed itself. I think a bit of it was left this morning, but by the end of the day it was gone. Yay!

The Curse of the Rhinovirus
I think I know from where the goo in my head comes. It's my neurons melting. By about 3:30 in the afternoon I'm pretty much done mentally at the moment. I've been making a point of pacing myself with respect to mental and physical efforts. I just run out of steam by late afternoon. Normally I don't run out of steam until 7 or 8 at night. I will be very happy when I have my mental and physical energy back.

Today I don't have a sore throat. The left side of my head is still trying to drain itself. The right side has decided it wants to play too. Tomorrow could be interesting in terms of sneezing, sniffling and tissue usage.

Ordinary People Become Marathoners
There's a show on Nova tonight following a dozen people who are enrolled as part of Team Nova, training for the Boston Marathon. They come from various fitness levels and backgrounds. They just showed one of the women and noted that she had been able to just walk since the halfway point because of a sharp pain in one of her feet. It turned out to be a piece of glass. SHE WALKED 13 MILES with a PIECE OF GLASS in her foot!! And people think *I* don't know when to quit. Three cheers for Vera for not giving up. :o)

And Finally....
Sixty-nine years ago today Martians landed in Grovers Mill, New Jersey. If you ever get a chance to listen to a recording of the original radio broadcast, do it. It's quite entertaining and very suspenseful.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I *swear* it wasn't hot!!

I made pizza last night for dinner. By this I do not mean I cooked a frozen pizza or ordered take-out. By "I made pizza", I mean that I made pizza dough from scratch, let it rise briefly, rolled it out, covered it with spiced up spaghetti sauce, garlic, fresh basil, dried red peppers and mozzarella, then baked it. I had about half of it last night. The other half I split between lunch and dinner today. Tonight I re-heated the pizza in the toaster oven so the crust would remain crispy. When I ate dinner tonight, I let the pizza cool a bit and started noshing. I do not recall the pizza being too hot to eat comfortably. And yet....

I have a blister on the roof of my mouth.

And of course, I can't leave it alone. I'm pushing at it with my tongue. It's as annoying as having food stuck in your teeth that you can't get out. I only hope the blister resorbs itself and doesn't burst. I suspect it would really hurt if it burst. Hopefully I won't mess with it in my sleep and cause it to pop.

The Weekend Recap
I did get the pool closed. The cover went on with little trouble. I was briefly worried about halfway through the process when the wind caught the edge and caused the cover to billow up, but then the wind died down and things proceeded smoothly from there. Next time I won't try dragging the cover on *against* the wind. I haven't yet disconnected the pump, but I can do that later this week.

Didn't bother mowing the lawn. I did, however, spray the weeds. I used this as an excuse to NOT mow the lawn since the directions clearly state you shouldn't mow for 1-2 days before or *after* spraying. So I can mow tomorrow. :o)

Washed the car today.

Gamed for a couple hours last night. Re-learned how to get to the Fiuns dungeon. I knew that Wayne had helped me set it up as a portal recall location, but I couldn't remember for sure. So he had me cast the portal and then he ran through it to check. (Better him than me since I wouldn't have recognized it anyway.) As a group we ran a quest to get writs of refuge. I am not entirely certain what those are for, but I think it's part of the paperwork necessary to get an apartment or other residence. I prolly ought to check on that. In any event, the group thing went pretty well until we got to a dungeon where we were all using fire weps. This isn't a bad thing except that they give off smoke which makes it rather difficult to see in a dungeon with a low ceiling or low light levels. At one point Ucap shouted "Follow me!", but he was off the mini-map before I could see which way he ran. I tried running in what I thought was the right direction, but didn't see anybody, so then I tried running around in other directions and didn't find them. MacDagir eventually found me, but I got him lost too. So we killed monsters until everybody else found us and it worked out fine. Then nearly everybody missed a rather tricky jump at least once. I am *horrible* at jumping in games, so expected to miss the jump and, with the help of a little computer lag, I did indeed miss the jump twice. It did wonders for my confidence to see the experienced gamers blow the jump too. The third time I got it and then I aced the next two tricky jumps. I think I will practice jumping around the mansion, since there are some small areas where shift-jumps and tap-jumps would be needed to get around and then I wouldn't need to worry about getting killed either.

A good part of Saturday was spent spinning up some lovely merino wool. I had intended to spin or knit on Sunday too, but it just didn't happen. I took a couple of naps, did laundry and waded through a backlog of e-mail instead. I also ironed my clothes for the next week, which I rarely ever do in advance.

Cooking
This week I have already made pizza. I will have pasta tomorrow night and probably make soup the night after that. There's a plethora of lettuce in the garden, if the neighbor's dogs haven't dug it up or run it over yet. I think I'll make a big salad for lunch tomorrow. Yum! That reminds me, I need to harvest the basil for the last time this year before it freezes, which could be soon. I'll process it with a little water and freeze it in cubes to use in soups and sauces. Basil, to me, is the herbal version of summer.

