Saturday, May 31, 2008

Road Trip Pics

First, I must say that I really like turning my digital camera over to my nephew. I don't know if he likes all cameras equally or if he likes mine in particular. As soon as he sees me or my camera, he asks if he can use it. Then he wanders off for 20-30 minutes. When he's done, he brings it back. For all that he's not yet 3 years old and sometimes still moves the camera when he pushes the button, he does quite well at composing photos. He isn't always patient enough to wait for the flash to go off, so most of the time I keep the flash turned off which makes for some interesting blur effects with indoor photos. Eventually I'll show him how to wait for the flash and how to look at the pictures stored on the camera. Right now he has fun wandering around pointing and shooting.

It is amusing to me what he chooses to photograph. The floor seems to be of particular interest. At his sister's pre-school graduation ceremony, he took a dozen photographs of the floor at his feet. He seems to prefer objects/landscapes over human subjects. Seeing the world from his height is interesting.
The only downside to the the lower perspective is that he can take a lot of boob/crotch-level pictures if you're sitting.
And finally, the artist's self-portrait:

I caught part of the movie Alien Hunter on the SciFi channel today. The usual odd message from outer space was intercepted, along with some sort of alien artifact. James Spader just got the message decoded. "Do Not Open." Of course, the other part of the team was in the process of opening the artifact at the time. Now whatever was in there is out.

Rule #9 of alien horror movies: Never believe your co-workers when they say they are fine, especially if they have any injuries. Just shoot them. It'll save you trouble later.

Rule #10: Don't poke holes in the cocoon looking thing after you get the outer case opened.

Rule #11: If you find a "dead" alien creature, never take your eyes off of it. Alien creatures, being highly advanced, are able to tell when you look away or get into an argument with co-workers about what to do with said alien. The alien will then take advantage of that momentary lapse of surveillance to escape and begin wreaking havoc upon your remote scientific study station, spaceship or local city.

I'm always amused that there are partial power failures in all of these movies. For all the advanced technology the good guys usually have, they nearly always fail to budget for or install a sufficient number of back-up generators. The equipment for life support and sometimes computers/tech works pretty well, but the lights are always iffy. Of course this heightens also the tension since we all know that bad things lurk in the dark and things that go bump in the dark are always more scary than things that go bump in the light

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Strawberries

There is quite a local strawberry market. It always cracks me up that people will go to the grocery store to buy strawberries shipped in from the West Coast, rather than buying them locally. What makes this even more amusing is that the local berries not only taste better, but they are also cheaper.

I even shared my bounty. I took them up north with me and left a couple quarts with my sister and a couple quarts with my mom. Of course, we also ate quite a few of them. Although I have been eating strawberries in my oatmeal in the mornings, I think strawberries taste best on Cheerios. The combination of Cheerios/strawberries seems to bring out the sweetness in each of the foods.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I can haz strawberry!

Just one strawberry, but it's all mine! There are two strawberry plants growing in my garden. I think they are the survivors from transplants I moved from the lawn last summer. I don't know how/why there were strawberries in the yard, but there were. It seemed silly to keep mowing them over, so I moved several of them to the garden. I thought they all died, but apparently they did not. I spent a couple hours last night weeding around them thoroughly and staking out the runners in the right directions. Now I need to get some good mulch for them and continue encouraging them to do their thing!

Six down, nine to go!
I still have a non-functioning tiller, even with a shiny new spark plug, but I desperately needed to get some tomato plants in the ground before they died sitting on my windowsill. It took me three hours this evening, but I have cleared enough ground by hand to plant six tomato plants. Only nine plants left. Yes, that's right. I will have fifteen tomato plants this year. I like homegrown tomatoes and homemade salsa.

Ditching the Workout

Ok, so I didn't actually workout this evening, but I did spent three hours slaving away in the garden. I feel like I hammered my way through a long run or a hard cardio workout and my hands are tired enough that opening the orange juice bottle was a struggle. I'll either workout formally tomorrow night or I'll just slave away in the garden for another couple of hours. If nothing else, I'll get a partial lower body workout since my legs don't seem to be terribly tired.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I have a date!!

I'm going to spend some serious quality time with my toilet on Saturday. I've really been putting off this "date". You see, my toilet runs a bit. Not in a noisy way and not in an obvious way, but enough. I didn't even notice it until the day I forgot to flush before I went to work, but when I got home from work the water in the toilet was clear. Hmmmmm..... Dilution is a great thing, but I don't like wasting water or money.

