Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Job I Do Not Want

Here is a photo of a telecom tower near the library. When I exited the library today, I heard a clanging sound that seemed to be coming from over by the tower. At first I thought it was something around the loading dock at the bottom of the tower, but my ears kept telling me the sound was coming from up above me. Sure enough, when I looked really hard, I could see two people on top of the tower. One of them was apparently beating on the large cone thingie on the top level. The other one moved between the banging guy and something sitting on the floor of the top level. The two people both had on hard hats, so I presume they actually were supposed to be on the tower.

This is not a job I would be very interested in doing. It's not that I'm afraid of heights, it's that I really dislike falling and I really really dislike standing on surfaces which are not solid. I would really hate to be up there on a windy day, especially if was windy enough for the tower to sway. I don't much care for standing on wobbly things either. Inside a tall building that is swaying is ok. Standing on something with grates or out in the open which is swaying is not my cup of tea.

Today's Complaining Score
I remembered to wear my bracelet today. I did quite well, I think. I only complained between 5 and 8 times (a few things I wasn't sure if they counted as complaints) and that was relatively late in the afternoon. I returned the ComplaintFree book to the library. I may go see if I can find it at the bookstore on Saturday.

Last night when I went to bed, I told myself that I would sleep well and awake refreshed. Despite having only 5 hours of sleep and needing to go in to work early, this worked very well. I also repeated several times to myself that I was going to have a positive day. At least one person at work today said I was in a good mood. All in all, I was quite pleased.

The only observation I have about having an actively positive approach to everything is that I had a weird dream last night. I'm not entirely certain of the plot, but I somehow ended up being driven somewhere in a car with Anthony Bourdain. I really expected there to be food involved, since Mr. Bourdain is a chef and has a TV show all about traveling around trying different food. Alas, there was no food, but that may have been because I woke up before the car got to the food destination. The waking up was apparently caused by smooching with Mr. Bourdain. I find his show and books entertaining, but I wouldn't say I ever wanted to kiss him. Weird. I hope this episode of weirdness was not caused by positively thinking that I would sleep well and wake refreshed. I'll try it again tonight and see what happens.

Today's Exercise Score
Now, this was a whole lot less good than the complaining score. I went in to work early and left late. I also went to the library after work. I ended up not really working out. I did a cursory weight workout, but nothing as comprehensive or strenuous as the usual DVD weight workout. I didn't just come home and park my bahookie in a chair, but I didn't really work out either. Better than nothing, but not optimal. Nonetheless, I'm not beating myself up over it. I'm allowed to have a couple days of light workouts. Tomorrow and this weekend I'll get back at it. This will give me a good opportunity to practice working out on the weekends and figure out a weekend workout schedule.

Spring Flowers

Things are blooming everywhere. My Bradford pear tree is nearly done blooming. You can really tell where the tree was freeze damaged last spring. I trimmed off the dead wood that I could reach without a ladder. I will definitely need to do more trimming. If the weather cooperates, this weekend would be a good time to do that. Once the tree fully leafs out, it will be harder to see what to trim, I think. There is just enough leaf growth now to identify the live from the dead areas, but not so much to obscure.

The apple tree hasn't leafed out at all, but the pear and peach trees bloomed this week. I also have a couple of daffodils blooming and one iris that decided to get in on the fun. This weekend will definitely be a yardwork weekend. There is much to do and it's been a long time since I got dirt under my nails.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Three Weeks....

I have now consistently worked out at least 5 days a week for the past three weeks. I have managed to lose about an inch off my hips and my waist, plus a couple inches off the bust. I see more muscles in my legs and much improved definition in my arms. I've got a long way to go, but I see progress, which makes me much more likely to keep going. I'm now much more motivated to workout even on weekends. I've decided that the target rest day will be Saturday. Sundays are much more laid back for me and working out on Sunday evening is a nice close to the weekend. I actually got in a bit of a workout last night. Not a full weight workout, but better than nothing at all.

Workplace Wellness Screening
Speaking of three weeks, I have just over three weeks before my blood lipid screening. Since I can manage the working out thing, I figure I can manage the eating better thing too. I've been tracking what I eat, which helps me pay attention to what I eat. Now I'll focus more on lowering my fat and sodium intakes, while increasing my fruit and veggie intakes. I'd like to have a total cholesterol number below 150 and a total triglycerides below 150. With a low-fat diet, that ought to be quite doable. I don't think I've ever had a lipid panel done before, so I don't know where I'm starting at. Wherever it is, I bet I can get them to drop between now and the screening in April.