In my quest for pizza dough last night, I hauled out my copy of Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. I was once again struck with the idea that I could bake my way through his book. It could be fun. I could skip things that sound unappetizing, but I could work on my bread baking skills and produce some yummy bread this winter. I have had this idea about working my way through cookbooks in the past, but it's always strongest with Mr. Clayton's bread cookbook. He writes very clearly and the directions are easy to follow with estimates of how long each step will take, so you know exactly how much time you need to complete a given recipe. Next time I go to the library I'll have to see if they have any of his other books.

The Cold Lingereth
There is apparently a neverending supply of goo in the left side of my head and it is slowly but surely dripping down the left side of my throat. So I have a sore throat, but only on the left side. As long as the right side stays clear, I'm ok. I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that the viruses will mosey their little selves over to the other side of my head by the end of the week. I'd like to keep this cold restricted to my head and not develop a cough. I *hate* having a cold with a cough, especially a non-productive cough. Productive coughs are bad enough when you feel like you're coughing up lung tissue but at least it seems like you're clearing stuff out of your chest. Non-productive coughs are just annoying and tiring.

I still want to know where all the goo is coming from.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ahhhh....the joys of a pre-heated bed

I put the electric blanket on my bed last night and promptly pre-heated my bed to a lovely, toasty temperature. This was just the thing for a tired little traveler finally returning to her own bed. Surprisingly I didn't have any difficulties getting to sleep, though I was up a bit later than I had wanted. I wanted to have lights out by about 9:30, but 10:30 wasn't too bad. I must have gotten decent sleep because I woke up bright and early at 5am, before the alarm clock went off.

Since I am striving to avoid turning on the heat until at least November 1, the electric blanket feels really goooooood. On the other hand, it's really hard to get out of bed when it's all toasty warm.

The Annoyance of Rhinoviruses
When I woke up, I found that my throat was very very sore and my left nasal sinuses were not happy. Not stuffy, not runny. You know that feeling your eyes get when you've spent too much time in the pool and then too much time in the sun? That sort of irritated, itchy feeling? That is what my left sinuses felt like. I had hot oatmeal for breakfast with hot coffee. Had a whole pot of Lemon Zinger tea (it's only 4 cups) while at work to try and break things loose/thin things out. Had Mexican food for lunch, which everybody else commented was really spicy, but I found to be not even moderately zippy. For dinner I made Spanish rice, which was definitely not spicy, but was nice and steaming hot.

I don't want to have a cold. I haven't had a cold in almost 2 years. I suspect this one was transferred to me via my Mom and Becky from Ryan. He was sick in early October, then Becky got sick. When we met in Nashville to go to the Opry, I was pre-occupied with chewing my fingernails, so had plenty of time to ingest any viruses Becky was shedding onto faucets, door handles, steering wheel, etc. Oh well. It had to happen some time. I'll just make a point of eating extra healthy, drinking lots of fluids, and not overexerting myself this weekend.

Speaking of the weekend...
Here's the evil plan:
Saturday I'll sleep until I wake up, which will probably be about 7am. I need to start laundry and do the routine house cleaning stuff. In the afternoon I'll wash my car and might get the lawn mowed, if it dries enough. Will have to put the pool cover on and bring in the pump. The water temp is about 60 now so I'm really hoping I can manage this exercise without getting in the water. Saturday night I'll work on the revisions of the Antique Pattern Library site while watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in the background.

Sunday I'll sleep late, drink coffee in my comfy chair while reading my favorite comics, finish my laundry, finish the housekeeping, pay my bills, read and maybe do some yardwork and bake some cookies. I might go see a movie, but that will all depend upon finding a movie that I want to see. After a cursory glance at the schedule, I'm not particularly optimistic.

I'm hoping to sneak in some knitting time and a lot of relaxing time, hoping that this will help me kick this cold faster. There is definitely a certain amount of "nothing" that I hope to accomplish. This is the first weekend in four weeks where I haven't been driving somewhere at least 2 hours away. My car won't know what to do with itself!

Next week:
I have decided against going to the public health conference. I need to do some work and I'll get a lot more done when most of the office isn't in the office. I'd like to get the TB database built on the server and also see how much data entry I can do in the spreadsheet. Then there's the manuscript that I wrote almost a year ago that needs to have final revisions done and another project that I need to research/outline. I have quite a stack of reading to catch up on as well. And Monday is flu shot day at the office, so I'll have to wear short sleeves or put a t-shirt on under my sweater.

But first, my pre-heated bed is calling me....