I actually bought the replacement parts several months ago, but thought I had fixed the problem with some adjustment of the float. Nope. The toilet has recently been making noises not completely unlike a toddler grinding its teeth as it re-fills the tank and today it once again failed the "didn't flush before work" test. I really can't justify putting it off any longer. On the other hand, if I do fix the toilet on Saturday I can continue to avoid painting the hallway bathroom. w00t!

Here's hoping the date goes smoothly with no unpleasant or embarassing episodes in the middle.

The Magic 8 Ball
Remember my freebie MicroSoft Magic 8 ball from last November? The one that couldn't decide between two answers at a time? I asked it tonight if I should workout. It said "NO". I am mildly entertained that I believe the Magic 8 ball when it tells me what I want to hear, but I keep asking it until I get the right answer if I don't like what it tells me.

I'm working out anyway.

Cruft Control
Cruft is the stuff that collects on your hard drive. This can be orphaned or abandoned files of your own creation or the stuff that is left behind after software is deleted. The New Hacker's Dictionary formally defines it as follows:

cruft /kruhft/
1. /n./ An unpleasant substance. The dust that gathers under your bed is cruft; the TMRC Dictionary correctly noted that attacking it with a broom only produces more. 2. /n./ The results of shoddy construction. 3. /vt./ [from `hand cruft', pun on `hand craft'] To write assembler code for something normally (and better) done by a compiler (see hand-hacking). 4. /n./ Excess; superfluous junk; used esp. of redundant or superseded code.

I am particularly interested in definition 4. I am really good about keeping my computers de-crufted. I am less good about the gathering detritus of belongings. I don't mean to be a packrat, I just fail to get rid of things that I no longer want, need or use. I'm going to work on combatting that as a short-term goal. There isn't any reason for me to hoard things I don't use or don't particularly like.

I've been reading "The Way to Practice" by the Dalai Lama again. As a result, I've been pondering the motivations behind various behaviors. One of the negative behaviors or practices mentioned is covetousness, which got me thinking about my inability to regularly de-cruft in real life.

Part of the reason I gather things is because I want people to think I'm cool because I own X. This, of course, is silly since I very rarely ask people over to my house. (I don't like people in my private space.) The very few people I would invite over don't care what I do or do not own.

I imagine part of my gathering behavior is a defense against a potential future shortage. For example, I want to be prepared in case I can't get any more yarn. (You never know when there might be a global yarn shortage.) It has also only been very recently that I have had much disposable income to even spend on fun stuff. During times with very little spending money, I would struggle to make the most of my money and also to carefully use whatever I did purchase to maximize its use, function or value. Because I put extra value and energy into the item, it can be hard to get rid of it now, even if it's past its useful life or no longer suits my needs.

I have also been considering how much stuff I have in light of the recent cyclone in Myanmar, the earthquakes in China and the tornado we had here in February. Many many people lost everything they own. While I think that experience would be very traumatic, a tiny part of me thinks it would be a really easy way to pare down my belongings. This really struck me as a sign that it's time to let things go.

Thinking about my belongings in general has given me a good reminder that my value isn't grounded in my stuff, I'm a whole lot more comfortable getting rid of excess stuff. I'm also a lot more relaxed about not wanting to keep things just because I paid for them. If I'm not using it and it doesn't have great sentimental value, it can be given away (if it is useful and in good condition) or thrown away (if it's not useful or in bad condition).

Ordinarily a task like this would be delegated to a weekend and I'd try to get through the whole job in 24 hours of actual working time. Realistically there is absolutely no way I can go through all my belongings in a weekend and determine what I need to keep and what I need to re-purpose. I think I will pick a single room or area, then work on it two or three nights a week for 15-30 minutes at a time, until it is done. That should allow me to remain focused, instead of getting distracted or overwhelmed by the job. I shouldn't get bored or burned out either. Hopefully the smaller bits of regular progress will be enough to keep me motivated and keep me working toward the end goal of a de-crufted, uncluttered, weeded out house.

Mutant Daisy!!
I'll be saving the seed from this one separately from all the rest, just to see if the mutation was heritable. I might end up with a whole plant full of odd flowers!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hypothetical Question

This question was posted to a message board I frequent:
If you were to take a one-way trip back in time, with nothing but the knowledge _currently_ in your head...

* Which time/era would you choose to travel to?
* What could you accomplish in that time/era with your existing knowledge?