I remembered my bracelet today. I didn't go complaint free, though I did manage to not say anything negative when a co-worker joked about how she was going to drag me to church this week (and had been wanting to do so since I started working at the office). Of course, what we're doing is a site visit at a church, not going to a service. She claims that she was joking about the church thing, and she may have been, but I suspect there was at least some truth to the statement. I will try to remain serene if the subject about my not going to her church comes up again, but it may be difficult to calmly say that I don't believe that discussion of religious beliefs has any place at work. I don't question their choices or beliefs at work, I would prefer that people not make assumptions about mine.

In case you're wondering, yes, the creatures did come out of the forest (they were woodwights) and helped some other humans burn a couple of villages and take over at least one castle, killing the thanes and taking the survivors of the ruling family as prisoners. It's not clear if the other thanes will come to the rescue or if they will be selfish and let the captured lands fall to the "bad people". In any event, the book got good. Now I have to race through it since I think it's due back this week and I don't know if I have any renewals left on it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

To Paint or Not To Paint

Well, mostly not painting. I have at least sanded down the areas that I patched. There are a couple areas that need a bit more work. One of the towel racks was put up on the wall when the paint was wet so I tore some of the paint/paper off the drywall when I took it down. Grrrrr. That area needs some patch work still. I'm not sure it will ever look completely smooth, but it will certainly look better than it did. I spent most of the day knitting instead. I am pleased to report that I finished the socks I started last week. Yay!

Sun-dried Tomatoes
I made the sun-dried tomato spread. It's not quite as intensely flavored as I remember the commercial stuff being, but it is still pretty good. I might stir in a bit of tomato paste for an extra tomato punch. Nonetheless, it was a tasty addition to my hummus wrap today.

Sunday Update: Still not painting. I have, however, figured my taxes. That took about 30 minutes, if you include the time it took me to print forms and find the instruction book. Oh, for the days when I could file with 1040EZ.... I suppose I could still use the 1040EZ but then I'd have give up deducting my mortgage and student loan interest. Not gonna go there.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Freebie Friday!

Well, extra day off Friday, anyway. The freebie part is just because I got the day off without having to use a vacation day. I actually spent a wee bit of money. It's been a looooong time since I helped keep the Lowe's corporation operating in the black, so I picked up a few odds and ends. You see, I got the wild idea to finish painting the hallway bathroom this weekend. I had painted the wall around the door to said bathroom when I painted the rest of the house, but hadn't finished the bathroom. So now I'll finish the bathroom and touch up the paint in several other places.

The Lowe's trip netted me a disposable foam brush, a couple of paint rollers, a roller pan liner, some mineral spirits and some drain cleaner (not to be used in painting). I wandered around a little bit looking for other things to buy, but nothing appealed to me. I was also trying to delay my exit a bit since there were LINES of people waiting to check out. It didn't occur to me at the time to focus really hard on opening up another line, but I did think "I'll wander around a bit and maybe they'll open another line." Sure enough, as I wandered toward the front, a rather chipper young clerk asked if I was ready to check out. I told her that she had perfect timing. w00t!

While at the grocery store, I noticed several shoppers using canvas shopping bags. They are emblazoned with the store logo, of course, but they're still reusable canvas bags instead of using plastic. I hadn't seen anybody here using canvas bags until today. I may have to haul out my bags too!

So now I'm waiting for the re-plastered areas to dry. After a quick sanding job, I'll get the painting done tonight, just to get it done. I may be up a bit late, but I'd rather get it finished. I really need to paint the baseboard trim. It's pretty ragged looking in a lot of places. Definitely needs to be a high gloss brilliant white, which it most certainly is not.

My yardwork schedule is all out of whack. Last week got messed up because of the rain. Today was very windy, so spraying weeds was out of the question. The ground is very wet from rain earlier in the week too, so digging up flower beds isn't possible either. Right now the backyard is mostly purple because the weeds are blooming. It looks very pretty, but I'd rather have more grass than weeds instead of more weeds than grass. The weeds rather need to be mowed too. The grass is still plenty short enough, but the weeds are getting tall. Ugh.

On the cooking front, I found a recipe to make sun-dried tomato spread. I used to be able to buy it in jars and found it to be completely deeeelicious on sammiches. I haven't been able to find the jarred stuff in years now and I've been craving its rich flavor on my hummus sammiches. This weekend I'll give the recipe a try and see if I can at least approximate the yumminess I used to be able to buy.

The "big" cooking thing this week will be marinated, grilled portobello mushrooms. I'll slice up the caps and use them in sammiches or on salads. I'll also make a corn, black bean and quinoa casserole. Other meals will include pasta with marinara sauce, tacos and hummus sammiches.