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nashville Night 2

I am again comfortably ensconced in my hotel room with a belly full of food--this time it's good home cooking from Monell's. The menu tonight was fried chicken, baked chicken with stuffing, fried porkchops, greens, coleslaw, Italian green beans, corn pudding, biscuits, fried green tomatoes, broccoli salad, mashed potatoes, sauteed apples and strawberry shortcake. The food is served family style and everybody sits at big tables. Although I was a solo diner this evening, I sat with four other people, which was nice. The food is superb, which you might expect from a restaurant that's been in business since the 1880s. If they didn't have good cooking figure out by now they'd have gone out of business by now, don't you think?

Did I mention that I had all this great food *and* bought two pair of earrings for the low, low price of $18.95, including tip? I now have the perfect pair of earrings to wear with my new red/cream plaid shirt, which, oddly enough, is what I brought to wear tomorrow. Ya gotta love it when everything works out like that. :o)

So, you ask, did I already forget that post a few days ago about making better food choices? Nope. I ate lots of veggies and not just fried green tomatoes either. I had greens, broccoli salad, potatoes, corn pudding, apples, one fried chicken back and strawberry shortcake. I was good. I didn't eat excessively, though I could have passed on the strawberry shortcake without starving. I had just a spoonful of each item so I could have a taste of each, without gorging myself. With that said, I'm glad I had a good 5-6 block walk to and from the training course today. I'll get up a bit early in the morning and have a "meeting" with the hotel treadmill too.

Learning Learning Learning
The class today was good. I did have one classmate ask me the following question: "Jackson. Is that where UT-Martin is?" Um....no. Jackson's about an hour south of UT-Martin, which is actually *in* Martin. I can only hope that she meant to ask how far Jackson is from Martin, but her brain and mouth failed to coordinate their actions.

Tomorrow the class will end about 4:30pm which means I'll be headed out of town with all the other commuters during rush hour, by the time I get to my car. I might just find a bookstore to hang out in for an hour, then leave town about 6pm. That will mean getting home at 8pm, but leaving at 5pm (esp if it's raining) would mean getting stuck in traffic and not getting home until 8pm anyway.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Guess Where I Am?

Yes, for the third time in a week, I am in Nashville. That two-day training session got approved this morning, so here I am back again. I spent my lunch hour packing and the afternoon driving. Given that the class runs until 4:30pm both days, I'll have two hours of flex time to use on Friday so I'll even get almost a half-day off from work too. W00t!

I'm tempted to not attend the public health meeting next week. I really need to do some work this month and all the travel is making me grumpy. The only real advantage to going to the meeting would be to drop my car off at the VW dealer to get the bilge pump installed leak fixed. I'm leaning really hard toward ditching the meeting and getting the car fixed later. Yeah, I know I'll regret that during the next hard rain, but for now I'm too tired and crabby from driving and traveling. Maybe the next time I get through Champaign-Urbana, I can stop over at Karch's Auto Repair and they can blow out the sunroof drain tubes for me. Heck, if I could find the drain tubes I'd blow them out myself.

Today was a miserable wet, rainy day (as opposed to the more cheerful dry, rainy days). I had sushi and spicy veggie udon for dinner. There's nothing like hot spicy pasta to warm you right up. Now I've got my feet up on the desk and I'm watching cable TV (The 150th episode celebration for Dirty Jobs on The Discovery Channel).

Driving Madness
On the way to work this morning, there was a poor, innocent red Toyota pickup truck floundering in the ditch. Apparently the ditch reached out and snagged it right off the road as it attempted to negotiate the curve. It didn't quite roll over, but the ditch where it went off the road is quite deep and quite steep, so getting out of the truck must have been a feat. I'm not sure how the driver managed to get off the road, unless they took the curve at an excessive rate of speed or simply failed to turn the wheel.

En route to Nashville, I came across another accident. This one appeared to have involved two semis, the ditch in the median and the guardrail on the outside. Looked like there was about 20 feet of guardrail that was torn up. The soft ground (courtesy of two days of rain) safely captured the truck that ended up in the median. (I didn't actually see the truck in the median, just the ruts left by it as it entered and was towed from the ditch.)

I don't know what it is about the drive to or from Nashville, but it seems a whole lot longer than 126 miles. My iPod keeps me sane though, or at least I think it does. I may not be an impartial judge of my own sanity. :o)

Today's Bit of Trivia:
Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, once sang professionally with the Baltimore Opera. Who'd a thunk it?!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rainy Days

The weather appears to be attempting to make up for the six to eight weeks we had no rain at all. It rained all day and very hard at times. I wouldn't ordinarily mind, except that my car (2003 VW Golf) has developed a bad habit of taking on water whenever it rains. It was a rather slow leak. Now I end up with water pooling along the left side of the trunk. I have no idea where it's coming from. I have ruled out the wheel well and I think I ruled out the tail light. It might also be the sun roof or the seal to the hatch.

I was planning to take it to a dealer at the end of the month when I'm attending yet another out of town meeting, which is conveniently located 2 blocks from a VW dealer. The problem is that I really ought to skip the meeting and get some work done (the meeting program doesn't actually appeal to me much at all). Fiscally, I really need to not go and save some money too, since this conference would be entirely out of my own pocket. Sigh.