My first thought was to go back to college, but change my major to computer science and take advantage of the .com explosion. My second thought was to go back to my birth and do the whole show over again. I've always wondered if it would be possible to avoid various mistakes, gaffes and faux pas if I knew then what I know now. The rest of my choices would deal with being present for various scientific discoveries--Pasteur's rabies vaccine trial, the Wright brothers' flight, animalcules and microscopes, radiation and x-rays, Koch's postulates, astronomy and the discovery of various planets, to name a few. My interest isn't so much in changing the outcome of things dramatically, but rather in watching history unfold. With that said, there could be a few changes made--the failure of various genocides, avoidance of wars, the interruption of the Black Death, the prevention of slaver.

When/where would you choose?

Disaster Narrowly Averted!
While using the weed whacker near the garden last night, I very nearly whacked one of the many backyard toads. *That* would have been incredibly messy and unpleasant. While the toads are quite vociferous in the evening, I really don't mind listening to them and I certainly don't want to decapitate any of them when trimming weeds. Now if I could just stop picturing (and hearing) the Budweiser frogs whenever the toads are croaking....

Flower Pictures!
The coreopsis have started blooming....

Looks like a bumper crop of peaches developing. I can hardly wait for fresh peaches and peach cobbler and peach pie and peaches in my oatmeal.

I managed to have orange and blue irises blooming side by side. I did bring some purple irises from Illinois, but have no idea where this orange one came from. Go Illini!

Happy Daisy!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Satisfyingly Sweaty

I really didn't feel much like working out today. I was physically tired much of the day. By the end of work I was also mentally tired. I did go to the library after work, which helped me perk up a bit.

Driving home, I went past a house which had a claw-foot bathtub sitting on top of the porch roof. Presumably said bathtub was removed from a 2nd story bathroom though why it was put on the roof is anybody's guess. Perhaps the hallway was too narrow? I'll have to keep an eye on things and see if the tub stays there or if it eventually leaves. I'm not entirely certain how the tub got out of the house as I didn't think there were windows large enough to accomodate the tub. I suppose there is always the chance that the tub will be eventually added to the house, but it wouldn't fit through the upstairs window or around some tight corner in the hallway or stairs. In any event, it gave me the giggles, which perked me up even more.

Once home, I wasn't really keen on working out. So I checked my e-mail, took pictures of the fruit trees, and puttered around the house. Then for some reason I found myself putting on exercise gear and jumping into a good cardio workout, which even went better than I thought it would. I hadn't planned to workout, but I did it anyway. Afterward, I made a big pot of quinoa-adzuki bean chili for the next week.

In the end, I was delightfully sweaty and weary. There is something particularly satisfying to me about getting soaked with sweat, especially after a day in which my brain gets tired and my body just sits. I don't know if it's the endorphins (aka The Mighty Mighty Endomorphins) or the knowledge that I did, indeed, exercise today or just oozing the stress of the day out of my pores. In any event, I am left feeling a great deal more satisfied with my day and myself than I probably would otherwise have been. The only thing that would have made the day better would have been to also write a decent, philosophical-type blog entry.

On Style
I have finally identified what my decorating and clothing style might be. For some reason, I was pondering this while chunking a bunch of data into the computer. Well, I don't know that I was pondering it so much as the concept just emerged from my back brain. The house styles I like include cottages, Folk Victorians and Prairie style houses. When it comes to interior decorating, I like the clean lines of Arts and Crafts or Mission-style furniture and minimalist, Zen or Asian influences. I'm not a big fan of knick knacks and fluff. That is not to say that I don't have a whole lot of clutter that needs to be cleaned up or thrown away, but I don't have an assortment of miscellaneous vases, coffee table books or other objet d'art to gaze upon. I like function or purpose and rarely purchase an item solely for its appearance. If I do pick up something for its appearance rather than its function, it's usually something unique or odd. Like a small cast-iron puppy figurine that appears to have been buried in someone's yard for years. Or I wait for someone with style, like my sister, to buy something decorative for me.

As for clothing, my style tends to be sporty/outdoorsy and jeans/t-shirt. I'm not against looking good, but I will not buy uncomfortable clothing. Yes, it's true. I rate comfort much higher than fashion in the greater scheme of things. With few exceptions, my clothes are all washable (as opposed to requiring dry cleaning) and most of my wardrobe does not require regular ironing. Well, it wouldn't require ironing if I'd actually hang things up when they came out of the dryer instead of piling them at the end of the bed.