Working Out is Working!
Parts of my body are changing shape. I have some interesting sort of sunken areas around my hip joints where muscles have clearly tightened up in some places, but the nearby fat hasn't shrunk. Sort of looks like a big scoop of me is missing. Can't wait to get more of me missing. Ye Olde Shoulder appears to be cooperating with the workout plan, though occasionally it gets sore with some motions. Yay! I'm still not ready to step up the intensity of the workouts, but I'm definitely making progress at building strength and stamina.

For some odd reason, I don't like working out on non-work days. I don't know if that's a function of having a different schedule or if it is an attitude thing. On work days, I come home, check e-mail for half an hour and then workout. On non-work days, I don't have such a structured schedule and there is always something else going on. I still don't really like working out first thing in the morning because of joint/muscle stiffness. Definitely need to figure something out though as there isn't any particular reason why I can't work out on weekends. I do think I'm getting into the habit of regular exercise again though, so that's good.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Did Good!

I surprised a friend yesterday with a Happy Birthday text message. I haven't seen or talked to Hoppy since I left Champaign. We used to hang out at work. (Hoppy worked for the fire dept when I worked for the ambulance company.) Anyway, I sent a HBD text and a little while later my phone rang, so we chatted a bit. It was good to talk. I'll definitely give a shout out next time I'm up north and maybe we can grab dinner or something. I forgot to ask how life as a lieutenant is going, so I will definitely have to ask about that the next time we talk.

As long as I'm in pinging mode, I'm going to call or e-mail one person each week, just to keep in touch. I can't complain about other people not calling or writing me if I don't do a very good job of it either. Well, I could, but that hardly seems fair and besides, as you'll read later, the complaining isn't very helpful.

Last night was incredibly rainy and incredibly windy. It actually woke me up, which rarely happens. I don't know if it was the wind, the rain or both which did it. I tried to look out the window, but it was raining hard enough I couldn't see much anyway. It sounded really cool. I was a bit surprised there wasn't any thunder and lightning to go along with the intense rain.

Since I can only barely hear the storm siren when I'm awake, I decided to put my weather radio on the nightstand last night. It went off once, but that was for a flash flood warning in another county. I'll definitely be keeping the radio handy for future stormy nights. I even managed to find the local weather radio frequency.

Latest Books
I am listening to Eric Clapton's autobiography at work. It's really good. He makes no excuses for his poor behavior in his younger days and readily admits to being ashamed of a number of things he's done. This is accomplished without beating himself up or bragging about his exploits and escapades. I have often joked about Mr. Clapton being unable to keep a job since he has played with quite a few bands. He pretty much says the same thing about his early days, feeling unsatisfied by various bands for various reasons. I didn't realize how much intermingling between various British rock bands there was in the 60s. Everybody knew each other and played with/for each other. Fascinating stuff. At the moment he's gone from being a heroin addict to being a full-blown alcoholic. I think we've just entered the 1970s, but I'm not sure. I either keep missing the dates or he doesn't mention years very often.

For lunch/fun reading, I have chosen A Complaint Free World. I picked this one up on a whim from the new book shelf. It's about choosing to quit complaining, criticizing and gossiping for 21 days. They recommend you wear one of those jelly-like wristbands, then switch wrists with it every time you complain. This is to make you more mindful of what you say and how you say it, so that you can change what you say. So far the best I've done is to complain maybe 7 or 8 times. I can do better when I'm at home on a weekend since I don't usually complain out loud to myself. Most of the time I just try to not say negative things, even to myself. The underlying premise to the Complaint-Free movement is that you create your reality by what you focus upon and talk about. If you focus on the negative things, you call more of the negative, bad things to you and your life. If you focus on the positive things and what you want, you can call that to you and your life. It's a concept I've considered for some time and now I have extra motivation and reinforcement to practice being positive. I may have to buy this book, just to have the reminders handy.

Bedtime reading is either the Complaint Free book or Winterbirth. Winterbirth is a fantasy novel. I'm trying to get into it, but I'm not there yet. There is something bad lurking in the woods waiting to attack the village and castle. It might be about to get really good.

Movie Night
I went to the movies with some women from work on Monday. We saw The Bucket List. I had expected it to be a cute movie, but it was much better than I thought it would be. I have never been much of a Jack Nicholson fan, but I was very impressed by him in this film. Morgan Freeman was his usual classy, talented self. The two of them looked like they had a lot of fun making this movie. I also noticed that the company they chose for skydiving, Skydive Perris, is one of the companies that went to the World Freefall Championship in Rantoul. I may very well have seen that plane in person.