Speaking of Work...
I'm doing mind numbing amounts of data cleaning. Tomorrow I'll get out the iPod and try to hammer through a bunch of it. We got the second half of the contact list for the latest TB case.

On a brighter note, I did get a phone call from a retired Lt. Colonel who is now working for a county HD in TX. We had corresponded about pandemic and avian influenza plans a few months ago and he said he wanted to keep in touch after he left the military and went into public service. I'll ping him tomorrow and see how things are going.

Last Friday, I found out that I got in to a GIS training course at the last minute. My office is attempting to get final approval from the central office, but so far hasn't heard anything back. The class starts on Wednesday at 8:30am. Theoretically I would leave tomorrow afternoon about 2:30pm, but I suspect the approval won't be here by then. I suppose I ought to pack for a two day trip, just in case, but I don't think I'll hold my breath. Part of me wants to take the class and part of me is tired of traveling and doesn't really care if I go or not.

More Bad CSI writing
The handgun is NOT a revolver if it has a slide and a magazine, not a cylinder. Bad CSI, bad.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My, What a Full Week

Spent two days out of town for a work conference, then 1.5 days at work before leaving early to return to Nashville to see the Grand Ole Opry. I had picked up some extra work hours as a result of the conference, which worked out well.

The Opry show was good. Very entertaining. I'll have to catch another show in the future. Had a good night's sleep at the Opryland Hotel too. The bed was very comfortable, though I did try to bang my shins on the bed frame. There was a low shelf around the edge of the bed, which makes a very narrow step to get into the bed and a fine place to dent the tibia when climbing in or out of bed. I think it would make getting in and out of bed a difficult, if not dangerous, activity for an elderly person or a person who is unsteady on their feet.

Eating Myself Silly
Ok, so I ate way more than I should have this week and ate things that aren't particularly good for me either. I will "pay" for that this week while my body gets back to normal after a couple days of high fat, low fiber, high meat, low veggie eating. In the future, I think I'll stick to more healthy choices and work on eating reasonable amounts of food. It's not that the food I ate was "bad", it was just food that causes me to feel less good than other food choices. I feel like a bloated, exhausted slug when I eat high fat and lots of animal products, whereas I feel a lot more energetic and zippy when I eat low fat foods and virtually no animal products. Time to get back on the healthy food bandwagon, even when I travel.

Of course, this attempt at change will be complicated in the next two weeks by traveling for work 5 out of the next 10 work days. I'll have to remind myself that just because something is served to me doesn't mean I have to eat all of it or even eat any of it. And I'll take some healthy snacks with me.

Next step: working on the routine exercise schedule again. First I'll have to get a regular sleep schedule going again, then I'll work on the early morning workouts.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Self Checkout is EVIL!

Or perhaps it's just rocket science and none of us are working for NASA. I had the misfortune of going to the grocery store on Thursday evening after work. I was trying to avoid an extra trip in to town on Saturday. Apparently 90% of the local population had the same idea. Per the usual "rules" of retail, there were about five check-out lanes open, plus 2/3 of the self checkout lanes. I decided to forego the regular lanes, each of which had at least three customers with FULL baskets in them, in favor of the self check lanes, which only had 2-3 customers each and much less merchandise to check. This sounds like a good idea, right?

Wrong.

You see, Thursday is Demonic Possession Day for the self check lanes. (I always thought that Thursday was Sandwich Day, but apparently you can have more than one "holiday" at a time. Hence, Demonic Possession Day for self check lanes.) First, none of the items being checked out weighed what the computer thought they should, so there was a "bagging error". On. Every. Item. Being. Checked. This requires a customer service person to come by and clear the error. On. Every. Item. Being. Checked. You can imagine what this does to the speed with which a person can check out if they have more than one item. And everybody had 15+ items.

Finally the lane next to me decided to be nice and cooperate with its customer (a middle-aged couple and a man with Down's Syndrome). Although the man with Down's Syndrome didn't do any of the scanning, he did follow the directions for getting the currency and change back, which was more than I was able to do the first time I used a self-check lane. (Yes, I do have a PhD. No, I cannot remember left from right when there are people waiting in line for me and machines are talking. Bite me.) He carefully counted his change (also more than I bother doing) before handing it to the female half of the couple shopping with him. He also waited rather patiently while the couple struggled through checking out with their items. It would seem that the demons in the scanner are not completely heartless and only choose to afflict folks without disabilities, because once again the computer had "bagging errors" on nearly every item.

So, the lane next to me is fickle about cooperating. The lane I'm in decided to eat the credit card of the guy two people in front of me. A manager is called and I gave up on the whole self-check process when it took more than 7 minutes for the manager to come and dismantle the machine to retrieve the card. Instead, I spent another 15 minutes in a regular checkout lane before I was able to escape with my food for the week. I didn't look too closely at the frozen food to see how much it thawed.