I've never understood the point of purchasing trendy clothes that will be completely out of fashion in just weeks to months. I would much rather purchase more classic pieces (also known as boring clothes) which won't look completely silly in a short amount of time. Of course, I also prefer to pay a bit more money and buy good quality clothes rather than cheap stuff which quickly looks worn or misshapen with ordinary wear. Good quality clothing that fits well can last for several years with proper care and occasional mending. Poor quality clothing looks shabby in just a few months. The best fit in the world cannot make shabby, worn clothing look good.

For the most part, my wardrobe isn't terribly exciting, unless one considers the collection of Hawaiian shirts or colorful handknit socks, but it is serviceable and not horribly ugly, dowdy or frumpy. While I may not be anywhere near as stylish as my co-workers nor have as extensive a wardrobe, I'm also not spending anywhere near the amount of money each month on clothes or dry cleaning. Of course, I'm also not being stuck with as many unwearable clothes at the end of each season. That's all fine with me.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Weather Update

First, the fledgling fire station came through the apparently very windy storm without any visible damage. There were lots of damaged trees in the area, but my neighborhood did just fine.

Apparently some of the Memphis in May/Beale Street Music Festival performances on Friday night were canceled due to the weather. I elected to not go at all, mostly because the artists I was interested in seeing (Sheryl Crow and Santana) were all playing after my bedtime, though at least not simultaneously.

So, my weekend road trip headed north instead. I got to drive through two tornado warnings and some lovely heavy, driving rain. Once I got past the KY border, the storms had passed to the east, the sky was clear and the wind was calm.

The weekend away was just what I needed to re-charge my energies and rejuvenate my attitude. I hung out with Twitchh on Saturday morning, relaxed in the afternoon, had dinner with friends that night, wandered through my favorite bookstore and then had Sunday breakfast with different friends before driving back south. The Sunday drive was beautiful, though Zippy did gather a "lovely" collection of bugs on her front end. I really should have washed her today but once I got home from work I didn't think about that until after it got dark.

I Don't Get It
If an integral part of your job involved the performance of a particular task, but you had never done said task, wouldn't you be interested in learning how to do that task or at least in gathering the information relevant to doing said task before trying it? What if your job included advising other people how to do this task which you have never done? Wouldn't you think it advisable to have some experience in doing the task so that you can give others guidance on how to do it? I think it would be good to have some basic understanding or knowledge or to at least make sure that I had done the task once or twice prior to giving someone else advice about it. This approach is apparently a novel one, even for someone who has been in their position for over five years. I cannot imagine not doing some research to figure out how the task could/should be done. Nor can I imagine not thinking about what information needs to be gathered prior to and during the completion of said task. I also cannot imagine not asking questions or looking up information to obtain the background information necessary to do a complete, comprehensive job. I guess my imagination could use some work. *shrugs*

Working Out is Working!

While visiting friends this weekend at least two people observed that I appear to be smaller than I used to be. This is good! This also reflects my clothes fitting better and my measurements slowly declining. It was nice to hear that others are noticing the changes too. The boost from the compliments helped me eat well this weekend. I did splurge and buy myself a latte, but I avoided megacheeseburgers at Murphy's, sandwiches at Jimmy John's, burritoes at La Bamba, buffalo wings at Jillian's or White Horse Inn and pizza at Papa Del's. I did have some yummy granola-blueberry pancakes at Le Peep and some buckwheat pancakes and hash browns at The Courier Cafe, but avoided both junk food and fast food during the drive.

The Sphere of Influence
I am currently working on carrying with me a protective sphere of calm, confident, unflappable energy. The idea came to me after I mentally threw a sphere of nasty weather repellent over my house while headed out of town. I figured if I could maintain that shield from afar then I could probably maintain a sphere of balance and groundedness about my person. I managed it this morning fairly well. A discussion which might have been tense and uncomfortable in the past was actually quite calm and productive. Now I just need to remember to renew the sphere a couple times a day and remind myself to stay calm, serene and untouched by the negative energies around me.

Weekly Flower Photos

Friday, May 02, 2008

Is it bad when....

the weather channel points out that the big line of thunderstorms is basically lining up with your house? Well, they didn't mention my house in particular, but the weather guy did pretty much point at it when he said that area was in for a long night. *sigh*

The good news is that I did mow my lawn on Wednesday and I live at the top of a hill. And we haven't had any tornadoes. Here's hoping the hatchling fire station doesn't get splatted again....

I feel rather bad for the Memphis in May music festival folks. I hope the performances don't end up getting canceled, but I can't imagine playing an outdoor music festival in a major thunderstorm. At the moment, the radar indicates that it's probably raining sideways and *hard*.