After the movie, all eight of us went to dinner at a local steak house. We ordered our meal uneventfully. (I got a salad and steamed seasonal veggies.) Half of our meals came out at once and we expected the other half to arrive shortly. Only they didn't. The other half waited and waited and waited. Our waitress appeared to vanish too. The manager stopped by after a while and said the rest of the meals would be out in just a minute. He was right. He also apologized for the delay and said they'd lost the ticket in the kitchen. One of our party asked if we could have dessert. He said he'd see what he could do. He came back later and said the late meals were on the house. He also brought out three huge desserts for us to share!!

We had a big chocolate brownie ice cream monstrosity, a caramel apple turnover with ice cream and a huge piece of bananas Foster cheesecake. They were all delicious. I thought the apple pie/turnover was the best, but the bananas Foster cheesecake was a close second. I'll definitely be ordering the apple thing again in the future and will certainly go back to the restaurant again. I was very impressed by how smoothly the manager handled the delay and how gracious the waitress was. She apologized for the mix up. Needless to say we all tipped very well and we all had a blast.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Grounding and Centering

I had a somewhat aggravating/frustrating interaction with some co-workers today. What's intriguing me now is that I can't decide if I'm more aggravated about today's events or by the fact that today's events actually aggravated me. Until this week I was doing wonderfully about not letting things bug me. I think the stress of the data quest with our investigation has upset my balance and contributed to my lack of resistance to aggravation. Sounds like I need a weekend of grounding and centering. I'll see if I can fit that in around the vacuuming, laundry, exercise and sock knitting. Maybe cooking or baking something will help me feel better.

Complaint-Free World
Of course, today's aggravation comes in the week after I start reading the book "Complaint-Free World" and attempt to go 21 days without complaining, whinging or criticizing. Needless today, today was not a complaint-free day. I didn't even get it down to under 12 complaints today. Starting over tomorrow. I'll wear the bracelet and flip it over each time I complain.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Making Progress!

I worked out either 5 or 6 days last week. I also worked out last night and tonight. After only one week, I'm now able to get the whole way through the strength training DVD without stopping and I got through all the reps without hitting muscle fatigue. Yay! Tonight I still didn't get all the way through the cardio DVD, but I got closer than I did last week and the yoga part was less difficult.

This evening I'm watching The Rat Race , starring Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds. The story isn't particularly happy or original, but I really like the bartender and the land lady characters, played by Jack Oakie and Kay Medford, respectively.

Weather Update:

Today the temperature was in the 70s. It started in the lower 40s. I was tempted to goof off outdoors, but I stuck with the workout plan since I had the energy. The neighbor boys were out on their dirt bike track. I was surprised to see them kicking up dust given the snow just a few days ago. Maybe they raked/graded the track to help it dry faster. I don't think my garden or flower beds are quite yet dry enough to work.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Can Weather Be Mentally Ill?

I think the weather needs to adjust its medication since it seems to be rapid cycling.

A week ago it was nearly 80 degrees and I was out on my motorcycle for over an hour just goofing around, which was all kinds of fun. So that was like summer. Two days later it rained three and a half inches in 24 hours, which could have been spring or fall, I suppose. Two days after that winter arrived again in the form of 3-4 inches of snow. Today it will be in the 50s and in the 60s in a few days. A whole year of weather in just one week!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Well, we *had* snow. :o)

I woke up to about 4 inches of snow on the ground and a bright, sunny sky. This is the backyard at 8:20 am. By about 9am all the roads in town were clear and by the time I got home from errands at 11, the roads out by my house were clear as well.

Backyard at 11 am.

And at 5pm. There isn't much left.

Plenty of people were out enjoying the snow, though few were out driving at 8:30am. The Wal-Mart parking lot had about 30 cars in it and there were perhaps 20 shoppers in the store, which is highly unusual on a Saturday morning. The deli was also closed.

Some people went sledding (my apologies to the person whose behind I am showing on the Internet):

My neighbors made a snow person:

I made a snow angel:

Friday, March 07, 2008

SNOW!!!! We have SNOW!!

No, really. It's actually snowing. It started about 3pm and really started to pick up the pace about 4pm. Schools let out at 2pm. I swept the snow off of a couple co-worker's cars since I had a snowbrush/scraper. It also gave me the chance to clear the snow off their headlights and tail lights since lots of people even in snowy climes fail to do that.

I debated going to the store tonight to pick up the oatmeal and orange juice I didn't buy yesterday. Traffic was fairly light, but I decided to just head straight home. I was afraid that the 5pm traffic levels would be a problem with wet roads. I may have been a bit overly cautious but I can always go to town in the morning after the snow has ended.