I haven't decided if Thursdays are just a bad day for the grocery store in general, for self-checkout in particular or if self-checkout is just evil all the time. I rarely try using it, so this may be its normal behavior if you have more than six items and cash.

Caffeine Withdrawal Sucks
Well, I'm not getting as much done today as I had hoped. I got to feeling rather blah about halfway through the day and lost most of my motivation. Now I've got an upset stomach and a bad headache. I have had exactly one cup of coffee today, instead of the usual 2-3 cups. I'd have more coffee to fix the headache but my stomach isn't likely to tolerate that. I've been meaning to wean myself off the caffeine for some time now and occasionally make progress in cutting it out, but then I backslide. Given that I have headaches nearly every weekend, I think it's time to get over it and cut it out entirely. I don't have the time to have a headache and it makes me cranky when I feel crummy and don't get much fun stuff done on the weekends.

What did get done:
The pool is almost entirely vacuumed. I realized yesterday evening that I'll have to get into the pool to remove the weight from the steps, then climb out, dismantle the steps from the ladder and haul the steps out of the pool. This would be better handled as a two person job, but I'll have to do it on my own unless Calvin's Duplicator Box suddenly starts working. I am convincing myself that putting the pool cover on is a one-person job too. As long as I keep the cover floating and not taking on water, it ought to work just fine. I don't know that I'll get the cover on tomorrow, but I should be able to get everything but the cover done tomorrow. I also washed one load of laundry (have one more to go). I was going to bake a blueberry pie, but the berries won't be thawed until tomorrow.

Next on the list:
Cleaning up the detritus from the back yard. There are odds and ends of things just laying about, like the old pool pump. Time to get rid of the junk instead of saving it for who knows what purpose. It's cluttering up my deck and yard and it's annoying me. I have managed to de-clutter most of my bedroom. I have other clutter issues elsewhere in the house, but will have to pick and choose where I start on that project. I know from past experience that I'll run out of patience, motivation and energy before I finish a single clean-up project if I don't limit myself pretty severely. That failure to even clean up right just adds to the frustration and negative energy.

Landscaping plans are just about done for the year. I had thought about transplanting some things from the front flower beds to the poison ivy corner, but I don't think that will happen. I also didn't get the yard overseeded like I had wanted to do. I might seed a few thin areas but won't bother with a large-scale seeding. It's really too late for the grass to get established before it freezes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Got peppers?

For some reason the jalapeno pepper plants were incredibly productive this summer but the bell pepper plants didn't do much at all. I have no idea what I'm going to do with all these peppers. I will probably just freeze them whole. I don't want to go to the bother of making salsa.

Tomorrow I'll make another big harvest of basil. The lettuce that went to seed is coming up nicely too. The rest of the garden is finished for the season though. Time to pull up the rest of the plants, pile them up, burn them and till them under. I never did buy any alfalfa or annual rye for a cover crop for the winter. Oh well.

In other garden/yard news, I'll get the pool closed this weekend. I really should pull the grass out of the flower beds now that it's cooled off and I can't use the heat as an excuse any longer. We'll see how motivated I am in the morning.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It didn't go wrong. It just went different.

I had a thinking lunch today. Here are the philosophical musings I had as I munched on my veggie panini:

It all started with the earworm for the day: You Can't Always Get What you Want by The Rolling Stones. With all due respect, I disagree with Mick, et al. I believe you can get what you want. You just can't always get everything right now. Some things take more work or more time than others. And, of course, in order to get what you want, you have to figure out what it is that you do want. Start out with a good bit of brainstorming and don't limit yourself with practicality or the "shoulds" and "should nots". Just write it all down as it comes to you. Then set priorities on what you want. Set goals and intermediate steps to get what you want, then get moving and get fired up. Once you're on your way, you will need to periodically take a step back and evaluate where on the journey you are so you can make course corrections (or to make goal and target adjustments if what you want has changed).

Things don't necessarily go wrong when they don't go according to plan or meet an expectation. Sometimes they just go different. And that's ok.

I love PBS

I'm watching a documentary on the preparations for a state dinner at Windsor castle. There will be about 130 guests, if I recall correctly. This somehow translates into 815 glasses. I'm hoping those don't all have to be washed by hand, but given that they're fine crystal they probably do. They'll certainly be dried by hand.

The amount of attention to detail is just incredible. The distance to the edge of the table from the edges of the plates, glasses and flatware are carefully measured. There is a stick that is the exact proper length for the distance from the edge of the table to the chair. The queen apparently notices all of these things and much more.

There were a number of interviews with the staff, describing their jobs and what they will do different for the state dinner. It's obvious that the pressure is on, but everybody is clearly very proud of the job they do and in good temper. I have seen no yelling or even unhappy faces, just reiterations that they'll do their best and make it perfect. Even though the start of dinner was delayed 15 minutes due to protestors delaying the arrival of guests, the chef was quite good natured about things, merely saying that the fish would not be quite as perfect as he'd have liked.

I cannot imagine the amount of logistics work that goes into this. The Princess Royal will be drinking nothing but fresh-squeezed orange juice. The Queen's beef will be served with a bit of parsley on top so that she knows that it's hers and that it is cooked well done. I could watch the planning of banquets and things like this for days. Right now there is a man lighting the candles on the dinner table (a single table). In order to do this he is standing on the table with slipper socks on his feet. The candelabra is still nearly as tall as he is. The chef said he had 5 months worth of planning that went into the dinner. He likens it to having a baby. And now they're taking it all down and putting the dishes and extra chairs away.

The detail, the formalness and the elaborate ritual of this sort of thing just fascinates me. Heck, just watching the opening of Parliament is entertaining. I'll have to keep watching for more episodes of Windsor Castle: A Royal Year.

I was surprised to learn that guests who are staying at Windsor Castle have their luggage unpacked and their personal items put away for them. They also will have their luggage packed for them prior to their departure. Careful notes are kept as to what came out of which suitcase. They showed a team of housekeepers practicing with a set of mocked up luggage.

I'd like to have a household and garden as neat and precise as that at Windsor Castle. I'll be needing more staff before that happens. Although it does make me wonder if the Queen would be at all untidy in her private life. I'm pretty sure she probably wouldn't, but I have always thought the Queen Mother would have been a bit disorganized, in a lovable sort of way. My level of disorganization, however, has gone past lovable to the edge of hopeless. I definitely need more staff. :o)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I predict a giant burp.

This morning during my foggy waking up moments I heard a story on the radio talking about the injection of a carbon dioxide solution into the earth to get it out of the atmosphere. I can only hope that the scientists in charge of this have considered that carbon dioxide plus water makes carbonic acid and that acids (even weak acids) can react with rock formations to weaken them. Carbon dioxide plus water also leads to carbonated water. One good earthquake to shake things up and there's going to be a huuuuuuuge burp. Try getting your kid to not belch in public after that!

Freedom of Speech....
Yes, there is indeed freedom of speech in this country. However, that doesn't entitle you to say anything you want in all settings. For example, you aren't entitled to share religious materials on a graphic arts e-mail list particularly when that list restricts discussion to graphic arts topics. It's not about having freedom of speech. It's about an appropriate venue. Another detail to consider is that the internet isn't just in the US, so quit ranting about having your constitutional rights when the listserv you happen to be ranting on may not even be based in the US.

I'm REEEEEALLY tired
I did at least not chug down extra caffeine today. I'm headed to bed early tonight so I can get up early. I get to write a brief summary of the TB outbreaks at work for the higher ups at the state health department. The head TB doc doesn't think we can continue to deal with repeated outbreaks at the correctional facilities when the corrections system isn't changing some of the systematic things that are causing problems. I can't say I disagree. There are limited human and time resources available and other problems with which to deal.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Who needs kids? I have a pool!

Well, I put a bunch of miles on my car this weekend, as you know. I got back about 7:30pm from the long journey. When I got home, I discovered the house in the same condition I left it, which was good. (I had managed to do the laundry and wash the dishes prior to leaving to things stayed clean in my absence.) The pool however, was a different matter.

Who needs kids? Just get a pool!
This silly pool is turning into my surrogate child. It doesn't like to be left unattended and it seems to get into trouble if you don't pay it at least a little attention every day. I think it was sulking after two weekends of my absence. The day before I left I had been putting water in the pool, then disconnected the upper of the two hoses so I could water the flowers. I didn't pay much attention to the lower hose. This was where I went wrong. You see I had left the distant end of the hose in the pool, which is fine and dandy. Then I left the unconnected hose on the ground, which is also fine and dandy. Except that the end of the hose on the ground was lower than the end of the hose in the pool. That was where physics took over. You see, there was no air introduced into the hose, so it acted like a siphon. And slowly but surely siphoned about 15,000 gallons of water out of the pool into the lawn.

I discovered this late last night when I had a look out the back door just to see if the pool was still there. What I observed in the faint light from the porch light was that the pool steps were far more visible than they should have been. This was intriguing enough to merit a walk out to pool side. As I got up to the pool, the ground seemed rather soft and wet, but as it had been raining on the drive down, that didn't seem particularly remarkable. Until I realized that the reason the pool steps were more visible than usual was because THE WATER WAS MISSING. Not all of the water, but all but about 18 inches of it. That was when the squelching suddenly made more sense. It wasn't from the rain at all. It was from my pool.

Sigh.