So tonight I am knitting and watching DVDs or listening to audiobooks while I drink hot chocolate. The locals were lining up at the snack bar, waiting for me to put out seed after work. The cardinal looks awfully important all puffed up like that, doesn't he?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Most Relaxing Sunday

I slept later than I really wanted, but I did have a productive day anyway. For starters, I didn't hang out in the PJs most of the day. I got straight into the shower, had breakfast while catching up on e-mail and then got up from the desk when my cereal was done, instead of hanging out killing wasting time.

As a result, I can happily report that I have accomplished the following: fertilized trees and shrubs, pruned the boxwood shrub, washed the car and motorcycle, cooked a pot of black bean chili, raked leaves out of the side yard and folded half of last week's laundry. I also had an hour long motorcycle ride. It was a bit windy, but it felt good to get out in the sun and warm. It felt even better after I put air in my tires. When the pressure is supposed to be 32-34 and 40 psi for the front and rear tires, respectively, having only 15 psi in each is, shall we say, sub-optimal. This also explains why the bike didn't really roll easily backward out of the garage. It felt squishy and sluggish. Next time I get the bike out and get it good and warmed up, I also need to lube the chain. I completely forgot to do that today. I thought about it during the ride, but spaced it by the time I got back to the house and started washing it.

Now I am ensconced in my new blogging/writing corner, looking out the window. I have put a sling-type lawn chair in the corner of my bedroom by the window so I can sit and read or write while looking out the window. There is a peaceful view of the backyard, including the bird feeder on the corner of the deck. I will probably build myself a second "end table" like I have in the living room so there is somewhere to put one of the plants and my beverage of choice. I can see myself sitting here quite a lot throughout the spring.

Yardwork Plans
While out on my ride today, I saw a lot of blooming daffodils and jonquils. I thought I had a couple of daffodils at the front of the house, but apparently I imagined them or else they failed to come up this year. Critters and bugs could have certainly eaten them. I did find a single hyacinth blooming. I desperately need to plan out the front flower bed and get it all sorted out. When I dug things up last year, I found a bunch of calla lily bulbs. They didn't do very well last year and they didn't seem to really work well in with the rest of the plantings in that bed. I suppose it's time to hit the library for landscaping/garden books and look for some ideas. The whole bed last year was just messy and disordered.

I also pondered the border of holly bushes I have around my deck. The bird feeder is over one corner of the border, which results in a LOT of sunflower seed hulls on the ground. This is a great mulch, but doesn't do much for the shrubs or the grass next to it. If I were to expand the border bed into a wide rounded corner, I'd still have to take into account the sunflower seed hulls. I am considering taking out the shrubs at least at that corner and making a circular area filled with pea gravel. I also need to round the corner by the house, since I can't get the mower to make a 90 degree turn at the corner where the deck meets the house. I suppose I could move one of the rose bushes into that area. Speaking of moving shrubs, I will have to dig up the Rose of Sharon seedlings and get them set out in their final locations this spring. Otherwise, I'm afraid they'll get too big and/or grow together.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Yeah, OK, so that didn't work

I really was going to not watch TV until Sunday. And yet I'm watching The Kid on the ABC Family channel. Bruce Willis is being driven insane by his 8 year old self, played by Spencer Breslin. I'm also cleaning out the last three desk drawers in the living room, so I feel I'm at least a little justified in having background noise. I could use an audiobook as background noise, but I don't feel like being edumacated this morning or listening to H.P. Lovecraft stories. So there. Besides, it's fun saying the dialogue along with Spencer and it feels good to make the veins in Bruce's head throb as his blood pressure spikes.

The Weekend Plan

The gardening calendar says I'm supposed to fertilize the trees and prune the boxwood. The high temp today is expected to be just over 60 and tomorrow it might make 70. I figure I will wait until this afternoon or tomorrow afternoon for the outdoor work. I might get the motorcycle out tomorrow too, if I think it will run reliably. The last thing I need to do is have to push it back home on a narrow country road. It didn't behave completely well when I started it up last weekend to keep the battery charged. What it probably needs is a tune-up, but I haven't got a way to get the bike to the shop and then get home. Someone else in the neighborhood is starting up their bike too. I can hear it....

But there are other tasks to do first. Like fold the mountain of clean clothes from last week and
I have avoided going to the grocery store this morning, mostly because I don't want to get out of my pajamas. I also don't really need to get anything from the store, except perhaps some fresh fruit. I think I'll just head over to the vegetable store at lunch time on Monday. So today may just end up being a fuzzy pants sort of day. I will have to workout later though, so eventually I'll end up getting dressed. But first I'll continue my "throw things away" kick. I've got a couple of blog essays to write too, including one on spam and spoofing.