What makes this even more absurd is that I had intended to partially drain the pool this week and close it for the winter. Now I have to completely fill it so that I can vacuum it and treat the water, then drain it partially so I can close it for the winter. Sigh. On the other hand, the water company is unlikely to go bankrupt this month thanks to my soon to be rather large demand on the water supply.

Now I can only hope that my pool doesn't become a teenager, do drugs or want to go to college. I don't think I could handle that.

Friday, October 05, 2007

*beep*beep*beep*

Happy Belated Birthday Sputnik!!

Kinda hard to believe that Sputnik started the space race *FIFTY* years ago yesterday. (Then again, it's hard to believe that Voyager launched thirty years ago.) For being a rather basic chunk of metal and electronics, Sputnik certainly got everybody's attention in the US when the Soviet Union launched it. And our popular culture now associates that little *beep*beep*beep* noise with space travel and satellites.

Racking up the Frequent Driver Miles
Headed back north again this weekend. It's Marathon weekend. There is likely to be a record high temperature on Sunday, which is not a good thing. I'm hanging out in my favorite Panera Bread restaurant in Champaign, using their free wi-fi and slurping some tasty coffee with my everything bagel. I'll have lunch here, then head to the McCormick Center in downtown Chicago to pick up my race packet and wander through the race fitness expo. I have brought my copy of "The Courage to Start" by John Bingham in hopes that I might get Mr. Bingham to autograph it. Then I'll head out to Mom's house in the midst of rush hour traffic (w00t!!) and have dinner with Mom, Becky, Jo and the kids (Grace and Ryan).

Later in the weekend, Jo and I go get my hair cut and then go shopping. I have virtually no sense of style, so I always get someone else to go shopping with me. I've brought some of the "work wardrobe" I currently have so we have something with which to work and Jo can see what I ordinarily wear. We're also going to hit the Clinique counter and get me some new make up. We're hoping we'll get a good match on the foundation if we use a makeup counter instead of trying to guess if a color is a match by looking at the bottle in the drugstore.

Saturday night we're having a girl's night out with a dinner and a movie. Sunday we'll do some more shopping and torment the kids. Monday I'll head back south, stopping in Champaign for lunch with my Champaign Police Department buddies. I figure I'll get back home around 6 or 7pm, which is plenty early enough to get a load of laundry done and get squared away for work on Tuesday.

After this trip, I'm definitely going to look at getting a new set of tires on my little car. I got the oil changed last time I was up north. The tires have been getting close to the limit on tread wear and I will definitely want new ones for the winter, even if it doesn't snow in TN. I like having more tread (as opposed to less tread) in inclement weather and I'll probably be headed to Chicago in December, where I may just run into a bit of snow or ice or both.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Last Minute Doings

I don't know what it is about an impending trip that makes me go crazy with getting miscellaneous tasks around the house done. Perhaps it's avoiding packing. I really don't know. I decided tonight that I needed to vacuum the pool (which I halted really quickly since the water level wasn't really high enough to do the job), to clean off the desk in the living room and to blog. Of course, I haven't really got a good idea of what I'm packing yet, other than underwear and clothes for 4 days. Perhaps I figure my back brain will figure out the details while I do other things. On the other hand, what's likely to happen is that I'll still be packing at 11pm instead of climbing into bed. Sigh....going to have to go swallow that frog and then I'll have the rest of the evening to goof off.

A Delightful Lunch
A former co-worker stopped by today to join us for lunch. We went to a local antique shop which does lunches in it's cafe. The Strawberry Salad was highly recommended. This is a mixed green salad with sunflower seeds, raisins, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and feta cheese, served with a raspberry vinaigrette. I ordered a piece of spinach mushroom quiche and a Strawberry Salad. Oh my!!! It was amazingly yummy.

When browsing through the store on the way to check out, I found a couple of possible candidates for the role of microwave table in my kitchen. It's definitely a shop I could look around in a lot more. I don't think we saw even 1/4 of the merchandise during our brief perusal.

Observations on Iron Chef
The chefs must know what the secret ingredient is before it's unveiled to the audience. There's just no way they could do what they do in an hour with virtually no communication between the head chef and the sous chefs.

Having just watched another episode of Iron Chef, I've got to say that I'm really not at all interested in eating animal flesh anymore. I'm ok with dairy and eggs, but just watching shrimp get cleaned or squabs get de-headed or even beef chopped up actually puts me off eating now. I'm sure if I watched a show where fish were prepared, I'd be put off of it too. On the other hand, I really do like the health benefits of Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish. Of course, I'm skeptical that good, fresh fish can be obtained in my current location, unless it's farm-raised catfish which has not-so-much Omega-3 fats and is usually deep fried, which probably negates any health benefits that might be present.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

An Ineffective Argument for Purchasing Something

Perhaps I am in the minority, but telling me that I need to buy something because other people have already bought it is not particularly effective. I don't care that 4 million Americans have already purchased Sleep Number beds. That's not a very compelling argument for me to purchase one. There are over 45 million Americans who smoke cigarettes. Does that mean that I need to do so as well? Just because someone else does something (or millions of someone elses do something) doesn't mean it's a good idea. I am reminded of the standard rebuttal that parents give their kids when said offspring want to do something because "all their friends are already doing it". That rebuttal is something along the lines of "Well, if {insert friend's name(s) here} jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?"

Think for yourselves, folks. That's why you have that gray, squishy brain inside your cranium and the ability for critical thinking.

Critical Mass Must Have Been Achieved
There are hundreds of television channels available. There are apparently a limited number of things to put on them. While I really like the X-Men movies and I, Robot, I don't know that I want to watch them twice a week or even twice a month. Surely there are other movie options available. I realize that FX may not have the movie library that Turner Classic Movies has, but surely they could manage to not show the same films on successive nights or manage to acquire sufficient quantity of different titles to not have to show repeats quite so frequently. Better variety might help combat the complaint that there are hundreds of channels and nothing to watch. Personally I could do without cable TV if there was any other way to get broadband internet other than through a cable TV hook up. I'd rather actually live a life than to sit and watch people have fictional lives. At least when I read a book, I get to use my imagination to create the details of the characters and settings and I can learn from books.

An "Interesting" Statement....
I received a workplace wellness e-mail at work today which asserted that school lunches are "always healthy". Perhaps school lunches are different now than when I was a child, but I don't believe that hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza and other fried and/or processed food products could objectively be considered "healthy". I'm fairly certain that the boiled-to-death vegetables which were always served and rarely eaten, had little nutritional value left in them. Thanks to school lunches, I was convinced that I *hated* peas until I reached college and got to eat peas which weren't olive drab mushy things.

An Amusing Book
I read a good chunk of The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived by Lazar, Karlan and Salter. It discusses the impact that characters of fiction, myth, legend, television and movies have had on our behavior, society and history. Characters like Uncle Sam, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Don Quixote, The Marlboro Man, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, James Bond and the HAL 9000 computer. There are also "interludes" on how the authors developed their list and wrote the various essays. Overall, I thought it was good food for thought and quite entertaining. It made for good lunchtime reading, but was too thought provoking and engaging for good bedtime reading. Here's an excerpt from the entry on Kermit the Frog:
"The period of Kermit's creation was a time when a person who was gay or lesbian or black, antiwar, pro-Communist, or Jewish--anyone outside the WASP "norm"--risked physical attack. While Kermit isn't abused for his color within the show--it's always a question of situation rather than race--he's become an example of someone who could be victimized for his color or beliefs. Kermit's green is normal for the swamp, but in human society it's the color of sickness, mold, and Martian invaders. In human society, anything different is abnormal, something to be destroyed. Kermit is an example of perseverance in a dangerous world and helps children understand and survive the violent forces in the world."
How's that for an impact on society? Or at least on all the kids who watched Sesame Street and The Muppet Show or the Muppet movies. Jim Henson was amazing, don't you think?
Next up for lunchtime reading: The Secret. Mostly because I don't know what the secret is and I'm curious. The book jacket assures me that it's a phenomenally good thing *and* an excellent movie. Now if only it were also a floor wax and a dessert topping too!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Home For a Bit

Well, just for the first part of the week. After that I'm off to Chicago for marathon weekend. I'm not running, then again I didn't "run" the first time either. I walked, so walking again it is. The training just didn't come together well enough to run much, especially with the heat wave we had in July. On top of that, I have lovely blisters on both feet from the dress shoes I wore on Friday. It would seem that my feet have "grown" in the past year while I've been wearing clogs and sandals nearly every day. I will be getting rid of a lot of dress shoes. They're in great shape, just not quite the right size. It will take me a while to replenish the shoe wardrobe.

I was marginally surprised to see that I didn't gain a bunch of weight over the weekend. Or else my body hasn't had a chance to add it yet. I had buckwheat pancakes and hash browns on both Saturday and Sunday morning at The Courier Cafe. I just might have breakfast there again on Friday or I could have lunch there instead.

The Pro Anniversary Gathering
The party was fun. It was good to see my former co-workers. Dr. Pete showed up. I hadn't seen him in a couple of years, since he was chief resident at University of Chicago. He was late because one of his patients tried to die after having surgery. (Dr. Pete's a vascular surgeon.)

I was a little irritated to have been invited to share a table with some of my co-workers only to find that they changed tables and apparently did so to gain one chair (mine). So I sat with some folks I didn't particularly know. The aforementioned co-workers had told me they were all excited to see me and wanted to hear about the new job, then took off early without saying good-bye or even talking to me. Sigh.

But I got to talk to Dr. Pete which was good. We used to get together a couple times a week for coffee and to de-stress. He looks a whole lot more relaxed and happier than the last time I saw him. Oddly enough, he said the same thing about me.